‘The Facility’ exhibition: reflections on art-making

The facility, installation view at A. M. Qattan Foundation Cultural Centre, Ramallah, Palestine

The facility facilitates questions on the process of art-making

The Facility is the new exhibition of A. M. Qattan Foundation, curated by Yazid Anani assisted by Abdul-Rahman Shabaneh and Mujahed Khallaf and with the participation of 17 artists : Alaa Al- Baba, Anwar Fannoun, Aya Nairoukh, Dima Irshaid, Doaa Abu Shughaybeh, Esmat Zayed, Haneen Nazzal, Haya kaabneh, Majd Masri, Majdi Abu Gharbeieh, Muhannad Al- Azzah, Namir Qassim, Nibras Barghouthi, Nisreen Barghouthi, Rawan Abu-Ghosh, Safaa Shuqair, and Zekra Musleh.
The concept of the exhibition as the PR says is to create an interactive space where the artist and the ‘audience’ can interact. The exhibition break the classical binary relationship between the finalised artwork and the audience by presenting a holistic view of the process of making art, where the artist, the studio, the process of making, the artwork, and the audience experience come side by side in one place. In addition, it aims to question the idea of providing working spaces and studios for artists, especially young ones. The opening took apart on Saturday 23rd of March at the gallery of the new A. M. Qattan Foundation at Al- Tireh Neighborhood in Ramallah and ends in the end this May. This exhibition is the second after the first one ‘Subcontracted Nations’ which was the opening exhibition for the new foundation’s building.

Design and spatial intervention

The space is divided to three ‘blocks’ each with 5 to 6 rooms-studios for each artist. The opening was without any finalised artworks. Instead, visitors were invited to mingle with artists, curator(s) and other visitors, involve themselves with the process of artwork production, visit the artists in their ‘studios’ by the artists terms. The space was built and divided using Plywood pallets. The curatorial team also provided the space with a common kitchen area and a huge table for eating and having discussions. Going again to the matter of opening an exhibition without artworks. Final artworks themselves are not important nor the level of the participants or how well-fit are their artistic tendencies or authorship? What is shown is the ‘making’ not the ‘made’. It is a large social sculpture exhibited. This ‘easy-going’ curation as well gave opportunity to young artists to participate without any restrictions or filtering according to their original concepts or pitching.

A self-aware curation

On the walls of the exhibition you can find huge graphite sketches of trees.A background soundtrack of bird sounds that plays in the exhibition space can be heard. On the same walls, real trees images being projected on the wall, over the sketched ones, making hints that this social space, with ‘real’ artists working on ‘real’ artworks is not a ‘real’ social space like the ones being found outside the white cube. Those hints questions the ‘realism’ of the exhibition itself. The exhibition could be a representation or an imitation of reality. Actually, it could be seen as a heterotopic space, where another reality/real social relations which are scattered in reality/real space; paradoxically are condensed eclectically in another place (white cube). The different hints also remind visitors to be actively engaged with the process of making art, rather than passively watching artists in their room-studios as they were in a Zoo.

On the other hand, a wooden wall holds four displays that screens four video-art Works of artist and avant-garde American- Ukrainian filmmaker Maya Deren. Main elements of Deren’s works are: movement, choreography, and performance. In this exhibition, her videos are being shown and placed vis-a-vis our artists. This juxtaposition, and deliberately ignoring what the final artwork of each artist could make an interpretation of this individual art-making process as a collective performance art valid. In addition, one might questions if the artists are ‘really’ working on their usual art as in their real studios or if they are imitating the process of making and being in a mass performance art ongoing on the whole exhibition period.

The facility at A. M. Qattan Foundation Cultural Centre, Ramallah, Palestine

A first step to: less alienated public and less fetishized artwork.

In Marxist thought, a fetishism of commodity in simple words means: perceiving commodity in its final state, and only being objectively conscious to its ‘use-value’ and the relations between commodities themselves rather than social relations between workers labour, or between labour time-work itself and the final commodity. Hence, alienation between all elements of this equation, producers, produced, production social relations, and consumers. ‘high-end’ artists are no exception of this alienation from ‘the produced/commodity/artwork’ since also many commission art production to others. Also, in modern-classic curated exhibition, ‘social’ relationships are only constituted between curated final artworks (commodities) rather than social relationships between artists and art production process. In contemporary art, is a commodity/artwork valuable because human (artist) labour we expended to produce it or because it is intrinsically valuable? The answer to this critical dilemma is not important in this exhibition, because it is banishes it all. It did not care about final (product) artworks since day one, it rather focuses on ‘social relationships’ mainly between human beings behind objects, hence, less fetishised artwork, less alienated public. All of this is simply was there in the opening day. It was a forest of mixed bees-humming sounds in which a recording can be a stand-alone sound art of this social sculpture. All people there were connecting, talking, discussing, laughing, mingling, and exchanging thoughts between each other and artists. This mellow, merry-go-round atmosphere is rarely seen in other traditional art venues.

A site for an alternative future: connecting The Facility with other global experiments

This unique experiment can bring meaningful and interesting discussions in the future. Those discussions might include the way of producing contemporary art change. In addition, this residency-exhibition could be a great opportunity for young artists to form new bodies and collectives that produce art in unconventional ways.This opportunity might be a seed for new unconventional exhibitions and ways of producing art for both levels: artistic and institutional. Maybe we will also witness more projects which focuses on making art-studios accessible all over Palestine. We hope for the best.
In this ‘experimental curatorial’ exhibition, at least locally, curatorial power determines if this ‘social setting’ or art-making process can be an exhibition. To what extent this tendency controls the atmosphere? It is important to distinguish between the artistic tendency to include an activity within an artwork as a performance artwork and the curatorial power to designate something as art/social sculpture through its inclusion in a white cube. Hence: how artists see themselves and their artwork making in this exhibition is different of the curator’s power to transform their ‘labour’ to a performance. Both parties have different interests. As a radical example of this is what happened in the 28th Sao Paolo Biennale. The original biennale idea was to creat a biennale that is voided of artworks (which changed later). Though the biennale included many ‘voided’ spaces for social interaction in the pavilion and so on. ‘The 28th Biennal – In Living Contact carried out a radical proposal by keeping the second floor of the pavilion completely empty, as an Open Plan – a metaphor for the conceptual crisis experienced by traditional biennial systems faced by the institutions that organize them.’ The curatorial statement claimed that those spaces will be as spaces for social and artistic dialogues and interventions. In the opening of same biennale, forty graffiti artists collective nicknamed PiXacao: Arte Ataque Protesto decided to utilize this chance and ‘intervene’ by protesting art dictatorship and commodification of graffiti art by spraying some lines as ‘This is what art is’ and ‘under dictatorship’.While one might think that this action is still go perfectly with the original idea of the biennale, but it was not taken lightly. The group were stopped were arrested and fined. This is a very clear example of curatorial power vis-à-vis artist authorship. What would happen if the dialogues between the 17 artists themselves and the public led them to a radical idea of dismantling all the exhibition for example and take it somewhere else, or just remove it? Would our voided white cube still be an exhibition, with people still visiting what could be an unexpected turn of ‘the process’ of making-art? Can void still be ‘curated’? Recording and documenting this unique experience and how it would be end like will lead to an important discussion. So let’s wait and see.

Originally published on 7iber.com

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