“We are a challenge to Frieze because in many ways we don’t exist…” so said curator and (slightly stressed-out artist-juggling) organizer Vanya Balogh last week ahead of the opening of We Could Not Agree.
We Could Not Agree is an ambitious art show, a show that opened last Monday evening in a delightfully brutal concrete celebration of an underground multi-storey car park. An art show down underneath the almost peaceful greenery of Cavendish Square, just west of the retail hell of Oxford Street. An expansive art event just about within spitting (gobbing?) distance of the giant marquees of Frieze. London is extra busy this week in terms of art (in terms of the business of art?). Art is everywhere this week, unfriendly galleries that usually hide behind the formality of their closed doors are getting themselves all in a lather, setting up their stalls and advertising extended opening hours, satellite fairs here there and everywhere charging unwitting artists an arm and a leg just to plug in a light – there really is an art fair happening this week that charges artists a fortune to take part and then asks for an extra thirty quid for each light they wish to plug in to light their work. This is Frieze week, the so-called London art season, and far too many of these satellite events looking to exploit artists rather than working with them, treating us painters and sculptors as their cash cows to milk and milk and milk some more on the back of Frieze.
Meanwhile down in a 20.000 square foot basement of an underground car park, something has come together, something different, something that has been coming together in various places in and around London all year, something that is very much right here, right now.
The glue that holds together the hundred plus artists, the ten curators and this very agreeable We Could Not Agree event is the sense of artists really coming together themselves, people making things happen rather than waiting for things to happen for them – a whole thing that in many ways, in terms of Frieze and the art establishment really really does not exist.
The glue that holds this exciting show together is that glue that’s bonding artists right now – artists communicating, doing it themselves, curating themselves, artists not part of an art system that pretty much spits them out and dismisses them the minute their final art school show is over and done with, spits them and doesn’t ever take a second look if they don’t fit in with the establishment requirement at that precise time. It has always been about the necessity of artists coming together and doing it themselves, doing it outside of the establishment. And when artists do, you get an energy like we’ve been seeing all over London all year – you get a thirst, you’re invited to come explore something that might just be a little more out there, laced with a bit more of a risk, something that’s not afraid to sometimes fail rather than just politely play safe. And We Could Not Agree is very much a show brave enough to fail as it thrills, to risk falling as it triumphs, a show that demands you explore, that you poke in the corners and find the real delights – the delights like Megan Pickering’s poignantly relevant piece that could so easily be lost amongst the more noisy attention-demand performances and pieces, or the delicateness of Birgitta Hosea’s simple shadow puppet piece that makes use of the dark concrete environment so perfectly, or Michael Croft’s brilliantly placed car crash barriers or… so much to explore down here.
The energy rather than the art itself is the thing that unites this show, the pieces have enough space to breathe, to stand alone, to speak for themselves, united in their isolation, together as one exciting whole, and art show alive with individualism, united in the show’s diversity.
“Today for the first time I was able quietly to circumnavigate -3 Cavendish Sq and witness all the exhibits – there is so much wonderful work and curation and a genuine feeling of esprit de corps or morale amongst us – I will post particular work that I photographed today over several posts – but I first wanted to draw attention to the remarkable work of Sali Yule-Tsingas – here she kindly demonstrated just one small aspect of her work – intimate self woven orbs of her hair – a tiny moment in a genuine world of her installation – beautiful”. Said Martin Sexton via Facebook earlier today…
The show opened last Monday, it kicked off what’s shaping up to be a busy London art week, not sure why everything has to be shoehorned in to this extremely busy Frieze week? Well no, that’s wrong, art has been busy and happening all over town every single week of this rewarding year, not just during the cattle market art fair season, and yes we do know why so many choose to shoehorn everything in while the attention is there to be grabbed – art does like attention, we artists don’t put our art on walls to be ignored, and while this show is a continuation of something that has been going on all year in London, as far as the mainstream art world goes, it really doesn’t exist. And that, as an artist involved in it all, is the exciting thing right now – this whole other London art world that is coming together – artists are coming together, the “esprit de corps “ as Martin Sexton puts it – artists are curating, making things happen rather than just waiting around It isn’t like the YBA thing of the 90’s, that was exciting at the time, it hinted at the possibilities but that was way back then, a million miles away, another time, another world, and that was very much part of the establishment from the off, that door has long since been shut and the desire to open it again on the part of the artists has long since faded – the let’s-get-on-with-doing-it-ourselves option is far more inviting and rewarding right now, the alternative channels of communication that enable these comings together, on-line networks and communities empowering the word-of-mouth gatherings, and yes people like Geoffrey Leong in this case enabling the curators like Vanya Balogh, Alice Herrick and Cedric Christie to make events like this happen again and again all over the city. These are exciting times to be making art.
So we’re in an underground car park in Central London, there a lot of art to take in down here, ten curators and over one hundred artists. There weren’t many restrictions in terms of the curators requirements (some apparently required more than others, Sarah Sparkes and her selected artists united in their area, their hollow). The emphasis was on installation, sculpture, performance, and less on painting – so we painters had to be inventive and find something to paint on and install, in my case a found set of hinged and weathered wooden screens I was delighted to find waiting for me on top of a pile of thrown-out junk on an East London back street – “Emma Street, E2”.
There’s a lot in here, not over crowded, this is a very big space, a space that requires you repeat you walk around the circle of parking bays at least three or four (or five or six) times, things missed on the first circuit jump out of the second or third lap, things missed on first visit jump out on the second. Installations, sculptures, colours, shapes, not all of it works of course, how could it? A lot of it does though, so much of it does work – Michal Ohana-Cole’s Home Sweet Home demands a smile, Glenn Fitzpatrick’s further comments on wars over oil, his throne made more powerful when you learn that he spent the first gulf war in a tank fighting for that oil. Martin Sexton’s film-fuelled installation, Andie Macario’s (uncomfortable?) performance, Jeffrey Disastronaut’s mini, the repeating banners of Danny Pockets, the precisely placed precisely measured piece of Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hanz Hancock (did they make it for the space or was the fit happy coincidence?), Victor Velvet’s blood, Vanya Balogh’s metal rods… So much to really ignite excitement, so much to question, to enjoy, to dismiss, to want more of, to want less of, a whole body of disagreements agreeing with each other in so many positive ways – a thrilling show, a buzz of a busy opening, wonderful sound down there, and yes, a show that it really is exciting to be taking part in. Survival may be tough, but these are exciting times to be making art in this city of ours. We Could Not Agree exists, exciting that it does, go explore, things are more exciting when you go peel back the layers and explore for yourself.
We Could not Agree goes on until Sunday 19th October at QPark car Park, Cavendish Square, London W1. Open midday until 8pm
There’s an Organ interview with Vanya Balogh here and there’s a film, made by Marina, here at Organ, photographed and animated on opening night. There’s 164 photos from the opening night here and some more from a second visit here.
ARTISTS INVOLVED – Sarah Sparkes, Sarah Doyle, Charlotte Squire, Calum F Kerr, Miyuki Kasahara, Anne Robinson, Birgitta Hosea, Ashley Scott Fitzgerald, Frog Morris, Rebecca Feiner, Phillip Raymond Goodman, Alice Herrick, Paul Hazelton & Tom Swift, Lindsay Sekulowicz & Sonia Levy, Jeffrey Disastronaut, Aly Helyer, Kate Kotcheff, Maria Teresa Gavazzi, Michal Cole, Tasha Marks:AVM Curiosities, David J Batchelor, KeelerTornero, Vanya Balogh, Martin Sexton, Glenn Fitzy Fitzpatrick, Andie Macario, Jim Racine, Maslen Mehra, IHTGW Continent, Patrick Morrissey & Hanz Hancock, Nadia Ballan, Gzillion Artist, Danny Pockets, Rekha Sameer, Julian Firth, Jude Cowan Montague, Kievan Sarrafan, Tom Estes, Paul Sakoilsky, Steve Smith, Joanna McCormick, Shuby, Susana Sanroman, Lorenzo Belenguer, Greg Tate, Jim Roseveare, Piers Jamson, Sean Worrall, Xiao Yu, Martin Paul Everett, Ray Gange, Spizz Energi, Toni Gallagher, Lucinda Bolton, Victor Velvet, Francesco La Porta & Caballo, Unstoppable Achievers, Oko Oko, Thomas J Ridley, Dan Knight, Urban XXX, Stimulus Ltd, Mark Woods, Stathis Lagoudakis, John Plowman, Michael Petry, Gillian Duffy, Hugo Madureira Starkaberget, Dermot O Brien, Charlie Whinney, Rebecca Scott, Kate Lyddon, Hermione Allsopp, Roberto Ekholm, Paul Eachus, Pascal Rousson, Michael Croft, DJ Roberts, David Fryer, Jake Clark, Tim Mitchell, Alexandre Bianchini, Derek Mainella, Jai Moodie, Tracey Moberly, Amanda Burns, Mark Miller, Megan Pickering, No Name, Caroline Stevenson, Adam Piper, Jess Hurd & Jason Parkinson, Nerys Mathias, Cedric Christie, Dallas Seitz, Isolde Nash, Jessica Bailey, Joseph Turnbull, Bernd Kaiser, Lina Audzeviciute, Goran Chanter, Jack Felgate, Jake Garfield, Joe Nava, Ami Evelyn Hughes, Helmut Kaiser, Georgia Kemball, Melissa Kime, Heath Lowndes, Moe Streel, Kate Thackara, Roger Clarke, Zanne Andrea, Adam Burton, Peter Fillingham, Ben Garrod, Poppy Jackson, Norman Mine, Benjamin Owen, Salli Yule-Tsingas, Anne Deeming, Sellotape Cinema, and Andy Elton.