Both Calum and I attended the Curators and Artists brunch in Sheffield for the Sheffield Art Festival 2013. We had no idea what to expect or what was going to be discussed as the brief on their website was rather ambiguious. However we felt that it could be something worth while to discuss on here and perhaps learn something new.
It consisted of Curator, Laura Sillars and included Zero Hours writer Tom Morton, Artist and Advisor Keith Wilson and previous Art Sheffield Curator Gavin Wade. They each began by addressing questions to one another regarding the festival, Joseph Beuys and the concept of ‘Zero Hours’ – the title for the project. Much of it was focused on the Joseph Beauys work currently residing in Graves Gallery as this is the focus of the festival. The chair discussed the artist and his political views and attachment to Karl Marx. Due to Beuys being a revolutionist of his time, his work in Graves Gallery reflects this. It is an installation of a single work made in 1980 by the German artist, featuring metal shelves stacked with packets of food and other basic products purchased in the former German Democratic Republic.
Much of the discussion focused on this work and how the other artists fitted into it and the concept of ‘Zero Hours’, a title created to highlight the notion of when does an artists clock in/ clock out? How do we know when and how an artist works? Zero Hours is a common phrase in today’s working environment to non committal working hours. It essentially reflects the recession and how it affects artists.
During the conversations, it was apparent that the other artists participating in the festival were not actually made aware of the Beuys piece prior to creating a piece of work for this festival. This did seem a little strange to me as the Sheffield Art Festival’s aims were for it to revolve around the art work by Beuys.
It had been discussed by the chair that actually, there was not enough time for the festival project and that they would have rather had a singular space for each artist. To look at it as a whole, perhaps there are some flaws in how the Sheffield Art Festival 2013 has come together in terms of the connections of the art work and exhibition spaces but time and money can dictate everything.
So much so, Gavin Wade had discussed that there was a disappointment with the Graves Gallery space which the Beuys piece resides as it is a museum setting with a barrier around the work, which stopped you exploring the work up close and in detail. Wade expressed that it made it not a piece of art because of the line. This is something I completely agree on but he argued that art is a luxury, a waste – it is needed to allow you to take the time within a civilised society to create, to extend your own experiences.
The Beuys piece is exhibited on the top floor of Grave’s gallery, where you must walk through the gift shop to get to it, where it stands in a rather uninviting space. For me, the space was lack lustre and didn’t do the piece justice. However I posed the question to the panel, whether or not our minds are warped by the notion of the ‘white cube’ space and that this is the only true and appropriate way to showcase art. It opened a discussion that widened the understanding of how one chooses to display art over that, sometimes the decision isn’t ours to make. Laura Sillars made a valuable point that, Graves Gallery was the only place it could be exhibited because it needed the right conditions to be exhibited, having being lent by S.M.A.K Gent and one million pounds worth of insurance. The decision of Graves Gallery was one of practicality and preservation. On my second visit of the work after this discussion. It was also argued by Wade that because the artist had died a long time ago, that his work in fact was a museum piece, preserving his legacy and his thoughts and that Graves Gallery is the only place for it.
The brunch continued it’s discussion with the artists involvement and experiences of Sheffield Art Festival 2013 as well as hearing from other local curators and how to continue providing Sheffield with new and exciting art. But for me, the discussion about the placing of art work, the role the Curator actually plays was one of value.
I encourage everyone to explore Sheffield Art Festival 2013 and share your opinions on the work and it’s display. In today’s society, the art world is very much confined by the amount of funding and the time, which is something the general public does not see. It is refreshing to know where Sheffield Art Festival had it’s issues and viewed the spaces with it in mind and acknowledge the hard working Curators’ that put much time and effort into bringing a selection of interesting works for Sheffield’s community.