Whilst this space is undeniably a visual one, it is also a product of less tangible thoughts and ideas that are layered underneath the work that is displayed. Yesterday evening’s public engagement event was an opportunity for the space to really explore its potential as a site of discussion.
Sometimes ideas are caught and captured within a piece of work, but it is also important to recognise that sometimes thoughts are simply aired and then dissolve, becoming instead a point from which other ideas spring and circulate. As I have discussed in my previous blog post, sometimes cultures evolve so rapidly that the world cannot quite keep up, but this rate of speed is only accelerated when things are spoken rather than solidifed into a lasting creative output.
We are a visual generation living in a time that is obssessed with tangibility, but also one that is pervaded by the written word. Whilst in some ways this allows information to be more accessible, in a circulatory as well as an ascertainable sense, it also means that there is a tendency towards pinning something down- defining it to the point that we reduce it. If a culture, or an individual, is more interested, more comfortable, or simply finds they can express their ideas more accurately in a spoken format,we must be careful to ensure that these voices do not go unheard.
As ideas flew, intermingled and dissolved into the aether last night, a discussion about potential barriers to participation arose, and the very nature of the spoken came under the spotlight. The exhibtion inescapably relies on the consent of the participants if they wish their work to remain beyond one generation of the exhibtion, and the most conventional form of this consent requires the reading and signing of a written form. As a result, what remains, what lives for the lifetime of the exhibiton, has to be the product of participants who have understood and accepted the decision we present to them. Sometimes, unfortunately, the transient nature of some of the work here relies on a conflict between our particpant and our perhaps overwritten world, rather than on a particpant’s individual artistic choice. Whilst we can video interpretative dance, whilst we can record the spoken word, our copyright licenses and laws have not necessairily caught up with our recording equipment. Oral consent is a possible path to particpation, but it is more difficult to determine and to evidence as ideas and concerns inevitably get lost in translation between two parties, even, or perhaps especially, in an exhibtion that wants to listen to marginalised voices. If a potential artist has difficulty understanding, or an unwillingness to understand, our language and our terms, perhaps that language needs to change. However this is difficult barrier to negotiate when the laws of these licenses are written to protect, rather than inhibit, our speakers and their creations.
Most people who came to the engagement evening last night could either add to the work that has been created here, to make a visual statement of their ideas that would last as long as the exhibition, or they could create something that would disappear once again after the course of the day. However, they also had another way in which to participate. To speak or not to speak, to engage with these ideas in a public forum or to consider them privately. The point is not the option they chose, or the outcome of that decision, but rather that they had a very tangible choice. However, not everyone who may wish to, or not wish to, engage with this exhibition has such a choice in which all the options are really available to them. Sometimes it is not because they choose not to speak, but that we deny their language that they do not participate. Between the layers of this multi-layered exhibition, some voices go unheard, and are left to dissolve like last night’s unrecorded conversation. How we negotiate the conflict between written licenses and the spoken is something that we have yet to create a language to truly meet.
Beth, gen 14.