I just got off the phone with someone, here at Artspace. They are planning on submitting work to our next call for submissions. Having never been here, this individual had questions about the space, and while the Artspace website hosts a layout of the gallery, it is not quite the same as standing in this room. It is difficult to describe a room, as evidenced by this phone call. It was a curious experience to describe dimensions and lighting. I found myself walking around the room and looking at things I had not considered before. How many bodies wide is this alcove? The truism that artists see the world differently is bubbling up in my mind right now, as I consider this experience of looking at a space and its potential as a container for artwork.
One of the main features of Artspace’s Gallery 1 are its two enormous windows. Anyone who has sat at the Artspace attendant desk – opposite these west facing windows, at around 4 or 5 in the evening – will tell you sunlight can be difficult to work with. This affects the artwork mounted here as much as the color of the walls and the dimensions of the room. Lighting is an important consideration when installing any work, highlighted by the specific needs of projection works. Showing at Artspace right now, Melissa General’s show ‘Cause I work so hard to make it everyday (2018) is comprised of video work. In Gallery 2, a long and skinny room, a mounted projector illuminates an area nearly exactly the size of the fourth wall. Moreover, the room can be made dark!
Comparatively, the light from the windows in Galley 1 makes projection work more difficult to mount. In fact, for this show we have ordered blinds for those large windows to improve the clarity of this projected work and improve Artspace’s ability to show other works in the future. Such a purchase is no small matter when it comes to the budget. It is certainly the case that there are some works that Artspace might wish to show which are excluded from consideration due to logistical and financial constraints. For example, can the work fit in the building? Sometimes, obstacles can be got around. I recall packing a large work into a larger keep this side up box just outside the front door for which it was too wide. However, not every problem is surmountable on a shoestring. While the blinds are an investment this institution has decided to make, changes are not always easy or fast. (In fact, the blinds have been delayed, and should now arrive the second week of December.) This is one major aspect to the importance of the work of Artists. They have the power to inspire and influence change by challenging norms in their work.
Artists and their work respond to the world in which those artists are exploring. Creating work with new technologies is inevitably a part of this exploration, as is challenging institutions such as Artspace to consider the infrastructure which supports and/or fails to support these works. This is the way it should be! When I first came to Artspace in the summer the very first thing I was asked to read was Five Suggestions for Better Living by, artist and curator, Skawennati Tricia Fragnito. This work illuminates a relationship between artists and administrators and greatly influenced programming decisions that have been seen at Artspace over the past year, including the mounting of the current exhibition. As new work presents new challenges to infrastructure, institutions like Artspace will continue to develop and grow in response. It is not the job of artists to fit in the box, it is the job of the box to get bigger. I believe this fact extends far beyond the microcosmic effects on galleries which show such work.