What is the gallery space for? Manchester’s COLLAR and Leeds’ SEIZE Projects travel offsite to investigate. Great Northern Tower [Unit 3] – otherwise known as The Great Medical Disaster, part of Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces scheme – and Suckerpunch play host to The morning has gold in its mouth, the inaugural event of COLLAR’s forthcoming season of exhibitions, discussions and activities, (in) LOVE and FAITH.
By paring back the content of the Friday night private view and inviting SEIZE Project’s Lily Ackroyd-Willoughby, Ned Pooler, Sarah-Joy Ford, Tom McGinn and Daisy Forster to design cocktails to be served throughout the evening, COLLAR set out to examine the relationship between the artist-led gallery and the service industry.
In light of funding decisions made by organisational bodies and the impact this has had on artist-led projects (Glasgow’s Transmission being merely the latest in a long list of organisations who have seen financial support dry up in response to challenging and unconventional programming decisions) questions of the gallery’s purpose and comparisons to the service industry are not insignificant. As projects such as COLLAR, SEIZE and others extend their curatorial and creative practice into the wider field, the criteria which funding bodies use to judge the effectiveness of programmes have remained geared towards traditional institutional modes of presentation and production.
The result is what Stephen Willats terms the “…divorcing of art practice from a root in social reality,” in his work ‘Artwork as Social Model’ (2012). As the practice of art is professionalised, the impression emerges that anything which deviates from the institutionally accepted approach is no longer a work of art. This can be said to be the case all the more especially when the goods which a project or gallery produces are of an unquantifiable sort—such as providing a space for communities to meet, for artists to experiment and as an incubator of political and social activism.
The move from a one-way, distributive framework towards the reciprocal, interactive framework employed by the artist-led project encourages us to reconfigure our concept of what the work of art is. In the shift from the ‘contained object’ or ‘installation’ to the ‘programme of events’ which the gallery provides a home for, the creation of a work begins to involve its audience in a social process, enabling individuals to organise on a grass-roots level and to steer the course which a body takes in terms of its schedule and representation.
In the discussions which took place on the night the phenomenon of the Instagram story was dissected and along with it, the beaurocratic notion of productivity and resultant guilt which the artist has internalised and reflects back out into the world. COLLAR’s forthcoming season of events – the result of a period of research and reflection during which the gallery’s online activity dropped to a minimum – can be seen as an experiment in providing an antithesis to this state of affairs.
The term ‘gallery’ emerged in the mid-fifteenth century to denote a “covered and partly-open passageway along a wall,” serving to extend the French ‘galerie,’ the portico which would surround a building and open out onto the street. The notion of the gallery as a space that provides shelter for process and movement alongside, and fundamentally connected to, social reality is not novel. The artist-led project re-identifies this and provides it as a foundation for experimentation, collective action, and a reconfiguration of our understanding of artistic practice.
The morning has gold in its mouth, The Great Medical Disaster, Manchester.
19 January 2018.
COLLAR’s (in) LOVE and FAITH season continues throughout 2018.
More information about SEIZE Projects can be found here.
More information about Suckerpunch can be found here.
Michael D’Este is a writer and undergraduate student of Philosophy based in Manchester.