I remember visiting the Bluecoat’s Galapagos exhibition and seeing Tania Kovats' Colony, a sculpture made from barnacles. It made me wonder, would people object to an artwork that involved animals that were more obviously “alive”? Helio Oiticica's Tropicalia gives viewers a change to explore this very question, with two live macaws forming part of the installation.
Continuing, I enter the second part of the installation, through a narrow and twisting corridor which leads to a television, tuned in to BBC One. Currently it’s showing the game show Perfection. I don’t know why. The third and final structure is empty, but on the door there’s a sort of bag-construction partially filled with sand. Confused, I head over to the gallery label, to see if it can offer any insight. Apparently I’m supposed to have ‘interacted’ and ‘engaged’ with the art. What I actually did was walk on some gravel and then around a corridor. I don’t feel like I’ve interacted, though perhaps my sense of discomfort and guilt could be classed as engagement.
Stephen Willats seems to address this issue directly, almost forcing you to spend time with The Lunch Triangle. Here we’re asked to abandon the role of viewer and take on the persona of storyteller. It’s a new experience. We’re used to being provided with facts, even in a gallery where our response can be subjective, but here, we create the ‘facts.’ Beginning by assessing the motivations and relationships of a group of people, we then create a whole new scene (albeit imaginary), which forms the middle part of the triptych. By the time I’d finished, I was so convinced by my story that I’d struggle to see the images in any other way. I wish I’d taken the time to ask the gallery attendant what his interpretation of the scene was. This is definitely one to revisit with friends.
‘Thought provoking’ is probably a phrase that’s used too much, but I can’t help but use it here. The exhibition evoked a strong personal reaction, which for me is a measure of success. There were some absolute gems here which made me assess the amount of time and effort I’m willing to invest in a piece of art, but there was also work which disappointed, and work which made me feel severely uncomfortable. While the physical interactivity of work may have been diminished due to the presence of barriers, the intellectual or emotional interaction was at the forefront, and ultimately, isn’t that what we want from an exhibition?
*Name found later, not on gallery label.