Friday, 28 May 2010

What's going on

No posts since more than ten days!
Well, it's a bit difficult when you have to:

1. Follow up a show;
2. Finish your assignments;
3. Open the events day and close the show the day after;
4. Organise another small project;
5. Remember you had a social life.

We even have amazing pictures to post, so please bear with us.

You won't be disappointed again!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

The Stories Behind the Opening

Wednesday morning, 9:30 am at the University.

In Unit 2, Will is squatted on the floor, manoeuvring cables and plugs next to a black hand painted plinth, under Sophie's gaze: the loop of the video Dancing on Kelkule' (B-END) isn't working because of a missing remote, and she's just back from Argos where she bought a new DVD player with a remote; now it's just the case to understand which cable goes in which plug. Meanwhile, Francesca is standing on the ladder, cleaning the dusty and so far neglected surface of the spotlights. We've spent the previous days scraping the floor, then polished by the cleaners, sanding the wall and re-painting it: the long, rectangular gallery looks fresh and new.

All the works are up and ready but three: Habda is gone to Charlotte's studio to collect two and is due to come in at 12-ish. We are adding a new piece, Night Gown, that the artist has just finished, because the left hand side wall next to Dylan's installation looks a bit empty. For a moment, setting up a show looks like furnishing a home. You notice an empty space above the sofa: you buy a mirror or something in a frame. For a great collector, that would be a painting.

The other missing work is THE Odyssey. Not ready yet.
The day before, I had my very first long face when I discovered that the MDF panel was painted at 4.30 pm and was going to take all night to dry up. Moreover, the switches' plates didn't have their gloss yet. That meant finishing the work on Wednesday, the opening day, by 6 pm. Hah.

9:35 am.
My long face and I are at the spray workshop in order to beg Andy, who's swamped with other work, to spray finish the plates, which will dry in two hours (two hours!) We exchange pleasantries, and then Andy makes my morning by saying that he did the job at 8:30 am and we can collect the plates in half an hour or so. I jump back downstairs to meet D.V., who is now officially helping Silvia and has been nominated our guardian angel: a skilled technician, practical and direct person, he will reveal himself to be an essential add. We go in search of a gun...for hot melt glue, not to shoot anyone of course.

11:30 am.
The panel is dried and ready on trestles in the workshop in front of the spray finishing room. Silvia and D.V. are inserting switches in the holes, which click perfectly in place. The gun is not warming up. It takes 10 minutes before realising that the plug isn't working. New plug. The gun works. At 11:46, we have our first test of gluing a plate to a table, to see if it holds. It does. More or less.

12:07 pm.
Back in Unit 2. The video loop works, but there are problems with the plinth crashing the cable and stopping the connection. A big, black, heavy TV sits atop of the plinth and has to be removed every time a new arrangement is made. Nonetheless, Will doesn't loose his high spirit. I get a text from Habda: all well, she is on her way with the works. If we need anything just let her know. Same text from Clementina, who will come in the afternoon. Fran is adjusting the projector's position for Gusztav and Katja's video Transposed Bodies, which in the meantime has been kept playing: although none of us speaks German, I think we now know the lines by heart.

12:33 pm.
I go back to the workshop room, which is 5-7 minutes walk from Unit 2, to see how the plates gluing is going. One line is done. The lines are 21. The switches 160. One line per hour makes...I suddenly realise that the work is proceeding very slowly because of the accuracy Silvia is putting in choosing the right colour combination among the six selected. I make her promise to speed up, then I regret saying that: beautiful things are always slow. From the back of my mind, I hear a voice shrieking: No.Time.For.Cheap.Poetry.Damnit!

2:30 pm.
I bring the guys something to eat and have my sandwich along the way. Two lines done. But, most of the plates have been arranged, it's just a matter of gluing them. 

3:05 pm.
Back in Unit 2. Charlotte's works are up and look amazing, I may make some more considerations in a minute. On D.V.'s suggestion, I am putting the screws in the wall for Odyssey in advance so, if they really finish last minute, at least we will save time on the hanging. Will, who in the end managed to fix the video but isn't quite done yet, and I diligently take all the measurements according to D.V.'s instructions, and mark the four holes for the screws. 

4:16 pm.
I spend at least half an hour to check that the holes are on the same line: not easy when you have a 224 cm long work and a spirit level measuring only one meter.
I need a string. And blue tack. There was plenty of it but I can't find it anymore (I will find it two months later, in the back pocket of my shopping trolley. And I have the suspect it was actually me who put it there). While the others start to clean up the space from tools and additional dust, I go to buy some more tack justincase and to see what the situation is with the work.

4:30 pm.
Still gluing. Some of the plates have started being temperamental and refuse to stick. The three bottom lines are all done. Plus the first two and some other random plates. I receive a phone call from Fran saying if I wanted to go home with her and relax a bit. I thank her and decline.

5:05 pm.
The corridor outside the workshop bears the marks of my pacing back and forth. Inside, the guys are pitching on.

5:23 pm.
I receive a phone call. What.Is.The.Piece.At? I am not surprised by the hint of impatience in his voice. My calm wears off for a second, but I reassure him that we are almost there, the screws are in the wall already, and all we have to do is to pop the work onto...I don't see any screws in the wall, is the answer.
There are no screws in the wall.
Oh, brilliant. After having pulled myself together, I ask to speak to Will, who explains to me that he prefers to see the work before putting screws, just in case it needs to be moved...I give up for a couple of minutes and report to Silvia and D.V. They urge me to put the screws in the wall.

5:31 pm.
I call Will again. Same conversation. I feel like hot metal between two anvils, and about to be squeezed like a lemon. I run for it, back to Unit 2, and can feel my throat drying off. When I get in breathless, I am not even able to speak: Pu...Scr...heh...Wall...No...W! And I also remember to say Pls.
While GoodWill does that, I quickly fix the video camera that has to film everyone activating the switches in place, on an existing ledge above Russel's work. There is just a plastic string holding it in place, plus loads of blue tack. God bless the Blue Tack. Wish me luck.

5:47 pm.
The screws are in the wall. Will and I are on our way to collect the work. As soon as he and D.V. lift it, a couple of plates fall off.

5:51 pm.
People stare and cars honk while a panel with 160 coloured switches floats about, carried by two rather exhausted guys. Silvia and I waddle behind, hoping not to have to grab other fallen plates. We miss the shortcut to Unit 2 and take a parallel street. It seems to take forever.

5:54 pm.
Artwork approaching! I sprint forward, open Unit 2's door wide and declare: "They're here". There are people in the gallery. Thank God it's just the artists. The others wait in front of the work's spot to finally see it. Great expectations are in the air.

5:55 pm.
Odyssey enters Unit 2. Just one last effort and...pop! It perfectly sits on the screws. It's straight. It holds. A spontaneous though slightly exasperated applause bursts out. Fallen plates still to be fixed.

5:57 pm.
Video camera is on and records my panicked face and waving hands as the first thing. I cross the gallery carrying the ladder and bump in a couple of acquaintances who came to see the show...early. I am not dressed nicely, have no make up, and my cheeks are bright red. But I definitely feel relieved.

6:00 pm.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Broken promises

Hem Hem (embarrassed coughing)
Just to clarify: the fact that yesterday you didn't see a post with an installation shot before the opening, to show you at what time we finished, doesn't mean that the show isn't open...

SORRY, WE'RE OPEN is up and running, more details to come soon!
Bear with us.

I am exhausted, but very happy.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

It's Wednesday already and I am not.

If you're thinking that this title sentence doesn't make any sense, you're probably right.
It is inspired to the title of a book by Italian writer Alessandro Bergonzoni, who just wanted to say, in a very philosophical way, that he wasn't ready for something. His whole being wasn't ready.

Tomorrow's the big day.
We have worked hard, the artists have worked hard, nonetheless some big issues still need to be sorted out; I know is normal when you deal with organising a big event as such with, literally, your bare hands and your personal - limited - knowledge of practical stuff.

The curator, this essential and yet undefined figure, is here divided in two parts: from one side, the intellectual one, the one who devises the show and all its cultural implications, who makes the connections between the works and makes people see the message. 
From the other, the practical one. Someone who can build a frame, screw nails without screwing up things, hang stuff from the ceiling if needed and has a very, very deep knowledge of any material, from the reactions of paint to fingers touch to how to bend metal and make a projector cage out of it.
As for our little team, I can proudly say that we include both curators type. Half and half, evenly split.
Anyway, like it happens when you play Monopoly, unforeseen events happen.

Tomorrow we open at 6 pm.
I promise to put a post up as soon as the setting up is finished, just to be able to look at it in a while, maybe a week later, and see what the time was, when it was posted.

Saturday, 8 May 2010


We're temporarily CLOSED.
This is the week-end of calm before the storm, so we just decided to unplug our brains and have a little rest.

I now leave you with this song.
It's a lullaby in Italian which tells about a traveller and all the encounters you may have in a wonderful journey. Although it's in a different language, you may like it all the same.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Bits and bobs.......

Posted by Habda

(art) Community Matters

 It's frustrating.

When you are on a very expensive Master, you have to keep a job to carry on; and, if that job is art-related and you do like it, things get even more complicated for your studies.

In short: when I am at work I can't be around to help for the show, and so are some other curators. Fran and Will, our handy ones, are doing their best to get everything ready for the two days installation next week (and I will definitely keep you posted on that), but the truth is that there aren't enough technicians around to build, saw, glue, cut, staple, etc. because they are all busy for the upcoming show the Fine Arts students will have at the end of the academic year, meaning June. When you are organising a show, you feel like you're the only one on earth doing so. In this case, waking up and DIY are essential.

Well, I guess we were in trouble. Silvia's work was due to be ready yesterday, with the panel glued and ready to be sprayed together with onehundredandsixty switches. Instead, we're running a little late on schedule, which never is a good thing because I am dead sure we'll have more issues during installation. Then, what? 

Ah, let me tell you about the small art world: a willing extra hand is always there. 
Yesterday, Silvia and I were having this conversation:

Si - We would really need an extra hand...
sy - I know... Actually, a friend of mine sent me an email the other day recommending someone who just moved to London...
Si - Oh, yeah?
sy - And I made contact with him: he was very kind and said to call him if we ever needed an hand.
Si - Ah, maybe we can try... Otherwise, a friend of mine, too, wanted to introduce me to a friend of his who can be of help here... His name was... can't remember. What's your guy's name?
sy - D.V.
Si - (stares)
sy - What??
Si - (laughs hysterically) That's him!
sy - No way!
Si - Yes!

They say London is a big, alienating metropoli. I don't quite agree.
It is actually difficult to see friends unless you make an early appointment but, in the end, you can just bump into people by chance. The strong network in the often-neglected-by-the-system art world has always amazed me, there always is a friend of a friend knowing another friend who has met a friend who knows a friend of yours. And it is nice to get someone helping and solving problems because of that.

Thank you, D.V.!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Odyssey and other journeys

We are a week away from the opening.

When I think about how quick all that time passed, I can go nuts. From now on, I will commit myself and put one post per day, just to keep everyone up to date. Thank you for following us so far.

Now, just before collapsing on the bed, let's talk about the Odyssey. 
I am referring to Silvia's work title, which is the product of how the piece was born and why. I am not going to tell you all about it at once, though...better coming to the show to appreciate it in full! Today, we experienced the actual making of and saw it unfold and live before our eyes, at least in pieces. A big THANK YOU to the technicians at London Met wood workshop, Stuart and Jennyve in particular, for all their help today: we couldn't have made it without you guys and your patience. If you remember this post, you'll know now that we found a way to have this incredible piece on show.

When I left Silvia dealing with saws and messy measurements and entered our office, I was delighted to find Nathalie's work delivered: two collages, a big and a small one, very different from each other and therefore absolutely interesting. One in fact looks like a proper environment, almost another space with round elements floating in it regardless of perspective or gravity rules. The first word that came to my mind was: pop. And then, equilibrium. Peace.

Francesca is working on the screen for the projection of Guszstav and Katja's video. Today the built frame was delivered and we also have the black out material. The idea is, for the screen, to be perpendicular to the wall, like a floating canvas and work like a door, with hinges on the wall that allow it to be open or close, according to necessities.
We mustn't forget that Unit 2 will host also the talk and performances by, respectively, Cesare and Sophie, therefore we will need space. Literally. There's always a negotiation with the space.

We sorted out who's delivering what work and when for this and next week, and learned that Dylan is going neon. At the beginning I misunderstood and imagined a structure made of light, whereas what Habs was talking about is the colour of the structure. This activated Silvia and an interaction between artists begun: which colours shall she paint her switches in order not to clash with neon orange?
We'll know the answer to this question quite soon-ish.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Activities (and Inactivities)

The picture here is a little homage to Jannis Kounellis

Hello. Minus eleven.

Things have been sorted before this forthcoming bank holiday, so we are ready to take what is coming next week.

Silvia Iorio has arrived and, with her, arrived the switches. That is just one in a hundred and something, still to be painted. It is quite exciting to see bits and pieces of a work before it is set into place, which should happen at some point next week.
We've been talking to technicians for a big plywood panel to host them in the final installation, arranging dimensions and even granted a studio for Silvia where she will be able to assemble the work.
Can't wait to see it finally in place. Check.

Not only the mailer, but also the lovely catalogue and postcards have been sent off last Wednesday via post. People should receive it just after May Bank holiday. Time Out has been alerted about the show on Tuesday night, just one day before the deadline for the listings.

Charlotte's work is on the way. Really looking forward to seeing it as it is very small and intimate. We'll probably find it in our office when we go back to work on Wednesday. Check.

Martina and Nathalie should have their work ready too and will bring it in next week at some point, very close to the opening. We have a nice scale model of Unit 2 in our office made by our Francesca and had spent the latest weeks arranging mini-artworks mock up around. We seem to have very straightforward ideas about the hanging. Check.

Some very nice vinyls of the show's title and dates are being ordered by Habda for the door. Not in England, because they're too pricy, but from abroad. They should arrive just on time, unless another volcano blows up. Check.

Russel is probably buying the white wash paint for the window in this very moment, whereas Silvia is hunting for spray paint and varnish around Soho, with a map in one hand and some more switches in the other. Check.

Dylan and Sophie have been in touch, too. Their work will be a nice surprise. Katja and Gusztav are coming from Berlin for the opening with all their family: thanks again to the Goethe Institut for their support. Check.

Cesare didn't let me know if he needs a projector for his talk. Eeek!