Monday 9 March 2015

GUEST POST: 'In Peril on the Sea' Curating Books - Roberta Vacca

I’ve loved books since I was very young. From the bedtime stories read by my mum, growing up and learning to read until I became one of those crazy lectors that won’t be able to detach from a good story even when they're walking on the street.

Books for me have always been a form of art that I wanted to protect, investigate and eventually show to an audience.
At the beginning of October 2014 I started a MA in Curating, where volumes have had an important role in many different occasions, giving me the opportunity to connect and understand this realm more deeply.

Our course has given us the possibility to challenge ourselves in a well known gallery environment, such as Chelsea Space in Pimlico. The first project we undertook was “Works from the collections #1”, where our task was to use objects from the university Special Collections to create an environment in the entrance space of the gallery directly connected to the exhibition in the main gallery space “Bill Jubobe, Bob Cobbing” (19/11/2014 – 19/12/2014), a retrospective on Bob Cobbing’s works and editorial practice.

Deciding to be part of the Books and Texts section, I had the chance of discovering wonderful works, such as Toom Tragel Baldessari sings LeWitt (2009), transcription in musical scores of Baldessari's singing Sol LeWitt's notable statements or the amazing futurist images on the front cover of the first edition of Blast Magazine (1914-1915).

The decision revealed itself a challenge, having us moving from an initial idea of reproducing Cobbing's “Better Books” shop in the small entrance space, with volumes and copies of works freely given to the public visiting the exhibition to read and consult on site to a more secure use of vitrines and protective cases for the books and magazines chosen.

"Work from the collections #1", photo credits Yang Chen, 2014.

The question aroused whether books enclosed in vitrines could be appreciated and loved by the audience fully and the answer is still open. Being so personally connected to the volumes themselves and the feel of them in your hands, I personally disagree with the choice we made, because it gives just a partial feel of what the artworks are. Unfortunately most of the times we have to compromise for the sake of the works themselves and choose to show them confined in display cases, maybe negotiating to leave some of them open, or in the case of the magazines partly or fully unfolded, to show to the unaware visitor the beauty of their inside world.

Part of the class collaborated with Clive Phillpot on the exhibition “In Peril on the Sea: Sailing Ships, Stormy Seas” (28/01/2015 – 20/03/2015). Here two books: Helen Douglas Unravelling the Ripple (2001) and Elisabeth Tonnard Oceanus (2007) were dismantled to create a unique, complete image, in a shape which meant to reproduce the waves of the sea during a tempest. In this case all was left to the imagination of the curators that created a new display, different from what the original artist idea was, opening the work to new possibilities and interpretation even for the artists themselves.

"In Peril on the Sea: Sailing Ships, Stormy Seas", photo credits Gabriel Loy, 2015.

Our next challenge will be once more connected to book art, in this case in the form of sketchbooks of the British theatre designer Jocelyn Herbert.

(Roberta Vacca)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! A very promising curator, I like your work and your thought!