We are trying to meet you.
At Enjoy we are keen on policies of transparency, and so on opening this curatorial essay it is appropriate to ask, how have the mechanics of this project influenced its outcome? The aim for Enjoy Presents: was to represent Enjoy for what and how it exists. A seemingly straightforward task at first, the process of considering the presentation of ourselves so wholly somewhere else became a significant challenge. Committed to representing the nature of, what can most easily be defined as an Artist Run Space, and our community, as well as the individual traits of Enjoy as an organization and the physical gallery space this is played out in, we took on a fair challenge. Turning to what we knew, an investigation began into our history and the people who constitute the growing legacy that is a small, ambitious Art Space on the second floor of upper Cuba St, central Wellington.
In surveying our history it is the rate of change that provides one of the clearest paths for tracking. From a beginning three years ago on July 4, 2000 by Ciaran Begley, Rachel Smithies & Ros Cameron, Enjoy was created to exist as a project space determined to value the Art experience as a process of information and meaning exchange, free from the concerns of commercial constraint. Initially The Enjoy project and now The Enjoy Public Art Gallery, this change in nomenclature is significant in terms of the highly self-reflexive position Enjoy practices. In a state of constant revision, the last three years has witnessed this desire for a critical, cultural analysis mostly as a rigorous and fervently reworked investigation of curatorial practice(s). Working with the definition of Curation as a practice of generating spaces and occasions for encounter, this has seen an increased need for a movement towards (political) transparency. With no permanent chair of the Trust, Gallery Director, or Head Curator, as an organization we actively seek methods that negate a power order.
Amidst this kind of hyper-recuperative agenda however, this is perhaps the first moment in Enjoy’s history that has called for such considered reflection from the position of an audience elsewhere. As an Installation space, the projects that Enjoy facilitates are primarily site responsive and Wellington orientated. As more thought was given to this, the socio-political nature of Enjoy became the dominant reading when attempting correspondence within an inter-regional exchange.
More and more it became about the people. Those who organise and maintain the gallery, the way in which this happens, the people who exhibit and put on shows, the people who come to the openings, the casual art goers, the people who visit with intent; Enjoy is defined by the people involved. So when faced with the challenge of how best to represent ourselves, the solution became obvious: through each other. Enjoy Presents: brings together conceptually and professionally disparate Artists, short listed with the intent of presenting the diversity of Enjoy’s community.
Lined up in alphabetical order, the Artists and their work are positioned within the egalitarian nature of Enjoy’s philosophy. The conformity that such a dominant structure as a line implies is counter balanced by the aggressive and miss-matched cross-readings that surface amongst the collected works. There is a latent potential for fair representation through the reflection of a democratic process that such a structure composes. (Given no handicaps or head starts) I can think of no better default system of ordering than by alphabet. The tension of hierarchies present in the current line-up superbly reflects tensions of representation that are in a constant state of negation in all Art spaces, of which particular attention is given at Enjoy.
Accompanied by a faux audio guide, a depth of context is provided through sounds collected in and around the gallery. Including material from interviews, Artist talks, performances and people just being in the space, a further engagement with Enjoy is possible by partaking in hearing discussions as varied as how to have an avant-garde hair cut to tips on making the most of openings to rather comprising sound bites from trust meetings.
In particular, the C.D. recalls an earlier moment in time,
“There was a lot of frustration with things, trying to get funding… and I remember we had found a brick. Ros had the [declined] funding application printed from the computer…we wrapped it around it… [it was full of] frustration… of positive intent…”
Once more we have found a brick, now reconstituted and imbued with a strong symbolism for what Enjoy is and has been.
“Was it your shoe lace?”
“It was my shoe lace.”*
As a gallery we are in active and ongoing experimentation with our policy and mandate of involvement with shows. Recently a new protocol has been formulated to facilitate both constructive and more transparent gallery motives. The protocol is a three-part structure governing construction and presentation of shows. Proposals solicited and shows internally generated are subject to one of three options, being: Curation, Collaboration or Artists free reign, with the involvement of the gallery acknowledged accordingly. This formally communicates and supports clear and open dialogue with all involved, improving understandings between the Gallery, the Artist and the Audience, through an increasing clearness on positions and processes for participation.
For Enjoy Presents: this is no different and in seeking to uncover and reveal the gestures of union and support that constitute the community of spaces such as ours, we have built a show designed to reflect our community within a similar space. By experiencing the work and listening to the C.D., Enjoy Presents: is a type of invite as well as an act of promotion and an exercise in relocation. From it’s conception, Enjoy Presents: was to address the activity of relocating representations. By drawing on our history and community as a way to investigate this, with this show we have asked ourselves, how and what do we represent? In this sense our aims were broad. And from a list of objectives that became ideologically ambitious, to put it simply, we’re putting out our hand; we are trying to meet you. This has felt rather like an exercise in relational etiquettes. Trying not to sound too much like a radiohead lyric, “I feel like we are a parallel line trying to throw things over there”* (Tao Wells).
As a Curator, by expressing the Gallery policies through the premise and staging of the show, a general effect of maintaining a dialogue around our operating agenda has been achieved. In accordance with Enjoys policy of denoted involvement, this is a Curated show. And reminded of show and tell, I survey these eight artists rather like my favourite marbles or a row of sweets.
Here is some of what we have to offer.
*All quotes from the C.D.Walking into Enjoy [tt42.02], 2003.