Exhibition Essays

Number Nine

December 2002

Ex Number Nine

Lissa Mitchell

I like openings.

Number Nine's mission was to position the art community as an object of critical spectatorship. Video footage and sound bites from seven openings (including Number Nine) were collected and presented as the last show in Enjoy's curatorial series. Each show was represented on a single monitor.

Openings mean different things to different people. For some, they are a hotbed of gossip and competitive conversations. To others, it is their night to present themselves to a public and for others, it is the heady offer of a free drink. Openings are a curious mix of art, anxiety, and alcohol. Adding a camera did not make people more comfortable. People were understandably wary of having their picture taken and conversation recorded.

The monitors were arranged in a circle to suggest a sense of conversation between each of the different shows. The ideas and styles of seven different curators were represented in the same space to suggest that meaning could be created through a comparison of each of the different approaches of the curators. It was not intended that visitors should watch each set of footage from beginning, through middle, to the end; rather that someone watching the installation would see several monitors at once. This was about engaging visitors in a different experience from that of watching a single screen. It also re-created the experience of being at an opening - of hearing something completely unrelated to what you are seeing.

The different shows in the series represented the different responses of the curators to Enjoy, the context the curators see Enjoy functioning in and the art community in general. All were reactionary—whether to art movements, the modus operandi of the art community, or art history. Each focused on ideas and conveyed a sense of the curator's values. All had different perceptions of what Enjoy is.

Number Nine was about making something that others could feel they had a stake in. Questions of style, presentation and ideas were directly related back to the previous curators and their subjects. The focus was on curating as an interpretive act of representing artwork and artists to a wider community. It was about engaging people whose relationships extended into the community in different ways. But it was also about exploiting the networks of others in terms of gathering an audience for Number Nine itself. Two assumptions were made at the conception of the project: that each of the shows would convey interesting ideas about Enjoy, the curators, the artists and the wider art community; and that the curators would enjoy the opportunity to present a show and talk about their ideas. Basically, these assumptions proved true.