What can concepts like freedom and revolution mean in the present?
In the face of Whitehouse press releases (freedom!) and sneaker advertising (revolution!) some kind of refreshment of their basic uses seems at once all the more urgent and all the more hopeless. Louise Menzies' exhibition Shelter or Marquee intervened in relation to this kind of question.
At the close of the Eighteenth Century in Europe, such words were the fuel for violent, wide reaching social change. Within the arts Romanticism gave legitimacy to the individual imagination as a critical authority. Romanticism has, of course, long since lost its capital letter, and the idea that the individual can make a difference is easily confused with the merely sentimental. Against this legacy, Menzies presents pieces that simply but subtly rework relations between the practical and the ideal, the individual and the collective. Her collaborative and personal, symbolic and actual gestures reassert the aesthetic and the individual.
The space of Enjoy itself was home to a billboard reminiscent of one you might find in your neighbour's front yard during an election campaign, made easily and cheaply in service of its own message. Menzies' sign carried a handmade banner spelling out idealistic slogans. Nearby hung a photographic tribute, Wetherfieber (after Ryan Chadflield), which showed a recreation made by Menzies from memory, of an artwork made by Chadfield while he and Menzies were undergraduates in 2003.
In the final week of the exhibition, Menzies invited Kristen Wineera and Stefanimal to present solo musical sets. These performances introduced a dynamic of individuality in contrast to the implicit ideas of collectivity invoked by Shelter or Marquee and continue an investigation of performance methods current to the artist's practice.
Menzies says, "I hope that an exhibition can be a place where our conclusions can be suspended, where the process of art can give air (or shelter) to individual narratives about the world."
Once more Enjoy was a site for presentation, performance, and exploration. The gallery, and especially the artist run space, can be understood as a place where the artist's message is presented. Here Menzies' project attempts to operate on a personal scale, drawing new possibilities from the more literal platforms of the polemic sloganeering underpinning common idealist searchings.
By Mark Amery