Panel 2: “Nothing better than a touch of ecology and catastrophe to unite the social classes…” - An exhibition by Martin Beck19. Sep - 9. Nov 08 / ended Gasworks
“Nothing better than a touch of ecology and catastrophe to unite the social classes…” is Martin Beck's first solo presentation in the UK. The exhibition extends the artist's long-term interest in the history of exhibitions and addresses questions of historicity, referentiality and authorship.
Consisting of new works in different media ranging from print, photography and video, to sculpture and architecture, the exhibition coalesces around the terms “panel”, intended as a display surface, section of a wall, or public discussion; and “ecology”, as a theme concerned with relationships between organisms (human or not) and their environment.
The exhibition's subtitle quotes from a statement delivered by the so-called French Group at the environmentally focused 1970 International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA), Colorado. Written by Jean Baudrillard and partly aimed at the conference’s advisor Reyner Banham, the statement questioned the motives behind the conference's embrace of ecological issues. Since its inception in the early 1950s, the conference had acted as an exchange platform between renowned designers and architects with business leaders and corporate magnates to discuss relations between design and industrial production. The French Group argued that the conference's new found interest in ecology masked the larger political struggles of the time. By diverting ideology “onto rivers and national parks” rather than “class discrimination”, “wars” and “neo-imperialist conflicts”, the conference would bypass the real challenges that society faces. As they put it, “the opposition between chlorophyll and napalm exists only in appearance.”
The exhibition’s framework derives from research on the conference, its debates and documentation, particularly emphasising the intersection of the ecology movement, its corporate embrace and a critique of them. The works composing the exhibition respond to numerous related narratives and motifs, ranging from the ecology of the aspen tree to the U.S. military-sponsored hypermedia system known as The Aspen Movie Map. The artworks’ particular manifestations include a minimalist-looking chrome sculpture, a series of silkscreen prints of arrangements of aspen tree leaves and a projected video work filmed in a forest in Colorado.
Beck’s use of the term panel in the exhibition’s title points to the artist’s ongoing interest in exhibition systems and their relation to Minimal and Conceptual art, particularly around issues of emancipation and control, the social and its administration, for which his recent engagement with George Nelson’s portable panel-based exhibition system Struc-Tube was only one example.
A historical section, put together by the artist, will be installed in Gasworks’ entrance. This sets up the dialogue between container and content, while it introduces the question of how information and references can be negotiated in the framework of an exhibition.
The exhibition will also be accompanied by two discussion events which will explore the themes raised in these new works. One will address the relationship between design, architecture and environmental discourses; while the other will look at issues of working with history in artistic practice. Part of the show is a “guide” which will be given to visitors at no charge.
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