In which we discuss an unexpected opportunity in the lockdown: first Ursula, then Simon.
Ursula: It’s on a scaffolding! What has become our outdoor-gallery, or gallery out-of-space, as now outside the house, out of the inside. A job had to be done that required scaffolding, they didn’t take it down before the lockdown – and now it is here to stay until whenever it finishes. Typical for the weird time we have entered: things, jobs had been put on hold, all our work had been stopped in its tracks, society at large on its head, it’s a kind of waiting-to-exhale time. Time on hold, time folded, scaffold, hold on tight to life, don’t get locked out, stay put.:
Weird time, odd time, time out, lock down this is: a time piece in an infected key. So it felt appropriate to start when we all lost an hour, due to the clocks changing – which, this year, they did on the 29th March. This turned out to be a significant time-date: exactly a year before they had their first fallen Brexit deadline, exactly a month before this we had our extra-day of this leap year. Time expired, time found, time lost, time spent, and now: locked down.
We have a public sculpture standing on the harbour side, which we can see above the scaffolding in the window. It’s an elliptic–shaped ball of iron, with different motifs depicting our town’s history in it, and it lights up at night: therefore they called it the ‘Alauna Aura’. Alauna is the Roman name for our town, and that strangely echoes ‘alone’ in the lockdown. We walked to this Aura and marked the loss of the hour there. Its elliptic shape makes it look like an egg. Where we gave birth! – to this new time, and our art-work for this time.
The following day I took a crate, filled with my recycled plastic eco-brick-bottles, out onto the scaffolds, with the intention of leaving it there overnight. You had taken your plastic bunch of flowers there already, the day after your Tiny Revolution Day – and now, with the first overnight esxhibit, we declared it a gallery!
So here’s a time-piece in oval time, on a space which had been ‘under construction’. And now here we are, constructing our pieces to answer to the lockdown-period, to give unusual answers for this unusual time, where fault-lines (economy over people) we had been built upon, come crumbling, and now something new is ‘under construction’. The scaffolding, the scaffold, a new Deleuzian fold?
In the folds, our life unfolds. Stories from the past coming out of folds, and futures under construction. So here the perfect place to have a gallery on. It’s a forum, to look around amidst the lockdown.
There are interesting practicalities arising from this too: the overnight exhibits have to be tough. I exchanged the cardboard box with a box that was made of plastic grids – both of these boxes were industrial, originally collected for our last house move. And now they’ve moved outside the house! We are moving, and yet moving again, in so many ways, even if this lockdown has caused a standstill.
Here, on the scaffolds, has arisen a home for further ideas and thoughts of movement: for us all to go back to the space of society, when it opens up again, differently, to reorganise our systems of economy: for a new, a fairer world under construction perhaps.
Simon: The Out-O-Space Gallery (O-O-S) is a response to two things: the Lockdown, and the Builders. Last year we pointed out a leak in our roof to our landlord, it was causing stains on the ceiling, expanding joists and creeping mould. Last month, the Builders got around to putting scaffolding up, replaced the loose tiles and then abandoned ship. In the meantime, the Government has ordered Lockdown. The scaffolding remains, blocking our view. A view that we used to enjoy—watching seagulls flapping across the sunset, or lazy trawlers chugging into the harbour. No more. Planks and scaffolding poles obscure the once quaint scene. Artisanal functionalism replaces Arcadian post-industrial.
Things to look out for in any crisis include how items multi-layer. The coronavirus is one thing, toothache another, missing toilet rolls, a lack of ‘chemical reagents’, yet others. In an economy tuned for ‘non-essential items’ things begin to pile up or deplete in unexpected ways. For us, the Lockdown has coincided with a restricted view, and as walking-led artists we have also been restricted in our fundamental practice. One hour a day, strictly for food, exercise, or health reasons (um… not art then?).
Our intimate relationship with other materialities and organisms might provide us with a moral, of sorts, Finally getting around to fixing a leaking roof when it’s too late, and then leaving the scaffolding up without reason or workforce? The scaffolding becomes part of the post-capitalist circus, revealing paths to restricted authoritarianism or teetering towards openness and liberation. Choosing liberation, I decided to place a bunch of flamboyant red plastic flowers in a handy protruding pole. The view was perfectly fine before the scaffolding, now it could be reclaimed anew. The flowers thanked me for it as they tasted the sweet rain. They reminded me that many, many years ago in a previous life, I had taken them down into my basement studio in order ‘to brighten things up’. In that space where the sun had not ventured since the Victorians had designated it a coal hole, the flowers accompanied me through countless music projects, providing criticism where needed, but always happy and never complaining of their restricted view. But now they were free! Rain. Wind. Sun.
In this way, we turned our restricted view into an unlimited view. An open-ended platform. A wooden platform for an inifinity of exhibits. The O-O-S Gallery. A place we can look out on a new thing everyday, lit exquisitely by Sun, filtered through fellow clouds.
This place we can improvise with. Plastic flowers, plastic bottles, plastic crates, plastic wrappers in the plastic bottles…or maybe a rug? Sounds? A projection? How long for? The Builders appear in no hurry to dismantle it. The Lockdown is of an indeterminate length. We don’t know how long we’ve got. Whether our restricted walks invite unwanted guests in with us and lay us out? Who knows? A makeshift gallery of shifting perspectives and expectations—for our shifting times and sands.
None of this would have happened without a few mould colonies and some white crystal efflorescence alerting us to an overarching structural problem. Although both elements were the result of the ingress of water, no water as such entered the room. Water had revealed itself through living and chemical expression.
Outro: As the Lockdown continues to unfold, we’ll tell more about the gallery on the scaffold(ing). We invite you to submit ideas, images, objects in any media, sounds etc for the gallery. Please email us (see contact page).
Simon now has posted an article on ‘Bottle-19’, a piece that featured in the Out-O-Space Gallery here.
Also we have posted an article in the Basement Arts lockdown journal where you can catch up on a whole range of artists and projects responding to lockdown.
Meanwhile: here are a few links to other artists’ responses to Lockdown.