Arnolfini steward and Exhibitions Assistant Anthony Elliott gives a response to Joëlle Tuerlinckx’ exhibition WOR(L)D(K) IN PROGRESS?
Six months ago I had barely any interest in architecture. A number of exhibitions at Arnolfini have since lead me to think differently about the city around me, and architecture’s unassuming role in how we live.
Buildings can often be taken for granted. They are big things, that don’t move, and only really demand attention when they go wrong. The most important thing about them, whether they are old or new, is that they protect you from the never ending siege of rain.
However, via the artworks staged in Arnolfini this past six months, I have become more attuned to the subtle variations of surfaces on walls; the historical moments archived by these giant structures; and the impressions we leave on them by our repeated daily footfalls.
Ian Hamilton Finlay’s poetic gestures weave fantasy and history with text and stone. Michael Dean’s haptic concrete sculptures merge body and building, using materials and textures are somehow both organic and artificial. Furthermore, Mierle Laderman Ukeles documented the human labour that keeps buildings, in fact entire cities, maintained and functioning.
Above all of these, it is Jöelle Tuerllinckx’ retrospective exhibition that points me towards architecture. For Tuerlinckx, a line is not linear, circles are not round, a surface is not flat, rocks are not crystal structures, and architecture is not passive. Through a complex game of covering and revealing, Tuerlinckx accentuates irregularity in places usually limited to convention, standardisation, and conformity. Blank white walls intended to fade into the background like a vertical stage for works to perform on, are covered in luminous orange paper brighter than a highlighter. In the same room tape on the floor, noticeable only by its glossy reflection of light against the dull grey concrete, designates a space where “nothing exists”. Only something does- the building, the architecture.
It is hard to know where Tuerlinckx’ exhibition ends: if the middle of the room with nothing in it becomes part of the artwork, then why not the mottled paint on the ceiling? Indeed, the artist has made her own collection of architectural samples taken from galleries she has worked in- bluntly telling us to look at architecture.
Now that I have started looking, it’s hard to stop!
Had it been presented a year ago, I would not have gone to see the current show at the Royal Academy in London. ‘Sensing Spaces’ stages installations by seven architects from around the world that redefine the boundary between the artworks in the gallery, and the gallery itself- as well as the boundary between what artists do and what architects do. Perhaps the distinction is outdated?
I am sure this will continue to be a point of discussion, and I’m sure questions surrounding the impact of architecture on the way we live will continue feature in the projects and exhibitions at Arnolfini. I look forward to seeing aspects of architecture are noticed by these artists, and what unlooked at bits of the city they will bring to our attention.
Coming up at Arnolfini, The Promise is an exhibition project about the relationship between a city and its residents. If we understand a city as more than a place, and more than a shared infrastructure, how do a city’s inhabitants live together, and how does the city’s design – its architecture, urban design, landscape, and infrastructure – impact on the conditions of living? The Promise will consist of a series of offsite commissions developed for significant places in Bristol by international artists including Jeremiah Day, Gabriel Lester, Kate Newby, Oscar Tuazon, and Lost Property; as well as an exhibition in the galleries of Arnolfini. Opens 19 July.