Galleries and museums had to adapt. People couldn’t come to see the work, so it had to be shown virtually. Emails invitations to virtual exhibition after virtual exhibition floated in. Most of them were sad, the work felt further removed, less real, more a reminder of what we couldn’t experience by not being there, than an experience of the art in itself.
I started thinking about the medium of the virtual exhibition. I was looking at the paintings in my studio with no one to see them, nowhere to go. I thought about the strange situation of me the artist, who also in a way is the gallerist, I have to sell the work, find someone to show it.
The problem is the prompt.
Since real exhibitions weren’t possible, I decided to make a virtual exhibition of these paintings. But instead of only focusing on the paintings, I decided to make this virtual exhibition a piece in itself, not dedicated to show the paintings only, but one that reflected on the situation we were in, the pandemic, and how this sudden full stop forced all of us to look at ourselves in so many ways. While reflecting on the pandemic, and showing the paintings, I wanted to make a work that speaks to the dilemmas specific to the artworld, that we as artists, gallerists, and audiences experience, and the fluidity of our realities and the roles we inhabit within it. To me the act of making paintings, conventional paintings, is inextricably also connected to the question of “what is the value of art” - how do we relate to the market, to selling, reselling, capital and investment. A painting feels more tied to capitalist structure to me than the films and photos I usually make. I think because it is unique. It represents value and labor, and it is not reproduceable. It is a commodity in a way a film is not.
And so I set up a white box gallery space in my studio. I hung the show. I made two sculptures that represented the artist/gallerist and artist/viewer. They would act as my avatars.
Over the course of the first year of the pandemic, I animated the space and the characters. I developed the language and acoustic space for the piece. When I felt moved, I sang into my phone, then took that audio, cut it up, digitally manipulated it and combined it with the animation. I thought of it as a pandemic “Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, located in an art gallery/artist studio as acted out by the artist/gallerist/viewer and her puppets. In the piece it is sometimes hard to know who is who, and what is what. I did this on purpose, in the art world we are often all of these people. I am the one who is selling this work, I am also the one who is looking at work, I am also the one who is creating the work. I feel all these roles. I am someone who has had the opportunity to move in most spaces in the art world, from apartment gallery to museum. When I work with commercial institutions, or with established institutions a thing that is notable is that so many of the things that are being addressed by the art shown by the institutions aren’t actually addressed by the institution itself. Artists make political work that absolve their funders from their actions, but the museum also creates a space where this work can exist. We all know the problems in the art world. For the artist to be successful is to become rich, the work will sell for more and more, that is the measure of success and power. But what sells, why? And for how much? Who can afford it? What does it mean to make work that is only affordable by a certain slice of the population? How did that slice get the money that pays for the art? Are we all complicit?
I have no answers, I have some answers. I made paintings. I want to sell them. I need to pay my bills. I want them to be loved.