Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Make no mistake. A person who has the desire to create a staff show does so out of desperation. Desperate to show and desperate not to remain hidden. This was the first step in the creation of this show. You might ask “But why so desperate?” The answer is not so long in coming. “Desperate because I work in a job that doesn’t pay very much. Desperate because I have worked at it for too long.” You might be put off by this answer. But I would continue: “I love working at the ICA. It has been a real education, I love the people I work with. I have seen and heard a lot of thought-provoking and inspiring things!! However, I still want to escape. I have spent too many long hours sitting in the gallery projecting my own work into the space or watching the same movie three times in a day. Fighting the boredom and telling myself that I do this job because of its flexibility. Because it allows me to still make art work! And so hours are spent making surreptitious notes that describe the trajectory of possible ways out!” Without the initial raw impulse of desperation the show would never have got off the ground. But the project has gone far beyond this starting point and has developed into something more interesting, more various and more rewarding than I could have possibly imagined.

The beautiful and eloquent idea of using the private spaces as a platform for private lives and private work came out of a conversation between Russell and me. I had been talking to lots of people about my idea for a staff show and various models for the show had evolved. Most of them involved proposing the use of the main spaces in the ICA in some way during the interim between exhibitions. However, the conversation with Russell yielded something new and, most importantly, realistic. Inspired by Jens Hoffmann’s curatorial practice he suggested the use of the private spaces in some way. I was immediately persuaded. It was clear that here was a concept that would dramatize and contextualise the work in a way that would not have occurred had it been shown in the main spaces or a space outside the ICA and that would even create new freedoms through its restrictions.

Both Russell and I felt that it was important to make the exhibition open to all staff regardless of whether they were an artist or not. This social aspect has brought creativity and invention into the everyday relations of the building. It has created a context for all staff to participate and relate to the spaces and people that are the ICA. But more than this it makes a persuasive argument for blurring the line between artwork and life. It allows us to say, perhaps it is enough to have a project, to fight against the gravity and meaninglessness of life and the heaviness of yourself. The show brings a context that highlights the value and beauty of this “having a project” and makes an argument for its inclusion within the boundaries of what constitutes art.

Throughout the process of developing the show every so often desperation would again rear its head. I would suddenly think “a show that is not seen, why? We want to be seen! That’s the whole point of showing, isn’t it?” And so developed an internal dialogue about the value of privacy in general and its particular value in the creative process. Many artists have a deep-rooted instinct to keep their work private. Myself included. An impulse that sometimes verges on the self-destructive. There seem to be many reasons not least an insecurity about the work and a sense of its lack of value and the futility of art in general. However, perhaps the strongest reasons are to do with the doubt, resistance and randomness that comes from a relation to the art world. But it is a strange truth that many artists have the compulsion to make work regardless of if it is seen by that many people. And it is the value of this compulsion and its strength to persevere and adapt itself for survival and growth that this show celebrates. The work in this show displays the evidence of the private struggle for survival in difficult circumstances. But more than this it also displays the embracing of those circumstances through which you can transform and transcend them.

Joe Schneider


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