The endlessness of print: A review of ‘Beyond Exhausted’
Cameron Ralston talks publications, archiving and exhaustion about the design-centric exhibition at Ōtautahi’s The Physics Room.
Publications are containers of information. As objects they travel and disseminate a message. Unlike traditional fine art mediums such as painting and sculpture where the audience stands back to look, the reader of a publication must open it and spend time with its content. The book form doesn't require the physical space of the gallery and it is at this point that the publication as art object perhaps runs into contention.
Beyond Exhausted is a exhibition with work from Matthew Galloway, 3-ply and Caitlin Patane currently on display at The Physics Room, Ōtautahi Christchurch. For Beyond Exhausted, the gallery space has been divided. Dunedin-based designer Matthew Galloway’s work is in the main room with publishing initiative 3-ply & Melbourne-based artist Caitlin Patane's work around the corner in what The Physics Room usually uses as the AV space. The exhibition features re-printed, and re-presented, printed matter with books that you can take (The Silver Bulletins) or purchase (Re-Print # 1, 2, 3). Both parts of the exhibition use the production of printed matter to test the effects of time, authorship and archiving.
When is something complete (or exhausted)?
Alongside curator Sophie Davis, the artists question the life of an artwork, or publication. When is something complete (or exhausted)? Beyond Exhausted never truly answers that proposition but makes a few suggestions for the viewer. It draws out the notion of once it’s shown it’s finished – especially true for much (often deliberately temporary) work shown in art spaces such as The Physics Room.
The exhibition itself feels transitionary. The stacks of books are there to be taken away and the city that shines is even lifting from the wall a little, like it’s attempting to escape and bury itself under the CCDU blueprint. These books and pieces make us aware of their original contexts. Is a publication’s context is ever finalised? As multiplied and distributed objects they are inherently ongoing. However by being in a gallery they enter into a complicated environment of art history and connotations. The work becomes more of a valuable object than an ephemeral statement. The gallery itself is archival.
Following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, Matthew Galloway’s The Silver Bulletin emerged as a mouthpiece for a community of concerned Christchurch people. In particular the last three issues (7, 7.5, 8), all released in 2012, covered notions of place-making, way-finding, rebuild, deconstruction and language. As editor, designer, printer and distributor, Galloway through the production of the publications, was able to continue meaningful and valuable conversations around contemporary topics of city-building and branding.
Issues 7 and 7.5 of The Silver Bulletin were produced for This is an Invitation, a project Galloway conducted at, now retired, Christchurch gallery Dog Park Art Project Space in 2012. The generation of content and printed outcomes of Galloway’s project created strong links to the place and the people, creating a type of community-in-print.
While this work was made four years ago, the content is still relevant today. The Cathedral is still in ruins, the city still faces ongoing bureaucratic control over land and planning and the head-butting of creative potential and decision making seems endless.
In his practice Galloway uses a position of creator, editor and designer to invite in new knowledge and reach into other disciplines such as architecture, urban design and social issues. While this work was made four years ago, the content is still relevant today. The Cathedral is still in ruins, the city still faces ongoing bureaucratic control over land and planning and the head-butting of creative potential and decision making seems endless. Christchurch is yet to really reach any confident decisions about what kind of place it wants to be and people are tired. The Silver Bulletin tries to find an identity within a broken city.
Graphic design – like many art forms – responds directly to a time. Archiving and reproduction makes these accessible to future readership where the content may be rethought in a new context, both in meaning and style. Yet these second editions of The Silver Bulletin lack the same energy of the originals. Designed and distributed as ephemeral publications they had a sense of immediacy and community that can’t be reproduced in 2016, especially as Galloway and many of the contributors have left the city.
Out of the Shadows by Galloway looks at the CCDU Blueprint map of central Christchurch. This work interests me the most. It presents previous discussions brought up in The Silver Bulletin around the Christchurch central city development, but displays nuance around ideas of anchored plans versus community space with the use of graphic symbols as unifying tools. Just as graphic design responds to time it responds to people. Through the piece the viewer can reflect on the current state of the matters discussed within The Silver Bulletin’s second editions.
The exhibition frames the significance of re-exhibiting works that already exist in the world as a way of documenting time and showing publishing as a form of critical practice. In the case of 3-ply’s Re-Print books, the notion of finding a contemporary audience becomes pertinent. Described as ‘out-of-date’ the publications are given new life with today’s contemporary audience.
The contribution by 3-ply and Caitlin Patane includes three re-printed artist books, and two essays placed on a desk with a pencil and eraser inviting the reader to annotate them. Re-print #1: 1 2 3, Re-print #2: Shanghai Fax, and Re-print #3: I Have No Time are all scanned, printed and bound editions of out of print art publications. In reprinting these, 3-ply indexes and disseminates knowledge that was inaccessible before (except to the few who own copies).
Furthermore, they use multiple layers of translating and reprinting to question where the authorship in these text and images resides. They act like reference points and documents of time and labour.
All the works in this part of the gallery – presented as individual copies rather than multiples – ask the viewer to take their time. They play with the duration of readership and question whether the work is complete before or after the reader. Furthermore, they use multiple layers of translating and reprinting to question where the authorship in these text and images resides. They act like reference points and documents of time and labour (content creation, collaboration, repetition, mark making, reading, writing, transcribing, publishing). The 3-ply reprints also incorporate ISBN numbers with targeted distribution to galleries, libraries, bookstores, as well as institutions and archives relevant to the original edition.
Beyond Exhausted presents entry points to a critical discourse about print objects that explores how they are archived and remembered. Many of the works in Beyond Exhausted look at the use of the book form as a conveyor of messages within the limitations and attributes of print. These are books that prioritise a redistribution of printed form as apposed to any digital forms of archiving.
Everything in the show walks the line between the ephemeral and preservation. The surfaces of the wall works and cathedral shape represent brands or identities in Christchurch that have been removed or disrupted, appropriately reflecting back onto the people and city out the windows they are designed to represent. The essays change with annotations, The Silver Bulletins are taken away, and yet as objects entering into galleries and archives they will be documented and available for future readership. Beyond Exhausted intentionally resists ever being final.
The Physics Room
19 November – 23 December 2016
Exhibition photographer: Daegan Wells
All photos courtesy of the artists and The Physics Room