Friday, 12 September 2014

Campbell Works: Coming Up For Air Opens Tonight

First Impressions and Sneak Preview

In response to AirSpace Gallery's curatorial open call, Campbell Works have designed and installed a dynamic and intrinsic new show. The public preview starts tonight at 6pm, with the exhibition open for general viewing from 13th September until 18th October.

Campbell Works is the London-based collaborative curatorial partnership between artists Neil Taylor and Harriet Murray. For their one-month residency, Taylor and Murray proposed to create an installation based entirely on the source material found in the building and its immediate surroundings, as well as drawing from their interactions with its inhabitants. By taking an interest in the building's varied historical usage, an awareness of its past and current shifting existence in the city sparked an idea for curating a 'time slice' of AirSpace's developing artistic and curatorial programme. Now, how to visualise this.

In being fortunate enough to grab a sneak preview and chat with Campbell Works' Harriet Murray earlier this week, I was able to observe the project in its final stages. On entering the gallery space a complex medley of copper piping twisting its way around an odd community of found objects and what appeared to be a tilted bowling ramp occupied the gallery's centre stage. Towering water tanks, lowered bleed-taps and carefully joined pipes hinted at a functioning distillery or heating system. After speaking with Murray about the project's intentions and month-long development, I learnt of Campbell Works' open and earnest interpretation of the building and its inhabitants, translating their findings into a pristine selection of elected and sometimes personified objects with their very own heating.
Joining AirSpace after their participation in Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson's PIGDOGAND MONKEYMANIFESTOS exhibition in May 2014, Taylor and Murray expressed a keen interest in the warmth, generosity and commitment of AirSpace Gallery in a seemingly ambitious location. As an unpremeditated show, Murray comments that whilst there was a loose proposal, the work produced was a result of their investigations of the immediate environment at 4 Broad Street.
In describing AirSpace as a 'curious' space to be inhabited, Murray reflected on their 'digging' for insight through a series of questionnaires and informal chats with studio holders and directors. The leading sentiment that resounded in their conversations was the juxtaposing matter that whilst AirSpace was a physically cold building with no heating or hot water, it was a metaphorically warm and generous place: the heating in AirSpace is created by the people at AirSpace. With this in mind, the choice of warm-toned and highly conductive copper piping along with the functional aspect of the install, reflects on the metaphorical heat that comforts the building. Or perhaps it is simply Campbell Works' intention to reward AirSpace inhabitants with a little central heating.

Alongside the sense that artistic and human emotions are tangled with the flowing pipe-work, tenderly wrapping its way around and 'incubating' found source material, a strong awareness of Campbell Works' curatorial interest in challenging stereotypical gallery perceptions is gallantly hinted at. Tearing down the boards that once defined the window space, Taylor and Murray seek to open up the gallery space and spread a 'welcome' out to alternative audiences. In an attempt to break down these contextual barriers, the artists are seen provoking the 'notion of the exhibition' through their motion to subtly mock institutional methods of display via a series of angled plinths with exposed stick-like supports. By inviting the viewer to 'peek under the tablecloth', Taylor and Murray aim to countermine formal presentations and expose the structural support beneath. Traces of playfulness continue to litter the length of the room through a set of 10 skittles, animatedly angled and placed to mimic AirSpace inhabitants.

In utilising and altering the gallery space to provide a light-hearted and playful invitation, Campbell Works is seen offering a hand to an influx of diverse audience members, taking them on an industrious journey into the depths of AirSpace. By learning from a series of intrinsic conversations and observing what already exists, Taylor and Murray have created a gurgling power house (or heated room) of ingenuity on how an artist-led space is run and the promising possibilities that lie ahead. If that's not enough to tempt you, there's also a container of Old Dairy Brewery Ale knocking around.

Coming Up For Air - Campbell Works, 13th September - 18th October 2014, Preview 12th September 6pm - 9pm. More information

Selina Oakes.

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