For the ICA Blog, Student Forum member Hatty Nestor considers whether an institution's identity should be tied to its designated physical space.
'...We ultimately aim to illustrate a lineage of artistic endeavour that more often than not falls outside the preserve of commercial galleries and museums (the ICA's concern being to develop the space between the two).' Gregor Muir, ICA Executive Director, 2013
There have been a flux of off-site exhibitions and projects curated by the ICA which have challenged notions of institutional identity and curation in contemporary art, drawing attention to the spatial parameters of exhibiting artwork and authorship.
Cinema on the Steps: Contemporary Middle Eastern Film, Bowiefest at Latitude Festival in July, and A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now are projects which have expanded the ICA’s curatorial vision beyond the gallery framework, initiating a dialogue between external artists and practitioners. Each one of these off-site projects explores the relationship between environment, artwork and artist in a contemporary and exciting format.
Off-site spaces offer artists and practioners the opportunity to inhabit a variety of environments to display, giving artworks new contexts. It seems to me that in these projects distinctions between site and artwork become blurred, creating more accessible environments to experience work. A unique relationship is formed between the site and the work placed within it. Subverting the focus of the artwork, the site becomes not only a part of the exhibition but also forms part of the artwork itself.
Should an institution's curatorial vision be bound to its designated physical space? Taking its programme outside of its home on the Mall the ICA is reaffirming its identity and cultural significance to the public. The off-site project, A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now, currently taking place at The Selfridges Old Hotel on Orchard Street, maps out the intricate and complex threads of creativity which exist in London’s underground communities both in the past and in the present day. The show presents a dialogue between a variety of artists, including LuckyPDF, Gilbert & George, John Maybury and Alexander McQueen, in the form of a cabinet of curiosities.
Seemingly, what is alluring, and arguably interesting about Bowifest at Latitude Festival in July and the Cinema on Steps projects is the challenge they bring to a public’s preconceived notion about the identity of a gallery or institution defined by architecture, environment and space. In fact, what these projects have succeeded in doing is providing a voice for the ICA, outside of its usual parameters, collaborating with a range of fantastic festivals, artist collaborations, fashion designers and creative practitioners.
Not weighted with the history of the institution, there is a sense that these off-site spaces are neutral territory, giving exhibiting artists a feel of greater equality and inclusiveness in the curatorial process and narrative. The projects push the boundaries of institutional identity, whilst providing a new innovative platform to construct exhibitions and present artwork to the public.