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Blogger profile: Rosemary Marchant
We picked a good time to catch up with Rosemary, right before her degree show in Brighton. After the install we then followed up with her plans for practice and research post-graduation... so here’s the before and the after!
Richard Taylor: Tell us something about the work you have chosen to produce for you degree show.
Rosemary Marchant: My work will take the form of a piece of gallery wall text. It will be by the entrance to the show and will contain ‘instructions’ for the visitor on how to use the space. These ‘instructions’ are based on my own observations of subconscious behaviours we naturally adopt within a gallery environment such as ‘speak quietly’ or ‘look at all the work’. The aim is to verbalise the unspoken rules of how to act in a gallery.
RT: How does it entail extended terms of communication with your peers who will also have work in the show?
RM: I have gone through a few different ideas for my degree show work to get to this point and the reactions of my peers to some extent contributed to this. Originally my ideas were very invasive, designing part of the gallery or drawing my floor plans directly onto the floor. These ideas had obvious implications for other people in the show and my peers expressed concern that my work could be disruptive. This lead me to consider alternatives and from here came the realisation that I had moved away from what really interested me about the gallery space; the subconscious behaviours we all conform to within this space. My ideas, using leaflets or text on the wall have been received more positively but there is still some concern: this comes in the form of how my ‘instructions’ will be perceived by the visitor as a group work.
We have made the decision, as a group, to not have names or titles by the work but on a press release handed out. The language, title and appearance of the wall text will be vital to its appearance as an individual piece of work and still keeping the appearance of a gallery wall text on first glance.
RT: In terms of the negotiations you have with other artists then, is this body of work a curatorial investigation, or an artist's exploration of the curatorial-visitor relationship?
RM: I see this work as being about the visitor to the gallery and their relationship with the gallery environment. My earlier work, when I was designing gallery spaces to direct or disorientate the visitor, had a lot more to do with curatorial investigation. It was during this time that I found myself negotiating with others in the show, it was more important then. With my current work for the show the emphasis is definitely on the visitor and how they act within the gallery space: leading them to the question ‘why do I act like this in a gallery’ or ‘what is it about the gallery that makes me do this?'
RT: Will you take the work further by documenting the reactions and choices of the visitors - have you thought of directing gallery tours (or degree show tours) to initiate a more performative mode?
RM: I have struggled before with the question of documenting reactions to my work. In 2011 I created an installation called ‘Blind Room’, a pitch-black space with built structures to disorientate the visitor. I was exploring the control of the artist over the spectator in this work and thought of having a method of documenting the feedback of visitors to the space. The issue with this work was that I would be unable to observe the actions of those in the space. In the end I chose not to, openly, seek to document the reactions of visitors to the work as this would take away from my control. It would seem as though I was seeking some kind of justification for the work from the visitor.
In the same way I do not think that I will openly seek to document reactions to the ‘instructions’ within the degree show. It is enough to just display them as this does the job of verbalising the unspoken.
I have however considered more performative elements. I have looked a lot at the works of Andrea Fraser and this has led me to want to create a performative work based on my research. For the degree show I considered briefly taking on the role of a club type Bouncer enforcing the rules. I felt that this would take away from the idea of using what is already in a gallery. I am however taking my mother and some of her friends on a tour of the Tate Modern this summer and I am considering using this as an opportunity to take any performative ideas further.
RT: In what way will you make it performative, in terms of how you alter people's reading of a gallery space?
RM: This is something I am still working on. Though, recently I have become interested in the idea of art replacing religion and I am considering combining this with my work on behaviours in the gallery. I think it could be really interesting to create a comparison between how people behave in an art gallery and how they behave in a religious environment. I can relate to these ideas and to experiences I had in Rome last year; I felt there was a lack of respect for religious buildings from tourists who were more concerned with taking photographs than the spiritual nature of the building. I think similar things can be applied to galleries. People go to see a work of art just to say they have. I’m sure this is not always the case.
I recently visited the Damien Hirst show at Tate Modern. It definitely felt that some people where there just to tick the box. I think this is related to the hype many Tate shows create and the idea of a ‘must see show’.
The key question is how to do a performance about how you normally act in a gallery without simply acting as you normally would in a gallery. I think this is why I have begun looking at this idea of religion as it could help to bring a different emphasis on our behaviours, providing a way to highlight what we do in a gallery space.
Richard Taylor: So your degree show is up! That's great. You seem to have ideas that hold longevity and this period of research in to the religious/gallery environs looks exciting. Do you see a gallery tour as some form of sermon? Or am I missing the point? Certainly a higher state of experience is something that both contexts conjure, and 'hype' has a lot of connotations that would allow for something quite subtle in terms of intervention and performance, would you agree?
Rosemary Marchant: Yes the show is up! I'm incredibly happy with how it all looks and I think we have managed to achieve what we hoped in terms of creating a cohesive show. I hope that my gaining interest in new ideas now will help in continuing my practice without the motivation found on my degree.
I have not been making such defined comparisons between religion and art as to say something is like a sermon. Perhaps its something else like communion or mass and there certainly can be comparisons drawn in this way. However, as my direct knowledge of religion is concerned mainly with Christianity I wanted to avoid making such definite comparisons as they would seem to relate only to one religion. I think that art can be compared to the idea of religion rather than one part or individual religion.
This is an idea considered by many though it is not necessarily at the fore-front of their thoughts. It has a lot to do with the spectacle of art and the idea that it creates awe in people in the same way as religious icons used to. Thomas Struth’s photographs of people looking at well-known works of art are a great example of this.
Any performance or work I undertake to explore these ideas further could be very subtle. It all depends on how much emphasis I choose to add to the religious aspect. This is something that is very much in the early stages and I have no idea what could happen. I do agree that the ideas lend themselves to something quite subtle. I like the idea of using what is already available or common within a gallery, such as I have tried to do with my gallery text, to draw attention to my ideas.
RT: So what are your plans after graduation?
RM: Apart from wanting to make sure I keep up with my practice and writing my blog I don’t have any concrete plans at the moment. I am applying to do internships, work experience and traineeships in various galleries: to build up experience and use it to help decide what path I should take.
Other than that I will be moving back to London and back to my parent’s house while I earn money however I can (probably working in my local libraries as I have done for five years).
Currently I don’t have any plans to do a masters; which is an option I know a lot of people consider when completing their degree. Right now I don’t think that it will help me as I would like to have an idea of what path I am going to choose before thinking about continuing my education. I’m excited to try a few different things out for a little while.
Read more about Rosemary's practice on her blog here »
First published: a-n.co.uk June 2012
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