South East England

When you’re viewing an exhibition, how much are you looking at the images in front of you, and how much at the artist behind them? In Tom Duggan’s ‘Lacuna’, showing in a converted print works in Margate, there’s nothing but the artist and his actions.

In the centre of a white space are a pile of new, fresh, crisp cardboard boxes, sealed with tape and unmarked. The title of the work is ‘Everything I own fits inside these boxes’ and there’s an explanation as well; for 31 minutes on the 6th of February this year, everything the artist owned was placed inside these boxes. He may have done that for real. Equally, he may not have done, and it’s just a neat conceptual idea. It may still be there, in the boxes, in an ex industrial space off Margate seafront. Or not. There would only be one way to tell, and that would involve changing the thing, and then it wouldn’t be the same thing we were viewing.

On a shelf is a page ripped from a dictionary, and we’re told this page is stolen from a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary belonging to an unspecified public library somewhere in Britain. The page includes the definition of the word lacuna. He may have stolen it. Or not. A lacuna is a gap, an extended silence in a piece of music, a piece of text missing from a book, a lack of something.

The third piece of work in this room is an announcement on a postcard. There’s an image of a piece of concrete harbour wall, some grey railings, a dark sea and a distant horizon. And a promise that on three days, at 1pm, the artist will eat chips while looking out to sea from that spot. He may. Or he may not.

All in all, it’s a fabulously curated room, and the work is simple, witty and thought provoking. It takes simple ideas, plays with them, and provides a challenge to the viewer, throws down a conceptual gauntlet.

Or of course it may not.

I think it’s an excellent exhibition. But it’s possible, of course, that my review is based on nothing but a press release. I may have visited Margate’s Crate. Or I may not. Best, I think, that you visit for yourself.

1 Comment