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‘Electric Trees and Telephone Booth Conversations’ | Install

‘Electric Trees and Telephone Booth Conversations’ | Install


The gallery’s collection overall covers over a hundred years and is largely made up of single paintings, sculptures, and so on. With the way that artists are working now, particularly people like Martin, they’re making whole environments and so it’s an exciting step for us as a work to acquire. It’s a very fluid artwork, it can exist in several shapes and sizes, and that’s… the artist is very keen to keep that alive. You know in a sense the work hasn’t been made and now we’re installing it. We’re still making the work. And so until the work is installed in this space, then that’s the point when the work becomes completed for this situation. This manner of working with an artist directly to make something is comparatively quite unusual for us but very, very exciting. In fact no one’s actually seen the work complete. The work is based on an earlier work that included some of the elements here that Martin has expanded upon that, put in new elements. And none of us, in fact, including Martin, will really have a sense of what the work is like overall until we’ve finished its completion. Well this is a sort of crucial point of the installation or acquisition of a work, is when we get to look at these things for the first time and we get to talk to the artist, and that’s absolutely fundamental, and really exciting. It’s not always that we’d be in that position, so we take full advantage of it. He sees it as a flowing, moving thing – not static and not finished and is very keen to adapt it to whatever space or challenges that face him and that’s very important for us to know. In any situation where we’re installing an exhibition, quite often the pieces themselves are too big to be installed purely by myself. And it’s the same when it comes to the fabrication. The fabrication of the work is often undertaken with or by other people. And so again it comes down to this just constant kind of watchful eye and monitoring of how things are being done, and the nuances that are actually very important. It’s something that happens in every situation when we’re installing exhibitions, you have a team of people handling the work, installing the work, positioning the work so that I can… I have the ability to sort of stand back and kind of view it as a whole. A work like this is challenging for us. It involves major, substantial, tall elements which need scaffolding. The handling team are running around at the moment wearing hard hats and gloves, no one’s allowed in, while they go in there’s all sorts of safety procedures that we’ve got to follow. It’s not like the old days of just sticking a painting up on the wall. I mean we work at heights quite often whether it’s ladders or genie lifts or… it’s all got to be planned. You’ve got to know exactly what you’re doing before you even go in to do the job. I’m the newest member on the team so sometimes I have to go, right what can I do, what am I allowed to do, I need to stand back, I need to watch, so that the next time we do something similar, right, I know I can do this, and we take it from there. Planning is a big part of this. Quite often what’ll happen is there’s moments where elements of the work will go up and you feel really elated, you think, this is going to be incredible it looks really fantastic. And then the next day you kind of… you just kind of plummet. The very first time this piece was installed, the phone booths had been made and they’d been powder coated and painted but I hadn’t made the spray paint paintings on the interior. And because of all the work that had to go on, they were one of the last pieces that were installed. So it was the night before the opening, you know, I remember it was about 11 o’clock at night, and I thought this will take two minutes, this is like, I know what I’m gonna do. And of course I made the first kind of mark and I’m standing there looking at it and of course I couldn’t erase it. And so you know I started thinking… I had some white paint so I was painting bits of it out, I started to build up layers. And I remember going back to the apartment we were staying in and I was just devastated, I thought, I’ve completely ruined the show. Because it had looked so clean and precise before and I’ve just kind of… I’ve ruined it. And then of course the next morning, kind of went in… and it was perfect. It needed this time and it needed me to go through that situation. It’s very important to record as much as we can about the materials and the techniques. Because quite often for artists the whole idea of the artwork, the concept, can be caught up in the materials themselves, they can be, you know, extremely, extremely important to the message that the artist tried to convey. So if we can collect that information, then it becomes as much part of the artwork as the physical objects themselves. If we know what the objects are made of, we can do the very best we can to insure the longevity of them. We also have to talk to the artist about their feelings about restoration and conservation. How do they… what is the endpoint for an artwork if there is one? Are there opportunities to replace parts or does that change the artwork? All of these things have to be taken into consideration, and as I said, become as much part of the artwork as the objects themselves. The atmosphere that will be generated in the exhibition will have this kind of artificially lit nocturnal kind of landscape feel. And then you have the intimacy of the conversations that would happen in a telephone booth.

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