Simon Gush

Back for a sojourn in Johannesburg, Belgium resident Simon Gush’s first solo exhibition in his former hometown was a slightly pared down version of the show as it appeared at Michael Stevenson in September. Titled Sidestep, it oddly failed to attract the mob that Brodie/Stevenson’s openings usually achieve, Gush’s roots in the city notwithstanding. This meant that one could find parking within a kilometer of the gallery, but also, of more concern to Gush, that his stack of die-cut blank posters, Demos (After Felix Gonzalez-Torres) (2009), remained tall. Of the people in attendance, it seemed that only a few picked up that the reference to Gonzalez-Torres was an invitation to viewers to help themselves to a poster.

Like Gonzalez-Torres’s series of stacked poster works in the early 1990s, in which the artwork would be disseminated beyond the walls of the gallery through visitors leaving with a poster from the stack, Demos is one way in which Sidestep attempts to muddle the common ‘grammar’ of contemporary gallery exhibitions. The challenge with such a gesture of defiance, however, is avoiding co-option by this system, finding another way to speak and be understood when your audience’s mother tongue, so to speak, is the inherited language of the white cube. While Sidestep aims to test the extent to which art can create detours within dominant intellectual and political cultures – and gallery conventions are one manifestation of these – the exhibition is quite clearly framed according to the priorities of the two commercial galleries with which it is associated. There are some obvious jibes at this system: Blind Test (2009), a work in which a violin is hidden from view within a panel of dry-walling, and Longer Than Before (2009), a stipulation by the artist that the gallery keeps longer hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for the duration of the show, are two. But ultimately these small disturbances are resolved in the price tags, the refuge of the explicatory pamphlet and the gallery’s reputation as a stage for modish young artists. The matter of resolution and order emerges in the two video works on the show, Underfoot (Vooruit) (2009) and In The Company Of (2008). In the first, two dancers perform the Lindy Hop on a wooden floor given traction by a layer of Coca-cola on the surface. This prosthetic surface is an anchor that enables the coherence of their dance. In The Company Of is a video of a five-a-side football game played over a network of railway tracks in Ghent. The white outlines of a soccer field drawn over the tracks and gravel suggest that this is a game whose boundaries and protocols are respected. However, at the same time, these limits are threatened by the prospect of a passing train, a force that would interrupt them and show them to be artificial. Back for a sojourn in Johannesburg, Belgium resident Simon Gush’s first solo exhibition in his former hometown was a slightly pared down version of the show as it appeared at Michael Stevenson in September. Titled Sidestep, it oddly failed to attract the mob that Brodie/Stevenson’s openings usually achieve, Gush’s roots in the city notwithstanding. This meant that one could find parking within a kilometer of the gallery, but also, of more concern to Gush, that his stack of die-cut blank posters, Demos (After Felix Gonzalez-Torres) (2009), remained tall. Of the people in attendance, it seemed that only a few picked up that the reference to Gonzalez-Torres was an invitation to viewers to help themselves to a poster. Like Gonzalez-Torres’s series of stacked poster works in the early 1990s, in which the artwork would be disseminated beyond the walls of the gallery through visitors leaving with a poster from the stack, Demos is one way in which Sidestep attempts to muddle the common ‘grammar’ of contemporary gallery exhibitions. The challenge with such a gesture of defiance, however, is avoiding co-option by this system, finding another way to speak and be understood when your audience’s mother tongue, so to speak, is the inherited language of the white cube. While Sidestep aims to test the extent to which art can create detours within dominant intellectual and political cultures – and gallery conventions are one manifestation of these – the exhibition is quite clearly framed according to the priorities of the two commercial galleries with which it is associated. There are some obvious jibes at this system: Blind Test (2009), a work in which a violin is hidden from view within a panel of dry-walling, and Longer Than Before (2009), a stipulation by the artist that the gallery keeps longer hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for the duration of the show, are two. But ultimately these small disturbances are resolved in the price tags, the refuge of the explicatory pamphlet and the gallery’s reputation as a stage for modish young artists. The matter of resolution and order emerges in the two video works on the show, Underfoot (Vooruit) (2009) and In The Company Of (2008). In the first, two dancers perform the Lindy Hop on a wooden floor given traction by a layer of Coca-cola on the surface. This prosthetic surface is an anchor that enables the coherence of their dance. In The Company Of is a video of a five-a-side football game played over a network of railway tracks in Ghent. The white outlines of a soccer field drawn over the tracks and gravel suggest that this is a game whose boundaries and protocols are respected. However, at the same time, these limits are threatened by the prospect of a passing train, a force that would interrupt them and show them to be artificial.
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