To start from the beginning (or from my beginning), I virtually met Louisa Elderton last Friday when I visited the show ‘In What’s Missing Is Where The Love Has Gone‘ by Christopher Petit. Not judging, but the misuse of Capitals like only crappy papers and attention freaks do is never a great sign. And when I say ‘virtually’ met, I didn’t see her or talk to her, but I guess a show tells a lot about its curator as well as its artist.
The show is on at DECAD, and if you have missed it, well, it’s just right below. Yep, the whole of it.
So I arrived on a late Saturday afternoon, rang the bell, got the nice girl in charge to unlock the door for me, turn the video back on, the audio, the lights… I felt slightly embarrassed. And I felt worse when I realised that the show was quite… succinct. But due to the context (poor girl had to turn everything back on, come from the back storage, stop what she was doing, blah blah), I felt like I had to stay at least for a while. And I plunged into the show that I judged, at first, pretentious and unimpressive.
When I left 20 minutes later (20 minutes? maybe less…), I probably said out loud ‘What the fuck…’ when back in safety of the street.
The weird thing is that the show started to do its own job a few hours later. The images, the sounds kept coming back to my mind, and I realised that I had felt very unsettled not only by the context (the girl, back storage, light, blah) but actually by the show itself – a show that is showing the absence, the void, the emptiness. We never (hardly) see the portrait of a back of a head. We don’t watch a movie with big red blocks to block out the action. And we can all relate to the absence of something, someone, like a coloured block stopping us from getting what we need, right now.
So when I met Louisa, my ‘What the fuck…’ had already become a ‘What the fuck!’
In a very english way (she’s London born & bred but lives & works in Berlin), she gave us an extended and clinical overview of her career as a curator, for The Courtauld Gallery (London), The Ultra Lounge at Selfridges (London), Tate (London), Jerwood Visual Arts (London), Blain|Southern (London and Berlin), and tried to explain the role of a curator. I often see the curator as someone gathering the pieces and trying to make a new story out of ancient pieces – by choosing a sometimes very obscure theme, but I hardly think of a curator as a link between exhibition spaces and living artists. What we would actually call an ‘agent’, maybe, someone who supports, helps, coaches, mentors, promotes.
Strange, after 3 weeks only in Berlin, that the ‘Britishness’ of her approach really struck me when she started to get super interested in everything that we’ve done or were doing. I should be used to it and know that it’s just the way we do things, but I found the straightforwardness of the Germans so relaxing and easy to deal with that getting back to so much politeness was a bit of a chore…
Anyway, good to meet you, Louisa, and hopefully see you somewhere along the way…