That was it.
You missed the show again.
Although truly appreciated by the autochthons of art openings, the ‘Tiravanija syndrome’ – exhibiting leftovers of an event that has previously taken place during a vernissage – constitutes an aesthetic and ethical problem. Often the inclusiveness implicitly assumed to be part of what is nowadays coded as a ‘relational art event’ can only be claimed to dissolve art action into the social to a certain extent. It is arguable that these kinds of projects do not automatically leave a socially and aesthetically productive space for who visits the show after the endemic first night. When the centre of attention is a spatial-temporal framed situation, the leftovers exhibited as art problematise the status of the art object whose autonomy is challenged by ‘event culture’. If in fact the result of many relational artworks involves the dissolution of art into the interpersonal sphere, many of its achievements are put into doubt by the objects used mainly as indices of something that is now absent and unrecoverable.
In its mid-career show (sic), 24/7 exhibits the gallery’s collection in a garage sale fashion, offering memorabilia of its past. Not unlike the house clearance that Elton John staged at Sotheby’s last September (which earned him 1.63 millions dollars), objects are inventoried because of the investment with which they have been charged in the past. If the object owned by a pop star becomes a fetish as a consequence of its previous contact with the idol, in a similar way 24/7’s goods for sale acquire value thanks to the memory of a gallery event they have served for. In this framework, nails, a bucket and a carpet are raised to the conceptual and economic level of artworks, although one could argue the contrary as well. The leftovers of the gallery production span from what the art market would consider as art objects to the tools and apparatuses for the project to be produced. This gesture implies a Broodthaersian derision of the new orthodoxy of the ‘event’ as transient, and the rhetoric of presence whereby ‘whoever missed it missed the whole thing’. Emilia’s money-box, for instance, is loaded with memories connected to the self-funding nature of 24/7 but, more consistently, to personal anecdotes of a particular evening (it was lost and deemed stolen and found again at Dias and Riedweg’s opening). The box nevertheless is and looks like a functional object completely unaltered by the meanings layered onto it.
The objects in the collection are fetishised to such an exaggerated extent that it demonstrates an intention to de-dramatize the uniqueness of the performance they are related to, while using languages and strategies of the pop music world. If the garage sale involves a parody of the reliquary, this awareness also entails a consistent dose of self-irony and distance from both the ‘Tiravanija syndrome’ and quasi-religious set of beliefs attached to memorabilia (is it not terribly sardonic to sell an invoice for a red cable as a souvenir of a video art exhibition?). To support the ambiguity of this apparatus the objects are shown alongside video and pictures documenting each event and a certificate of authenticity that will prove that the tape measure you can buy is effectively the one used to install the show Independent State/Estado Independiente at 5 Years Gallery in London.
By these means, the gallery takes on an artistic and social persona and replicates the practice of one of its artists (Carolina Caycedo’s street sale to produce her half-breed flag): 24/7 becomes a subject acting as a pop idol who, like Elton John, gets rid of her belongings. Being a gallerist becomes an art practice and the gallery herself becomes a living star and artist who travels, as in this show in Amsterdam, with her Fan Club. This anthropomorphization of the Gallery is addressed in the subtitle of this show: ‘A mid-career retrospective 2003-2002’ which in the slide show presented in the exhibition is even more ludicrously denoted with a mythological ‘24/7 – the early years’. This attitude hints at the rebelliousness of the gallery directors towards the conventional strategies of gallery exhibiting, be that private or artist-run. Effectively this very show is hosted in a private gallery that is doing a solo show of another gallery. This has hardly happened since the dissolution of the early 20th century avant-garde movements (I am referring to Dada and Surrealism and Fluxus in particular), and this observation facilitates an understanding of the practice of the three gallerists whose artwork is the gallery activity itself. Every time artist-run spaces have been invited to show in another art framework, they have exhibited works of the artists who were running the gallery. In this exhibition, by contrast, the work is eloquently produced by the gallery who is the subject/creator whose practice is shown.
La galeria en la calle, la calle en la galeria
To call a gallery ‘24/7’ signals already a well-developed conception of cultural activity. A permanent enterprise and a 24 hour location represent a tentative eliding of the boundaries within which institutions operate, negating a confinement of art into a discrete sphere. Procedures and conventions taken as natural are obliterated as an artistic gesture. Therefore the gallery space assumes the shape of an external wall, a pub, a garage or is vice-versa transformed into a living room. Although the declaration ‘la galeria en la calle’ can be likened to the traditional aims and results of public art, its reversal ‘la calle en la galeria’ represents the uniqueness of 24/7’s mission.
During Independent State/Estado Independiente the exhibition venue was used to contain a protected environment, an autonomous zone freed from conventional rules governing contemporary art procedures. The inside area, a space immune of the proscribed canons, like a foreign embassy, served as a place in which to play and be able to enjoy. 24/7 openly articulated the show’s aim: ‘for three days the gallery is liberated from the usual constraint of art gallery exhibiting’. Conceived as an emancipatory gesture towards the gallery herself, this intention hints at a contained space akin to an adolescent tree house. As a reversed, almost self-mocking gesture B-lo exhibited her Rocking Chair on the outside pavement chained to a lamppost.
Through this ambiguity, the displacing gestures that 24/7 blatantly enacts involve the condensation and exchange between two distant elements: the international contemporary art scene and the Latin concept of the street, la calle, as a locus of heightened sociability. In an ambivalent fashion, they straddle two contexts while teasing their tendency to take themselves too seriously. Looking for a set in which their familiar way of expression could be better understood abroad, 24/7’s improbable cultural métissage becomes the best vehicle of progress. This is why the natural outlet for this impulse in London is clearly the pub, the deputed place for social exchange in English culture. Pub is an abbreviation for Public House, alluding to a shared living room, a space where rules are altered and the outside world temporarily suspended. In this setting, 24/7 acts as a parasite in order to expand its pan-american agenda. The Guacamole Pub/Gallery evenings brought the pub, the gallery and la calle to a tentative blend. In this setting, soap opera can mix with avant-garde, post-production with pop idol behaviour in order for cultural identities to get blurred and conventions thrown upside-down. The same attitude pervades other similar activities that denote the aesthetic orientation of the gallery: Silverio’s electro-barata and electrocheesy breakbeats; Carolina Caycedo’s flag combining the Union Jack with Colombian colours; 24/7 TV programme Amiga – a complete ‘morning programme’ bringing the gallery not only en la calle but into every home telly. Mixing and subverting hierarchies are more easily obtained in a zona franca of facilitated exuberance.
The image chosen for the show press release – being itself one of the artworks produced – testifies to how the ambivalent position in between the commercial, the spontaneous and the kitsch involved in the motto ‘whatever, whenever, wherever’ represents the most peculiar and productive grey zone in which 24/7 situates itself. Being the image the recording of the last moments before the first activity of 24/7 started, before its first impact on the art scene is tested, the scene of a street bar underneath the artwork is sarcastically captioned ‘Waiting for the Customers’.
Francesco Manacorda, London 21/01/2004
* Text appropriated from 24/7’s limited edition post-its
** The career lifespan of most pop idols, like that of 24/7, doesn’t exceed four years, therefore a mid-career retrospective comes sooner than one would anticipate.
*** See for instance, Live/Life, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1997 and Century City, Tate Modern, 2001.
**** One of 24/7 many mottos meaning: ‘The gallery on the street, the street inside the gallery’.
***** Extract from the ‘24/7: A Retrospective’ press release.
****** An informally live telenovela earned London Shoreditch Pub ‘The George and Dragon’ the nickname ‘The George and Drama’.