When I arrived at the Cactus Gallery opening night, I had no idea what to expect, but it certainly was not what I was faced with when I entered the space. The space itself, a white-walled ‘L’ shape, had in it only one piece of work, a rather brave move for a first show in the new location.
However, the one piece of work installed in the space was a minimalist work by Stephen Forge. It consisted of a blue carpet stage-like structure, with a hole in the middle, with a white-cast sock dangling over the framework. After staring at the work, wondering what the thinking behind it was, and watching other members of the public stand awkwardly in front of it before wandering over to the Coors Light by the door, I eventually tracked down the curator of the show to find out more.
On reflection, I wanted more from the work, and was becoming frustrated due to the lack of documentation on the show and lack of substance to the work. The work initially made me feel nothing, and left me resorting to thoughts such as ‘I wonder what I’m supposed to think/feel’. As I realised this probably was not the intention of the work, speaking to the show curator Joe Orr, did enlighten me somewhat. During our conversation, Joe mentioned that the work is meant to be explored and interacted with. Again, this was a lightbulb moment, as up until that point, general etiquette in the gallery space was assumed, where the audience did not touch or interact physically with the work. Upon learning this, myself and other people started to explore the work, looking down through the hole and seeing the work from different angles. The notion of interacting with the work added something much more to it, as the audience started interacting with each other and joking about elements of the work such as the hard sock and pretending to fall through the hole etc.
This added the element of socially engaged art, which I found very interesting as I do within my own practice. Initially, the piece was very static, and the audience were looking at it in silence, awkwardly manoeuvring themselves around the space and in between other exhibition visitors. As soon as one person stood on the piece though, others joined in and the work took on a new function.
I am actually glad the audience didn’t know that they could stand on the piece initially, as this allowed me to compare how the piece was viewed in both instances. It has demonstrated to me how dramatically a piece can change by introducing an audience and even allowing the audience to interact with the work. This made the piece different and ever-changing, each time audience change.