Collar is a curatorial collaboration, and here the host venue for the exhibition entitled Assume An Open Posture. A self-funded collaboration, you have to give a certain level of respect to any organisation for taking on the arduous task of maintaining a permanent home. Sadly the art world doesn’t do something as beautifully blunt as a NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC compilation CD, but if it did you’d most probably ask Collar to ‘curate’ whatever the art world’s interpretation was. Autonomous scenesters, they radiate a clear appreciation and understanding for any early to mid-career artist of merit.
Florida Collective, a Glasgow-based group of artists comprised of Isabella Widger, Caitlin Merritt King and Hannah Reynolds worked with their Manchester-based counterparts to realise Assume An Open Posture. For their contribution Florida invited three artists of their choosing; Theo Vass, Alistair Gow and Nick Lynch to work with them to address the notion of collaboration as a methodology. Bypassing who everyone is and what they are all doing for a moment, let’s reflect upon the exhibition’s title. We are asked to assume openness, a stance inherently imbued with honesty and vulnerability. The fact that question is being put to us implies that this disposition is not our default stance. It’s hard to feel uncomfortable as the show is pitched as looking at collaboration through the language of friendship. A strong sentiment. You can’t help but assume that this is going to be a safe sociable space for artists and visitors alike to inhabit.
Feeling comfortable with the environment the gallery does seem nice. The work too, nice. The large Florida Collective and Collar logo greeting the entrance, slightly annoying, but forgivable. The supporting interpretation is wonderfully written, and makes nods towards the importance of dismantling ego and assembling amity. It all seems nice, so let’s antagonise these harmonious and malleable perceptions as viewers, as the conversations surrounding this exhibition from first glance seem more virtuous and fruitful than some of the work on display.
Process driven, the exhibition evokes an importance of support networks and self-care. How much do we as visitors, peers and fellow artists genuinely care for this tendency? Not to immediately swing towards our betrothed love of the idealisation of the artist as some tortured soul, this therapeutic discussion seems to fall flat as it comes across as very introverted and clique-fuelled. Outsiders looking in. Third wheels. A lack of visibility and explanation into the artists’ individual processes leaves the question why should we care? Sceptically, and in a testament to openness, one wonders how vulnerable these artists are being. Friendship is a solid framework, but what are its flaws and shortcomings? A public programme, perhaps a workshop surrounding friendship would have complemented this exhibition tenfold, and feels like an opportunity missed. Perhaps a harsh criticism for a self-funded arts space, but with their recent announcement of expanding to include a series of studios, moving forward this may be food for thought.
There is a romantic air to Assume An Open Posture, Merritt King and Gow’s co-created paintings of previously exhibited Collar artists such as Sam Carvosso and Holly Hendry pass as endearing rather than overly indulgent and introverted. Comfortable nostalgia. Being brutal though, don’t those who compromise just all end up losing out?
Assume An Open Posture, Collar, Manchester, 03 – 09 February 2017.
Ashleigh Owen is an artist and writer based in Manchester.
Image: Assume An Open Posture installation shot, courtesy of Collar.