On the night of the Platform private view, the audience step in to the Holden Gallery and on to Jim Lambie’s The Strokes – a pattern of black and white curves cut from vinyl covering the entirety of the floor of the central gallery space. Some test the strength of the vinyl adhesive with the tip of their shoe. The majority simply look at their feet and the swirling expanse around them. Noticing that there is nothing else on display, they move to the perimeter walls of the gallery, either for a better view of the work or to avoid becoming part of it.
Here they perch on the ledge that runs around the gallery, mostly in groups, holding cups of wine and bottles of warm beer kindly donated by Font Bar. Some still hold on to the oversized exhibition press release, now rolled into a tube or folded into quarters for portability. Those who came alone continue to look at the floor – presumably transfixed by its visual pulsations or waiting for friends to arrive.
Jim Lambie frequently discusses the relationship between his work and music. Looking at The Strokes, it is certainly possible to seize upon abstract connections between the two (rhythm, repetition, ‘colour’) but to dwell on these similarities is a somewhat redundant exercise. Lambie wants us to experience the work intuitively like, he thinks, we experience music. Focus shifts from the ‘art object’, and the theorisation thereof, on to the ‘art experience’ – the immediate effect of the work on the viewer and the gallery space.
In discussing this experience, one cannot help but compare the exhibition to a gig and to point out the vastly different etiquettes of the two. The private view goers, gathered around the perimeter walls as they seemingly wait for a headline act, are unsure of how to conduct themselves in this new environment.
In the art school’s vending machine room, now the Platform Café Space, a projector flicks through a curated selection of slides from Manchester School of Art’s Visual Resources Centre – a slide archive which is being threatened by closure by the faculty. The selection ranges from colour theory diagrams to photographs of pleasant modern-looking buildings.
Thematic connections between the slides (namely pattern, abstraction and ‘the everyday’) begin to surface after reading the exhibition’s events programme; a programme which attempts to provide alternative ways into thinking about the work on display. The full list of events can be found on The Holden Gallery website, but of note are a screening of Koyaanisqatsi on 23rd July and a 45 minute set by Manchester based band Foxtales on 6th August.
From the café the audience make their way back across the central gallery and on to the film space, formerly a room belonging to the school of art’s sculpture course for setting up and taking down large scale installations. On show is Mark Wallinger’s Construction Site (2012), an 83 minute static shot of three scaffolders setting up and taking down scaffolding on Folkstone beach.
The grid of scaffolding, once erected, falls in line with the horizon. It becomes a secondary frame for what might be understood as a performance – a choreography of labour. Occasionally a bird or boat will float in and out of shot drawing attention away from the performance to the world outside the frame. One cannot help but think of the labour intensive process of installing Lambie’s floor and the team of volunteers who carried out the work. The audience applauds as a scaffolder on the upper tier skilfully throws a spanner into a bucket on the ground.
Outside the film space, anarchy has descended upon the central gallery – a chaos matched only at the most riotous of Strokes gigs. A man spits a small amount of beer onto the floor in a gesture of thoughtful abandon. A group make a break for Lambie’s dance floor where they photograph each other lying down in turns – horizontal striped Breton shirts disrupting the now familiar pattern of black and white swirls. At last, the headline act takes to the stage.
Daniel McMillan is an artist and writer based in Manchester.
Image installation view of Jim Lambie ‘The Strokes’ 2008, courtesy of Sean McCrossan and Holden Gallery.
More information about the Manchester School of Art’s Visual Resources Centre slide archive can be found at https://pickaslide.wordpress.com/
Platform, Holden Gallery, Manchester.
10 July – 21 August 2015.