The latest exhibition at Manchester’s Castlefield Gallery has adopted a title that could naturally flow from the mouth of one of Woody Allen’s nervous protagonists. However, ‘I Would like to Join a Club and Hit Myself with It‘ is not in any way stuttering or anxious, quite the reverse. The exhibition – a conversation piece with the display ‘Make every show like it’s your last’ by Ryan Gander at the Manchester Art Gallery – is abrupt and confident, communicating ideas succinctly in a wonderfully refreshing and entertaining way.
The guide to the exhibition is a work in itself – Just-Eat by Joe Fletcher Orr – and is printed on rice paper. It begins with a sentence about how some artists find gallery interpretation ‘unnecessary’ before embarking on explanations of the exhibits laden with cultural, philosophical and scientific references. Although sincere in the philosophy and interpretation, the first sentence and the material seems to give the reader permission to ignore all the theory, just eat the words (literally) and enjoy the exhibition. This sense of fun runs throughout the exhibition, through the recurring character of ‘Monty the fly’, the literal Structure for Reading whilst Standing by Robert Carter, and with the lilting tea-dance-esque music from Ryan Gander’s Porthole to Culturefield which creates a sense of light fun throughout.
The relationship between content and structure runs throughout the exhibition. In Am I near enough t’the… You’re too close to the… we see a compilation of clips of trainered feet stepping on various fruits. This repetition forms the structure of the piece, but the content is really the element of human behaviour, the self-consciousness of each step, and the change in application of weight and pressure as the fruit gives way.
In two of the other pieces, the structure is clear, though both hint at a content that is illusive. Line Drawing presents textured planes, manipulated to three-dimensional forms, and re-reduced to their impression on crudely printed paper, while Desktop (background) uses the aesthetic of some kind of plan, with graphs, diagrams and perpendicular drawings taped together with a familiar structure, but without communicating any specific thing.
The aforementioned ‘Monty’ is another protagonist of the exhibition, and indeed a performance piece specific to the exhibition opening featured ‘Monty’ being released into the gallery space, in order to enjoy the Pier built especially for him, as a viewing platform at the opening but to be enjoyed only by Monty himself thereafter. Pyramid is a series of projections dedicated Monty’s species , and presents a grouping of rectangular windows, each one musing on the fly – the changing screens present a scientific diagram of the make-up of a fly, mechanically built flies, other animals and people responding to the presence of a fly, and The Simpsons.
This exhibition features a range of pieces, expressed in a consistently raw aesthetic, often crude, and always wholly economical. Music, video, wooden structures, animation, ribbons, a non-instructive audio guide, scent and edible introductions make for an interesting exhibition!
Susanna Hill is a writer and full time fundraiser for the Halle Orchestra.