Monday, 7 April 2014

Le Swimming

The underground car park, a relatively recent addition to the abundance of art spaces in Glasgow, has undergone a transformation, starting with a coat of pale blue paint on the walls. 

"A disused underground car park under a modern tower in Glasgow’s City Centre imagines it was a swimming pool in an alternate history. Subverted through a vision of a past non-existent utopia, the car park becomes a doorway to another world, twice removed from its current status of abandonment. Artists Nadège Druzkowski, Sukaina Kubba, Jenny Lewis, Philippe Murphy, Alys Owen and Beth Shapeero transform this space into a body of a swimming pool, with works that explore the idea of ‘Other Spaces’ on the one hand, and react to the transformation of the car park on the other.

The introduction of a fictional past (swimming pool) to an existing heterotopic space (underground car park) harkens to the utopian origin of modernist residential towers, where open spaces freed up by the piling up of apartments, were envisioned as spaces of leisure and recreation. The abandoned car park highlights the abandonment of otherwise profitable urban spaces due to the current economic conditions; while the fictional pool is both a comment on the lack of non-commercial public spaces in the city centre, and the dissolution of the follies of modernist housing."

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the opening of the exhibition so missed the performance that was part of Philippe Murphy's work. There were, however, hints of what went on.

Three plastic chairs were positioned on the boundaries of the 'swimming pool', with a whistle left on each of the seats. 

The performance involved six lifeguards, three of whom sat at each of the chairs, and the remaining three circulated the perimeter of the room scanning for any emergencies. In this exhibition context, an emergency situation was, for instance, when someone got too close to an artwork, or started to touch the work. Such an occurrence prompted the lifeguard-come-invigilator to blow their whistle, which in turn prompted the other lifeguards to blow their whistles (each of which was a different pitch). What a good way to deter people from touching the artwork.

Beth Shapeero's sculptures certainly tempt the viewer to touch. Three huge vats are filled with three different liquids, industrial paint, varnish and household gloss.

A skin-like layer had formed on each of the surfaces, in the same way that a crust forms on a bowl of custard.

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