A Synchronology @ Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow
A new Hunterian exhibition tracks and celebrates some of the artists that have formed the programme of Glasgow gallery The Common Guild's first decade of programming.
For the Common Guild’s tenth birthday, the Hunterian Gallery is throwing a party to celebrate the comparatively short lifespan of its younger Glaswegian sibling. An impressive array of 10 Common Guild alumni have been invited, and they’re loitering in the temporary exhibition space, discussing temporality through print, performance, and photography.
A Synchronology: the contemporary and other times asks its guests to consider time, how we measure it, and how art practice relates to the blurring notions of past, present, and future. The show’s title piece is an 1871 archival text by Steven Hawes, outlining a rationalised and overtly imperial method of understanding human histories. Like the ten-hour decimal clock from Ruth Ewan’s We Could Have Been Anything We Wanted to Be (2011), there’s a novelty to the text, overshadowed by its clunky impracticality and imposed hierarchy.
For A Synchronology, foregrounding the present is equally vital as dwelling on the past. Over two years, Simon Starling travelled the world to seek out artworks from a pivotal 1927 sculptural exhibition, curated by Marcel Duchamp. In Pictures for an Exhibition (2013-14) we are aware that the pieces are reunited, not only here in photographs adorning the same wall, but also simultaneously in the present, almost a century later. Likewise, the Common Guild’s 2013 Venice Biennale delegate, Corin Sworn, continues to question the temporal tensions in narratives of the past. The period vases of Temporal Arrangements (2010) take turns to hold a single bouquet of flowers, their styles re-presented and reinterpreted through the present moment.
If there’s anything surprising about this party, it’s that a gathering so dense with conceptual work about time avoids inducing fatigue in its guests. Each artist provides sophisticated party chat and avoids cornering you with banal navel-gazing about just how weird time really is.