16 Nicholson Street Curators on Their Inaugural Show

New 16 Nicholson Street curators talk about their big plans for the space and the artists for their inaugural show describe what they've planned.

Preview by Adam Benmakhlouf | 30 Sep 2016

On 8 October Isabella Shields and Tine Bek open their first show together as 16 Nicholson Street. Titled Opposite Tendencies, it marks the beginning of their many ambitions for events and engagement in the space.

With this huge and distinctive Georgian building and Shields' background in art history, they're hoping to make a space for discourse and discussion. Added to this, artist Bek's just returned from a period of different international residencies, and looks specifically to Portland for inspiration for future mentorship programmes and opportunities for greater dialogues between practitioners in the city and beyond.

“The space is part of the show,” for Bek. “It's like the fourth artist,” along with the three – Mads Holm, Scott Caruth and Alice Myers – in the upcoming group show.

As both Bek and Shields are already experienced with and involved in galleries and projects, 16 Nicholson offers an important way for them to respond to some of the expectations of different institutions. “The galleries that we're used to either employ Glasgow and Edinburgh artists or international artists. We want to foster good international relations without excluding Scottish artists,” says Bek.

“I also like the idea of not just having emerging or established artists,” she explains. And while the first show is photography-based and Bek has extensively exhibited her own and other photographers' work, she's clear that the gallery will not be limited to photography.

They're conscious to resist any curatorial formulae, and they describe putting Opposite Tendencies together as: “A conversation that happened naturally. You don't see that as much especially with group shows. It can sometimes be that the theme is blue and you all give a blue work.” Bek wonders how much 'boundary pushing' is really going on amongst artists, especially in a climate of wordy application processes.

For Opposite Tendencies, Carruth will be showing a video of mythical Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. “He's from a city in the north of Mexico, Durango. And it's all shot there,” he explains. With a constantly blue sky, it became a cheap Hollywood alternative in the 60s. “They have all these Wild West film sets on the outskirts of the city.” Pancho is played by an impersonator who's always in costume and in character, greeted by locals as such.

He'd decided to film the actor in a straight line through the sets, then the historical centre and finally the outskirts. “It quickly became clear there was a language barrier, and he'd also brought his friend in full costume, and his dog. We just wanted him as a sole figure.'' Nevertheless, as plans became redundant “it kind of emerged” for Carruth, “that this relationship with him was the point.”

Downstairs on the ground floor, Mads Holm continues with the work displayed in his degree show in Glasgow School of Art in June. Titled About Common Ground, he combines images of crowds, or sparse streets, or a large purple monster suit, that look shot in harsh early morning light, with the most disturbing international documents on security. “I try and encompass the larger relations within big systems that scare me, fascinate me and that seem ungraspable,” he says.

Staying topical, on the top floor, Alice Myers brings together a multimedia presentation of works made after she travelled to Calais between 2012-14 “when there were hundreds rather than thousands of refugees and migrants” there. Pushing against the imposition of making a coherent and convincing narrative to asylum decision systems, “The project denies that satisfying narrative. It's about the right not to be understood.”

And it's this kind of recalcitrance that fits well with Bek's ambition for 16 Nicholson Street: “I want to do something we're not allowed to do.”

Opposite Tendencies opens 8 Oct http://facebook.com/16NicholsonSt/