Art from Elsewhere @ GoMA, Glasgow
Hayward Touring have two major exhibitions currently making the rounds in the UK. The first, Listening, explores the act of listening through 17 contemporary artists' practice and opens at The Bluecoat, Liverpool, in January. The second, Art from Elsewhere, opened recently at GoMA, Glasgow, and will head to Birmingham, Walsall, Bristol, Middlesbrough and Eastbourne over the next two years.
The exhibition is a result of a 2007 Art Fund scheme, Art Fund International (AFI), that created a regional consortium of museums and offered them the opportunity to spend up to one million pounds on acquiring international art. These financial leg-ups are incredibly important for regional galleries that without them would struggle to keep their collections vibrant, competitive within the art world and capable of drawing in new and repeat audiences. All of the museums and galleries involved spent five years developing their collections under the AFI scheme, and Art from Elsewhere draws these acquisitions together in a group exhibition which is packed with work. It amounts to far too much to go into detail here; this is more of a taster.
GoMA’s iteration (the exhibition will metamorphose slightly as it travels), opens with a series of large paintings, photographs and film installation. Romuald Hazoumè’s two large panoramic photographs show daily life at a street market in Benin. The image seems like it could go on forever, as far as the market continues and beyond, picking up little idiosyncratic details along the way. In front of the photographs, Hazoumè has installed a mobile cart taken from the actual market; its products have been replaced with items from the West: clothing, phones, and all the other unnecessarily discarded items from modern living. Opposite Hazoumè’s work a large-scale diptych of photographs from Ola Kolehmainen fills the entire wall with an abstract grey bubbling field titled Shadow of Church (2006). You are aware you are looking at a close-up of something but it is unclear exactly what: space station or bubble wrap? The surface is very seductive. It is in fact the façade of the Future Systems’ Selfridges store in Birmingham.
Upstairs is far less monumental in terms of the scale of the work but light pours in from the windows and the whole gallery feels less claustrophobic. Although there is a lot of work on display, with a mixture of works on paper framed on the wall and in latrines accompanied by one of two videos and a video installation from Yang Zhenzhong, they are curated in close conversation with each other. Highlights include the placing of an ink drawing by, surprisingly, Robert Smithson – Untitled (Moth) from 1962, which is part layered narrative, part stream of consciousness – next to a film by Ana Mendieta in which a silhouette of Mendieta herself, made from gunpowder, smokes silently. One work seems sprung from the other, an afterlife or a description of extinction.