I was really looking forward to seeing Claire McArdle‘s ‘Gilty‘ exhibition. The exhibition opened on Monday night (22nd April), but I wasn’t able to visit until the Saturday.
Exhibition media: “If an illusion deceives your perception does it make the first understanding invalid?
Does a gilt object betray us in some way or does it possess a truth of its own?
A skin of gold matches the contours of the bead in precise detail. It masks the underlying material of the piece which makes up 99% of its volume and 0% of its surface. How do you value the piece?
Is this piece pretending to be something else or is it exactly what it is and we have deceived ourselves with visual assumptions?
If you know the chain carrying the beads, the chain which is almost fully covered, is made of 18ct gold, how do you value the piece now?
Is this a truth wrapped in a deception? Or is it just a piece to be perceived with available knowledge and accepted for its form and known materiality?
Is this work guilty for being gilty?“
Together with the magic exhibition image below, you can understand why I was fascinated and was looking forward to seeing the show.
I was imagining necklaces just like the one above, in my eyes referring to ancient works, lining the walls and challenging us to wonder how we value them if they’re plated and not pure gold … or even a mixture of both … and how do we know …
Instead there were chains on black circles, accompanied by photographs of what must have been there before.
It was incomprehensible to me and my friend.
We were both incredibly disappointed.
What had gone wrong with our understanding of the exhibition media?
We sought out comfort (for me, churros and chocolate) and sat down to chat about it. It was only then, when I spent time reading the little take-away booklet from the exhibition, that it became clearer.
In the booklet: “an exhibition experienced twice …
Neckpieces experienced once as wearable gilt forms. Experienced again as edible gilt beads revealing the true gold chain beneath. The pieces have not changed, they are as they always were. But the circumstances of perception have shifted. …
Objects once untouchable, displayed on gallery walls are now free to be consumed. Something on the body to become something of the body.“
Oh, so the beads were edible-gold-covered chocolate on gold chain. So the beads have been eaten at some point. Which explains only the chains remaining.
This is a fantastic and genuinely intriguing shift in perception and a great idea for an installation/performance, and it’s understandable why this was not obvious in the media as the surprise is the whole point.
However, if I knew that the there was to be a one-off ‘reveal’ of kinds, I would have made every effort to make it to the opening night. Perhaps it would have been best as a one-night-only event? With a week-long exhibition, it has left those of us not seeing the original work (well, at the very least me and my friend) really very sad.
Claire McArdle’s ‘Gilty‘ was at No Vacancy Gallery from 22nd – 28th April 2013.
Update (2nd May): please do also see Claire McArdle’s blog post (posted yesterday), and it has so many incredible images of her work and Zoe Brand’s excellent essays; and I love how Melissa Cameron describes it. You cannot imagine how much I wish I could have been there for the opening night – it looks like so much fun. AND there’s a video!