Ishan Persaud’s first take on the title of Ingrid’s first exhibition as the Artist-in-Residence at the Barbados Museum “You Go Down The Ladder, I’ll Shine The Torch” was “why not just put on the light?”
I think one-day mother and son should have a series of “Conversations On Conceptual Art”. Before then, I recommend you go along to the exhibition before it closes on June 20, but there is no need to bring a torch.
Ingrid has had exhibitions before. A few years ago she exhibited at the Venice Biennale - one of the most sacred shrines of contemporary art. As well as showing curated art, the Biennale is laid out with magnificent, national pavilions. I think that year, Chris Ofili, winner of the 1998 Turner Prize, had filled the British Pavilion. On the lawn outside the official pavilions, Ingrid had built a circle of miniature pavilions representing all the countries that had never been represented at the Biennale. I think one of the things that this work was questioning was our perception of where art comes from. We easily imagine modern artists being angst, chain smokers with leathery faces, in cramped London studios, but not someone from Ecuador, Malawi or Taiwan. Ingrid’s art is about discomforting questions. She doesn’t do comforting or pretty.
I recall her working to midnight, the night before the opening of the Biennale, mixing cement and casting her pavilions. I have a more painful recollection of her coming up with an idea for a piece of work - fragile egg shells stuck on walls – late one evening before the morning of another exhibit. You may detect a certain frantic, last minute theme, to past exhibition preparation. So it was good to see Ingrid and her small team of helpers, set everything up at the Barbados Museum during the last few weeks – painting walls and floors, putting up boards, framing, hanging and installing pieces, sorting out the sound installation – well before the opening. This extra time meant that she had more time to worry. I think she was more nervous about this exhibition than at the Biennale. Perhaps the moral of the story is to find something unimportant to be harried and last minute about to distract you from worrying about the important stuff that you have prepared long before.
A nice crowd (as in, nice people, nicely turned out) came to the opening last Thursday evening. Perhaps 75 or so through the course of the evening, which I thought was a good size. But I have no other reference point other than the seventy-odd crowd that came to hear me speak at a lunchtime meeting of the Barbados International Business Association; perhaps not the best comparison, not least because I suspect they came for the free lunch.
I think a key theme of the art displayed at the Barbados Museum exhibit echoed that of her Venice Biennale exhibit. We all have preconceived notions about “art” and “museums” when there is much art living and breathing in the everyday around us. And in case that sounds a little conceptual and serious, all the pieces have a wonderful wit about them. My personal favourite is a small glass bookcase, glass doors flung open. Spewing out of it, menacingly, are massively enlarged, screen-printed pages of an archival notebook, documenting the collections of ordinary people. Someone appears to have a collection of skulls. The piece that seemed to absorb most people at the opening was the diary entries of what ordinary Barbadians did on May 6, 2008, which Ingrid collected for her “Make Today History Day” which you may have heard about on the radio or internet. These two pieces are a taste of Ingrid’s art. These are not static images on flat canvasses but something alive and engaging that makes the viewer a co-conspirator. Having said she doesn’t do pretty there are some pretty etchings representing the patterns that bookworms have made in the archival books. Well that is as pretty as she does.
Once he was able to contain himself after Ishan’s comment on the exhibition title, Ishy’s twin brother, Anish, suggested that the exhibition should instead be called “The Legend Of The Unknown”. Go along and make up your own mind.