GSA: The Invigilators – 23-28 January 2011

The exhibit occupying the Mackintosh Museum is an oddity, possibly unique in what the Glasgow School of Art will exhibit this year. This is an exhibition where the artist’s aren’t linked by an idea, their location or their medium, but what they volunteer to do every couple of afternoons. The Invigilators is contributions from exactly that, invigilators. Not the ones who sit in exams watching for cheating, otherwise the exhibition would probably have a theme of taking in papers and an unfortunate lack of biscuits. These are the folk who sit in the corner, stopping you sipping that Starbucks super-latte in the museum and kids using the sculptures as a climbing frame (guilty).

The pieces are of great quality, with some great observations on silence and the art of observing and being observed. A popular theme was the nature of the Mackintosh Museum itself, from a project to transform the gallery’s statue of Nike to a wry observation about the renovations occurring just metres from the exhibition space. Finally there were pieces which had no relevance to the space at all, from a video that illustrates different elements of a conversation to drawings illustrating (ha) the independent nature of the female body.

The thing that makes this exhibition really stand out is the contributors’ diversity. The Invigilators features artists from all stages of people’s progression through the GSA, from undergrads to folk who have finished and left altogether. This means the exhibition is the best way to see how artists develop through their education, short of raiding the school itself and grabbing everybody’s coursework.

Unfortunately, this variety is also the exhibition’s main downside. The choice given to the contributors whether to put in pieces relevant to the museum and their experiences in it means that, although fascinating individually, the pieces fail to grip onto a common ground or indeed not to. It leaves them in limbo, caught between being relevant to their situation and covering a diverse range of ideas. In the end, though a brilliant concept, the idea of linking pieces purely by a shared experience fails to carry curatorially, leaving the pieces with a sense of aimlessness despite their excellence.

[Andrew McAllister]

Leave a Reply