[Image: Daniel Lichtman The Tetley, 2014]
Located on the site of the previous brewery headquarters in central Leeds, The Tetley opened its doors as a gallery in November 2013. Operated by Project Space Leeds it intends to exhibit contemporary ‘cutting edge’ art shows and ‘Concerning The Bodyguard’ is no exception.
The gallery boasts a stunning art deco style interior, which houses the exhibition over three floors. The layout and style of the building makes for a unique viewing experience where the viewer can wander in and out of the many spaces that contain the various pieces which make up the exhibition. A map is provided so guests can locate all of the works that make up the show.
Such a layout and use of space aids the spectator’s relationship with the work they are presented with and allows you to experience them as a continuous flow of interrelated pieces in interconnected rooms. The format is not that of a contemporary gallery but this simply adds to the experience – some of the pieces are even hidden behind curtains for the viewers to find for themselves. The rooms contain pieces which are both diverse and contemporary and showcase the capacity for contemporary art to ask questions about the world in which we reside.
‘Concerning The Bodyguard’ is a multi-sensory large-scale show that presents the work of 15 international artists. It takes writer Donald Barthelme’s (1978) short story of the same title as a provocative starting point. Co-curated by Laura Morrison and Project Space it seeks to display how current modes of expression assume the distanced observer and represent, protect and expose the “vulnerable subject”. The exhibition asks many poignant cultural and political questions of the contemporary world and challenges commonly made assumptions about our relationship with others and the world around us. The exhibition invites us to question who can be wilfully vulnerable and who can only be exposed and made vulnerable, while also addressing how these power dynamics are achieved and played out in contemporary art.
The works displayed cover varying artistic practices from print, photography and text to video and sound installations. One of the first works the viewer comes into contact with is Daniel Lichtman’s ‘We Have a Dome’ (2014). This 8 minute video installation is projected onto a white wall next to the staircase on the first floor. The video contains footage shot from the artist’s perspective as he floats in a swimming pool. Alongside the video a female voice can be heard who narrates the artist’s experience whilst showing close-ups of various parts of his body including his feet and hands as he moves through the water that surrounds him. ‘We Have a Dome’ offers the viewer a taster of the sensory experience which is to follow in the conjoining rooms.
Matthew McQuillan, The Tetley, 2014
There are many similarly interactive pieces such as Matthew McQuillan’s ‘Children and Belongings’ mixed media installation also located on the first floor. The floor is covered with a blue carpet patterned with large ear shapes – the visitor is encouraged to explore the space further as they put on the earphones provided and listen. The intrigued visitor is then played an audio piece devised by the artist, which documents various forms of technological social interaction intertwined with children’s giggles. This experience is stimulating and allows a uniquely direct relationship between the viewer and artwork – such a relationship is replicated at numerous other points throughout the displays.
The works at times may appear abstract, often sending the viewer to various dimensions as they are showered with works that toy with their various senses. The viewer may on occasion also seem confused – yet this confusion seems not without intent. The artists in this series were encouraged to produce pieces which may seem as though they are experimental or still needing to reach their state of completion. Such encouragement allows the viewer to re-think the notion of art as being a finished product or an end-point of a creative process. These pieces and their relationship with the spaces they occupy is on-going.
‘Concerning The Bodyguard’ is both a dynamic and engaging exhibition, which allows the spectator to actively engage in the works in a distinctive and contemporary way while, at the same time, allowing them to question the practice of art and its relationship with us and the ways we perceive society. It covers varying topics such as sexual vulnerability and exposure, to modern warfare. The artists in this series ask questions of the viewers while allowing the viewer to ask questions of the diverse topics covered and the practice of art itself. The viewer is invited into the world of visual arts in a sensory and engaging experience.
‘Concerning The Bodyguard’ is a free exhibition currently on show at The Tetley, Leeds until the 2nd of November 2014. For further information please visit the gallery’s website thetetley.org/concerning-the-bodyguard