I once blogged about an exhibition by the artist Amir Mogharabi at Ibid Projects, located at number 35 on the salubrious Hoxton Square; it provoked the most comments I’d ever received, promoting a fierce debate about the venue – anonymous readers argued it was ‘pretentious rubbish’, ‘tawdry’, and others protested it was ‘sublime’. Whether the show was, in the end, of significant merit or not, will never be proven, since art remains an entirely subjective practice, but it does reveal Ibid’s ability to divide and rule, and incite debate. All of the commentators had at least been to the show, and felt compelled enough to respond.
For August, however, that notoriously dead month in the art world, when gallerists, artists, collectors and curators all mysteriously disappear (just when we were thinking the art market was static) Ibid have given over the space over to curator Ariella Yedgar, for a special exhibition A Space Without Use. Pulling in five very different artists: Flavio Favelli, Anthea Hamilton, Liang & Liang, Amalia Pica and Laure Provost, Yedgar takes an extract of Georges Perec as a starting point, a fascinating section of Species of Space on the impossibility of a 'functionless’ space. This is a nice meta-exploration of a theme clearly inspired by a gallery space that would otherwise have been left empty for the summer. It is also typically convoluted and divisive of the kind of exhibitions Ibid Project’s elicit. This is high art, and no casual visitor to the gallery trot is going to be allowed to forget it – forget lighthearted summer show fun.
Ibid does possess one of the most interesting spaces in the East, and have kept it deliberately unmanicured, providing a refreshing contrast to their elevated conceptual practices. A health and safety nightmare, a labryrinth of potholes and rickety stairs, the space confuses and beguiles. But somehow Ibid still seem to have not quite hit upon an exhibition that really plays up the disorienting effect of their interior. When you arrive on the first floor, a single room is filled haphazardly with pieces by this diaspora of artists. Flavio Favelli’s crayon on paper drawings, Lettiga II, are gorgeously elegant architectural pieces, with the gravitas of their Italian predecessors. Amalia Pica’s Final de Fiesta, installations of aged paper party decorations, are the only pieces that evoke a holiday atmosphere, though even then, they are ghostly, lugubrious reminders of a bygone celebration. Perhaps the toughest to unpick are works by Liang & Liang: Muktzah – a bakelite electrical switch - refers to the Jewish law of Shabbat, during which the use of certain items associated with labour is prohibited; this together with a catalogue from an exhibition of ancient Mexican art, with a sticker reading ‘Remember: Do Not Speak Their Names’, again highlights paradoxically that which they seek to deny.
Though this is a project out of Ibid’s hands, its ethos runs right through it. One thing is emphatic: they are not producing art for the entertainment of the masses. However, this is a thought-provoking show, if the viewer chooses to get hold of the press release and cares to dig deeper. If not, Ibid’s unconventional space will always delight visitors no matter what they exhibit within it.
-- Charlotte Jansen
All Images courtesy the artists and Ibid Projects, London.
Images: Installation view, A space without a use, Laure Prouvost and Flavio Favelli; Liang & Liang, Remember: Do not speak their names, 2009, catalogue for Exhibitions of Mexico City (Arts Council , 1953), sticky label and printer ink.