by Jens Hoffmann
Stowaways presents itself as an exhibition within an exhibition, adding another layer to the form and structure of The Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers, which in itself is a variation and creative restructuring of the specific format developed for the exhibition Passengers.
Launched in September 2007 as a hybrid of solo and group exhibitions of emerging international artists, Passengers
aimed to overcome the often-restrictive programming schedule of a
typical art institution by implementing a format for an exhibition that
was forcing continuous change and transformation. At the beginning of
each month, one of the artists from the group portion of the show moved
into a central space to present a month long solo show at the end of
which he or she left the exhibition completely and a brand-new artist
entered the group show, thus constantly repopulating the display.
Beginning in September 2008, The Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers follows largely the same format as Passengers
but discontinues the monthly addition of a new artist. This allows for
the center space to expand, thus putting more emphasis on the solo
presentation. The exhibition will eventually reach an endpoint, a solo
show of the remaining single artist in August 2009, who will have the
whole gallery to himself or so it seems.
The primary thought behind the various parts and elements of these
exhibitions and their structure is the desire to create an exhibition
that is not a static entity but a dynamic system of interconnected
elements, none of which are ever fully fixed but rather fluid and
movable. Just as the format of Passengers changed with The Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers, another shift is introduced into the overall project with Stowaways intervening into an already existing exhibition. Nine artists participate in Stowaways
by slipping into the cycle of the exhibition's rotation. Submitting
artworks that are ephemeral or limited in size and which are somewhat
hidden within the existing installation, these artists take part in the
journey of the exhibition while staging an intervention into its
structure. Stowaways breaks the rules of the game and allows
the curator to introduce another set of artists and their works to the
exhibition at a point in which The Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers seems to move towards its end. While the format of The Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers will continue unaltered, the artists in Stowaways will remain in the exhibition until the end of August 2009 when the whole project will conclude.
The title of the exhibition Stowaways plays with the idea of
a passenger, in this case a hidden passenger that boards a ship,
aircraft, bus, or train secretly without permission and without being
detected. The artworks are not immediately noticeable upon entering the
gallery. As with the use of the word 'passenger' the thoughts behind
the use of the term 'stowaway' is intended to reflect upon contemporary
realities, pointing as much towards illegal immigration as to the idea
of a so-called 'free-ride'.
Stowaways often live dangerous lives, as seen in the rather tragic
story of Yaguine Koita and Fodé Tounkara, two stowaways who froze to
death flying from Guinea to Belgium in 1999. Their bodies were later
discovered in the aircraft's wheel bay. The boys were carrying a
letter, written in imperfect French, which was widely published in the
world media. In a similar accident, a 17 year old male from South
Africa was found in the wheel well of a British Airways flight in Los
Angeles. He died from exposure as a stowaway on a previous flight and
the body had not been immediately found. That flight had last been in
Cape Town five days earlier, in January of 2007.
The more romantic and playful aspects of being a stowaway are wonderfully illustrated in Stowaway to the Moon,
a made for TV movie from 1975 in which an 11 year old boy, who has
always been fascinated by space and astronauts, secretly enters an
Apollo-like spacecraft in Cape Kennedy and emerges as the hero who
saves the crew after an accident on the ship occurs. Perhaps a more
anarchic, yet humorous, episode on film involving stowaways can be seen
in the Marx Brothers hilarious movie Monkey Business (1935).
While stowing away on a ship to America, Graucho, Chico, Harpo and
Zeppo get involuntarily pressed into service as bodyguards for a pair
of gangsters while trying to constantly elude the vessel's crew.
After an initial invitation to participate in Stowaways, the
nine artists in this exhibition were asked not to communicate further
with the curator about their work in the exhibition; the curator saw
the pieces for the first time only on the day of installation. Here the
secret and clandestine character of the stowaway enters the context of
the exhibition, an element that will remain present through the
specific nature of the display in which art works are not instantly
visible but need to be discovered.