The curators issued the following information:
Keith Wilson: Calendar
For this major exhibition in our Upper Gallery, British artist Keith Wilson further develops his longstanding investigation into the cultural status of sculpture, considering how ideas develop in the private sphere of the artist’s studio and transform into a public presentation of work in a gallery.
At the core of Calendar is a large-scale galvanised steel structure made up of multiple cubic units, organised in a series akin to the familiar monthly grid arrangement used for wall planners and electronic diary systems. These units are then occupied by various objects, items, and ephemera that offer a view into the artist’s studio from the wider enclosure of public space within the MAC.
This artistic practice comprises an ongoing enquiry into the contingency of meaning specifically in relation to the public functioning of sculpture. The artist is interested in exploring the power relations inherent in everyday human interactions and his exhibitions are often dramatized by having to navigate your way around apparently authoritative pieces of highly ordered sculptural material.
Keith Wilson is currently based between New York, Sheffield and London. Over the past two decades he has staged major solo exhibitions at institutions such as Camden Arts Centre, London; Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston; Milch Gallery, London; Milton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes; Eastside Projects, Birmingham; and the Wellcome Collection, London. He has also contributed to numerous group shows and projects at; the Hayward Project Space, London; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds; as well completing a major commission Steles for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. From summer 2016 he will be Provost’s Artist-in-Residence, the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York.
One of those days
and a question: which is art? The metal bos is Wilson’s product among the industrially produced buoys.
A calendar is a time piece, like neolithic stones or medieval tower clocks, it is driven by an intention to bring order into past, present and future. It insists that it is possible, due to predictability or planning. Paradoxically it is both divided and continuous. full and empty, finished and incomplete. All done both with a considerable effort – and slight boredom. The last quality has been invented as an aesthetic category around 1500 in Italy – spezzatura. No obvious effort was invested into selection of objects
– some are still unpacked small parcels.
Wilson was trying hard not to try hard
and still have some perfect artful dishevelment of mismatched items to entertain the curious.
Quizzical consciousness aims to remove nostalgia
possibly associated with an early design of a mobile phone silent and alone in one grey see through box of a day. It sends around a note of sadness which infects intellectual defences.
The yellow chair dares to nonchalantly pierce through overnight to another week .
Wilson relies on cubes made with an industrial material and precision to represent the sameness of 24 hours long day, repeated on the orbit of Earth around the Sun. The grey march of the right angle is relentlessly collaborating with ennui and fatigue.
It looks rational, but it exudes mystery.
Stonehenge it ‘aint’ – although if Wilson lived then I bet he would be one of the hard working men hands on, calculating weight and sizes and distances. His earlier work flirted with uneven, organic edges and sizes and allowed material to flow in the space, so rough shapes would not be a problem. Therefore, I felt at first quite alarmed with the relentless march of grey cubes stuck above and next to each other – I could not see where the march begun or ended. So – anywhere then. It the flow stutters over gaps – irregularly – up or down or all the way from the ground to the top.
After all, he constructed the whole aedifice himself. His allegiance to Homo Faber identity were manifestly present in his previous exhibitions like the one at Platform Art.
The box among the buoys addresses a Modernist concern about anxious object: Warhol’s Brillo boxes inside a supermarket would not look like art, in a gallery they would. Wilson ups the stake: a simple ubiquitous kind of metal (?) box next to maritime past. The visual difference does not carry conviction – the object is not reluctant to stay double faced. The question mark in brackets refers to my insecurity of knowing what the box was made of. When I went to look, it was not there anymore.
The Calendar started in 2011 and was developed in 2912 to look like empty bookshelves.
Shelves with life taken out, life a walked away shadow.
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
—William Shakespeare, Macbeth, (Act V, sc. v 24–28)
In an interview with Aesthetica Wilson said about the above construction:
KW: Calendar is the last in a long series of galvanized steel works, which end here with these cube-form arrangements. Each piece is set out to represent a different indexical system, from the alphabet through to the periodic table. Starting with Vertical Hopscotch (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0) the cube-works bring the apparent liberation of the third dimension to more familiarly 2-D languages of representation, only to reveal their own tyranny. Asking these small spaces to represent time seems a fitting way to end the game. My Calendar structure has an inside and an outside. Inside I think of as the space of the artist, perhaps even the studio, with outside being a more consensual, public space. The apparent rationality of the system begins to crumble as you realise how very different the inside is from the outside.
He follows the quote above up later in that interview by a magic departure: he thinks of it as a silent work and if placed in a field, it could appear as a fenced tomb, a forest could grow inside…
That thought he connects to imagined “late Henry Moore” – which is a fragment from Wilson’s adherence to UNIT ONE Group, 1933. He shares their concern about revitalising contemporary art.
No wonder reference appears during his work on the Calendar.
This is a cerebral calendar … marrying Mnemosyne with a storage shelve housing just one mobile phone as a memory of a friend who is no more.
Accumulation of time and objects forges serendipitous connections – even denial of some: Wilson never overloads a field of vision with objects, only with the whole that appears like fortress with no entrance. In practice slim bodies may squeeze through narrow gaps inside to note that several objects are visible only from inside.
Is it suggesting that time has an inside? That I cannot answer. Instead, I think that it approximates the orbit – not around a source of life, rather around a void.
Wilson does not offer an immersive visual experience. On my first visit – the objects dribbled in the field of vision broadcasting their insignificant ordinariness, with the exception of those still unpacked. Those held their secrets. Subsequent visits woke up familiarity as well as broken off sensory experiences. Round and round, whether walking around or inside, the tension of repetitiveness grew heavier with connectivity.
I sense philosophy creeping in, namely, something, Giordano Bruno was burn alive for on 17 February 1600 at Camp del Fiore in Rome: The continuity of the universe ( he proposed that God was all over the universe, not just in one place, Earth) , the calendar goes round and round – I am not sure where it begins and ends, so it may be anywhere. Even if Wilson marked every months as a group separated from the previous and the next by a gap, a small hiatus.
Wilson’s intention is to make art that can do for the now and here what the UNIT ONE achieved before the mid 20th C for then and there.
To the extent to which art mediates freedom – he succeeds. He seems to be attracted to the cases of flight from the theoretical constructs of sovereign leaders/ a master signifier, e.g. Duchamp or “late Henry Moore”. Wilson is questioning whether such theoretical overcoding can be absent and void. As a consequence he treats all he includes as siblings of visibility, in the Italo Calvino terminology.
It is also a silent, fenced of tomb of the past time.
Images courtesy MAC, Belfast and as stated. For all images see: https://wellcomecollection.org/calendar-things?month=1