An assistant is a person (or by extension a device) that helps another person accomplish their goals

Bearspace in association with Peer Sessions, presents an exhibition project entitled The Assistant. From 14th-29th May and 4th-19th June exhibitions will pair up an emerging artist, who will create the artwork, with an established artist who will instruct them. The established artist will send the emerging artist, or assistant, a list of rules one month prior to the exhibition opening, rules which will detail how the established artist wishes the work to be created and/or installed. This blog contains updates on their progress whilst a parallel page collects discussions around the idea of being an assistant and stories shared by other 'assistants' across the arts.

Thursday 12 August 2010

The Assistant 1 & 2- Reflections

To wrap up The Assistant 2010, some reflections were sought from the participants. More information on The Assistant 2011 will follow in due course.

The established artists were asked the following questions:

1. What do you think of the way your instructions/ input were responded to?
2. What did you think of the final exhibition/ work?

The assistants were asked:

1. What did you make of the instructions/ input you were given, was it a useful process?
2. What do you think about the piece of work you produced?

The Assistant 1:

Maria Fusco:
* Successive outputs may have the potential to improve upon the last.
* A desire to consume.
* We think we know what the written word sounds like, do we know what it
looks like?
* A private exposure of public workings.

Kate Pickering:

1. I enjoyed the challenge of responding to the instructions sent by Maria, they were so precise and yet there was space within those constraints for me to develop the work according to my own interests. Maria was very hands off after the initial input of the instructions, there was no back and forth conversation or negotiation, which in some ways was a positive thing, as it meant I could develop the work without further influence, which seemed unnecessary as the instructions were so specific.

2. Its hard to say what I think of the work I produced, as it seems quite different from the work I was making before, even though it ended up being a video installation and had some similar content. I think that even if it is not entirely successful as a piece of work it was certainly a positive experience to work through which may well feed into the way I work in the future. I felt really pressed for time in the run up to the show and so it was one of the quickest pieces of work I have produced considering there is quite alot going on in it, but that did focus me and meant I had to be decisive, although I wonder with more time how it would have turned out differently. Generally working as Maria’s ‘assistant’ was a really positive experience for me, I liked this form of collaboration.

The Asssistant 2:

Gordon Cheung:

1. Considering that I probably inadvertently gave him the worst possible rule: ‘there are no rules’ Blue responded with producing work that was strong. I came into this thinking that there would be an organic discursive process but the unfamiliarity of each other’s work compounded by the divergent expectations from both of us made it too great a gap to be able to bridge in the short time that we could meet. Ultimately I should have set down clear rules to enable that discussion but failed to achieve that and Blue responded very well considering the lack of detail from my side.

2. The final exhibition was as expected finely presented work with some aspects being left ‘unfinished’ which in the context of his other works I understand as being a strong concious decision for Blue such as the ‘unfinished/work in progress’ beading on the tyre and the video tape strung out and ‘uncombed’. Whether that is such a huge leap in terms of doing something new only Blue can really judge that. It does not really detract from the visual impact that he had achieved through the economy of his configurations, use of beautiful objects and relationships to the space.

Blue Curry:

1. Rather than instruct me, Gordon actively challenged the idea of needing instructions or rules as an artist. He felt that there should be no sort of hierarchy which would give one artist the right to dictate what another artist does and therefore decided not to give me any rules. I was a bit flummoxed by this as it seemed to undermine the very premise of the Assistant project. So, by not having any rules or instruction I was being ‘set free’ from the constraints that the project outlined which for me essentially meant that I would be working as I normally would in my practice. In the end I came up with my own restrictions and limitations which came out of the conversations that I had with Gordon about my working style. I felt I needed to create rules to make the work produced feel specific to the idea of the project and not just something else I was working on in the studio at that moment. The interaction with Gordon was quite useful in a general sense and I appreciate the friendship that this project has initiated, but I think he could have used this opportunity to put some sadism into action and to have challenged the hell out of me – or at least I would have!

2. My work for the Assistant was mostly uninformed by any sort of collaborative process so I was initially a bit uncomfortable with showing it in the gallery in the context of the project. I was also slightly unsure of the work itself in that it was left unfinished in an attempt to show work in progress rather than my usual polished final output. I worried that it might seem somewhat contrived in that work that is trying to be unfinished is still finished with that goal in mind. Fortunately, based on the feedback I received from viewers, none of this internal worry actually reflected in the work. The unfinished pieces were not even recognised as such. I found it interesting that how I felt about the work was closely bound up in a sense that I had failed the curatorial mission and that I had to look at the work again, forgetting the Assistant project, to realise that it was strong in its own right. Thinking about it, in the end the work I created did benefit from the process that came out of the project and are therefore a valid and representative product of it.

Thursday 10 June 2010

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Screening of artists’ short films 28th May 2010

bak 2 skool (2009) The War Boutique - Video still

The Hangover (2010) Kristen lovelock- Video still

BLACK FIRE (2010) Melissa Bugarella - Video still

As part of the project, members of peer sessions were invited to submit a short film of 5 minutes or less which they had produced in response to the setting of rules or limits of some kind. These were screened on Friday 28th May at the gallery as part of Deptford last fridays.

The concept of using reduced means and imposed rules as facilitators for artistic production, via the setting of instructions by an outside party, in this case an established artist, with the emerging artist working in an assistant like role, has been key to the project. With the selected works for the screening, the artists themselves had set their own instructions, which gave an insight into their particular working methods.

Many thanks to Rachel Russell for putting the selection together.

Hyemin Son My Flag, 2007

Rosemary Little The Hollywood Collection, 2010

The War Boutique bak 2 skool, 2009

Melissa Bugarella BLACK FIRE, 2010

Georgia Rodger Music box, 2010

Sabrina You Don’t know What You Are Missing, 2010

Jihye Park I Am Getting To Know You Better All The Time, 2010

Rachel Russell Untitled (feat. Sean Price), 2009

Chinmoyi Patel 22 Chronicles of my favourite pastime no. 8, 2007

Kristen Lovelock The Hangover, 2010

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Images from The Assistant 1 - Kate Pickering

Bearspace front window and installation of vinyl lettering- Untitled 2010 Kate Pickering

Video installation- Untitled (The Only Possible Answer) 2010 Kate Pickering

Video installation- Untitled (The Only Possible Answer) 2010 Kate Pickering

Bearspace, Deptford High Street

Thursday 3 June 2010

Interview with Blue Curry

Here is a short last minute interview with Assistant artist Blue Curry, recorded earlier in the week.

Don't forget to join us for the opening tomorrow (Friday 4th) night, 6.30-8.30!

Blue and Gordon's pre-opening discussion update

Blue > Gordon:

Sure, whenever you can make it over would be fine. These are a few quick snaps I took on my way out the door today. I would say I'm a little more than halfway there on this piece. I've suspended a large turtle shell by rope from the ceiling which is secured to the wall behind it. The underside of the shell has a bony spine which I have carved about 8 additional holes into and strung video cassette tape through .... trailing across the floor into a large pile on the other side which is a combination of the tape and 50 black mesh vests. In the pics they blend into the cassette material unfortunately. I have another 30 cassettes of video material to add to give the sculpture more mass.

Something feels awkward about the installation, but then again the room is a strange shape and the ceiling very low with interference from lighting etc. Perhaps I have done the best I can with the space. I'm wondering if this is enough for the show?! I will have one of the tyres I'm covering with beans (incomplete) on show in the gallery window I've decided. When I go tomorrow perhaps it will all be clear, but I'm not panicked if it doesn't resolve itself fully by the opening. Let's pick it apart a bit to indulge in the exhibition's premise a bit and perhaps make some good decisions to benefit the work.

Speak to you tomorrow!

install in progress

Gordon > Blue:

I think it’s looking really good so far. I can see what you mean about the awkwardness and wondered if it might be to do with the shell being close to the wall in relation to how much video tape is trailing. At the moment there is a nice sense of implied motion of the turtle being dragged and leaving all the entrails of the video tape. The implied amount of remaining space for it to be moved/dragged might be something to think about. Would having the ceiling hook a bit more centralised help?
Can the lighting be removed? Perhaps use only what you need to dramatically light and just take out anything else that isn’t required.

Can’t really gauge a sense of the gallery space from the pictures so I suppose I will have to wait to see it tomorrow but it looks from the snaps to be a strong work.

Talk to you then!

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Gordon's latest update to Blue

Update from Gordon and Blue's Dialogue


"One of the first things that I suggested during our 3 hour meeting was to show unfinished work or a kind of installation of a studio in progress. The branches of ideas that come from that involved ideas to do with theatre, drama, perhaps an installation driven by narrative. But it did not seem to be an idea you was interested in so we moved on. We also spent time discussing your star-shaped tin cans and blue material as something that you wanted to explore for it’s decorative and pleasurable qualitites but that in it’s current state of ideas was too undeveloped. However it triggered a discussion that involved use of space more consciously. For example; the blue material being a farily obvious metaphor for the ocean pushed slightly ‘ruffled’ against the wall. A minimal gesture perhaps akin to Felix Gonzales Torres – beautiful, poetically succinct and even politically timely with the oil spill. If you remember I also suggested ‘attacking’ the space......spearing it with the diving spears that you had in your studio and to play on the name of the gallery - Literally ‘skewering’ Bearspace – a kind of violent minimalism. I was searching for ways to discuss heightening existing strains and themes in your work while figuring out if it really was a direction that you wanted to extend into.

The most important thing for me was to find out if any ‘rule’ that I set out was really something you wanted to do. From the outset I had no interest in ‘assisting’ someone do something that they did not believe in or wanted to really pursue.

I look forward to seeing the results and hearing more about the ideas over the course of your installation.


The creative process in the context of this project is precisely all of this discussion".