Beth Collar @ Primary, Nottingham
Emoji summary: 🗿💞🗽
i went to Primary in Nottingham today and I’m writing this now on the train home. i like nottingham, altho I find it a weird shape. and the heatwave is keeping on. we’re at the point now that we’ll look back on summer 2018 and remember how it cooked us alive. The gallery space i travelled to was upstairs in the buildin, felt holy, a big hall within an old primary school (hence the name Primary). The exhibition had lights off and a single projected video standing big and vertical like a totem advert. the floor was plasticky soft - as if the ground had a screen protector over it that hadn’t been put on perfectly so there were bubbles all over. it was dusty n good. There was also a voice playing in about a 10 minute loop, speaking long drawn out words that i’ll get to. The work is by Beth Collar. I let myself collapse on the floor and listened to what the art had 2 say.
Someone told me recently to cut the word ‘busy’ out of my vocabulary because it’s just a word to panic at. life’s got to happen anyway, step, to-do, to-do: and I impart that healthy wisdom but also wanna say I am actually so busy right now. i’m underneath two jobs, therapy, the sun, my panic attacks. CBT has put me on to boil, that’s the only way I can describe it. I’m on edge but the edge is slippy. I can fall off at any minute, and I do. so When I walked into Collar’s show at the end of a long week and saw the singular focus of it all, I honestly thought, ‘thank god I’m at an exhibition.’ i lay down, fell happily into the art hole; cooled my brain down. The art or its curation was like a glass of tap water on arrival ? i didn’t know i needed one.
the video projected < v big, real, bright > was mostly a slideshow of photographs (at moments videos so still they looked like images anyway) of statue men, public monuments, lads on plinths. the imagery was often of the backs of them or focusing on a curve of the stoney fabric, n the pace was very careful in the slideshow presentationness of them all. The voice coming out of two speakers on the floor at the opposite end of the gallery space had, I don’t know, a tone that sat between crying, laughing, panic and sex-breathiness. if u can imagine that. There were big gaps between the words, the sentences, and everything said went from crooning after the sculpture-men to sexual frustration or vocal frowning. ‘he’s not looking at me; standing on a pillar gazing with such accuracy, so alone, so perfect ; he’s got the world beneath his feet ; draped . in . fabric . ; their shoulders are broad and capable .’ This went on and I was flat on the floor trying to work out the situation. what’s the tension at the table ?? until the voice went, ‘it’s not fair! and I guess I’m in love with him? or I want to be him?’ and it fell into place, like this artwork is an arty historical narrative that plays out the full spectrum sadness of objectum sexuality. Have you ever heard of that? did u see the viral documentary about the woman so in love with it she married the eiffel tower? the docu features someone in a relationship with a disused fairground ride, someone in love with an organ in a church, another with a fence. This sounds funny but the production was really sympathetic because while the fetish is ye, part sexual (hitching ur leg up over the eiffel tower to rub up on it), it was also a response to childhood sexual abuse in all the women interviewed. U now feel comfort in an object that can’t hurt you, it becomes the totem u project all your safeness into. its friction turns you on. an ‘it’s complicated’ relationship status you completely believe.
Not a direct analogy or anything but the objectum sexual narrative seems a fitting tone for the voice in this exhibition: it hints at wanting to takedown patriarchal histories, wanting to take back power, but is still kind of conservative and holding onto a romantic memory of empire (as plays out in real life in this country tbh). like the fact it’s not so straightforward in its script, the fact the violence is reluctant, made it hard to listen to like those documentaries are hard to watch. But I truly enjoyed not thinking of my own problems and listening to someone else’s for a bit. I like the drone. I let the voice say its piece twice before peeling myself off the floor and getting a grip. I’m glad I came and went.