'Take a pot plant. Listen to the plant.* Don't do what you want to do, do what the plant wants. Find out where in the exhibition it wants to go, and put it there.'
|'query' by jenny downing on Flickr|
Laid out on a table were a range of pot plants - some herbs, some succulents, some grassy, some bushy - looking for all the world like a stall at a church fete. But these weren't for sale; they were all waiting for someone to take them, to listen to them, and to home them somewhere in the gallery. And, true enough, the minimalist spaces of the gallery were bedecked with plants - some right next to paintings, some in the middle of spaces, some tucked into corners, some nestling in each other's foliage, some with notes attached explaining that their true home was half way up that wall or on the ceiling.
The plant-placing was organised by McCormack+Gent, artists in residence at Kettle's Yard for a few days in October and November (I think they said they'd be back in a fortnight). It's part of their current project 'Dumb Fixity'. As well as homing vegetation, participants were asked to 'debrief' by rating themselves, their plant, and the exhibition on a number of sliding scales such as 'listening....hearing', 'handled...managed' and 'emotional...logical'. I can't claim to quite understand what the artists' description of the project means, not being very good at art-speak, but I must admit that I really rather enjoyed the experience of wandering round the gallery, plant in hand, considering its spiky greenness in conjunction with Cage's abstract, and generally somewhat brownish, works.
Did my plant speak to me? No. Or, if it did, I didn't hear it. But I did manage to convince myself that there were places in which it would be happier, and places in which it would be less happy. I didn't, for example, feel satisfied placing it near my definite favourite pieces in the exhibition - they were in a quiet side room, and I honestly thought that my plant would prefer to be somewhere busier where it could listen to and watch passers by. What this says about me, I'm not sure.
|Cage also wrote music for prepared piano.|
'Silencers - Prepared piano' by svennevenn on Flickr
As at the Sainsbury Collection, it was fun to look for links between nearby pieces. Several of the works looked to me rather like sketched maps, which reminded to think about sending something to the Hand Drawn Map Association. Number 87, 'Soul of One Foot for Collection of Ray Kass' (1989), looked like (and I assume probably was) a shoe print in black ink. Number 51, 'Eninka' (1986), was made from 'Smoked and branded monotype printed on gampi paper chine collé', a description that doesn't really do the brownish-rust coloured markings justice.
My runaway favourite was numbers 6 to 12, 'Seven Day Diary (Not Knowing)' (1978), all hung together in a row, inconveniently just a bit too high for me too get a good look. I've a soft spot for etchings, it's true, but these were lovely. The first one was black ink on paper, and the rest were increasingly embellished with various other media and other colours. You can see them in this picture - the run of seven in a row half-way up the near wall. There wasn't a postcard of them, of course. There never is...
So, in summary, Kettle's Yard is great. Go there. Tomorrow if you can before the Cage exhibition closes (it's on tour, so you can also catch it later in Huddersfield, Glasgow and Bexhill on Sea). Or a fortnight today if you want to play with plants. Or just whenever you can.
*Fans of Doonesbury might, at this juncture, be thinking of Zonker Harris but I can assure you that it wasn't *that* kind of pot plant.