September 7, 1997
Postmasters Gallery opened the season with an exhibition of work by Devon Dikeou consisting of announcements for all the group shows she's been in over the past few years. Very economical and, though I'm not sure why, appealing. She used uniformly sized display boards, the kind with grooved black backgrounds where you insert white letters into the grooves, and hung them salon-style in the main room. The glass and frames tell you they are traditional art objects yet they are no different than the ones usually placed outside of churches to announce that week's sermon. The messages carried by the signs make them a kind of personal history of the artist but, at the same time, site specific to the gallery. Put them in front of a church and they would only be confusing, not to mention out-of-date. Another artist, say Jenny Holzer, would have used a more transportable message, one that would take meaning from its context. As a group, in a gallery, they become hypertextual. You can trace the career path of this and other artists by following their names from board to board. And since each presentation is equal each exhibition has the same importance while in reality each group show had its own level of important both within the artist's history and the broader network of art history.
In the smaller gallery, the one with the fireplace, artists were each presented with a Mac Classic computer and asked to create an art work. Wonderful idea not only for the simplicity of it but for the acknowledgement of what the Mac was created for: a cheap, easy-to-use appliance that can be customized. At the opening the room was very hot and I couldn't spend much time with each piece but the first thing I noticed was that several of the artists customized the computer itself. One had a faux woodgrain front and another was used as a painting surface. Some had mice, others headphones. The uniform black and white screens and limited graphical capabilities echoed the signs in the other room but in this case it was the difference possible within a limited resources by a variety of artists that was made evident as opposed to the linking of different venues through a common attribute (the artist) and a uniform presentation by Dikeou.
A very smart and visually interesting, if subtle, juxtaposition. It is one of the first shows where I've seen this kind of digital/analog interaction take place with so much sense of understanding.
One young woman I chatted with said she was tired because she'd gotten up at four that morning to watch the funeral of Princess Diana. She seemed genuinely distraut by the death and experiencing actual grief. I told her that I'd caught the rerun later that morning and found the whole thing fascinating in that it showed a kind of institutional power we don't often see. She was, I think, horrified by my unfeeling response to such a monumental tragedy. We were two people who obviously were not sharing the same life experience and from what I've seen of the crowds outside Buckingham Palace I may be in the minority.
Any death is a tragedy of some sort. It is the end of a story and, especially in the case of Diana, the beginning of another. I'm part of the audience that is more and more being invited to be a part of the play, to be "interactive." I'm afraid I have to side with the Queen and the family on this. They are living and experiencing real loss and grief. What those crowds outside the palace and the young woman in the gallery are experiencing is something else and I have a feeling it is more in line with the demand for personal interaction that some say was the cause behind Princess Diana's death.