Acupuncture of Exhibition Space
Gallery installation, 60 000 nails, processual sound, video performance, variable dimensions
29.5.-3.7.2019 at FaVU Gallery, Brno, CZ
The project Exhibition Space Acupuncture took place between 29 May and 3 July 2019 in the Gallery of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FaVU) in Brno. This installation consisted of about 60,000 nails nailed to the walls of the 117 m² gallery, spread over three interconnected rooms, together with the mess from the plaster, which was a by-product of the installation process itself. A hidden subwoofer amplified street noise from the street directly next to the gallery. During the visiting hours, the rooms were completely dark, and the visitors could use only headlamps. The exhibition took five days to install, at that time, just by the three participants of the group. Conceptually, the exhibition was based on the conditions and contexts of the gallery itself, as well as the ideology and history of exhibition spaces.
During the 5-day performing installation, a fixed time plan of choreographed work in space was followed. While this work was going on, the whole gallery was blacked out, from the very first day of the installation until the end of the exhibition. The participants, during the installation, were also using just headlamps, which meant that while they were hammering the nails into the wall, they were able to focus only on one point. By doing so, they were not disturbed by the surroundings beyond the light point, but also, they were denied any thinking about the aesthetics of the nails composition within the work area. Working in this way made it difficult to tell different areas apart, as the walls and nails were identical, and then the work itself was monotonous repetitive action. Moving within the gallery had its own strict rules when alternating and moving from wall to wall. To accommodate this project, the space was divided into 60 blocks based on its own architecture. Before the works started, there was a draw of which space will be worked on by the participants and when, in order to ensure that the different blocks are worked on simultaneously, yet independently and without being disturbed, in several cycles.
The artists were completely covered in identical workwear, not to be able to identify their co-workers while moving from place to place in these adverse light conditions. During those five days every member of the group took several turns at every block, resulting in that it was impossible to tell who was nailing where and how – and thus erased individual manuscripts. The rule at work was not to communicate with each other, in any way, well, it would not be possible anyway as there was a lot of noise from the amplifier and hammering.
The technological methods of this concept were set up to exclude subjective decision making during the delivery process.
During the installation as well as throughout the whole exhibition, there was a large subwoofer hidden behind the one of the walls. It was connected to a microphone which was placed in the street and reproduced the street noises (traffic, trams, parts of conversations). The street noise in itself is a significant problem for this institution. Every time a tram passes by the old building where the school and the gallery are located, it shakes in its foundations. The subwoofer amplified that noise multiple times. Low, but more pronounced frequencies were reproduced abstractly throughout the whole space, evenly, resulting in the effect of strengthening the atmosphere (compared to inside of a whale belly). Owing to the even distribution of sub-frequential sounds in space, it was not possible to locate their source, i.e. the location of the hidden amplifier behind the wall. The sound from the gallery can be heard outside its doors, but it was difficult to tell if the sound was real street noise or just a reproduction, because the noise intensity is linked to what is happening in the street.
Before entering the exhibition, the visitors were given headlamps to enable them to see and hear the installation in a similar way as the authors did. Well, apart from the sound of nail hammering and sound signals marking the scheduled periods of work and rest. This way the visitors developed their own individual view of this space full of nails in walls, they could investigate the space. The more visitors were in the gallery at one time, the more varied were the possibilities of viewing this installation. Multiplying the light points created some kind of light webs or abstract grids. On the other hand, if there would be only one visitor in the gallery, wearing the headlamp correctly, they could see the installation without the nails’ shadows covering the shadow. These elements were reflected in the photo-documentation of the exhibition when it was not entirely possible to reproduce the endless possibilities of viewing the exhibition in its immersive nature. Therefore, once the exhibition was over, the space was also documented in full "camera-friendly" light.
Several hundred hours of video footage emerged from the installation process alone, as both the participants were using GoPro cameras as well as their headlamps. From this footage we can identify the working process and the different conditions of participants (psychological, sometimes physical), however, we cannot identify who, when or where the specific views belong to as they all look literally alike. The installation process was also recorded on a 360° camera secured at a central point of the gallery. For a first few days of the exhibition, some visitors were asked to wear a GoPro camera. Footage from these cameras is quite interesting insight material about the movement and perception of this almost ritualistic space.
When the exhibition ended and all the nails were removed, large pieces of plaster came off the walls. These uncovered remains of previous exhibitions as well as endless layers of paint, and previous partial repairs by disparate building materials, and not least the general overall decrepit state of this historic building. Finally, the gallery had to be completely restored and updated.
Exhibition Space Acupuncture is a metaphor of a gallery space as an individual participant, an organism, and its stimulation. It works with the space as an accumulation unit in a network and with the unit network itself. The initial starting point of the project refers to the theory of the French sociologist Bruno Latour. He does not include only people, but also objects, organisations, and concepts to the actor-network theory (also known as ANT). ANT is based on the idea of a heterogeneous network of actors in material and semiotic relationships with each other. Latour tries to explain how (not so much why) the actors in this network have come together to act as a whole. The ANT argues that any actor, whether a person, object, organisation, or concept, is equally important to the network.
Similarly, acupuncture as a treatment method takes individuality into account as a comprehensive understanding of the state of the whole organism rather than its individual parts. Whatever happens in one part of the body affects another, much like the network relationship system, according to Latour. Each network is built from connecting points that make up the system and can be labelled as "acupuncture points ".