Today is going to be the end of a very social and productive week, before the start of a very busy week to follow (which will also include a bit of socialising). I’m going to my friend Jo’s house for her housemate’s birthday, and I’ve also managed to see my friend Natalie who’s moved to Coventry and Hannah who’s about to move to York! What I wanted to write about is Tuesday. I viewed a gallery space called The Showcase, which is part of Craft Central, as this is where I will be holding an event later this year, on 22nd August. Afterwards I went with Siobhan Belingy to see Gillian Wearing’s exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery.
I’m really glad that we went as it was so interesting. We started catching up with each other but the exhibition was so engrossing and all-consuming. We both have had the experience that the stories expressed through Wearing’s work was so strong that we couldn’t get them out of our head.
As a writer, I found it inspiring in terms of presenting a narrative and the ideas explored between fiction and reality. This was extended further to the concept of public verses private personas.
Wearing’s most well known work is probably Signs that say what you want them to say, and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say (1997), shown above. As I didn’t know that much else of her work, it was interesting to see everything else – each piece of work stood out and made an imprint on my mind.
In 10–16 (1997) adults lip-sync to the voice-overs of children expressing their fears and insecurities. This results in a disturbing yet sometimes comic effect (I witnessed one woman have to escape the room in a fit of laughter) which shows the strange way emotions can sometimes work in response to tragic events. Her videos depicting familial relationships deal with the ‘expression of both love and conflict so common to most families,’ and sometimes touches on metaphor, asking the viewer to interpret the implied meaning.
In the same room as the sign photographs are three sculptural maquettes of uncelebrated modern-day heroes, which was thought-provoking in regard to the way we put historical figures on both literal and metaphorical pedestals. Her self-portraits were intriguing as the prosthetics looked so real that you could only tell it was a facade from looking at the eyes.
Lastly, the confession booths presented the result of an advert Wearing posted Confess All On Video. Don’t Worry, You Will Be In Disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian….(1994) Like the grip of reality television, it was difficult to pull away from this seemingly never-ending reel of different true stories. It was tragic but thought provoking, and made me wonder how much we really know about the people that surround our daily lives.
Although at Sainsbury’s I’m quite aware that nobody knows me that well and I like it that way because I don’t want to enter into the petty problems that can occur in environments like that. I tend to distance myself from others and talk on a superficial level, and back away from questions asking how my long-distance relationship is and how my Valentine’s day was (err… weird, mind your own business cheers). I use the time to focus on the task in hand and sometimes zone out and spend time in my head due to the physical nature of the job.
However, the idea of everyone thinking you’re a great guy at work is turned sinister in the confessions booth as one man reveals his dark past as a murderer. The stories told elicit a response in you, ranging from sadness and sympathy to anger and disgust.
You can catch the Gillian Wearing exhibition until 17th June 2012.