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Review: MINUS at Tate Liverpool (an exhibition that never happened)

MINUS at Tate Liverpool (an exhibition that never happened)
Tate Liverpool
, 20??

Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith

Lara Favaretto, Bruno Munari & Michelangelo Pistolleto all focus on substraction, a word that doesn’t quite exist in common English. Everything about this exhibition works on a foundation of extractions, negatives, lost time and imagined situations.

Lara Favaretto, part of Liverpool Biennial 2018, brought huge blocks of extracted granite, carved out of the face of some cliff. The cliff itself probably isn’t important, but the fact it came from there is. The gauged lines where it has been drilled, prized, twisted and pulled from the earth on proud display as you are asked to part with pennies for a good cause. A simple enough project on the face of it, but Lara Favaretto gives just as much importance to what’s missing as what isn’t.

It’s this inability to overlook the hidden that ties these artists together. Michelangelo Pistolleto’s ‘Door’ has been lifting imaginations at Tate Liverpool for years as part of Constellations for just that reason. The work doesn’t simply take an object and make you look at it, it blurs not just reactions, but interactions with art. Viewers walk up, look at the object, consider how to take it, pause as they wonder whether to hop through, hop through, and then end up in a weird conundrum of having to consider a work they were not just part of, but passed through.

Negative space is a difficult thing to fill, let alone create. And I’m sure there are limitless lakes filled with artists who could cover this exhibition, but that’s where it comes back to that word, ‘substraction’. It’s not just about negatives, or taking things away, it’s about finding uses for those things that are taken. I suppose a common example would be in organ donation, finding a use for something no longer needed, and occasionally finding a use for something only slightly needed and giving it to someone/something more needful.

The last artist perhaps sums this up best, Bruno Munari, whose wit transformed what art could be. What did he take, and how did he use it? He took sense and reason, and used it for humour. His ‘Useless Machines’ took undeniably plausible uses for objects, and turned them into functional but useless tools. Visually, they were mobiles, but their function was more. Rather than to settle and swing, affected by the space around them, they were machines designed to interact with their world.

All three artists, brought together in the mind of Francesco Manacorda, are tied together by this defunct word, substract, a word that allows everything to be made of nothing, and vice versa.

Or at least that’s the review I could have written. The exhibition didn’t happen though. On 13th July 2017, The Serving Library presented what it called ‘Liverpool minus Francesco Manacorda’. Manacorda, (soon to be former) Artistic Director of Tate Liverpool, gave one final public talk before he left the gallery for a new post at V-A-C Foundation. His talk focussed on three artists he had an ambition to bring together for an exhibition, and it’s probably a shame it didn’t materialise, but in the space we live in, it didn’t.

From Art in Liverpool though, I hope this article marks some sort of thanks for his work, which shaped a very different Tate Liverpool from the gallery he took on just five years ago.

The Stone (2016) Lara Favaretto
The Stone (2016) Lara Favaretto. Photo by artinliverpool