Auto Agents, AaA Collective
Bluecoat, until 25th January 2017
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith
AaA Collective are a group of five curators with learning disabilities, Hannah Bellass, Tony Carroll, Diana Disley, Leah Jones and Eddie Rauer. The exhibition was led by Jade French, and used work by Mark Simmonds, Aleana Turner and James Harper to explore independence and control. It took two trips to really get to grips with what was going on with this show, but it was well worth it.
At first glance there’s some great work produced between the artists and curators exploring control. I had to go back though to find the independence in it. The exhibition feels almost like one unified work, but the independence, as I’ve come to understand it, comes from the decisions and the process that led to the display in its final form.
The independence comes in a few different forms but, most actively for audience, that independence is given through choice. James Harper’s installation features movable sculptures but gives the viewer the choice as to which parts move, which movements they make and how fast they want to move them. It’s not about inflicting work in all its forms, but placing it in the gallery to be used towards an independent decision.
Aleana Turner’s work is independent in its creation, not its display. Her Secret Action Paintings only take one action from their creator; dropping. That action gives the paintings their own choice, evident for the viewer but not usable.
Mark Simmonds’ Book is a limited edition publication produced over three months in conversation with the curators. In probably the most drawn out sense of independence, the publication gave its multiple creators (Mark Simmonds and AaA Collective) a series of independent choices which had to be communicated as a whole.
It was those three vastly different methods of production and independence that had me visiting and revisiting the show to understand what they truly meant by independence. I think, whether intentional or not, it is a reflection of the multitude of independent needs that everybody needs in their day to day life; independent control; independent decision; independent freedom; or the multiple independences that create conversation.
It’s not simple, but it’s necessary. Auto Agents is a chance for these five curators to pick and choose what independent freedoms they allow the artists, and what they take for themselves. Jade French, PhD candidate and exhibition organiser, relinquished a lot of control with this show, and the result is a single body of work with a clear conversation on those two initial ideas; control and independence.
It’s a really easy exhibition to enjoy, but a more complex one to understand, and worth as many visits as you have time to make.
Auto Agents is open in Bluecoat’s Vide Gallery until 25th January 2017.