Marc hundley 'Computer', 2013

Group exhibition:I am a scientist

V1 Gallery presents a collection of work by 14 New York based artists, curated by artist Sadie Laska, which explores the ideas of introspection, existentialism, and the self.

Published: January 29, 2017Words: Astrid LarsenPhotographs: Jan Søndergaard

Group exhibitions are kind of like the mix-tapes of the gallery industry. They’re exploratory, conceptual, and usually provide something for everyone. Not every work that you experience is guaranteed to be to your liking, but you can be assured that a tremendous amount of time and thought when into the selection and curation of the collection as a whole.

This was my experience of V1 Gallery’s latest group exhibition ‘I am a Scientist,’ curated by the New York artist Sadie Laska. Out of the fourteen New York-based artists that she chose to participate in the exhibition, there were those that stood out as exceptional to my taste and others that fail to spark my interest. But such is the case with group exhibitions. It’s not for lack of adhering to a conceptual idea, from which I feel guest curator Sadie Laska has clearly defined in the sections of works display, but more out of a preference for style. I’m other words; I don’t believe that any of the words failed in their approach. I just found some more aesthetically pleasing than others.

Laska’s conceptual framework for the exhibition refers to the song ‘I am a Scientist’ from indie-rock band Guided By Voices. In my opinion, this puts entirely too much burden on the personal interpretation of another group of artists work. Musicians are artists in their own right, and their songs are their medium. Therefore, I don’t really see this as any different than, for example, curating a collection of work based on a person’s interpretation of the work of Basquiat, Kandinsky, Fairey, or whoever. To be completely honest, I am not exactly sure when I stand on this, and in truth, it doesn’t detract from the outcome of the work, so my opinions on this are rather irrelevant.

Conceptually, the premise revolves around the examination and exploration of ‘Self’ – to quote the lyrics from the song by Guided by Voices, “I am a scientist. I seek to understand me.” I am not completely sure what Laska’s framework and depth were behind approaching the artists and putting this collection of work together. The written description of the concept seems almost like a work of its own – as if trying to find its own lyrical and stylistic tonality, rather than present itself as a pragmatic description of the concept.

“Staring at the computer screen, you hear the ticking clock, a flicker of shadows, in your vision an imprint, marking on the wall resemble cave paintings, there is an image of a face, a human hand, an insomniac, scientific drawings, a skull, bats, and flies. Entering wandering landscapes, with stitched forms – boats adrift at sea, flags, and fists are raised in defiance of the ocean void – a sensitive cloud watcher, forms coming and going.”

With a concept as open as self-reflection or introspection, there was bound to be a lot of “blue-sky” interpretation from the artists creating the work – in other words, boundless and infinite. Yet that is one of the strengths that I found in the exhibition. The shear scope of styles, methods, materials, and mediums used by the different artists almost gives the impression that there was zero curation to begin with – and that’s the genius of it. It’s anti-curation.

Imagine trying to curate a collection of human beings based on what they each thought of themselves. An impossible task, because our consciousness is limited by the boundaries of our own skin. We cannot truly share what we feel; we can only give an impression of it. We cannot truly experience what another feels; we can only try to try to decode what they themselves have attempted to convey. Therefore, the criteria for curation would contain an infinite amount of variables – and would look, for all intents and purposes, anti-curated.

Now I will admit, I am doing exactly what I just described, and what Laska’s attempted with framing a concept around the work of Guided by Voices. Trying to use my own cognitive abilities – which are limited by my corporal being and my own experiences – to form a description of another person’s attempted description of themselves. And that is some heavy shit to ponder.

I suppose one could following this train of thought to define anything written which aims to “describe” another person’s thoughts, concepts, ethics, morals or ideals. Which basically makes this article a completely pointless collection of words.

In retrospect, having come to the end of my own reflection on Laska’s exhibition, I would suggest that you consider the last 2 minutes spent reading this article a completely wasted effort, and simply go down to V1 and experience the work for yourself. Define your own descriptions and interpretations of the work, because in the end, that is the best we can do.