The title ALL SYSTEMS…go is an imperative sentence in history depicting the point of no return. The creators have taken ownership of this terminology to dismiss and reject all the systems that control artists and restrict the art scene. Questioning this, artists Liam Gillick, Anton Vidokle, Miranda Pennell and Dominic Watson present a body of work to confront this society, institution and the artists who still partake in it, with questions dwelling on every artist’s mind regarding the art scene, institutions and rules imposed by capitalist systems on art in general.
The exhibition consists of three moving images displayed on three large screens placed in a diagonal row along the exhibiting space, allowing the viewer to see them all at the same time. Sound emanates from the film in the foreground – the only aspect of the exhibition which hints to a kind of hierarchy – and the other two can be listened to through headphones. On the opening night actor Billy Mack performed a piece called The Incomplete Curator conceived by artists Gillick and Vidokle through which they laid the foundations n their creative critique of the art scene.
The first moving image A Guiding Light shows a rehearsal amongst a few actors discussing the art scene, how it is controlled and constituted by exhibitions, art fairs and international capitalism and asking the question: how can we get out of it? Claiming that art is being hijacked by the institutions surrounding it, the irony is that artists fuel that process and allow the system to continue. The film is cleverly made to artistically imply this idea: It reminds us in more than one position that this scene is not a spontaneous discussion amongst artists and that it is being rehearsed in order to be documented. The whole scene is controlled and artificial; they discuss, but only as has been scripted, the lack of action on the horizon reflecting the state of the art scene. The film ends on a particularly poignant note with a conversation questioning who controls the lamp posts on everybody’s street, highlighting our loss of control and inability to get out of the “All System”, and exposing our helplessness in giving in to the mentality of the norm.
The second film, Miranda Pennell’s very systematic, very elegant Tattoo, shows military troops marching around an isolated place, endlessly and apparently with no clear purpose. Revealing the comparison between institutions and the military shows the artists perspective of systems destroying spontaneity and individuality- something we see clearer focussing on specific scenes such as the close ups of the militants poker faces, and the ultimate scene where the shadows of the militants all merge into one. This theme is also emphasised through the military music which, in part, seems to clash in and out of harmony, a clear criticism to the bureaucracy.
The film furthest from the viewer is Dominic Watson’s Like a Rolling Stone, which shows the artist dancing to “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones beside a Henry Moore sculpture. The dancer’s Jagger-like moves are jerky and strange to the peaceful landscape, giving the impression that he is trying in an almost masochistic way to entertain the statue. This playful critique performs a clear link towards the theme of the exhibition; the dumb stasis of systems and institutions is still entertained and almost worshipped by artists.
Overall the exhibition is well executed and thought provoking. The various emblematic messages in every element of it support the very relevant theme in the art world today. Each visit brings forth another symbolic message, something else to ponder on, in the very fitting setting that is a Gallery within an Art School, an institution in itself, and one that’s pupils will be faced with the exact questions the artists in this exhibition are exploring.