This is not about nostalgia of what was once called the Silk Road, that glorious time of openess and collaboration connecting East to West where not only silk and goods were traded but cultures too.
This is more about words and how they change meaning over time . This is about memories and history and how itcan be distorted if not completely erased.
It is also about the future , about blockchain, a network that will pull the world together regardless of color, race, or frontiers. A technologythat is taking the world by storm includingthe art world.
In 2013 The term silk road had been hijacked andhad beenused to refer to an onlinedrug marketplace run by criminals and drug lords, which was shut down by authorities.
This is my attempt to rescue the term “Silk Road” from it’shijackers. How? By recapturing the beautiful spirit of openness and collaboration connectingeast to west .
A modernversion of that glorious time of openness and connectivity is represented here with an art collector cruising the desert on a camel while giving instructions through Siri to buy him a Rothko from Dubai Art Fair. If you think this is far from happening think again! Recently Apple has hiredJohn Giannandre Google’s chief of search artificial intelligence to improve Siri.
Trisha Donnelly’s exhibition showing at the serpentine gallery, is very vague, mysterious and immediately takes the viewer to a different dimension. It also keeps changing throughout the day. Abstract Black and white stills that look like forensic evidence x-rays, videos projected on the walls, flowers, water ripples, forests, and a river that has a beautiful bronze statue of a young boy. Next door, a couple of stone blocks carved with parallel lines. An opening in one column reveals the original brick structure of the walls (walls that belonged to what used to be the tea room for Kensington Gardens before morphing into a gallery) and walls that seem to invite you to rip them off , an invitation perhaps to look deeper beyond the material world, or maybe go back to the origins, to look for what’s hidden. Plenty of white light and silence contribute to immediately grab the viewer’s attention and leave the person wondering what exactly is going on and why the usual explanation on the walls, which gives a glimpse of the artist’s thought process, was missing. The most interesting feature of the exhibition was the open door. The back door which normally is close , was wide open, letting in plenty of light and air and all of a sudden, it seemed to me this whole exhibition is much less hermetic than it seemed at first sight. Now there were 2 entrances to the gallery, was the artist trying to attract a new kind of public by making the gallery more accessible and welcoming to park visitors who usually never enter the gallery? or maybe trying to alter the way one experiences this space?
Suddenly music started playing resonating and filling the space with a sense of extreme lightness. So it occurred to me that maybe the artist needed the help of the music and a door that lets in plenty of light and air, to attract the viewers like a magnet and keep them mesmerized by the magic in the air , forcing them to stay longer in the space, in the hope that they might finally get the mysterious message.
Having given up on trying to derive my own interpretation i asked around the gallery staff and the answer was unanimous. The artist doesn’t like to talk about her work ( I immediately smiled and thought i was similar to her in that respect). It seems she intentionally didn’t want any text on the walls. So it immediately hit me , evasion is what this whole exhibition is all about and now the open door and he gripping music make more sense.
As i am leaving the gallery, i took a copy of the exhibition’s leaflet, read it and immediately had the confirmation that my guess was right. Evasion is one of the themes, but to my surprise transmission too. Transmission? This needs another visit and so i decided to revisit the serpentine’s gallery again the following day. Organ music was playing this time and my eyes fell immediately on the parallel lines of the block in front of me. All of a sudden the block became a musical instrument , and it felt like the music was coming out of it!! How was transmission related to that?
Ideas and feelings are transmitted through music, is that all there is to it? I am sure there is more. So again I asked the same question I asked the day before :any idea what the show is about? And to my surprise a young lady explained something that was not mentioned in the brochure. It seems the artist did lots of research about all religions and wanted to create a space that was kind of a waiting room between two worlds! What about transmission? And suddenly a creepy track starts playing sounding like a radio or TV interference .
Immediately I became immersed in a sci fi movie where aliens were trying to communicate with humans. It occurred to me that maybe there is an app similar to shazam , where one presses a button and suddenly those interferences are translated into a text that reveals a dark secret. I wanted so much to go again a third time at least because obviously an exhibition which is about evasion let alone transmission cannot be grasped in one single session. Whether it is art flirting with intelligence or higher intelligence the show leaves you in suspension mode .