…A few rules
An exhibition of collaborative artworks by Ebony Andrews & Ian C. Taylor, Water Street Gallery, Todmorden, 3rd June – 3rd July 2016.
The concept of INSTIGATE : EXCHANGE does exactly what it says on the tin. All of the works featured were produced by either artist instigating the start of a piece by presenting to the other a series of found objects (objet trouvé). These objects were then exchanged between the two artists, often multiple times, with additions and modifications being made to the works at each exchange. Crucially, at each exchange, much of the work undertaken by both artists took place largely behind closed doors, and without prior consultation with one another. A record of which of the two artists instigated each individual piece, as well as the number of exchanges it has undergone, is noted on the labels attached to the artworks. The labels, which constitute part of the finished pieces, therefore serve as reminders of the journey each artwork has undertaken and make visible the number of times each work has been exchanged.
Through INSTIGATE : EXCHANGE, Andrews’ and Taylor’s experimental approach to the creation of artworks consistently defers and denies the agency and authority that artists conventionally hold over the things they produce. Instead, their methodology forms an aperture of opportunity, a creative space within which the works almost make themselves. A space where ‘finished’ pieces aren’t made, but rather come into being.
The decision as to when a piece is ‘complete’ is one of the few rules that Andrews and Taylor outlined at the beginning of the project; a piece is only finished if both artists agree that it is finished. Equally, the nature of the project means that at times works also fail, and any ‘failures’ (as stated by the artists) are also mutually agreed as such. Interestingly, the inclusion of a number of ‘failures’ in this exhibition, marked out by Taylor’s poem entitled: Notes next to bin maybe (2016), helps the viewer more vividly imagine the kinds of objects that the artists have been identifying as possible ‘instigations’. They range from the exquisite and the eccentric, to the humorous and flat-out humdrum. The classificatory act of delineating either a success (ie. the creation of a viable artwork) or a so-called ‘failure’, draws attention to one of the key concepts behind the project which concerns ideas surrounding value. In differing ways, INSTIGATE : EXCHANGE both reflexively explores and subverts the time-honoured position of authority that the artist has historically enjoyed, and more broadly, that of the ‘art world’ itself. A world where the heavily encoded display culture of the gallery and/or museum serves to attribute notions of value to objects in a multiplicity of ways that, to the layman, can at times appear arbitrary, even irrational.
INSTIGATE : EXCHANGE constitutes a series of hybrid and experimental artworks in which the aesthetic sensibilities of either artist at times work in harmony, and at others, battle one another for the limelight. Overall, Andrews’ and Taylor’s journey has brought about creations that represent, celebrate and critique everything from totems and fetishes, to kitsch mementos, thrift store tat, and high art.