Essay
The island is not a metaphor
Clara Murphy
Samara Scott, Silks, 2015. Installation view, image courtesy Eastside Projects

The line of thought that threads through the following essay is a dialogue around exhibitions and their residue.

A collision of objects, filtering light from the distant past into the present. An acute convergence of inner space as an imaginary realm or as accelerated vision of the future. Neither images nor objects, they are recognizable things arranged in an unfamiliar order, suspended in a foreign substance.

Eastside Projects is an artist-run space located in Digbeth, Birmingham (UK). As a space organised and imagined by artists, exhibition ‘supports’ or ‘frameworks’ not only become increasingly complicit in shaping and delivering content, but are also recognized as such.1 In Samara Scott’s exhibition Silks, vast chasms were extracted from the gallery floor, leaving permanent adjustments to the architecture. Integrated into the gallery floor itself, these voids penetrate and rupture the concrete. A topography of liquid films that cling and cleave as damp covers, laminations and screens. Following the conclusion of the exhibition, most of the cavities were refilled, resulting in residual seams to mark the work’s prior arrangement. Two colourful pools, Cemetery and Burning Perfume, were retained as permanent fixtures.2 I encountered the work in June this year, despite the exhibition taking place in July 2015. Scott’s images of consumer detritus and material landscapes, formed through the artist’s gathering of materials as variable as eye shadow, pipe-cleaners, scented candles, graphite, mustard, solar reflective roofing paint, aquarium gravel, and red wine. Silks is one of the numerous long-term artworks that occupy the gallery space at Eastside Projects.3 Forming a physical archive or document of the space, and challenging the notion of a neutral container for the presentation of artworks to the public.4 The retaining of artwork fragments discloses a deliberate attitude towards artistic production and its systems of display. Through cumulative layers, residues of previous artworks remain in the space to be re-contextualized within future exhibitions. Artists are invited to work inside the building's fabric in an inclusive approach, making visible labour and duration that is often erased after each consecutive exhibition.5


The works of Samara Scott comprise all entry points of what follows from the initial contact of the consumer experience, from touch to assimilation and finally dispersal. In unconstrained arrangements, the components that comprise her work develop, slipping between nature and artificial implant, antiquity and synthetic product. The materiality infuses a condensed Art History into an interior language of expendable nostalgia. In Bob Shaw’s science fiction, the substance known as Slow Glass refers to a material that takes light a very long time, even years, to pass through.6 In Shaw’s narrative, consumers purchase Slow Glass which has been pre-programmed with years’ worth of pleasant scenery and vistas, so they can enjoy it later on in their homes and workplaces. The pane of glass shows a scene from the past, and the quality of the glass is priced by its "thickness", corresponding to the number of years of scenic views contained within it. In producing a similar effect to Slow Glass, Silks centers on the act of looking at or rather, looking into. Instead of a vertical orientation of a window, these horizontal floor-based pools occupy a lateral dimension, activating an unstable relationship between surface and depth. A perversion on the trope of a window into another world. Their jewel-like appearance as compelling as a magnifying glass. The luminous surface leaves nothing invisible. Looking at the bouquet of submerged objects, they also resemble the contours of surfaces within a collage, as if in art’s metamorphosis, everything resembles something. That is to say: it is a lack of definition of forms that is revealed because nowhere is the contour of objects complete.


If Scott’s work delves deeper into the topical proximity of art and capitalism, Eastside Projects further exemplifies the focus on visibility, as an integral component of exhibition making. Articulating the vanishing divide between artistic work and work itself, and the diminishing line between art and life. A sense of historical levelling out—or ahistoricity—takes place through the adoption of exhibition as cumulation. As though the history implied in terms of the artwork is negated by its presence within the context of another exhibition. There is a lot to be discovered in the way institutions position themselves in relation to artists. Eastside Projects is an artist-run space, but also an effective proposal of what the function of art spaces may be within the context of art production. And which role artists may adopt in society more broadly. Through a process of building-up, the gallery is an evolving, collective artwork. Silks operates as a further critique on the nature of art as a historical record and the role of the artist and museum as document. A flattened alchemy of both antiquity and craft class. Figuring excess as both substance and structure and becoming a kind of base material or surface onto which matter falls and is collected. A horizontal surface which connects and extends to other ground surfaces, such as the street outside.7 As spaces of public appearance, art galleries should critically reflect on the forms of cultural experience that take place within these contexts. To question notions of an art gallery as a place solely for consumption, to sites of production, by intervening in existing commercial typologies. An exhibition context may articulate a process of taking shape that redefines both notions of work and of exhibition.
The impending challenge for a space for art is whether it can be made as a place that hosts artists, art production, and its distribution. A cumulative art space that accommodates production is also another way of thinking about duration and legacy. Addressing the role of exhibition-making as opposed to just art making. Long-term artwork fixtures such as the residual Silks by Samara Scott, may emphasise time as a structural element, challenging the meaning of permanence in the context of art.

One of the ‘long term’ artworks visible at Eastside Projects. ‘Cemetery’ forming part of Samara Scott’s ‘Silks’, 2015 – ongoing. Image taken 2019.

  1. <p>See <em>Support Structures</em>, 2009, Celine Condorelli, Gavin Wade and James Langdon. <a href="http://www.supportstructure.org">http://www.supportstructure.org</a> &#160;<a href="#fnref1:1" rev="footnote" class="footnote-backref">&#8617;</a></p>
  2. <p>A reference towards a gendered materiality: silk and perfume as gendered objects. &#160;<a href="#fnref1:2" rev="footnote" class="footnote-backref">&#8617;</a></p>
  3. <p>See other long-term artworks visible at Eastside Projects: <a href="https://eastsideprojects.org/long-term-artwork/">https://eastsideprojects.org/long-term-artwork/</a>&#160;<a href="#fnref1:3" rev="footnote" class="footnote-backref">&#8617;</a></p>
  4. <p>See Elena Filipovic, <em>The Global White Cube</em> <a href="http://www.on-curating.org/issue-22-43/the-global-white-cube.html#.XVopKlJ7F0s">http://www.on-curating.org/issue-22-43/the-global-white-cube.html#.XVopKlJ7F0s</a>&#160;<a href="#fnref1:4" rev="footnote" class="footnote-backref">&#8617;</a></p>
  5. <p>Eastside Project’s model of display works against the notion of temporary exhibitions that come and go at great speed leaving little trace/reference of their existence. A photographic record is an unsatisfactory record of a spatial /physical occurrence of an artwork.&#160;<a href="#fnref1:5" rev="footnote" class="footnote-backref">&#8617;</a></p>
  6. <p>See Bob Shaw, <em>Light of Other Days</em>, 1966. &#160;<a href="#fnref1:6" rev="footnote" class="footnote-backref">&#8617;</a></p>
  7. <p>The ground is an endless surface that spreads out beyond the gallery to the world outside. The horizontal, seems more real as it is the surface that connects the inside with the outside. That as Georges Bataille says we walk, stand and live on.&#160;<a href="#fnref1:7" rev="footnote" class="footnote-backref">&#8617;</a></p>