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.


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 recognised as such.1 In Samara Scott’s exhibition Silks (2015), large chasms were extracted from the gallery floor, leaving permanent adjustments to the architecture. Integrated into the ground itself, these voids rupture the concrete and are coated with a topography of liquid films, 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, are formed through the artist’s gathering of substances 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 As a physical archive or document, the preservation of long-term artworks challenges the notion of a neutral context for the presentation of artworks to the public.4 The retaining of artwork fragments also discloses a deliberate attitude towards artistic production and its methods of display or exhibition. Through cumulative layers, residues of previous artworks remain in the space to be re-contextualized or ‘up-cycled’ 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 Silks and its corresponding site of exhibition, operates as a form of memorial, or an indexical record, upon which matter falls and is gathered. This arresting of passing events and the flux of time, forms a surplus of residue and waste.


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. If Scott’s work delves deeper into the topical proximity of art and capitalism, Eastside Projects further demonstrates the focus on visibility, as an integral component of exhibition making, articulating the vanishing divide between artistic work and work itself. A sense of historical levelling out—or ahistoricity—takes place. As though the history implied in terms of the artwork is negated by its presence within future exhibition contexts. 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. In challenging the nature of art as a historical record, the role of the artist and museum as document is also questioned. As both a substance and structure, Scott’s work operates as a kind of base material onto which matter falls and is collected; a horizontal surface which connects and extends to other ground surfaces, such as the street outside. 6 Eastside Projects reconsiders the notion of an exhibition context as a place solely for consumption, by intervening in existing commercial typologies. This accommodation of art production is also another way of thinking about duration and legacy, addressing the role of exhibition-making as opposed to just art making. An exhibition space may articulate a process of taking shape that redefines both notions of work and of exhibition. Long-term artwork fixtures such as the residual Silks by Samara Scott, 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>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="#fnref1:6" rev="footnote" class="footnote-backref">&#8617;</a></p>