Bea Hock

Artpool P60
18–31 October, 1999

The invitation card to Artpool P60’s exhibition promises the following: the show will be international with no limitations in terms of genre or medium. Indeed, the exhibition features photographs (as independent artworks or as documentations of art actions) and videos, graphics and collages, web-works and ‘things’ (as (art) objects or as installations) as well as completely non-visual bare texts - like one of my favourites, Richard WOJEWODZKI’s message on the back of an envelope: ‘I am from the United States and my foot is 12 inches long’. There is also no fixed artistic trend. All this is due to the fact that Artpool has issued an open invitation to all of the artists on our mailing list to participate in the show. The adressees, on their part, have forwarded the invitation through their informal network; and this is how the circle of the participants kept expanding uncontrolled and uncontrollably. To top it off, the works submitted for the exhibition have not undergone any kind of selection process, they were simply added to the show and supplemented with related materials found in Artpool’s archives or on the internet. Some of the artworks received pre-date this exhibition and now the gesture of submittal has turned them into topical Footware items.

What, then, is the constant in this assignment with so many variables? It is the subject, or rather the invitation itself which asks the question: who has what to say about the context of the foot (as a personal, immediate bodily appendage) and the footwear (as the non-personal, diversely projected interpretations of the former); in brief, about the cognitive network of the ‘foot-phenomenon’ (‘footware’)? Network - it is the recurring keyword of the exhibition. This exhibition has two modes of existence. The one in the real exhibition space of the Gallery P60, the other ‘up’ on the worldwide web. In the present case, however, the mode of existence is just as important as the artworks displayed: very important that is, there is nothing more important. The invitation to the exhibition also refers to this issue in the form of promising the opportunity to read differently - but how? Not in a linear way, not sticking one complete word/ phrase/ text/ artwork readily and passively after the other, but paralelly, as in space, like piecing together a mosaic. It is like solving a riddle: reading several words/ phrases/ texts/ artworks at the same time. The two modes of existence also differ in the way the network operates in them: their links are different. In the real exhibition space we use the riddle-solving practice for the whole ensemble of the works; on the website we use it for the different sorts of information as well. Real space is more dictatorial then a virtual one for it governs what we can or cannot see when standing on a given spot. (Even though the conditions of the Gallery P60 are relatively favourable since the different spaces are not entirely separated: we can have a view - and a link - from one hall to another.) Lamps with sensors further loosen the dictatorial nature of the fixed place: they turn on when I enter the area of a particular artwork, and this way, after all, I myself, too, create the space where I am. The links in P60 are visual ones that turn into conceptual (stripes on different kind of surfaces, direction of feet, inscriptions, active foot/ passive foot/ absent foot) and works placed near each other form a kind of rhyme. The constant guide among them is the relation between the foot (as something immediate; the performance-like) and the footwear (as something contemplated; the installation-like). The two modes of existence also share this sort of duality: the experience that the show in P60 provides tends to be more direct and linear whereas that of the virtual one offers more chance to contemplate and to do some riddle-solving practice. The arrangement of each artwork in the (real) space suggests an at-least-one-link-relationship but the visitor him/herself can also search for further links which is a highly encouraged audience attitude at P60.

Thus, the Internet version gives more freedom to move around in the interlinked territory - there are no such obstacles as walls or columns. As Claire Dinsmore (USA) writes in the text attached to her webwork: „the web has a mind of its own, depending on how you pursue the HOARDS of information abounding within... one begins at a chance/ random point and proceeds naturally - following the path wherever it may lead, without glossing the resulting journey with a learned (linear) form... Ah: but isn’t this exactly why the web is such a unique medium abounding with wonder: because it does not, even for its scientific base, work logically/ linearly?...It’s a vital playground indeed!” But besides all this liberty, on the Artpool site the direct links that lead from one work to certain others are rather pre-determined. You can reach an exhibited item through the network of the concept-categories listed in the invitation, leaping either from the list of participants, or the images of the works - ‘either/ or’ again, so as to escape one-choice operations. This network consists of a series of dichotomic categories where one of each dichotomic pair will connect to a new category, thus creating a new pair; and so on, winding spirally. (The initial pair is ‘foot and footwear’ which leads, through the network of categories and their combinations, finally to the category of ‘foot-related’.) It was not the artists who included their own work in a given category but the 'curauthor' of the exhibition, Gyorgy GALANTAI sifted the artworks through his category-network and let them rest on the spots where they fell. (In addition, these spots further open the road to the worldwide web, providing the particular artist has his/ her own website.) At this point, one could be anxious about the degradation of the freedom granted by the web for here a certain number of works had to be listed under a given number of categories, and in a way that would ensure the even saturation of the concept-network. However, if we consider the Artpool website itself as a work of art on the subject of the Footware exhibition, or if we also consider it as a game of association where the goal is to explore the logic of the categorization and to follow the (often fairly amusing) links, one may not have to worry about a degradation of freedom.

The idea of the Footware exhibition was conceived upon having seen the catalogue of an international festival of ‘shoe art’. The extremes of shoe design (when ‘the shoe suddenly revolts and chooses to speak about its own self, hardly, if at all, tolerates the foot any longer... it chooses to perform and to show off’ - Julia VERES, shoe designer, Amsterdam) challenge the contradictory relationship between usefulness/ practicality and uselessness/ artistic license, or, in other words, the relationship between man’s devotion to the material and the spiritual. Slides of these ‘extreme cases’ from the above-mentioned festival are continuously projected during the opening hours. Video-recorded works are also continuously shown - a female (bare)foot is walking on glass jars (Galina MYZNIKOVA, Russia: Work with banks); a black stilettoed female foot is pawing the head of Hungarian performance artist, FeLUGOSSY (Long Live the World and Expand). You could go on as usual and keep mentioning all the remarkable pieces in the show, but this is somewhat contradictory to the attitude of the exhibition. Just think about it: more than 300 works by 118 artists from 33 (!) countries WERE NOT exposed to any qualitative discrimination. Here we have, all in one place, everything from snapshots that lend themselves to the theme of Footware, (Klaus GROH, Germany), to reactions to contemporary wars (Sandor GOGOLYAK, Yugoslavia: War Impressions), to graphics with shapes that hardly resemble soles or feet as well as mail art pieces, and a great many concept works and objects (Marshall ANDERSON: Foot-wear and tear tweed, time and mapping), to the score of a chance-operated walk in Budapest (Andras WOLSKY: One Day Chance) - to anything at all that has to do, no matter how indirectly, with the idea of „footness”. These works are all assembled here, coming from everywhere, created in the past and in the present. The time frame these works span is amazingly expansive, though delightfully unplanned. You can look as far bask as to the early seventies to see what the artists of the world have been doing footwise, and see that it is no accident that the early works of Hungarian artists Dora MAURER (V’s Mayday parade on an artificial ground, 1971!) or Gabor ATTALAI (I can be foolish, too, 1973!) have been classified into the categories ‘political and artistic’ or ‘national’. (To know more about the artistic activities of the seventies and eighties in Hungary one can also consult Artpool’s archives and databases.)

The excuse for my expounding on the artists and their exhibited works, although I have just rejected this as an inappropriate routine for this show, is the very intension of the (curauthor of the) Footware exhibition. For it is true that there was no prescribed qualitative viewpoint for assembling the show but, on Galantai’s part, there definitely is a suggestion that, out of this quasi-chaos, you should pick whatever seems relevant for you, whatever you can integrate into your own world. The title of SI-LA-GI’s Footware item could be the motto for the whole event: ‘Signs, still existing, of a complex story or, Everything holds as much meaning as much you can understand’.