It was recently suggested, that all writing, particularly about art (such a small word), should be simultaneously as opaque as it is precisely clear1. Applying this advice to a struggling rewrite of a policy statement, a manifesto of sorts, for mother’s tankstation, now mother’s tankstation limited, now ten years old2 – still young, still learning – let us begin in the middle and work outwards, in opposing directions perhaps. Looking forward to looking back.
As if similarly attuned, Arthur C. Danto once wrote; “Let the Past be considered a great container, a bin in which are located, in order of occurrence, all the events which have ever happened. It is a container, which grows moment by moment longer in the forward direction, and moment by moment fuller as layer upon layer of events enter its fluid, accommodating maw.3 The forward lengthening of the Past is irrepressible…apart from this, it is utterly impervious to modification.”4
The gallery (object/form/location) is much what it always was, physically very little has apparently, objectively changed, but the forward lengthening of the past has altered the subjective understanding (the gallery as idea/entity/identity) of everything. The expressed goals5 with which we opened in 2006, remain constant, but cannot be spoken of in the same language: “There will thus be facts that are no longer truths.6 Yet the future words are not currently available. The world, its art, a perceived mirror, reshapes before our eyes: “apart from this,…” Similarly, our building, a small renovated, sky-lit Dublin factory, is itself, a constant work in progress, subtly altering, refining, re-shaping, bending to new, different and unknown needs.
Once it was easy. In the beginning of things, a decade ago, a manifesto (and pretty much everything else) seemed a more straightforwardly linear proposition: a process of abstract invention; A, B, C… The 2006 document proposed dreams and circumnavigated fears.7 ‘A’ goes to ‘B’, with an objective of ‘C’. ‘E’ should be avoided at all costs. Although its form and content, a loose bundle of ideals, ethics and counter-economics, came quickly, fluently, it took the decade in which the manifesto8 (also then; of sorts) sat quietly at the head of the website, noticed or not, to feel pervious.9 In our early years, maybe at two years old, the gallery was nominated for a ‘young’ entrepreneurial award, heavens. During the final round, which consisted of an interview process, we were quizzed as to the details of our five-year economic strategy. A decently winged answer seemed, that our plan was not to have one: to be free from prediction. In the ideal of hindsight, we might have employed Michel de Certeau’s nimble argument, that ‘strategy’ is appropriate to large, essentially immobile forces; corporations, banks, universities, governments, etc., whereas, ‘tactics’ are more pertinent to small, mobile and reactive units; start-ups; a fledgling contemporary art gallery. That the former, coming from positions of establishment and power, might only effect change downwards (and slowly at that), yet the latter, light on its feet, engages daily in the democratic realities of close quarter combat, pragmatically molding blows to the wind of an upward drive. Needless to say, we did not win that particular prize, instead, we were awarded ‘honorary mention’ and a small monetary gift; just enough to purchase a set of classic folding chairs (for art fairs) and a round of drinks. Nice chairs, both ahead and of their time.10
In the approximate language of summary: mother’s tankstation limited is a building in which art happens (a primary process, exploring visual, sensory, intuitive, discursive means). Made and exhibited by artists, but made possible by the gallery (as people; collective endeavour, vision, intent, engagement, research, commitment, time…). The principal objectives of which are to explore intellectual negotiations of our little lives11, the paths and functions of our world and to positively contribute to the greater discourse of its societies (“the accommodating maw”). Much of what you see, will see, or hear (very little touching please), is not for sale or even possible to sell, but there are many ways of collecting, acquiring, knowing (feeling, sensing, inhabiting), art – such a big word. Product, commerce (or fashionability even) are not principal objectives, as art, at its best is thought (intangible, ephemeral) made evident (concrete, ever-lasting). Ideas are both precious and free. Art’s objects can be expensive, as collectables they are rare, fragile and often complicated (big sometimes), but experiencing them in reality is priceless. Art fairs are necessary facts of ‘our’ (both yours and ours) present world of art, but as de Certeau suggests, a fact is not necessarily a truth12. The body of work, as best manifested in the ‘gallery / museum shows’, remains the purest truth of both an artist’s intent and a gallery’s purpose.
The 2006 manifesto also spoke of museological modes/models, experimental practice, concept-before-form, collaborations, off-site exhibitions, a commitment to ongoing publishing and the fostering of new, ongoing, critical debate13. Worthy goals; not entirely conventional or expectedly situated, but all of which we must, perforce, pursue, a journey tacking against the wind. Where does it lead? “… “to command a clear view” of it, without being able to see it from a distance, is to grasp it as an ensemble of practices in which one is implicated and through which the prose of the world is at work…”.14
1 Lee Kit, (conversational – September, 2015). In specific reference to the non-linear approach of the Chinese fiction writer, art critic and curator, Hu Fang.
2 …and sixty-three exhibitions and over fifty art fairs later…
3 The jaws or throat of a voracious animal: “…a gigantic wolfhound with a fearful, gaping maw”. Informal: the mouth or gullet of a greedy person: “I was cramming large pieces of toast and cheese down my maw”.
4 Danto, Arthur C., Analytical Philosophy of History, Cambridge University Press, 1968. pg. 146
5 mother’s manifesto 2006
6 de Certeau, Michel, The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press, 1984, pg. 10
7 Ibid, no. 5
8 Ibid, no. 5
9 1610s, from Latin pervius; “that may be passed through”.
10 Giancarlo Piretti, Plia, for Anonima Castelli, 1969. Over four million sold…
11 Shakespeare, The Tempest:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex’d;
Bear with my weakness; my, brain is troubled:
Be not disturb’d with my infirmity:
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose: a turn or two I’ll walk,
To still my beating mind.
12 Ibid, no. 6, pg. 12
13 Ibid, no. 5
14 Ibid, no. 6, pg. 12