Adrian Clement’s exhibition is certainly one of the most different exhibitions to inhabit Archive Space. Titled Archive Space, Clement decided to do a site-specific documentation of the gallery itself. The intention Adrian had for this process was to make the viewer stop and take notice of the subtle and almost imperceptible elements of both the site and the photographic medium that attempted to control the space. The work certainly made myself, as a writer and dissector of the work of art, stop and reassess my own perspective on how art should be consumed and appreciated. Archive Space, the exhibition, challenged me in an unforeseen way: It frustrated me, but the frustration bore fruit.
Arriving on his install day, Clement proceeded to fastidiously photograph sections of wall, floor and roof. He would set up the camera so that it faced as directly as possible the surface he was to capture, he would then set the camera to take a photo in the most true-to-its-existence manner.
No flash, no special lenses, no distortion. He would then mark out the exact location of the photograph and the exact time the photograph was taken.
The photographs were printed the next day. Arriving back from the lab, Clement installed the photographs within a millimeter of where they were taken. The walls, floors and roof forever captured in a photographic form, the colour white upon the colour white.
This entire process possessed a control and meticulousness that most artists would not cultivate for themselves. My own perspective of art is that it should act in the same way as philosophy would: It should be reductive, but nuanced and lucid, it should take the world in and attempt to explain it in terms that enlighten our view. But here I was confronted with Clement’s work and his position was as far from mine as possible. These photographs took as little of the world in as possible, but still begged for the viewer’s grandest thoughts.
I was stumped by this position. Clement explained to me:
I see the project as being full of information, but of the kind that is subtle and almost imperceptible and on a level that we are not usually accustomed to. The point of the project was not so much to document the space, but to provide reference points back into the space to allow people to see it in ways that they have possibly missed or glossed over in the past…Impermanence became evident, for instance, in the fact that, after marking out each space and photographing them, and printing and mounting the photographs a day later, I returned to the gallery to find one of the walls I had photographed slightly marked
So if the artist focuses effort not on grand encompassing views, but on minute detail, what does this ask of the viewer?
I did some reading and stumbled across the idea that in meditation, a common technique is to take an object and let the idea roll around in your head, until the object becomes divorced from its use value and the name associated with it, until it becomes divorced from the symbolic order. The object then just exists.
Perhaps this is the powerful philosophical effect of taking in the world on this scale. Clement’s photographs exist to divorce what is real (the gallery walls) with the symbolic order, which we use as a lens on the world.
- by David Greenhalgh