Curatorial

P r o j e c t s

Making Do

11th December 2006 to 20th January 2007

The Lab,
 Foley Street
 1, Dublin, Ireland

Making Do got its title from Michel de Certeau’s chapter, “Making Do: Uses and Tactics in The Practice of Everyday Life”. For de Certeau, everyday practice is the investigation of ways in which users operate or do things through a considered practice of the everyday and liberates it from what de Certeau calls the “obscure background of social activity”. How can uses and tactics be applied to everyday life as a necessary transformative practice, and employ them to “penetrate this obscurity” in order to articulate everyday life beyond its status as an imposed place of consumption?

Making Do proposed to “make explicit the system of operational combination,” through exhibition making and existing artworks and to bring to light models of action characteristic of certain users (artists) whose operations have the potential to transcend the passive consumption of the stuff of everyday consumer culture.

Each of the artists in Making Do employed actions, or operational tactics, which are both familiar and common to the everyday. The artists have used materials associated with that of the everyday and mobilised them into forms of engagement through temporal modes of tactical practice. These mobilisations range from Sarah O’Neill and Marie O’Mahony’s transformation of the LAB gallery space through the use of wall drawing, painting and DIY materials applied directly to and responding to the architecture, to Aoife Merrigan’s spatial intervention with elastic bands, to Fiona Whitty’s instructive cooking documentary footage, to Niall de Buitlear’s on-going series of chewing gum drawings, to Priscila Fernandes and Ana Garcina’s scientistic drawings and video-work centred around an orderly breakfast with a strawberry jam sandwich, to Fiona O’Connor’s doubled up video-sculpture displaying the relationship between blackboard and chalk, to Keith McCann’s carefully balanced chaotic construction made from discarded everyday materials, and to Marie Louise O’Dwyer’s ominous use of the stacking of tin-cans and background radio sound in day and night domestic scenarios. All started and ended with the transformative potential of acts of making and doing with what is already present in the world.

Making Do was my response to an invitation to curate a show of work I had yet to see and artists whom I had yet to meet. The exhibition was about making do with what had been given to me as what at first appeared to be a limiting curatorial structure and ended up as a liberating tool for both curatorial research and an unfettered framing device for a show of selected works, all of which in their different ways practiced ways of making do as a mode of operating in the world. With a curatorial structure so commanding, how could I work with, rather than against such an imposition, and produce a coherent if somewhat happenstantial, circumstantial and bricolage version of the curatorial act. The curatorial structure was forced upon both the curator and artists alike, rather than arrived upon over time by either one or all of the participants talking part and in dialogue with one another over a period of time.

Having to select nine recent graduates from three fine art departments in Dublin for a curated exhibition was a curatorial situation like no other I have experienced, or have ever had a desire to, but it did offer a serious examination of the possibility of failure at every moment of the exhibition-making process from selection to installation. Making Do is the result of what started out as a struggle to understand the curatorial conditions that produced this exhibition and ended up becoming more of a challenging testing site for curatorial activity - an experiment as to how to make sense of this imposition as well as trying to transcend it and to go further than merely making do with what could be done.

How could I make do with such a restrictive proposition? How could I use this imposition as a restrictive framing device for the contents of the exhibition as well as the curatorial criteria itself? How could the act of making do with a restrictive curatorial format offer a liberating structure rather than a restrictive one? How could all the artists and their artworks make sense together and be selected for reasons of merit as well as for their co-related content? How could the exhibition look and behave as if it had arrived intact, without any remaining presence of the initial curatorial imposition? How could the juxtaposed works look like they were meant to be together, whilst never ignoring the original criteria for their selection? How could the exhibition Making Do be more than a making do form of curatorial activity?

Making Do investigated how nine artists and one curator mobilised a way of adopting or doing things, modes of operation or schemata of actions that are concerned with the practice of the everyday in all its exhibited materiality. It was a response to the question as to how can the group exhibition-form offer a potential space of productive exchange regardless of the reductive, restrictive or regulatory imposition as its starting point? Making Do was more or less the result of the sum of these parts.

Adapted from the press release.