Art collective Am Nuden Da perform a live reading in the bar as part of the Publish and Be Damned self-publishing fair taking place here on 17 March. Assistant Curator at the Hayward Gallery, Richard H.M. Parry writes about Session 20 Propositions, their previous series of events that took place last summer.
Lucy watches the TV, nervously, pencil at her teeth. ‘Morning Lucy, what’s going on?’ She proceeds to describe how Jade has changed her will and Emerald found out about it and now she’s trying to seduce Chet to get to the new will to destroy it… ‘No, Lucy, what’s going on here?’ Lucy is one of the characters in David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ and she is watching Invitation to Love, the soap within a soap, that is referred to intermittently and which acts as a meta-narrative mirroring the action of the main drama. Likewise the series of invitations issued by Am Nuden Da to attend drinks at the ICA over four successive Sundays throughout August functioned as a string of meta-events, mirroring and warping the formats of the hosting institution to generate parallel fictions.
Am Nuden Da is the operation of three artist-cum-curators, a nonsense umbrella term shielding a succession of enigmatic yet highly considered discreet activities. Their work is founded equally on collaboration and disruption, usually centering around a set of imposed limits. For instance for the exhibition Session 7 Words they invited 85 artists to email a text-based work of A4 size, using only Arial 10 font. These works were then hung in a single uninterrupted line around the space.
AND have used the press release as a point of departure before too. Session_11_Press Release saw them writing one as the basis for an exhibition and asking others (such as the curators FormContent) to realise it. At the ICA it played a central role again, serving as both the invitation and also as a transcript for semi-fantastical or unlikely predictions of things that would occur in the vicinity of the ICA on each Sunday in question. Participants were left to speculate on whether or not these predictions would manifest themselves and what role they would play in proceedings. As it turned out, they were not to be realised in any literal sense.
Once this fact became clear, one started to look at the other details as clues towards the artists’ intent. There was the empty large grand reception room, the balconies on which people congregated to smoke, chat and gaze down upon the park. The only discernible object in the room (besides the assembled people) was the obligatory green ice bucket – the staple of the independent private view – complimented by matching green Carlsberg beer cans. For those of sharp eyes or an enquiring personality there was a lightbox that had been installed at the entrance to the ICA, which announced the show as though shouting inaudibility, for it was the kind of object that despite its fluorescent luminescence, might have been there for a long time without one having really noticed it.
When we peel away the subtle interventions, was this primarily an exercise in relational aesthetics? Institutional critique? The effect is at once quiet and bold – bold in the tension between the slightness of the gestures and the ambition of the scope. What remained most vivid was the narrative potential of the event – most explicitly in the scenarios of the press release that somehow meld together current events, the aristocratic formality of the park, inserts of art history and whimsical reverie. Taken together the press releases formed a series, rather like a TV series, whose fiction was to be found in the space between the imaginative possibilities of the written descriptions and the act on the viewer/participant of simply turning up and tuning in.
Richard H. M. Parry