I first visited this exhibit about six weeks ago, I walked away quite bemused at what I was visualising. The array of colours displayed seems chaotic to me, and quite overpowering. Now, however, I’ve had a few weeks to digest my initial surprise at what Minoliti has put together here, and have returned for another viewing of her installation in order to see if I can understand it a second time.
I arrived on floor six of the Baltic, where there is not only a viewing platform looking over the Tyne but also a secondary platform opposite the elevators where you can preview one of the installation spaces from above. Whilst colourful, the slightly subdued lighting takes the edge off the vibrance, leaving a mass of contrasting but still saturated colours all in patches interacting with each other and with the space itself. It is obvious from up here that this is an artwork that is intended to be experienced from within, with many points of interest ready for interaction.
Walking into the installation on blue mats, which look like overly regular fried eggs, the sound of my feet on the floor is muffled. I stand behind what appears to be a plush cat? Standing tall, looking at a grouping of abstract artworks, somewhat distanced from a coloured background. This is a uniquely interesting experience. I feel that the artist doesn’t intend this to be the method of viewing, but, intrigued as I was, It was a good starting point. From reading the brief pamphlet accompanying the installation, I took away that these figures are intended to demonstrate that anyone or anything regardless of how they identify could be stood in their place, that all are welcome here.
The ‘cat’ lady doesn’t appear to be looking at a single image but at the collection as a whole. Passing a dividing line, a fox in a nightdress is looking at a slightly different set of abstracts, against the same coloured background. All of these paintings we are told come from a group called Fable (Butterflies and Flowers). Initially, I didn’t see that in them, but with perseverance, I think I caught a hint of the subject matter done in a blocky abstract way. Personally, I don’t understand abstract art, but I do like the ‘feel’ of these compositions and the cartoonish use of colour.
The other two of the ‘furry’ mannequins on display are a kind of fox headed one in a green dress and a dog-headed child-sized offering in the far distance of the gallery. These mannequins are supposed to symbolise the openness of the installation, that it is free for all to visit regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, even species. To my eye, it’s an odd way to challenge the hegemony of the heteronormative world, but everyone has their own opinion on how to best visualise that challenge. While they all appear to be looking in similar directions, I don’t think that that has any bearing on the overall composition of the installation, rather being just a cue to join in the social interaction of the concept.
Dotted about the space are these little alcoves in which people are encouraged to sit, to have a little space and to appreciate the complex patterns of colours and geometric designs throughout. There are beanbags, cushions, chairs and the like, but at the far side of the space is an alcove which the guide states is used for bi-weekly painting workshops. Producing artwork, while inside another artwork is quite a novel idea, I do hope that it helps to spur some creativity in the participants.
One of the ways in which the idea of a heteronormative space is challenged more directly within the installation is this little enclosure which plays host to a range of LGBT pamphlets, magazines and leaflets from around the world. During my visit, I didn’t get the time to select a pamphlet and sit inside but did get a chance to give them a look over to see if there was anything thematically noticeable about how they were displayed.
This assemblage of four pictures on a single canvas really piqued my mind, there are elements in there which although odd in how they are depicted, look not too dissimilar from consumer gadgets of the present and near past. The way in which this part of the installation named ‘Space Playset‘ grabs the attention is odd, the eye darts about the composition as opposed to resting. The abstract nature of the four constituent parts makes it hard to tease out much iconography other than that these pictures contain aliens of sorts.
Taken altogether, the central themes of this installation as an open piece welcoming to all, drawing in marginalised groups works really well. The bold colours, patterns and abstract compositions nicely remove any overt bias from the room while making it feel as welcoming as possible. This is a fantastic piece of Installation art, and well worth a visit.