In 2016 David Dale Gallery devised a shift in its programming strategy, setting out three themes to develop over three years over the three available spaces to the organisation, concluding on the organisation’s ten-year anniversary. The premise of this strategy was to use locations within the organisation’s complex as metonyms for a linking theme or provocation for a programme of solo exhibitions.
The intention of creating a title and set of conditions for a programme of autonomous exhibitions was two-fold. On one hand the exercise was intended to be a provocation to the artists exhibiting, an opportunity to develop two sides of one exhibition – sometimes complimentary, sometimes in opposition. The other was a step towards transparency for the audience. Programmes are seldom put together with little consideration of the exhibitions preceding and superseding, however, the accessibility of these connections, or the visibility of this frame, is not always explicit. In collecting a programme under a particular title, attention is drawn to the threads that connect exhibitions, that an exhibition can simultaneously be a singular entity and part of a unit – and that there were paths available to an audience to further explore this. An embellishment of this, which can be found in the publication below, is the texts commissioned to sit in between exhibitions, considering this conceptual and physical connecting space, and opening a dialogue between exhibitions.
2017, the first year in this sequence and the one documented within this publication, was titled Annex. And at the start of the year this text was released to describe it, its tone possibly reflecting the organisation’s commitment to a new turn, contrasting with this current reflection:
The title is Annex. The conditions are that there are only solo exhibitions, and that every exhibition (onsite) uses the gallery and external warehouse space (woodwork).
Annexation is a sustained interaction. Its form is expansive, its content fluid. History inflects the whole, the parts pre-date their union. Expansion expands when identity is imposed, and there the snag lies in wait. As growth subsumes outlying regions, interaction is unavoidable. That which is annexed is inferior, at least that’s how things start.
Taking the form of six solo exhibitions, Annex will be driven by the requirement that each artist present new work in two locations: the gallery’s onsite exhibition space and its external warehouse. The utilisation of both sites, and their interaction, is the project’s fundamental principle. By imposing architectural division on each exhibiting artist, Annex aims to provoke responses in practice.
The terms of expansion pursued by Annex are two-fold. Conceptually, the project seeks the growth of artistic practice into new areas of investigation. Physically, it presents an increase in available exhibition space. The resulting interactions – between artist and artwork, between elements of artistic practice, between artist and institution, between institutional spaces, and between one artist and another – shifting from one exhibition to the next, and unfolding across the entirety of the programme, form the core of Annex.
Annex is a process framed by the navigation of the conversations it produces. The expansion required by this project, the shifting identities of centre and periphery, entails a break with the continuous present of the unchanging. An annex is a site of development. Annexation is the beginning of a new group of relations.
The exhibitions which developed over the course of this programme were marked by a duality, the work in the warehouse always a singular counterpoint to that in the gallery. There was a coherency in how all the involved artists responded to annex, the installations in the warehouse all situated in a twilight, set in opposition to the light of the gallery space. The installations traded in a drama of the reveal – suspense built by crossing the courtyard, often through a throng of cigarette smoke and burning CLS.
The programme was successful in giving space to the often conflicting and jarring elements of artist’s practice, pulling together varying factors to diffuse the idea of autonomy or isolationism within display.
The Annex publication is an exercise in collating and reflecting on a year’s activity, offering a little more space to engage with the topics brought up, and consolidate the programme towards some sort of whole. A glance backwards is not a gesture an organisation can often afford, but this pause for consideration can allow thought to settle and be carried forward. Another will follow next year.
The original Annex text was written in conjunction with Simon Medley, a writer based in Glasgow.
The exhibitions for Annex were:
I. Rob Chavasse, Slow Dance, 25.02 – 01.04.17
II. Lauren Hall, Private Secretaries, 29.04 – 03.06.17
III. Stefania Batoeva & Goran Chanter, It Is Forever Ours, Curated by Swimming Pool, Sofia, 07.07 – 05.08.17
IV. Christopher MacInnes, Spores of Love, 22.09 – 21.10.17
V. Off-Site: Toby Christian, The News, Swimming Pool, Sofia, 28.10 – 26.11.17
VI. Hanne Lippard, Numb Limb, 03.11 – 09.12.17