Watch This Space At Phoenix Gallery Brighton

By Kate Honeyford | 26 May 2005
shows a green and blue image of what looks like a board game

Ideas development, game, Judith Alder.

Kate Honeyford goes to Phoenix Gallery - to watch the space!

Watch This Space is the Museum and Galleries Month 2005 exhibition at Brighton’s Phoenix Gallery until June 11 2005. It’s a show where you participate as well as look.

Greg Daville will design you a set and photograph you in costume, if you fancy yourself as your favourite album cover.

Arkem, a performance artist based in London, is putting on a show that evolves from his responses to Brighton. When I talked to him he was completing a dome-shaped hat which will form part of his costume for a walkabout. Arkem described it as his “Mr Brighton Outfit.”

Judith Alder’s show, Finding the Way, takes the idea of work in progress to its logical conclusion. Alder said, “I had never done a residency before and I was nervous of starting with no completed work. People may expect a product.”

shows a photo of a card and paper construction which is part of a larger diagram. It has yellow spots on it and captions in word processed type.

Mindmap section 1 - 2, Judith Alder.

The show’s theme is journey as a metaphor for life. “Children understand the metaphor easily because for them so much is new. Every journey is a step into the unknown. We often talk about milestones in children’s lives.” Judith said.

Not just children, the idea of life as a journey is deeply embedded in our language. I stood considering the words written on one of the boards: “When the journey doesn’t go smoothly – Delays Diversions, Accidents” and my thoughts come out in a string of metaphors.

If life is a journey, I have taken a detour. I am in the gallery because I wanted a change of direction. I used to make tracks to the gallery with my young children because it was on route to the shops, now I am visiting because I am on course for a new career.

The show began with 10 boards displaying Alder’s initial research. She works on the show ‘live’ and ideas evolve from contact with the public. Alder said, “I wanted this not to be just personal to me.”

shows a photo of a large wall drawing or diagram with lots of felt pen notes on it, including colour sections and applied patches of other material.

Mindmap, section 1, Judith Alder.

Alder called for contributions from writers and from schools before the show and there are stories and pictures on display from Brighton High School Junior section and from adult writers. Also included are contributions, in words and objects from Solveigh Goett, a textile artist and friend of Alder.

I visited in the third week and the work is developing. Alder is casting samples of the ground on her route to the gallery, continuing the theme of the photographs showing road surfaces in Brighton, coloured and patterned tiles; cobblestones, concrete.

Visiting the exhibition is like watching a building going up. At first there are just the plans, then the foundations are dug and you watch the construction happening in front of you.

We see how the artist turn ideas into things we can look at. “I started with something from the Phoenix Gallery; they wanted my show to demonstrate the creative process.” Alder explained.

Alder places her thoughts before us, as well as showing us the development phase and the finished products. On one side of the room she works on a three-dimensional maze and nearby you can look through her notebook crammed with the initial ideas.

Visit Judith Alder's webpages where images tracing the development of the work are being added (Opens in a new window)

shows a detail photo of a large wall diagram with lots of notes and drawings in different colours

Mindmap section 4, Judith Alder.

Visitors to the gallery take a journey too. You follow a track marked on the floor as you move from down the windowed corridor from display to display. The first board contains the words “starting points, setting out, getting on track”, linked to the next by a piece of card labeled ‘bridge’; another explores the idea of life as a game and develops it into an actual board game.

One board considers the idea of journeying in the dark, literally and figuratively. There are accounts by children of what it would be like to travel, if you were visually impaired and words playing with the metaphorical phrase ‘being in the dark’. A visitor has contributed a newspaper clipping about a tactile colour system for blind people, with a hand-written note attached.

The final display board with its collection of handkerchiefs printed with children in traditional European costume is titled Waving Goodbye.

Watch This Space is well worth the trip, a show you join in with, mind and body.

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