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Take the lift up to the underground

Vauxhall BridgeImage 1
Context
Plummet was set up in a flat on the 16th floor of a high rise block in Clerkenwell by artist William Shoebridge (WS:).
It has the pristine look of a gallery, set within a residential, urban context.

Image 1:
Sophy Rickett
Vauxhall Bridge
1995
Silver gelatin print
edition of 5
Courtesy the artist

WS: Initially we were just going to do one show, called Plummet, with myself and Melanie Carvalho. We got what we asked for with that one because the press release quoted Regis Debray as saying: '"If you do not make any concessions to the media you condemn yourself to disappear." and what would be wrong with that ?'. This was in response to the death of Guy Debord - Kurt Cobain took his life around the same time.

e: So you were taken literally as oppositional.

WS: Plummet alludes to opposition. There is currently a great nostalgia for opposition.

e: Doesn't opposition become another style option?

WS: It's not possible to be underground. The underground has a certain style to it. It's not possible to be that but you have to define it as that in order to create a legitimate centre. I don't think the label, in itself, makes it any more or less radical.
There are certain political manifestations in what we do, particularly on the personal level of taking control. But it would be pointless to set it up in extreme which would result in ghettoisation. The opposition, in so far as it exists, is now about survival and the possibility of setting up a new centre. Rather than being on the periphery of someone else's good fortune we choose to implement our own.
There can be problems with that; we may become isolated and only work within context of this group, but I think the work is open ended enough to have some longevity and move out of this space. In that sense it's not a rigid opposition.

e: So you would see your agenda as distinct from the things that are currently going on in the east end, where again, we see people playing with the idea of rebellion?

WS: I think that there is a serious and coherent approach to the way in which we present our work which isn't in evidence in a lot of shows we've seen recently in London. We wanted to revisit the idea of formalism. There is a very coherent argument for serious work which isn't about flux, isn't about scattering, or this pseudo political position that one or two galleries within London seem to be playing with. We don't align ourselves with these things. I think the east end is ghettoised and I don't know if there is enough going on there which is positive. The amusing thing about Plummet is that there is an irony about the size of the space - it's far removed from a warehouse. In a sense it's a parody of a gallery which never the less can contain serious work..
To some extent we're roughing it and the location is part of the whole trip: the journey up in the lift, the contrast between the exterior and the interior - part of the intention is that it should be concealed.

e: There was recently a conference at the Tate in which various people from galleries in London [Cabinet, Hales and Adam] were asked to talk about "the gallery system"....

WS: ....I don't like the idea of a gallery system. It suggests that there is a set of governing rules that you can somehow learn.

e: This is precisely the conclusion they came to - that there isn't, in any meaningful sense, a gallery system. But, in that case, what is there?

WS: I prefer to look at galleries as a series of events happening simultaneously. Some interact and some don't, some cluster into little networks - some don't. The idea that there is a governing set of rules, which is what the word "system" suggests, doesn't apply. There's a fair amount of discourse which rushes backward and forward between the spaces around here but they are not even mini systems, they're more like points of contact. Mute are trying to draw them together by making a web site with a page for each venue on the internet.

e: I'd like to talk about the ambiguity which has arisen between the artist and the gallerist and where you stand on that issue.

WS: I'm constantly asked about that ambiguity and I don't feel comfortable about making too rigid a distinction. The work I'm putting together happens to be in one space which has the appearance of a gallery. It has all the trappings, but I'm not really a gallerist and I don't think I'm willing to be one. I certainly enjoy putting things together and I like setting up peculiar dialogues with different artists, (whether they are antagonistic or harmonious) but this isn't a gallery - it's an event. It says quite a lot about the way London functions at the moment: It's impossible to put all this work on at the same time, unless of course I introduce the idea of a "theme" or "agenda" to a group show which the artists work towards. There are so many different agendas with the artists who come up through Plummet. It felt important to allow that to take precedence for these shows to date. Ithink we eventually will do a group show.

e: How did the artists come together ?

WS: They came together naturally. But even talking about groups is a bit cheesy, it's a loose group - they hang out together. I think talking about a series of artists as a group is as problematic as talking about a series of galleries as a system. It presupposes connections and mutual agendas which don't necessarily exist.
There's a German word: "Lebenig" which means "lively". I would lay that term over us. The word avant-garde is still being bandied about - which seems absurd to me - but I like the idea of a lively art - an art which is developmental, concerned with research, pseudo science and the technocratic (these are some of the themes that crop up) but essentially this is lively art.

e: Looking at your work it seems to me that any two pieces are radically different from each other; almost as if they were made by a different person.

WS: I feel comfortable with that. It would be pointless to do otherwise.

e: I'm interested in the idea of the fictitious artist.

WS: The idea of a ficticious artist is too attached to me but I am not its inventor!
There is one Plummet artist that doesn't exist - I'm not telling you who it is. There are clues but all the clues haven't shown up yet. There are all sorts of deceptions at play in Plummet but there is only one real one and that is the fictitious artist. What was once illusion is now plain old deception.

e: This artist could be included in art reviews.

WS: It could be the case that this artist could run as fast as the rest of us - but I wouldn't like to predict the outcome of their career.

e: How many more shows here? Are you thinking of it as a long term thing?

WS: I think we'll end it when we end it. It'll have a short life and then move on. I don't think Plummet will survive and I don't think it really needs to. To transport this parody of a gallery would be clumsy and antiquated and I have no intention of carrying that with me. That doesn't mean that I have no commitment to it, or that I don't believe in it and enjoy it, but in the long term it would start replicating itself. What defines plummet is being added to with each show and we will continue to be defined more by what we do rather than by where we happen to be.

© Steve Rushton 1995elogo

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