Marlie Mul: This Exhibition Has Been Cancelled
- Jessica Ramm
- 8 September 2017
Empty gallery becomes talking point, but not much else
After careful consideration Marlie Mul's exhibition at GoMA has been 'cancelled', turning visitors' attention to the historic context of the building itself while raising searching questions about the role of publicly funded arts organisations today.
The ornate vaulted ceiling and imposing Corinthian columns are certainly impressively grand. A lone exhibition assistant sits in the corner. The echoing emptiness of the space means that more attention falls on this single member of staff. Though they are no doubt used to acting as the main interface between the curious public and the work on show, the mutual awareness between visitor and invigilator is more palpable than usual.
In place of an exhibition text, visitors can pick up a short synopsis of the building's history from its ostentatious beginning as a private mansion, through many stages of commercial use, to its public opening as an art gallery in 1996. Since the building was originally built on the proceeds of the tobacco industry, this seems like an appropriate moment to consider Glasgow's dual legacy as both a colonising power and a colonised people.
Against this historical backdrop, promoting the gallery as a potential site for community use is a generous and democratic act. In practice, the application form that can be filled in and returned at reception undermines this premise. Besides, the proliferation of selfies taken in the space suggests that members of the public are perfectly content looking at themselves as art.
Leaving the gallery empty rather than reworking the exhibition programme could also be a statement about the under-supported nature of working in the arts. The debate about the impact continued austerity is having on the artistic community as a whole is something that should be heard, but artists need work to look at. For the time being, an empty gallery sits at the centre of the city as a talking point. Materials and objects are expensive but talk is cheap.
GoMA, until Sun 29 Oct, free