Art & Language’s ‘Air Conditioning Show’ (1966-67) was seen as an exploration of our understanding of art institutions and their exhibition spaces; specifically
‘the desire to show institutions’ internal mechanisms, here the thermal regulating system for an exhibition space, left empty.’
(Copeland, M. cited in Armleder, J. (ed.), 2009, p. 168)
This description outlines an interesting notion of highlighting the architectural properties of the institution itself in order to mirror this recognition of working methods with those of the daily routines of the space. The location of the office and the lavatory are all reflected here as the exhibition go-er understands the building as a framework for use. Yet at the same time, it exhibits nothing; at least in terms of artwork. The viewer is immediately confronted with emptiness.
‘The notion of emptiness and the staging of absence that these practices entail, along with processes of withdrawal, disappearance, and invisibility, are certainly among the most conspicuous artistic responses in opposition to both “the tyranny of commodity,” as Lucy Lippard has suggested, and the instrumentalization of art by administrative society.’
(Pluot, S. cited in Armleder, J. (ed.), 2009, p. 266)
The quote above comes from Sébastien Pluot’s essay Include Me Out. Here Pluot discusses the practical uses of exhibiting nothing, namely in relation to the viewers association with negative qualities such as withdrawal and disappearance. It is strange that these feelings are singled out, as in my mind the viewer would ideally be awed. This type of thinking means there is a danger to exhibiting nothing, simply for what the viewer takes away from the experience. If this audience leaves the exhibition thinking of how terrible products are when they are badly managed and displays the fruitlessness of making objects in a world saturated with other objects, then I would deem my work to have failed! Instead the viewer leaves astounded in awe of the location and the potential of sublime spaces to encapsulate a being. At least that is the notion which I am hoping the work to fulfil. Obviously the failings of the specific location and my own work will eventually come to describe how effective these pieces are at achieving such a notion.
ARMLEDER, J. (ed.) (2009) Voids: A Retrospective. JRP|Ringier, Zurich.