In 1965 the MoMa’s Responsive Eye exhibition urged audiences to think about the way they looked; 57 years later and Dazed Visual Arts Editor and curator Francesca Gavin is asking us to do the same. Her forthcoming exhibition - named after the New York gallery’s seminal show and opening at Jacob’s Island on the 15th of March - showcases works by artists for whom the image-led culture of our screen-saturated lives provided the main inspiration. We speak to Gavin ahead of the show to find out why she, and the other artists involved, feel compelled to delve so deep into the current and inescapable see-sickness.
Dazed Digital: A lot has changed since the original Responsive Eye exhibition at the MoMa in 1965. Why is it important for us to reconsider the visual culture that we live in today?
Francesca Gavin: For me the MoMa show and even more so, the Brian De Palma short film about it, seemed such a touching and entertaining way to consider ideas of how we see. There’s great footage in the film of people bobbing up and down in front of an artwork, working out how they are supposed to look at it. ‘The Responsive Eye’ is really a starting point to look at different ways in which we examine the process of looking in this, the age of screens.
The work in the exhibition – from Anthony Antonellis’ lenticular sculptures to Artie Vierkant’s jpeg-like pieces – is really about our relationship to screen culture. Our lives are all about looking at rectangles and I find that a very interesting thing to relate to the process of creating and looking at art.
DD: It is all too easy for us to consume, without thinking, the infinite visual stimuli that surrounds us. How do the artists in the show slow that process down to really consider what it means to look?
Francesca Gavin: I think artwork full stop is all about slowing down and focusing on the process of looking. Simply by placing something in the context of a gallery forces you to step away from that sway of constant imagery - at least for a moment. Some of the pieces in the show do that in a fast, immediate way – the video work of Thomas Lock and Lucy Stockton or the kaleidoscopic piece by Mark Titchner. They are very immediate but have layers of visual detail that draw you in. Other pieces in the show are about your physical interaction with the work – literally engaging how you use your eyes, which forces you to look further to and see more.
DD: Is there a part of you that hopes audiences will be more discerning about the way they see things in future?
Francesca Gavin: I wouldn’t say discerning just more aware of how we look, to not treat things as surface and to consider, when we are being drawn into an object or an image, how or why that is happening.
Responsive Eyes curated by Francesca Gavin, Jacob’s Island Gallery 56 Butler’s & Colonial Wharf 10–11 Shad Thames London SE1 2PY, 15 March — 12 May 2012