Prop4aShw

Nathaniel Budzinski on a very open show proposal by Turner Prize-winner Mark Leckey.

Nathaniel Budzinski
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The artist Mark Leckey’s YouTube channel is instructive in a couple ways. His New Medielvalism [sic] playlist is an eclectic and sometimes unsettling cross-section of the strange, often occult seeming things that people create for online audiences – giving a good overview of how the making and watching of moving-image art is rapidly changing in the digital world.

Leckey has also uploaded Prop4aShw, a video proposal for a touring group exhibition he wanted to mount; the resulting show, The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, has since toured several spaces in the UK.

Prop4aShw operates much like his playlist. Aggregating a selection of YouTube-bound internet ephemera – amateur architectural animation, footage from a camera mounted on a home-made drone flying over the Cerne Abbas Giant, recorded sequences from video games – Leckey then mocked it up to resemble a Skype call, with one inset respondent, presumably a spoof of the intended audience – gallery directors – gesticulating wildly.

Over a CGI sequence of a road appearing through hills, Leckey narrates: “This is a proposal for a show which is going to happen at some point, but at the moment it just exists, here.” At this, the road spirals into itself, presumably in the hope that the prospective commissioner will follow the journey psychically inwards towards the presentation in his head.

It used to be rare to get a peek behind the scenes of the art world (less an industry, it was a world unto itself). Compared to Hollywood and the mass media’s network of producers, financiers and distributors, contemporary art is small. But it’s no less complex. The difference is that all the wheeling and dealing has usually been hidden away, whereas movies have long been fascinated by their own professional mystique, naturally turning their business into show biz.

Nowadays the art world more closely resembles an industry, complete with blockbuster exhibitions and attendance in the millions – along with a burgeoning media presence in TV series like Gallery Girls and assorted reality talent shows. But it’s too easy to focus on the numbers and overstate the power of money. As with cinema, music and any number of other ‘cultural industries’, the momentum of art comes from people in love with what they do: producing new images, sounds, objects and ideas irrespective of the monetary rewards, which are generally less than imagined.

Though Leckey’s exhibition is touring public galleries that are relatively protected from the financial vissisitudes of the commercial art industry (for now), it’s inspiring to see his video in this context. Prop4aShw is an exemplary piece of homemade internet video; its production quality is humble and the image sources of questionable, but the movie is as much an essay on Leckey’s passion for the ideas he wants to get across as it is a pitch. Being a Turner Prize-winning artist must certainly help in convincing galleries to put on his show, but at the driving core of Prop4aShw is a passion for the materials and the ideas they transmit – a necessary quality that comes before things like technique or funding, and is widely accessible.

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