Off-site projects are as old as art itself. From the living room of someone’s apartment to derelict buildings and old churches, artists have been converting and occupying alternative spaces for some time now, including areas so remote they’re barely seen. But while putting work in places other than the so-called ‘white cube’ is certainly not a new concept, its accessibility has shifted markedly with the possibilities of the internet, specifically by its dissemination of documentation. There’s really no way of really qualifying whether this move away from gallery walls is part of a greater contemporary trend, but seeing art in strange spaces is an increasingly regular occurrence thanks to digital distribution, and it’s well worth exploring in detail.
There’s an exciting way in which this long practice of moving beyond the confines of the gallery has in some ways given rise to the amateur and DIY space, which can receive just as much attention and legitimacy now as large galleries. This attention, however, is probably due to its online circulation than any move towards creating an inclusive and accessible area for all, and the politics of community and being ‘in the know’ still runs through these new, often temporary places, in the same way it does an institution.
There is also a complex set of differences at play regarding off-site spaces, between the disenchantment with the current context of art and a gentrified quest of exploration. In a classic art world dichotomy, they cannot be separated from the tension between lack of funds and resources, and an abundance of it that allows you to ‘move beyond.’ Yet, in the same way that an image is only the sum of its context and caption, an art work in a new place takes on a multitude of new meanings, examining and disrupting its environment, as well as itself, depending on where it’s viewed.
There are some projects that do this well, and here are number of relatively recent projects that happened and are happening outside the white cube, thus capturing our imagination:
Curated by Paul Barsch, this group exhibition took place on in the remote valley Safiental of the Swiss Alps on October 16, 2016, and was “held in front of a mostly animalistic audience in a working cowshed.” The show featured work by Louisa Gagliardi, Hamishi Farah and Ulrich Wulff, among others, and was part of the site-specific exhibition of Art Safiental that works in dialogue with nature and landscape.
A Baltimore-based collaboration between Allie Linn and Colin Alexander, Bb is now a nomadic project that will be hosting their upcoming projects in a barn in Connecticut after their physical space closed in 2016. The current exhibition features Colin Klocker’s Edith’s Ghost and is running until February 18, 2017.
Founded by artist Fabio Santacroce, the Bari-based space inhabits a staircase, quite literally from the 63rd step to the 77th of a building from the 20th century. This strange little area has been the temporary home to the work of Amalia Ulman‘s The Landing Talk (2014) and more recently Ilya Smirnov‘s Mechanics Alley (2016).
The project, which began as an investigation into the “limits and potentialities of the periphery, [and] redefining its spatial and temporal framework,” also extends into other off-site locations and site-specific exhibitions, as well as hosting artists online.
Curated by 63rd-77th STEPS, AFA 2 took place on a public beach in Bari, Italy from July 29 until August 12, 2015. Thirteen international artists contributed a black-and-white design on a towel, which would remain open to the elements and sit amongst beach goers for the duration of the show. As observed in aqnb‘s review, the “towels are unfolded from afternoon till evening among the haphazard lines of bathers, arranged in random order daily, in an event that lies somewhere between guerrilla marketing and the human right to tan.”
Put together by New Scenario, this exhibition happened inside butt holes and other orifices in June, 2016 as part of the last Berlin Biennale. The show exists online, in the form of photographic documentation, but the site-specific nature of the work feels relevant to the work in this instance. Their first project C-R-A-S-H (2015) documented work inside of a hummer limousine.
Johannes Paul Raether‘s character ‘Protekto.x.x’ took a group of participants on a guided tour around Berlin in the summer of 2016. A day spent disintegrating and uniting through crowds, and held together by voice instructions carried around through ear pieces, the performance ended at an Apple Store where a writer for aqnb and others were taken away by security (not part of the plan!). Read more about the details of what went down in our account of the day here.
The Deep Skin group exhibition ran for an entire year, from August 15, 2015 until August 15, 2016, and took place 2100 metres below ground in a particle physics research laboratory called SNOlab. The purpose of the space is protection from cosmic rays of natural light where sensitive experiments can be undeterred. Participating artists included Pakui Hardware, Agatha Valkyrie Ice, Bitsy Knox + Christian Tonner, Visualize→Actualize, Antoine Renard, and TROI OI (Nhu Duong + Sung Tieu), among others.
Stoneroses (2014) was a project put together by Santiago Taccetti and Mirak Jamal in collaboration with Center for Project Space Festival Berlin in the nature reserve Grunewald on the outskirts of Berlin. Work by Ivana Basic, Aleksander Hardashnakov, Zuzanna Czebatul and others would be left out to the elements in this first intervention of the ongoing project.
Run by Angelina Volk and Leopold Thun, Emalin recently opened a London-based exhibition space, but also carry out projects nomadically around the world. In late July 2015, Stefania Batoeva and Adriano Costa exhibited in TwoHotel in Piracanga, Brazil. It was built as an artist guest house by the Swiss artist Fabian Marti. The curatorial team have carried out a number of itinerant exhibitions, also including Athena Papadopoulos‘ Honeymoon in Pickle Paradise (2014) which took place in a room in London’s The Landmark Hotel.
Organised by Jens Einhorn, Anne Fellner and Burkhard Beschow, the second act of the 2016 Comedy Club was held along a riverbank in Berlin, after being evicted from the warehouse they previously occupied. In limbo, the exhibition ‘set up shop’ with “cheap solar-power garden lights [that struggled] to spotlight several paintings on wooden easels [propped] before a view over the city,” as described in this aqnb review. The show featured work by Katherine Botten, Armen Eloyan, Maximilian Kirmse, Clemens Reinecke, and Tanja Ritterbex and more, while the premise felt like a somewhat depressing but clear comment on the reality of gentrification.
Artist Lewis Teague Wright‘s Lock Up International opens shows around the world, occupying different storage units for short periods of time. The containers — installed with work by invited artists and viewable by appointment only — have surfaced in places like London, Frankfurt, Mexico City, Tokyo, Istanbul and Los Angeles, and have featured the compact solo shows of the likes of Diego Salvador Rios, Martin Kohout, Nevine Mahmoud, Yuri Pattison and more.**