Anne Hardy’s curation of The Weather Garden and Carey Young’s Palais de Justice were contrasting pieces of art; nevertheless they seemed to work well side by side, and concluded with a live performance of the avant-garde jazz composer John Cage’s Ryoan-ji.
Hardy curated the exhibition for the Arts Council and says she took the same approach for this project as with other large-scale ones, using intuition and curiosity. Based on the Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto, the combined experience is “intended as a sensory, meditative space” and loose lines of connection run between the selected works, which also uses a platform of breeze blocks to recreate the Zen Garden atmosphere.
You then move next door to a dark auditorium showing Carey Young’s Palais de Justice which is a video-installation filmed without permission in a 19th Century courthouse in Brussels. Young films a succession of female judges and lawyers in court through the door’s circular windows, the objective is to portray a legal system controlled by women. Joining the looped film part-way through the 18 minute duration, I found myself absorbed with the ambient sound of people bustling along in the corridors and intrigued by the uneasiness that’s created by the artist’s canny skill of keeping the camera on each subject for long enough to cause brief distraction, without objection.
This was a bold launch for the Towner with a mix of visual art and live music - however this could be the shape of things to come.
The event concluded with live music downstairs where The London Contemporary Orchestra recreated Cage’s Ryoan-ji.
“John Cage is not every one’s cup of tea.” said Joe Hill, Towner’s Director, and I think I’m inclined to agree; however with an estimated 500 visitors on the night, you’d be hard pushed to call this anything else but a success. Something to shout about from the gallery top. By Stuart Large.