Grandmother waits for you

Unpublished review of an exhibition at Embassy Gallery, 2009.

For more information and images see Embassy.

On a Website called The Stitchery it is possible to purchase an embroidered PhD diploma in Grandma-ology.  A survey of the Embassy gallery’s current show, Grandmother Waits for You, reveals how fraught, complex and compelling this imaginary subject would be.  The madcap display of works, made by artists from around the world responding to ‘Granny-hood’, ranges from small semi-sociological studies, to photographs of Grandmas peering through detached washing machine doors or irreverently extending wizen mid-digits, to a hand-drawn image of a foxy young Grandmother wearing a translucent white T-Shirt and riding a Rhinoceros (not in the biblical sense), and bearing the slogan, “Granny Knows Best”.

Amongst this eclectic mix of approaches are some works detailing the lives of some of these women, who were, or aspired to be, nurses, child carers or workers in the local tweed manufacturing industry; while many of the images feature domesticity to some degree.  It is with these details that we are reminded of the sober social conditions that intertwine with ‘Granny-hood’, emphasising the fact that the critical backbone of Grandma-ology might best derive from feminism.  But, as we begin to ponder the implications of deconstructing the familial term ‘Grandmother’, or contemplate a body-politics beyond the nimble, young bodies of those seventies’ feminist artists, we might stop for a moment to catch our breath.

Grandmother Waits for You in contradistinction to our pretend academic discipline doesn’t attempt to formulate coherent statements about ‘Granny-hood’ and issues relating to power-relations (should it?).  The open submissions policy exercised for this exhibition could never conform to the desires of the academic trying to perfect a theory about this subject matter.  The precious drawings of Grandmothers in a style reminiscent of Frida Kahlo, the images of Nanny fearfully emerging into a home-made Mario Land stage or the nostalgic last emails from Grandma-deceased, make this exhibition more of a folksonomy.  In this way it is apparently about allowing people to generate a body of things, rather than about orchestrating a coherent whole.

The central column of empty space in this stairwell exhibition has been filled with an installation that was made collaboratively, drawing together members of the community:  including artists from a bi-weekly knitgroup and Sunblush, a group of artists dedicated to the use of craft-based skills.  The installation is called the knitsphere (2009) and further introduces the curators’ idiosyncratic approach.  It is a woollen web of knitted patches and objects extending up through the space; but rather than simply practising and representing the current zeitgeist for community (relational) and network (rhizomatic) driven practices, the knitsphere pushes a hyperbolic conception of communal consciousness and is accompanied by a text that knowingly draws upon the somewhat dubious concept of the Noosphere (a concept of human-kind’s increasingly omniscient mindfulness, arising from the spread of communications technology).

This exhibition is both exuberant and contradictory in the same breath: if you are less interested in ‘resolution’ and more excited by highly energetic creative activities then, well, Grandmother Waits for You!

Grandmother waits for you_Embassy Gallery
Grandmother waits for you_Embassy Gallery

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