Céline Condorelli, Tacita Dean, Douglas Gordon, Barbara Holub, Hannah James, Grace Ndiritu, Lilly Reich, Erik Satie, Ines Schaber, Albrecht Schäfer
Curated by Céline Condorelli & Gavin Wade
BLIND – We have many things in common. We organize the relationship between inside and outside.
SILK – (dismissive) The old myth of inside and outside. Thereby I am a scheme for a space and you an attribute of it. In my case however, it is about structure – more than separating, it is about creating a new space.
Curtain Show revolves around Lilly Reich’s Silk and Velvet Café at the Women’s Fashion Exhibition in Berlin, in 1927. The trade fairs of the 19th century and early 20th century were places of great innovation in the fields of art and design, and a phenomenal example is Reich’s ‘Café’; but they were also inevitably sites of alliance between political power and design. Reich’s bold exposition of gold and silver silk and black, orange and red velvet draped over chromed-steel tubular frames created a maze of spaces in which visitors and traders were enveloped in a pioneering example of a temporary environment formed by the content of the exhibition. Starting from the installation’s complex spatial position and ambiguous political one, Curtain Show unfolds this dual role as curtains form background and foreground in a meeting of curtain works.
Originally conceived for Berlin’s now closed Tempelhof airport, Ines Schaber’s Diabolic Tenant, 2007, is based on the work of Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe, and presents two curtains who speak through their relative position and the politics they embody, opening up the very different possibilities for understanding their function and the role of design in society. Grace Ndiritu’s Still Life, 2007, is set in a large curtained area formed from West African fabrics from Holland, fabricated in China and available in Birmingham’s rag market. Ndiritu’s series of four videos use West African textiles in a sensual and, at times, unnerving physical performance by the artist to the camera. Tacita Dean’s 16mm film Darmstädter Werkblock, 2007, was filmed in the rooms that make up Joseph Beuys’s ‘Block Beuys’ in Darmstadt’s Hessisches Landesmuseum. The film captures the medieval gallery’s patched and stained jute walls before they were controversially removed and lost forever. Off Screen is a 1998 video installation by Douglas Gordon in which the image of a curtain is projected on to a screen that is, in itself, a curtain. As one walks through the curtain projection, silhouettes appear on its surface forming ‘off screen’ characters. Berlin-based Albrecht Schäfer recreates an aluminium curtain wall façade from a building in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. Centrum 1998/2010 is a paper version of the façade of the former Centrum department store, which was based on a 1950s original design by Egon Eiermann for the department chain store Horten, itself a trademark of West German cities. The original Horten curtain wall pattern is presented on the indoor billboard for Curtain Show viewed through the filter of Centrum. Bristol-based Hannah James has been producing a series of delicate printed paper screens, site specific hinged shutters and freestanding wood, paper and twine structures supporting small flags or curtains. For Curtain Show James will develop two new works in response to and inhabiting the overall scaffolding system used to support a number of the curtain works. Vienna-based Barbara Holub’s long term work at Eastside Projects, Initiative Island, 2008, will be moving from its position in Gallery 2 to perform a new function in the main space of creating a room for Erik Satie’s Furniture Music: Tenture de Cabinet Préfectoral (Tapestry of Wrought Iron), 1917. Across the duration of Curtain Show, Céline Condorelli will also be reconsidering curtains as a way to footnote buildings, in conjunction with a residency at Grizedale Arts in the Lake District.