Don Quijote: tristes figuras, Leeds Arts University Gallery aka The Blenheim Walk

January 7, 2020 - February 14, 2020

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While marvelling about the rapid succession of three exhibition, as an “image-thinker” I an enchanted by the possibility to compare the experiences and effects of three “identical” exhibitions, in three single-space venues, yet so very different. Not for judgment but for the joy of seeing how art “works”.
First of all, the exhibition in Leeds came about thanks to the creative thinking combined with professional skills of University Cuator Catriona McAra. A few years ago, Catriona interviewed me for the journal EJES, and she wrote a fabulous article about the film and video project Madame B.
The photo here, which was made by photographer Memory Potifa as are the others in this report, shows the combination of wittiness, fun, and intelligence that characterize Catriona. With Jill Bennett, in her Thinking in the World, a co-edited book that just appeared, I would speak of “aesthetic intelligence”, a concept she uses in dialogue with psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas, who came up with the term. Catriona is also amazingly generous and inventive in finding ways to “do” generosity. And if the photo suggests she is looking at you, this is true: her personality is “in the second person”, always thoughtful and looking out for others. I cannot thank her enough for the honour and pleasure of having the exhibition in her gallery: the Leeds Arts University Gallery, which she directs.

An additional pleasure on the day of the opening was the opportunity to give a lecture and have a discussion, drink bubbles and have dinner, with both Catriona and Griselda Pollock, my long-term friend whose work in feminist art history is always top quality. So, here we are, with my old friend and my new friend. Griselda’s 981 book with the genial title *Old Mistresses” was for me and many others a founding moment in feminism, beyond art history alone. And her recent voluminous book on Charlotte Salomon’s life and work as connected, is also a must-read: Charlotte Salomon and the Theatre of Memory: the title is again so to the point that I don’t need to explain more about the book’s interdisciplinary approach to the tragic life and the fantastic art of the young holocaust victim.

The pleasures and the intellectual yield of collaboration on this level, with people who combine artistic sensitivity with intellectual rigour, is for me the greatest joy of my professional life. And bringing this to a larger group of people, all passionate about art and education, tops it even more.

The video of the opening night was made by Johnny Walton at Kaptur Creative.

The exhibition space is different from the ones in Växjö and in Murcia, both rectangular, the former dark with hand-shaped brick wall, the other bright, with white walls, but shaped in a manner that the keep the “white cube” idea at bay. In Leeds, the gallery space is bright and square. This made installation both more challenging and very rewarding.The first photo is from above and the gallery is still empty of people.

But the generosity of the space was later very helpful when people were streaming in, astounded by the intentionally chaotic display, and pleasantly surprised by the seating provided, which allows for attentive and intensive viewing. This is now my obsessive “thought-image” about curating, as I have begun to practice and advocate ever since the exhibition in the Munch Museum in 2017 Emma & Edvard: Love in the Time of Loneliness.