A Recent History of Writing and Drawing, ICA, London
Tuesday 22 July 2008
The ICA, marking its 60th anniversary, is facing up to a very different art-world from when it was founded. Then, being seen as a quirky place of experimentation was enough to justify the ICA's place. Lately, it has been joined by the chic Parasol; 176 (Anita Zabludowicz's space); a revitalised Hayward Gallery; the Serpentine Gallery; and (soon) a refurbished Whitechapel, not to mention Tate Modern and Art Now at Tate Britain. These thriving public and private foundations mean that a new type of exhibition for the ICA is both necessary and overdue.
In A Recent History of Writing and Drawing, the curator and writer Emily King explores design and its interchange with other arts. King has brought together Jurg Lehni and Alex Rich, young designers who work with designer Martino Gamper, who created the furniture for the display.
The crossover between design and the arts is a hot topic, and the use of machines to create art could yield an interesting show. Entering the exhibition space, the large chalk mural of two penguins looks amateurish. It's the work of "Viktor", a program driving four motors that move the chalk. Why is it special? The drawing is a re-statement of a found object, two doodles of penguins made by Scott and Shackleton during their polar explorations. It's not about the creativity of the machine, but the enablement of man's creativity through machinery.
Knowing this makes the rest of the exhibition understandable. Dots on Demand is one of two interactive pieces that allow visitors to make their own souvenirs. The viewer makes up a phrase. The alphabet used is based on Duchamp's alphabet transformed by the designer with the removal of one dot, and the slogans are printed in negative dots. The statements will be archived in the computer and the designers will choose favourites to show as a changing display.
The people most intrigued by this exhibition will be design students embarking on a career still considered separate from the visual arts. Bringing that debate into a visual-arts space is an important idea, and it's an apt exhibition to celebrate such an anniversary. Children will enjoy it too as they compete to produce the wittiest dot poster.
To 31 August (020-7930 3647)
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