Friday, June 17, 2011

Gallery Shuffle

She's early to the event and this immediately sets off the blush that will rest on her cheek for the remainder of the evening. She pushes the glass door hesitantly and it doesn't move, the receptionist motions to her to try pulling. The receptionist smiles slightly. Laura doesn't return the smile. It's the sort of smile that says, "You look like a grown woman - how have you not figured out push and pull signs yet?".

Stepping through the conquered glass door, Laura looks around her. She doesn't like Shoreditch; it's the sort of place where all the insecurity inducing people go to congregate and compare chequed shirts and slim ankles. Laura only has one chequed chirt and it's a soft felt material not crisp cotton. She also does not have slim ankles. It's not that she's fussed about not having slim ankles; she suspects she'd look like an upside down weeble if she did. Her figure is much more a top-to-toe "healthy" kind of a format - it'll be back in fashion the second Kate Winslet has a daughter who can convince the media they like curves for another 6 months.

This is an art gallery in Shoreditch - Laura's palms are already sweating. It's white, with paintings adorning the walls in neat rows. She collects a free drink, refusing the champagne for fear it'll make her schmoozing a torrent of verbal diarrhea, and heads off to look at the paintings. In her mind the concept of an experiment to trace the steps different people would take around the same gallery flickers into place. How do 50 individuals trace a path through exactly the same set up? Why would they be drawn to different paintings? How many people would take the same path? Would there be any similarities in character and tracks?

Briefly, she considers the idea of trying to run this experiment; perhaps every week the owners of the gallery could lay out a chosen set of footsteps on the floor and allow people to walk it and feel how alien another person's pull through the art felt. She dismisses the idea and returns to looking at the pictures and sipping the elderflower water.

The pictures look like lino. Quite simply. They remind Laura of the colouring books she used to have as a child to keep her entertained on camping trips - blank geometric patterns all ready to be painted and filled in with whatever colour pattern she chose. She stares hard at the paintings trying to make them mean something; they don't. Art like this has always overwhelmed her. She doesn't understand it. She needs a neat summation by the side to make it clear what the intention was. Then it might click into place; but quite frankly she prefers to look at something pretty.

The lino paintings all have celebrities' names next to them. Laura decides her favourite one is Albert Einstein. Then she finds the plaque explaining what the art is all about. IT begins to click into place; the artist, using the 8 pointed star symbol (in a nod to the Islamic tendency to use this symbol), has created a seres of portraits of celebrities. Replacing their photoworn faces with symbolic representations.

Laura takes another tour of the gallery... the pictures seem to make more sense now. But they're still not quite Laura's cup of tea. Laura's cup of tea is tea. And she wishes she were at home drinking some. Although the elderflower water is nice.

Other people have shuffled in now; in pairs and groups. Laura is the only person who is alone. Except for another girl. As Laura turns to look at the scattered black stars of Richard Pryor, the girl introduces herself.

"I noticed you're here by yourself too so I thought I would come and say hello."

She's pretty - with long brown hair and a floral dress. This girl manages to fit in Shoreditch without being Shoreditch. Laura is instantly very jealous and makes a mental note to buy a floral dress when she has some money. The conversation flows and the tension in her palms dissipates. The girl is fascinating and there is a passion burning in every word she says. All too quickly the conversation has reached it's end and Laura is released back into the fish bowl.

She wanders upstairs to where the projects for that month are laid out for people to look at. Her precious Ink sits in the middle. Pride. It's like having a child that has done something; and there it is, sitting, waiting for approval. It looks as real a piece of theatre and art as anything else in the project stall. People are looking at it.

The crowds are all clutching their green stickers. Each green sticker is a vote. A vote for the project you want to receive funding the most. The guests can all go and put their stickers on the projects that capture their hearts. Laura's heart flutters slightly as she sees a woman in a blue dress tentatively reach out towards Ink. The sticker flickers on the edge of her finger - the glue barely holding it on. The hand retreats slightly...

"I'm not sure about these Edinburgh ones...they seem a bit..."
"Go on..."
"But I like this one..."

And the sticker is there. It's stuck. To Ink. It's a vote.

By the end of the evening the green stickers are all dished out - Ink sits somewhere in the middle of the tally; not the forerunner, but not bringing up the rear. Laura stands staring at the stickers, not caring how many other people's projects have got; every sticker on there is a separate person who was touched by this project. Who saw something in it. Incredible.

Come Edinburgh, there will be many more eyes on the project; eyes on the whole project, not just a poster board in a gallery in Shoreditch. If every clapping pair of hands feels as good as those flimsy green stickers, Laura's heart might just break.

- This is a retelling of last night's events in short story form with a nice, honest, gushy ending. I'm in a bad mood today and so there was no humour to be found anywhere even in the deepest recesses of my soul (my midriff). If you didn't like it, normal service will resume tomorrow when I am not working booking stuff and so there isn't a desperate need to exercise at least a small portion of my brain with something challenging. -


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