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The art form of Chinese whispers: an overheard map of now II

Art is so often stifled and restricted by the arbitrary, ritual barrier between viewer and artist. At least, that's the belief of the people behind experimental live art project , an overheard map of now, celebrating its closing party this weekend. AYLY caught up with co-founder and organiser Sophie Mak-Schram ahead of the event, to find out more about the second year of the exhibition.

How did the project come about, and what makes it special?

an overheard map of now was started in order to question exhibition exclusivity and the linear pressure we understood art history and engagement to be. Is it possible to interact with a work of art without knowing its context, and what would a work of art based only to its immediate context be?

Talking about how mythical inspiration seemed to onlookers, our conversation in a Manchester café turned into an attempt to dismantle that. an overheard map of now is a live, residency-based exhibition where each artists responds to what came before – an art form of Chinese whispers.

Through its format, an overheard map of now takes artists out of the studio space and audiences out of their spectator seats. Instead, art is created, destroyed and re-understood in every interaction between artists and the space, the work and the audience. Over three days, each artist is challenged to react to the porousness of the present tense, with audiences, other artists and life inherently feeding into whatever they produce.

an overheard map of now II: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS is the second iteration of the exhibition. This year, we’re working with 17 artists over 12 days in a bar/creative space in south London. Moving away from the conventions of the art space, we’ve been exploring how both artists and audiences are affected by the unexpected interactions with art in a bar, and how that might de-pedestal art to become more than just something that belongs in formalized institutions, in finalized states.

What has been the response to the exhibition?

In terms of audience, it’s been great to facilitate encounters with work on a very immediate level. The nature of Buster Mantis, our venue, is that people come in for a drink or a meal and stumble upon artists working and a space that is changing every night. The lack of intentionality in terms of them seeking out art has helped foster a lightness and lack of pressure to ‘understand it’ and instead to just engage with it.

The artists too have been responding to the real impact of the bar space, in terms of noise and movement and brevity. The constant potential of a public and the temporal emphasis of each residency (elements such as you knowing that your work may well be undone tomorrow, you feeling like you need to fill the space with something) mean that artists might need to reform or select elements of their practice and can’t simply hang a canvas on a wall.

You did the last project in Cardiff, and this one in the big smoke, how have you found the transition?

There’s lots of ways in which the project at the Abacus in Cardiff was going to be different from this year’s exhibition at Buster Mantis, London. Rather than necessarily being geographically-related though, we would say our own expectations, the shift in the type of venue and the documentation of the last exhibition have influenced this year.

Perhaps that is because Deptford, like Cardiff, has a strong and small community. In that respect, we were never idealistic enough to want to engage all of London, but instead interested in finding somewhere that facilitated repeat visits to the exhibition despite the city’s scale, and that entailed focusing our vision.

What can we expect at the closing party?

We’ll be screening the documentary we’ve been making that tracks everything that’s happened in and around the exhibition. Alongside this sped-up reflection of how inspiration morphs, any remaining art will be up in the space and two of our favourite danceable DJs, Bos Tones and Kineza, will join us to celebrate everything that has happened.

an overheard map of now II: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

30 Aug – 11 Sept 2016, Buster Mantis (London)


For more on the exhibition, visit the tumblr.

Check out the facebook event page for information on the closing party!

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