Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Leeds Met Gallery

Last chance to see... Leeds Met Studio Theatre – the space, not the programme – has closed down now. Along with the rest of the building it is housed in, H Block, it is being decommissioned, and this season’s programme, as exciting as ever (and of which we are pleased to be a part with Words & Pictures), is taking place up the road at University of Leeds’ Theatre Workshop. (Full details here).

But round the corner and down the corridor, Leeds Met Gallery – the venue and the programme – is currently hosting its final exhibition in its current space. Or should that be spaces? The final exhibitions (Souvenir, Old Wars New Wars and As Long As It Lasts) really show off one of the things that is unique about this venue; these three spaces - all accessed through the same double doors - all feel so distinct.

When we made Pleasant Land for Leeds Met Gallery in 2004 (co-commissioned by Shooting Live Artists), this gave us the opportunity to make three separate but linked pieces. In the front gallery, with a glass wall, we were able to grow a turf map of England:

It grew really well, apart from a single strip which seemed to correspond to the M1/A1 corridor. The turf map was surrounded by lightbox maps of the travels we had undertaken as part of the project so far:

Pleasant Land travels lightbox map: Land's End
(click to view full size)

In the back room - the double height space - we had the space to construct our own room, designed to house the audience, with space surrounding it for window-viewed video pieces, mini sculptural installations and performance.

Pleasant Land: Queuing

In the upstairs space, which overlooks the double-height space in places, but can be curtained off to be self-contained, we created a study room where audiences could contribute to the ongoing research for the project.

For a space with such strong character, it is also very flexible, and an important decision for artists occupying it is how separate to keep the three rooms. It can feel pretty open plan, or the three rooms can be made distinct with curtains and partitions, and smaller spaces can be made, of course (as the Gallery provided for Christopher Hall and I when we showed Reading & Writing there earlier this year).

An important experience for me was seeing Forced Entertainment's Ground Plans For Paradise, back in 1994, which used the spaces really well. The photographs of sleeping people that were exhibited at normal exhibition height in the upstairs gallery continued around the walls, over the balcony open to the double-height room, and around its far walls - so you were able to see some of the sleepers close up, but others only at a distance (from the balcony or from the ground). The double-height space was home to the beautiful, glowing balsa-wood city - which could also be explored up close up at ground level or viewed at a distance from above. On Saturdays the front gallery, viewable from inside or through the windows, was site of a durational, eyes-closed performance element.

The current exhibitions, which run until 17 October, use the three rooms differently again, and quietly commemorate the end of their lives as exhibition spaces. If you're in Leeds, or Yorkshire, it's worth making a last visit. Maybe see you there.


chris_hall2001 said...

One of my favourite TA installations, in a great venue.

Jaye-bird said...

A touching tribute. Thanks Alex. I can't believe there is only one week left.