The ICA Studio Space is found up a grimy set of concrete steps, following water and gas pipes, past an electrical trip-box and prophetic graffiti and a neon sign announcing “fig-2”. Stepping through a crack in the wall you feel you’re leaving the white cubes of WC1 and attendant bookshops, and stepping into one of those perennially doomed East London warehouses that traditionally showcase new contemporary art’s heady mixture of roots level art practice and sophisticated partying.
I mean, we learn that the ICA Studio Space “was once squatted and became the base for attacks on the ICA finance department; it housed an anarchist press, and Jean-Michel Basquiat used to get stoned there.”
As I go up those intimidating hard steps through the guts of the ICA, I’m not expecting to find myself in Warhol’s Factory, nor blinking in a smoky Berlin-in-the-eighties squat happening soundtracked by Einsturzende Neubauten… but, do you know what? Dear reader, in the interests of suspense, I’m not going to tell you just yet. Exciting!
Regarding this first of fifty weekly projects under the overall banner “fig-2”, curator Fatoş Üstek says “The first show will be an installation of ideas and the last will hopefully exhibit the finished work – although at this stage we, obviously, have no idea what that finished work will be.”
Laura Eldret is first up. Her CV says “Her practice explores social formats by looking at divergent aspects of how groups of people gather. She explores the agency of art within this broad cultural sphere, and is interested in aesthetic elements that bind people together.”
The artist spent late 2014 researching, documenting and making work in a pueblo in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, and has presented, for fig-2 wk1, some rugs and some drawings. The imagery involves basketballs and juicers. In terms of socially integrative images, the Mexican juicers are suitably exotic to my English eye, and the basketballs are recognizable, but also alien. Perhaps this is the key point about shared cultural imagery, that even between continents we can recognize (ie. name) certain elements, even if they don’t have a specific meaning or personal relation to the viewer. Basketball to me is recognizably and abidingly western, but not part of my life. This is perhaps what could make it more interesting to think about than an image I know more intimately, such as the view from the bottom of a bottle of Guinness or the back of the dole queue on a Monday morning, or even one of those cards of a dog dressed up as Santa.
I admire the curators of fig-2 for opening with a staunchly unfinished show; it shows a long view that I had hoped they would pursue. We await with interest the results of Laura Eldret’s Mexican ethnography. I wonder if the curators of fig-2 will publish updates in the mean time. At this stage, it’s deliciously unclear how the whole fig-2 50-week metaproject will pan out.
Until next week, mind your head and try not to trip over a Basquiat on your way down those cold hard steps back to your warm white London life.