Objects from the Temperate Palm House

Objects from the Temperate Palm House brings together sculptural objects made by artists and historical natural artifacts to propose an expanded and ambiguous format for the display of artworks in the gallery.

Considering one of the most ubiquitous articles of exhibition furniture, the gallery plinth, Objects asserts a radically differentiated display vocabulary that departs from the received language of the gallery space. Sculptures are elevated, not by uniform pedestals, but by objects themselves; historic palm trunks that have been designated by the curators as idiosyncratic stand-in’s for the gallery plinth.

Newly assigned as an object-plinth, each palm trunk asserts its own ambivalent status, refusing to dissolve from view, act hidden, suppress its objecthood or offer itself as plinths do, in service of the reified artwork. As autonomous objects-in-themselves with their own history, narrative and cultural status, the palms demand attention. Their presence here makes plain the way in which display furniture quietly directs the viewer’s gaze and influences the production of meaning. The palms use as props is intended to overturn modes of hierarchical presentation and methodologies of display that channel viewers through a lens of commodified looking and towards fetishised desire. Simultaneously though, in a doubling gesture, the palms are elevated into the realm of sculpture and ask to be considered formally and aesthetically as art objects, even ready-mades.

Awkward and dynamic, performative and provocative, these object-plinths redress the unspoken terms of engagement between the viewer and the gallery space, creating a sense of estrangement in the viewer’s encounter with the artwork. This simple exchange of one object for another aims to disorient the established values of the gallery and suggest a new contextual environment for the contemplation of artworks that is unassociated with value judgments or vocabularies that have become interchangeable with the shop floor. As such, art objects enter into an unsettled, open-ended and associative dialogue with their support structures, and meaning becomes unfixed and indeterminate.

Confronting this new exhibition furniture, artists have responded by modifying, animating, examining and dissolving their individual forms, riffing from their many associations, and creating a visually playful tableau. This absurdist assemblage of sculptural objects hopes to emphasize beyond doubt the fictional space of the gallery, and within that lay bare curatorial decision-making. The experimental display format and deliberately heavy-handed authorial gesture stems from a desire to test what is permissible curatorially. Objects investigates the possibility of establishing an openly subjective curatorial format where the status of all objects remains unresolved.

Objects from the Temperate Palm House is influenced by the aesthetic of a wunderkammer where objects of natural history are displayed alongside works of art, surrealist exhibitions of the 20th century and forms of institutional critique where norms of presentation are subverted, antagonistic and remain in tension.

An exhibition organised by Chloe Reith
Supported by Creative Scotland and Hope Scott Trust

Bargain Spot, 12 Earl Grey Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9BN
Wednesday – Saturday, 12 – 6pm

Design by Alex Simpkin
Roberto Grotesk typeface kindly provided by Julia Oetker-van Eickels