28 October - 27 November 2005

Click to download Gavin Wade’s full text Tony T (Spectator T)

Notes on a curatorial character

I first met Tony T. on Devonshire Green in the Summer of 2002. Now he lives in my dreams. I met him because I was making an artwork for Devonshire Green and Tony didn’t like it. I was installing a series of 5 double sided poster display units across the Green which had pasted onto them 10 posters outlining top 5s for films, music, art, books and world politics. Half of the posters were official top 5s from newspapers, the other half were formed from canvassing people aged between the ages of 16-24 who hung out on or passed through the Green. New posters were to be pasted up every week for an 8 week period. The project was called Here Are The Young Persons and I was selected and commissioned by young people in Sheffield to make the artwork. Tony really did confront me and the artwork really was smashed to pieces in the middle of the night. It was a nightmare. It affected the artwork totally and made me question what it was that the artwork was doing. I now see the entire episode as a positive challenge to respond to rather than merely a negative event.

I got to know Tony better when I named him and created his history and personality in my upcoming novel, The Interruptors. Tony is real fiction. He became a catalyst for imagining how artists should engage with different situations, opening up the ways we could and couldn’t deal with people and places. In some ways he taught me the value of risk and how important that is for art in any situation.

When I was invited to develop a concept for Art Sheffield 05, Tony wouldn’t get out of my mind. I started to imagine a biennial exhibition that had a single character as simultaneously motivating force and ideal audience. Imagine a Biennial with personality, with a strong position, clearly stated and relating to the locality but dealing with a universal concern! Or, if that sounds just like every other Biennial event, just imagine a Biennial with a personality! Tony is not exactly a case study but perhaps he lies at the heart of current debates around socially engaged art practices. Even anti-social behaviour is still social. Even anti-social art or dreaming is still part of what makes society tick.

Tony doesn’t only hide in my dreams though, he’s there in those inbetween moments when I’m awake as well, in between love and cleaning up and shaving and cooking French toast. He’s just there waiting to get out, egging me on to find some action. I didn’t invent him. He’s real. He raised himself out of my metaphysical doubt. He’s as real as anybody else, clinging to life with everything he’s got and more. He’ll soon be in your dreams too, the angry kid who appears from nowhere. That’ll be Tony T, the incidental person of your nightmares and maybe your life. Don’t avoid him but I would advise you to keep a close eye on him. You never know what might happen next.

In the Winter of 1982 the artist collective Art & Language wrote of a Spectator A and B. Spectator A goes straight to an artwork, waits till he gets the proper feelings and comprehension and then he just might look at the title of the artwork, seek information and confirmation of his experience and understanding. Spectator B goes immediately to the catalogue and press release seeking to discover how to read the artwork. In the Spring of 2000 Artist/Writer Dave Beech put forward an idea for a Spectator C who isn’t interested in Art at all and ignores it. Beech suggests that there may be a whole alphabet of spectators out there. The alphabet could range from philistines to serial killers. Tony T falls somewhere in between. He is Spectator T. He doesn’t ignore Art he hates it. He feels like it attempts to interfere with his life. If he wants to do or know something or not do or know something that’s his business and Art can go fuck itself. I think Tony’s got a bad attitude but I think I understand it in some ways! I also think there is art out there that Tony would give some time to. Tony T is a challenge to Art Sheffield 05 to come up with the goods. People will take positions over this. Is it right or wrong to implicate someone like this in art or to aim an exhibition at a Tony T? That’s not my job to answer. I’ve got my own dreams.

Gavin Wade
January 2005

Click to download Gavin Wade’s full text Tony T (Spectator T)

Gavin Wade is an Artist-Curator and ACE Research Fellow in Curating at the University of Central England. His work has developed from structures within exhibitions for ‘supporting’ the work of others to a broader enquiry into responding to and generating new sites for art, resulting in projects looking at collaboration and the public space. Current projects include Support Structure Phase 1-6 (with architect Celine Condorelli) (2003-5) which is an RSA Art for Architecture project evolving over 6 sites across the UK (www.supportstructure.org); and Strategic Questions (2002-2007), an ongoing series of 40 projects in 40 publications including 32. What is Harmonic? (2003) with Bill Drummond, Duncan McLaren and Simon Wood for Sharjah Biennial, UAE and 16. What is brain? (2005) with Henrik Schrat at Kunstlerhaus Bethanian, Berlin. Previous curated projects include Nathan Coley: Black Tent, (2003) Portsmouth Cathedral; STRIKE (2002) (adjusted by Liam Gillick) Wolverhampton Art Gallery; 3in1, (2001) Nylon, London; Let’s Get To Work, (2000-2001) San Francisco, Harrisburg & Philadelphia; Nathan Coley & Bas Jan Ader (2001) Vilma Gold, London; Curating In The 21st Century (2000) (editor) The New Art Gallery Walsall; Dave Beech: Watch Out For The Agoraphobic Saviours of Mankind (2000) Flag, London; In The Midst Of Things (1999) (with Nigel Prince), Bournville, Birmingham; Hello..clk..bzz..whrr..Nice To Meet You (1999) (with Kathrin Böhm) Nuremberg; and Kling Klang, (1998) HMS Plymouth, Birkenhead.Born 1971, lives and works in Birmingham, UK.

Download related texts:

Art & Language’s ‘Painting by Mouth’

Dave Beech’s ‘Towards an Alphabet of Cultural Rivalry’

'Sunday Afternoon at the Mappin Gallery' article in Evening Star, August 2nd, 1887

Transcripts from the Spectator T Symposium, which took place as part of the programme on 28 October 2005

All files are in .pdf format. You will require a PDF reader to read them.

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