Marc Bauer talks us through his 2017 Frieze Project
The artist explains why he has brought a little bit of Peckham, South London, to the entrance of this year’s fair
The Frieze Art Fair might be being staged in Regent's Park 5-8 October, beside some of the British capital’s most luxurious tracts of real estate. Yet this year’s visitors will also catch a glimpse of a less salubrious London neighbourhood.
For his 2017 Frieze Project, the Swiss artist Marc Bauer has created a series of monochrome drawings for the entrance hall of the fair, in collaboration with a group of teenagers from Peckham, south London. Organised by the Peckham Platform community art gallery, the works, as Bauer explains, examine how life in this modest part of London is changing, thanks to gentrification.
How you do describe your art to people who have never seen it before? My work is, to speak generally, about the representation of history and memory through the slow process of drawing. Drawing is an attempt to understand the reality around me – this can be historical events that maintain a link to the present, a social context that I want to explore, or my personal history. I am interested in how history influences one’s personal history.
I often work in series, with quite a large number of drawings, to create an extended narrative, or to deal with the historiography of a specific topic. I develop drawings on different kinds of supports, drawings on paper, wall drawings, as well as on aluminium, tapestry, ceramic – and animation films. I also like to collaborate with people from other fields, like musicians, craftsmen, philosophers, or here for the Frieze Projects, with the young people from the Peckham Platform.
Could you describe your Frieze Project? I’ve created an installation for the hallway at the entrance; it is all work on paper and above the corridor. High up on a wall facing the entrance, there is a wall drawing. I’ve been involved in a collaboration with Peckham Platform where I gave a series of workshops for young people and did some research about Peckham – how the neighbourhood has changed and developed over the last 15 years. I was interested to understand how the shift of a neighbourhood from stigmatised to kind of trendy can affect and shape our personal identities.
What were your workshops like? The youth workshop was focused on gender, identities and communities.We met with the group from Peckham Platform every two weeks for an hour and a half, and in that time we made some drawings, masks and photos, and all the while we spoke about identities, communities, gender, sexism. It was important for me to create a space where they could express, discuss, and share their experiences in a very quiet and respectful framework.
Was there anything that really pleased you? I was very impressed with the intensity of their concentration; they were so calm and articulate with their ideas and the ways that they find to express themselves.
Why is this work on a wall? I suppose we think of graffiti or murals when we think of wall drawings? Since my work is located in the entrance hallway, there are a number of restrictions specific to that location that I had to work within. I wanted to give the visitors the sensation of being in a totally different place for the first 20 meters. It is meant to be an immersive installation, the walls covered, a carpet and above you, and wall drawings. If you think of the walls as sheets of white paper, then there’s an incredible range of possibilities. One can take freely from every style and aesthetic.
How is drawing on walls different from drawing on a piece of paper, both from the point of view of the artist, and the point of view of the gallery goer? I now have a long practise of wall drawings, and they work differently than the works on paper because they are integrated into architecture, and what’s more, you create these large images with almost no material - just charcoal and crayons. So with very simple and low-key tools you can have a great impact, I am very interested in drawings for this reason.
This work also has a different impact in the gallery, since visitors can experience an idea of time’s dimensionality: a large-scale drawing takes a lot of time to create, so one is standing in front of an image that demands a certain amount of time and work to produce - and that will be erased at the end of the show. So you can only experience it in situ, then it is gone.
How is that different from a conventional gallery setting? The biggest difference is that the Frieze art fair is like a gigantic exhibition, with so much art to see and discover and actually to buy, so it ‘s certainly difficult to grab the visitor’s attention, even more so at the entrance.
In a conventional gallery the public has chosen more pointedly to come to see your work, or sees it in the context of a group show. Here at Frieze, the public has many different and divergent interests and possibilities, so many different works, from a broad range of eras and styles. But in my experience, the public that visits an art fair is generally very open and excited to discover new artists and works.