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Sonya Greenwood
September 8th, 2010

Unrealised Potential at the Cornerhouse

by Sonya Greenwood

The Unrealised Potential exhibition logoAt the weekend I finally had the chance to go to the Cornerhouse and view an exhibition called Unrealised Potential. This is a collaborative group exhibition brought about by artist-curator Mike Chavez-Dawson. The show is an active investigation into the potential of unrecognised, unfinished or unfulfilled ideas, blurring the lines between artist, curator, visitor and producer.

Back in 2003, Mike Chavez-Dawson presented a series of certificates under the title, ‘Potential Hits’. Each certificate stated the name of the individual artist, the title and idea of an unrealised exhibition. Chavez-Dawson then invited a number of contemporary artists to contribute to Potential Hits by answering the following:

‘If there was one show you had always wanted to see happen what would it be?’

‘Are you prepared to trust someone else to realise it?’

‘Will they invest in our vision?’

An image of the Unrealised Potential Project at the Cornerhouse, Manchester. Photograph by Sam ElyNow in 2010 revisiting the original project, Mike Chavez-Dawson with artists Sam Ely and Lyn Harris, co-founders of Unrealised Projects present a gathered collection of over 60 artists’ unfulfilled proposals. Visitors are given the opportunity to become producers themselves by purchasing the right to realise a leading artist’s dream project.

The exhibition begins in Gallery 1, here you will find painted deep blue walls with white vinyl copy, a table with a number of books containing all the collected unrealised ideas. And the series of certificates pinned around the gallery walls.

Once you start to read the certificates you are compelled to read through them all! I spent a good hour just reading through each one often chuckling at some of the somewhat unusual ideas. These were a few of the unrealised ideas that particularly caught my attention:

Artist: Megan Bell

Title: Here you go

A double-decker bus will be hired for one afternoon, complete with driver. While driving around the streets of London, I will life model (naked) upstairs at the front of the bus, while my favourite artists draw me. Artists include Paul Stone, Steve Palmer, Mike Chavez-Dawson, Nina Byrne, Len Horsey, Jane Chavez-Dawson, Alison Unsworth and Lawrence Ward. Others may be selected. The drawings will then be displayed together at an appropriate venue, i.e. gallery, Transport Museum or other mutually agreed location. While I prefer London, another city might possibly work. It just needs to be big and hectic. Cheers. I really hope it happens!

Artist: Harry Hill (Yes, the comedian)

Title: To recreate George Cruikshank’s the worship of Bacchus using known alcoholics.

Oh Binge Britain! So much to answer for!

As we all know alcohol is one of the principle causes of crime and social and family dysfunction. To celebrate the recent restoration of Cruikshank’s great cartoon let’s update it using images of alcoholics in the public eye. I’m sure those celebrities who have had their lives ruined by drink would be more than happy to pose to help highlight what teetotal George saw as the social damage of drink.

To view all the Unrealised Potential proposals pop along to the Cornerhouse or click here. You can purchase an idea and bring it to life, each Unrealised Potential proposal costs £50 and all sales are made on-line. Once you have purchased the idea you have up to two years to realise it. If you do not realise the work in that time, your right to realise it is then withdrawn.

Upstairs to gallery 2

After viewing gallery 1, you then go upstairs to gallery 2. Here you will find Liam Gillick’s unrealised proposal ‘Planta de Anodizado’ meaning ‘Aluminium plant’ in Spanish the first of the projects to become realised. Gillick’s original proposal was to exhibit and display all the products and services made by Mexican company LGD LUCK SA.

Unrealised Potential panorama shot of Gallery 2. Photograph by Paul Greenwood.

It was then when artists, Brian Reed and Len Horsey realised and reconceptualised the original idea by transforming the gallery space into a mock business trade fair, advertising the products and services of LGD LUCK SA. As well as the corporate aspect of the exhibition there is also an area that is supposed to resemble the plant workers environment behind a wall playing the company promotional video.

The exhibition is to portray a day in the life of the company. Apart from the Mexican companies corporate blue, and 2 airhostesses, you’ll see fictional promotional videos and products, you’ll also find geometric wall paintings derived from Mexican culture. The installation aims to reflect the current social and commercial climate in Mexico.

I’m afraid I didn’t fully appreciate this realised exhibition. Maybe this was due to the fact that I am not fully aware of Mexico’s current social and commercial issues or maybe it was because I found the exhibition a little too polished and also in parts confusing. I found there were lots of elements trying to work together and I could not see what the show was truly about because of the clean space, brightly painted walls and video installations. This is only my opinion and the whole point of the Unrealised Potential exhibition is for viewers to come along and interact with the shows and then for the viewer to make up his/her own mind.

Upstairs again to gallery 3

'What is wealth?' part of the Unrealised Potential exhibition. Photo by Brian SlaterNext you walk up stairs to gallery 3, where you will find the ‘What is Wealth?’ installation. This installation has come about by taking ‘Strategic Questions 2002 – 2010’ curated by Gavin Wade, which is an ongoing project to develop 40 projects in response to 40 questions written in 1966 by renowned 20th century inventor and visionary R. Buckminster Fuller. RELAX (chiarenza & hauser & co) a Zurich-based artist group have been commissioned and have produced ‘What is Wealth?’ the 29th question to be taken from the strategic questions.

In the waste room you are requested to ‘lose time’. There is an exchange cage, where you are invited to exchange something of wealth e.g. your laptop, credit card, or wedding ring etc and in return you can take a publication, video or picture (each publication, video and pictures tackles one of the questions) out of the cage and then sit on one of the salvaged chairs or stand and read through the publication. The item you exchange will be taken as a deposit and displayed in place of the exchanged object inside the locked cage.

There is also a part of the installation that is fenced off and behind the fence there are a number of past international political leaders. A video plays, showing different members of the general public being interviewed, they seem to be quite serious, passionate, and outspoken about their opinions. My interpretation of this part of the installation is to see how people can act and seem very similar when taking about something they strongly believe in.

The wheel of fortune at the Unrealised Potential exhibition. Photograph by Brian Slater.A wheel of fortune can be found on one of the walls. The idea behind this is to pick one of 2 ways to begin a sentence. You pick one and then spin the wheel of fortune, when the markers land on different words you have to decide whether you have won or not, and if you feel you have won you receive a free poster. Unfortunately my luck wasn’t in that day and I didn’t receive a poster.

To sum up

Overall this is a very interesting exhibition and offers the viewer a chance to take an idea and realise it, if you have the time pop along to the Cornerhouse to view all the unrealised ideas or alternatively visit here to purchase one. For all those of you who work at Red C you will find the Unrealised Potential newspaper in reception that is an extension to the Unrealised Potential on-going project and show.

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3 Responses to “Unrealised Potential at the Cornerhouse”

  1. avatar Harrington Says:

    Hi Sonya: Seems like a great way to spend the afternoon. Admittedly, I wouldn't even dare to try and make these ideas come true, but for what it's worth, am willing to shell out the 50 quids to help these exhibits continue :)

  2. avatar Reginald Says:

    I've spent a good two hours reading through the projects myself and my first idea was that it was all a matter of logistics. It was fairly simple to carry out some of the unrealised dreams… it was just a matter of coming up with the logistics for the whole thing to make it work.

  3. avatar GerardB Says:

    I think that it was a painstaking 7 years to get the original idea to its fruition, but if you think about it, this whole exhibit is an unrealised potential in itself. Kudos to Mike Chavez-Dawson for bringing it together!

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