Exhibition preview: ‘Make This Space’

18 April 2013

We in the art section enjoy banging on about ways in which students can engage more with Cambridge’s art. Not merely divided between the Fitz and Kettle’s Yard, our town has a wealth of galleries and museums on offer. Well, now students are not just looking, they are throwing themselves into the chaotic world of temporary exhibitions, paintbrush in one hand, overzealous attitude in the other. Following the successes of the Christ’s Art Scholars’ show ‘subtitled’ and the Queens Art Fair, a new showcase ‘Make This Space’ is set to open shortly.

Run by students, for students, this is no standard exhibition with a few paintings plonked on the gallery walls. As co-organiser Charlotte Call states, “The show is about collaboration on all fronts, between the artist and the viewer. Interactive works will allow viewers to make a mark with ease, in an environment where marks are normally taken far too seriously.” The artists themselves are experimenting with space, getting to grips with how we as artists and audience move through and share it. Rejecting the pretentious jargon often associated with contemporary art, this show seeks to get people talking and playing around, which can only be a good thing in a term when students gradually retreat into their book-laden hermitages.

The exhibition itself is staged in a disused salesroom, rejecting the unwelcoming white interiors of most contemporary galleries. This is the new permanent location for ‘Changing Spaces’, an organisation that strives to foster emerging talent while also providing a space where viewers feel comfortable to question what they see. Previously home to ‘Wallace King Interiors’, the gallery now adds a new dynamic to the seemingly everyday objects within. In its previous guise one would expect to see sofas, chairs and beds ready for testing. Now in an art setting, when confronted by a bed does one simply stare? Tentatively skirt around it? Or perhaps take Yuan Chai and Jian Jun Xi’s approach to Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ and have a raucous pillow fight?

Rather than sternly dictating how we should experience the rooms, ‘Make This Space’ leaves it up to us. This gives the audience an unusually important role, particularly at a university where the theatre scene generally leaves the fourth wall intact. Call sees the two forms as creative rivals, hoping that “creating art can become a viable alternative to theatre, which currently scratches almost all of our creative itches.”Whatever the result, this exhibition looks like a refreshing alternative in the Cambridge cultural circuit.

Miranda Bain

Image – Felix Faire