Having visited ATELIER PUBLIC on Saturday I realise one visit will never be enough to interpret the situation. Although the aspects that are easy to appreciate such as the study area at the back of the gallery, photographed above, and the decision to place unpainted plinths and shelves around the presentation space are helpful ways to frame the experience for the viewer: this felt like a place for ideas, with potential.
The print-outs and wall vinyls highlight the questions being explored - what art is or can be and its value, authorship, social inclusion and encouraging children to be involved in art, the role of the curator, documentation... A multitude of questions, which are each valid, but they caused me some difficulty when combined with other curatorial decisions which on first impression don't quite fit with the outlined intentions of the exhibition.
Firstly, to offer as art supplies multi-coloured tapes, papers, plastics, lollipop sticks and plasticine is something I struggled to understand. On the one hand, this may make the workshop space more accessible to children, but on the other hand it develops a very strong aesthetic, and scale, which makes it difficult for any maker/player/artist to express themselves freely. The exhibition space has a cartoon feel with people attaching faces, animals and seascapes to the wall, or writing slogans. These act as distinct pieces of work that don't act together. I think the materials are too limiting.
Secondly, there is a slight tension in the decision to invite artist contributors - if you are suggesting that children's play potentially creates art, and you are asking viewers to appreciate it/join in etc. then does it undermine the non-artist artists to invite these artist contributors? What is their value? What is their purpose/role?
Perhaps as time goes on, and as the contributing artists appear, the space will take on different guises. Given further time to evolve, and to create a space to fully consider the outlined questions (rather than simply a workshop place to play) ATELIER PUBLIC may get somewhere very interesting. I hope it is given the freedom to do this.
ATELIER PUBLIC is open until Jan 15th 2012.