NOVEL presents a new mode of storytelling at A Plus A in Venice

A plus A gallery in Venice presents the show Exercises in Style. Curated by NOVEL, it includes works by Helen Cammock, Keren Cytter, Anthony D Green, Loretta Fahrenholz, RB. Kitay, Ghislaine Leung, Bob van der Wal. On until 5th August.

Exercices in Style,  A plus A, Venice 2019

The exhibition was presented in concomitance with this year’s Biennale by NOVEL, a nomad association for curatorship. As always with A plus A gallery, the approach was innovative and experimental– an exercise, in style. 

Anthony D Green, ‘Face Unit #1’ & ‘Face Unit #2’, (2019), Exercices in Style, Exhibition view A plus A, Venice 2019

The style here occupies several levels, becoming not only an aesthetic exercise but, even more, a narrative. Stories develop on the walls. A seductive, intriguing storytelling becomes stronger and stronger on the way, becoming almost excessive, irritating. A story’s power belongs to the speaking subject but also to the listening one, stuttering in the instantaneous and capricious rapport between them. We are left to wonder what role have we been assigned here– beholders or creators… or both?

Bob van der Wal, ‘Study Notes’, (2016 -ongoing) Graphite and ink on paper. Exercices in Style, Exhibition view A plus A, Venice 2019

Sedition and rumour strip a story to the minimal. It makes it easier to pass around in complexity until it no longer resembles its original form; a reminder that perhaps there is no difference between what a story is about and how it is told. Yet at the end of the tale, we do not find ‘the real’. Truth, after all, is always that of the masters or colonizers. It is indeed the art of story-telling that gives the false the power which forges memory, a legend, a monster. A process, whereby, ideas take form through an exchange continuously copied incompletely, again and again.

Helen Cammock, ‘There’s a Hole in the Sky Part II; Listening to James Baldwin‘, (2016) HD video, 11’ 10’ I Exercices in Style, Exhibition view A plus A, Venice 2019

Exercises in Style seeks divergent plots and narratives, giving space to performative encounters, investigating the stories and their tellers. Here, a page of text, poster, slideshow and painting need not be read in linear time, but absorbed in a glance, inhaled with the weight of sounds, haptic aesthetic forms, variations, streaming, spiralling – no longer constructing empathy between representation and human subjects but amplifying connections and impulses. The exhibition avoids singular storylines, coherent narratives, and the politics of representation, and calls instead for careful listening to the faintest signals of change. Here, the truth is not the mainstream one; the conquerors one. Here there is simply no truth, not unique and unambiguous one.

Bob van der Wal, ‘Tree Study (people and pets)’’, (2015-19) Metal, glass, printed photographs. Exercices in Style, Exhibition view A plus A, Venice 2019

Stories hang from the metallic branches of an artificial tree, whose roots end up in a mirrored mosaic-like bottle. Narratives navigate the walls in the form of comics projected around the space thanks to machines suspended at mid air. They suffocate the blue pages of a diary that covers three entire walls of the gallery.

Loretta Fahrenholz, ‘Story in Reverse’, (2018) 3-5-part slide installation Exercices in Style, Exhibition view A plus A, Venice 2019

Utilizing fiction and embodied experience for knowledge- and world-building, the participating artists deploy stories as social objects and images. What do these stories signal? Who can credibly tell them and when? How can we break dominant myths? And can we produce alternative stories? Why do we tell stories about and
through art, and for whom? What is the relationship between the stories we tell and the realities of history, power, and systemic violence? Is there an efficacy of confessional, and emotional modes of storytelling, as they appear alongside their analytical, philosophical, and political others.

NOVEL is an itinerant curatorial and publishing platform devised by Alun Rowlands and Matt Williams that draws together artists writing, texts and poetry that oscillate between modes of fiction and criticism. A cacophony of voices, that is the primary condition of writing, seek to break the habitual methods of representation and productions of subjectivity.

Here, publishing is an apparatus for knowledge capture, informed by theory, film, politics and storytelling; writing as a parallel practice, different, tangential; writing as political fiction; writing as another adventure on the ‘skin drive’, renegotiating unfulfilled beginnings or incomplete projects—that might offer points of departure. Amidst the insinuated narratives and materialized visions there is a concern for writing and the impossibility of fiction which is at stake. NOVEL asks us to think of writing as something distinct from information, as at least one realm of cultural production that is exempt from the encompassing obligation to communicate. NOVEL is distributed through events, readings and screenings which are staged at venues that become the loci for reading, with artworks and related films that augment the fiction of a scenario.

Exercises in Style Participating Artists: Helen Cammock, Keren Cytter, Loretta Fahrenholz, Anthony D Green, RB. Kitaj, Ghislaine Leung, Josef Strau, Bob van der Wal A Plus A Gallery 5th May — 7th August 2019

About Irene Machetti

Whenever there is an exhibition opening, expect to find me there, with a glass of wine in one hand, and my phone on the other, to take pictures and record my emotions. The rest of my life is spent studying art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and, especially, baking cakes and lasagne for my loved ones.