An occasional table does not have a fixed use. Lacking the clear function of the dining, coffee or bedside varieties, it can be understood as a decorative piece of furniture of varied use. In the recent programme at TG, the ‘Occasional Table’ is both the title of an expanded exhibition and a presentation device for the work contained within it. This ‘Occasional Table’ frames a series of six instalments in the gallery, and in keeping with its more domestic namesake it is used in varied ways – ignored, deconstructed and even removed.
The ‘Occasional Table’ is a somewhat slippery object; it shape-shifts, and changes form. It was not designed for this exhibition series, but rather existed previously with a different identity. Whilst undertaking his MFA in Glasgow in 2012, Tom Godfrey – now Director of TG – originally conceived the table as an artwork. It is constructed so that the steel legs slide back and forth along each other to determine the dimensions of the supported glass tabletop. Akin to the blades of a camera aperture, the separate parts of the table frame work in unison to change the size of the surface. Repurposed for this serial exhibition display, all the work can be looked at through this lens.
‘Chora’ conceived by Géraldine Beck and Benjamin Rosenthal had originally been an ‘event around writing’ at Forde in Geneva. The scrappy, fleshy nature of a live event when condensed into the more static gallery form provokes an inevitable sharpening of form. Many of the texts were emailed, printed off and – as though ignoring the available table surface – pasted onto the walls. Here the ‘Occasional Table’ functions as a somewhat unwelcome guest, its awkward legs jutting out into the room, providing an obstacle as you perambulate the gallery reading the texts. The sharp display is undercut by the somewhat impalpable writing, and disturbed further by the introduction of archival and performative material – as Miriam Laura Leonardi’s sound recording from the original event plays once a day, and Georgia Sagri’s ‘What Is Mycorial Theater?’ is distributed by hand to each visitor.
For Dan Arps the tabletop was reduced dramatically in size, functioning as a plinth for a single sculpture – an oddly comic turkey-ornament surrounded by three wall reliefs, all cast in polyurethane resin. With this reduction the table legs stick out further, creating four segments around the bird that people stand within, as though to critique the work as its convex base teeters on the glass surface. With our backs to the other three wall-based works, it is striking that each instalment could focus solely on one object - an approach employed by Mel Franklin and Alex Pollard for their contribution, which comprised a phone face down on the table, as though casually strewn when returning home from work. However, rather than languishing without a user, the phone is actively hijacking any device within range (running iOS 8) to mine Bitcoins on the artists’ behalf. This ‘queen’ phone – adorned in its custom copper-coated case – turns other devices into unknowing workers.
For Patricia L Boyd the table support has gone altogether, and we are left with the glass tabletop – now at the maximum size the table can extend to – pressing her photograph against the wooden gallery floor. This large image dominates, presenting an initially indiscernible pale surface with two darker shapes at either edge. This pale surface is in fact skin – the back of the artist, with discolouration caused by cupping (an alternative medicine where suction is created on the skin to promote healing). The choice of installation connects the work back to the absent support structure, and draws attention to the surface of the gallery itself. In direct contrast, cancan sur la coin used the deconstructed table support (without the glass) to create a semi-theatrical space. Black material draped from the ceiling down the steel frame created an x-shaped division of the gallery; offering a series of spaces that you encountered as you moved around each drape. With light provided by a single candle, each space became increasingly difficult to visually navigate. Brandy snifters balanced on upturned tankards cast shadows that look like figures with hands on hips. Mannequin legs wearing jeans in the dim light. A sequence of disjointed body parts.
The final instalment looped back to the first, by presenting a live event in the gallery – a performance by Jan Vorisek. The table’s surface collects an assortment of objects – items either brought by the artist, or found during his week in Nottingham – various types of metal, found material, an oversized plastic peanut shell, a single bell. Light shines through the table causing the objects to cast shadows within the projected image on the wall and ceiling. The soundtrack crackles and sirens stretch out, as we watch vehicles pass by. Some form of banal road observation combined with audio-cinematic tension – endless roads and tunnels, bathed in the yellow glow of streetlights at night. Vorisek picks up handfuls of material from the table, tangled metal and discarded objects, separating them out, and reorganising them across the table surface. A speaker without its casing pulled across the tabletop accumulates metal, a mirror balanced on top, items piled up totem-like, as though some sci-fi ritual to bring the event to a close.
Seriality is a structure that Tom Godfrey has used previously – whether ‘Marbled Reams’ or ‘Keep floors and passages clear’ – to hold together disparate artistic practices. However the ‘Occasional Table’ seems less rigid in structure, a prompt that is as supportive as it is disruptive – there to be ‘used’ or discarded as each artist desired. In this way, the object is rescued from becoming a quirky presentation device – a gimmick – through the artists’ varied use. Within this structure, certain decisions stand out, surprises occur. But it also brings with it an odd weight, as though each element is not quite an exhibition in itself, but a relation to another element in the series, which leaves certain questions about how these tentative connections might inform the future programme of the gallery.