Sheila Pell 8:30 a.m., Feb. 7
Nothing Happens Gallery
There is gallery in San Diego where nothing happens. No matter how good the submissions are, all art is rejected, and this is understood. This guaranteed rejection policy is a central idea behind the Nothing Happens Gallery - that and the fact that all submissions are buried in a hole after a review is filmed.
Based on it's rejection policy, you might think this gallery is located in an expensive neighborhood and is owned by snobby curators who take themselves way too seriously. But it is not. The gallery essentially is a hole, in the back yard of Sean Francis Conway's home in Fairmont Village (City Heights), east of the 15 freeway. The documentation however, lives on the internet.
"As I am rejecting everything, I am simultaneously honoring every art work by showing it on the website," says Conway, curator of Nothing Happens Gallery.
"It is really enjoyable to receive art from people and get to look at it and think about it... then be done with it and bury it," explains Conway via electronic communication.
Although Conway is rejecting people's art and filming it, he is not exploitative. Instead, the process is meant not only as a subversive gesture critiquing the structure behind art galleries, but also as an examination of the entire structure of contemporary human life itself, I think.
"I am trying to be sincere and hope people submit good work... and for them they might ask 'why am I doing this at all' because it will be buried and destroyed. It points a little bit at why anyone does anything at all because it is ultimately futile, especially making art objects," admits Conway.
I suppose one day each one of us will end up in a hole. Seriously though, what will the future alien archeologists think when they dig up our remains? Hopefully they will stumble across the gallery-hole and find Mary-Anne's binary message made in yarn, so they can use it as a Rosetta Stone and decipher our crude computer languages to reconstruct the internet.
Update: A gallery reception occurred at Nothing Happens Gallery on October 5th, with a handful of humans in attendance. A spread of cheeses, decorative snacks, and wine were laid out, the way many art openings do it. Since I was very curious about Mary-Anne's string piece Conway dug through the gallery a bit and pulled it out. It snapped - we paused for a moment. Crap, did I just play a part in the death of this "beautiful thing" for the sake of online local media? When I inquired whether or not the rules had been broken by digging into the gallery, Conway said he was not sure and smiled.
Amazingly there have been many other submissions, and Conway plans to review a new one each Monday.
Conway is a performer/sound artist who founded the experimental marching band Bombshell Boom Boom(!) and curates the Bad Music Night at Victory Theater. He also gave a TEDx talk and got hundreds of people to play balloon bassoons in unison via a practice known as soundpainting.
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