Occasionally, during a gallery install, someone might sand back a little too vigorously into the wall, or drill a deep hole and years worth of painting and plastering suddenly reveal themselves, provoking everyone in the room to reflect on the way a whole exhibition history is embedded in the fabric of the walls.
Do gallery floors hold similar histories? The concrete floor at CCP where I work is certainly a palimpsest, a gathering and embedding of dark stains and traces of gallery white paint that didn’t get washed off in time. Then there’s TCB art Inc’s tiled floor, a bit-part character in every exhibition there. The wooden floor in Gertrude Contemporary’s Studio 12 creaks and groans when I walk across it.
When it relocated to its new digs in Bourke Street, West Space’s herringbone-patterned wooden floor was a hot topic at the opening party. It was remarked upon, admired. It was fit for a museum! It was too beautiful, too much. It seemed to symbolise some kind of significant change, the exact nature of which was difficult to articulate. But it was exciting, nonetheless. One of the early exhibitions in the new space, Untitled Project #1 (Concrete Boat) featured a concrete boat constructed by Ross Coulter, Michael Ciavarella and Alex Ippoliti. The boat, a dark, roughly-hewn grey, sat on a heavy tilt on the herringbone floor – which was a funny thing to apprehend, given herringbone’s relationship to the skeletons of fish. And at that early stage of West Space’s Bourke Street phase, it still seemed kind of exciting to think about the damage you could do to that beautiful floor with concrete’s wet, weighty mass.
In October this year, I visited Lisa Radford’s exhibition with Kati Rule, c. At Sea, Before Dinner. Kati’s wax sculpture sat on the floor in the big gallery space lined by windows, with objects concealed in it. Nearly two years after the boat, the floor had drifted back into the fabric of the space and I barely saw it as I peered into the waxy shard.
Then, a few weeks later I saw the floor bathed in coloured light from those windows, courtesy of Taree Mackenzie and Ronen Becker. Oblongs shifting across the floor. Yellow and red. And the floor became alive again.