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The Agenda
Exchange Project 2
Exchange Project 3



In process

Meeting Josef Albers

Seats as arranged

Group portrait

Richard Layzell – The Exchange Project 3
Thursday 24 March 2005
Wednesbury Art Gallery

TK This will be an interview

RL Fire away, T

TK Why Wednesbury Art Gallery, sounds like a day of the week?

RL It was recommended by Trevor from The Public. It's in a place called Wednesbury. We had a look at the building last month.

TK But why?

RL It has unique qualities. A purpose-built art gallery to house the [now depleted] collection of Mrs Edwin Richards. Mr Edwin was a highly successful coach axle manufacturer and had a penchant for art collecting. Designed by West Bromwich architects Wood and Kendrick, it was made of pressed red brick and terracotta, including four heads on the façade of Wren, Newton, Reynolds and Flaxman. At the opening in 1891 "many houses of the town were decorated with flags and bannerettes", clearly a big event. Convinced?

TK I'd have to see it. So you're varying the venues for each Exchange then.

RL That's the plan. It reminds me of seeking out new venues for AIT's monthly communications meetings.

TK Is that the only parallel?

RL The events themselves are quite like the one hour meetings I used to run that were more about bringing a diverse group of people together than having an agenda.

TK Did you do some of the inviting this time?

RL Yes, quite successfully.

TK Part of the work?

RL I'm not sure.

TK Did you do the inviting at AIT?


TK Why?

RL It wasn't so practical, needed someone central to coordinate.

TK A woman by any chance?

RL I thought you were a post-feminist.

TK Keep thinking. So how did it go?

RL Fine. Anything in particular?

TK The food

RL Ready-made platters from a large supermarket.

TK Doesn't sound too inspiring.

RL Modest and varied.

TK Sufficient?

RL Yes

TK As art?

RL The food?

TK No, the event.

RL I explained the thinking behind it at the beginnig this time, the relationship to The Public, that it was my thing, not some kind of PR or research project about the new building [designed by London's Will Alsop rather than the now defunct Wood and Kendrick], that it was an art event not a meeting.

TK Does calling it art make it art?

RL Not that prickly chestnut.

TK Well?

RL You know I'm deliberately exploring borderline territory with all this art/work stuff. It's art and not art, without flagging itself as anti-art.

TK It's important to me to see it as art.

RL Why?

TK For your sake. To keep your feet on the ground. Stop you drifting off into a la-la land of vague social worthiness that's hard to comprehend.

RL But don't you think it's hard for people to accept this work as just art?

TK No I don't. You invite them. You set the tone. You make the thing happen. Of course it overlaps with ordinary life events, but it's your job to demarcate not obfuscate. This seems crucial or they won't know what they've been to or why.

RL Supposing they don't get it.

TK That's not your problem. Spelling it out in your terms is enough, and part of the intrinsic aesthetic.

RL And the group photo?

TK Likewise. And anything else you decide to introduce. They come from the root of the work, not from responding to need.

RL There has to be a bit of that.

TK Why?

RL For example, if no-one gets the point of receiving the group photo through the post.

TK If you really feel the need to follow-up why not do what Orit suggested and ask them what they made of it at a later date. But I wouldn't bother. Just invite them all back to the concluding big one in June or July. I sometimes think you've gone too much over to the other side. Was there an artistic high point today, by the way?

RL I led a tour of the galleries. In the main gallery the chairs were a centrepiece and arranged in opposite directions like a ziggurat. I asked everyone to fill these chairs, saying this may never have happened before. Then asked if anyone would play the nearby grand piano. As she played we savoured this Dada moment, which was far and away the highlight, artistic or not.

TK A highlight for them too?

RL I don't care, really. I guess everyone had their own highlight. For Simon the photographer it was reflections in the glass cases.

TK You see. Now you're talking.

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