Gerry Bibby, Public
In Public, the Australian Gerry Bibby forces art to look outside. The whole area of Maumaus’ Lumiar Cité is somehow turned inside out and the exhibition is geared towards the exterior, taking advantage of the gallery’s glass walls.
Since the space itself seems to have been peeled to reveal its own constructive process – the bricks, the cement, the pipes, the noticeable poles –, Jürgen Bock (artistic director) welcomes yet again an artist that makes perfect sense in that kind of environment.
Gerry Bibby lives in Berlin and his work is mainly focused on sculpture, which he combines with a very unique vision of architecture, with performances and texts (which even include the release of a fiction book), building installation that often, and Public is one of these, raise questions about how one experiences the space, particularly what is public and what is private.
Lumiar Cité opens itself to the outside, displaying Bibby’s works so that they can be seen through the glass walls, from both streets where the space is found. Even if we had decided not to go in, we would see the works nonetheless. But Bibby doesn’t want that and gives us a different experience of the works when we enter, particularly on the top floor.
There, two pieces of the Park Life series (2004 – ongoing) adapt park benches so that we can sit and look at the outside. These benches carry with them the memory of a previous use, since they seem to have been pulled from somewhere, and their concrete still displays incrusted shells, reminiscences of some unspecific coast. Throughout the whole façade leading to Alameda da Música (where only the top floor has a façade), six white hotplates make up Hot Spots (2018). These plates are seen from the outside (both their sides are equal), but produce heat. This heat is only enjoyed by those inside the gallery. In other words, the work opens itself to the outside (and the park benches emphasize this intention), but the comfort traits are kept on the inside. On the façade leading to Rua Tomás del Negro, 1.2.3 (2018) he repeats this device, but the impact on the visit is not the same, since we cannot get that close to the plates to actually feel the heat. Bibby establishes a duplicity: on the outside we see the plates, the gallery’s interior and its visitors who, in turn, enjoy the heat from the plates, and they can also see the people outside. It’s a bit like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window: what we see from and to the window is not always what we actually observe.
Next to the entrance, which assumes itself as the showcase, we have Public (2018), from which the exhibition’s name derives, a piece that, once again, points to the interior, even though it is looking outside. There is a whole row of indoor furniture and stacked and packed house appliances, still wrapped in a tight mesh net, which leads us to a moment of non-perception of the interior space and its equipment, that is, the moments of change. The mesh only allows us to have a glimpse into the objects, forcing us to spend some time contemplating and differentiating them.
Public is the outcome of an artistic residency of Gerry Bibby under Maumaus’ International Artists in Residence Programme and translates an artistic policy (and Gerry Bibby has been politically active) based on conceptualism and the avoidance of easy consumption. Public has to be seen and thought for a while and only then is absorbed. It forces the visitor to make an introspection to enjoy it later and, somehow, remotely.