Andy Abbott’s A Serious Waste of Time is part of the Art in Unusual Spaces project which uses vacant spaces in Leeds for artistic purposes. In this case, the Unusual Space is a single story industrial unit in the Marshall’s Mill complex in Holbeck.
The works on show (a selection of videos, photographs, prints and audio pieces) have all been developed from the artist’s leisure activities, hobbies, or his hanging around; an acknowledgement of the fact there are still spaces in our lives not driven by materialistic desires and capitalist imperatives.
I only happened upon the show by chance on my way elsewhere. I was very interested by much of what was there, but sadly had nowhere near enough time to look properly. But I do love maps, charts and tables of statistics, and catching sight of a few tempting pieces along these lines, I was drawn in and decided it was all worth being a bit late for the next part of the day.
Homeward Unbound was particularly absorbing. It mapped the artist’s homes through the years and tabulated in a wonderfully detailed and intricate fashion his memories over the same period alongside the environmental prompt for each memory. Tables of statistics analysed the whole by reference to the source, nature, age etc., and it was an anorak’s delight.
I also loved the audio pieces. A lute arrangement of Deep Purple, anyone? (I think I read that right, but I’m happy to be corrected if I’m not. An impromptu flying visit to an exhibition when under time pressure means pretty useless notes)
My only quibble was with the photos, which were a focal point of the room upon entering. They were okay; but just not quite good enough for their prominent position. To the extent they illustrated the audio pieces, I could see why they had been included, but I would have been as happy with a contour map for this purpose.
It raises an interesting question for me about the role of more traditional art forms such as photography being shown alongside, and as an integral part of, thoughtful and well-executed conceptual work. I find I tend to focus on the aesthetic qualities of the photo, or painting, or drawing, or whatever it may be as a separate aspect entirely, and judging the success or otherwise of the piece in much more traditional aesthetic terms. And when this happens, I often end up feeling that two-dimensional imagery is just a bit less ‘considered’ in a conceptual role. In other words, without the conceptual support framework, it would not stand alone well. Not always, of course. But just a bit too often for me. Maybe to a lot of people it just doesn’t matter. And in the case of A Serious Waste of Time, it’s no more than a really really small quibble which I’ve used as a springboard to raise a bigger issue which has bugged me for a while.
I really wish A Serious Waste of Time was on for another week. I would have loved to have spent much much longer there.