KARST

KARST is a non-profit art initiative in Plymouth that offers innovative curatorial projects […] in what is now a large and newly renovated exhibition space. It has its main support from the Arts Council England, Plymouth City Council and other localised initiatives in helping it to feature as an important contemporary arts space for the South West […]. KARST explores the expanded curatorial field by functioning as a venue for contemporary arts through selected and guest-curated projects. It is KARST’s aim to be connected to international contemporary art scene and networks by working with partner organisations, groups and individuals. ” – (KARST, 2012)
Nothing about KARST’s exterior discerns it as a gallery space at first glance, apart from the name spray-painted above the door, which of course would only be of use if one was searching out KARST’s location. Innovation is apparent in the exterior however, as KARST clearly sets itself apart from the presumed appearance of a gallery space, which seemed to connect well with Plymouth’s urban surroundings.
 
Fig 1. Exterior of KARST
The interior of KARST is highly reminiscent of the ‘White Cube’ gallery spaces we are now becoming traditionally used to seeing, however, industrial elements such as pillars clearly show KARST’s renovated past, which gives the space an element of character, and its urban ‘vibe’ enhances KARST’s contemporary setting.
Fig 2. KARST’S Interior
The show, ‘Multiple Choices’, provided a range of artworks, from sculpture to painting and video work. KARST describes the intentions of the show below;
“As contemporary artists are increasingly concerned about their role in society, the situations through which work has an audience, the conditions in which these experiences occur, and the discourses that stem forth, are key factors.  Some of the work in Multiple Choices documents the life of an artwork, or art ‘event’ which has permeated or contributed to public spheres.  Others reveal enquiries into fields distinct from art and culture. Even our engagement with this exhibition is primed to become part of the social processes already set in motion. […]” (KARST, 2012)
Fig 3. KARST’S ‘Multiple Choices’ show
“It is intended that there are many ways to draw strands of thought and meaning from one contribution to the next.  Although individually the topics are highly specialised, the web of experiences stimulated outside and within this intermingling exhibition, is sprawling; there are multiple choices.” (KARST, 2012)
One of the most immediately eye-catching works upon first glance was a large silhouetted image of a duck, by Oyvind Renberg & Miho Shimizu created directly upon the gallery wall. However, apart from being aesthetically beautiful, the piece did not seem to communicate much more.
A piece that over time held its own gravitation pull on viewers was a video installation by Ane Hjort Guttu, entitled Four studies of Oslo and New York. which was projected on to the gallery wall and featured a woman rising up in a lift, with the suggestion of being gleaned from the ‘golden era of Hollywood.’ It interested myself, as a viewer, though for uncertain reasons, perhaps it was pertaining to a personal interest in that particular era of American film. The possible allusion of the persistence of time and power were also subtle theme communicated to the viewer.
Fig 4. Video installation, by Ane Hjort Guttu entitled Four studies of Oslo and New York.
KARST communicates itself as a peaceful, passive viewing space. Viewers seemed to gravitate to a large beanbag in the gallery’s centre, the perfect vantage point to absorb the space. In our hectic everyday lives we are no longer used to seeing clean, unobstructed places, and this is central to the power of the gallery. White walls, light floor, and bright sky-light give the impress of purity, and in some ways become surreal like a place of sanctuary in the middle of a hectic world.
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