Rachel Magdeburg reviews Juneau Projects’ Makers of the Multiverse commissioned by Spacex
Tired of niche proposal writing? Another exhibition declined? Juneau Projects’ Makers of the Multiverse (13 May – 10 June 2017), commissioned by Spacex, Exeter, refreshingly offset this. An open call by collaborative artists Ben Sadler and Phil Duckworth requested multiples, saleable to the public for under £50 with at least two in each edition. The application process was relaxed, wide-ranging and met with a ‘yes.’
This open-door helped artists, designers and makers create commission free earnings. Juneau Projects maximised their opportunity and multiplied the benefactors, which typifies their work. They generate opportunities whereby participation isn’t an obligatory tick-box afterthought or to satisfy funders, but an integral part of the work.
For Makers of the Multiverse, Juneau Projects considered the selling process and encouraged submissions that deepened the relationship between maker and prospective customer. By delivering a live element, makers became their own PR; engagement fostering sales.
I visited Makers of the Multiverse on its opening weekend, coinciding with Art Week Exeter (see Maddy Hearn’s review). On Exeter Quayside, Juneau Projects had converted a hired shipping container into a temporary ‘pavilion’ to contain the submissions. This cor-ten steel symbol of Capitalist standardisation in internationally transporting goods, was a wry, washed ashore selection, functioning as shop, sculpture, event venue, place of social interaction and DIY art market.
The laser-cut, but handmade-looking painted icons that adorned the ‘pavilion,’ provided a cue to what was inside, much like a Pharmacist’s green cross indicates its trade. A wonky jug, a Frank Stella-esque striped-hexagon, chunky beads, a potted succulent, all in jazzy block colours, promised affordable purchases. John Lewis’ current window displays of cactus cut-outs, are uncannily similar. This relationship to popular culture and graphic design’s vectored forms makes Juneau Projects’ work visually appealing and accessible to a wide audience.
Juneau Projects are interested in what people create and why. The answer lay inside the ‘pavilion,’ and on entering the waft of artisan soaps aroused my nostrils, like fresh bread smells supermarkets deviously pump out. OSB shelves stacked items from over 70 artists, designers and makers, from professional artists, hobbyists, to Exeter School of Art students and collectives: CDs, vinyl, totes, prints, games, postcards, glasswork, paper fortune tellers, ceramics, textiles, zines, woodwork, jewellery, tarot cards etc. The stock was replenished and new products added, following typical visual merchandising tactics. The jumbling of craft, illustration, design and conceptual art was non-hierarchical, spanning harbour scenes to terrifying Devonshire oak garden devils. Some highlights included; Phil Root’s (The Grantchester Pottery) ceramic candle holders; Behind the X (Daniel James Wilkinson from X Marks the Bökship) I AM A BORE badges; Clare Bryden’s ‘Little colouring books of climate mindfulness’ and The Artist Tea Towel Company’s designs.
Customary workshops such as bookbinding and cyanotype printing were programmed alongside more baffling offerings such as Lucy Patrick’s ‘Pools of Colour Puddle Readings.’ Lucy used the performance to promote her bottles of Eau d’ Exeter, drinkable filtered water collected from 48 nearby puddles.
The project accrued just under £1,700 in sales, direct to the makers. Different art forms sell in different ways and environments, from Frieze-like extravaganzas to Dutch vrijmarkt-style enterprises. On the opening Sunday, opposite Makers of the Multiverse, a market was selling paintings and prints by local artists, mainly landscapes, animals, portraits and the token female nude. This proximity to Juneau Projects’ work further antagonised the conversation between skill, quality, concept, professionalism, value, genres of art and art markets. These persisting questions were not answered by Juneau Projects’ work but happily tickled. They included everything and created a space whereby visitors could reassuringly enter, chat, buy, make something themselves and meet the makers. In total 462 people took part in activities. The social market proving to have value.