It is hard to resist the pull of the Major Spaces, with their merry-go-round of budding stars, market values, glossy press packs and VIP openings, all made possible by an impressive infrastructure of brightly-lit spaces, cavernous storage areas, pokey curatorial offices and bored attendants. But could it be that bigger and more, does not always mean better? The ingenious solution proposed by Look Gallery is an exhibition space inside a custom-designed peephole on an apartment door, with a simple pair of headphones expanding the possibilities from photography and film to sound works and beyond. Describing itself as a ‘minor gallery with major ambitions’, Look, which wittily is translated as Luk or hole in Hungarian, could be seen as part of a wider artistic trend of exodus from over-institutionalised galleries, towards marginal spaces that offer more freedom for experimentation and potentially less alienation.
We were struck by the fact that despite its small size, Look can be considered a ‘social sculpture’. The gallery is to be found in a communal hall in front of flats on the fourth floor of an elegant Pest apartment block and getting in can involve unexpected interactions with the residents, who behave like voluntary exhibition guides. When we went to see the gallery, it was only after a prolonged conversation that we managed to persuade a middle-aged lady to buzz us into the building. She followed us up a few minutes later, both to check we weren’t burglars, and to gauge our reactions, telling us that the space is ‘much busier at openings’ and checking we’d watched the whole film. The whole time she wore a half-smile, not sure how seriously this youthful endeavour should be taken, but clearly proud that her building is now home to an avant-garde artistic experiment.
Tucked away in a discreet fold of everyday existence and dependent on the goodwill of a face-to-face community, Look has the advantage of freedom from the constraints of profitability and a healthily low ecological footprint. As a genuinely non-profit venture, they neither own a collection, nor buy or sell art, and only accept support with no strings attached. Look is also more tangible than, for example, an online gallery, in that there actually is a space with its own particular characteristics and social context and your appreciation of the work is not distorted by the technological constraints of a web browser. The parameters of Look pose an interesting challenge for artists, to come up with innovative ways of using a peephole as a window on an inner world, encouraging viewers to explore the boundless space of their own imagination.
Their current show is Sébastien Maloberti’s Atelier/Soft Machine, which is a video work that lies between fiction and documentary, and is set in the artist’s studio as he prepares for an exhibition. The repetitive action of drilling wooden boards becomes a hallucinatory kaleidoscope pattern that periodically interrupts a static view of a barren and half-empty room. Mixing organic and orgasmic references, the artist’s drill dances to The Blue Danube waltz, conjuring up a dazed dream state somewhere between the values of entertainment and industrialism. Atelier/Soft Machine is viewable until 1 June by arrangement, or subject to the benevolence of the neighbours.