Why and how we receive information were recurring themes this Saturday. In front of Ways the World Ends, we marveled at the ability humans have to create such far-fetched explanations and how fantastic the scientific theory sounds. That so many narratives can exist at one time makes me feel a little giddy. Their coexistence in the space overwhelmed me, mirroring the process some of us experience when making sense of our own beliefs: lots of thoughts vying for attention and not always being able to think clearly.
Moving over to Intelligence, our conversation turned to how sometimes people are looking to reinforce a set of beliefs already held, be they about personality, star sign, or in the case of Condoleezza Rice, gender. We talked of how seductive astrology can be, despite most of us knowing it isn't real. Where we find our information is crucial too, for example relying solely on the Media for your facts generally leads to inaccuracy and distorted reality.
One of the things I wanted to discuss with visitors was how different our view of the same thing can be. It's very easy to say I'm right and everyone else is mistaken, but how easy is it to take a step sideways and question our beliefs? A perfect opportunity to explore this arose when we looked at Messiah. Our Christian group member saw only benevolence and joy, ordinary men in humble surroundings celebrating the Word of The Lord, whereas others including myself admitted to finding it rather oppressive. Claire referenced Angel by Mark Wallinger when talking about the paradoxes she saw in the work. The atmosphere became a little charged as we discussed whether or not Christianity was just another way to interpret past, present and future. Most agreed with Judith that Grayson observes each belief system rather than sitting in judgment. Alice diffused the tension when she said how important it was to have such work displayed in order to discuss these difficult and important issues. I agree; walking round the show I have been amazed at how quickly people have been willing to talk candidly about very challenging topics.
It felt like the openness in the gallery had paved the way for a very broad and enjoyable discussion over tea on the top floor. Here are just a few of the topics we touched on:
Why Richard Grayson had subtitles in Messiah and The Golden Space City of God - was it a play on the power of The Word?
Facebook and how once you have written words there, you lose power over them.
How important it is to have challenging exhibitions in the provinces, vibrant galleries along the South Coast and touring exhibitions such as Artist's Rooms. Claire told us how she was part of a group who were raising the profile of arts locally in Surrey.
The pressure some visitors feel to have the "right" response to an exhibition. Claire was particularly interested in the importance of language; how at times what is written about the work can seem elitist and confusing rather than communicate clearly.
Arthur Koestler, individual versus group needs, tribalism, cults, the need to belong.
Judith talked about the importance of (not) expressing an opinion and the value in being an observer.
How art is taught in schools and Universities and the unrealistic expectations of art graduates leaving college.
Comments that caught my eye at the back of the gallery:
Don't judge a man 'til you've walked a mile in his shoes. After that who cares? He's a mile away and you have his shoes...
Don't try to be a second version of someone else, be the first version of yourself.
Answer the question but question the answer.
The last word goes to Wendy, one of our Invigilators. She told me that despite all potential for controversy, the overwhelming response to the show from visitors has been "the importance of love, peace, sharing and humanity".
My thanks to everyone who took part and shared their ideas so generously. Apologies for any omissions or inaccuracies. Please feel free to add your own thoughts and comments