I visited the Ikon Gallery in 2011 to see Stuart Whipps’ installation ‘Uncatagorised Boxes’. The work was eluding to the short-lived architectural culture of Birmingham. Architect John Madin saw more than one of his buildings get demolished in his lifetime, and all the remains are the archives of the plans for them. Paper has outlived the brick.
What is the purpose of Stuart Whipps’ work? I think it is curiosity of the archive: what is inside these boxes? Viewers to Whipps’ work are left unknowing. But these boxes hold part of the landscape of Birmingham’s past. In an interview with This is Tomorrow Whipps’ says that “the message there is the best thing that could happen is that people go through these,” therefore to encourage activity with public archives. That said, having an exhibition in an Art Gallery which limits the amount of people Whipps can speak to with his work, I wonder whether this space was the right place for the message.
I have the catalogue for this exhibition and in it there is an accompanying essay by Catherine O’Flynn. She suggests that “archives are not accustomed to the public gaze, concealment is one of its defining features” this idea of hidden archives not only reinforces the purpose of Whipps’ work but also makes me reconsider what archives should be defined as now that they are having more of an open presence with the distribution on the web.