I was never really happy with the word ‘art administrator’. It sounds so mundane, boring and uncreative. The fact is … sometimes it is indeed so! To maintain an exhibition, one often needs to count visitors, record room temperature, fill in forms, write reports, etc. And some days are duller than others.
[Did all fun people go to the beach today?! No one would like to talk about art with us. Tourists just come and go…They even ignore our ‘ciao’…What an ‘infinite nothing’… 今天有趣的人都去海灘了嗎？！沒幾個人和我們聊展覽，只有漫不經心的路人甲飄進飄出，連招呼都不應。真是無盡虛無誒……]
But other times, an art administrator could be faced with versatile tasks that really challenge one’s creative thinking and can-do attitude, which is almost like working in a circus. This is especially true in the case of working for The Infinite Nothing, an exhibition that requires cross-continental coordination, sophisticated technical support, and frequent facility maintenance. The fact that the exhibition takes place in Venice, a city without cars, also adds to the complexity. To make The Infinite Nothing happen, you might have to do infinite ‘everything’! At the core of it is a highly professional team, including the artist, curators, contractors, technicians, local coordinators, and so on. However, in cases of emergency, exhibition interns take initiatives to solve problems creatively. Below are some of the roles we have temporarily played.
So ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Art Circus (in Italian, you can mock the art circle by calling it ‘il circo dell’arte’, which literally means ‘art circus’!)
女士們，先生們，歡迎光臨我們的「藝術馬戲團」！(在義大利語中，藝術界可被戲稱為’il circo dell’arte’，如果直譯就是「藝術馬戲團」。)
One time a projector somehow shifted sightly and resulted in video misalignment. So Nixon pulled out the special slide for alignment and climbed up the ladder to adjust the angle of the heavy projector. Not a very easy job but Nixon seems to have the potential of becoming an acrobat!
2. Pet tamer
As some neighbours and their dogs pass by several times a day, we gradually start to say hi to them. Although I can hardly chat with the neighbours in Italian, I have no problems communicating with the dogs. Sometimes when a neighbour suddenly feels the urge to take a look at our exhibition while walking the dog, we temporarily take over and play with the dog.
The curators came up with the genius idea of attracting and welcoming visitors with an arch outside our main entrance. Francesco takes it out every morning and pulls it in every evening. However, as the wheels of the arch age, Francesco’s biceps come in handy.
4. Props maker
The upper part of Room 4 tends to get really hot as 7 projectors and 4 speakers run simultaneously. Resort to air conditioning? Infeasible due to strict conservation rules. Putting some fans? The fans we have only blow horizontally and can’t send cooler air in the lower part upwards. In the end, Francesco improvised with the materials available in the storeroom and made a wooden stand for the fan in 20 minutes. Then Nixon painted the structure in white so it is more compatible with the white wall and the white fan. Voilà!
We have a nice old facade and a nice old wooden door. But it is not so nice to struggle with the old lock every time we set up and close the exhibition. Finally, the lock decided to go on strike one day, not responding to the key at all. And the local coordinator didn’t pick up our calls. Nixon and I were almost thinking about going home to get some blankets and sleep there to guard the equipments! Luckily our experienced Italian colleague Monica came to our rescue and easily fixed the door with two long screws found in the storeroom.
You might think that in no way may artworks make the same kind of mess that circus animal stars do. But as contemporary art goes wilder and wilder, it is hard to say now. At The Infinite Nothing, we clean certain part of the floor everyday, where oil is designed to drip down and create a mysterious atmosphere. Once in a while, we also need to deal with pigeon droppings outside the entrance. But soon I realized this is nothing compared to the French Pavilion, where one huge tree elegantly moves around inside the pavilion and two other outside. Just imagine what if rain pours down the open roof…