Harrell Fletcher

Harrell Fletcher: Born Out of Pleasure


A ten-day project and six-week exhibition, with an accompanying event series involving a visiting artist and various local people, translated into cake form, with photographs, text descriptions and a blog (cakeworthy.blogspot.com). Another title could have been: It Will Just Lead to Disappointment.

Curated by Helena Reckitt

A ten-day project and six-week exhibition, with an accompanying event series involving a visiting artist and various local people, translated into cake form, with photographs, text descriptions and a blog (cakeworthy.blogspot.com). Another title could have been: It Will Just Lead to Disappointment.
 
Harrell Fletcher has always enjoyed making art with other people, especially those outside the art world. This September, Fletcher invited six Toronto-based artists, who in turn invited six people who don't identify themselves as artists, to devise an exhibition from scratch together. Alongside the six artists, who work in various media, the group included a lawyer, a mathematician, a baker, a computer engineer, a puppeteer and clown, and an economist and former Angolan freedom fighter. Over the course of ten days, participants bicycled, walked and even boated around Toronto, encountering people, places and objects that, in turn, shaped the exhibition’s form and content.
 
Creative decisions were reached through a process of discussion, but not always consensus, with group members' skills and experiences informing the project's direction. For instance, Karen Wielonda's expertise as a baker stimulated the use of cakes as a sculptural element and commemorative device, while a lemon-shaped cake is derived from mathematician Kristin Shaw's lecture about geometry and infinity. An accompanying lecture series presents individuals that the group encountered speaking on a range of subjects – from surviving traffic accidents to studying medical herbalism.
 
Contrary to stereotypical ideas about the isolated, introspective artist, the project presents a down-to-earth picture of the artist as outward looking and sociable, a facilitator rather than an auteur. For Fletcher, a self-described "shy person," this way of working diverts attention away from him as the artist and towards other people whose experiences and accomplishments are generally not celebrated in public.
 
The exhibition’s title, Born out of Pleasure (taken from a group member's account of his conception), captures the project’s emphasis on spontaneity and chance. Treading a fine line between amateurism and professionalism, sentimentality and seriousness, the project values the activities of people from all walks of life and evokes a sense of collective learning and knowledge. Within this context, the creative impulse is less about originality than with adapting existing resources, or, as Fletcher says, “pointing to things that I think are interesting so that other people will notice and appreciate them too.” The world is full of drama, intrigue and complexity, the exhibition suggests, if only we take the time to stop, look and listen.

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