Mum and Dad Show

Artvehicle 12/Recommended

23rd February 2007 — 18th April 2007

'Mum and Dad Show' is curated by Tom Morton. Tom's parents are artists, and Tom himself is a curator currently working at Cubitt. In a rather vague press release we are told that Mum and Dad, that is Rose Scott and Jack Morton, studied together at Norwich School of Art and Goldsmith's College, London, where they were taught by an impressive list of artists. They married in 1970 and separated in 1982, when Tom was 5 years old. They have had a series of exhibitions in the Cambridge area and taught art in different schools. The show features work from the early 70s to the present in a variety of media. The works in the exhibition have been arranged with taste and care, and there is an overall Surrealist and at times Joseph Cornell-like feeling to it. But, unfortunately, this exhibition is not about Mum's and Dad's works, it is about their son, the curator.

In an interview with the Wrong Gallery, Morton recalls the dramatic experience that is to undergo the painful events of separation and divorce. Certainly, as Botho Strauss once put it, "no common failure, whether it be sickness, bankruptcy or professional misfortune, will reverberate so cruelly and deeply in the unconscious as divorce". There is no denial of the despair and frustrations that divorce brings along, but it should not become an excuse to endlessly spout platitudes about the curator's psyche and his infant traumas. It is only at the end of the interview that we learn the real purpose of the show. No, it is not a new form of therapy as one might expect, it gets much better, this is a new approach to curatorial practice. At that point, I could certainly do with some therapy.

'Mum and Dad Show' intends to put forward a curatorial process that combines 'very personal stuff with the notion of the public gallery, and with the idea of curatorial responsibility, professional friendships, favours and cronyism' (1). Put it how you like, for me this is just a clear display of nepotism and we are tired of seeing it all over, and now it turns out, it has become a new form of institutional critique. The problem with putting your personal life on display is that although it might mean lots to you and those close to you, it's difficult to engage with for a broader audience, unless you are a celebrity, or unless you have the ability or genius to turn sludge into gold or anecdote into drama. For the biographical approach should allow one not to talk so much about one's own life, but to show others their own lives.

By putting together his parents' works, Morton doesn't make them a generous gesture. Their works remain silent, framed only by the event of the divorce, the disintegration of the family and the implications for the curator to confront his parents' works in one of London's contemporary venues. Morton seems to be more concerned with his own gesture of transposing objects that belong to the 'wrong art world to that of the right one' (2), but the criteria to determine what is wrong or right remains unresolved. So dazzled is the curator by his own self that he is taking the chance to display his own gesture, wishing only to look fine for his own sake.

(1) Tom Morton in an interview with The Wrong Gallery, the texts accompanies 'Mum and Dad Show'
(2) Idem


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