About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe
Opening 25 November, 18.00
Martin Beck in conversation with Steve Rushton, 13 January 2008, 16.00
Martin Beck’s video work ‘About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe’ (2007) continues his longstanding interest in the history of exhibitions. The video shows the gradual assembley and disassembley of a reproduction of the 1948 Struc-Tube exhibition system, a portable and infinitely expandable display structure designed by the American designer George Nelson in 1948. The video is installed at Casco in a specially built screening-environment composed of four suspended panels, and is contextualized with works by Sol LeWitt, Eadweard Muybridge, and an assortment of books on modern exhibition history.
Nelson’s Struc-Tube exhibition system is emblematic of a particular moment in the history of exhibiting. Modularized exhibition systems that allowed for quick, unskilled assembly and endless rectangular growth gave form to a profoundly modern and humanist utopia: that the dissemination of and access to information functions as a key to the development of a modern and emancipated society. At the same time, it points to a wider cultural shift of the modern era in which flexibility entered into the workplace. One of Struc-Tube’s selling points was that its simple connector joints enabled it to be easily assembled by unskilled workers who need not be familiar with the system, be a union member, or demand fair pay. Thus, without intending to, Nelson’s system heralded a shift from industrial, unionised labor relations to a more casual, precarious labor market. The workers in ‘About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe’, on a video loop in the gallery, repeat a Sisyphean task of continuous assembly and disassembly without rest breaks or payment for overtime.
The exhibition is accompanied by a new publication on the work with essays by Bill Horrigan, Emily Pethick and Martin Beck, which contextualize the work and elaborate on aspects of sovereignity and control in modern exhibition history, co-published by Four Corners Books, London.
‘About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe’ is a satellite programme of Utrecht Manifest, 2007, the second biennial for social design.