'Weconnectthings. That’swhatwedo. Likeaswitchboard, weconnectthings. here’stheknot. Andwetieit. We’rethelink. Don’twantthingstogetlost. Sowetietheknot. That’sourduty. Switchboardduty. Youseekforit, weconnect, yougotit. Getit?'
(Extract from 'Dansu, Dansu, Dansu' by Haruki Murakami, p.89. Published by Vintage 2003)
Switchboard at BEARSPACE in Deptford marks the first solo exhibition of the 2013/2014 Chelsea Studio Award recipient, Naomi Fitzsimmons.
The exhibition will feature one interactive performance work that will run for the show’s duration. On entering the gallery space the audience will be confronted with a fully-functioning telephone switchboard system run by operators, all busy performing their routine tasks. The piece merges audience with performer, as cubicles are available for audience members to dial out to an ambiguous number left on the desks.
Switchboard will see Fitzsimmons drawing on themes from Haruki Murakami’s novel, ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ in which a supernatural dream-based character, the Sheep Man, continually and subconsciously appears to the novel’s protagonist. The Sheep Man describes himself as a ‘switchboard’ that serves to connect the protagonist with the real world and the world of his dreams. In this sense the switchboard occupies the middle or liminal space between sleep and consciousness, reality and artifice.
Similarly, in the performance ‘switchboard’ callers will be ‘held’ in the transitional space between before and after, as they partake in a performance that is never complete but always purely in motion; giving the impression of existing in the perpetual presence.
Is it limbo, purgatory or simply a comment on the repetitive and pointless nature of everyday bureaucracy? Whatever it is, a sense of uneasiness will prevail in the knowledge that some unseen entity controls the switchboard and rewards the operators for reaching their repetitive ‘targets’.
Chelsea Studio Award
Developed in 2009 after an approach by second-year Chelsea College of Art and Design students Kiki Claxton and Harry Major, the Chelsea Studio Award provides a rent-free studio for 12 months, professional mentoring and a cash bursary. It is jointly funded by Acme Studios, Chelsea Arts Club Trust and supported by Chelsea College of Art and Design and forms part of Acme’s Residency and Awards Programme.