Intervening in the Woodwork Exhibition

Artist Alana Jelinek has worked with anthropology collections since 2009, and various communities of artists and non-artists for much longer. Here, she tells us about her artistic intervention into the Woodwork: A Family Tree of Sculpture exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery.

I was invited by Dr Rebecca Wade, Assistant Curator of Sculpture at Leeds Museums & Galleries, to make an intervention into the display Woodwork: A Family Tree of Sculpture as part of Yorkshire Sculpture International at Leeds Art Gallery.

It responds to the artist Phyllida Barlow’s suggestion that ‘sculpture is the most anthropological of the art forms’, explored here by displaying sculptures alongside objects from the World Cultures collection for the first time.

Small sculptures made out of wood are on plinths in a gallery.
The Woodworm installation on display at Leeds Art Gallery

Anobium Punctatum (Woodworm): an intervention was the result. We ran a series of workshops with various groups, working with the Leeds Museums & Galleries world cultures collection to create our own woodwork sculptures for an installation alongside the main display. It dealt with the questions of how institutions critique art, and the way that different communities participate in artistic workshops.

As an artist who works knowingly within and against the traditions of art, I needed the process to be more than a moment for relatively random groups of people to have fun with artistic materials and methods. I also needed it to be more than a quick taster visit to the collections of Leeds Museums & Galleries; I wrote a text to make sense of art gallery and museum hierarchies, and the experience of this intervention.

Sculptures made out of wood are on display on plinths in a gallery.
The Woodworm installation on display at Leeds Art Gallery

Art must be framed as art, and not as something else. Even if it’s political or community art, it is always art. For artists, this framing happens whilst the projects are occurring, in the gallery, online, and then in the archive (assuming they are archived at all).

In the project’s next iteration, probably a publication, I will also think about its value as art, its role and value in society, informed by theoretical writing, including my own This is Not Art: Activism and Other Not Art (I.B Tauris, 2013) and Between Discipline and a Hard Place: The Value of Contemporary Art (Bloomsbury, forthcoming).

By Alana Jelinek, Artist and Academic 

Read more about Leeds Art Gallery on the Leeds Museums & Galleries website.

Find out more about Yorkshire’s first festival of sculpture on the Yorkshire Sculpture International website.

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