As a millennial myself, I can comfortably confirm: we like doing things via apps. Among other things, our (some might say) laziness and the fact we prefer not to have face-to-face encounters with strangers brought the sudden and rapid expansion of one-tap deliveries of anything and everything, at any time and place.
Even art exhibitions!?
Here’s a concept: you go on this website called Gallery.Delivery, and you order an art exhibition by picking a date and time of your show. For 59 €, a courier on a bike will then deliver it to you (whether it’s your apartment, your workplace or a party of sorts), and install it there for about one hour, exhibition artworks in a “White Cube” bag and all. In the end, not only do you get a group show that will turn your space into an art gallery, you will also get the performance of its installation by the delivery person, before your own very eyes. Definitely not a bad idea for a Christmas present.
In a nutshell, Gallery.Delivery is It is an exhibition format by artist Sebastian Schmieg, whose practice often involves playful interventions that explore “hidden and often absurd realities” in our cyber societies.
Gallery.Delivery debuted in Berlin, where the first two editions were presented by Roehrs & Boetsch. In Italy, and more specifically in Milan, this unique project is developed by the local Green Cube Gallery, and curated by Silvio Lorusso, whose art focuses on the cultures and rhetorical regimes embedded in techno-social systems., It first saw the light of day at the 2019 edition of the wrong biennale.
At the moment, the Milanese audience can order a group show titled Weird Domesticity (until March 1, 2020) that explores the notion of “feeling at home” and features the works of artists like Luigi Amato, Filippo Minelli, Lorem, and Elena Radice.
We sat down with Sebastian Schmieg, Silvio Lorusso and the Green Cube Gallery to discuss this intriguing initiative, why and how it was conceived, and what kind of message it wants to pass on.
Widewalls: Just how does one come up with an idea like this one? Where did the inspiration come from?
Sebastian Schmieg: In my practice, I deal with the realities behind the glossy interfaces of our networked societies, which today is very much about the algorithmic circulation of working bodies.
Where in the past we would click a button in order to download an image, with the same interaction we now command a body to carry and deliver a pizza to our home. Despite being two very different things, both deliveries are about algorithmically guiding packages to their destination as fast as possible, satisfying the demand for immediate availability.
With the ubiquity of bike couriers, this has become very visible. However, the reality of those who deliver is very much separate from those who order. Couriers hand over the food at the doorstep and leave again.
With Gallery.Delivery, the idea is to extend the delivery process into people's homes. Applying the promise of immediate availability to the art world and the format of the group exhibition, the courier transforms these intimate spaces into temporary galleries where the hidden labor that goes into setting up an exhibition takes center stage.
Silvio Lorusso: I might add that Sebastian and I were having some conversations around the iconicity of the cubic delivery box (which is already disappearing, at least here in the Netherlands). Several artists were beginning to include the box in their installations and performances while the box was gaining in the public imagination a sort of allegorical value representing precarity which was previously attributed to the image of the call center operator.
However, the couriers themselves might not agree: some would say that the job itself is not comparable to the dull experience of the call center. Yet, these two jobs share opaque management and bad hourly rates.
Sebastian: To me, the cubic delivery box functions as an oversized marker, a bit like Google Maps’ one, making visible this hidden algorithmic management and routing of working bodies.
Widewalls: Who are the people behind the Gallery.Delivery Milan?
Green Cube Gallery: Gallery.Delivery Milan is a franchise operated in Italy by Green Cube Gallery, which is a nomadic online/offline artist-run space focused on all kinds of dialogs between the digital realm and offline spaces.
Last year, as we discovered Sebastian's projec, we found extremely interesting and fitting the times we’re all living in. Gallery delivery is the perfect case of how a digital-based project can flow out of our screen-based perception of reality.
Also, since here in Italy the situation of the riders was also raising an interesting debate about the controversies of the gig economy, we immediately contacted him in order to plan an Italian edition.
Widewalls: Who are the people installing the exhibitions in people’s homes? Or shall we say: who are the performers?
Sebastian: Our courier in Berlin usually works for a food delivery company but has a background in the arts. As Gallery.Delivery is meant to create a setting in which those who order and those who deliver can come together, it's important to me that the courier isn't only performing the role of the courier.
This would be the case if I did the deliveries myself. Those who order the show become an important part of the performance, too, as Gallery.Delivery hosts.
Green Cube Gallery: in Milan, we thought it was important to actually involve a courier agency for the deliveries but the unconventional nature of the project made difficult to go through already established services. Finally, we decided to work with a small team of riders-friends.
Widewalls: And the artists in the exhibition?
Silvio: For this edition of Gallery Delivery, we chose to focus mostly on local artists. The majority of them is based in or close to Milan.
Thematically, we tried to rethink domesticity, a category that has definitely shifted meaning in the last decades. The main question is: what does it mean to feel at home? Where and when does one feel at home? The artists in the show wittily explored the weirdness of the domestic.
For instance, in his performative piece, Luigi Amato quoted the nostalgic, idealized setting of Home Alone: the courier is meant to reenact the signature of the “wet bandits” from the movie, that is, flooding the house. Similarly, Guendalina Cerruti’s snow globes intensify faux-cozy Christmas-y love/hate feelings. The Cool Couple appropriates the rhetoric of meditation, suggesting that mind is one’s real home, but not necessarily a safe one...
Widewalls: Why the decision to only do group shows?
Silvio: While I think the solo show would work as well, the group show more powerfully suggests the promise of convenience and abundance delivered to one’s house reinforced by gig economy platforms.
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Part 1/2 documentation of Gallery.Delivery “New Convenience“, an exhibition format by @sebastianschmieg presented by @roehrsboetsch • photos by @andrewunstorf • with @allapopp, @lottemeret & #marcobuetikofer, @tomgalle, @elisagiardinapapa, @stefani_glauber, @jing_jing_jing_jing_jing, @davidhorvitz, @_office_fetish, @jeremyhutchison, @technoflesh, @avocado_ibuprofen, @evanroth_, @theo.trian
Widewalls: You have already done the performance in Berlin. What was the reaction from the audience?
Sebastian: The reactions have been very positive. Both in 2018 and in 2019, the deliveries were sold out rather quickly. As deliveries happened under very diverse circumstances, they also created very different reactions and experiences. Some people turned the deliveries into elaborate events with food and drinks and a lot of people. Others ordered the show for themselves which made for very intimate situations where both the courier and the exhibition host got to know each other quite well.
There were also several deliveries to people with kids for whom it's difficult to go out and see shows. In general, the success of a show and of a delivery very much depends on the courier: Luckily, the courier in Berlin is a really nice guy without whom Gallery.Delivery Berlin wouldn't be the same.
Widewalls: Why was the wrong biennale the perfect partner for this project?
Green Cube Gallery: We always thought that the wrong's online/offline statement came hand-in-hand with Green Cube's IRL/URL philosophy. We first participated as an online-only pavilion in 2017 with Your Content is Here, a project by TWT1.
This time, we found that the wrong's established embassy format merged really well with the liquid nature of Gallery.Delivery physical presence and with the nomadic statement of Green Cube Gallery.
Widewalls: Will the project be limited to Milan, or will it expand elsewhere as well?
Green Cube Gallery: At the moment the service is limited to Milan but many people in Italy are asking us for more information to make it happen in other cities. Let’s see how things go.
Sebastian: The Milan edition is the first time that Gallery.Delivery is happening outside of Berlin and the first time that it is happening as a franchise. In the spring of 2020, there will be an edition in France where I will be more involved again. Let's see what happens after that.
Widewalls: Where does an action like this leave the curatorial practice as we know it today, in your opinion?
Silvio: I think the Gallery.Delivery format highlights the mundane and transactional realities of curation: the fact that the pieces are products to buy becomes very apparent.
There is a bluntness to it that sheds light on curation in general. At the same time, the format opens up the fascinating possibility of curate something that happens in the very intimate space of people’s homes.
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Featured image: Gallery.Delivery, Weird Domesticity group exhibition. Photo by André Wunstorf, Graphics Anna-Luise Lorenz.