Katherine MacBride’s ‘Having been breathed out’

Katherine MacBride’s ‘Having been breathed out’

[Written by Anastasija Svarevska]

[Image Credit: Katherine MacBride]

The new exhibition at CCA, Katherine MacBride’s Having Been Breathed Out / Patriarchy Over and Out, manifests a curious new way of hosting exhibitions. MacBride is a Glaswegian artist working between the Netherlands and Scotland. In her work, she explores our relationship to space by inciting different sensory experiences—implying that one doesn’t exist without the other—and suggesting some sort of ‘interdependence’ between us and the objects that are accentuated by one of the many large-scale textiles on display. By withdrawing yourself into an all-encompassing harmonious unity with what you can see, hear, and touch, you realise that the space simply referred to as ‘Gallery’ has unobtrusively turned into a place for some sort of meditation; and, most crucially, provides a remarkable encounter both with people and the art.

The exhibition, on display from 9th of February to 24th of March, runs alongside several free and unticketed events. I attended one last Saturday: ‘Little Frances and Her Carp’ with Naomi Pearce. The audio performance by Naomi works with Katherine’s idea of combining the exhibit with several workshops on thinking and doing together. It is an audio guide, yet it breaks general conventions of what an audio guide is. It is all about collaboration, as emphasized by Naomi, and collaboration, according to her, is something feminist art does.

Rather than being detached from your surroundings and listening to a voice on your own, you suddenly find yourself in an established group of people all guided by her voice in order to share the same experience (I started missing the people I shared the space with when leaving the exhibition; it felt as if in this short period of time, I got to know them through their interaction with the display). The voice speaks to you, it whispers, it asks you to lick a wall, it tells you which way to go. And it discusses Katherine’s work and the extent that feminist art is at its essence. It’s untraditional and intriguing.  

The idea of collaboration is further explored as you’re invited to sit on the gallery workers chairs, bringing you even closer to the exhibition and raising awareness of a new idea of hospitality, unveiling your own belonging to it. These chairs, however, are just the minor agents inviting you to rest.

From the moment you enter the exhibition, you feel soothed by the large-scale textiles that dominate the room; it’s as if their softness is there to stimulate your willingness to wrap yourself in them and feel safe, giving full play to tactile sensations. On top of this, there are some video installations which trigger ASMR; even if they don’t give you a brain orgasm, they tingle and arouse some euphoric sensation. One of them catches you off guard; to find out why you have to visit the exhibition.

Despite this effect that the space has on you, the last room is an antidote to all anxiety. It’s a room that triggers all your sensations at once: seeing, hearing, and touching. You don’t want to leave for it makes you feel at rest, the bed you can actually lie down on adding to this feeling.

Although the absence of any wall text might lead to some lack of understanding of the display, in effect, it doesn’t pose an issue. The exhibition is about exploring new and different forms of hospitality. Invited into the space, it is left up to you to decide how to explore and interact with it. After all, it is already your presence that makes the statement; without you, would the exhibition even exist?

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