Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Until January 25th
Graham Fagen’s piece Peek-A-Jobby is currently part of the GENERATION exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The piece stands like a theatrical set, which comprises a living room decorated with authentic objects from the early 1980s, such as a cassette player, TV and video player, empty beer cans, leftover takeaways and 80s pop posters. The piece was first displayed in 1998 at Matt’s Gallery in London and as it has not been altered since; it now stands as a sort of time capsule.
There are two key elements to the piece, the living room itself, and a script, which the viewer collects upon entering the space. The script creates an accompanying dialogue to the scene, narrating a group of friends walking to another friend’s flat to watch videos. The work is an early example of how Fagen uses techniques and materials more commonly associated with the theatre in his artwork.
Fagen discussed, in a discussion part of the ongoing GENERATION by night programme, how important audience involvement is to the piece. He wanted visitors to feel comfortable enough to enter the space and sit down on the sofas, read the script and even play a video on the TV. He wanted to break away from the formality of gallery spaces. He joked that we had all felt uncomfortable in a gallery at one time or another, confused of what to touch and not what to touch, where to stand and where not to stand.
However the viewer’s involvement goes beyond just physically entering the stage space. Fagen wants the audience to use their imagination and even think beyond the script he gives. Fagen said the works of Shakespeare inspired him in creating action off stage; he uses this theatrical device to ensure that the audience’s imagination is an essential tool in creating the drama.
The script has a great humour to it, especially in its climatic ending. Without giving too much away, the host performs a bizarre and crude game to the amazement of his guests. Fagen admits that this is based on a true story and although he wont reveal the hosts identity, he did tell us that he is now a famous and successful writer.
What was most interesting about Peek-A-Jobby is the part it played in breaking rules and preconceived ideas about what could be shown in a gallery space. Graham Fagen’s piece added greatly to a conversation that is just as relevant today as it was when it was first exhibited.