In its current form Outlet is a physical space, a project room confined to the traditional binaries of mass and volume, negative and positive, inside and outside. Despite its present manifestation, Outlet is purely a concept, an idea placed within an alternative real-world platform, abstracted from age-old perceptions of what a gallery or museum should represent. Outlet questions the various purposes and reasoning’s that underlie traditional exhibiting spaces, their histories, geographies, and topographies, but does not necessarily pretend to overwhelm, subvert, or negate such spaces. Outlet is an ongoing and changing discourse, focused on the deconstruction of contemporary and historical ideologies about artistic spaces and practices. Outlet can be described as an undercurrent to establishments and traditions in art, specifically regarding the media, market, and their respective institutions.
From this basis Outlet can be described as a ‘micro gallery’, based on ulterior perspectives and spatial initiatives – a proto-typical cube that ubiquitously dissects seemingly unorthodox understandings of art, no matter if the approach is from an experimental, independent point of view or an institutionalized, commercial foundation. At the heart of this concept lies an interrogation of the politics and economics that exist between artists, galleries, museums, and patrons, and how all such parties are evolving from their traditional boundaries based on political, socio-cultural, economic and technological change.
Starting in 2003, Outlet was housed in a small projector room above the main entrance to the old painting hall of the Tshwane University of Technology (previously known as the Pretoria Technikon), Arts Faculty. This original space was founded by Pretoria born, Berlin-based artist Abrie Fourie, who passed the space over to Johannesburg-based artist Shane de Lange in 2007. Outlet was originally conceived to be a conceptual space where young artists could create generative exchanges and discourses, rebooting or formatting traditional notions of the “gallery-as-muse” and the archetypal ‘white cube’. In 2010 de Lange moved Outlet to Braamfontein, Johannesburg, extending its reach from a preempted conceptual foundation, encompassing alternative notions of platform and space, leading into the inclusion residencies, seminars, workshops, exchanges and publications. This approach has moved the micro gallery into the realm of networks, where collaboration, cross-pollination, discussion, and artistic awareness challenge the predominantly closed establishment, of buying and selling art, creating a more dynamic space for the production and distribution of art, including close co-operation with other, like-minded micro spaces. And so, with the move to Johannesburg, Outlet welcomed a new partner, creating a team of creative individuals: Carl Ascroft (management and logistics) and Shane de Lange (curator and editor).
Micro galleries and project rooms often exist on the fringe of art systems, markets, and scenes. This dynamic gives greater insight into the social and political paradigm of many socio-political spaces within the art world, and as such project rooms are at the root of creative exploration, offering alternative platforms for cultural growth and social change; something that commercial, ‘macro’ spaces tend to avoid, primarily because it is not bankable. Forward motion is achieved through such micro spaces, because they test the limits of the market through the implementation of experimental tendencies, often supporting artists whose work is difficult to evaluate and therefore impossible to sell, and so mostly ignored by art institutions and galleries. With micro spaces there is no money, it is not at the heart of things as it is with macro spaces, that is not the point, there is just the making of things. In short, Outlet endeavors to expand upon the notion of the micro space, acting as an incubator of sorts, highlighting emerging artists, offering alternative avenues for established artists, and making prospective patrons more insightful and aware of contemporary art practices. Outlet works on a zero budget policy, where the artist gets everything if an artwork is sold. Outlet does not represent any artists, but rather it can be seen as a collaborative measure based on the respective efforts of all the individuals involved in a project at any one time. The project room is an assemblage; ever-evolving, with no set plan, only accumulations and correlations between individuals and spaces; a curatorial bricolage.
In brief, Outlet stands as a viral, virtual space where artists, designers, lecturers, curators, musicians, writers and the like can coordinate, co-operate, and collaborate. So too, Outlet blurs the boundaries between such distinctions and disciplines. This open-ended yet critical approach to exhibiting is evidenced by the prolific work done with Outlet, hosting a vast array of artists and designers including: James Webb, Johan Thom, Nathaniel Stern, Lawrence Lemaoana, Marcus Neustetter, Sean Slemon, Ed Young, Gerhard Marx, Nomthunzi Mashabala, Dorothee Kreutzveldt, Bronwyn Lace, Stephen Hobbs, Givan Lotz, Maja Marx, Marcus Neustetter, and Sue Williamson to name a few. Outlet has also been involved in the organization and coordination of various happenings, actions, and currents, including Excogitations I (Pretoria Art Museum, 2005) and Excogitations II (Artklop Arts Festival, 2006), and also the “Esikhaleni – Spatial Practices” fringe event to the first Johannesburg Art Fair in 2008. Always dissecting the public/private, micro/macro dynamic, Outlet observes the muse as a political and conceptual space.
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