Beyond cheap gestures is an artistic research project on art as writing, performance and critical fabulation. In the conjunction of artistic and curatorial practices it delves into the archive of the Galerie Schmela founded in 1957 in Düsseldorf. Famous for it‘s avant-garde exhibition program the gallery played a key role in promoting conceptual art in Europe and initiated a transatlantic art transfer in the 1960s, through committing in contemporary American art. Beyond cheap gestures is focusing it’s research on the professional correspondence of Monika Schmela and her daughter Ulrike Schmela-Brüning, who continued the galleries business after the death of the gallery owner Alfred Schmela in 1980. The historic documents tell of the women’s everyday working life, marked by the trials and tribulations of carrying on a small art imperium in the male-dominated art world of the 1980s and 90s. Based on the premise that communication at work provides insights into the bigger picture of social interaction, the project looks behind the scene of the daily written word. The letters unfold the contradictions and entanglements between professional and emotional labour that characterize the field of art. With reference to the international network strived by the approach of the Schmelas, we want to illuminate, critically discuss and creatively bring together past and present labour settings from a feminist point of view.
Beyond cheap gestures engages in writing methods that combine historical and archival research with critical theory and fictional narrative. The aim is to provide an equal approach to the different sources beyond conventional hierarchisation of content and practice.The project explores ways of performative activations of the archive’s material by inspecting the literary, vocal and gestural qualities of the various threads and voices speaking within and fabulated beyond the historical documents.In staged readings beyond cheap gestures weaves social fabrics of language, movement and translation to investigate what might generate the value of art and labour.