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Arts / Series of films document Vivian taking her art out walking

The project explored ways of engaging with audiences in the time of Covid

The Island is The Gallery performance one, at Lerwick's Harrison Square.

A SERIES of new short films documenting the innovative latest work of Shetland artist Vivian Ross-Smith is now available to watch online.

The Island is The Gallery was a series of three site-specific performances around the islands in April 2021 where, as the world began easing out of lockdown, Ross-Smith invited islanders to find a painting in the landscape and explore new ways to engage with art.

Covid-19 created a time where the walls in which artists exhibit work were out of bounds. In response, Ross-Smith removed the need for a gallery and began creating artwork to wear on her body, as she took her art out walking.

Escaping the expectation of artwork being restricted to urban space and inside galleries, Ross-Smith toured her wall-less interpretation of a white cube around the landscapes of Shetland. She could be found wearing a painting made in response to that location and either staying within the boundary of her ‘gallery’ or walking in the surrounding area.

The third performance in the series, at St Ninian’s Isle.

Each performance questioned where we expect to engage with art and who we expect an art audience to be. By situating her wearable paintings in public space, Ross-Smith testifies that contemporary art practice belongs outside of the white cube.

In a time when touch seemed impossible, Ross-Smith used physical gestures to connect with audiences. With each interaction, she attempted to engage the audience in a conversation by problem solving non-verbal modes of communication.

“Each performance acted as a personal manifesto for the post-Covid art world,” she said. “Asking it to be much less city-centric, hold accessibility at the forefront and revalue hierarchies of space.”

The Island is The Gallery is part of “Refresh Now”, a Shetland Arts-commissioned series for local artists to create work exploring inventive and non-traditional responses to the challenges of creating performance during Covid-19.

You can watch each of the films here.

The second performance in the series at Gonfirth.