I go out walking…
“Feel sick. But in that good way (I think), things are happening (I think)”
And they did happen. It’s exactly a year since I started this blog. My first post was a tentative stare at the year ahead.
A nice bow was put on 2014 when I found out I’d been accepted for an internship at Deveron Arts for the first three months of the new year.
A work of art requires affirmation from an audience. Without reception, and the means for reception, there is a very ‘tree falling in the woods’ situation. In considering the artwork as a network of effect, the light switch is a vital element. Formalist theorists prefer to think of the artwork as an independent unit expressing specific autonomy with no reliance on the beholder. The 1970s saw the dawn of conceptual art and with it, the proclamation that a communicated idea was of more value than a self-sufficient art object. An artwork is a fluid and changeable entity made up of many components in an active network. The artwork, and indeed the object, is an event in which there are many counterparts. The value of an ordinary object, a light switch within the gallery, will be considered to argue this.
“Phone Voice: I wanna play a game.
Casey Becker: [crying] No.
Phone Voice: Then he dies right now!
Casey Becker: [screaming and crying] NO!! No!
Phone Voice: Which is it? [serious tone] Which is it?
Casey Becker: [crying] Well… what kind of a game?
Phone Voice: Turn off the light. You’ll see what kind of game. Just do it! [Casey walks to the light switch.]
Steve Orth: [muffled] No, Casey! No! No! [Casey switch off the lights.] NO! CASEY!!!”
It is common in the horror movie genre for the light switch to be a pinnacle object. To turn on the lights ensures safety in illumination, whereas the darkness of lights off signifies uncertainty and danger. Scream, 1996, is a self-referential horror movie utilising, and making aware of, many conventional tactics of the genre. The characters in Scream are themselves fans of horror movies. When Casey Becker turns off the lights at the request of the phone villain, dubbed Ghostface, Steve Orth knows she will perish.
Semesters’ Thoughts. (click link)
This evening, the Talbot Rice Gallery hosted a public discussion on the artist Bruce Naumen, as part of the Artist Rooms Cafe des Artistes. Ruth Burgon gave an initial summary of Naumen’s work, in particular his affinity for breaking the rules and challenging the institution. This was followed by an interpretation of his performative work and within this his need for control, by Dr. Catherine Spencer.
This image was put on screen and we were asked to talk amongst ourselves addressing questions such as;
Is Naumen being sincere/should we take this seriously?
and What is an artists duty?
I was very uncomfortable.
“D’you know when you have lots of layers open on Photoshop, and then you merge the image to flat?”
You have all these relevant parts.
And then you flatten the image. All those relevant parts are still there, but you can’t pick out one in particular.
It’s a new thing. With all those old things. They’re still there… but also not… somehow…”
“If you take bowling shoes out of the alley, are they just shoes..?“
“Like, if you apply Goffman’s Frame Theory(1) to – -“
*sigh* “Why do we let the theory students work in the studio?”
(1)“Goffman (1975) argued that much of our behaviour is cued by expectations which are determined by the frames which constitute the context of action.” Miller, D. Materiality: An Introduction. 2005. Available at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/people/academic_staff/d_miller/mil-8
The structure of having two students speak amongst their peers in a comfortable environment generates much discussion at the end of the session.
It is beneficial for artists to talk about their work, but also to listen about it and around it.
In 1991 I was given a teddy bear. In the subsequent 23 years, alterations in fashion and style have been represented by a variety of neck bows adorned by this bear, including one brief dabbling in a scrunchie phase towards the late 90’s.
In 1992 I rarely slept. Tbere was a significant fear that year of the border that decorated the walls of my room. ‘Snatch’ was a fictional character taking the form of a dog. But his eyes were too animated for me, and his stare was deeply troubling.
In 1993 I developed a particular agility for stretching my hands to touch plug sockets and cable wires. “Rachael, Careful!” was always immediately exclaimed after such a happening. I was less grammar-savvy back then and my minds mind omitted the comma. When I visited a nurse later that year I would respond to the prompt, “And what is your name?”, with a confident ‘Rachael Careful’
In 1994 I developed a taste for Reebok Freestyles. The pristine white straps soon became grubby with an overreliance on the Velcro attribute. This was a shoe with both straps and laces: A training trainer. Having yet to have mastered the making of bunny ears, I muddled through via Velcro.
1995 saw my first specsavers purchase. I firmly believe that I failed my eye test on purpose because I wanted to attain a pair of glasses. I was fascinated by these objects that sat on my mother and brothers face. This fascination would hinder my sight forever.
A Letter in Mind will open at Oxo Tower Wharf in London, this Thursday the 2nd of October.
This is a fundraising event with 276 original works of art up for sale. Both emerging and more established artists are involved in this exhibition, and their identities kept anonymous until a purchase has been made.
Each work is priced at £80, with all proceeds going directly to The National Brain Appeal. This charity raises vital funds for the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. One in six people are affected by a neurological disorder in the UK, and this is a cause I am personally motivated to see supported.
The exhibition can also be viewed, and purchases made, online here.
‘Recognise my submission?..
Earlier this year, during my residency at Timespan, I picked up a publication surrounding Corin Sworn’s Unsettling Provenance work. Interests fit into specific timelines sometimes. I’ve read this book previously, but it only resonated this week.
While in Helmsdale, Sworn organised Breakfast events.
This involved an invitation for members of the community to attend Timespan, bringing their own bowl, to dine together. Sworn had previously been involved in excavation activity in the area and was fascinated by the fragments of culinary objects uncovered. In Unsettling Provenance the artist photographs the towns people’s bowls as if they are archaeological finds. By placing the objects against black backdrops and giving them such attention of the lens, Sworn creates a ‘white cube situation’. She creates a context in which these objects can be perceived as valuable historical artefacts by the viewer.
They might well deserve this. A bowl is still a commonly used object and there’s obviously interest to be found in this concept, as well as the aged pieces. Cultural narrative is identified in the everyday and not only in what we deem a ‘relic’. When does an object become an artefact, then? And, what about the bowl?
I’m thinking about objects. As I often do.
Igor Kopytoff’s explanation of commodization has provided a refresher on The Social Life of Things.
Kopytoff articulates the concept of exchange spheres comparing the often non-monetized trade of African tribes with Western consumerism. He describes objects as culturally constructed entities, endowed with meaning and classified into value-categories.
The object can be commoditized, decommoditized and then, yes, recommoditized (that’s when my notes get messy). The text is very clear though and uses a lot of examples which is useful when trying to grasp a concept, such as this, which can become so circular. Examples of slavery are used, and the stigma against abortion, to demonstrate social commoditization and how a person can become a commodity.
The thingness of a person leads me to questioning the personhood of a thing.
Vital materialism is described by Jane Bennett as the capacity of the commodity to not only impede the will of humans, but to act with trajectories and tendencies of their own. Her writings on the Force of Things surpass Kopytoffs reasoned argument that objects have a social history and are impacted/impacting culture. She talks of the active powers issuing from nonhuman things and creates a vivid picture of an energised objecthood.
I’m still coming to terms with it. Upon first reading I found if difficult to move away from out-there notions and silly literal depictions. My previous writings on the supposed ordinary objects ability to be seen as an artwork have been largely centred on the white cube and contextualisation. I have largely ignored the audience in my research and must now turn attention to the object itself and this circular relationship between people and things.
As a sentimentalist, I am a believer that we bestow value and significance onto the ordinary. But that is perhaps too simplistic. I need to consider vital materialism and the draw of the object itself. Why do things affect us and where does the personhood of the object begin?
It usually ends up in a ramble or word jumble. So lets try and straighten this out a little this semester.
Does an object have agency?
First Talk: Tuesday 21st October. 1-2pm. Room JO3, ECA
Tuesday Talks is a weekly event that allows students to present work to their peers in an informal environment and receive research and skill tips. Every week two artists will present their talk, followed by a short Q&A session. All students are welcome to attend.
If students are interested in presenting a talk, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org