Archive for June, 2009

03
Jun
09

when you take everything away, the only thing left is imperfection

Documentation of Room 2 installation on Flickr. Go now, no seriously go. What the hell are you still doing here?

03
Jun
09

it’s not you, it’s me. no really, it’s me…

No I am not breaking up with my blog, although sometimes I would like to. Frankly, sometimes I would like to dump the whole PhD and go sell boxed-wine in the Mid-West. Actually that idea looked better in my head than on paper, but you get the gist.

So what have I been up to? Well, a lot and nothing all at the same time. The last couple of weeks have been either busy as all hell, or standing still, watching everyone run past me. On the 17th of May Room 2, or when you take everything away, the only thing left is imperfection, was deinstalled and then the thinking began. Now that we’ve done two rooms what have we learnt? What do we want to achieve with the third room, and why is this idiot referring to herself in the third person?

Let’s answer these questions in reverse order. As to my referencing myself in the third person: ‘cause I can. Hate me now, hate me later. It’s funny and in a way prophetic, because it’s not just Alex the artist, or Alex the researcher who asks these questions, but a combination of the two, but, mostly, because it’s ironic and annoying.

What do we want to achieve in the third room? This is a good question because it’s complicated. I think that I did myself a bit of disservice: a few years ago I saw this installation at the Basel art fair by Hélio Oiticica, which was a collaboration with another artist.

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Oiticica’s contribution was to create a swimming pool, like a real- life pool that all types of arty people, and those who love them, could swim in. And as I was sitting there with G watching all these people either eying the pool with trepidation or shedding their clothes and jumping in with abandon I thought ole’ Hélio was on to something. It was ‘immersive art’, at its most basic, ‘cause you actually became immersed. In a way it was simplicity that’s so simple it’s almost dumb. When I got back to Glasgow I began to dream about this pool, not the pool I saw in Basel, but the idea of a pool, the idea of immersion and engaging with work in a way that breaks the normal conventions and stereotypes of work. My dreams steam-rolled into research, which led me to James Turrell’s Heavy Water a pool that he created in 1991 in France, for which people put on special swimming costumes and literally swam into a light installation of Turrell’s in the middle of the pool.

James Turrell's Heavy Water

James Turrell's Heavy Water

By now I think I forgot something that is crucial to my work, so what the fuck was I doing with this pool? As I was sitting on the tube today I realised I am not sure I ever knew what I was doing with my idea of the pool, because I didn’t really have an idea to back it up, instead of focusing on content I became caught up in context. Now I am sure I can spin some old bullshit and school you as to what it is I am doing or want to be doing with this pool, but as I sit here writing I know I would be lying. I like the idea of the pool, I like the idea of water and how it would integrate itself into my aesthetic but I am not sure what purpose it would serve within the context of my research and my practice as it currently stands.

But Alex, you still haven’t answered your own question, what do you want to achieve with room 3? … That silence is me looking at the screen a bit dumbly, thinking ‘well fuck me, I never got that far’. But let’s attempt to answer it, because I need to know, and I need to know now. Room 1

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(this is how i want you to remember it) was about establishing a context for my viewers, and myself, both aurally and visually. I was using the memory of an experience from my own childhood to shape and provide a perspective for how I want people to look and listen. Essentially I was creating the same conditions from which I learnt to look and listen, and it was my hope that people would be able to start to see and hear from my perspective, both then and now. What I learnt from Room 1 was that memory is a slippery thing, and its slippery qualities are both positive and negative. It’s positive because it can be evocative and allow people to remember things of their own, and it can also colour something too strongly. Some of the feedback that came back was the high sense of theatre: the more distance I have from the work the more I am able to understand that the use of memory is about balance, and getting that balance right is controlling the theatrical element. Too little and there is nothing to fall into, too much and you’re steering.

Room 2 was tricky because I knew what its purpose was practically within the research context, but I didn’t know what it was that I wanted artistically. I have addressed my way of working throughout this blog in other entries but what was most problematic about this work, even though I knew what we were building, I had no idea about how it was supposed to be, if that makes sense. I didn’t know what the personality of the work was supposed to be, in the end it worked because I was trusting my ability to push for an experience: to run with a sense of supposed intuition, even though I didn’t know what that was going to produce. The issue with this is when you have no gut feeling to lead you, there is a sense that it’s not just going to fail, but that it’s going to fail without you having any idea why it did. The main impetus was to test the difference in ways of listening, but after what I had established in Room 1, I didn’t want to plonk people down into two boring rooms and say ‘well go for it kids’. I knew that I had to fight for the things that I had established: my aesthetic, a sense of the sculptural, and the need to know that every last detail was thought out. I honestly believe it would not have been successful if I had put in two chairs either IKEA or Eames, some record players and some white lights. Details are details and I if I know anything intuitively I know that I need to stick by absolute conviction to adhere to the details. However, when you create a minimal environment, then you’re only as good as your smallest mistake, whatever that may be.

What I learnt from these two spaces is that I my need to create an entirely new context is imperative to this research and this practice. My work, works when it becomes its own thing, and, within the context of that thing, there must be a friction or a palpable sense of tension. Some of the most common feedback from the last two installations has been my desire to create a beautiful, yet disturbing environment: something that both invites you to fall in but at the same time, as you stand at the metaphorical precipice, there is a sense of dread. In a way I take a lot from Bruce Naumen

Bruce Nauman, Green Light Corridor, 1970

Photo©Giorgio Colombo,Milano

in this regard. If you look to his corridor pieces where there is a monitor at the end of a purpose-built corridor that gets narrower and narrower, never allowing you to reach your destination: you’re frustrated by the inability to get to the thing you think you’re supposed to get to, and you’re made to feel uncomfortable by the way that the corridor physically restricts you, and vice versa. Think the feeling of potentially dying when walking through Richard Serra’s

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or for those that need something a bit more illustrative standing on the edge of Heizer’s North, South, East, West installation at the Dia Beacon, which consists of these large shapes cut into the concrete floor and you know that if you fall in, you might never get out.

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So it’s this kind of sensation that’s important to me. I know that thus far I have been heralding Turrell and Irwin and for the most part their work doesn’t have that kind of friction. Turrell’s can often be too beautiful, its beauty rendering it simple and nullifying its questions. Unlike Turrell’s, the major factor in my work that creates this friction is largely produced by the aural aspects. I am not unaware of the psychological impact of my music: in a way it’s the one medium that I feel that I can be most honest in, and it gives me the freedom to ask questions relating to the darker conditional elements of the sublime or the transcendental. It’s really only since I stopped being so self-conscious about my technical abilities with my tunes that I realised how much ability I had, and how I could let myself say the things I need to say.

Sooooo, what is it that you want out of Room 3? This is the thing: I want to create a space that allows me to explore both the issue of aesthetics and the friction, which is caused by the unasked question in the previous two installations that I have been exploring, both within my practice and in my personal life (without wanting to be too specific). When I go out dancing and I am sweaty and falling about with 500 other people I want to engage in that sense of the present. It’s about trying to engage in a fleeting sense of presence, to truly be engaged in the here and now, even if only for a moment. There is this thing that happens, the best example I can come up with – other than dancing, sex, drugs, which are all ways to escape, but also ways to engage with the here and now – is when you stub your toe: that sharp pain and instant ache brings you clarity and locks you into the moment, the moment of NOW, of it happening. It doesn’t matter what happens in the future or what happened in the past, but what is happening right now is the focal point. I want to create a room and an album that places you in that space. In order to do that I need to look at the situations and experiences that inform this: how to be present in a time when it’s all about the next thing? How to create that sense of the present when I can barely focus most of the time?




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