We were required to do a presentation of our work this week, complete with slides and talking within a lecture theatre. As nerve wracking as this was, it got me to think about the keys points of my work. I want to write these down and have them there to reflect on if ever I get lost in it. So I have.
My work surrounds ideas of ‘Obsessive Sentimentality’. To give context to this, a personal anecdote is required. Two years ago I took a trip to Paris and indulged in all the wonderful cliches of the place, running around with a beret for a week (go on, judge me). When I came back from Paris it was time to ditch my monthly contact lenses and change them for a fresh pair. I couldn’t. It’s this irrational attachment to a useless object that fascinates me. By disposing of those contact lenses, I’d have felt like I was losing something.
I’ve gone even further back this year, focusing on a collection of old specs. I’ve worn glasses since the age of six, so this is seven years worth.
Although the objects are personal objects, and I myself have these notions of nostalgia I’m discussing, the work is not intended as confessional. An idea is what I’m trying to express. The glasses have become something new. Their intended purpose is void. With the repeated image on the backboard in this glasses piece, a postcard picture meaning nothing to me but repeated hundreds of times, I am communicating that these glasses no longer see anything new, they are irrelevant in this respect. Their new purpose is simply to be kept. Someone has preserved these and given them importance. They are shells, and quite useless.
A good artist to reference at this point would be Sophie Calle. http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/art-now-sophie-calle
With every passing year, Calle throws a birthday party inviting a number of guests, as customary they bring gifts for her. Instead of using these gifts for their individual conventional purposes, she would box them up and keep them, eventually displaying them in a cabinet. Calle made the decision that the purpose or use of these gifts was not important, it was the attachment and the idea of the ‘gift’ that was important to her. She assigned nostalgic feelings of appreciation and gratitude in each and by displaying them was able to look at them as such, rather than using them.
The presentation is key in this example and in my own work. There is a permanence in encapsulating something. When an object is preserved and framed in the confines of a box, it becomes important and provokes observation and interest. I am constantly framing, making box structures and displaying pieces while continually trying to keep the look clean and uncluttered. The stage of the frame assists the objects, emphasising the idea that they have been assigned a significant not originally intended for them.
Similarly, text is a necessary component in my work. The use of titles, explanatory paragraphs and longer spiels of writing is an enjoyable aspect of my practise. I find myself getting obsessed with phrases, the same way I become attached to an object, I get attached to words and repeat them over and over. I sit on my studio floor and typetypetype, annoying studio mates with the pounding of my sentences. This gives a more active representation of the obsessive nature of this sentimentality. A phrase that has been in my head for a while is ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.’ I love this because the words mean nothing. However it is an old typing exercise and so is remembered and has a significant purpose for so many people, and yet the content of the sentence itself is irrelevant. This echoes the idea of the object becoming a shell for ones own ideas to be projected on, rather than used for its original intention.
Often the work is quite ambiguous in appearance. I find titling helps provide more of a context. For example in my previous work with contact lenses, I had a cabinet of 84 bottles, some with lenses in them, and the title at the bottom read Everything I’ve Ever Seen, 2006 – 2011. This allows for a more interactive experience with the viewer. They see the piece and consider its meaning, they read the text and connect the ideas of sight with the bottles of lenses. They consider it for themselves. I strive for simplicity in the work while trying to maintain the ability to communicate ideas without being overbearing.
My current project continue these values and take them further. Rather than replying on the use of old object, which if overdone can definitely start to look kitsch, I have stripped back my concept to focus on the raw idea of this need to maintain something that has become useless. I am preserving banana peels
The bananas themselves are not important, it is the physical process and experimentation I am undertaking, the actions of maintaining an object that naturally has to decay. And I am liking the results. I am left with a collection of these funny shrivelled objects. And like the glasses project I am showing how they have changed and lost purpose. The difference with the bananas to the other objects I have worked with is that the change in then is physically apparent. They are no longer yellow, they are physically completely different to their starting point. This allows the concept to be clearer and more easily communicated than in my previous works.