New (old) Toys

I went home this weekend past. That was probably the last break I’ll get before Degree Show. Its really getting there now. Three weeks to go. I don’t think I could focus anymore if I tried though. The studio, the assessment and what I’m going to do after June is all that consumes my thoughts. Sorry guys, I’m a selfish entity right now.

Since all I can think about is my practice, I’m going to talk about my practice. I scavenged some old relics from my garage on Saturday. This sort of thing spurs me on.

newtoys

Found in a large wooden case of shoe-makers tools that were passed onto my Dad. These were some favourite details I saved from the box. The middle piece still has a leather threaded through it, and the set of compasses contains a stub of pencil. I love these details. I don’t know if I’ll incorporate this material into my upcoming show, but I feel sure I’ll use it soon.

The art school likes to kick me out at 8pm these days ’cause it’s ‘Easter Holidays’. So I guess I’ll be off.

If No-one Else Wants You

This weekend saw a two day exhibition set in an underground carpark in Dundee (quirky setting, yes?). The project was called The Undesireable and I put together an assemblage for the event.

“The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck”

(Paul Virilio)

Beneath our accelerated modern culture lies a world of inconvenient truths: people, places, events and inevitabilities which we would rather forget and perhaps all too often neglect.

The ancient divide between reason and unreason, order and chaos, sanity and insanity is in some walks of life as pertinent as ever.

 

Sometimes it’s bad to collect, its bad to hoard, its bad to hang on to. How can we move forward if we’re cluttered with the past? But I’m saddened when others do let go. And that’s what this piece is.

If No one Else Wants You

 

Detail

If No-one Else Wants You

clay replica binoculars, hoarded candles,

collected baking trays and drawer

& preserved banana peel

2013

 

My work is usually so clean, so I’m not sure about this grungy aesthetic. But I feel its in tune with the brief I was working from. I think I’ll stick to white walls for now though.

Everything I’m Thinking Right Now

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.

Taking this further still, this semester I have been continuously collecting data. I have been recording my daily basic functions, and plan to develop this over the Christmas break (providing the dissertation doesn’t kill me). Although I still feel strongly about the work being 3 Dimensional and installation based, I won’t rule out the use of sound in this piece. Stay tuned for that one.

Dissertation Proposal

I had a good day today. Ive been dreading writing this dissertation proposal all week.

 

Buuuut It had to be done, so I set aside my whole Wednesday to wade through it, and it wasn’t so bad really. I love researching and writing, its often difficult to start but its great when you get into something like that and can start piecing together a line of thought.

My thoughts are on ‘the everyday object as art’.

 

“A natural or man made object found by an artist and kept because of some intrinsic interest the artist sees in it. Found objects may be put on a shelf and treated as works of art in themselves.”

The official website for Tate galleries online offers this definition of the ‘Found Object’ in relation to art. The explanation is given that if an object, any object, is put on a shelf by an artist it is automatically referred to as ‘art’. Is the power then, of transforming an object into an artwork, with the artist, the object or more simply with the gallery space? Can anything be put into a white room and be viewed at with wonder? 

Marcel Duchamp writes in a 1918 edition of an avant-garde magazine, ‘The Blind Man’ that the artists’ physical involvement in an artwork is irrelevant, if he has created the object or not is unnecessary to evaluate. What makes an object art is that it has been chosen by the artist to be viewed as art. By choosing to place an object in front of the viewer as art, the artist gives the object a new identity to be considered, and therefore redefines the purpose of the object. One cannot begin to discuss the object as art without turning attention to Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 work, ‘Fountain’. Presented originally as a humorous jibe at the serious attitude towards modern art in America, ‘Fountain’ presents a perfect example of a common object being completely redefined. This event marks the groundwork for a change in social perception of the definition of art and the object as art. Progressing on from this, artists such as Claus Oldenburg, Joseph Beuys and Robert Rauschenberg must also be considered. These are all examples of artists who use found objects and adapt them within their art. Rauschenberg’s ‘Bed’ defies preconceptions of the everyday object. By simply being hung on a wall with some additional paintwork and scribbles, the viewer is confronted with something new to contemplate, regardless of the fact that they see a bed everyday.

Similarly, Christian Boltanski is able to encourage this change of perception of a common object. With Boltanski, its usually not the object he manipulates, but the surroundings and other components of the installation. In his work ‘Personnes’, the feature piece is a huge room filled with heaps of clothes and a large crane redistributing the clothes into different piles. The average viewer wears clothes everyday, sees rails of clothes in the highstreet and dumps bags of them in charity shops. However, when viewing the piles of clothes in Boltanski’s piece, one thinks of loss, scale, and remnants of the dead. Christian Boltanski manages to provoke fresh thought in objects that we, the viewer, are surrounded by day to day.

In studying the object as art one must consider the artists ability to achieve this change of perception while looking at examples of artists who have done so and how they have done so; whether by changing the object, the setting, or simply placing it within an artistic context, and public perception of the untouched object being called ‘art’.

 

After some hefty note taking, and an encouraging cup of coffee, I threw the above statement together to outline what my line of thought is at the moment. Its going to change, I can tell, so I wasn’t too fussy on the wording.

Right now this is a pretty broad theme. I’m hoping to specify more once I’ve built up my research and identified the key points that interest me. Aside from reading books and researching artists, I’m considering visiting charity shops and recycling centres in Dundee, to interview staff about what percentage of their customers are art students, buying old ‘junk’ to use in their art. I feel this would give my research a fresh insight and provide a modern and relatable side to the argument.

I’d like my dissertation to be centred around a mature understanding of this medium and be able to convey a clear argument. I’d also like for it to be of interest to members of the general public who perhaps feel they don’t understand contemporary art. I’d like for people to be able to read this piece and take some knowledge and appreciation away from it.

Recreation

Is it sad that my break from art is art?

After finishing my project last night I’ve spent most of today painting. For fun I guess. Really I’m just putting off important things like filling in a new passport form and packing up my room for my return to Dundee.

Painting annoys me a lot of the time. But it has its moments. I always saw myself as a painter, then I got sucked into all this installation stuff. Maybe I just don’t have much faith in my paintings. It’s still nice to spend a couple of hours getting lost with it though.

 

 

I was feeling purple.

Possibly I need a hobby. My plans to learn to drive/learn a language/learn an instrument this year haven’t really taken off. I guess hoarding could be my hobby… ‘collecting’ might make it sound less obsessive. Though it’s a bit obsessive. The not being able to bin a chicken carcass kind of proved that.