Breakdown

Continuing with the idea of trying to stop the work from being about the objects by using ‘remnants’, I broke a number of them down into their most basic, reduced form. The objects become components rather than objects. I like the thought that by breaking down these objects I am also breaking down the city.

This has a clear link to Michael Landy’s breakdown in which he (along with a team of assistants) methodically took apart/shredded/deconstructed every one of his possessions, reducing them to their most basic parts. These remains can no longer be seen as possessions or belongings, in the same way that my objects can no longer been seen as the same objects I collected. The piles of Landy’s scraps are a kind of pile of his life, without being actual physical objects – I see my parts as a summing up of the journey/network that I created, not as found objects.

One of the most interesting parts of “breakdown” is the inventory that was written of every item along with a code number. It is interesting how such subjective, personal things such as possessions can be so easily made into sterile and objective.  I am very interested in cataloguing, list writing etc as a way of recording dematerialised works and was curious about applying this to this facet of my work. A list is one step further removed from the object itself. The words are the objects and the objects are the city, so the words are the city.

Extraxt from Michael Landys “Breakdown Inventory” 2001. Full list available here
Extract from my inventory.

My inventory and Landy’s are the opposite way round – his is a list of all the objects pre-breakdown, whereas mine is a list of the components.

I decided not to breakdown every object as it started to feel like a bit of a waste of time. Although the result was an effective veer from object, the fact that I was spending so much of my time working with the objects, rather than returning to systems/space etc, felt completely contradictory. I am glad I started this as I do think it was interesting (both the process and the result), in that I have become interested in starting a dematerial process with a material object. (for example, the more i continue, the less of a material I am left with. Could I start a network with an object and end with no object?).

 

Francis Alys

francis alys: walking distance from the studio” – kunstmuseum wolfsburg

“Observing and explaining anthropological contexts and social situations… for almost 20 years”
– Not global, but local
– No pandering to the trend of ‘political art’ just to fit with popular movement. Just his own, actual, genuine, observations of the city.

“Collects experiences of everyday life”
Participant and observer, as a human being and as an artist.

 

“francis alys: 7 walks, london, 2004-2005” – artangel, 2005

Goes into his walks without a particular plan, approaches the city with a method rather than a project. This allows an “open and responsive” mode of making.

Importance of the presence of railings: sound, feeling, memory, association, barrier, wall, function.

“Listening to the music of the city”

Rumour and bronze sculptures in grabage bags. An exploration of the circuits of diffusion and circulation. Systems and networks that develop naturally through the process of circulation and distribution. “I like to set an idea in motion, to set the parameters for a situation to develop and then lose control of it” (does the city/space itself become one of these “parameters”?)
– e.g musicians finding each other in the city; drawn by sound.
-tracking, chasing, following
– e.g “The Nightwatch” : fox in the National Gallery, CCTV
– ‘discovering’ relationships/networks/webs
– e.g milk bottles, people in shadows

Francis Alys “Zócalo Mayo”1999
Francis Alys “The Nightwatch” 2004

“My first impulse was not to take from the city, but more to absorb what was already there, to work within the residues, or with the negative spaces, the holes, the spaces in between

Dematerialised works presented as film, photograph, maps, lists, diagrams, conversations, press coverage, emails etc.

Francis Alys “A Personal Repertoire of Possible Behaviour While Walking the Streets in London Town” 2005

Francis Alys has become the most important reference in my work. He works with intervention / public event in a way that I have struggled to see in other artists. There is minimal political drive, rather he is honestly and organically exploring space, the city, human interaction with the city etc. He makes art both in the city and with the city.

Walking and noticing things that then become maps and networks. I am also interested in his focus on distribution and circulation. Reminds me of the idea of “drawing a picture” in the city that is either invisible or is impossible to see as a whole. Don’t know what happens to it once you turn the corner. (Link to “New York Trilogy:City of Glass“)

Francis Alys “The Green Line” 2004 – drew a line on a map with a thick green marker then followed this line as closely as possible while leaving a trail of green paint.

“Internal Exiles: The Interventionist Public and Performance Art of Asco” – C. Ondine Chavoya

from “Space, Site, intervention: situating installation art” – erika suderburg, 2000

Asco = artist collective
– test limits of art: production, distribution, reception, exhibition.
-performance, public art, conceptual multimedia art.
– Activism: response to turbulent social/ political climate.

Power of public representation and documentation in and of media. Created new means of access/distribution to circumvent traditional institutes.

“Dynamic interaction between critique and seduction, play provocation, activism and abstraction”

  • “Ethics of Combat”
  • Walking Murals: e.g “Stations of the Cross”1971 – procession /  ‘religious’ ceremony. e.g “Walking Mural” 1972 – replacing a cancelled Christmas, acting as both the participants and the floats.
  • “Counter-spectacle intervention”
Asco, “Walking Mural” 1972, LA

Didn’t plan these interventions/ spectacles so anyone “could actually see them”, just dropped into normal life. Don’t necessarily want the audience to understand exactly what is being critiqued, just want to raise questions using “bizarre and unorthodox activities in public thoroughfares”

Asco “Asshole Mural” 1974

Situating critique in a space that Chicano’s didn’t have access to, i.e PUBLIC SPACE.
– “Project Pie in De/ Face”: Chicano art absent from LACMA’s collections/ exhibitions. According to the creator this is because they “don’t make fine art only folk art” or “they were in gangs”. In response, Asco signed their names with spray paint on the museums entrances, effectively taking all the artworks and the building as their own “conceptual piece”. This became “the first conceptual work of Chicano art to be exhibited at LACMA”
– “Instant Mural”: Two of them attached to a liquor store with masking tape. After an hour, and numerous people offering help, they simply walked away. “Visually intimidating, yet physically weak”
Human geographies become filled with politics and ideology. Space becomes loaded with politics, changing interactions within it. “The symbolised space of place constitutes the very material for Asco’s urban performances”.
– Setting up ‘decoys’ in areas of potential violence, e.g lie on the ground covered in ketchup. Photos distributed to publications/TV, which accepted them as real violence. Re-stabilise the power of the media.
– “Asshole Mural” Take over the idea of traditional monuments. Monuments are often very loaded : suggest a shared, generally ideology/set of values. (e.g monuments representing ‘important figures’. Are they important to everyone? Or just the white middle class?)

Asco “Instant Mural” 1974

Interventionism was becoming somewhat irrelevant to me, as the political/activism side of it is not something I am interested in. Although I am not interested in doing work about the exact issues Asco focus on (racism, oppression etc), the way they work is very interesting to me. Their focus on the politics of space and how this effects the usage of space as well as their ideas about taking ownership/reclaiming spaces and their focus on the network of the media feed into my own practice.

“The Functional Site” – James Meyer

from “Space, site, intervention: situating installation art” – ERika suderberg, 2000

Focus on origins of site specificity

  • Literal site: an actual, singular, location. Artists intention conforms to restraints of this place/situation. Formal outcome determined by a physical place. (e.g Richard Serra: Steel monuments designed for a specific place)

    Richard Serra, “Tilted Arc” 1981, Federal Plaza, New York
  • Functional Site: May or may not incorporate a physical place. Process/ operation occurring between sites. “Mapping of institutional and textual fictations and the bodies that move between them”. (e.g Robert Smithson)Temporary vs for eternity. Mobile site is self-destructive, “wilfully temporary”, it is in its nature to come down, or to barely physically exist at all.

Becomes a critique of the gallery? Site specificity originated in the gallery. Makes the viewer conscious of their body within the space. Site specific work is “aware of its surroundings” as opposed to modernist work which simply existed and was hung – surroundings not important. Created somewhere and hung somewhere else.
Merleau-Ponty: Presence. Experience of actualness and authenticity to counter an increasingly “one dimensional” society.

Becomes a critique of “the system”. Aesthetics of minimalism with the real space and time experience of site specificity. e.g Lawrence Weiner, Bochner, Buren.

Daniel Buren, “Les Deux Plateaux” 1985-1986, Palais Royal, Paris

Crimp: Meaning of minimalist artwork created by “situated spectator’s” perception of the object in relation to the site of it’s installation. Attack on the prestige of the artwork and artist. Power transferred to viewer.

Today, work has begun to explore the “expanded site” (not just site specific within a gallery, i.e minimalists).
– E.g “Platzwechsel” – 1995 exhibition by Mark Dion, Ursula Biemann, Christian Phillip Muller and Tom Burr. 4 distinct points of view.
– “Devoid of a unique place, Platzwechsel led the viewer on a “tour” from one landmark to the next”
– The work is thus not a single entity/ the installation of an individual artist in a given place. It was, instead, a function occurring between these locations and points of view.
– Kunsthalle became an “elaborate non-site”. “Fabric of allusions”
– Installations and texts set up a semantic chain that “traversed physical borders”
– e.g concrete plinth by Muller alludes to monument in the park
– e.g wooden ‘surveillance booth’ = turrets of museum
– e.g flora and earth taken from park and put in hall
– e.g oral accounts of parks visitors

Mark Dion, Ursula Biemann, Christian Phillip Muller, Tom Burr, “Platzwechsel” 1995

“Mobile Site” : happenings, situationism, Richard Long (walks), On Kawara (postcards), Tadashi Kawamata (temporary shanty towns), Andre Cadere (“Barres de Bois Rond”).

Andre Cadere, “Barres de Bois Rond”, 1970’s

Robert Smithson: “work exists in the OVERLAP of textual account, photographic and film recording, guided tours by the artist, and the literal site”
– “Place… is a vectored relation; the physical site is a destination to be seen or left behind… it is only temporarily experienced…if it is seen at all” – the site / physical ‘thing’ itself becomes of little importance.
– Network of sites referring to an “elsewhere”. Non-site / site.
Owens: “The Jetty is not a discrete work, but a link in a chain of signifiers which summon and refer to one another in a dizzy spiral”
– Spiral Jetty now exists only in film, photo, narrative, maps, diagrams, drawings etc. In fact the title “Spiral Jetty” actually refers to the film made about the jetty, rather than to the jetty itself.

Robert Smithson, stills from “Spiral Jetty”, 1970

“Mobile notion of site and a nomadic subjectivity”
-Martha Rosler: travel snapshots
-Stephen Prina: gallery critiques
– Gabriel Orozco: floaty balls, scooters
– Rirkrit Tiravanija: tents and dinners
– Renee Green: “secret”. Sleeping in a tent in the exhibition.

Distortion Context

Since I started looking at how spaces can be tweaked into uselessness (parade ground, conference room and studio), I have been noticing instances of this happening in the world – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not and sometimes difficult to know.

In Kati Heck’s exhibition “Heimlich Manoeuvre” at Sadie Coles , 6 paintings are shown in a carpeted, hexagonal space. One of the paintings, however, is obscured by a pillar, preventing the viewer from having a proper, front facing view.

Kati Heck – title unknown.

The whole show is presented as a kind of installation, so it feels like the pillar must be deliberate – it seems they could have built the hexagon one metre to the side to avoid this obstruction. However, I can’t find anything that even mentions the pillar, let alone explain it, it is as if noone has even noticed it is there, including the press release. This one glitch in the entire show has taken away the prime function of a white cube gallery space: to present works simply and accessibly to the viewer.

There was a similar situation in Sprüth Magers Gallery. After walking downstairs I suddenly felt as if I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been. The sign said there was two rooms of Andreas Schulze’s work, however, I couldn’t tell you what his work actually was, as in the centre of both rooms was a large desk. The rooms felt like private offices. I don’t know if this was part of his work or not, as I was too scared to properly venture in. Whether this is deliberate or not, I find it super interesting.

In the Zilkha Auditorium at the Whitechapel Gallery, Liam Gillick has taken over with his ‘social sculpture’ “Prototype Conference Room” in which he covered all the seats with brightly coloured fabrics, subverting the usual hierarchy of a cinema. The audience’s attention is first captured by the seatsm rather than the film. This piece is very deliberate, as opposed to the other two works which I am not sure about. Gillick’s practice is concerned with the “aesthetics of social spaces” exploring how “materials, structure, and colours affect our surroundings and influence the way we behave”. I like how this work unapologetically hijacks both the space and the work of the other showing artists. This is what I have been to afraid to do with my own work (probably for good reason as a student…)

Liam Gillick “Prototype Conference Room”

Distorting spaces I

“public space, politics and event” workshop With lucy gunning

Workshop notes:

  • What does ‘politics’ mean? Politics of the world, a country, a space. Politics = news, rules, systems put in place by those with power. Politics = the way things are, the everyday. Politics of life vs politics of politics/government.
  • Restriction. Virginia Woolf “A Room of One’s Own” — inspired Lucy Gunning’s piece for “Planned and Unplanned” exhibition. Ownership of space (e.g uni / museum quad) – reading Virginia Woolf in quad.
  • Spectacle or lack of. Merge with everyday life rather than causing a scene. Not a hired space, rest of the space continuing as usual.
  • “Text mapped on to an environment, that you were moving through”
  • Participants also the audience
  • Event in relation to exhibition: exhib a way to advertise event (not pre filmed etc as something to present in an exhibition)
  • Carrying dancer down the street; acknowledgement of audience; subtle, short, fitting into everyday.
  • Mirrors in Lake district; can only witness by being part of it; Noone can witness the whole thing
  • Posters/stickers – integrating with public space

References:

  • DAVID HAMMONS: Selling snowballs on the street, documentation only exists because a photographer (unhired) took photos
  • FRANCIS ALYS: Recording. If the work is made up of experiences is there any value in filming etc
  • OLAFUR ELIASSON: “Green River”. Unannounced. Starts a fear/buzz/rumour. Wakes people up to their environment.
  • MEIRELES: Working with the circulation of things, e.g recycled coca cola bottles, editing the labels etc then returning them, go undetected and back into the system. E.g instructions on how to make a molotov cocktail; no control over what happens to them/no control over the audience; also with money “yankees go home”
  • VALIE EXPORT: Working with her body in public; posters; performance; “street cinema” – but its her boobs! Questioning the male gaze by confronting them with her as a human.
  • Always relates back to capitalism / control / boundaries. Capitalism as a network/map/web. Boundaries as a system.

For me , this workshop became more about the politics of space; how do we use spaces? I was thinking about the formal rules that dictate our use of spaces as well as the informal rules that influence how we move around, behave in and interact with spaces.

I was thinking about this in relation to Perec’s “Species of Spaces”. As well as talking about Spaces, he sets what he refers to as ‘exercises’, for example, listing sitting in one places and listing everything you see, without prioritising the out-of-the-ordinary over the mundane. This forces the participant to look more carefully at their surroundings and to notice things. 

I did this for the Chelsea College Parade Ground. I think the Parade Ground is an interesting space as it sits somewhere between poublic and private; it is owned by the college, yet is open for the public to pass through. I think of the Parade Ground as a kind of transitionary space – it is used to get from one place to another. My main interest lies in how people use spaces, so I focused my recordings on the entrances/exits and the people who pass through them:

This kind of written ‘map’ of activity prompted me to think about other ways of mapping/tracking how people interact with the space. Because of limited time, I focused on the area outside the Triangle space, at the bottom of the ramp. This area is one that has to be walked on in order for people to get to the Parade Ground from the main building, the workshops and the Triangle Space, as well as being the only route in between the three.

Despite this, once i started laying down the newspaper, people were extremely reluctant to walk there (even though there is literally no other option). I tried to make extend the edges, forcing people to walk across, rather than jump over. By laying water around the edges of the newspaper I could see exactly where people were walking, and all the stains were around the very edges.

It is interesting how a small change made people so aware of themselves and of the space. Ordinarily, you wouldn’t think twice about walking on a newspaper on the ground, however here, where it was clearly more deliberate, everyone was reluctant to. They either skirted round the edges, or walked in a funny ‘minimal contact’ kind of way, hesitating before crossing.

My intention for this experiment was to simply see how people moved in a space, however, it became about me as the artist changing the space and preventing the people from using the space how they usually would. This relates back to my earlier work exploring my power as artist. I have made a space that’s only purpose is to be walked across, completely useless.

 

“The New York Trilogy: City of Glass”

Paul Auster

“City of Glass” is a work of detective-fiction, however, it explores the city in a way that interests me. The roads of the city are used as a means of communication. Patterns are created using the systems of the streets, which form letters. It is interesting to consider how something like this would be untraceable unless looked for, and even then, the viewer would have to be present. It only makes sense from above, but dissolves instantly. No trace is left behind except the knowledge that it has been done. Undetectable event.

 

“Species of Spaces and Other Pieces”

Georges Perec

I read “Species of Spaces” because I felt it would be useful to address and explore my work’s clear, unavoidable link to the city. However, once I started reading I got very got up in, and excited by, the possibilities of spaces as a concept, rather than just specific place (e.g city). The more excited I got, the further my thoughts drifted from everything I have done up to this point and I started to see “Space” and “Mapping/Intervention” as two very different strands of interest. However, once I sat down and tried to organise my thoughts, I realised that these two strands are extremely intertwined and I could use what I had got from “Species of Spaces” to push my work forward, rather than using it as a new starting point.

Summary:

  • Space as invention/illususion/perception : visual / grammatical ‘declaratives’ (I say it is this, therefore it is)
  • Questioning and distorting givens
  • Imagined vs real : is there really a difference?
  • Changing London – have I? / Can I?
  • Cataloguing and Breaking down. Can space be broken down and formalised? Using this as a means of manipulation.

 

TO RESEARCH/READ

Post group crit/ assessment feedback:

  • Kabakovs
  • “A thousand Plateaus” Deluze and Guattari
  • “Living Maps” Network
  • “The Practice of Everyday Life” Michel de Certeau
  • Annette Messager (second hand clothing)
  • Mike Kelley (collections of objects)
  • Landy (production line, catalogue)

“The Interventionist’s: Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life”

MASS MoCA edited by Thompson and Scholette

It wasn’t until I read this book, including the essay “Trespassing relevance” by Nato Thompson, that I realised just how politically charged interventionism is. While I am interested in ‘art activism’ it isn’t really where I want to go with my work at the moment. However, it is still very interesting and helpful to look at the ways in which interventionist artists work and how they think about the artworld’s relationship with the public spheres. Much of their work much more closely resemble acts of protest than artworks which is interesting to me. When do actual acts cross the line into artwork?

Thompson writes about Abbie Hoffman’s 1967 act of dropping dollar bills on traders at the New York Stock Exchange then watching them scramble to grab as much as possible. This act made international news and according to Hoffman, “You can’t be revolutionary today without a television set – it’s as important as a gun!”. This is similar to Francis Alys’ aim to create a buzz about his work. The act/work itself becomes less important than the distribution of it or the talk about it. Although, Hoffman’s reasoning for this is that in order to “destroy” some kind of system of power, tools must be used to bring the acts into the public eye and that in this age the most important tool is technology. 

Hoffman, alongside Jerry Rubin, kind of foreshadowed the boom of interventionist art in the 1980’s. Hoffman and the ‘yippies’ talked about the role of humour in creating activist artworks. Humour was a tactic. Because of their awareness of the media, it was vital to be aware of how they would be perceived. By mixing wit with the drama of their actions they could manipulate visual codes in a way that, first, made the audience laugh, then second, hit them with a message.

There are many interesting artists in this book but I have chosen just a few to look at in more depth. The following artists all fit into the category of “Reclaim the Streets” and work with a focus on how they are perceived by the public and by the structures put in place by those with power.

Reverend Billy

Bill Talen plays the role of Reverend Billy and takes to the streets incl huge corporations such as Disney Stores and Starbucks’ to ‘preach’ his anti-consumerism message in a very over the top way. He doesn’t stop until he has been escorted from the premises by the police and has been arrested multiple times. This again raises interesting questions about which element is the ‘artwork’. Is it the preaching itself? Or the character? The reaction from the crowds and online? Or the actions of the police and people in power who are the exact people Rev Billy is challenging? For me, one of the most interesting parts of his work is that Starbucks have actually been forced to develop a document outlining the proper protocol for dealing with Reverend Billy appearances, which is given to Starbucks workers. He has made an actual change to these huge capitalist corporations. That is his influence as an artist.

The Yes Men

Explanation of “Beyond the Golden Parachute”

“End of the WTO”

The Yes Men have also managed to make a recordable impact on the systems they are calling into question. By “going under cover” they manage to get themselves invited to attend – and sometimes even to speak at – huge events / conferences / lectures. This began with a fake website (www.gatt.org) which copied the official site for the General Agreements of Trades and Tariffs. Through this site they ended up agreeing to speak in Austria on behalf of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Once at these events they have two tactics: either completely piss around and make fun of the people they are addressing, shocking them into listening (e.g “Beyond the Golden Parachute”), or presenting ideal situations as facts, convincing people of power that things are changing and getting them on board, only for it to come out that things are staying as they are (“End of the WTO”).

The Yes Men aim to make these changes happen, or at least give the people with power something to consider. They also leak information they learn at these events, providing the public with a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes world of business.

Valerie Tevere

I have struggled to find out much information about Valerie Tevere, however I am very intrigued by her. In her intervention “A Preliminary Guide to Public and Private Space” she creates a web in a way that is directly relevant to my own work.

Through a series of interviews with members of the public she travels around Amsterdam creating a network of spaces. She asks the interviewee to describe one private and one public space then moves to those locations for her next interview.

The work allows the viewer to “walk” a geo-psychological map of the city in a “vulnerable yet alternate “tourism””

Tevere talks about the role of humour, play and satire in interventionist works as being “necessary tactics employed to catch the power off guard”

I would like to find out more about Tevere and her practice.