A brightly coloured carpet draws you into the turbine hall of the Tate Modern where superflex’s installation “One, Two, Three, Swing” is set up. The carpet and bright orange three-man swings create a feeling of pure fun; this is only exaggerated by the hoards of kids running, rolling down the hill and playing on the swings.
Sitting on the slope watching all types of people swinging or lying on the ground hypnotised by the huge slowly swinging pendulum, it was my understanding that superflex had set out to challenge our perception of a traditional gallery space and create a kind of breather from the exhausting task of walking round the Tate passively staring at works. The swings provided a release in the form of play while the pendulum allowed you to clear your mind and relax.
Another key feature of the installation was how it brought people together. All ages were intermingled on both the slope and the swings so strangers were forced to interact in a way that is rare in a public space. Avoid flying legs, race people to get on the swing first and perhaps even share a swing with someone you barely know or have never met. The three-person swings required teamwork and a reliance on each other to stop and start. The big scaffolding system joins each and every swing, connecting you to every person taking part.
After reading the statement about the piece as well as looking into reviews/press I was very disappointed to find out that the piece is based on the “swings of the economy” and the carpet supposedly represents the colours of banknotes. This explanation seems completely superficial and doesn’t really fit at all. It has led me to question the importance of artist intent vs viewer reaction. Once a piece has been ‘released’ into the public, does the artists intention have any significance at all?
It also made me think about the turbine hall as a space. If this installation had been in any other space within the Tate (it would of course have to be downsized), would the reaction to it be the same? In the turbine hall, people jump on the swings without any thought/consideration; if it were somewhere else would we be more reluctant to take part? Would we start to see the piece more as art, meaning we look at it and think about it but don’t touch it? and would this result in us thinking about it’s socio-economic implications?
It was important to think carefully about composition, particularly for the painted element of the piece, in which I was inventing objects rather than using things that actually physically exist.
I had to ensure that each of the 9 elements were clearly included and also had to find the balance between making sure they were completely different to both the photographs and the found objects and keeping the link strong between all three. some of the links I made between the objects include: Colour, function, shape, connotations.
After seeing the work of Haroon Mirza I briefly looked into other artists who have used this sort of montage technique to bring together seemingly random imagery to build some kind of implicit narrative/message. Simeon Barclay brings together images in a simple collage style. In “An arrangement on Blue (swamp rat skank)” 3 seemingly unrelated images are tied together with the use of text.
This could be an effective way to create an ‘odd one out’ situation; none of them initially seem to be related but once you read into it is there one that doesn’t fit at all? For example in a selection of 10 images, 9 could contribute to some kind of story, while 1 is actually completely unrelated. The viewer, if told that only 9 are linked, would possibly come up with a totally different story and therefore a totally different odd one out.
Being new to living in London, one of the things I notice whilst walking around are the funny Londoner “still lifes” created accidentally on the streets. It is fun to come up with background stories for the things that can be found (and all kinds of things can be found!)
I decided to use these as the subject for my odd one out study. The next thing I wanted to explore was the use of different mediums and the effect this can have whilst still focusing on the question of if there can be an odd one out between things that are all completely the same yet all completely different: for example, is there an odd one out between a shoe, a painting of a shoe and a photograph of a shoe? And in a collection of items will the viewer select an odd one out by looking at the full collection or by looking at the individual components?
3 different interpretations of 9 different objects came together to create 3 completely different compositions each made up of the same objects.
It was interesting introducing this piece to a class full of fine art students – the response given was that they saw the painting as the odd one out. Not from a visual standpoint or because it’s the only one showing made up, not physical objects, but rather thinking in conceptual terms: “The painting is the only one that has used a ‘traditional art medium'”. They saw the other two as being a reaction to those people that don’t view contemporary art as ‘real’ art. This was not even vaguely in my mind when creating the piece but it very nicely sums up what I’ve been thinking about – if something is presented in a fine art context people will naturally attach a greater meaning to it than what is actually present. It will be fun to play with this idea as the artist.
The next stage of this body of work is to think more about the language of the materials: randomness in art can’t really exist as proved by this experiment, so how can I play with the connections between the objects. Do I have to stick to the factual narrative of the objects or can I create my own? How can I present fiction as fact or hide fact to allow viewer to see it as fiction?
Can I think more about the element of gameplay? Are there rules/ perimeters? What are they and what difference does this make?
This exhibition featured 4 large scale installations which question the viewers understanding of the “relationship between matter and consciousness, truth and belief”*. For me, the most significant piece was “9/11 – 11/9 Fear of the Unknown” which consisted of a circle of speakers and screens surrounding a circular rug which invited the viewer to sit and become completely immersed in the sounds and imagery. Along one wall coloured lights flashed next to a potted plant.
The best way I can describe this installation is as a ‘sensory smash’. The sounds and images at fist seem completely disconnected, however, the longer you are immersed in the piece the stronger the feeling that there is some kind of link between everything that is being thrown at you. There is a sense almost of subliminal messaging; a kind of hypnosis whereby something ungraspable is being fed into your mind. At some points the noise verges on musical and the related clips become a kind of choreography. However, I find it intriguing that each viewer would pick up on different elements – perhaps I only felt as if I was being fed a message because I assumed that there must be some kind of link between what I was seeing/hearing. You could just as easily view it as a collection of isolated stimuli.
The recurring political / scientific references; the viewer-encompassing layout; the name of the piece; and small elements that link every component (e.g wires, timing etc) do make me think that Mirza’s intent was to raise questions about particular topics/issues and that it isn’t simply a ‘random’ selection.
This prompted me to think further about the influence of the artist. To what extent can they manipulate the viewers thoughts: creating work with no meaning that encourages viewer to create meaning? Planting specific thoughts whilst allowing the viewer to feel as if they have come up with something?
The idea of “the odd one out’ in an art context intrigued me, however, I was at first reluctant to explore this as my interest was purely based on fun/humour and I didn’t think this was enough for a fine art course. I kept trying to think of a deeper meaning or concept however forcing an idea never results in anything interesting and I knew my work would quickly reach a dead end.
This internal debate sparked questions about why I was so set on my artwork having to have a big deep concept. Does fine art have to ask big existential questions or make profound statements? Why can art not just be created for it’s own sake? An exploration of the mundane with the intention of ‘just seeing what happens’. With the idea of ‘the odd one out’ still lingering in my mind I wanted to explore this perception of “fine art”. Assuming that the common belief is that art must have some kind of meaning, if I take something meaningless and call it art, what ideas will people project on to it?
I started with a series of short experiments focusing on a set of completely different stimuli – eg a deck of cards. Even if it is impossible for there to be an odd one out, if asked (particularly if asked in an art context), people will always come up with an answer. Because surely there has to be one?!?!?
I randomly dealt myself sets of 3 from a deck of cards then tried to identify the odd one out. Out of the 8 trials I did, only 2 didn’t have multiple options. This test became very analytical because I, as both the tester and the testee, had no subjectivity. Nevertheless, this test did show that even when each option is different (all 52 cards in a deck are different) an ‘odd one’ can be identified if asked. The problem with using a deck of cards, however, was that there are limited factors to make the cards unique e.g colour, suit, number/picture. Although, I was occasionally tempted to group cards together just because of their ‘vibe’ suggesting that choosing an odd one out is something we naturally do, without thought or reasoning. I decided to repeat this experiment with photos, thinking there would be more variables.
Again, this became analytical as I tried to come up with a reason why each one could feasibly be seen as the odd one out. In all but one, I found that each photo from the set could be made into the odd one out showing that everything is both odd and identical. as the artist, my reaction to these sets is somewhat invalid when exploring how viewers project their ideas on to artworks. I showed the sets to someone who didn’t know my focus, asking them to pick an odd one out the second they saw the set (see blue ticks). Interestingly, there was a definite link between my analysis of the images and gut-reaction. Would be interesting to carry this out on a large sample to see differences/similarities in perception.