Collecting the items for my London Underground work is taking a very long time which is preventing me from being in the studio creating physical work. Maybe it is time to hold off on collecting anymore items and take a week to just play with what I already have to stop my ideas/practical work from getting stale.
In terms of the objects I will start to look at artists such as Mark Dion, Clare Goodwin (“Museum of the Unwanted”) and James Brett (“Museum of Everything”).
I am also interesting in creating books / catalogues as the journey aspect has been very photography based but I’m not sure how effective straight print outs would be. I like the idea of creating something that perhaps appears to be something it’s not, e.g factual, pop-culture related, shop catalogue etc. I am interested in the work of Edward Ruscha and will research him further.
I also need to think about the presentation of my FOUND posters. Visually, they have a much higher impact when printed high quality and laid out in a very neat, “artwork on the wall” kind of way. However, this loses the idea of the work merging with the real world which is one of my key concerns. Although, picturing this set up outside on a wall is very different. It could take on the feeling of a billboard or a notice bored with pasted on adverts/posters.
I want to do something with the images of the low quality, distributed photos (the photos themselves are also very low quality, adding to the ‘real life’ quality). Perhaps a book or something would be effective here as well.
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.
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 actuallybeen 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 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.
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.
I decided to put the posters up around college. I knew the reaction would be different when the viewers were exclusively art students/artists who would notice the posters in a different way to a member of the public walking past one isolated poster in the street, however, putting them up here allowed to me to easily track them and see how they were interacted with.
All the posters had been removed from the tables of both the studio and canteen by the next day. I suppose this sums up one of the key things about working in this way; once the work is in the world, the artist has very little control over it. This is kind of part of what makes up interventionist art as the reaction to the work becomes a key part of the work itself. The posters on the walls lasted much better and I began to see how people have responded to them. I plan to leave the posters up for as long as possible and keep checking back on them / recording progress.
It is fun to think that whoever took the tabs from the posters might still have them, or at least have carried them around in a pocket or a bag for a while. The tabs in a way carry on the kind of network I have tried to create and this is interesting to think about. Would it be possible to create some kind of public work that the viewers unknowingly exaggerate or even help to fully create? I like this idea of bringing the viewer even further into the work, becoming almost participants or performers. [research Tino Sehgal, Adam Chodzko, Christian Falsnaes].
This also started happen via email. I got a couple of responses to my posters, they were both kind of playing along with the joke, obviously seeing the posters as a bit of a silly prank, which is fine with me as long as it incites a response.
Rose’s email intrigued me. How would she respond if I seriously asked for help? Could I start a campaign/group/search party? How big could I make this and how seriously could I make other people take it. I hadn’t thought about how the systems I am creating could be more human-focused rather than being about the objects themselves. Perhaps the manipulation of the viewer is the more interesting element.
Another thing I noticed at college was a poster someone put up to try to find their stylus pen. In the corner of the poster are the words “It’s real”. This is surely in response to my posters which have warped the idea of a lost/found poster to the point where a serious one in the same environment can’t be taken seriously. I very much enjoy the fact that I have had such a subtly big impact on the college. I reckon you could probably ask every student if they had noticed the posters and the majority of them (especially the girls as lots of the posters were in the girls toilets) would say yes. Although, they wouldn’t know who had put them up or what they were about.
Dematerialisation describes how in contemporary art the object is losing significance as the concept itself becomes the artwork.
Richard Long describes himself as a sculptor despite his work being largely non-physical. For example “a line made by walking” now exists only as a photograph, losing the materiality of ‘traditional sculpture’. It can also be argued that the act of walking backwards and forwards to create the line is the art (the sculpture?) and the title of the piece reflects this. If the image was taken away leaving just the title, would the effect be the same?
A similar idea is explored in the piece “Untitled”, more commonly known as “Ben Nevis Hitch-Hike”. The ‘sculpture’ here was the journey itself, although the only documentation of this artwork is photos of the sky and and the ground taken at each stop. This raises interesting questions about the documentation of non-material work. For many, the photos would be the ‘artwork’, so does this change the intention/idea of the piece? However, if there was no documentation at all would the artwork even be artwork? Is there any point in doing this invisible work if there is no proof that it has been done? And should art be about ‘proving yourself’ to an audience?
This clearly relates to my London tube map journey. Is the act of travelling and collecting the key part?
Francis Alys also explored this idea of journey as artwork in his 1997 piece “The Loop”, in which he spent the commission money from “Insite” on travelling from Tijuana, Mexico to the exhibition in San Diego without crossing the Mexico-US border. He travelled to Australia, then travelled up the Pacific Rim then through Alaska and Canada before reaching the United States. In teh exhibition this journey was presented in the form of a postcard, although the true “artwork” was the journey itself which highlighted the difficulty of Mexican citizens trying to enter the United States.
“The project remained free and clear of all critical implications beyond the physical displacement of the artist”
Other works by Alys, such as “The Modern Procession” focused not on the acts themselves (in this case a parade of over 100 people carrying reproductions of ‘masterpieces’) but on the rumours/stories that these acts created. What people said about the artworks are more important than the artworks themselves, therefore making these words the artworks. This raises difficulties as the artist completely loses control. Although he has full control over the things that create the buzz, the buzz itself is impossible to track so the artist can never know to what extent he was successful. The only way is via publications which don’t necessarily provide an accurate/full picture. This kind of relates back to Richard Long’s journey’s; if they aren’t recorded in some way, what is the point? Here, however, there is very little way to record. But does this matter? I don’t know!!!!!
I have now been to maybe one third of the tube stops and my thoughts have begun to change a little. As soon as I started collecting I realised it would be a shame to dish out objects straight away as this would prevent me from doing anymore work with them. The thought of keeping these objects and collating them into a big collection is very appealing and I don’t want to just fling them out into the world again. It would be hard to push my ideas further if I had to restart collecting to have material to play with.
Problems have also started to arise in regard to the rules I have set myself. Firstly, the fact that it has to be the first item I see. Sometimes the first is super boring, e.g a hairband or a pen and I am sure I can find something more interesting. Ignoring these boring objects is something I have tried to refrain from doing as I have noticed that they start to say something about the area: usually the smaller, more generic objects come from touristy/corporate areas where there is less personality so therefore less personal items. However, this also becomes a bit of an issue when I choose to walk between stations rather than get back on the tube – this can be more practical but what is the first item I see if I am going from the opposite direction? Secretly I kind of enjoy this problem, though, as it means I get to be a bit more selective – if I initially find something that I’m not completely happy with I can discard it for something better that I find closer, because technically that is more fitting with the rules anyway.
This enjoyment made me realise that following the rules is perhaps not even that important. As long as the audience think I have followed them then I retain my power as artist. For all they know the web is actually a lie and the objects are all things I already had. It was pointed out in m y grout crit that this means I don’t necessarily even have to collect; maybe the rules are the piece and that is enough.
This is an interesting thing to think about in the context of my work: what is “the artwork”? Is it the objects and what I do with them? The photos of the objects? The rules? The web/system I create? Or something else entirely? At this point I like the idea of my lists and map becoming works in themselves. I also see the journey I am making as a big part of the artwork and have been encouraged to look into artists such as Richard Long who think about ‘dematerialisation’.
This is something I will definitely think about more once I have collected all the items, although it is important to think about now in terms of documentation. If the journey is the ‘work’ should I be filming it? Or are the photos from each place enough? (e.g the only documentation of Richard Long’s journey in “untitled – Ben Nevis Hitch-Hike” is the photos of the ground and sky from each stop). Are these photos that I’m taking even important? Do I even need them if I am taking the physical objects?
I don’t want the concept of artist control/gameplay to be lost in playing with all these other elements but I also feel like maybe once I have completed the monster task of collection I will be able to refine my focus again. For now it is difficult to see exactly what this piece of work is doing but it is impossible to move on without this step.
Brad Downey also works with urban interventions. However, his work differs from Harmen de Hoop’s in that it looks more like “art” and the commentary is often more explicit. While de Hoop avoids the traditional “white cube” of gallery spaces, reasoning that street art/intervention should be based on genuine public interaction, Downey plays with these exhibition spaces. The work is initially public – either bringing something unexpected into the urban environment, or using something from this space to create work. It is then taken back into a traditional “art space” (sometimes in the form of photography) and Downey retains ownership of the work.
In “Hotel L’Era De Can Burges” furniture was taken from inside a huge hotel and neatly arranged in a conflicting space. Tension between where it should be and where it is. So large scale that a passer-by would have to actively move around it. Physically changes the space.
“Parasite space” and “fence hack” are almost the opposite of “Hotel L’Era Du Can Burges” in that instead of bringing something into the space, pre-existing objects from the space are utilised to create the work. Interestingly, in the description for “Fence Hack” on the artist’s website, the materials are listed as “wood, mounting hardware, digitally printed photography mounted on woodboard”. This highlights the relationship between gallery and public space. Perhaps for Downey, the image/presentation of the work is the important part, rather than how it interacts with the space/viewer. This makes me question Downey’s relevance to intervention art/street installation. Although I do find his work interesting in terms of content, this idea of doing it to create visual ‘artworks’ isn’t so interesting conceptually.
Harmen de Hoop makes anonymous and illegal interventions in public spaces. The anonymity in his work is very important; he does not advertise his interventions as art or sign them in anyway. If he did so, the piece would become recognisable as an “artwork” which stops the passerby questioning in the same way.
De Hoop’s interventions re-contextualise existing signs/utilities etc within public spaces, but do so using common tools and imagery which don’t immediately draw the viewers attention due to their familiarity. They are “puzzling because of their pointlessness, but not unfamiliar either”. There is something surrealist in this notion; casual additions to public ‘furniture’ that raise question but don’t shake the ordinary.
Would people follow the instructions/ use the things before realising they don’t really make sense? Noone is forced to acknowledge the works, but they are somehow just absurd enough to pique the interest of a passerby.
I am interested in playing with this idea of faux-public utility. It would be interesting to incorporate a more human element into my work, rather than just creating systems using objects that go ignored. How does it change public response to something if it is presented as an actual thing vs an artwork? For example if a name plaque was put up next to De Hoops “Mineral Water” there is no chance anyone would take it, but if not they might.
Once these works are created, de Hoop loses control over them. They might stay there for years, but alternatively may be removed, vandalised or taken. This is reflective of the fact that they are designed to blend into the environment. What happens to them once out of the hands of the artist is a key part of the work.
I am interested in how artists can affect the city as well as how the city affects artists. I was stopped from doing what I wanted with my posters because of systems in place within the city (e.g laws). I am interested in artists who play with these systems to manipulate spaces/objects and how this often takes forms unrecognisable to the viewer as “artworks”.
“Street installation” is, like traditional street art (e.g graffiti), often done illegally and anonymously under a pseudonym. These artists sometimes have political or social agendas – commenting on the use of ‘public’ spaces and the control over them as well as playing with social interaction within these spaces. Urban interventionists see “urban space as a medium, bringing art into peoples’ daily lives”; my particular interest however is in how art can be brought into “daily lives” without the viewer being explicitly aware of it, for example unlike artists such as Banksy.
Must be the FIRST item I find, even if it is boring or I already have lots of that thing.
Must be a possession, NOT litter. e.g must have belonged to someone at some point, not just the surrounding of the belonging.
After a tutorial, I started thinking more about how the work I’m doing relates to the city. It is impossible for this work to exist without an acknowledgement of the city so I decide to embrace this idea of creating some kind of city wide network. Using the London Underground allows me to hijack a preexisting system then morph it to create my own web.
My initial inspiration behind this work came from the fiction novel “The Shining Girls” by Lauren Beukes. It wasn’t the best book in the world but it was interesting to slowly discover the web created by the antagonist, Harper, a serial killer from the 1920’s. He travels through time killing girls and taking a ‘token’ from them which he then leaves with another dead girl in another time. I like the idea of creating this sort of invisible network (minus the murder). No-one will know it, but I will have taken over London – linking people and places that otherwise have no link. A small change to a big city. Does this mean I will have changed London? Do I, an art student, have the power to make a city wide change?
My original intention was to widely distribute the posters around the city. However, after printing out over 100 copies, I discovered that this would be ‘fly-posting’ which could result in an £80-1000 fine. Which I’m not so up for. Especially seeing as the email address I used on the poster is a real one, just in case anyone felt the urge to respond.
Possible alternative poster placement:
Near the object. This would make the poster more humorous/ jokey. Would stop being about my influence on the object as an artist and become a silly vanadlism-esque act. Something for viewers to post on to facebook. This in itself creates a kind of meaning/structure. The power of the meme/ internet could bring its own chaotic order. But, loss of control as an artist.
Social media. I could start a twitter/fb/instagram for these items. This would bring back my power whilst utilising the power of the internet. Most likely way for the posters to be seen by a large audience and allows me to push the narrative that I have created. Also allows me to see the reaction of the viewer.
College. Putting the posters up at uni would be a very different thing. In the context of an art college, the posters would straight away be accepted as art/ a project. More likely to get responses via email?
Public noticeboards (e.g in large corporations such as starbucks, tesco etc). Would be an easy way of legitimising the posters; they would start to merge in with the other, real, posters which would either make them more like a ‘real’ poster, or would make the viewer notice them. Would they start to recognise these posters from other shops? What would they assume about them? Could also become a comment on capitalism and the power of big businesses. Almost a small fuck you to these huge corporations trying to make themselves feel like little, local, community spaces.
This starts to raise the question of the boundaries between real life and concept. Yes, I am an artist saying that this is art, but as soon as work such as this is released into the public, they kind of just become real posters. There is no platform on which I can take ownership unless I put up a gallery plaque next to each one, which would of course completely contradict the point of the piece as it would become purely aesthetic – the piece would then be the poster rather than the network of false meaning.
In my upcoming work I need to start thinking more about what the work is actually about. Is it about relationships between people and bringing them into some kind of web using possessions? Or is it just about the objects? Or the city? Or the concept? I think at the moment the aspect I am most interested in is the power of myself as an artist. This kind of incorporates all these aspects as I have the power to bring any meaning I want to objects, just by saying “this is what they are”, as well as being able to invent patterns between people and the city. Maybe I need to find a specific focus rather than being lazy and saying “I’m looking at all of these things”. But then again, maybe this will come as the project progresses.