Practice Workshop – Labelling


The original drawing by Jorja aged 5

In this one-day long project, I ended up with Jorja’s drawing from childhood to work with. For me, the most charming part of the drawing was how she had started to label the elements of her drawing. It is funny how a 5-year-old was self-aware enough to know that no one would know what the images were supposed be, so took the time to label them. These labels were what I decided to focus on – knowing a day wouldn’t be long enough to explore the entire drawing, meaning I had to be selective.

I started by replacing all the elements of the drawing with a label, then filled a page with these labels in order. It was interesting seeing the effect of taking away the drawing from a drawing, making this lovely child’s drawing into something more clinical and intense in its repetition. I am really interested in this breaking down and organising of things that shouldn’t be broken down or organised.

Replacing the drawings with words

I went on to bring this into the studio space; labelling everything in one corner and therefore claiming ownership of this stuff that was already there (and in most cases belonged to someone else). I became slightly obsessive over this. Initially I only labelled the key items in the space but then realised that if I had decided to label everything, then I should label everything. This was essentially setting myself up for an impossible task as ‘everything’ can expand into infinity. Perhaps this is something I need to think about if looking at collecting/compiling: what parameters do I need to set for myself in order to stay true to my intention while fully exploring the subject?

Some interesting points were raised by the group regarding this piece. Firstly, the idea of a narrative. For example, what does it say that I used scraps of paper with rough orange sharpie lettering and bright red washi tape? What would happen if I changed the labels into museum-style plaques? Maybe even with a full description? Or if there was no label but rather spoken descriptions? (Relook at Martha Rosler “Semiotics of the Kitchen”).

If using descriptions rather than one word labels, do these descriptions have to be true? As an artist how much power do I have to create stories? Can I sell lies as truths? And if I do do this, do I have to acknowledge that I have done it? Found objects will always have connotations – continue to play with this as in “Odd One Out”.

While showing my work a class mate asked if I had arranged the objects because it “was laid out very well”. I hadn’t. The only intervention I had was opening the cabinet drawer. I love this idea that an artist can find things that aren’t art and make them into art just by calling it such. This again relates back to the ‘London Still Lifes’ in my “Odd One Out” work. If an artist calls something art, how do the viewers ideas about it change?

Going forward, my main focuses are the organisation of what needs no organisation and how I as an artist can make this organisation (or lack of) into art. Just by calling art.

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