What’s going on when I make art? What is the ‘work’ of art?
There’s always a body involved in making this work, even the conceptual idea comes from an embodied mind, thinking, making, breathing, getting hungry, hot or cold. I think about all this a lot in the studio, and my practice becomes a research into shifting states and the thresholds that occur during the artmaking process. My art practice enables a journey into materiality to explore the nonconscious events and adventures happening in the material encounter: how this ‘matter that I am’ experiences the laws of physics, the passage of time, cognitive mechanisms, psychological events, in the (micro) process of world-making that happens in the studio.
My practice happens in an expanded studio. No longer just a place where I keep my art materials and I go to think, make, shape or install things, the studio comes into being through a particular disposition. You can also call it a perspective, I prefer to use disposition or tendency, because it entails more than just a way of looking – though ways of looking are part of it. Rather it’s a way of positioning my material existence in a certain way, so that I’m better attuned to others, other materials and spaces. The ‘studio’ expands according to this practice of attunement. I ask a space, a material, an other:
What do I/you/we want?
Who leads and who follows?
These are some of the questions that begin a process. They may seem abstract, but they’re a little like a dance. You ask your partner: which dance do I or you or we want to dance? And then you sense into the leading and following as it shifts between you, allowing movement to occur.
Shiva’s cosmic dance is widespread, emerging through wave patterns, in the ocean, mirrored in the brain, and made audible through sound and voices, cries and laments. Expanding the studio happens by listening to the waves of materials, spaces and nothingness.
Characters and the expanded field of the body
Keeping the machinery running takes a certain amount of performance — which becomes accultured as performativity as Judith Butler has made explicit: the duality of the system depends on this performativity. Some cultures know this implicitly and work underneath it as it were. Others believe that freedom from the performance, and the performative is possible, even the goal: another narrative of progress? progressing towards the utopia of freedom, of getting what we really want, doing what we really want, etc.
I wonder about freedom, authenticity, or what psychoanalysis terms the ‘true self’. In Japan for example it’s well known that you wear a social face, knowingly and expertly: there is the exterior mask – omote – and the private face – ura – and they co-exist. But it’s the ideal of a ‘true self’ that haunts self-help, psychoanalysis and other forms of therapy, and spiritual and surgical quests. Is there a ‘true self’ that subtends the performance of daily life?
To go back stage I surrender to my own schizophrenia, and a number of characters who act as ‘skins’. Just like in a video game: you need a skin to play. The playing field is marked out according to four possibilities:
The Dualism has two characters / cardboard cutouts:
The Mass Ornament* / she sparkles like a mirror ball, reflecting light and everything that surrounds her, she dazzles at the surface, shemakes herself available for the spectacle. She surrenders to the scopic drive, moving along the axis between human and object.
The Salary Man / he blends in, he does his job, he offers himself in service to the system, aware that he is a caricature, he observes his own participation. He occupies the axis from human to not human.
* The critic Siegfried Kracauer referred to the Tiller Girls dancing chorus line as a ‘mass ornament’ in 1927.
Along the axis from human to no thing or from not human to object there are more abstract beings and entities:
What do we know about Free Time?
I wanted to know what free time means: Does it exist? Can it be measured? If you had it, what would you do with it? Or what would you ‘not do’?
‘Freelancers’ know about the issues of time, so I invited a number of freelancers to join me in a dance studio and explore time and its liberation through exercises, tasks and improvisation based around choices, and set out over precise but unknown time intervals. To measure free time I used commercial wearable technology used marketed at fitness, well-being and mindfulness – Fitbits, Spire Stone breath sensor and Muse EEG meditation headbands.
Following a line
According to Euclidean geometry, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. To test out the existence of perfect geometries in materials, I have a practice of collecting sticks. I go to the woods, I train my eyes to the floor, I look for straight sticks. When they dry though, they often become curvy: gravity and water interfere with straightness.
Lines become waves, through the laws of relativity, but on the earthly scale, through the undulation of liveness – gravity and water.
Considering the question of line through the intention to move is a method I call Liquidity. Liquidity is to move without will or intention but simply by feeling the force of gravity ( and other entities) moving my body, towards the edge, to the unknown, towards fear.
I practiced Liquidity every day for 18 months 01/2018 until mid 2019. I wrote myself a work-style contract to commit myself to doing this. When I practiced, I wore a commercial EEG meditation headband and tracked by brain wave data. I also documented Liquidity with an automatc drawing.