For this assignment I am devising something which was initially inspired by the Israeli security wall built in the West Bank, but has since expanded to include how nations, societies and individuals respond to their security being threatened. It is really about what are ‘reasonable lengths’, and what is ‘over the top’. I am moving towards devising an action mechanism which will express these thoughts. I have been thinking about artists whose work ‘does’ something.. and this gives me an opportunity to play with things just a little bit mechanical, which presses my buttons too.
I would love to see some of this artist’s work for real, the descriptions sound fantastic. Born in 1944 in Germany, the influence of growing up with the shame of Nazism is strong in Horns work, as also is the effect of prolonged illness. Horn started out making prosthetic body parts and extensions and Unicorn was an example from this period:
In an interview in the Guardian on 23.5.05 there is the following description: ‘it was the beginning of Horn’s love affair with automata: the installation machines that gradually took over from the human body extensions, and became intelligent life forms commenting on ours. Germanic pleasure in precision engineering is touchingly evident in all the cogs andwheels and motors that power the fantasies she makes. .. The infra-red detectors catch us as we enter the room, and our own movement prompts the machines to life. Others simply move when they want to move, or so it seems, inanimate objects suddenly fluttering and rising, then tiring again. Horn says ” I like my machines to tire, they are more than objects. These are not cars or washing machines. They rest, they reflect, they wait.” ‘ There is so much about this artist that intrigues me but I had better stop or I could go on and on.
I saw an exhibition of Roman Signers work at the Fruitmarket Gallery last year and loved it. Again, it was full of humour, and curiosity.. “what will happen if..”, wonderful experiments so it has been very interesting to read up his thinking about the relationship between his experiments, sculpture, purpose and performance. (from an article on ArtForum).
Signer said in this article that he used to do some of his ‘artworks’ live but most were recorded on film. In both cases he would perform the action ‘dozens of times’ before proceeding to performance with either an audience or cameraman present. He was interested in the effects of his ‘explosions’ and other impacts :by the sculpture that was formed, often a transient sculpture like a column of water rising, but a sculpture that could be capture on film and was therefore preserved. He was not wishing the main point to be the danger or risk, and carefully protects himself each time. he stopped doing actions in front of an audience as worried ‘ they were misunderstood or mistaken for entertainment’.
In a write up of an exhibition of Signer’s work at Rochester Art Centre last summer there were a number of phrases that struck me:
He adresses issues of time chance and change.
Cause and effect relationships…point of entry ..challenge the viewer to interpret and create meaning.
Even though the sculptures are presented as static, unmoving and seemingly created in the past, they are inbued with a particular timelessness that belie their usual state- that of rest or completion.
The sulptures possess a heightened sense of potential for action.
Signer says “always in my work something is going to happen, is happening, or could happen.”
This is what intrigues me, a sculpture with an action component does have to be busy ‘doing’ the action continuously; it could just ‘do’ in the mind of the viewer, and expressing a potential; or it could be the sculpture formed by the action when it took place. What the action is, how it is relevant to the idea, and how it is communicated..either live, potential, or past, are decisions which are part of the artwork.