Tacita Dean…again, in Glasgow

So exciting that the Common Guild should have on a show of Tacita Dean’s recent works.  They have one 16mm film showing, projected via a mirrored right angle on to a square of special acrylic hanging in the middle of the room so you can walk around it.  The film is mainly a series of still shots of two pears in separate bottles, very little in the way of movement happens.  The colours and subject matter are just luminous and I was transfixed.  The same spellbinding capturing of light and inconsequential momentousness as I remembered from The Presentation Sisters.

The Common Guild flannel panel has this written about Dean’s work:

“Central to all of the works in the exhibition, and her practice in general, is an acute awareness of time and the weight of history that accompanies it. Using the still life as a means of observing temporality Dean’s work often acts as a memento mori, reminding us of our own mortality, and the endurance of nature.”

And even better, there are to be two showings of Cranebank next weekend 17/18th Dec in Glasgow as part of this exhibitionand I Have a ticket!


Missing Art Work – Maurizio Cattelan’s Denuncia, 1991

My pewter eggbox is a piece of art that has work to do.  The purpose from the outset has been that I would give it to my sister as a gift in which to keep the eggs of her flock.

However, this presents a problem for me as the aspiring art student: the art is missing from the studio or exhibition place.  How is the essence and reality of the work captured for an audience that cannot see it?  It was put to me that what was shown to the audience became the artwork..ie, the emptymoulds where the eggbox had once been.  I disagree, just because the eggbox is not present does not mean it does not exist.

This issue is nothing new and in fact ‘invisible art’  has been described as the Ground Zero of Conceptual Art.   

 Curated by Ralph Rugoff, ‘A Brief History of Invisible Art’ surveyed a range of practices that use the rhetorical figure of invisibility to question the way we look at art. It collected together architectures of air (Yves Klein, Project for a Sheltered City 1959), paintings made with invisible ink, water and thought (Bruno Jakob’s Happy Nothing/Still Collecting, 1990–98), a cursed area (Tom Friedman’s Untitled (A Curse), 1992), a draft of pressurized air (Michael Asher’s Vertical Column of Accelerated Air, 1966–7), an air-conditioned room (Art & Language’s Frameworks: Air-Conditioning, 1966–7), legal documentation for a ‘stolen’ art work (Maurizio Cattelan’s Denuncia, 1991) and waves of energy (Robert Barry’s Electromagnetic Energy Field, 1968), with works by Trisha Donnelly, Jay Chung, Glenn Ligon, Gianni Motti and Carsten Höller……

Insofar as every sound requires a space and a receiver, this invisible work, then, produces subtle changes in the visible world: a hand reaching for the telephone, a shift in posture, a passing expression of joy, confusion or conspiratorial laughter. Julian Myers, Frieze Magazine Issue 97, March 2006

Conceptual art can seem just like a piece of cheap trickery, the artist just does a quick note to describe the work and sticks it on a wall and goes to the pub, instead of labouring meticulously for weeks to produce something of substance.  Did Maurizio Cattelan really make an art work that was stolen, or did he arrange for the production of a legal note referring to a fictitious theft of a fictitious art work instead.  I don’t know and my on-line search has not made me any wiser.

If I forge a thank you letter from my sister, and stick that on the wall next to the empty moulds, in my book that is a deception. 

Oblique Strategies

We were introduced to Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s oblique strategies this term as part of our mapping project.

In fact the mapping project was one giant series of oblique strategies from beginning to end.  It started with our throwing a dart at a map..but the dart had an old paint encrusted paintbrush tied on the back..so however you threw it bore no relation to the final trajectory.  Eventually the dart hit the map and I had a location at which to undertake my oblique strategy.  I was to ‘be an engineer’ at the junction of Bath St and Buchanon St.  Just that instruction proved hugely useful as when I reached the spot I looked around me with a different mindset, and noticed the huge numbers of secret communications boxes and hatches, the security cameras right there.   It was on the Electrical Engineers Super Highway with millions and millions electrical and electronic connections and impulses going on all around me..and I thought it would be just a lowley street corner.

I found an extract of Eno discussing how the Oblique Strategies came about in an interview with Charles Amirkhanian, taken from website http://www.rtqe.net/ObliqueStrategies/OSintro.html :

“The Oblique Strategies evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation – particularly in studios – tended to make me quickly forget that there were others ways of working and that there were tangential ways of attacking problems that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach. If you’re in a panic, you tend to take the head-on approach because it seems to be the one that’s going to yield the best results Of course, that often isn’t the case – it’s just the most obvious and – apparently – reliable method. The function of the Oblique Strategies was, initially, to serve as a series of prompts which said, “Don’t forget that you could adopt *this* attitude,” or “Don’t forget you could adopt *that* attitude.”

The first Oblique Strategy said “Honour thy error as a hidden intention.” And, in fact, Peter’s first Oblique Strategy – done quite independently and before either of us had become conscious that the other was doing that – was …I think it was “Was it really a mistake?”  Brian Eno

As a reminder to myself for when I’m stuck..or for anyone else, here is the link:  http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/brian_eno/.

I felt quite self concious taking photographs in this spot with all the security surveillance all around me, I was sure the police would pop around the corner and confiscate my camera and quiz me about my terrorist sympathies because I have read that this is what happens to photographers out in British cities nowadays.  However, in this surreal and yet paranoid world my is location comprehensively available to explore on google earth.


The Gift

Here below is the eggbox made of pewter, on its maiden flight undergoing trials..  It will be given to my sister at Christmas as suitable stowage for the produce of her flock. 

And what will be left behind to convince sceptical audiences of what was there but has since flown on its way.  The footprint of the eggbox will remain, the space  in the casting blocks where once it existed.  An empty packet that once held rods  of solid pewter.  A bit of text, a  tiny clip of video.

Packaging – and values.

 The way objects are wrapped denotes their importance.  Even the cheapest piece of jewellery will come on  a little velvet cushion inside a well constructed box to offer both protection and allure.  This packaging is loaded with messages, it needs to encapsulate  the expensive nature of its contents, thereby communicating the value of the relationship between the giver and receiver.

Returning to the idea of what matters and how we take care of it, and thinking again of Mrs Pankhurst, Mrs Pepperpot, Sunday Roast and their place in our universe, somehow this sort of wrapping does not seem appropriate. 

So I have made an eggbox out of solid pewter for their eggs to go into.  I took an empty eggbox, almost worth-less, made of pulped cardboard, and through an elaborate multi-stage process of considerable complexity, created an empty space of exactly the same dimensions as the eggbox, which I was then able to fill with pure pewter, melted in a ladle over gas burner in our casting workshop, wearing health and safety garments sufficent to equip us for a lunar expedition.  Many thanks to Helen Kalmijn, technician, whose help and tuition in how to do this have been invaluable.