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Blogger profile: Theo Wood
We settle in to Theos fictional space, The Museum Of Space Exploration, to talk museum objects, planets bereft of water, Arnolfini workshops and preparation for her MA show at University of the West of England.
Richard Taylor: How much is the photographing of your work a confirming of it as a finished piece, or a work in progress? For instance the bowls you have images of on your blog, they are very stylised in terms of their documentation - how does this comment on their object-hood?
Theo Wood: The documentation of the bowls was actually a research exercise. It was the first time I used a studio set up with lighting and the aim was to document the artefacts in a straightforward museum archive way. In that sense they become objects. It was interesting to place the works in different ways and you can see this in the arrangements that begin to appear.
In her essay, 'The Essential Vessel', Natasha Daintry writes, “In Native American mythology, the hieroglyph for water is a vase full of water into which a drop of cloud is falling. Here the container has become synonymous with the liquid it holds.” Although I was actually aware that the bowls could be seen in a ritualistic light, it was only recently I read this essay, which reinforces my choice of ceramics as the medium for exploring the concept of a waterless planet. Empty, turned upside down and burnt by smoke and fire yet objects that people want to pick up and hold; they will not be displayed behind glass and the Museum Of Space Exploration (MOSE) reserves the right to substitute nanoassembled replicas where appropriate.
I have yet to decide whether any of the photos are part of the finished piece, but they could perhaps feature in the photo section accessible from the QR reader on the text panel as museum catalogue records.
RT: Tell me more about your preoccupation with museum objects…
TW: In October 2011, whilst finishing the work connected with my residency at The University of Bristol Botanic Garden, I had come to the point of seeing water as all important for plants, and reached an in depth understanding that plants created, and continue to create, our atmosphere. I was bending metal in the workshop to write out the word water and had the idea of developing this further by remaking, gilding, and setting it in a beautifully made box inlaid with pearls and silver, with a lining of the most precious material of the softest quality. This would have been found in a time capsule far into the future and put on display. The idea of ‘Future Archaeology’ began to stir (I’d already given an artists’ talk using a time capsule as a presentation tool).
It was the influential two day Arnolfini workshop, ‘Writing the object’, led by Jerome Fletcher, Associate Professor of Performance Writing at Falmouth University, that continued this thought process. He focussed “on the ways in which performativity manifests itself within the 'complex and emergent system of making’”. We were asked to use the Musuem Show 1 at Arnolfini to look at the types of display and the words surrounding this.
One of the exercises in the workshop was to ‘present’ objects we had collected by means of labels, thus transforming a miscellaneous collection into a ‘meaningful’ work. It is this aspect of performativity that I realised lay in my own work by creating a concept or construction to frame it.
Moving on from that point I’d examined the work of Michael Craig Martin with the glass of water on the glass shelf (I opened the blog with these considerations). The phrase “This is an oak tree” contextualized and presented this work within the art gallery setting. In this respect I would not consider that the Museum is my foremost preoccupation, rather an example of performativity, or theatre, within the setting of a gallery (or in my case an MA show).
RT: You seem very responsive to how these objects may be held or interpreted... where does this stem from?
TW: The handling of the objects is important to me and this stems from the desire to move beyond displaying prints on a wall, in to a more multi-sensory approach.
RT: So what is it that you have planned for your MA piece?
TW: It’s what I would call a micro-installation, a miniature version of what I have thought up to be in 'Room 1' of the Museum of Space Exploration’s 800th anniversary exhibition of artefacts; brought back from the golden age of space exploration (3000-3200). The rest of the Museum meanwhile, contains the archaeogram spaces for full body immersion in the time-lined hologrammatic experience. Room 1 contains objects from the planet Nujema that has very little atmosphere and no water.
The installation consists of four pieces at the moment. A text museum information panel, a photographic piece, two prints, concrete cubes displayed on a light box 1m x 0.35m and the vessels displayed on a plinth 50 x 70cm. Some of the cubes are screenprinted, some have wire or sticks coming out of the them, and their colours vary. I can imagine doing larger versions of all the elements except the text panel. There are a total of six rooms in this anniversary exhibition and this leaves scope for more work or collaborations with other artists for a larger group show.
RT: A recent post on your blog discusses your preoccupation with display, the presentation of something before the actual work is made: how do you juggle all of this, and have you considered 'presentation' as an actual medium, a sculptural and site-responsive medium...?
TW: The medium as massage? You ask me how I juggle all this... probably by churned thinking, experimenting, planning, going two steps backward, taking the wrong decisions sometimes combined with moments of clarity. Shall I apply for a job at MOSE?
RT: Figuratively speaking, to get a job at your fictional museum 'MOSE' would be fantastic! Does that make you think of how you will create even more work from within a fiction of yourself? You as the Museum's conservator, yet still the artist making work about fictionalised objects, sensitive to modes of conservation?
TW: I am actually looking forward to working at MOSE as Artist-in-Residence, preparing an exhibition for Room 2 inspired by the artefacts in Room 1! Having a fictionalised voice or other is, for me, one route into an imaginarium where creativity can take place.
RT: How does the blog help with all this processing of ideas?
TW: The blog on Degrees unedited has been a journey into exploring these ideas, a format for distilling the thinking that was happening on that particular day/week. It will provide me with a vital resource as I am writing the essay piece to accompany the Critical Journal required for the MA. Which voice to use for this is another question...the curator? The academic? The artist?
Read more about Theo's work as she approaches her MA show on her Degrees unedited blog University of The West of England »
First published: a-n.co.uk May 2012
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