In 2010 I was invited to participate in a small group show with artists Melanie Stidolph (www.melaniestidolph.com) and Richard Paul (www.richardgpaul.co.uk) called Pareidolia. This is a phenomenon that describes the human mind’s tendency to perceive recognizable shapes and images in random pattern. You know, seeing the figure of Jesus on burnt toast, a face in the moon, that kind of thing. The series Transmitter/Receiver ( www.nickkaplony.com/page9 ) was included in this show, (The rorschach blots that the works include an example of our tendency to attribute meaning to random shapes). Years later, a friend recommended I read Rorschach Audio by John Banks. This book, in a grossly oversimplified nut-shell, looks at the relationship between some sound Art practice and Electric Voice Phenomenon. Siting a kind of audio- pareidolia which leads us to hear recognisable words, phrases and voices in recorded white noise. (These are often attributed to the dead attempting to communicate beyond the grave). My friend’s motivation for the recommendation I think was not the obvious connection of the to the inkblots in Transmitter/Receiver, but rather the human tendency to generate meaning. I mention this because this is something I keep coming back to when I think about work, or look at art, my own and others. The dilemma of what (or whether) an art work is communicating, and if as the author of it you have the distance to see things clearly. Let’s say that meaning is something that does not exist in the artwork outside of that which the viewer brings to it? I can have an intention, when I make something, but then once it’s done, and I’m out of the room it’s just there, empty, waiting for someone else to come and look at it and fill it. The meaning then, will be brought by them, filtered through their preoccupations and experiences. The biggest buzz I get, is when a relative stranger, with little or no back story to the work sees what I see. Somehow there’s strength in numbers when it comes to this. If someone else sees it as well it must be true?
After my father died, I was clearing out the house. I stumbled across some objects related to my parents’ work. My father was a dentist and my mother, who passed three years earlier, a beautician. These things were a bittersweet discovery, reminding me of them and also of their loss. They appeared to be filled with references to mortality. Just an old make up case and a cast of someone’s teeth. I don’t even know whose. The look of the make-up case seemed to parallel funerary aesthetics. All gloss black with gold trim like the lettering on a tombstone, and essentially a small casket with powdered remains. The cast of the stranger’s teeth (actually the upper and lower set were from different people I think) had more obvious associations with the parts of us that linger in the earth. Had I come across these things with different preoccupations, I wonder what I’d made of them.