I’ve become newly visible in the university, wearing bright t-shirts that label me ‘artist-in-residence’. I chose this uniform for a couple of reasons: partly because the t-shirt is a good conversation starter with students and staff who haven’t talked to me yet, and partly because it explains what I’m doing on campus. It may look like I’m sipping tea, typing notes and staring into space most of the time, but my t-shirt alerts the presence of an artistic activity (irony intended). Putting my process on display – by being in the cafe and in the t-shirt – is interesting and maybe a little provocative. I accept that my current practice of making is one of thinking, writing, researching and thinking a little more – but do others, particularly in an art school with a tradition of drawing and craft, accept this?
A Team Effort
The fine art studios are being cleared in preparation for the degree show: an immense task. It’s clear from conversations with students that this is a time when mainly-solitary practitioners must come together and work collaboratively. Students are discovering skills in self-organisation and the value of collective action. Leaders emerge from the pack, work is shared and specialist areas are identified. Contrary to what has often seemed the fairly competitive nature of the degree show, it appears that the whole event only can come about through an massive team effort.
Papering the Cracks
I’ve become fascinated with Wall Tape, or Gum Strip to give its proper name. The many walls of the campus are partitioned, segmented and separated – walls on top of walls – and in the transformation from studios to galleries, Wall Tape has become a vital substance. It gets unrolled, wetted and stuck to the wall where the gaps lie. It is sticky and prone to air bubbles. It’s a beautiful manila colour and texture. I think of the cracks in an institution, or in a society, and I think of the act of covering the cracks, concealing the schisms, hiding the holes. I think of the futility of the act (I overhear: “Once the walls move the crack comes back”), the imperfect striving for perfection (I watch a line slowly reemerge through the tape) and the moment when the degree show will open and everything, fleetingly, looks perfect and whole.
Performing the Degree Show
I realise that, for all my sitting and drinking and thinking, I need to do something to process the thoughts in my brain. And I want to embody the degree show in some way, to perform the rituals and understand them through doing them, not just observing. First I select an unwanted corridor, an ugly space, interrupted by card readers (“It’s like Fort Knox in here”), two toilets (whose doors swing open constantly) and an big emergency telephone (“What does that even do?”). The wall has something like 7 segments, and there’s even a gaping hole where a ceiling tile has disintegrated. But almost everyone will travel through this space on degree show night to access the gallery spaces. And so I begin here, by filling the holes, sanding the surface and papering the cracks…