As I got off the train last night it struck me that if I am serious about wanting part-time teaching then I need to make myself more relevant. It was a somewhat sudden and unbidden thought and I am wondering now what I might exactly mean by it. Standing up after three hours sitting on the train it occurred to me how, in every industry, those who get employed are the ones with the most relevant skills. Simple, and obvious, as it sounds it was something of a revelation to me when I applied it to working at an art school.
I had just done two days teaching in Gothenburg and really enjoyed it. It is the kind of work that I would like to have regularly, even permanently. So taking my shockingly simple new insight (!) I need to ask myself what would make me a relevant member of a teaching department?
Writing now I wonder if this ‘relevance’ has a full and round form, at the moment I do not feel so full and round – well not artistically! The last year and a half has been full of new experiences and input, not least generated through my introduction to the field of artistic research, and my time in technical workshops at Mejan. And at the same time I have hardly been in my own studio and feel very distant from the work and materials that lie abandoned there. It is as though some kind of re-balancing needs to occur.
What I like about the term ‘relevant’ is it’s contingency (“contingentness”?). Perhaps it is not so very different from ‘best’. But if it helps me focus and order myself, and indicates areas where I need to brush up my competence(s), then it could be very useful and productive. On a very personal level I find the idea of being ‘The Best’ quite difficult, whereas being the ‘most relevant’ is much more appealing!
It is exactly four weeks to the opening of the show at Mejan. In the next week or so I want to decide what I will show and how. Tomorrow I will attempt another plaster cast as I am still not happy with how they are turning out. The problem now seems to be my mixing, the question is whether I have time to learn how to mix plaster well. Looking at the surface of the most recent cast – which thankfully hardly leaked at all – I think that the plaster was both too thick and not sufficiently blended. The sculpture tutor suggested that I trim down the plaster jacket of the mould, stop using bolts to hold it together and instead use cling wrap and tension belts, judging by the first attempt this seems to work.
I can hardly believe that eight months after starting I am still struggling to make a plaster cast – something that I imagined I would have achieved within weeks. Of course I have achieved a great many other things in the mean time, most of these however have not resulted in anything physical, any objects, any art. I have to trust that this year on the project programme will bear fruit in the future!
The first of my glass casts worked! After something like five days in the kiln I was delighted to discover that the mould held up, and that the glass melted, set, and cooled as it should do. The second, of three, pieces is in the kiln now, and being thicker than the first will remain there over the Easter weekend at least. Glass is a wonderfully curious material!
Today I started working out how to present the glass casts. At the moment I am thinking about the end of term show – and how I can achieve something of the feeling of the casts being sunken into the ground without actually doing that. I want to play with the depth of the casts – literally how thick the glass is, and also how it is hard to fathom the thickness when they are seen from above. As it is not possible to install the piece(s) in the actual floor I am thinking around other possibilities, and ways to reference a floor without it actually being a floor.
My wrestling with plaster casting continues. This afternoon I attempted another cast and again the plaster seeps out of the two-part mould. It should not do this as the inner silicon mould sits securely in its plaster jacket, and the two parts of the plaster jacket are bolted together. Discussing it with the sculpture tutor we wonder if it has something to do with the difference in density within the form itself – parts being reasonably thick and others being rather slim. This uneven distribution of pressure might be causing the flexible silicon to ‘collapse’ a little in certain areas and thus allow the wet plaster to run out. We have resolved to tackle this issue after the Easter weekend.
In the meantime I am taking advantage of the brilliant spring days and trying new ways to create shadow forms. Painting the shadow in acetone on polystyrene has interesting results, the challenge is to find a way to make a good positive from this.
Antonie and I continue to discuss how we will establish some kind of research platform for our own and other artists’ research. After hearing Antke Engel speak about the ‘Institute for Queer Theory’ I am thinking that perhaps an institute for artistic research would provide us with the (theoretical) space and ambition we are seeking. Engel’s institute is an independent organisation that presents artistic, cultural, and philosophical events in collaboration with various host organisations. She was a guest speaker at yesterday’s activities under the Normalcy cluster programme currently happening at Mejan (and continuing until next Sunday). Her talk was engaging and inspiring – themed around radical and not un-complex philosophical ideas she spoke so eloquently and elegantly that I found myself carried away on trains of thought speeding through new and unfolding landscapes. She concluded with her intention of “becoming indigestible” – as active resistance to normalisation and hierarchisation. The images she conjured up left me feeling both energised and a little embarrassed at how readily I capitulate to an easier position on the spectrum of normality!
The gunpowder workshop and the day at the shooting range were also part of the Normalcy cluster events and next week there is one final big explosive day out with artists Assa Kauppi and Johan Wik, and in the presence of Roman Signer!
On friday evening I used my dear old laptop at the studio to write a post but due to the computer’s age I could not upload it … now it is Monday and here it is …
It was great to catch up with Michael and Roberto last night at the terribly glamorous opening of their pop-up exhibition here. It’s Stockholm Art Week and Michael’s book The Art of Not Making is being promoted with a show featuring selected artists from it. I was very impressed that they (and “former gallerist” Jonas Kleerup) collaborated with the Bukowskis auction house to put on the show.
Art week has arrived with spring, and with me realising that I am getting stressed about all the things that I want to be doing. Teaching the artistic research course is really interesting and requires a great deal of time which, of course, has had a curious knock on effect; a desire to get to the studio and get on with things, and at the same time considerably less time to do it. This I need to resolve!
Teaching the course is also waking my own desire to develop my own approaches to artistic research. My days in the workshops at Mejan present a stark contrast. As I wrote that sentence I began to wonder if perhaps this contrast is not so pronounced … how might it be if I consider my time in the workshops as research and in the classroom as practice?
It is less than two months until the spring show at Mejan. I am determined to show something but am rather uncertain about what and how! I am starting to hear that as the show (of project and guest students) is at the same time but in a different location to the main degree shows it attracts a considerably smaller crowd. Part of me wants to take up the challenge of putting ‘our’ show on the map, while another part feels that I could end up spending time and energy on doing that rather than producing the work itself (this would be less of an issue if I was interested in curating, however I am not). It is too easy for me to slip in to an administrative role and then … well to be honest, to resent it. I need to be smarter than that! Maybe, and this sounds dangerously selfish, I need to think about putting my work on the map. I do not mean it selfishly, I am attempting to express my genuine desire for making a good show (for everyone) and/by making a good part of it (my own piece in it). If I had been at the initial planning meeting I would have suggested that we offer a ‘finissage’ there than a competing vernissage – unfortunately I was in Manchester when the meeting took place.
My motivation for the trip to Manchester was purely personal – a good friend lives there and we have not managed to get together the last few times I have been in the UK. We had a great time, I made my first visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – mainly to see Roger Hiorns’ Seizure installation that I foolishly missed in London – and re-visited Manchester Art Gallery and saw Joana Vasconcelos’ Time Machine exhibition. Both of these made me think about scale of ambition. Do I think too small? I had something of an echo of this last night …