Friday before heading back the UK I attended Graham Harman’s presentation and question and answer session at Moderna Museum here. I have to confess that I have not read anything of his, nor heard of ‘speculative realism’. His talk was quite something, his passionate, entertaining, and surprisingly comprehensible delivery made wide and varied references to other philosophers whose works I ‘know of’ rather than ‘know’, however this did not prevent me from enjoying his line of reasoning. The title given to his talk by the museum (rather than by himself, which he pointed out) was “What is an object?” I particularly liked his notion that an object can not be reduced – and by reduction he means understood in terms of either it’s particles (reduction down) or effects (reduction up!). It becomes more complex when he explains that everything with physical form is an object but perhaps ideas and thoughts might also be considered to be objects. What then, one might ask, is not an object? During the questions and answers he made reference to businesses succeeding when they understand, and/or return to, their core values and ambitions, citing IBM as taking a massive leap forward when they realised that their core value was information rather than typewriters.
This idea of understanding, and returning to, one’s core values or principles struck a chord with me. Perhaps this is because I find myself wondering about where to live and how to earn money, or perhaps how to live and where to earn money! Applying the idea to myself I realise that for me my ‘core value’ is making art. It feels important to hold on to this when investigating possibilities and making decisions. I know that I can become distracted by other values such as living in the city centre, and having an academic position for example. But do these really help me achieve my core value?
There is a little house coming on the market soon. It is about forty minutes outside of Stockholm. Opposite the house on the other side of a small yard is a barn that might make a studio. Living there would be a huge change, however it seems more achievable than finding anything in the city (to buy or rent). Might living there, and teaching English for example, enable me to take a sizable step towards my artistic ambitions? Could what might at first seem like a ‘move away from’ actually be a ‘move toward’?
In the meantime I am racing to have work finished for the opening of my show in the gallery here at the studios. The week before going to London I made good progress and hope to get back into the swing of it now that I have returned and dealt with some urgent and unavoidable things (my UK tax self assessment return). Though the current puzzle I am working on has two large areas of clear blue sky in it, and I have learnt that I am far better at seeing pattern than I am at seeing tone.
My grandma had her ‘good send off’. I was very tearful and found it a challenge to get through the poem. Service was very good and I was pleased to see so many of her friends there. Perhaps because we only saw each other once or maybe twice a year since I moved here it seems harder to comprehend that she is no longer there. I already know that it will of course be at the anniversaries throughout the coming year that the sense of her absence will heightened, neither sending nor receiving birthday greetings, nor making a mother’s day card for her. After the service there was a wake at her flat, and I enjoyed listening to her friends tell me about their friendships with her. Being in her home without her being there was not as strange as I had thought it would be. The bustle of people and sound of chatter felt good. Some days later I wondered if that is not the meaning of a wake – to make it alright to physically be where the deceased had lived. Like the wake of a boat the wake, though turbulent, passes and the waters calm.
What a very different week at the studio! There are artworks being made and thought about!!
My upcoming show will feature a number of new works that are inspired by missing pieces in a second-hand jigsaw that a friend and I started last Christmas. The original jigsaw that we began together but which I only completed long after my friend’s return to London took months to finish (it was actually Easter when I put down the last piece). A combination of other commitments and adverse work conditions (a cramped bedroom with poor light) made the ultimately rewarding activity a somewhat arduous task. How different it has been to have time and light at the studio in which to work! I am amazed at how engrossed I become and at how quickly time passes.
I am becoming fascinated with the processes and thoughts that I experiencing. It has been a while since I was so aware of looking. Looking and looking, and how seeing – seeing where a piece belongs – is so different from looking at the piece. It is as though I am able to look but not to see, that is to say that I consciously look for a piece but the seeing it seems to happen elsewhere or at least differently. I feel that I can challenge myself to look, but seeing remains elusive to me – coming when it chooses rather than at my command. Perhaps because I do not draw I am particularly aware of the looking that I am doing now as I make these jigsaw puzzles. This is something that I want to return to.
It has been a wonderful week – and I mean ‘wonderful’ as in ‘full of wonder’. Funny that a week ‘full of awe’ probably should not be described as an ‘awful week’.
Next week, being in London and at my grandma’s funeral in Devon, is going to be considerably different, but absolutely not awful. My grandma, like John, left few but very clear guidelines for the service, neither of them wanted people to mourn – they both enjoyed a good party and wanted a ‘good’ send off. With her “green door” coffin, three uplifting poems, and Frankie Vaughn singing “Green Door” my grandma is going to have the service she wanted. The secret that the green door has been keeping is not a secret to her anymore – she is on the other side.
My grandma decided years ago, and told family and friends, that she was going to have a “green door coffin” – I thought that she wanted something ecological. But she was actually referring to the Frankie Vaughn song that was a favourite of hers, and she carried in her glasses case a cutting from an advert for coffins painted to look like doors. My brother’s partner – a very talented draftswoman – has drawn up the design for what will be a unique ‘green door’ casket. And in her purse my grandma carried three poems about ‘remembering fondly’ rather than ‘mourning’, in one of them she had amended a man’s name to “mum” and now it makes perfect sense for my mother to read it about her mother. I will read the poem titled ‘Death is nothing at all’, the funeral will be just a few days after the seventh anniversary of John’s funeral and the sentiment seems especially poignant
” … Nothing is past; nothing is lost … “
New year is always a good time to reflect on things and set ambitions for the coming twelve months. With the somewhat unexpected, though not entirely surprising, death of my grandmother at the age of 103, wondering about what it is exactly that I am doing and where I am heading seems even more poignant and pressing. Add to this that I have spent the last four days making an application for a teaching post that is bound to attract a very high standard of applicant, whilst finishing up the last of my duties on the Introduction to Artistic Research course, and it is easy to understand my almost overwhelming desire for some sense of certainty.
So, new year, new goal setting!
- focus on making art
- that’s it … focus on making art!
- and just that
Putting together a truly comprehensive CV for my application I came to see just how many things I do at the same. It is no wonder that they over lap and compete for my time which ultimately makes it difficult (nigh-on impossible) to achieve the very thing that they are supposed to contribute toward – a sustainable practice!
This blog, and with that I refer to the processes of reflection, synthesis, and expression that it requires, has been an obvious casualty of my diverse and demanding activities. I had neither time to write it nor much content beyond the occasional comment on art produced by someone else. So with the cancellation of my teaching and my leaving the gallery committee here at the studio I intend to redress this somewhat sorry state of affairs.
Firstly I need to get on with making work for the upcoming exhibition that I have here at the studio. I know what I want to make and how I want it to look. The short time in which I have to achieve it (or at least something approaching it) will ensure that I do not get distracted or tempted to do something else. There are several practical issues that I will need to resolve, and I look forward to doing this! I also look forward to seeing if I am able to pull the whole thing off!!