I feel like I’m talking and no one is listening.
I send thoughts, words and work out into the world to little response or reaction.
Do I have anything to say others wish to hear?
Perhaps this is an inevitable August slump when little happens and the art world winds down on its annual holiday? Could I have been too distracted recently with the effort of being a Director of Making Art Work pushing my own practice into second place? I might be suffering some sort of post-MA crisis as the next lot of art students graduate and the annual anniversary of finishing my course looms? Almost certainly my approach needs re-thinking and more patience to suck it up and keep on trying?
Being an artist is a lonely game. I’m aware I’m not the first to say this, but as I write I’m sitting in my office typing away alone as usual. God this sounds pathetic, but perhaps acknowledging the issue will trigger a step forward?
I’m aware of getting too caught up in my own head space. If few are listening this feels beyond my control – I cannot force it to happen – so perhaps I should stop worrying and concentrate on uncovering a solution that works better for me? I feel a bit better even as I post this; the issue needs confronting in a similar way that the image I’ve attached seems to challenge one as she looks out of the page!
This is the initial piece in what hopefully is destined to be a new series of work rather than simply an idea that peters out and dies.
I’m aware I’m possibly working on too many things at the same time. It can’t be helped; it seems to be how I’m made! But this series isn’t pure flight of fancy; it does have a practical purpose as it’s destined for a show in Maidstone Museum in November if I can manage to sort it out! Anyway, back to the task in hand…
The piece seems to work really well aesthetically – it received a lot of enthusiastic feedback from those who’ve seen it. But there were also gentle hints of a wider issue perhaps most simply summarised as lacking conceptual rigor. It’s possible I’ve been seduced by the joys of form, colour and materials at the expense of rationale for making the piece in the first place.
Words seem to bring me back on track; jotting down key phrases, then editing, sifting, and sorting these until they’re pruned back to bare bones, holding them in my mind as I make version two. They make slightly unusual reading – a saturated, condensed, highly focused output – but they help ground me.
In this case, the key phrases seem to be:
The gaze – an impermanent point-of-view. Shifting. Unstable. Tenuous. Fleeting moments.
Luxurious indulgence. Opulent richness. Theatrical surrealism. Distasteful seduction. Mass consumption.
Desired. Collected. Possessed. Consumed to the point of destruction.
Disruption. Disjuncture. Constructed conflicting truths. Nothing is intact but fractures allow illumination to escape.
Contradictions: perfect – imperfect, passive – aggressive, real-I – fantasy-I, collude – resist.
Block. Damage. Undermine. Destroy. Obliterate.
Over the last two weeks I’ve been part of Clare Smith’s wonderful Stitched Time Project, and it has surprised me with a few wider lessons.
The Problem Solving Machine as a device to address thorny issues
This approach requires a few key carefully sourced ingredients to operate:
– Raw materials
– A simple and repetitive task that requires completion
– Artistic time given willingly by multiple participants over an immersive period
The outcome is a non-hierarchical group structure with dynamics that feel embracing, welcoming and non-threatening. Easy conversations result; periods of companionable silence followed by spontaneous discussion flowing along unexpected and unplanned paths. Intimacy with one’s co-conspirators quickly evolves providing an enjoyable, effective way to exchange information and air problems, but with the immanent power to uncover innovative, unusual solutions.
Authorship and collective / collaborative working
Considered in its widest context most art isn’t the sole work of one artist-originator but emerges from the subtle interaction of ideas garnered from a wide range of sources. The fundamental rules and instructions for the Stitched Time Project originate from Clare Smith, but decisions made beyond this initial starting point are determined by individual makers and each stitch sewn bears their mark – a personal drawn line.
Given this, does the project ultimately deliver joint authorship? Are its members collaborating or working collectively? In my mind, collaboration conjures ideas of people coming together on an equal footing to deliver something, whereas collective introduces an element of hierarchy in terms of roles. It’s interesting Clare Smith’s asked if the opposite could be true based on a thesis read recently which suggests ‘collective is about joint authorship, while collaboration is more about single authorship’.
Co-operation is a necessity – it certainly allows far more complex projects to be delivered than the sole artist working alone – but how / when does it undermine the position of artist-initiator and is it a cause for celebration or too high a price to pay?
At the moment, I don’t feel the need to answer these questions; merely to frame them for further consideration.
Stitched Time Project information
The folded series: a group of paper, origamiesque work, critiqued:
An object interrupting its own form
Spectatorial gaze unfettered by any barrier
Eye’s focus denied a single point of stability
Folded form and colours hinting at the metallic
What’s apparent subtly alters as the viewer’s perspective shifts
A piece is multiply repeatable but artist’s hand delivers slight variations
Essential drive; to reconstruct a complete face from the fragments offered
Practicality is the downside of this piece. Its final form is unfixed, shifting at each installation, and varying with exhibition space conditions. Such instability is exciting but also potentially impractical in the long-term. Box framing is an option but fixing the piece down in this way erodes some of its current strengths.