Hanging by a thread, or Fair Isle on the line (April - May 2014)
Wednesday 16 April: The idea of the homunculus, the little man, remains. A fixed element that has emerged slowly – but it was there from the start, more or less. The initial impetus was the ‘sleeve’ I found on the street – and then there was another sleeve, both made of brown paper, beautifully. I thought they were for flowers but I think T’s guess is correct: the prototypes of sleeves and thus suggestive of arms. We go from there to other body parts and the body itself. And the notion of the figure as an element of design.
Knit me a cardigan, please do, and knit me a cardigan
Later I would understand that the body is what dominates and shapes the room. Architecture is the art of the body. And so to enter architectural space …
And then the notion of pattern, the many layers of the epidermis …
It took one look at the room with the objects in it, many of them well crafted, one of them (Sturgess’s paper piece) beautiful: refined, elegant, I could stick it in the elegant apartment that I don’t have. Here, in my actual apartment it would join the general high-class grot!
K’s remark was decisive: ‘Make it yours’. Not only did I take that on board, abandoning the ‘sleeves’ but gradually converting whatever I was to produce into my own history. All art is biography, I might say – and so it is. But it doesn’t come automatically, as it were; it’s not auto or self in that sense. But it does come unbidden
Thursday 17 April: The room as I saw it yesterday is a mess: confusion, a tangle, competing egos. The wall still dominates – for indeed it is a space in which the wall does dominate. Sue’s concertina pipe (Sue Callanan, Fixtures and Fittings) has the virtue of adding width to the space as it ‘worms’ around, ‘knitting’ the room together. Otherwise it is a mad jumble sale, all competing for attention. Alone much of the work would be good but with these odd juxtapositions in which there is no real communication, everyone heading towards their own Godhead!
But isn’t that how it is, the modern condition, the gaggle-babble insistence of voices all broadcasting on their own special frequency – and a sense here that everything is enlarged beyond what it or the room can endure? Too big too big too big, the death of intimacy – and control. Incomprehensible. And we, those trying to take it all in, uncomprehending, confused, alarmed even. It’s disconcerting. When I left the room I said to myself ‘space debris’.
Mostly when I leave a gallery – certainly the AGNSW – even with its mediocre or fatigued art - I look afresh at my world, the world, the world out there. All becomes art. In this case it wasn’t that the outside provided unexpected artistic pleasures – but it came as a relief. I’d escaped the abattoir, the slaughtered carcases of ideas that, smaller and less aggressive, might have appealed. What might have thrived as bilbies became monstrous charolais, a scene from Fassbinder’s In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden (1978). In the actual abattoir the bodies of the slaughtered animals create a sort of seriality – so that they get reduced into themselves – and into the ‘row’. There is a rhythm: tick tock, the dread metronome of death rings out, tick tock tick tock. And we are driven to look at Man Ray’s metronome with a new – if again uncomprehending – eye. For in the metronomic the repetition is in the action, a sort of reverse pendulum – not in the object itself. It reduces all time to a simulacrum of itself
Maybe this is true of all objects
Ah, the room, space. There are the walls, the floor, the ceilings, the ‘cubicle’ that is created by these elements. Three surface spaces (look up, look down – but principally look across) and a space that things fold or disappear into, die almost like tombstones. This is why I like Sturgess’s work: it is a flue, it sends some vapour up into the air. All the better that this vap’rous substance is invisible - an untainted if not entirely safe exudation. (No exhalation is entirely safe!) It creates a flux in itself, it lives and breathes. It’s stillness is only apparent. It may even speak – a silent voice but not mute, not by any means. An extended sigh – or a secret growl
I look for a fourth dimension – even though I may have found one: the cubicle with its heavy air at the bottom and its lighter air at the top. For mostly everything seems wedded to the wall – or the floor. I think if I had my choice again I might just put in a concrete pipe – one of those Hume pipes, diameter about 4’. The fourth – or is it a fifth? – dimension is a passage, a moving through: a liminal space, some might say, a worm hole, a tunnel, the sort of cave speleologists are so fond of, a tight squeeze which cannot be too cluttered. In this respect Sue’s piping only has exteriority: we can follow it with the eye but we can’t place ourselves inside it. We cannot experience the interiority of the pipe, of being enclosed in that half-exuberant blood vessel …
There is a sort of echo of this outside: a bathtub in the shop window of an establishment that sells bathroom items. Just across the road. It’s an elegant shape. Across the bottom in large regular letters it says PARADIS. Maybe for someone. I treat it as an anagram: SID A RAP, RAP SAID, PAR SAID, PARSED, PARSLEY, PERHAPS … The shape and run of associations, the gradual deformation and re-working of the original impulse which – paradoxically – only emerges later, virtually at the end of the day. We in fact work backwards, towards the original impulse
We head towards Body Parts …
John von Sturmer