Spoiler Alert

I thought I might try a wee experimental blog this month to launch myself back into the swing of blogging.

I’ve been making a few odd things in the studio recently. I am not exactly sure what they are yet or how I might make use of them. They are basically replicas of things I have seen out in the street, brought in and remade to populate my studio for reasons that will hopefully occur to me. I tend as an artist to see things in the world that seem to me to already be art but I hasten to add that these are not art objects as such, they are more like sketches or driftwood.

The role of narrative in art has a chequered recent past and I think is still often treated with scepticism as critics worry that the art experience is coarsened by literalism, assumptions and a kind of closing off of avenues by too heavy handed an authorial hand. I know that lots of my students love narrative and are keen to explore its potential.  It seems to me that although I am not immune to the concerns, particularly around ethics and agency, the issue of narrative in art is pleasantly problematic, like untangling a large knot or picking toffee out of your teeth – it is an itch which is pleasurable to scratch.

So, as an experiment then, I thought it might be interesting if people had a look at these objects in their raw state and then read the story behind why I like them, and then we could have a discussion about how the two might link up, if indeed that is something we think is necessary or useful.

So, to begin with here are the objects – have a look before you read the text beneath. Unfortunately the sound piece is not well documented here for obvious reasons and is looking very much like an empty box – this link should lead to the sound: whistler.

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Jettisoned – Experimental performance to explore the potential of upper story living.

Over the course of three days, the occupants of a flat on a street en route to my studio staged three events involving throwing domestic objects to the ground. On the first day they threw two cereal bowls, with milk residue, and two spoons. Both bowls cracked just the once on impact and one spoon remained surprisingly inside the bowl. It was as if someone had decided that instead of doing the breakfast washing up, they would simply jettison it.

Rather than the more obvious escalation of this disgorging, the next day the bowls had gone and a lone raw egg sat on the pavement. That might have passed unnoticed where it not for the addition of a small foamy fried egg sweet on the same slab. Where had it appeared from, was it an act of solidarity, the beginnings of a conversation, a moment of Jungian collective unconsciousness?

This ‘call and response’ egg moment illuminated a route through narrative for me as well as being beautiful and moving.

Whistler

There’s this busker who operates in an underpass near my local supermarket. He whistles the tune very quietly, whilst strumming an occasional chord in the gaps. He also busks angling his body to the wall. This is busking redux. It is such slight and unstable busking that it threatens to vanish into silence at any point, and yet it is soulful and beautiful. The echoing solitude of the underpass is a perfect site for his gently audible murmurings.

Magician

I saw a balloon twister on Princes Street that kept all his equipment in a decorated suitcase with his name on. The suitcase read; ‘Magic Ian’.  I was amused by this and as I walked past I reflected on why a person might incorporate the word magic into his ‘stage name’ with all it’s heady redolence, and then not be able to reach higher than Ian for the second half. Magic Keith, Magic Brian I mused… why not Magic Lorenzo or Magic Houdini. I felt he had shouldered the strap on wings of fantasy, but failed to take off.  I reached St James Court shopping Centre when I suddenly realised that the whole thing might just be a capitalisation issue. Perhaps it wasn’t Magic Ian after all but Magician – or both. Occupying the space between transubstantiation and the emperor’s new clothes, Ian (?) has achieved an altered state with an economy of means and with no element of escapism. A reconfiguration of context using the slightest of sleight of hand opens up the potential for potent magic.

 

 

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8 comments for “Spoiler Alert

  1. annag
    4 February 2014 at 11:39 am

    This is a fabulous piece – thanks for sharing it. I am a photography student and I really appreciate your lucid, reasoned writing.

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  2. 4 February 2014 at 8:59 pm

    The egg conversation is lovely. It would have been impossible to imagine the story without some literary hint. I like the idea of the artist giving a clue to kick start the viewers interaction.

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    • 6 February 2014 at 1:33 pm

      Hello Jereme – yes, you and I have had discussions about using archiving and museological approaches to curate a show which includes art and non art objects. What I like about your own work with a borrowed diary is that the original narrative is fairly cryptic so that your art response is in a kind of balance with the information in the diary.

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  3. 5 February 2014 at 11:12 am

    I think my favourite is the egg one! I think I prefer it without the backstory, there’s enough there for me to imagine my own story of how there came to be the stains on the slab, how there came to be the broken egg and the mini unbroken egg, then how it came to be taken out of the context of a pavement and isolated on a gallery floor, then photographed so it becomes a piece of art!
    I guess different people have different preferences for narrative, I tend to dislike those that are overly determined leaving less room for the viewer by removing ambiguity.

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    • 6 February 2014 at 1:34 pm

      I agree Anne, it is important to recognise the limits of a certain kind of knowing and allow art to breathe and be a thing in its own right.

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  4. 6 February 2014 at 9:33 pm

    I am afraid I was rather impatient and read the text before I had formulated any stories of my own. Your writing is beautiful and so much part of the piece and it made me then look at the images differently. I think if I had actually found the objects myself I would have made some connecting narrative. Seeing the photos and knowing you had already injected meaning into them makes that harder for me.

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