Two recent tutorials have given me new ideas about the shape of the final show. In my Unit 2 Assessment presentation I talked about wanting to find a way to ‘materialise an idea about the construction of a narrative of my life from the disconnected fragments available to me.’ I had in mind a small room space with fragments (of drawings and photographs and possibly more) collaged and overlapped in some sort of non-linear, ‘neural network’ way.
Talking with Fran Norton, artist, visiting tutor at the Arts University Bournemouth and co-assessor for Units 1 and 2, I realised that this might be the wrong way round. If people stand in a room-space they can only see the work in the conformation in which I’ve installed it on the walls around them. But if the work is in the middle of a space and the viewer moves round it, new views/formation/constructions will be formed as they move. The viewer does some of the collaging/overlapping/networking for themselves.
Less this (beautiful though it is):
and more this:
or with elements of this:
Tania Kovats articulated this as being a search for a ‘container of the self’. She suggested looking for examples of work which gave me the feeling I want to engender in the viewer. Two shows that were fruitful for this were Maria Lassnig A Painting Survey, 1950-2007 at Hauser and Wirth London and the Louise Bourgeois Artist Room in the Switch House at Tate Modern.
I didn’t love the Lassnig work but looking at the show with this question in mind, I had the sense of a consistent voice behind the work. There is a consistency across 50 years in the marks, the style, the colour palette and the drawing, even though these are applied to a range of subjects from abstract to figurative.
The Bourgeois room produces an even stronger sense of the artist reworking themes and ideas. There are series of drawings; limbs feature in both drawings and stitched pieces; there are collections. The links are made by the artist and her way of working, regardless of whether the viewer understands them. But I would argue that this doesn’t always leave much room for the viewer to create, whereas I want viewers to be able to combine and recombine what they see in a way that makes sense to them.
A short film about Bourgeois was running alongside the exhibit, with commentary by Frances Morris, Director of Tate Modern. The film talks about Bourgeois taking out her frustrations on her materials and at the same time feeding her trauma and sadness, as though she needed it to stay alive. It seems to me that this inner drive creates a barrier between the work and the viewer, because in the end it is Bourgeois’s drive, not ours.
Another question I discussed with Fran and Tania is the place of objects in my work. I had thought of writing about the role of objects in carrying memory in my Unit 2 essay, but became more interested in the role of forgetting. I am also conscious that I don’t have many ‘memory objects’. There are no family heirlooms and few mementos. In fact my experience relates more to the idea that objects can be a kind of transitional object: something you need to hold an experience you cannot yet yourself process. They can be worse than useless as memory aids. Tania related this to attachment theory and Buddhist thinking about suffering as a result of excessive attachment to things. This resonated more with me and my thoughts turned to representing ‘things I never had’ or ‘things I no longer have/need’, absences not presences.