“Where’s the jewels?” Floortalk 10 May 2006
A Discussion of the Object - its absence and memory.
It may seem strange to mount an exhibition without any exhibits. I guess it is a little unusual. With HOLE I am
addressing ideas of absence and memory. I look at a variety of types of absence in this project: there is the absence of loss, the absence of removal and the absence dictated by anothers possession. I am interested in exploring our relationship with objects. How we relate to objects: especially those that have we have a personal attachment to, those to which there is a sentimental history, those objects that have a physical and intimate connection to the body. Jewellery is intricately linked to the body. We wear it. We use it to adorn ourselves. We wear it as a marker of occasion, of our own or anothers individuality, as a symbolic reminder. We grow accustomed to particular pieces on our bodies and feel bereft when they are removed or are lost. I think that everyone could think of a piece of jewellery that they have lost or temporary misplaced and what feelings that experience revealed. Absence requires us to use our faculties of memory. Memory is intriguing; what we remember, how we choose to remember and how our experiences are rewritten, consciously and unconsciously, as the time between the actual moment and our memory of it increases.
HOLE also goes beyond these considerations to discuss the place of the object, what its meaning is, in an exhibition context.
HOLE has three sections, Hidden, On Loan and Lost.
Hidden deals with expectations and the power to withhold:
I hide in the house They didn’t find me
I hid my treasure Then marked it with an X
I hide my body So no one will see it
I hid his keys He couldn’t drive home
I hide my gun In the sole of my shoe
Hidden consists of a series of works that are locked in small drawers. These drawers are able to be unlocked, if you have the key. However the viewer does not have access to this key. They are excluded from the experience of seeing and interacting with these jewellery objects. Each of the four hidden works consists of a set of three that are like Russian dolls fitting one in side the other. These works can also be played with; they are inter-active, inter-changeable, but you, as the viewer, do not get to experience this. A vast quantity of permutations can be made from the components. Hidden raises questions about disguise and deception. These objects will not show themselves, they are dismissive of the viewer. Thus I am setting up a psychological game, a situation in which I hold all the cards. I know what the objects are like, what the objects can do. I have the key. In contrast, you, as the viewer, are denied access; you have to trust that they are there, that they do actually exist. Hidden tests our belief systems questioning our ability to accept what we can not see.
Hidden taunts with its inaccessibility yet it is more than just playful. It also asks the viewer to consider how we psychologically disguise ourselves – how we create layers for protection and deceit. How we hide ourselves. When designing the works for the hidden series the Russian doll came to mind. With its often worn exterior more exposed to the harsher elements of air, light and handling and its inner more pristine layers I felt it posed a correlation with the human condition of deception. The Russian doll is revealed by disembowelment. Just as we are metaphorically disembowelled when our disguise or guard is let down.
When we visit the gallery we expect to see something, acquire a visual treat. We are there to satisfy our visual appetite. We want to make a claim of ownership of experience from the art objects we encounter.
When this is denied it is surprising, annoying and frustrating. You want to pick the lock.
On Loan discusses ownership in relation to jewellery and other objects, and examines our behaviours in this context.
I lent you my book
You didn’t return it
I lent you my heart
You returned it in pieces
I lent him the car
It came back with a dent
I went to the library
The book was on loan
I lent them my heritage
They took it
The possession of objects is an integral part of our social and cultural interactions. The On Loan series sets out to explore the nature of ownership by breaking down these possessive tendencies and alienating the maker from the objects by the succession of lending.
On Loan consists of ten pairs of jewellery which are either rings or brooches. The On Loan jewels are binary pieces that interlock and belong together. In the gallery, the jewellery is absent with only marks left on a faded black cloth in an empty cabinet to indicate their existence. The actual jewellery has been lent to ten unsuspecting participants, who in turn were requested to lend one of their pieces without informing me.
A number of interesting ideas are raised by this practice. The relationship is broken down between the maker and the object. The faded cloth with the shadow images and the documentation recall museums and their collections. Who owns what? What does ownership mean?
In On Loan the jewellery is possessed by a handful of people who develop a relationship with that work. However the lender controls the relationship as the loan can be recalled and hence the relationship between the participants and the on loan jewels is a tenuous one. They possess momentarily.
In the gallery, the empty cabinet confronts the viewer. This is evocative as it hints at the existence of the objects and creates intrigue.
When the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 unprecedented crowds flocked to the Louvre to see the wall. One French newspaper reported “ the crowds didn’t look at the other pictures. They contemplated at length the dusty space where the divine Mona Lisa had smiled only the week before. And feverishly they took notes.” For many this was their first visit to the gallery.
The missing is a source of fascination. It reminds us of what had been there, and also the things we take for granted. Or conversely, we see a space but are unable to automatically recall what once belonged there.
Lost focuses on loss, grief and abandonment.
I lost my watch
I lost my love
I lost my wallet
I lost my heart
I lost my joie de vie
I lost my substance
I lost a substance
I lost my money
I lost my mind
I lost it!
I lost my figure
I lost my findings
I lost my baby
I lost my child
I lost my handkerchief
I lost my job
They lost my papers
They lost my file
I lost your number
They lost my number
I lost my temper
The Lost pieces are literally lost. I lost the jewellery and then placed advertisements in The Nelson Evening Mail. The work remains lost. The jewellery in this series is represented in the gallery by six framed works that contain hazy photographic images and the texts from the newspaper.
We can all recall something precious that we have lost. Whether this is an object, a thought or time, the emotions raised are similar. We are bereft and inconsolable. We can be annoyed and frustrated by the intrusion that loss brings into our lives. Loss gives us an array of emotional responses that are at times contradictory. Our sentimental attachment outweighs any financial reimbursement. A replacement goes some way to filling the space vacated but it is never the same object, never the same person and the time can never be actually made up for – that moment has elapsed. And once a thought escapes it can never be recaptured. If it remembered it is a reconstruction of that thought.
Our minds work in intriguing ways. Memory enables us to recall our past experiences our past emotions. We are continually rewriting our own history. Memory is intriguing; what we remember, how we choose to remember and how our experiences are rewritten, consciously and unconsciously, as the time between the actual moment and our memory of it increases. As we move further away from an actual event it is distorted. We are endlessly creating ever-burnished fabrications.
What happens when the object is missing?
The HOLE Project subjects conventional visual communication to strenuous challenge and questions the object’s usefulness as a bearer of meaning. It addresses the perceived place and meaning of the object through absence and memory in an exhibition context, and in wider social and psychological spheres. The object has a vital role in art.
When an object expresses an idea, when it is a language, it asks us to communicate. This communication is a rather more abstract notion than our visual recognition. It is hoped that art raises questions and allows the viewer a degree of deliberation and sometimes confusion. For it is from chaos that new thoughts are advanced. It is from the unexpected and not immediately understood that our minds can be challenged and intellectually stimulated. The object is our visual reference point. It is the catalyst for a conversation. Do we need the object to be present to enable the conversation to take place? How important is the object to our art experience or to our understanding of it? Do we need a physical object to interpret ideas?
In HOLE the objects are absent. Instead the viewer is given visual indicators – hazy recollections, shadowy marks and locked boxes. The memory of the object. A register records the work much like a museum itemises all its artefacts. So although we are aware of the existence of the jewels we are left without concrete evidence. A void is created and conventional visual language is subverted. How does the viewer react when their expectations are subverted? HOLE challenges the viewer to examine their expectations, their longings, their memories, and their own impulse for visual acquisitiveness.
(A little piece of metal writing)
I was cold, but had the propensity to be warm. My skin was pressed and shone like the new day. My heart was left in the earth, vacated. I was clipped and formed, a polished surface sometimes left with an imperfection or two for what they call “uniqueness”. Separated and falsified, my history was a lie. For I was truly abandoned and lost in this foreign land.
I was hot. I seared in the water. I burnt. I was allowed to inflict a wound on my skin in the name of beauty. She dictated and knew the words by heart, but it was not my idea. Raw, I seek the raw. The rough and unhewn, the wild and the screaming. Where is this screaming, where is this love? I was given to you, but I was not asked. You wanted me chiselled, spat out from machine and cradled in papers, cloth and fine hands. You asked for beauty and you think you received it. You are deceived, for I am your delusion. I am your deceit. A lie of your civilised world.
I was the centre of the universe. I am the centre of the universe. Submitted into your tiny life, your tiny mind. To be a bauble, a trinket, a plaything. Who are you, a termite slowly gnawing your way through your life, gnawing through childhood, adolescence, through your formative years to parenthood, a breeding extravaganza, to the decrepitude of your old age. While I am, have always been, and remain the same for all of time and space however you beat and scold me. I am the centre of the universe and I am in charge.
I was amorphous, flowing freely, powerful as liquid form, molten and glossy. Your eyes turned from the heat, from the sheer brilliance of my coat. Sleek and youthful, always regenerating you can not stop me forever. Fire will take me or the earth will swallow me. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. As you rot and burn, I will crystallise, reform meld into the forces that take you, breathless, away. Molecule by molecule I am your god, your nemesis, your lover, your child to cherish.
I am the weight of time. I hang on you. I pull you by the neck. I lace my fingers around your throat and consider whether it is love or death. I am a droplet of sweat piercing your ears. I drop. I surround you. I encompass your finger commanding your fate. I am the creation you wanted and I am your fence. I am your internment. I weigh you down with my rock. You want it to be larger, you want to bathe in its light, but it could easily reduce you. I pin you to the ground and I elevate you, grasping your heart and squeezing it. And yet you do not notice the breath leaving your lungs, your skin a paleness, slowing to blue. You do not notice the strained expression on your lips, nor the beating in your ears of your heart, calling out to be heard, this one last time. Your eyes flicker like a cornered animal. Animal and mineral fight and I will win. For I am the universe, both hard and cold to the touch, yet warm and moving beneath the surface. Always travelling through space and time.
You are lost, and borrowing, lent and captured. You are hidden in armadillo shell. Yet your flesh is soft, pliable and I am able to penetrate it. I take my metal body into you, your flesh a willing embrace. I slice and carve finding a niche to curl into or I swear and thrust my spear through and reside comfortably. Draped in silk, cosseted in wool and flamboyant on satin; all reflect and enhance me.
I am more beautiful than all, sought after in the deepest reaches of the earth. Coaxed from my shell to be plied and manipulated until you have me where you want me; a possessed and cherished thing.
You can not own me. You know I will escape. I will work my way out of you. I will bend and twist to free myself breaking the manacles of your art. I will silently betray you. I will slip from your finger, wrist, neck. I will fall and beguile. I am deceptive. I am a sneak. I will yearn to be free of your control. I will slowly wear myself down, wear myself away until bit by bit I will meet the earth and ignite my friendship with the clay, the rock, and the molten self.
208 Bridge Street
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