An artists mind never stops, and at times this can lead to the inevitable period of insomnia that occurs most nights. Tonight I was unable to get to sleep, so I decided to do some reading. I managed to plow through a couple of length articles in a recent issue of Art Forum (which has proved to be quite a good journal). I read two articles in particular that got me thinking. One was on the artist James Turrell, who works with large earth and architectural works working with light as his medium, on vastly different scales. The other article that I read was on a lesser known artist; Les Levine, a contemporary of Andy Warhol, his work is hard to pin down. He seemed to use the guises of minimalist, conceptual artist and post-minimalist as he needed to. His work is multi-disciplinary, involving elaborate multimedia installations of closed circuit television and light and sound to larger outdoor works. I am not here to delve too deeply into each artists biography or their practice for a matter of fact. This bit of writing is more about my own creative thought process. I used to think that artists like these were hacks, “bullshit artists”. But it hasn’t been until recent times that I have begun to take an interest in the conceptual part of their practice, that is to say the thoughts and ideas that they come up with before creating a work. People don’t fully appreciate the amount of planning these artists would go through just to organize one outdoor work, or even something more contained. It is this interest in these artists work that generates thought for my own practice, even though our practices vary quite dramatically, the processes of thought and concept are almost the one and the same. I think that I am just generally amazed that I managed to find artists like these interesting, and furthermore; it leading to my own practice being enriched.
So take note, read widely, don’t just read about painting if you’re a painter, or just about sculpture etc, read more, watch documentaries, interviews etc. Gain knowledge, even if you’re not an artist, just more of an art enthusiast, a collector of art etc. Anyways, I hope that this ramble made some sort of sense to whoever may be reading this, below I have linked some potential avenues of research on the aforementioned artists.
The 13 Rooms exhibition was funded and supported by the Kaldor Public Art Projects, making contemporary art and artists available to the public for free. This particular project was curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist from the Serpentine Gallery, London. And Klaus Biesenbach from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It was an interesting, exciting, confronting and satisfying collection of performance pieces. In this review I will be focusing on several of the works featured, to be quite honest the curatorial decisions didn’t concern me, I probably should have been more aware of what the curators had done, however I was so captivated and enthralled by the works themselves that the behind the scenes decision making did not concern me at the time.
I decided to take the scenic route to the exhibition venue at Pier 2/3 around the back of the Rocks area in Sydney, passing under the harbour bridge and through parts of the historical Rocks precinct. Upon arrival I was greeted with a large line, which I sighed at but of course I begrudgingly lined up in. After what seemed like hours; but in reality was probably only 30-40 minutes I walked in side and was met with volunteers who wanted to know my postcode and to sign up for emails regarding further projects and exhibitions, the usual marketing mumbo jumbo. Finally inside I began to wander, even though there was a map displaying where the different artists works were. I ignored the formal layout and began to walk past and into the different spaces, some of which I regrettably did not wait in line for, I think back now that I was in no rush, but my impatience got the better of me. The one work I did wait in line for was Roman Ondak’s “Swap”. (image below)Upon entering the space, everyone was instructed to line up around the room and to stay as close to the walls as possible to allow for maximum occupancy. We were greeted by a man who’s name I have forgotten; although I am not entirely sure that it was mentioned in the first place. This charismatic British performing artist began to explain the rules and guidelines associated with the work. The objective was to swap one personal item with the man sitting at the table, and then he would swap your original item for something else. I swapped an old roll of film I had leftover in my bag from my early art student days, I swapped it for an ordinary looking reusable shopping bag, simple and uninteresting, however, this item had originated from France and had made its way to Australia and is now in my possession. This trading of items led to something that was quite incredible in my opinion, I swapped an old cannister of film for an old shopping bag from France. After this a girl wanted to swap a letter she had written to her grandmother on the back of a postcard that had an image of Ben Quiltys portrait of Margret Olley on it. A lady then swapped something for the postcard, it turned out that this lady was Ben Quiltys Godmother. And then from across the room was an older woman who said she had cared for Ben Quiltys mother or Aunt. The amazing connections made between the people by swapping objects. I am a little sad about giving away the film though. I left the room feeling good and happy and fulfilled I had just made a connection with a bunch of other people, even those people who didn’t trade anything were connected to the moment, because they had witnessed it.
The other performances were strong, confrontational, bold, interesting and moving. Although discussing them would take a lot longer to discuss, and I know that most of my readers rather short and sweet than bitter and long. So I will leave you with some links and images and you can do some research on your own.