Where is the art?
Questions arising and some early thoughts.
1. What are these paintings?
Paintings symbolise art, not so much in contemporary art, but as a metonym for artistic activity. We can consider the route into this work as a series of easy steps, from paintings, to a structure, to a conceptual space. The project uses paintings, donated by artists, that are considered: abandoned, damaged, irreparable, unwanted or unworkable – in many ways not fulfilling the intention that was invested in them at the moment of their genesis. What becomes of this potential, this emotional investment, these wasted ideas? Can we capture their essence, passion and magic?
2. Where is the boundary between the artwork and everything else?
That’s what this project is hoping to investigate. Is it a physical space and how far does it extend? The street presence of this project is a ‘fishbowl studio’, it looks like a gallery and operates like a workshop. Is it a set of relationships, and what happens when we are not together? Does the artwork still exist if there is no-one to participate in it?
3. Who are the artists?
This project is about the participants as members of an ‘artistic community’, not just painters, in fact not just artists. Just as a theatre needs an audience, a cleaner and even a licensing authority, the community around this work can extend to anyone electing to participate. The painting and making activities are vehicles for the conversations and creation of the work.
4. What next?
The next iteration will involve artists creating new work on sections of the structure, using the stated intention of Razzle Dazzle, the WW1 naval camouflage: to make it difficult to estimate a target’s range, speed, and direction – the perfect conditions for a discussion about contemporary art.
Autonomous Zones are shared spaces, as practiced by anarchist communities. These can be permanent, as in Freetown Christiania in Denmark, the Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in Mexico and more recently the Rojava Revolution in Syria; or temporary, like London’s Reclaim the Streets or the Burning Man festival in Nevada, USA. They are communities that are autonomous from the generally recognised government or authority structure in which they are embedded.
The Tower of Babel was the first ziggurat. The SIS Building is its contemporary physical incarnation. Both buildings concern communities sharing information, communicating in myriad ways and following their own rules. One is a fictitious story from the Bible, the other a den of trained assassins.
The Ziggurat Iteration #1
The first version of this work came about through some misguided idea about not bringing any more material into my studio, but getting some of it to move out instead. Amongst the general detritus and objects of fascination there were a number of paintings, on canvas, board, whatever. These were a combination of abandoned, unfinished and irredeemably wrecked pieces. It seemed a shame to get rid of them as there had been so much intention poured into them, so much promise never finally realised and fulfilled. Individually they were scrappy, but together there was potential for a structure, a larger-than piece. I used steel plates, bits of wood and anything else to hand to make one big, über painting. It also made sense to employ some kind of sous rature, to acknowledge where the individual works had come from, but not reveal their content (as this was why they had ended up stuffed in the back of the studio anyway). To this end, I painted the whole lot matt black.
My intention was to unveil this piece in a group show in the local community centre. However, it was too big. I had had to assemble it on site anyway, and it was just bigger than the wall allocated to it. So I dismantled it and took it back home and started to think about the shape that I’d formed, and what the coming together of these once powerfully-charged objects could mean.