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Things are ramping up for a busy 2013 with a solo show at the end of March @ Anita Traverso Gallery. Please take the time to click on the link below for my fundraising campaign – your generosity would be much appreciated! Please share it amongst your own networks too.
Starting to settle in to my big, empty studio now and dealing with the familiar task of testing all my materials and equipment. Its located just a stone’s throw from the waterfront of north-side Williamsburg – the new gentrified, hipster-capital of not just Brooklyn but New York City. Think Fitzroy (Melbourne) about 10 years ago but with a high-rise condo dotted waterfront. Its not the most inspiring area for the work I was planning but it is pretty cool , and a great place just to be. And it seems a lot safer than the dodgier areas I have bookmarked for possible sites.
Juggling between the need for planning and the need for an empty headed, intuitive approach to this project I’m building a list of ‘maybes’ to be confirmed after all the site scouting I’ll have to do in the next week. The EL wire I’ve set as my medium of choice seems to be versatile enough for anything using line as a staple so its kept a lot of doors open. The main guy that operates the studios here is working on Matthew Barney’s new film – I definitely feel like I’m in the thick of it, its exciting and scary all the same. Hopefully I got all my failures out of my system already this year – there’s definitely been a year’s worth of those already.
Must try not to even attempt to indulge in the ridiculous amount of choice this place offers on all manner of tasty consumables – I’d need a year and then another year with a personal trainer / nutritionist to even make a dent in it and give myself a sporting chance of avoiding diabetes and/or cirrhosis… all my favourite things are here in abundance.
I’ve never really been an advocate of limiting the possibilities if the creative process i.e. through materials or rules (like in a dogma film) as I find it panders to the fear of creative freedom, creates a safety or comfort zone where one’s creative limitations have an excuse for getting in the way… but I find myself in that situation now with a limited spectrum of materials to work with (pretty much just EL wire). However, it does afford me an easier, more direct way to approach creative situations i.e. “how can I do that with EL wire” as opposed to “what’s the most effective way to do that”. I’ve already found it makes it easier to decide what ideas are worth attempting and makes my approach to selecting and dealing with a site much simpler, albeit more one-dimensional. One thing that has sprung to mind since getting here is all the chain-link fencing used at all kinds of sites. It works like a grid to attach the EL wire to so using it would be like drawing on paper. Its very two dimensional though – which makes me think it might be interesting to work with the idea of a picture plane, which references the way we’re so accustomed to experiencing the world in 2D (through books, TV, even paintings). Although the mere mention of painting opens up a Pandora’s box of historical reference to the medium, as well as my own journey away from it into a more immersive form of communication.
It also forces me to use line as my only tool. My least favourite form of mark.
So an early study in the studio came up with the goods – a really interesting thing to experience, especially at eye height. Great shadows and light play on the wall too (which probably won’t happen in a public space) the wire seems to glow brightly enough to compete with any other lighting at the site.
Also found a few locations to possibly produce pieces, one in particular just down the road – a fence line with a sequence of trees just behind it. All the trees are up against the fence which creates a very two-dimensional experience of the place. I’m thinking I could heighten that by outlining the trunks with EL wire, and illuminating the trees above the top of the fence with my flashlights. If it would just stop raining.
here’s a time-lapse video of me setting up the studio Arc piece…
Finally spent some time gallery hopping around Chelsea, two-streets at a time is enough to not be overwhelmed and yet see a greater concentration of interesting work than I guess anywhere else in the world. Highlights (due to personal bias) are clearly (pardon the pun) Robert Irwin’s acrylic columns @ Pace and the illuminate paintings of Peter Bynum @ Littlejohn Contemporary. It was interesting in particular to see Irwin revisit older ideas for the show, cleverly titled “Dotting the i’s and Crossing the t’s” and produce his acrylic works on a scale previously impossible due to the technology available at the time he started working with the medium decades ago. Curious for an artist that has made such a journey through mediums and forms of visual communication to recognise the worth of his prior work and never truly abandon it. Why the hell not? if something worked (at least to the point of exposing its vast potential) back then it should still be relevant enough to revisit with a fresh head, decades of new experience, wisdom and huge advances in technology.
As for Bynum’s work I’d have to say its effective enough to transcend the initial gimmicky feel of it (backlit paintings and especially the layered glass / Perspex panels are very “flavour of the month” these days) and would be very impressive on a large scale. Like staring into a giant Petri-dish of biological wonders. The fact that some of them are dimmable is a nice addition, especially if you had one on a wall at home.
I also decided to avoid the massive opening night, coinciding with NYC Fashion Week’s night of nights, which despite being a massive night on the calendar of one of the most important art precincts in the world, sounded more like a nightmare than a dream.
Found 2 more nearly ideal sites today after a ferry to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges (Brooklyn side). Ferries are a great way to get around from here and much quicker than I expected, although the last water vessel I was on was a houseboat. Finally a fence corner to erect the arc grid piece. On thing difficult about finding a location is that it needs to be a concave corner – such sites are generally on the inside of the enclosure which is usually plastered with “no trespassing” signs, making it a little hard to work. Art tends to be a little conspicuous, particularly when it glows at night. But the site is just at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and should echo the linear pattern of the suspension cables quite nicely.
Also in the same area found a site for a piece highlighting the topography of the river bank. Win.
When good times go bad… and then good..
Today was a poor day to attempt anything. Trying to make a chain-link fence out of EL wire seemed like an ok idea (only OK, not great as I was never that comfortable with how ‘literal’ it was to produce a piece about the excessive fencing in New York by placing a mini, glowing fence around a fire hydrant) until I actually began working on it. Its not a friendly medium for that kind of thing – not soft enough and prone to tangling itself like an extension cord.
A head clearing trip to the river identified an opportunity to reappropriate the idea in a more effective, and easier way: a trashed chain-link fence that goes into the waterline (continuing the line of a real fence at the site). Its way easier, to the point of actually being possible, to create a trashed fence. In the words of the Itchy and Scratchy cartoonist when asked to use an ice-cream cone, “Can we make it a pie? pies are easier to draw.”
Turns out the dishearteningly unproductive day was not exclusive to me. The whole Worklodge was having the same problem. It doesn’t help when you’re drenched in sweat literally all the time from the humidity. Makes me wonder if the collective energy of studios in close proximity affects everyone involved.
Dia: Beacon – wow. Just wow. It really does ram home the fact that it is absolutely imperative for a young artist to travel outside of Australia. To walk into so many huge rooms and feel my jaw touch the ground almost instantly is an experience that is simply impossible in such an isolated and lowly populated country. There is little to no chance of seeing such seminal pieces by the greats of the post war era on our shores and to really understand the importance of them (media reproductions and text often fail to penetrate one’s consciousness effectively enough) you have to see them in the flesh. It is a MUST.
Kudos to the few Australian risk takers with enough foresight and balls to acquire works like Pollock’s “Blue Poles” and Turrell’s piece at the NGA, and the whole MONA project in Tasmania. Its a start… You’d think some super-rich ore mining magnate would commission a Serra piece, but I guess mining and art are cultural antipodes. Shame, really…
Also recommend the pub just up the road from Dia: Beacon. The Chef Burger is as good as the view, and only $9
Public works begin. The first attempt a success, the second a failure due to broken equipment, the third results in a summons for disorderly conduct. Attaching things to a fence without a permit is an offense here and now I have to waste about half a day at the New York City Criminal Court and probably pay a fine of about $25. Time for a change of direction.
I have some fibre optic cable on its way from China, which will open up some doors and I’m beginning to like the idea of creating “mock” fences to serve as a psychological boundary between two spaces. To create a border around something, even if there’s “nothing” in there changes the way we consider what is “inside”. It also creates a visual frame around a space or object to enhance the understanding the space within and raise the contents of the enclosure to a level transcending its surroundings, which is an interesting version of the act of drawing.
So it turns out I’m not very good at keeping a blog. The sustained level of commitment required is a little beyond me once I start getting deeply involved in the doing of stuff. Also writing more extensive columns for illumni.com.au makes me feel like I’d just be paraphrasing myself. So instead I’ll self-indulgently probe a little deeper into my creative experiences over the last week or so.
My day to day process has revolved around producing studio-based installations with the materials I have that are a reaction to the prior piece, and as a whole are a reaction to my experience in the city – mostly with the organised separation and categorization of space in NY. I’ll avoid ranting about how Mayor Bloomberg is creating a city not unlike a fascist state because its becoming boring and I’ll probably get another summons. The disc drive in my laptop may just start spewing pink slips any second now…
I basically have a smallish gallery space to work with however I please at the moment and its an experience I’ve never had before, and probably won’t again for some time. This is allowing me to attempt things and try modes of working that I’ve wanted to for ages. It makes me wonder if other artist have a space to “test” installations or if they just go into a exhibition situation with just a rough idea of what will happen. Each day I pull down the last piece and construct a new one that evolves from the last, creating a nakedly visible progression in ideas – particularly with sensitivity to the space and the experience of being in it. It’s difficult to really convey that with photos and I’m glad. I needed something like this to pull me away from the photographic direction I’ve been going in and back towards producing refined spatial sensory experiences for people. One thing I’ve notice in working with a fairly blank space (there’s just an off-centre window and an annoying inverted corner that creates a strangely asymmetrical but balanced environment).
I’ve now found myself creating a form that establishes a “norm” for the space, and then working from there. Having a tilted plane from wall to wall leans the room to one side and brings out the “near” side of the vertical plane, which recedes off into the distance with exaggerated perspective. Both elements wouldn’t be nearly as effective without one another and the dialogue between the two is so close that your eyes forget which one you’re looking at. I like this.
Also working with the idea of containment in a fairly literal sense..