bilateral kellerberrin

September 4, 2005

Challenging Intimacy (question from Louise)

Filed under: analysis? — Lucas @ 4:27 pm

This quite long question/response came through from Louise Curham, my collaborator on the Line Describing a Cone tour. She came to Kellerberrin a few days before the opening of the exhibition, and the idea was to present the Cone at the old Kellerberrin cinema, which is owned by Domenico de Clario, and called The Aurora Project. Unfortunately, our vintage xenon arc projector packed it in ten minutes before we were due to screen the Cone. As you may understand, this was quite upsetting for Louise and I. The Aurora Project is such a beautiful space, it really was the one site which got us thinking about showing Anthony McCall‘s work in Australia in the first place. So to not be able to show it there was a real disappointment. However, the night was still an “event” – farmers rushing around, pulling the machine apart to get to the bottom of the problem, locals dashing off for fuses from the service station, the old cinema projectionist being pulled away from his TV to rummage for spare parts in his back shed. Local girls offering to do a gymnastics display to keep the crowd entertained while they wait for the tech problems to be solved. All of this taking place in a misty cavern. And of course, accompanying the whole night, Anne Walton’s in/e/gress mounted in the doorway of the cinema, and Louise’s super8 films beaming in the front rooms.

In the end, the projector could not be saved. Instead, we presented a few different “versions” of Line Describing a Cone. We had Alice and Vicki visiting from the UK – they had experienced the Cone in London, and so were able to “describe” what that experience was like. Also, while the repair efforts were being made, they had assembled a quick scratch film on super8, in an attempt to simulate the work. Louise also tried out holding the circular film cannister in front of the projector beam. The audience was very good natured, and got into the spirit of the thing, jumping in and out of the unruly spray of light the super8 machine threw out. Finally, we packed up and all went back to the gallery for dinner. Louise and I had a bit of a cry. (The rest of the tour went swimmingly, if not effortlessly!) And so, onto Louise’s comments and questions:

Dear LI

I have some questions:

I have been able to jump the gun on other blog readers in that I actually went to Keller.

I had no concept of what it was you were doing – I got feedback from Anne and Jane that it was beautiful, very small and very quiet (they were reflecting upon the work that you were doing in saying that. Anne was very troubled about not going ahead with knitting a cosy for the pipeline.

At this point, I was in the dark. This is because I don’t go on-line until it’s imperative. Being on-line is not recreational for me, it is employment oriented ie myself as commodity. On-line is strictly tool for me. This limits its art potential for me. My loss, as I realised on looking at (but also my gain in that my actual time, is spent in actual places).

So my questions become: as a fairly wealthy wheatbelt town adjacent to Perth, is Keller generally speaking on-line? Who was talking to?

The intimacy of the blog was a challenge. I skipped the dreams. Did you edit your writing process or was this ‘three morning pages’ so to speak? The writing I read (ie I didn’t read the dreams but I read the rest and was comfortable and engaged by the tone but something stopped me at the dreams, maybe because I know you – if I didn’t know you maybe I wouldn’t have stopped at the dreams. Although I’m curious as to why the dreams were relevant – some of them were prophetic if I recall the anxiety entry that previewed the Cone debacle – ouch! the If Onlys about the Keller cone
are so strong! Ouch! Ouch!) was very beautifully done.

Can you speak about the idea of the English ‘folly’ and your rubbish bin walk? Somehow the way you wrote about it reminded me of English gardening and the Edwardian idea of the folly (ph. sp by the way it might be folley – I mean the faux Roman ruins et al that pepper the Georgian and Edwardian garden ie 1850-90 (?)). You some how elevated the rubbish bin beyond
rubbish. It was in a sense animated by your attention. Rubbish bins are functional items but not in Keller, at least not this many of them. Somehow this makes such a quantity of them a folly for me. Also interesting to consider the Australian rural streetscape as a garden or a sculptured landscape.

Was this the artwork? By focusing the gaze on the appartently tiny, apparently inconsequential of Keller was the artwork about the ability of the artist to re-assign values? Is this about the ‘special’ vision of the artwork? This is a very biased question as I’m interested in sensitising people, drawing their attention to tiny sensations about things they haven’t noticed before – my favourite of these is the passage of light in the day – if you can get joy out of that, then everyday you can have a moment of joy. I dont’ want to load you with my readings but I do want to give you context for my questions.

This idea of focusing attention connects with many media, eg dance – one view of contemporary dance is that it is entirely about framing the gaze – drawing attention to certain parts of the body, event through movement, through theatrics (lighting etc). There may be a tenuous link from focusing attention to mastery – think of this in contemporary music, quite hard to show you’re a noise master or to demonstrate this mastery to a classical pianist. To establish mastery do you need a canon? Who is that Japanese noise guy they all love so much who was here last year? This is an issue with because people want to know what the artwork is, where is it? How do we know if it’s any good. Not a new question for the visual arts – is the beginning of this Duchamp? P’raps it’s really Cezanne (whose early paintings are truly hideous in my view and in fact most of his paintings are so rough and brutal somehow – I got a shock seeing 1998 exhib in Sydney at how ‘ugly’ they are really anyway this is a segue). It’s good because I say it’s good, it’s good because Tony Bond says it’s good. It’s worthy of your attention … why? Contemporary fine arts education seems to focus on equipping students to answer this question. This in itself is problematic. I am not happy with justification alone. Why does the audience need to know if it’s any good? My own view – real project of contemp. Art practice is to empower people to feel good about making this decision for themselves – to be open to aesthetics in all places ie to position themselves at a very key point in designating the value of the work. It’s anti connoisseurship.

I can go on here to a thread about the difficulty of this kind of position because the responsibility for having an ‘opinion’ rests on the viewer, and this has scarey John Howard overtones (all the responsibility is yours, it’s your fault if you can’t get a job, be healthy, get educated) – this has amnesia about the wider social framework, the meta frame. So empowering people to feel good about making their own aesthetic decisions also involves educating them which is dodgy because it positions the artist as having something worth educating others about. Not sure about this.

Despite the apparently quiet surface of the work, the object is a copy of the writing that took place during the two months – this work was very demanding – it involved you having active engagement with the community. is not just an artist’s diary while on safari. Far from it. Can you describe some parameters you had for yourself in the writing task? I’ve touched on this above I guess so you may have already covered this.

But I am interested in observing you in past year or so – very high commitment and activity and outflowing energy (again coloured by my own perception and situation – I often find myself mapping myself on to others, this may be an example of this so read generously). A perception of the Keller work to me was that this was your attempt to cut back – to make the work a more sustainable practice – one where energy exchanges are in balance. Its form reflected this but I think maybe in practice it was as intense as LI world tends to be but with a greater degree of muteness – less of a need to make use of one’s self but in fact a very great need in setting people at ease, finding points of connection or inviting lines of connection/interest, listening, writing. There is a muteness in so far as the reflection back by the artist is text only.

Now my favourite topic – Flusser – his consideration of writing as absolutely tied to history – that history is born with writing. I don’t know. I wish I knew more historiography. Sounds very 80s. But it does have a certain air of reality about it. So writing as documentation – were you in any sense recording a ‘slice of life’ – making a living testimony to Keller at a certain time and to yourself at a specific time and place?

That must be more than my share of your head! LCxx

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