I had an interesting talk with Justine yesterday, usually we talk about work, our students, office gossip or ‘normal’ life stuff but we made an effort to actually look at and talk about our current art projects. Justine said something about my Autumn project that resonates with something I read recently in The Archive.
Justine said that there is in this body of work (video, graphs, sound) an element of being interestingly wrong. A pretense of trying to be something I’m not, an enactment, trying on an identity without a fully formed idea of what that identity is. It’s sort of scientific, sort of accumulative (a collection), sort of weather-ey and sort of maths-ey but not properly any of them.
She likened it to the way a child plays pretend, naively assuming other identities and playing roles but in a fumbling, innocent way. Earnest yet hokey, and like a child will insist that a sibling or parent join in the charade and assume a character in the play, I too rope in a family member to play a part and give a certain authority to my make believe. (I have a parent recording my sound work upstairs even as I write this).
This is not the first project that this has happened in, another work ran along a similar thread with me assuming some kind of identity and ‘playing pretend’-making artifacts that while earnest are still a little hokey. However, I hadn’t realized that I was doing it this time until it was pointed out to me. It seems that this is a method I consciously and even unconsciously use to process whatever information I have been collecting.
Justine’s reference to it being like a childlike play-pretend reminded me of something I read by Susan Hiller when she talks about collecting. Collecting ” seems to be on the one hand the kind of sheer accumulating process that all children enjoy, you know, a collection of dolls or little cars or comic books or anything like that, and then after that initial kind of accumulation children go into the sorting process in typologies, putting all the green pencils to one side and the red pencils, all the Superman comic books and all the Spiderman comic books, making categories and then some kind of analysis of these categories and all of that. It is a very pleasurable kind of thing, and certainly most people have done that, and then later at a certain point you just chuck out all your collections” (Hiller, 1994).
In a way I wonder if the idea of assuming an identity to sort through my collection is an adult extension of the sorting process described by Hiller. Like putting on a lab coat to play doctor, I assume a personality type (at times hazy and indistinct) to sort through the information and present the narrative.
Something else Hiller talked about is how collections tell stories. “If you think about the narrative that collections or assemblages of things make, the interesting thing is that there are at least two possible stories: one is the story that the narrator, in this case the artist, thinks she’s telling – the story-teller’s story – and the other is the story that the listener is understanding, or hearing, or imagining on the basis of the same objects. And there would be always at least these two versions of whatever story was being told” (Hiller 1994).
This talks about the difference between the artists intent and the viewers reading of a work. I hadn’t realized that a narrative of assuming a different character was coming across, I have been in this project whether in the planning, the collecting or the evaluating stages since mid February so it can be hard to step away from the work and see what is coming out of the work and if it matches my intent or even if that really matters.
Is the indistinct blurry-ness worth keeping? Is the space between what I intend and what is read interesting on it’s own? How narrow does the gap between intent and reading have to be? Does it even need to be narrowed down at all? If I relinquish such a tight hold on intent (difficult to do) what would the work evolve into?
( all rhetorical questions, don’t feel you need to answer ) 🙂