At work: Studio and production as a subject of today’s art

This was an exhibition at Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen which focused on “the way in which consideration of the making and places of art is reflected in the artworks themselves” (Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, 2014)

The exhibition included 20 artists and I came across it while looking at images of work by Karin Sander and a series of ‘Mailed Paintings’; canvases prepped white and posted to exhibition sites ( a strategy I am utilising for a series of drawing works).

The press release states that “it is the ‘shadows’ of art – based on a formulation by Roland Barthes –, which are finding their way here into the artwork itself “(Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, 2014). The shadows of art. Not the art itself but the shadows it casts, the lingering traces you can see when not looking at a thing but looking around it, to see where it is, where it sits and also to see what is following behind.


Karin Sander – Mailed Paintings


Without having researched into Barthes’ theories around the ‘shadows of art’ what is implied with works like this is a transactional idea of art and communication of meaning. The works themselves are nearly irrelevant, it is the experience of them that contains their value, it is their scuffs and their position, their travel and documentation that speak to the viewer. The work moves in and around space and as it does so it gathers meaning from its context.

Objects have no meanings in themselves, rather they are prompts for a field of possible meanings that are dependant on context. Meaning often implies something fixed, but in this instance, lets understand meaning as that which arises as the result of an objects exposure to a specific circumstance.That is, objects facilitate certain meanings and each interaction presents the possibility for a range of outcomes to arise that are not wholly predictable. These interactions accumulate over time, thus the meaning of an object is ever evolving. (Beshty, 2015, p.18).


Karin Sander – Mailed Painting 44, 2007

These ‘mailed paintings’ gain meaning from their environment, like Beshty’s FedEx works, they literally gain fingermarks and breakages as a result of their movement, but that is where their meaning lies, in their interactions and circumstances of their life off the wall. They lead a life outside of a representational painting, outside of a gallery space or an artists studio. They are at once authored by the artist and by many nameless people. They continue to live once the exhibition has passed as objects gathering dust, posted back or lost in transit. They are ever evolving, not static or fixed.


Images of the show can be seen here: Contemporary Art Daily

Beshty. W. (2015). Lesson: Notes for an introductory lecture. In R. Morill (Ed.), Akademie X. (pp. 14-27). London , England:  Phaidon.

Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen. (2014) At work: Studio and production as a subject of today’s art. Retrieved from: /



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