After Symposium 2: 3. Questions to Self

These are a series of questions that I asked myself having completed the symposium video but before the symposium itself. I find it interesting how the questions to self differ from those raised by others.

The Illusion of the Immaterial

Why does my work focus on the object?

I am a material being, made of flesh, bone and sinew. I am also made of things that emerge from this tangle of tissue, immaterial thoughts, feelings which are often hard to grasp. My approach is one in which I acknowledge the spirit, the mind and consciousness as external to but emergent from the body. I feel the need to confront this immateriality in material form, as an object. This brings into the material domain such things that exist only in the abstract.

I look around me, at society, and there has been a rapid shift towards a virtual, insubstantial world made of electrons, pixels, bits and algorithms. The digital has created an illusion of immateriality of existence. This has, perhaps, led to neglecting the face to face, the touch and feel of things. This seemingly self-imposed starvation of the sensual, its translation into the digital homunculi and avatars that the web and software have offered is creating a sense of disorientation.

I feel that digital virtual worlds do not substitute for the physical, but they do add something new to it. The digital is a facilitator, a tool, but to live in the digital? The thought of living through a virtual portal limiting in itself. Likewise, in my practice, I need there to be a balance between the purely conceptual and purely object-based.

The video focuses on outcome, where is the process in all this?

The process is embedded in me and the work. The process underlines everything and I choose to not always make it overt in the work, to maintain an element of mystery. The demystification of art was very much in vogue a while ago, but to divest art of one of its prime elements can lead dictating meaning, restrain flexibility in new contexts and set up a limit to interpretation and reinterpretation. However, an artist’s own analysis of their practice is a positive thing for curatorial, academic, historical purposes as well as for the artist themselves, as part of their methodology and protection from abusive use or interpretation. It is also of interest for educational and inspirational purposes. However, I do not think it necessary to always demystify on exhibiting. Mystery can add to the recipient’s engagement as well as alienate, challenge, question and offer new perspectives. It is a matter of judgement how much to disclose.

What is the significance of the Gut?

The gut is an embodied metaphor for the continuity of life through generations and that we are material beings in which complex, non-teleological systems have traversed into consciousness and spirit.

What is the significance of the chanting?

The chanting is an expression of wordless communication and the animal self, running parallel the rational narrative of the video. It brings together the animal and the human in unison.

It is also an acoustic exploration of one of the sculpture components, breathing into it and listening to the echo, a collaboration between the animate and inanimate. It is a reciprocal active engagement with the object giving rise to a new process that can be taken forward in its own right.

At the end of the video, the chanting runs alongside the classical singing: the dual aspect of the human animal and the human intellect that make one spirit being.

Between Conceptual and Poetic

Logos is conceptual, it was thought out and ‘designed’ a priori although it changed as I went along. The execution was more or less predetermined in its overall conception and making. WITD, on the other hand, has been worked out in the process of making. The rational and the intuitive, both underpinned by experience and knowledge. In both cases the process becomes the thing, the thing an object through its agency catalysed by its making and the process.

What do you mean by the world becomes labelled?

Verbal language is an act whereby we come to understand the world in the form of identifiable and discrete things and use it to communicate our thoughts to others. A critical element of language is labelling things. We give name to something so that we can order thoughts. A consequence of this is that we create separations, classes of things, for example, I from the you and it. We create a boundary between ouselves and the world through language. Attempts are made to bridge this separation, but words only underline the separation of things. A wordless language is another way of attempting a holistic expression of the world.

Do you speak for everyone when you talk about cleaving from Nature?

I do not speak for everyone in terms of individuals. Each individual has their own circumstances and agency that I cannot know. However, as a species, the results of our actions is clear in technology, religion and art. We, or if you prefer, the collective one, has made nature a commodity, a market garden, an environment to be used, acquired, possessed, and used. A domain to be feared as well as loved. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does have consequences.

Surely Humans do not think themselves divine? On the contrary, we see ourselves as very mortal and vulnerable.

Very true, but we also act as though we have rights of dominion and can exercise them over all things. This is the act of a god or at least a being descended from the gods. Even if today we do not necessarily see the divine spark in humanity, the heritage of believing ourselves the sons and daughters of god(s), however fallen, still persists. It will take a long time, if ever, before we divest ourselves of this inheritance as a global entity, and see that we are part of Nature rather than a special case. I allude to this when I talk about the emergence of mind and spirit from the complexity of material systems.

Who are you actually addressing at the end of the video?

Me, I cannot know all the answers, that is why I am an artist;

the work, as bridge and conduit embodying idea and process;

you, the recipient;

the world, as recipient;

and – as an imagining of what the work might say.

Why do you use porcelain in your work?

The crystalline white material is full of meaning. The sensuousness of porcelain also gives the form a tactile fleshiness that receives the warmth of those that touch its cool surface. Porcelain helps transport earthbound ideas in a precious, sacred domain. Another way of doing this is through refinement of making. This transformation using precious materials has been done throughout time. It can also work the other way, subverting the precious. Transformation using base and precious materials becomes a political act in some way.