Enshrinement: 1/3 of a Proposal

This is the first of three triangulated works for the project proposal. Dealing with language, the animal self, belief and ancestry, each work confronts a particular aspect of human communication: with one another, the divine, and communication at its most basic. The ideas behind the work have evolved during the MA as a slowly gestated synthesis. As the works have become crystallised in their present form, they start to speak fully to me. And yet, this is only the beginning as the work of completing and installing has yet to come. This is only a model, and as such does not relate to the body scale.

Enshrinement makes use of the vitrine, unlike the other two works in the show, and as the word implies, it is a preservation of an action, a notion. But what is being preserved and why? The transparent casing forms a barrier between the viewer and the forms. The porcelain pieces were made primarily through touch. The viewer is unable to touch them. This is a negation of the most intimate of senses. I am separating bodies from one another and from the environment. I cannot touch the forms and they are sealed from the outside world. This goes against the majority of contemporary movements where the viewer is allowed maximum contact with the artwork. But what I am doing is not raising the status of the work or protecting it. I am opening a door and inviting curiosity as to why. This becomes clearer as the viewer approaches the vitrine.

I am looking to intimate human form while reducing it to its most fundamental core around which all else is built. The sculptures are still. That stillness is preserved in the reliquary-like context. This stillness is now a precious thing in a world predicated on movement and rapid change. They are intended to be as chrysalids frozen in formation, transitionary beings. They have no head, limbs or features, only a single opening from which sounds emanate. This sound is faint behind the ‘glass’. It is normal that the viewer moves around a still sculpture, the shapes of her movements influenced by the sculpture’s subtle passivity. The sculpture’s agency exists only at the viewer’s behest because she tacitly enters into a contract with the context in which the still sculpture is found.

At strategic points, the vitrine is perforated as a bank cashier’s screen. From these, sounds can be heard coming from within the forms. The viewer is invited or compelled to come closer. The viewer becomes a listener, an eavesdropper. The sculptures are possessed of a new agency, not one dictated by motionless form, colour and texture but an active one involving a linear modality. (The Greeks painted their sculptures, who made carvings speak?) The listener is now made to lean in, bend over, kneel even.

However, the sounds that come from inside, conversation, composition, interaction, call it what you will, cannot be heard in their entirety. The points for listening are separated, each voice whispers, softly enunciating its babble. Only one part of the trialogue can be heard clearly at any one time. The thread of the conversation taking place inside is not disclosed. It may be confusing, ambiguous, open to misunderstanding.

Separation is not only something physical, but it also occurs with each word we use. The world is whole and infinitely divided by the labels we give each part. All we can do is try to reassemble the few parts we can give names to and construct a fiction that we can understand and get along with. A story in which no one person can tell of all the names and their kin.

I see many things in the forms and how I will house them. I hear many ideas in my head. I feel many things around me, sense the past and imagine the future. There is no single picture or idea or single path to follow. I leave the way for the viewer to sense, think, feel, and take part. And, link up in some way, perhaps bringing us a little closer.

In the next post I shall be describing the construction and installation of the work plus some ideas for the future.