Michael Asher “art often carries further across time than space.”

While showing at the Graduate show at Chelsea last month, I had a really interesting conversation about the materiality and installation of my work with the unfailingly generous David Cross, who recommended I looked at the work of Michael Asher.

The photo above is a newpaper reference to an ongoing project in Munich which ran from the 1970’s until 2007 when the caravan was stolen. As it moved around the city it occupies spaces, safe in the parameters of an ‘art project’, but each time it moved it’s location was swallowed by another vehicle or even building works. I read that he was delighted when it did get stolen, and said “art often carries further across time than space.”

Such is the nature of Asher’s practice that it is actually impossible to look at any of his actual work, and I never will, now he has passed away. All that remains are informal records and references to the projects: Part of his method was the stipulation that the locations of his interventions be returned to the state they were in before he worked there. He did not consider accompanying  documentation, catalogues, etc as artworks.

It reminded me of the work of Tino Segal which I saw at the Hamburger Bahnhöff in Berlin. A performer filled the space with song periodically, but we were able to chat to her in between performances- she explained how the artist fought not to be included in the catalogue, maintains no online presence ( a feat these days), and even refuses to sign a contract- all is done verbally. This audacious confidence in one’s own existence really stayed with me. By that I mean, I have in recent years considered my art to validate my existence- it gives me a motive and a physical proof that I am still here. If that were to evaporate, would I still exist?

With the Asher no longer living it adds a poignancy to the way I see his art, and makes me immediately consider how I see the artwork as artifact. This first came up during my residency at Grey Area last year: After I had found and arranged all the wires and cables according to what was in the space, I then formed them into a bundle- the discussion brought up whether this was a commercial decision, which shocked me as I hadn’t thought of it that way. The presentation was so ingrained in my thinking, I hadn’t questioned it. Which is why it was so good to face it.

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With all the hype and expectations surrounding the graduate show, my thoughts ineveitable turned to the future, and how I would sustain my practice. The fable of the magic patron who might appear raises other issues such as authorship, autonomy and the heartbreak of parting with works I had actually fallen in love with over the months. All really interesting.
This possiblity, the sly expectation objectifies all works in the space.

My stubborn faith in the hanging work and the liberal use of the readymade felt must have been my subconsious shouting to step outside of the neat object presentation. I hope so anyway.

cadi froehlich MA show

Michael Asher

Michael Asher 1943–2012: Parting Words and Unfinished Work | e-flux.

Reader on aesthetics of mobility by Black Dog Publishing, ed Anthony Hoete

Talks about transport and exchanges of people, goods, information and ideas being Modes, with the points where these happen being Nodes.
Modes include bikes, roads, trains, planes, mail, the Internet and cellular data.
Nodes include traffic jams, airports, letter boxes, cities and mobile phones.
These ideas feel like they blow up the notions of communications that I think about, both in terms of scale and in terms of how integrated they are into the fabric of us. In thinking about communication on a personal level, and how that is achieved I have looked at physical interaction, postal interaction, telecommunication and digital contact. The thought that these are all Nodes then raises the issue of the spaces between, the Modes.
This feels like the connection between my work with wires and my work with phones and taps. And postcards. Brilliant.

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Zeros and Ones by Zadie Plant

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Historical summation of development of technology and computing, and women’s roles in the system. Draws parallels between liberation of home textile production and market, and current female manual labour assembling circuit boards, via industrial revolution looms.
Goes on to look at the zero/one contrasts between male and female objectives in developing technologies, and morphs into sexual politics. Particularly the notion of touch, keeping in touch and staying in touch.
Useful to map foundations of the circuits of today, and own my part in it as a woman. A contributor as well as a consumer.

Art Review, Design, Sam Jacob, Objects make the man / Art Review

 

Stone chopping tool, 1,8m yrs old, from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

Art Review, Design, Sam Jacob, Objects make the man / Art Review.

The philosophical relationship proposed in this article suggests a symbiosis between ourselves and materials. Although at first ‘materials’ were simply natural objects. The physical evolutionary evidence echoes this theory, as quoted from the BBC’s Wonders of Life, “Our ability to process visual signals required larger brains, which in turn hungered for more input of visual signals,” which, it could be argued, has driven the quest for manufacturing the tools that facilitate this. We are caught in an evolutionary loop.

This article made me imagine we are sourcing so much from beneath the earth that it will just deflate and collapse one day, revealing a new surface with which it can start again. With small-brained beings.

Carl Andre: ‘I’m using materials to change space’

BBC News – Carl Andre: Art shouldn’t be democratic.

Interiew where Andre defends minimalism and denounces conceptualism. I am struggling to find the difference here on a base level- conceptual art which remains an idea, fair enough, it’s not quite art yet: As Susan Hiller told us, you really need something- object, documentation, happening, with which to start the conversation, the discourse you are participating in. An idea in your head is impossible to share visibly.

But minimalist art feels to me like the distillation of the concept, the shortest line between two points of thinking sometimes, so where is the distinction? Something about one artist scoffing at a different meme sticks in my throat. Andre himself quotes Duchamp ‘Art is anything the artist says is art’, so odd, then, to condemn conceptualism……

Jonty Hurwitz

@;-) – Mugabe Hyperinflation.

If this is cast in copper, which it looks like (and his more recent work would support this theory too) then I like the geographical relevance. The contry’s rich mineral deposits are what has provided the wealth in the past.

This reminds me of the terrifying fortune machine in the movie Big with Tom Hanks, where his wish gets granted and turns out to be a curse.
There is not much description on the site, but I’d like to think this one moved too.

Also nice that if this is cast copper, then the casting is now worth much more than the trillions of Zim dollar banknotes it looms over.

THE CHALLENGE OF SCULPTURE SHOCK: THE FIRST STAGE Richard Cork – Sculpture Shock

THE CHALLENGE OF SCULPTURE SHOCK: THE FIRST STAGE Richard Cork – Sculpture Shock.

At its most robust and experimental, sculpture can thrive in an astonishingly wide variety of locations. Far from being confined within the sheltering white walls of an art gallery or museum, it has always proved adept at enlivening even the most awesome spaces available in the world. Take Stonehenge, that monumental and mysterious ensemble made of mighty materials transported from a remote region of Wales to an equally epic setting in Wiltshire. Whether it was once a sun-worship temple or a healing centre, this prehistoric masterpiece can now be seen above all as an assertion of sculptural power. Halfway through the twentieth century, the young Carl Andre was profoundly influenced by Stonehenge while preparing himself for the seminal development of Minimalist sculpture. And contemporary artists continue to find themselves spellbound by the primordial impact of these standing stones, which cast such a transformative spell over the immense landscape around them.

No such vast stretch of countryside was available to the finalists who made their fascinating proposals for Sculpture Shock. But this admirable new award is inspired by the same fundamental urge as the making of Stonehenge: to astonish and awe viewers who come across an ambitious three-dimensional work in a place far removed from the clinical atmosphere of a conventional art gallery. As a member of the RBS Jury who met the nine finalists and chose the three winners of Sculpture Shock, I relished the spirit of adventure galvanising all the artists involved. They were clearly stimulated by the whole notion of making a spatial intervention in a locale dramatically at odds with traditional gallery interiors.

The exact whereabouts of the three spaces on offer in Sculpture Shock have not yet been divulged. Yet I can confirm that they are clearly differentiated from one another. Nothing could be more mysterious than the Subterranean context. Hidden far below the streets and buildings where urban people spend most of their time, an underground chamber ignites our imaginative responses in a very potent way. Visitors will embark on a journey through the normally unseen bowels of the city to reach this shadowy destination. Its sheer strangeness is bound to make us hyper-alert, and therefore more responsive to the sculpture installed there. A viewer might even be alone, investigating the work without any distraction from the throngs of people often found in popular gallery exhibitions today. So the subterranean context could well generate an unusually intense encounter with art in its least predictable form.

David Ogle, who made the winning proposal for this project, works primarily with fishing wire and ultraviolet light. He explains that his art ‘is very much a reaction to the environment it inhabits. It starts with a drawing, but light is what I’m working with fundamentally.’ Stimulated by the idea of ‘going underground to seek something precious, in a mine or a tomb’, Ogle will invite us to ‘enter the space, where objects emerge from ultraviolet lighting and fluorescent materials.’ He wants the viewer ‘to discover the work and bring it into being’. Fired with excitement, Ogle realises that ‘when underground, light is even more important!’ And he would like us to feel, down there in the space, that we are ‘creating the thing — large geometric forms made of individual lines — as you move through it.’ Ogle believes that his work is ‘indeterminate in terms of mass and materiality.’ He relates it to Minimal and Conceptual artists like James Turrell and Sol LeWitt, but adds that ‘digital technology is changing the ways in which things are defined.’ He wants to be involved in ‘negating the traditional role of the building.’ At the same time, though, Ogle thinks that his work is underpinned by ‘a paradox — it has a big impact, but it’s elusive and suddenly snuffed out. Looking in dark spaces, your perception of depth and distance changes.’

Challenges of a very different order are provided by the Ambulatory project. Indeed, it stands at the opposite extreme to the Subterranean context, inviting us to embark on a freewheeling journey without any physical confines. The key to its success will lie in our ability to engage with the audacity of movement through time, and the winner Amy Sharrocks emphasises that her work is essentially to do with ‘celebrating and liberating.’  While remembering Joseph Beuys’s landmark declaration that ‘everyone is an artist’, she is fascinated by ‘working with people in space, the architecture of the moment.’ Whether walking, swimming or floating, she believes that ‘it’s what people bring to it that counts, when I invite them to join me.’ Her guests are even prepared to be tied up for a swim involving 65 people, but Sharrocks makes clear that ‘I’m not in it for guerilla art-works. I’m fascinated by what we know as group consciousness.’ Sometimes these groups are silent as they make their way through London, and yet she tries ‘not to set up rules. I believe in the importance of daydreaming, and a heightened sense of existence.’ She invites the participants to ask fundamental questions like ‘how do we use the river in our city?’ Sharrocks is also involved in working with thistledown, the round silky seed which floats through fields and cities during the summer months. One of her ideas centres on ‘people bringing their seeds’ to her studio and to the Ambulatory event itself, and she wants everyone ‘to bring their whole life experience with them’ as well.

Exploration of this kind is in absolute contrast to the Historic context, which will allow an artist to create a ‘sculpture shock’ in an old, illustrious building preserved within the Royal Borough. Nika Neelova, who won this category, is a provocative choice. Although dedicated to exploring history through the use of architectural fragments from the past, she is obsessed with using damaged, ruined and even burnt materials, like the crumbling parquet floor from a London house which was about to be demolished. Although interested in the William Morris Arts & Crafts tradition, she wants to ‘introduce elements of the past into the present.’ Having lived in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the world, Neelova is a wide-ranging artist who claims that she is ‘trying to combine western minimalism with Russian exuberance.’ The work she will create for the Historic context cannot yet be pinned down. She speculates that ‘I would probably use glass and introduce deviations in the production of the glass, hand-blown rather than ready-made’ but she is also fascinated by the possibilities of animated film and likes the idea of using church bells ‘translated from sound into silence.’ Above all, though, Neelova insists that ‘I do large work’, and ‘I like the viewer to walk into the space and confront it.’

In this respect, she and the other two winners of the Sculpture Shock will undoubtedly do their best to provide an enthralling experience, which continues to nourish our minds long after we have emerged from these different regions and returned to everyday life.