Cables featured heavily in my experience in Beijing. Disconnected, surplus, ignored, given a place but not a use, there’s no doubt I was anthropomorphising rather. There is also little doubt they will feature in my work in the coming months. Already new connections have been created in my studio, new ways of presenting.
The wind monitors I could see on the tangled electric pole outside my hotel window were a (dusty) splash of colour against the foliage, and their shape echoed the insulation domes holding the wires. Finding them at the immense building supply market was a real treat, a part of the mechanics of the place that I can own. Alongside this is the large, smelly collection of cables I have been collecting on my wanderings. These, along with the smaller fragments which feature in my journal, are precious: despite the dust and grime of the huge city, Beijing is pretty spotless; everything has a scrap value, if you collect enough of it. The well-documented sight of a diminutive figure struggling under the weight of a gargantuan bag of paper or plastic is familiar even in central Beijing. The recycling and scrap yard of Fenjaicun on the outskirts of (but still technically central) Beijing.
Copper wires we’re obviously rarely overlooked, and often all I found were the plastic casings, the metal already on its way to it’s next incarnation. But everyday I did find something, not always copper, but metallic. And some days I struck lucky, and the smelly bag of filthy cables took it’s rightful place next to the wind monitors and junction box in my suitcase home.
The process involved in checking the case in is worthy of another blog all of its own….
Working from old postcards and a German decimal weights and measures brass can. It’s taken me nearly 5 days to ‘arrive’ here. Not used to so much space to think. Good to know for next time, wonder if there is a way to prepare for unplugging like this. The residency in Joya was quieter in some ways but still relatively structured. Being autonomous here is great, it just took a long time to remember what it feels like. Almost child-like with all this thinking space.
Two pairs of hands so far, mine and the post office worker. They begin their international travels, picking up evidence of their passage as they go.
Really different approach to Frieze this year: I unapologetically cruised it with a mercenary eye, looking out for a few specific things. Inspiration and excitement were some bonus points. Otherwise, I was looking for galleries showing work I was interested in, where my work may fit in next year: I was also looking for some interesting Berlin galleries ahead of our planned residency there in November.
Among the Berlin galleries I approached were Contemporary Fine Arts. I have been on their mailing list somehow for a while, and I was drawn to what they were showing. We are invited to a curators tour of the Gert and Uwe Tobias show they will have on then.
Chert also showed some interesting work, and were really friendly. Conveniently they are located opposite the old post office building in Kreutzburg where we will be working.
Esther Schipper were also very approachable and worth a look.
(artist and gallery info pending)
As I wait and wait for my studio space paperwork to go through so I can finally move in, this tateshot keeps coming to mind, and I find it reassuring and inspiring. I think it might have been the combined knowledge of these words of wisdom, and the people of Louise Borgeouis created with materials she found on the streets, constructed on the roof of the building she happened to live in, which have sustained me during these months of studiolessness.
Silke Dettmers came to talk to us about her practice recently, and the way she described her relationship with her studio made perfect sense to me. She explained that she has a large space filled with all sorts of things, which she accumulates and observes as they lay around, as if on her palette. The combinations they make feed directly into her work.
After thinking more on the residency at Grey Area in March with these 3 examples in mind, it makes me feel really optimistic about all the things that will happen in the studio, and a hell of a lot better about this:
In the spirit of reflection, been thinking about this work and how it kick-started a lot of my cable thinkings. The opportunity to inhabit the space for the week, to really consider it and how I worked in it, was invaluable. Not least because the time spent talking about my workings with the people at Grey Area, and this chance to watch it back, is great. However inarticulate I see myself as at various moments, I like being able to watch myself actually thinking and working it out….
At the reflective journals meeting last week, an anecdote about a student who worked by recording herself talking, then transcribing it, really made sense to me.
After an astoundingly immersive week at Cortijada Los Gazquez I have been thinking about the project I began there- where it sits, how it’s installed, the scale, are things to play with. Work in progress.
I was really struck by how scarce all the things we take for granted were there. Water. If it doesn’t fall from the sky it has to be hauled from the spring in the nearest village, which is a car drive away. Electricity- wind or sun deliver it for free, otherwise it’s the combustion engine generator which delivers. This becomes the only engine you can hear in the whole valley. The silence there is otherwise so loud it made my ears ring.
So, finding a rocky outcrop surrounded by optimistic furrows of corn, I trampled some of the herbs for the week. I was situated towards the end of a run-off system of terraces which had served historically to channel water to the well. As the terraces eroded, along with the rainfall, so the well has run dry.
I placed halves of salvaged ballcocks into the earth in a pattern dictated by the contours of the hill and the bushes clinging on there. The title of the work was made even more percent as all that was collected was dust and a lizard!
Things to work on: Depth of the ‘bowls’. Precision of installation. Scale- planned rather than arbitrary.
Finally the pipes are behaving, but not without some brute force courtesy of the (broken/missing vital part) pipe bender.
Clearing up the space, placing the pipes where I want them, I couldn’t bring myself to remove the ‘person’ represented by the pot of water (which I see as myself after my week of residency), so it finds its space there after all.
Looking forward to witnessing all the conversations sparked off tomorrow at the opening (6pm)
The bait ball of wires survives another day, it seems to be quite at home. The pipes are not. Yet. So I will continue to coerce them, appealing to their empty insides with forms which may enable them to hold water again, for a bit.
Having the wires moving in on themselves, and some lengths of pipes in the space with them, I can see the materials for what they are.
Sweep steps. Take out bin. Map the space in more detail. Pipes and wires. 8 pipes, 26.1 metres, 8.2 litres or water (20.5% of average water volume of one human) . 25 wires, unmeasured.
Laying the equivalent wires on the ground below the permanent ones it’s like they dropped to the ground, messy and decorative, no function.
Re-reading chapter on wires in Paraphernalia by Steven Connor:
“Wires are magical objects because they are so small, and capable of wreaking effects far disproportionate to their size and fragility….
Wires effect their actions very largely invisibly, like our veins and nerves. Whenever a wire becomes visible, ideas of injury and obscenity stir…. This is why, for the most part, wires are so elaborately and decently..’clad’; it means that we can be spared the sight and touch of the wire itself, the copper performing it’s ferocious, invisible and unthinkinably rapid business inside the wire.”
Having spent some time untangling the wires I found here, and tidying the space, I tidied up the wires.
Like a shoal of sardines in a tight ball of motion, but I see copper at it’s heart, not silver. Suddenly I can see the mass of wires here.
Measure out the water into one place too. There is no running water, the water is still. Now the wires are flowing.