The uncertainty of space – Time: a constellation of parallel worlds through the obsession of collecting
Here I elaborate on the idea of collecting and gathering specific kinds of object, that as a collection go beyond each single object to create a constellation which in itself produces parallel other-worlds or realities. The reason for this interest is that my art practice is centred around the object and objecthood in contemporary practice, specifically collecting, transforming and appropriating objects in continuously. These objects come from different places of my every-day environment, which is also a witness to my moving and change of location. All those objects are then put together in one place without reference to their origin. In that way, they form a memory of various stories that is very personal to me and somehow hidden in the objects. But what is important is that these objects – brought together in one space – produce a constellation of parallel worlds through the obsession of collecting.
There is a fascination in collecting found objects as well as continuing to build this collection through different ways of reproducing the object. For example, the objects are often reproduced by casting them in various materials. What I’m interested in, is how these objects produce other kinds of different space-time relation. This relation is produced by juxtaposing them in different orders of relation and at times also manipulating them by combining objects.
I believe in the everyday as the site of a fundamental ambiguity: it is both where we become alienated and where we can realize our myriad forms of artistic practices. Each object of my collecting process comes from a different context and a very specific experience of my everyday. I’m questioning the everyday, particularly through the writings of Maurice Blanchot. Blanchot suggests that the everyday should exhibit an absence of qualities, cannot be approached cognitively, and ‘that it should display an energizing capacity to subvert intellectual and institutional authority’. It is ‘inexhaustible, unimpeachable, always open-ended and always eluding forms or structures’. This open-ended quality of the everyday is the interest and the drive of my collection process day by day. It becomes a kind of daily ritual that is embedded in my daily life through which I experience different places and objects specific to a particular site. But the process of my collection places the objects in a series that begins to build its own kind of narrative outside of culture, location and time.
This discussion is continued by Blanchot where he states that the everyday is the place ‘where repetition and creativity confront each other’(1). In my interpretation of this, the everyday becomes a reality that is translated in another kind of creative mental process through the relation of collecting and attention to perhaps insignificant objects. The repetition that forms the everyday becomes a creative act, far from the pragmatism and the banality of everyday life. Collecting is part of my everyday repetition which at the same time takes me away from the routine, and the meaning of a life full of unpredictability and yet creating a sort of structure in the act of gathering the object. Collecting creates an uncontrollable excitement producing both mental space as well as physical space for the admiration of those selected objects.
In this sense, the uncertainty of life and existential instability is assuaged by fictional parallel worlds created by the mental obsession for these objects. The obsession with collecting objects is also pragmatic in this sense of creating my fictional worlds. In our present reality, which lacks future certainty, the objects and things bring a consistency to the everyday moments.
My artistic production takes form as investigations of the everyday, particularly as it exhibits an absence that cannot be approached cognitively. The objects of my installations become the mediators that shift realities into new experiential domains, beyond the everyday, transported into another kind of spatial parallel. The agency and power of the object is made tangible, building narratives that expose the drive of our behaviours and form the representation of ourselves within our surroundings. In this instance, the object becomes the carrier of us and our subjective self.
It functions as an activator moving in time and place abstracted from its various social, urban, personal, intimate conditions to enable 'new' theatrical conditions.
Both my artistic activities and my curatorial experiences have been prompted and focused on processes that position the object (or art object) within a new type of network and organizational relationship. Through which the object begins to take on a new role and effect our perceptive reactions, returning to Bruno Latour’s actor-network- theory, where object are subjects, an actor in determining social meaning.
For me this also reflects a nomadic and flexible lifestyle, which is a large part of this generation. A kind of movement where the found, collectable things of a place are assembled and then shattered again to be reassembled at some other place. The collected matter forms a certain aura to a current place and dissolves again as we move, and new spatial realities and new things are collected.
In the process of movement and shifting, certain things dissolve and remain and other things follow - in time, transforming the repeated act of collection into a system of disparate things from many different places. And so, through this pattern a sort of new-place is formed for the individual, embodied through the associative content that these selected objects contain. And this makes the subject feel as a citizen of a non-place, a place outside of a location, more connected to the new system of object-meaning and a personal narrative.
This, perhaps brings us to the necessity for lightness, or the practicality of not solidifying the structures of our object environments. Yet the obsession of collection is itself against this lightness with a desire to hold onto everything. Through a series of tangible objects collected at each place a sort of artificial belonging is shaped and each object becomes part of a new life meaning. The fact that these objects extend life and allow for place-making also makes them difficult to let go. The obsession of collecting and the difficulty of shedding things is a concern that accompanies me constantly, from place to place.
Perhaps it is this that is reconnected to the idea of identity, and the notion of a place, or of a person and individuals. Objects contain meaning for each particular person as separate intensity of networks and connections to the things around us. A phenomenon that continuously occurring confronted with the obsession of accumulating things (desperate objects and art works exchange).
In the next part I would like to discuss how this process of collecting and positioning of objects is part of a larger practice that repositions the artist-curator relation in a different way. The artist is at the same time the curator of those objects, selecting from a set collection that is defined, as well as producing the context or display in which those objects are presented. Through this selection process and deliberate display the artist-curator intent allows the objects to begin to take new meaning.
This kind of practice can also be seen in the work of Haim Steinbach in the way he clearly focuses on the selection of the specific everyday object which are chosen in a specific way from a formal point of view. The way these objects are juxtaposed is not in a pragmatic or material way, but assembled without meaning or connection. It is a strict formal choice of colour and shape and at time relating to the industry they come from. The display also become part of the work, a triangular shelf that is of distinct and recognizable signature of Steinbach which produces the magical setting that presents those select objects and puts them into a new world.
It is part of a contemporary practice of artists that work primarily either on appropriating objects that are part of the visual cultural landscape, transforming them, juxtaposing them or on using them as ready-mades. Boris Groys reflects on this common interest, stating:
Art today is defined by an identity between creation and selection. At least since Duchamp it has been the case that selecting an artwork is the same as creating an artwork. That /…/ does not mean that all art since then has become ready-made art. It does, however, mean that the creative act has become the act of selection: /…/ producing an object is no longer sufficient for its producer to be considered an artist. One must also select the object one has made oneself and declare it an artwork. Accordingly, since Duchamp there has no longer been any difference between an object one produces oneself and one produced by someone else. (2)
This practice of selecting and displaying of object into new constellations as kind of artistic production is what I reflect on - in the evolving role of artist-curator.
In his book Postproduction. Culture As Screenplay: How Art Reprograms The World, Nicolas Bourriaud discusses a shift in the way artists gather material. In the chapter titled 'The Flea Market: The Dominant Art Form of The Nineties', Bourriaud quotes from Liam Gillick explaining that the search for material for art production is no longer in the art shop but perhaps in unsuitable and unpredictable places. Bourriaud states: “since the early nineties, the dominant visual model is closer to the open-air market, the bazaar, the souk, a temporary and nomadic gathering of precarious materials and products of various provenances. Recycling (a method) and chaotic arrangement (an aesthetic) have supplanted shopping, store windows, and shelving in the role of formal matrices.”
In this way, the boundary between artist-curator and perhaps even a kind of collector become mixed. Shifting the process of art making from primary materials to existing objects that are juxtaposed and displayed.
This paper is the start of a research that studies the mechanisms and structures that arise between a nomadic position, objects and the obsession of collecting. In this context, the intent is to better understand the artist-curator position and the blurred relation in the process of collection and display. A further step might be the discussion of artists who, with their objects, have contributed to a g rowing collection and are part of a similar practice.
The act of collecting is related to various circumstances that interact with time, place and obsessions. Although for others apparently without real meaning, objects collated produce a constellation of parallel worlds.