|home artists fairs exhibitions newsletter news about contact|
10 September 2011 - 22 October 2011
I suffer from tinnitus. The hearing loss associated with my condition is most apparent.
In my inability to ‘focus’ on a given sound, say a voice, over and above other background noises. In places such as pubs and restaurants, all the sound, including the person I might be trying to talk to, seems to be compressed within a single layer.
The essayist and thinker Nassim Nicholas Taleb maintains that we attempt to understand complex Ideas and facts through the use of narrative. If we can stitch notions, observations and events together in a narrative structure that seems to make ‘sense’ then we are persuaded that we understand. He is highly critical of our constant attempts to comprehend the world in this way and describes it as ‘The narrative fallacy’.
Often the narrative we select is highly linear. Such was the case (and possibly still is in many Art schools) with the art historical aspect of my time at university. Art began some time in the Neolithic wilderness, ran through Egypt and the classical world, made cryptic and cruel entries within the dark ages, burst through in the renaissance, over reached itself in the Baroque, debased itself in the Rococo, redeemed itself beneath the patronage of a growing mercantile middle class, ossified itself in the empire visions of neo classicism, was challenged by the Impressionists who were themselves challenged by Post Impressionists who were vanquished by Cubism that lay down before Abstraction which was supplanted by the Conceptual.
You get the picture. This linearity is of course insane. Life is not like that. Life is never like that. It occurred to me that the way in which all sounds now reveal themselves to me as equals and deny my attempts to order them, might suggest a slightly more accurate analogue of how the present becomes the past. It becomes the past all at once, in a mess, like a plate of food dropped on the floor. Things happen simultaneously. Things happen without knowledge of other things. The wonderful patterns we think we see in history where one thing seems to lead to another are more often than not merely after the fact projections of a historians very personal vision and perhaps our desperate need to underwrite that vision. We seem overly keen to ignore that fact that history is very far from being a science.
The piece constructed in the gallery has a narrative structure. Which is then obliterated by itself. Lost within it’s own background white noise. I collected a number of quite random art books and pulped them in a cement mixer. I did so in a chronological order, according to how I remembered my art history. The cement mixer was placed facing the wall and as it pulped the books it spat them out, moving left to right. I got to the end of Modernism and approached the woolly present. I also had at my disposal books and periodicals collected by the gallery representing a fair selection of contemporary art, so here I imagined myself a nascent historian or critic desperate to name a new art species from within the perspective of my own narrative prejudice. The piece overlays a desk and the paraphernalia of research which has become partially entombed within words.
It’s very important to note that what I’m now writing only came into being whist I was making the installation. The ‘idea’ does not come before the work nor can it be abstracted to stand alone.
The sculpture, ‘Snare’ is similar in some respects to other pieces I have made where a material falls down upon an object like the weather. Pieces such as ‘Rational Snow’ , ‘Cud’ and ‘Spoil’ were also made with the notion of a material pressing down from above. It also shares a similarity with the works in the show, ‘Around the world in Colour’, ‘The True Length of a Day’ ‘The selected Works of Mao Tse Tung’ and ‘If Elected’. These pieces are made by sieving plaster through a simple template over each book to create a topography that is built by precipitation, one of the key natural processes in the formation of ‘real’ landscapes The counterpoint perhaps being that the overly pure and granular landscape also looks as if it may have been the product of computer software. Encroaching deafness also informs the work ‘Snare’. It is hopefully the first in a new series of works exploring sound. The pulp on top of the drum head is arranged in rude layers according to the chronology described in ‘Historical Tinnitus’.
The pieces ‘England in Winter’ and ‘Control’ came about as the result of collecting a small number of books where animals featured on the cover, I collected them for no other reason than a liking of the various ways in which the animals were depicted. I didn’t know at the time whether or not they would become a sculpture.
From having these around in the studio I began to be interested in trying to dislocate the viewer, using a similar illustrative language on book covers. I imagined people might be caught between thinking that the foliage on the covers of ‘England in Winter’ were part of a real extended edition- yet the titles don’t seem to have a relationship to botany, excepting one or two. To heighten the uncertainty ‘Control’, shown alongside, does indeed function as a kind of control group, perhaps one in an experiment. These covers are genuine. Mostly. You have to look carefully.
‘Daddy’ is the latest in a series I’ve been making for a number of years. The books are broken down into something like a cloud or a swarm, a destructive process which nevertheless unites and animates the three separate titles. The beginning and ending of the process is quite considered in it’s relationship to the imagery on the books.
Jonathan Callan, Brussels, 5th September 2011