On Thursday I presented myself to my the UEL Fine Art Doctorate research group, when I say myself I mean I gave a presentation of my artwork, which in all intents and purposes is me, since my work is intensely autobiographical. Dealing with issues such as: the source of my illness; coping (or not) with my overdue prognosis; living with cancer; to dreaming of a hopeful future.
The photo I selected to represent this blog I took in my boiler room, it is in the reflection of the window, the glass was splattered with insect excreta. I was feeling lousy, a bout of shingles, a familia foe, was erupting and the biomass boiler had broken down. I was left to clear the blockage in the auger, as the closest engineer was in Oxford and I had the beginning of a fever. The mirror image was a displacement, a circumstance Michel Foucault might describe as “on the borderline between the heterotopia of crisis and the heterotopia of deviation” (in “Of Other Spaces” October, 1984, p.5). Since incurable sickness is a crisis not unlike old age, and “also a deviation since in our society where leisure as the rule, idleness is a sort of deviation” given that I no longer work, I guess I fall into that category too. I found Foucault’s article whilst researching text on utopia. It touches on the subject but he seems to be disinterested in it labelling it as a “fundamentally unreal space” (p.3) of unobtainable ideals. Yet, heterotopia is another subject – ‘hetero’ from the Greek ‘heteros’ meaning ‘other’ and ‘topia’ from the greek ‘topos’ meaning ‘space’ or ‘place’. Where other spaces are sites of localised “real places – places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia (not-place) in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within culture, and simultaneously represented, contested and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about…” (pp. 3-4) Foucault goes on to describe the reflected space in a mirror as a non-space, a utopia, yet although inverted in no way idealised. However because the mirror is a real thing, is cannot be a ‘non-space’ but must be an ‘other-space’ – a heterotopia.
“The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it had to pass through this virtual point which is over there”
Foucault, 1984, p.4
This sentence made me think of another selfie I took surreptitiously in Oslo, I was visiting the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art…
Hirst’s artwork comprises flies and resin on canvas.
But back to the talk. The presentation on my past work was more of a reading than a talk, I was so anxious that I couldn’t possibly cover the material at hand ad lib. Even with notes I would have overran or simply not covered the material I wanted to. Although I received good feedback, I felt the stream of words were read (with significant rehearsal) only adequately, and almost certainly with insufficient feeling (due to my crippling fear of presentations) that I believe (at least I hope) the artwork prevailed.
Since then I have been looking at Mick Moon and his allegorical works. This reminded me of structuralism – to which I’d claimed no knowledge to during my post presentation questioning! I only realised later that of course I knew the structuralists, since they made up a large body of my research. I put this down to decompression after the stress of the presentation. Structuralism: the overarching movement included the continental philosophers and thinkers: Roland Barthes, Jacque Lacan, Michel Foucault, Claude Levi-Strauss, Ferdinand de Saussure and Jacque Derrida! All academics I have read and respected… these are the intellectuals that I have based my last twelve years of art on!
Regarding Mick Moon… and Karl Palmås’s (2013) paper on Point Break (“Bodies Without Bodhis” in idrottsforum.org). Moon’s art is new to me yet with the incite provided by Mel Gooding he comes across as an artist who manages to create the artworks I aspire to. Palmas dissects the surfing film producing a framework of theory that could enable me to produce sculptures that draw on the power of the sea, odyssey, and truth. He refers to Deleuze and Žižek with great skill producing a very readable paper. I have an idea to weave my art with my current obsession of survival, fitness, trailing, journeys, passages, bathing in nature and battling against cancer (even though I don’t like the concept of the fight, since failure suggests that it was because I didn’t try hard enough… bullshit, failure isn’t a choice when it comes to illness. However, I think there is a truth to positivity, the power of the placebo, and general fitness can’t do anything but help, even if only psychologically).
My work with Larain and Aletheia, continues, I hope to visit Larain to assist with the creation of the willow 2D works. I’m thinking of suggesting the use of fixative (or hairspray) to secure the leaves on the branches, before trying to fix them to the plywood Larain has bought. Also, the laminated edges of the boards needs to be sealed with the polyurethane sealant I have. We also need to discuss the exhibition in Harwich however, I learnt today that Larain maybe too unwell to meet up. I shall learn more tomorrow morning before I set off, or not.
Art texts I have to look at after Mick Moon:- Richard Wilson; Gabriel Orozco; ‘Fantastic Reality’ on Louis Bourgeois, ‘So Much Longing in so little space’ on Edvard Munch, and two on Richard Long… I wish I could read faster…
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Stimulating reading as always. I’ve now downloaded Creative Practice which is a great reminder for the prequel to the presentation. As usual, so much food for thought as with this blog I will need to reread (more than once no doubt). So much to research. Foucault on the heterotopia in the mirror is fascinating, I need to read more. Thank you for sharing Jamie.