Dilemmas and endless questions.

For a significant chunk of the year I’ve been working on what feels like 3 individual projects simultaneously – the thesis (which a fellow honours kid likened to ‘that friend whose been crashing on your couch for too long’… it’s a apt analogy really – you like having them around to begin, then you just get darn sick of them and can’t wait for them to get out of your life… and then when that time approaches you get all fond of them again) and the two strands of my art practice – turmeric mapping and experimental performative situations.

Now the thesis is done and dusted – I’ve said goodbye to that little baby. But you know it made me really question a lot of things about ephemeral art practices. And in many ways the experimental performative situations (not really sure what to call them…) are a bit of an exploration of some of the ideas that have emerged from my thesis research. In fact I had a great little chat with my supervisor – Lucas Ihlein – yesterday and he raised so many questions as a direct result from the rich material that these ‘experimental performative situations’ produce (I think he may have even referred to it as a bit of an ‘art machine’)… its quite clear that despite spending a year investigating the relationship between the ‘live’ and the ‘recorded’ that there is no solution to the ‘problem’. One doesn’t have to pick one thing over another to say ‘this is better’. In fact, when directly asked if I had a criteria to judge one performative situation over the other, I said I didn’t have one.

And I don’t. It isn’t relevant.

These ‘experimental performative situations’ (I really need to work out what to call them…) are each ‘original’, direct and experiences and at the same time are repeats, and ‘indirect’ experiences. But for me to say that one is better than another is to misunderstand the situation. Same to any participant who takes the same stance. The question then isn’t ‘what is art?’ (because really we’ve moved beyond the debate of whether everyday actions, everyday objects, relational and social exchanges constitute and artworks. What is art? Its anything you want it to be. You frame and bracket as art. They are art.) … it becomes ‘where is art?’ (between the artist and participant, between the participant and their task, between all participants, between participants and onlookers, in the relation to the documentation – online, in the flesh….??? Is just keeps going), but it also asks ‘when it art?’ – (is it in the direct experience, in the recall, in the description, one which day of the performance or all days?).

Certainly this strand of my art practice will keep me busy for a long time – so many questions and probably not any really solid answers but that’s ok. It would be boring if I could answer these (it would be boring if my participants and audiences outright agreed with me too).

But it also leaves me with a dilemma. What the hell am I going to show in my honours exhibition? Because you know I’ve been working consistently on my turmeric mapping as well.

My issue with the turmeric mapping is that it feels old. Not just in the sense that I’ve been working with turmeric as a material for the best part of 2 years (don’t laugh that’s a long time when you’ve only got a 3year art practice to draw on). And already I’ve been labelled ‘turmeric girl’. This is an issue because really my practice is much broader than an investigation into one material. But there is a lot more to it than just ‘turmeric’. Its about mapping and exploring shifting ideas and attitudes (if I had to find buzz words to describe my own practice – movement, repetition and duration would get a special mention… ). But the mapping itself feels like a tried and tested technique. Not to say that this makes it obsolete… after all mapping is just a different word for documenting, which I’ve spent a fair amount of time investigating… clearly still relevant. But my ‘art machine’ maps traces – it documents experiences as part of its process. The mapping is part of its internal logic rather than as strategy as a means to an end. And perhaps that’s more interesting than a pretty picture that hides this process instead. Well perhaps more interesting at this point where I’ve just spent a good year or so exploring art practices that actively engage with the blurry relationship between the live and the recorded.

There are of course crossovers between the two strands of my practice. The turmeric mapping explores social interactions within Australia – our underlying fear of ‘the other’. The performative situations documents social interactions in real time – the dynamics that evolve throughout the durational situation. The turmeric is ephemeral – fragile, fleeting (it literally falls off the wall in situ). The performative situations are ephemeral in nature – spoken word – but extends this into a cyclical situation in which it is constantly evolving into something new (not sure if that is the right word…’new’ maybe just ‘in flux’). And then there is the intensity that both bodies of work generate – one with overwhelming smell, the other with overwhelming noise. Oh and then there is the more deliberate crossover –  the text used as the basis for the spoken words relates directly to the ideas being explored more abstractly in the turmeric installation. And then there is the inherent crossover between ‘text’ and ‘textiles’. Both words are taken from the latin ‘texere’ – which means to fabricate, to weave. Both situations weave together impressions – asking the audience to create their own fleeting stories from the experience.

And then I come back to my dilemma – to include one or the other or both?


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