My overall aims with this project are to find a way to define and manipulate the relationship between prescribed notions of experiential comfort – ones I feel I’ve never been confined by – and find a way for the media in which I articulate these interests to extend beyond the confines of the gallery setting; in essence I wish to follow the viewer outside of the white cube and penetrate the arena in which their lives are lived.
My purpose for undertaking this line of investigative practice is to create for myself a dialogue for articulating ideas and a means of communicating those ideas in a certain way, one that poses direct questions about social structures, one that questions a general propensity to go along with prescribed structures around issues of identity and ways of living –wider things like gender, sexuality, race, national identity, etc. but also more specific observations like modes of experiencing popular culture, etc. – and really, point out a failure generally, to take an inquisitive attitude when addressing these lines of thought. Essentially, the purpose of this project is to provoke as a means of survival.
An important aim in this investigation is born of something I’ve identified as a failure in much didactic work: work that is uncomfortable, esoteric or inaccessible in some other way, limits the gravity and reach of its impact. The aim is, therefore, to make accessible the inaccessible, make comfortable the uncomfortable, and attempt, at least, to demystify the obtuse.
Essentially, I want to create work that, through its narrative and execution, provokes the viewer to question the framework of the subject matter the work, and them through its viewing, engages with – I want to create an unspoken dialogue between myself and the viewer.
To achieve the above, I intend on using a conceptual framework built around the observations I’ve mentioned before, to try and cheat the system. Experiential comfort – the idea that certain sounds, images, etc. are not immediately accessible and as a result are rejected, avoided, not questioned, not acknowledged, missed, forgotten, eroded – may be approached by applying another factors, say familiarity.
I also intend on attacking another failing in much work viewed in a gallery, that it is easily ignored. I plan to create a totally immersive installation – an enclosed space that consists of audiovisual, and other, components to grab hold of the viewers’ senses. Within this space I plan to utilise a refined visual / aural / written / spoken language with which to communicate, within the framework of a narrative structure, questions about the abovementioned ideas.
The context within which this project, and my work more generally, exists is constantly shifting and changing, but it becomes more and more apparent with each project how tied up it is with other pop cultural, subcultural, crossover media: print and digital media (in terms of the landscape of digital publishing, fashion, music, club culture, social media, and only as a reasonably small component of this wider framework, the artworld.
In terms of format, the project will tread the line between the world of video art, experimental and documentary filmmaking. In terms of subject matter, it will fall within the history of counterculture and subculture.
More than ever now as a result of planned collaborations with musicians and noise artists, the project is inextricably linked with the musical genres and associated scenes tied to their musical production. Specifically this refers to the history of industrial music and noise, more loosely sound art.
Thematically and in terms of style, much of what has been/will be captured for this project could be more closely aligned with certain threads of the history of documentary photography than film or video – specifically mid and late twentieth century photographers photographing from within subcultural communities including Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, Corinne Day, Derek Ridgers, Max Natkiel, Araki, Daido Moriyama, Wolfgang Tillmans, Jeff Burton, Rineke Dijkstra, Slava Mogutin, Anders Petersen, and many more. Photography theory, similarly, is more relevant here than perhaps film theory; specifically texts by the likes of Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag, John Berger, etc.
The performance aspect, which will come as a by-product of my both intention to script as well as provoke, would most closely be aligned with two groups: COUM Transmissions and Viennese Actionism, performance aimed at pushing the boundaries of expectation and acceptance.
Word artists and conceptual art have a big influence, particular the likes of feminist artists Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger, as well as conceptual artist John Baldessari, whose work, again, pokes at playful provocation.
Video artists like Bill viola, Bruce Conner and Nam June Paik are obvious influences as such key figures in the history of video art. However, as expressed in my research paper, the emergence of a new breed of video artists placed within this context, who have emerged from various other diciplines and arenas, for example music video director-turned-artist Kahlil Joseph, is important in considerations of how work coexists in numerous spheres, specifically the balance of works existing in both the gallery-artworld-context and mainstream media spaces like editorial sites.
Media art, specifically the history of independent publishing and fanzines, alongside more formal formats of photography monograph and magazine publishing, will play an important role in the way in which ideas planted at the core of an installation are disseminated, carried from the white cube space into the lives of visitors.
Object art or small-scale sculpture, which I saw as being a key component in the final outcome, seems less relevant now. Instead, the dialogue around object, and specifically found-object, art may become relevant in conjunction with the development of print or other media. Objects – say books – may be imbued with some of the same aura as a result of presentation and even price. A £1k zine will seem weightier on a plinth than a £5 one.
As mentioned previously, video is becoming more of interest, and would appear to be the most relevant media in articulating the ideas expressed above – specifically the merging of narrative and documentary, dialogue, written word (cards, titles and subtitles), visual sequences and sound to form a disjointed, multimedia narrative.
This will then be presented within a physical space, either built or dressed, to act as immersive experience presenting each of the varied media in the most effective way. The space will need to be completely cut off, as sound will be a key factor in not only communicating ideas, but making these ideas accessible. I plan to create the sound using a structure I’ve developed, a looping gradient of accessibility whereby the most aggressive, confrontational or uncomfortable content has tied to it a mark of familiarity – in music the lyrics, melody or both of a well-known song – or approached from the other side, where the accessible media has attached to it some element of confrontational execution – a well-known song’s lyrics are screamed or the layers of sound build up to become less bearable.
Various 3D objects and print media: CD-style “album”, 3D artefacts, rendered objects referenced in music and film cast in cement, 3D printed, etc., digital design, photography and print binding in book (zine) and fold-out poster art are what I currently have in mind.
The digital element, as it stands, will involve using the digital media related to the above exhibition installation and additional pieces, namely music and video, and attempting to place these within the world of digital media. Available to share or download, allow the pieces to live on digitally in an intentional way.
Using the above methodology, the outcomes of the project can be put into three categories, and may well form three separate but connected pieces: an installation piece, that exists within the gallery space, physical takeaways, something to extend physically beyond the walls of the exhibition, and a digital aspect, to extend in a similar way through the digital sphere.
The video installation may be, multi-channel (perhaps four screens to totally envelope the space) will loop a narrative story hung on a series of cover songs, created collaboratively in-line with the structure mentioned above. This will be presented within a, self-contained space to provide ‘inside/outside’ spaces (the former for immersive installation, the latter for additional material takeaways)
The material ‘takeaway’ elements presented in adjacent ‘store’ or stand containing all purchasable (or free to take) artefacts, which will consist of: An ‘album’ of 22 cover songs (1 hour continuous play) with bound artwork (zine), potentially artefacts rendered in 3D – cement, 3D printed, etc. – to replicate physical things from story (narrative touchstones).