Thursday, December 25, 2008

holiday work

I'm here on holiday on Anguilla in the Caribbean, not exactly where I grew up (Trinidad), but similar in some significant ways. The sun shines most of the time in a cloudless sky, meaning the light is rarely diffused as it in the North's flat grey winter weather. And there are more reflective surfaces - on a sunny day in Asheville NC, the trees and greenery seem to absorb the light. Here, visually the environment is high contrast. Shadows, of course, but also shaded areas, and the way dark and light intersect with each other when seen from inside buildings, around natural shapes.

The quality of light and the kind of shadows produced are part of the experienced world, coloring the time of day, the kind of weather, your location. Life is obviously easier to live outside when it is warm.

Here are some images I've collected, not sure how I will end up using them yet. Maybe develop some of the ideas here on the blog....

Quite a contrast to the candlelight ambiance of my last post's image. Contrast is not only visual... Christmas day may involve a casual beer at the beach and evening turkey cooked in the BBQ on a patio looking out towards the sea. The oven maybe went kaput a couple of days ago when snapped power lines draped across our driveway, causing an "outage" in the area. Not an uncommon experience. This last week we have often driven by the first mall on the island - the El Dorado, unfortunately perhaps many malls are now under construction - where DJs have been broadcasting calypso style carols and religious christmas pop so loud that it vibrates within the chest cavity as you pass in the car. We've also seen several inflatable and endearingly snoozing (there's a stiff breeze) santas on the lawns around the bank. Music from bars and nightspots is heard long into the night, and there's always the slight chance of a fatal road accident, or, very occasionally, a robbery at gunpoint at the busy chinese corner store. They have a security guard now, so hopefully not. Never mind, for us visitors there's turquoise water, endless white sand, and maybe the lobster brunch of the dream holiday before we jet off back to ordinary life.

And I'm taking pictures of palm frond shadows!?? I do have other shadows in mind, using car headlights to capture the guys playing dominoes on the corner, and a cement truck's silhouette on a warehouse wall, but it takes a while for things to come to fruit sometimes. I intend to make some gravitygrams using sand and cardboard - slightly more accessible.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

coming events

In the grey days of January I will be filling the Holden Gallery with light installations and generally insubstantial or "unskilled" artworks.

The work separates value from saleability.... The pieces are put together as vehicles for ideas rather than as conventionally valuable art products. You don't have to buy it, to get it. The ideas are free.

The first idea is that value often gets equated with elements that make an object desirable, and justify its price (via demonstrations of skill, perfection, expensive materials). Hot on the heels of this is the idea that most of our available technology is harnessed to create products that are for sale, and therefore subject to variations of these same commercial criteria. This has an effect on our perceptions of value, and what is worthy. In the commercial world, if people don't think something is worth paying for, then that item is not worth making. The whole thing revolves around what people believe they need to own, and what they are willing to give up to achieve that. The cost of making the product has to come in under this figure - if not... forget it.

Buying and the evaluation preceding it distill our perceptions of the world into tangible form. But if we can separate it out from this cycle of product manufacture, technology is just a tool, and if we could use it in a different way, by asking what it is we would REALLY like our lives to be like, we might start investigating other ways to consume. Doesn't mean we won't pay for things, but we might perceive that a greater part of our consuming, and ownership means different things. We already understand that with sports, or watching a play - there's no material benefit, but we recognize the experience is worth paying for. We've all seen the bumper sticker saying The best things in life aren't things...

The work in this exhibition has been able to disregard the criteria that keeps work "up to standard" somehow, for the viewer - which relies, of course, on the idea of desirable ownership. In contrast, this work I am showing is made out of cheap or free materials, it has required little or no skill (or rather, it demonstrates "poor craftsmanship"), and it questions the idea of perfection. Just what makes us decide that something is perfect, or flawed? Perfection seems to be a particularly industrial concept, that dictates that the correct product is exactly the same as all the others. Otherwise it is a mistake, and they are conning you into paying for substandard goods. Yet we then pay over the odds for customized items - or versions of customization... limited edition, special collection, hand appliqued, signed by the artist, certificate of authenticity etc. It is interesting.

So, the exhibition provides me with an opportunity to explore some of these ideas, allowing me to discard some of the measures of what might be acceptable. The prevailing - or dominant - assumptions have a powerful hold.

This work grows out of an interest in wider, cultural concerns. My understanding is that examining the way we use technology has a vital role to play in cultural development. This area is not one that we are encouraged to explore but is actually open to all humans with imagination. This makes change, and a change of consciousness within the power (and responsibility) of individuals, not just corporations, scientists and politicians.

As an artist, or individual, it may be enough to allow an idea houseroom - each contribution may work in small ways. The seeds of an idea may bear fruit many years or decades later, filtered through new technology, different philosophies and other, brilliant and focused individuals. Ideas don't have to supply all the answers, just show that something different is possible. The Wright brothers showed flight was possible, but could they have imagined a jumbo jet with 500 passengers in the air for 22 hours, with movies and meals? Or landing on the moon?