....Research Topics and Speculation about Art and Public Space by Scottish Citizen and artist Matt Baker

Friday, 7 January 2011

a breathing place

St Brigid cross - Ireland
I have collected the images in this post over the last year or so - I would have liked them to appear randomly throughout the text, but I am not technically clever enough to do that...you'll have to imagine
Russian Crowd 1953 - by one of the first western photographers allowed into USSR since 1917 revolution

The end quarter of last year was a blur of constant motion with no time to really think – just lots of doing.
Alluvial fan - Egypt
My long-term experience as an artist is that I am constantly trying to make time – time to think, time to make, time to experiment. But, the little patch of breathing space that I now find myself in has come as a surprise…it is as if I have woken from a dream and I really have no idea how I have got here.
Brick in peat burn - SW Scotland
This blog was always intended to be a way of my trying to understand the disparate ways that I operate in the world as an artist. If not bringing them together as a comprehensible whole then at least making it easier for myself to accept the diversity.

Carved granite head, discovered after many centuries underwater - Egypt
My question to myself at this moment is like that of a school child faced with a blank sheet of paper ‘how shall I start?’ – rather than trying to solve this riddle I am concentrating on trying to understand a little about how I got to this place where I seem to have a blank sheet of paper in front of me.
Bonfire - Scotland
That my work is about place seems pretty solid still – that is, I need a context to create work around - and that work grows my direct involvement with that context.

Spit closing fjord - Iceland
I used to say that I brought no pre-conceived agenda or working methodology to bear on a context…..one of the things this blog is making clear to me is that this is not wholly the case. It is obvious to me that my overwhelming interest is in the underlying momentums or inner-narrative of a place. More often than not these momentums or narratives are very long term and slowly evolving.
Church emerging from dry reservoir - Venezuela
I like to say that my work is useful but I believe strongly that art is essentially useless and therein lies its power and potency. I believe that art in public can touch deep narrative of place and in doing so make a ‘non-directive insertion’ into that narrative, that is, something that other people can use as a foothold or doorway into the narrative and allows them opportunity to become an active part of the momentum of the place.
Vegetation reclaiming Chernobyl
So far, so good. I can live with idea of my work being about underlying narrative of place - with the specific realisation of that idea being shaped by a local context. My problem, as I sit in this new breathing space, is the actual formal qualities of the objects that I have been making. I am a visual artist – I am shocked by my ability to flick through the pictures of an art book and decide whether I ‘like’ a particular artist or not. If I apply this test to my own work I am really not sure how I would feel about the things that I am making should they appear as images flicked through in a book. 
Castlerigg, Cumbria - England
It is difficult to talk about the intent of work when I have already categorised it as non-directive and useless – but I have been finding the healing metaphor of a technique like acupunture useful in this regard. I think of the therapist’s intent as opening channels that allow the body to heal itself (rather than thinking of a treatment as being a type of ‘mechanical’ repair where a predictable result will ensue without the patient required to take any responsibility in the process).  Working with this metaphor then, I am wondering about seeing my physical objects like the acupunturist’s needles – inserted in the body of a place. I have talked a lot previously about the culture of consent that I need to generate around a project, and this specifically, for the precise placement of physical artworks. 
Covenant - carved 1997 - photo 2009
This is useful to me at the moment in thinking about the characteristics and qualities of my physical artworks – if they have equivalent status to the physical needle of the acupunturist then they have little status as autonomous objects – rather they are tools within a complex action founded on research and a shared responsibility for any outcome I have always had a difficult relationship with beauty – this discussion is helping me understand that relationship a little better – things that are intended as beautiful often seem autonomous to me ie somewhat separate from their context – I realise that I do like things which are somewhat awkward in themselves but set up interesting relationships with their surroundings – the aesthetic is relational rather than absolute.
Gatepost - SW Scotland
In some ways it would be easier if there were no physical objects at all – but there is a strong drive inside me to work with physical material – to shape, to join, to speculate on the long-term consequences of placing material in an environment. This also has been one of the insights that has come into my breathing space – when I am conceiving of a physical artwork I am thinking about that work in 20,30,50,100 years time not 6 months or a year. With a permanent artwork the effect I am after involves a relationship with time ranging from the potential for imminent catastrophe (eg a suspended work) or gradual erosion/deposition. This relationship with time is part of the engagement with the narrative of place and the consent/responsibility of the people who inhabit the place.
Paris flooding 1910

1 comment:

  1. What gorgeous pictures. I do like your selection. They share some sort of exactitude, a sense of something captured in a moment in time, while being impermanent, and so random. Good idea.