In April 2006, SHELVE (a sculpture I made back in 1997) was included in an exhibition at the Cross Art Projects called “Art Language – Every Publishable Place”. The page about that show is here: http://www.crossart.com.au/art_lang.html.
A few more pictures of the work are here. Ruark Lewis who curated the 2006 show at Cross Art, asked me to answer some questions about the work.
So here are my thoughts. Rough and unedited for the sake of the archive-
RE:SHELF ET AL
So that the information remains in your own words, can I ask you a few questions about your piece? called SHELVE
1. Can you describe how the title of this work evolved
The word is the imperative form of the verb. Thus it’s a command to SHELVE! The work doesn’t really attempt logical sense. I made it during a period when I was obsessed with making shelves in my house, where I didn’t have much space to put any of my stuff. I made a lot of domestic work at that time. Here is a photo of another shelving piece from that period (1997-8) where I made my bed into a shelf -http://flickr.com/photos/bilateral/997419076/. The silly thing about the work from this period was that it was always bouncing back and forth between utility and uselessness.
2. How do the materials you selected/found play a part in the management of the poetic ideas of this work?
Here’s a pointless biographical note: everything I made during that period was cut out with a jigsaw I purchased from Cash Converters in Newtown. I had this logic that instead of spending 200 dollars on a wooden bed base, I should buy myself a saw with the same money, and “seize the means of production”. That led to all this home made shelving and bed stuff. Since I blew all my money on the saw, there was no more left for materials. The two pieces of wood in SHELVE were scavenged off the street. The wood is the original found length. I just cut away the material to leave the word.
3. how does a politic of play have a role in this work? In your visual documentation there were images of people standing beneath it at a reception for the work. What sort of issues are there to do with authority, the site, simplicity, fluxus and found materials, the street and the everyday and its human interactiveness. How do these things operate in the way this work is formally recognised in the framework of a gallery?
From memory, SHELVE is mounted too high for any normal person to be able to follow its instruction. Perhaps it sits at exactly the height I can reach with my fingers while standing on tippy-toes. That would make sense, since it was a body-measurement logic I used a lot at that time. Your question is a little too vast and open for me to be able to answer here. Here’s an attempt: I’ve always been interested in play. A “politic” of play, I don’t know what that might be. I was only vaguely aware of Fluxus at the time, though I have become obsessed with that stuff since then. But I did do a lot of stuff with instructions, which ties in with the Fluxus “event-scores” – and I had this idea that given a specific enough set of instructions, anyone could follow them and make the work. In this way, the “talent” of the artist and mystery of the creative act were chucked out. I always had this pipe dream of making it seem easy to make art, to get away from the idea of a tortured soul expressing “his” inner self through an ineffable skill – which means that the audience can only faint in appreciation, or (more likely) retch.
4. Are there any external references you would like to mention that relate to this work, things you may have been reading, or activisms or issues this work might signal toward?
Not really. In truth, this work is fairly minor in the history of my art practice. It’s a “souvenier” piece – something that exists in an autonomous physical form, independent of me. In the mid 90s I was obsessed with these kind of self-contained conceptual works, you know, inspired by things like Robert Morris’ Box with the Sound of its Own Making (1961). Now I prefer messy, open ended and prolonged processes. That’s why I don’t (can’t?) have gallery exhibitions very often.