As it turned out I didn’t begin to make my piece today until I got on the train at Waterloo and although I was settled in well before the train set off, it was inevitable I couldn’t complete the task before we got going. So its creation spanned distance as well as time. That was actually important to the idea which related both to childhood train travel (most memorably in Scotland) and to the history of abstract art.
However I had forgotten to buy any stamps this morning so ended up delivering it by hand when i popped into Bridport to get a takeaway. This proved more complicated than I thought. First because the Thai restaurant I had chosen was closed for a couple of weeks! Then when I got to the Arts Centre there was a film in progress so I couldn’t get in and had to put it through the letterbox, quietly untaping it first where it had been secured to stop it flapping in the strong winds.
Well you or I never expected that, but there again I could be lying! This is what I have written on the envelope:
I had hoped to expand on last night’s mullings on conceptual art but I have wasted much of my day in preventing hackers from getting into some websites I look after and I need to get ready for bed as I’m going to London for a couple of days.
The thing is, assuming I have done what I have said on the outside, nobody will be able to know what is what. If I have done what I claim I have actually complicated it further as the pieces of paper, if that is what there is inside, are not identical but have been marked so that it would be possible to make an assessment as to which is actually the artwork – only I have already forgotten which is which!
A have also forgotten the last bit of this post which I had written but got lost when I got logged out when the session expired. Oh well.
Some time I just write the first thing that comes into my head. On the envelope I have written about the possibility of there being nothing inside, but of course with this being conceptual art that nothing would constitute the artwork and would therefore be something. Now as it happens (there is a temptation in me to write out the words from the Mothers’ Fillmore East: June 1972 album “Do You Like My New Car?”…”we’ve all come here for one thing tonight…”) as I said, as it happens there is something inside the envelope today, anyone handling the envelope would be able to feel that. So let’s say you were a travelling rock and roll band called the Vanilla Fudge that there is just packing inside the envelope to make it seem like there is a piece of art in there. Does that make the packing the art for the day? I have always said that any packing to protect the artwork will not be exhibited or count as part of the work unless I have a particular reason to include it (for example it may have a further artwork on it or a celebrity autograph or be a £50 note). So just packaging shouldn’t count as the artwork and therefore could be said to be nothing. But what if there was, say, a blank piece of paper which in turn had another piece of paper to protect it in transit? In this case the “nothing” would be the absence of marks (or whatever) on the paper and so that piece of paper could be exhibited and counted as the artwork. The big question is, what if the protective piece of paper was identical to the artwork and also had no marks on it. As I would not be able to distinguish between them which would be the artwork? How could that choice be made? Two identical sheets of paper one of which I had designated as the piece that held the “nothing” that would have been the art for the day but which I have no way of proving when the envelope is opened. Now I thought that Schrödinger’s Cat was tough but I think that if I could be arsed I could prove that art is harder than philosophy or quantum physics (or is it quantum mechanics?) Anyway, while it is still sealed are the contents of that envelope art, nothing, “nothing” or all/none of these? Which could lead to a comparison to Zen problems like the falling of trees and so forth. I reckon conceptual art is also probably more complex and/or simpler than Zen and if I could be arsed I could prove that too! You see there are all sorts of variables in what might be in the envelope and really when it comes to the crunch it is just me saying which if any of the contents is art. I can change the rules, lie, cheat, charm, bamboozle or whatever i choose and the bit that is art is just the bit I say is art, though I could be lying about that too. Maybe in all the envelopes that have what appears to be protective packing it is the apparent packing that is the art and the item that appears to be an artwork is just scrap being used as packing? I wish now I really had put nothing in the envelope/I am so pleased that I really did put nothing in the envelope!
Anyway this took some time, as did the thing/nothing I put in the envelope today. And I didn’t get much else finished today though I have achieved quite a bit really in preparation for my next stint in the studio!
Most people in the UK get Boxing Day off but like people in the Health and Emergency Services I am committed to working for at least a little while to work each day for a year. These days quite a lot of retail workers have to work today too. The difference between me and emergency and health workers is they are doing something of real value to the benefit of others and I am bonkers. The difference between me and retail workers is that I am creating something of real value and they are doing something bonkers for the benefit of their capitalist bosses.
There is nothing to say about the fact that I am saying that I am saying nothing in the messages on the front of the envelope that are not actually messages merely an explanation of why there are no messages.
But for the one person who might be missing my weather report, it’s very windy.
The piece inside may or may not have any connection to what is written on the envelope, though one thing is for sure none of the envelopes contain a live cat or any other sentient being. Neither has an albatross that has been in contact with this piece or its envelope nor has it been made intentionally wet by seawater from such a bird. It could be argued that there is no completed artwork inside until the envelope is opened! Did Schrödinger use a cat in his problem to shock or cause us to think in a different way? Have I put live artworks in these envelopes along with a small radioactive source and a vial of art poison (carefully shielded so the artwork cannot tamper with them)? After an hour will any of the artworks be dead? By the time the installation opens in March 2015 will all the pieces be dead? If so will they have died of natural causes, starved by my cruel confinement of them or poisoned by the experiment. Were they dead to begin with? How can we tell if the art is dead or just sleeping?
I’m not having a good day, struggling with the black dog, and I thought I could cut corners, save time and do any old rubbish. But, of course, I cannot. There may be a question about the quality or value of my work from and aesthetic standpoint but, I find, never from a moral one! Even after I had resigned myself to doing it properly I started bemoaning my choice of materials: “that will take longer”, “I wish I hadn’t chosen that”, “I have to take care now I’ve done that! and so on. But you know it was worth the effort. It would never have worked without doing it right and it would only have made me feel more depressed. And I got a moody picture too. As much as I love the London slang “moody” I don’t mean that. Nor is it in a bad temper. I just mean it’s a moody photo. Mind you it’s not so easy to read the bit about Schrödinger’s cat!
It’s been a busy day. I met with friends to talk about my show and engaged with others about my work and went to the dentist (it’s quite a journey)and saw the beauty of soft, dramatic skies on the sea and did some work and did my #Letter365 and made dinner and went to the Film Society and that needs to be spoken of. The film was Museum Hours and I think that it would help you understand me and this project (among other things) if you watched it. It explores so many things about mundanity and specialness, the beauty of boredom, the wonder of humanity and the way that the small things hold the magic.
I don’t deny it and, in fact, I am quite proud and excited especially since it probably is one of the best pieces I have done in this project. Now you might say if it’s one of the best then it’s because it was someone else’s good idea that makes it good! To which I would ask which of the many versions by various artists did I copy? Or is it an amalgam (an interesting word to pop out considering the context of this piece!)? Is it a cop-out or is it very clever? It references 400 years of the history of art, plus the history of physics and of chemistry; touches into the realms of philosophy and religion; demonstrates my understanding of the traditional technologies of communication and my knowledge of art techniques. Could it be said that the earliest two versions I know of were in themselves a cop-out – one that I recognise myself liable to? Then, taking all of that into account, I delivered a finished piece that is technically pretty good and almost perfect against the needs of the idea – especially in the choice of materials – as well as being pretty good to look at!
All that is pretty good when you consider that when I returned to the studio this evening I was vacant of ideas and got pretty despondent that my first fiddlings about were leading nowhere. There is a whole magnificent history of stealing other people’s ideas throughout the history of all the arts to be discussed. I have made this piece my own partly because of the intellectual content behind why I did it, which opens up another discussion about what art really is. Sadly I have neither the time nor energy to think about it right now, let alone construct an argument about it. Another day maybe.
I still have this nagging feeling that I might be able to reconnect with whatever it was that I had in mind to write about, but I have an equally nagging feeling that if I remembered what it was I would be disappointed! Whatever it was it was snatched away from me by tiredness and stress and lack of time – a bit like today’s piece was snatched away by an efficient, friendly but in a hurry postie. I never got a chance to get a better picture and hardly know what was going on. It was like reverse Father Christmas: a huddle of people handing over packages to someone who put them in a sack! I was aiming to have a night off and go to the film society, but I just didn’t have the energy. I am doing far too many things that need to be done and far too little time is left for art. Though I have to say that some of that time went in just looking at the piece I created, not looking for faults or checking if something else was needed, but just looking at it, admiringly I suppose. I really enjoy looking at this piece! What that says I don’t know.
An unfolding artwork created a piece each day for a year