Exploratory Project 2

Research for Chin Up – up to 19 March

During my tutorial with Angela, way back in February, we talked about me making art that’s displayed on my body. Adornments. I love that idea. A physicality is brought to the piece that can’t exist any other way. The piece can exist on its own, but really comes to life when it interacts with the body.

Oddly, I am more than happy to explore depression and mental illness in adornments and interaction with the body, than flat pieces of work – or reproducing my ‘therapeutic’ pictures. So I’m thinking about pieces that affect the body, such as:

  • a cuff that constricts blood flow;
  • a collar that forces you to hold your head up;
  • a headdress or hat that’s so heavy you must hang your head;
  • socks that are so heavy you can’t walk;
  • socks that are so unstable (inflated) you can’t walk;
  • items that make the world feel too cushioned – when the antidepressants first kick in – you can’t feel properly and your eyes won’t react properly;
  • a corset that’s all about body image;
  • fishnet stockings that are made of metal;
  • items that should be comfortable but are made of metal (knitted wire);
  • broken glass/ceramics included in ‘cosy items’;
  • something decorative that contorts your face and forces it into a smile.

All items which, at first glance, look beautiful and ornate – but on closer inspection there’s something wrong with the decoration: it’s concealed; had its shine removed; the colours are muted; it’s sharp where it shouldn’t be; colours are masked; it has weights or wire in it forcing a particular structure or posture.

But most of all, it has a person wearing it. BEING AFFECTED BY IT.

I collated a load of materials to commence this piece as the EP ended.

This piece was discussed at our first Group Crit where concern was expressed about the materials and form I wished this piece to take. That it would be too ‘pretty’, too theatrical and might be too S&M to have its real meaning conveyed. My intention had been to use beads (faceted ones) but subvert them all by scuffing them with sandpaper (taking the shine off life) and hiding sharp items in the fabric of the material, but this was still not well received.

But I NEEDED to make this piece. It had been brewing in me for some time and it was starting to emerge from its chrysalis and I needed to help it spread its wings and fly. I got annoyed with the piece a bit and decided to discuss it with Emma and Caroline at my next tutorials with them over the next 2 weeks.

I understood where the comments were coming from, but I was concerned I would not be able to turn my hand to something that did not look beautiful. It seems that, no matter how hard I try, everything comes out looking ‘beautiful’ whether that was my intent or not. Clearly beauty is a ‘concern’ of mine… (Stallabrass pointed out in Contemporary Art: A Short Introduction that Danto and Hickey had been associated with trying to bring beauty in art back to the forefront – I would probably be with them there).

But perhaps ‘beauty’ is not the issue here. Perhaps it is the message the piece gives. I am gradually coming to see that the more resolved and ‘closed’ a piece is, the less interest it holds for an audience. Like asking a closed question – if the answer can only be ‘I do/don’t like it’ there is nowhere left to go. But if you can have the audience ponder why you used such materials or what something is for etc, then the piece holds much more interest. So by using beads, I am doing what is expected of an ornate, decorative piece. If I were to use other items more questions could be asked and the piece would be more ambiguous… but what to use?

Now I seemed truly stuck. I had been running this alongside my EP as 2 different projects – and perhaps one as an antidote to the other. But both had hit a sticking point.

Below are the initial sketches and gathering of materials.

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