Monday, 21 December 2009

100days of Art: Day Fourteen: Pearls

Well and truly in the festive spirit today, so I thought I’d give you a present. It’s not an artwork you can see or touch, but it’s an artwork that you can enjoy anywhere at any time and once you’ve got it, you’ve got it forever. You can even give it to someone else without losing it.

Lawrence Weiner was one of the first wave of Conceptual Artists who emerged in the late 1960s and early 70s, who, in the words of the critic Lucy Lippard “dematerialised the art object”. The idea behind art became paramount and the actual physical nature of it was deemed to be unimportant. Artists produced performances that were documented in photographs, issued statements and theoretical texts and made work from sound or light. On the occasions where there was a physical presence it was usually made form the most abject or mundane materials – sand, condensation, rubbish, food and air.

Weiner’s work takes the form of statements of ideas for artworks, whether or not the owner or the curator decides to carry out the instruction is unimportant – more often than not, they chose merely to exhibit the statement itself. A River Spanned (1969), for example is usually displayed as a small card with those works written on it, a bridge could be built or a line could be fired from one bank to the other, but in a way to actually carry out the instruction would limit the work – as a simple statement it’s full of possibility and dependent on the viewer, open to an almost infinite number of possible interpretations. It could be any river, the spanning could be achieved in many ways, the end result is a collaboration – the artist provides the idea and our imaginations fill in the gaps.

Some of Weiner’s work is more prescriptive such as One Aerosol Can of Enamel Sprayed to Conclusion Directly upon the Floor (1968). Although more specific than ‘A River spanned’ there is still much room for our imaginations to shape what final form the completed work might take, we might think of the sounds and smells that such an action would produce., we might think of the effect that different angles of holding the can might have, is the paint to be sprayed in one spot producing a pool of paint or are we going to coat the entire floor? What colour is the paint? What does the floor in question look like and what will the effect of the surface be on the end result? A simple instruction detailing a simple action draws attention to the complexity of the world in which that action might take place.

In theory I’ve now already given you two artworks (I’m a generous soul) but the one I really wanted to give you is one that has always stuck in my mind since I first saw it.

“Pearls Rolled Across A Floor”

I can hear the sound they'd make, I can see the pearls and the floor (in my mind it's dusty and wooden), I can imagine their different textures of the wood and pearls, I can even smell the wood and imagine the space that the situation might be taking place in, I can even imagine events that might lead up to this situation. It’s full of poetry and possibilities.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, help yourself to the others as well, and feel free to pass them on.

Happy Christmas.

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