13th March 2018

WIP Show Artist Statement

 

Martin Williams

Instagram: @cafedelmartin

cafedelmartin@gmail.com

 

“Sandbox”

 

Ugly, uncomfortable, unfashionable, imperfect, out of place… it doesn’t matter – everyone is welcome.   Although we are surrounded by talk of inclusivity and equality in our culture, why are these ideals of legitimacy often ignored when it comes to our things?  There is a tendency to look a gift horse in the mouth; to hide the chipped mug; to separate our things into tribes of what belongs together and what doesn’t. ‘Sandbox’ intends to discuss this through sentimentality, empathy and zoomorphic objects, in a world where everyone is legitimate, none are turned away or separated.  They all belong, they are all welcome.

8th February 2018

WIP Show/Library Display

 

Working Title:

  • “Everyone is welcome”

Working Project Proposal Title (ideas):

  • Expressing and challenging conflicting feelings through zoomorphic sculpture
  • Expressing Investigating (autobiographical) feelings on inclusivity, coexistence and legitimacy through making and curation of sculpture.
  • Identifying why I make what I do, what it says about me, and what I communicate through my practice.

 

Objects to display:

  1. Ceramic Cast Jellybean – Magenta cast (+)
  2. Ceramic Handbuilt Jellybean – Yellow (+)
  3. Ceramic Black cup or Broken Cup (+)
  4. Ceramic Purple tactiform (or blue) (+)
  5. Ceramic mini Tactiform (+)
  6. Ceramic Blue Cactus (+)
  7. Wooden Robopants
  8. Metal Plughead
  9. Masking Tape Coral

 

Other/more materials (to consider/experiment/make before WIP Show)

  • Wax – make wax Tactiform or Jellybean
  • Card – pangolin hat style
  • Paper – papier-mâché?
  • Tape – more figurative?
  • Plasticine – make Tactiform or Jellybean
  • Metal – ???
  • Plaster – carving, whittling, casting

 

Ideas of how to display, and why:

  • In a round/crowd – conversing, mingling, participating
  • On grass – symbolic of existing in an environment – their land, world, microcosm, but a world we as people share too
  • In a house/dolls house – all living under one roof
  • A kunstkammer – a curious “world” where a range of wonderful, diverse and not-necessarily related (serialised) things are display and exist as they are
  • A selection (curated), based on maintaining diversity and equal distribution of all kinds of objects… but this makes the work quite ‘exclusive’, maybe.
  • All objects ever made by me… logistically quite difficult! Can this be played with, for example, by objects ‘overflowing’ a shelf, or starting to take over a wall, or defying gravity, etc?
  • Simultaneously displayed collections – the same objects, or different? How are these separate ‘worlds’ decided upon?

 

Feedback from Oscar, 08/02/18

  • Titles are a little clunky – broaden and then gradually decide which bit is the most important part to express/unpack.
  • Try to think about how critical my question/position of enquiry is – does it allow me to question, critique, investigate and analyse my process or approach to finding something out (ie is it objective)
  • Collage and bring in as much stuff as possible
  • A variety of forms, materials and processes makes for a more confident direction, and allows for greater objectivity
  • Could each of the three display opportunities be approached differently (I.e. try a different thing, arrangement, objects)?
  • How does the notion of simultaneous ‘worlds’ affect the notion of inclusivity and legitimacy?

 

Key words, and how to clarify what they mean to my investigation:

Legitimacy – what rules, laws, regulations? Can my choices be defended with logic, rationality or reason?

Inclusivity – how far do I pursue or press for inclusivity? Where does it end?

Coexistence – living in harmony, despite differences (ideologies, interests, species…)

Curation – how can curation still can make an exclusive statement, despite pursuing inclusivity?

Conflicting feelings – responses to texture and aesthetics such as recoil, adoration, inquisition, tentativeness, etc… is there a better term for this?

 

Next steps:

  1. Build strength of argument through contexts:
  • How have other artists/sculptors displayed collections of their works (retrospectives, etc.)?
  • How do other artists deal with questions about aesthetic differences between types of work they do (Damien Hurst, perhaps?)
  • How can a range of different objects (aesthetically, thematically, chronologically) by the same artist?
  • Have other artists used a kunstkammer or similar approach to displaying a range of objects/works? Why?

 

  1. Collate as many of my objects as possible
  • Start to assemble collections, photographing different combinations
  • How would these collections ‘overpopulate’, aesthetically?
  • How would these collections work when there is imbalance of certain types (i.e. too many blue things, too many ceramic things…)

 

  1. By Wednesday 14th February, ensure most of the objects I want to show are together, and bring to university.

1st February 2018

Proposal Rewrite

 

Working title:

An investigation into where the worlds of judgement, guilt, disgust, nurture and the maternal*** overlap, and manifest as sculpture.**

 

*As yet, I am unsatisfied with the choice of descriptors in the working title, and I am searching for terminology that is more encompassing, such as:

  • Jolie-laide/Belle-laide (pretty-ugly/beautiful-ugly) (although a better term would be one that doesn’t specify human attractiveness, but more a feeling, sentiment or emotion rather than an aesthetic)
  • Wabi-Sabi, although it has connotations with Japanese craft specifically
  • Cute/gross
  • Charming/disgust
  • Sentiment over rationality
  • Want to be picked up, despite flaws or failings
  • Inclusive, everything valid, yet defying genre or order

 

**I am also unsure of the use of the term ‘craft objects’, but I am reluctant to pigeonhole the investigation to ceramics only.

 

My investigation is as much a reflection of my own creative practice, the struggles to associate myself, feel accepted and validated within the world (and professions) of visual culture. The feelings of self-doubt, insecurity and feeling vulnerable to questions of appropriateness and validity of my work and mindset, or lack of validated ‘welcome’ or ‘place’ for me and my work within the industry.

 

In terms of display, it is appropriate that the work is presented as a microcosm, collection or installation of everything – a world of things which exist together.  This could be simply arranged in a room, depending on the allocation for the end of year show, or could have a specific structure built for the objects to be displayed in/on.  For example a shelving system, a kunstkammer, a doll’s house, a playroom, a studio, a workshop, a bedroom, a shop window… Each of these has particular connotations attached, and therefore these need to be investigated in order to analyse their appropriateness.

 

In order to extend and explain the philosophies and theories associated with my practice and the investigation, there are opportunities for the exhibition of my work to be accompanied by the delivery of workshops or other forms of audience participation.  Currently, the notion of the public all making their own sculpture to be curated and exhibited together using a small selection processes which I use, seems like an appropriate way to do this (clay hand-building, scrap wood modelling, cardboard maquette-making, etc.).

 

 

26th November 2017

Tropes from my history – a list of creative memories or tendencies:

 

  1. Assemblage, arrangement, build
  2. Modularity, pieces, construction/deconstruction
  3. Toys
  4. Colourful, contrast, colour-object relationship
  5. Collection, collectibles, grouping, genres, completion, interchange
  6. Display, show, curation, togetherness
  7. Fantasy, narrative, otherworldliness
  8. Uncanny, strange but familiar, transformation, beyond the ordinary
  9. Manufacture, admiration, wonder, workmanship
  10. Cuteness, friendliness, personification
  11. Form, tessellation, interrelation of forms
  12. Mechanism, moving parts, animation
  13. Craft, making, doodling, experimenting
  14. Materials, textures, tactility, interest, fidgeting
  15. Physical-digital world overlaps
  16. Pride – collection, creative ability
  17. Invention, pushing the limits of product function/intention
  18. Wanderlust, the exotic, the mystic, the ancient, the alien, discovery
  19. Psychology, relationships, identity, morals
  20. Gadgets, technological novelties

 

This list seems very long, and although there are lots of overlaps and cross references, I am unsure what to do with the information.  I would say that ALL of the above links in with what I have tried to do with my own practice, yet the words highlighted in bold seem particularly relevant to my current direction.

 

What I feel I need is someone to say that it doesn’t matter about finding an answer – it’s all subjective, we all have our likes and dislikes, and these can be irrational and interchangeable. We can be fickle and we can change our mind – we like what we like, and sometimes we can’t explain it or say why.  But I feel that I am being challenged to stay away from that ‘easy’ answer.

 

I just want to make what I want to – it has taken me long enough to find a practical project I can focus on.  I don’t feel I have time to do the requisite research into psychoanalysis or narratives or artistic imperatives at this stage. I can’t give any more effort than I have been doing so. I am at my maximum capacity.

 

9th November 2017

Project Proposal

  1. Working Title

‘Sandbox’

  1. Aims + Objectives
    The ultimate aim of my investigation is to produce a range of uncanny ceramic objects, possibly presented as an installation. The desired effect is to encourage a state of wondering and imagination in a viewer, by proposing a range of objects as ‘props’ that a viewer could piece together to make some kind of imaginary narrative, in order to read or make sense of the scene.

 

The objectives of my investigation are to explore notions of the uncanny in design objects/object d’art, as well as exploring and analysing characteristics and attributes that can be manipulated in bestowing a sense of the uncanny. I intend to decode what makes an object uncanny when looking at the works of others, while comparing those findings to my own experiments and practice. These attributes concern colour, material, texture, object typology, associations between objects, scale, tangibility/tactility, and environmental placement/context. These will be discussed and dissected in the methodology.

 

  1. Context

There have been a wide range of visual contexts I have drawn upon thus far; some of the most important influences I have detailed here, where as links to others can be found in further personal writings (my blog).

 

In terms of uncanny objects, Jeff Koons’ work has been particularly useful, when analysed. The notion of how he intends his audience to respond and react, and the metaphysical world he wants to direct his viewers into bear particular relevance to my investigations into triggers and attributes of the uncanny. This can also be echoed in the ‘MacGuffin Library’ project by Onkar Kular and Noam Toran.

 

Like the MacGuffin Library project, Sandy Skoglund’s photographic/installation works have a strong impact on my attitudes towards how colour can be used to manipulate an audience and usher in the uncanny. Skoglund’s approach to mass-multiplicity of objects also links to Antony Gormley’s ‘Field’ projects. ‘Field’ harkens back to the importance of material, in how I construct my work. The importance that each object is made by hand, and not via a tool is in some ways an ode to the clay itself, and a direct translation of the malleability and fluidity of the human (sub) consciousness.

 

The works of Malene Hartmann Rasmussen are particularly impactful to my practice in the sense that her work revolves around storytelling and personal narrative. Her approach to object choice and environmental transformation, as well as the childlike aesthetic all help to reinforce a telling-of-tales.

 

Other contemporary visual contexts include Paul Nash, Richard Slee, Ken price, Felieke Van Der Leest, Tony Cragg, Yoshitoshi Kanemaki, Helen Marten, Joshua Ben Longo, Nick Cave, Freddie Robbins, Ugo Rondinone and the V&A exhibition ‘Telling Tales’.

 

Theoretically, my investigation is informed by the writings of Freud on the uncanny (‘Das Unheimlich’) and subconscious mind (the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego), as well as some of the work of Reigl regarding the intention of an artist/maker (especially when applied to Koon’s work). Furthermore, theoretical understanding of artistic intention is underpinned by Derrida’s Theory of Deconstruction, regarding the struggle between viewer and artist.

 

  1. Methodology

The process of which the investigation has taken place thus far has been largely practical, with extended periods of reflection and analysis. This has been paralleled by periods of contextual investigation and analysis. There are 4 main areas my investigation aims to explore; the methodology of each centres around my own practice and analysing the results against the attributes associated with shifting an objects into the real of the uncanny, as mentioned above.

 

Colour can be used to distance, disconnect or disassociate an object from its original meaning – this can be seen in the works of Onkar Kular & Noam Toran’s work on the MacGuffin Library Project. There is also an interesting phenomenon that occurs when high contrast colours are presented together, where the usually do not exist in reality, causing the mind to detect a ‘glitch in reality’. This can be seen in the work of Sandy Skoglund, and is referenced in my 3rd period of practical investigation; ‘Object, Language, Landscape’ (April-July 2017).

 

Material and texture can also be interchanged and manipulated in order to make an audience feel displaced (the uncanny)… This can go beyond typical skeuomorphism; disguising a material to appear as if it is made of something else – and instead achieve a sense of inexplicable connection in a viewer or holder of an object. For example, in my 1stperiod of practical investigation; ‘Mini-Tactiforms’ (September-December 2016), I experimented with a variety of textures on amorphous, palm-sized ceramic objects in order to inspire a reaction in a holder. Observing people holding and talking about their experiences, it became quite clear that beyond specific textures, often people were not able to rationalise their likes of dislikes about certain textures and sensations. Often the response was ‘I like this but I don’t know why’, while continuing to hold and fondle their object of choice. On reflection this is an element of the uncanny at work.

 

The types of objects represented and their association with each other and how they are placed is the most recent of my initial investigations. There is something itself uncanny and inexplicable about the objects I chose to represent in ‘Object, Language, Landscape’, where specific objects seemed to conjure themselves to me to be made, for no rational reason. These fragmented associations between objects demand a viewer to first address way these objects exist alongside each other, but when no connection can be determined, they becomes a ‘sandbox’ in which to be used in any way the participant determines, by offering a range of metaphysical objects a viewer can piece together in creating their own narrative. The term ‘sandbox’ is derived from a video gaming trope, where a player is able to proliferate and populate anything and everything they want into the game-world, with the basic ‘building-blocks’ of the game available to them to play and work with.

 

Lastly, the notion of environmental context will be explored and analysed through a process of creating objects and installing, assembling, arranging and curating in a variety of locations (gallery, indoor, outdoor, collectively, separately, etc.), and documented photographically, as well as anecdotally. The results will be analysed and marked against weather the context has further impact on the uncanniness of the objects, and gives a strong enough platform for a viewer to participate in the sandbox mechanic. These again will be recorded anecdotally.

 

  1. Planned Outcomes
    The form of my final work is likely to be a series of hand-built ceramic objects presented as an installation or assemblage. It is likely that the work will be presented in a gallery context, yet there are still opportunities for me to investigate site-specific contexts, both indoor and outdoor. In order for the work to be elevated beyond being ‘just a small series of ceramic objects’, the scale of the installation and the multitude of objects is important; the experience should be immersive to a viewer; like stepping into a world, or a ‘glitch in reality’. Work Plan
    As mentioned above, there have been several periods of practical investigation already: Between September and December 2016 I explored, experimented and analysed the impact of texture, material and amorphology in ‘Mini-Tactiforms’. My second stage I tried to apply these findings to functional objects in ‘Tacti-Vessels’, between January and March 2017. Then, between April and July 2017 I began to explore the notion of uncanny objects and how they can be used to encourage narratives and an immersive experience in a viewer, in ‘Object, Language, Landscape’.

 

I now envisage that between now and January 2018 I will define and determine exactly which attributes I want to manipulate in order to push the notion of the uncanny in an installation of objects. This will be achieved through investigating and exploring colour contrasts, analysing environmental contexts of object placement on a smaller scale (fewer objects at first), and trying to achieve impact through multitude and carefully considered scaling of each object. From February 2018 onwards I aim to be steadily making in order to achieve the impact I have specified while the expansion of the number of made objects will enable me to investigate and critique environmental contexts for my work to be displayed.