recently i finished my first installation; covering my entire studio space in googly eyes. it took much longer than i had anticipated, experiencing more than one grand designs moment in, firstly, not ordering enough materials and then financing the project that went way over the original budget intended. a second mortgage and my wife project managing as well as working a full-time job and caring for our three children eventually led to its completion in mid-january 2017, becoming my first notable artwork of 2017 and probably most notable artwork of being 19. there’s still over 6 months for this to not change. time was one faux pas and the other was not realising they were self-adhesive until the second (post-christmas) part of the install having glued them to the majority of the wall at this point. oh well. the idea came to mind mid-october and i thought about it very little before i found myself doing it. i continued to not question it throughout the three months (excluding a four-week christmas break) it took to complete and haven’t found myself questioning it since although i will say i am very fond of it.
i have been looking at Yayoi Kusama’s earlier accumulation installations – Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli Field, 1965 (below on left) where she set about to make multiple phallic shaped sculptures making her fear of the phallic both humorous and silly. many people have told me they feel uncomfortable in front of my installation and (a big) part of me says “good!”. i am particularly awkward and quiet and find being in front of or around people uncomfortable. i don’t feel looked at by this artwork but i do feel the awkwardness of men’s staring and the reminder of myself and my image when you catch their glances which is so perfectly summed up by John Berger’s Way of Seeing – episode two (1972). my initial plan had been to take a material linked to craft (female) and children’s art-making (overall seen as lesser) and use it to create a serious piece of “high” contemporary (therefore male) artwork. furthermore, men are also privileged in looking and women are often those who are looked at.
unlike Kusama, instead of making a new space/universe i made my studio space unusable which is comparable to Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s 1973 Hartford Wash (above on right), where she cleaned the entire gallery as a performance, ultimately giving value to such mundane and domestic tasks (something many women have been confined to). both Ukeles and i both took upon these tasks single-handedly and when finished / removed there was no trace of the work left. the Wadsworth Atheneum did not record her performances therefore devaluing her both her artwork and this domestic work which institutions such as Museums and Galleries depend on very highly. Ukeles highlights this role, often fulfilled by minorities who are excluded from galleries through both their collection / exhibitions and reach in communities. moreover, Ukeles highlights tasks often associated to females (so much so that cleaning becomes a natural attribute for women) who are made invisible through their exclusion to the private spheres and from the public spheres.
IN RETROSPECT: looking has become a very important aspect in my work and i suppose this turns that notion on its head (because the art looks at you). previously i have written about the links the gaze which i am going to attempt to rewrite here!