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 half (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 (including a four-week christmas break) it took to complete and haven’t found myself questioning it since. i will say i am very fond of it.
i knew from the moment i thought of this that the studio space must be symmetrical, i am a huge fan of Wes Anderson so maybe it was him, although many other things i do are symmetrical so maybe it’s my own preference regardless of The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014 (love heart). i also knew that the googly eyes must be exactly the same. the very same size, dome, whiteness, blackness, googlyness, and eyeness. everything identical. ordering, primarily, 1700 of them off amazon and then realising they were coming from china and that i would wait three-four weeks for them to arrive. they are 10mm (1cm) wide and self-adhesive and come in packs of 100 – all very important in the decision making. initially i felt i had ordered far too many. on their arrival i did not feel this way; before quickly running out and filling a much smaller wall space than i had imagined. i then ordered at least 500 a week for the following five / six weeks, on average ordering around 800-900 a week until eventually i had ordered 7500 in total and waited. before christmas i had completed a full board (one of two in my space) and half of the other. i returned to newcastle after christmas with about 5000 waiting in my house and the post office and did the vast majority of the installation in the second week of january, finishing the wall and table and back of chair. i will disclose here that there is one, and on a table which is so hard to describe it is difficult to write its exact location regardless: it is the left table stand, on the front right leg part, on the back on the piece that goes from table top to floor, ONE googly eye that for some reason is bigger. there are millimeters in it but it is larger and the knowledge of it is both amusing and annoying. besides this they are all exactly the same.
i am very happy with the installation, the wall is completely covered, the table top, sides and table stand parts are covered as well as the back of my chair. i left it at this as even the mention of my project and people immediately asked “have you heard of Yayoi Kusama?” yes i have heard of Yayoi Kusama. i’m a fan of both her and polka dots. one of my favorite photographs is of her in one of her earlier accumulation installations – Infinity Mirror Room, 1965 (above on left) – but i never knew who it was or what it was until october 2016. i also really admire the context to her earlier work and see her as an inspiration but i don’t see my work as a copy. i did not want googly eyed objects in my googly eye studio space because i was not setting out to make a googly eye world/universe. nor was i setting out to make them ridiculous in the way she was with phallic shaped objects. if anything i aimed for the opposite. i made my studio space unusable, and hopefully the wall can be salvaged as i am yet to take them down. i think it is aesthetically comparable to Kusama, however, the lack of colour in mine distances it from hers. i also see comparisons to Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s 1973 Hartford Wash (above on right), where she cleaned the entire gallery as a performance. Similarly to her, as we both took upon these tasks single-handedly. this installation took a lot of time, time spent installing and ordering materials and waiting for the materials to arrive (this probably being the biggest cost of time). importantly in this comparison, i and i alone placed every single googly eye, in the end it was an endurance test having become quite tedious.
eyes. looking. seeing. is it about the gaze? yes! if you want it to be, it can be anything you want as always. many people have told me they feel extremely vulnerable, uncomfortable, and looked at when they stand or sit in front of it. for me i do not, i don’t see them as eyes looking at me it and do not feel watched. personally, it was about the object, a silly material, a crafting material, a childish material and i hope to have put it in a much more serious context. overall i believe it looks quite professional (meaning: excellently done). 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 and everything else so perfectly, of course, summed up by John Berger’s Way of Seeing – episode two (1972). this is something i am not separate from, i don’t think any female is separate from this; we are living 45 years after Berger’s TV series aired and everything still remains truthful to today. i did think to myself as similar as they are to eyes they are also just like boobs in the same way Womanhouse‘s Kitchen (1972) is covered in fried egg/boob objects. maybe it’s a comment on domestic labour? maybe it’s about LOOKING at problems, maybe it demands you to LOOK at something in a way which it looks at you? (feel free to leave more suggestions in the comment section).
the overall effect is quite dominating and especially in a room surrounded by painters i feel i have asserted myself and asserted non-painting practices successfully. i see this as a high point in my art education as well as art career, certainly at a point where recently what i am doing has so much more clarity. i am pleased with the comparisons and feedback i have heard so far and very happy with it overall.