at the start of my second year at Newcastle University, i was interested in creating more sculptural work (having made mostly 2D collages in the first year) and i began the googly eye installation. WHERE i covered my entire studio space in googly eyes which were bought off of amazon. one of the only real decisions i made during this time was the materials/mediums i wanted to use and be associated with; specifically sewing, ceramics, and film. i was interested in tacky objects and how craft – both “arts and crafts” and “women’s art” – have been excluded in the mainstream (read MALEstream) of fine art.
many people often suggested i looked at Yayoi Kusama’s work, which was arguably a bit lazy, but also i already had been researching her 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. visually i can see the comparisons through the multiplicity of polka-dotted objects though 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 (below on right). Ukeles’s 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.
thinking about Ukeles’s invisible labour, the labour (i, a girl) undertook to install the work and the work consisting of eyes overall led me to realise a theme of interest for me is looking, seeing, being seen, the Gaze. i had a realisation that something which ties everything up for me is gender, the materials were gendered, looking/the Gaze is gendered – which is so perfectly summed up by John Berger’s Way of Seeing – episode two (1972). and so For me, the question becomes is this installation female or male?