Mar 30, 2022
Who are YOU ALL named or not?… Guess!!!
YOU, my co-workers, my mentors, my friends, elders, fellow travelers and family; YOU, who influenced me and whom I may have influenced; YOU in pain, or who have passed away too early or at least before we could converse further; YOU, the Charleston Rhizome Collective, Alternate ROOTS, the Cafe people, Fast & French & co., CAIRN; even YOU I believed, whatever the result of our exchange; YOU, the artists close to me although we don’t think the same way… In 1980, artist Jochen Gerz, wrote “Culture is authorship for all, or a lie.” Here I/YOU/WE now attempt to say “Culture is authorship WITH all, or a lie.” At least I/YOU/WE tried and must still try. I recycle to honor what we concocted together, as without YOU/WE, I/WE may not have created thoughts, art tools, unlikely friendships, stories, performances, visuals, … and maybe some unknown transformations.
I do this visually sketchy work to reactivate the meaning of MY/OUR journeys or their many steps; to dissect them for their relationships before and after the moment that made their creation or fabrication possible. Their reality or power is not only linked to a past but also to what they may have generated for YOU or for ME or for someone else. This does not attempt to be a good documentation of past works, but an activation of potentials; a re-activation of sort, for YOU and ME and OTHERS maybe. And it is not linear or binary.
I/YOU – Engaging in MY/OUR past and using MY/OUR/YOUR artifacts, accumulated in a Charleston 2studio house. Exploring, imagining/practicing an endless future … This work is a way to expose OUR/MY practices and discoveries of collaborations, communications and, basically, life. It attempts to interface or embed links/bridges between different geographies and times. It desires to talk about the infinite possibilities of the arts involved in our human/social/civic relationships, when they act together, in a space which is past-future-present-future-past-present. It engages in time, creates time and space/place. It occupies space and time and more, since we know it may take five minutes for one to imagine something, years or decades to make it, and more years or decades to turn it into a potential asset for ME/YOU or SOMEONE ELSE. I don’t think in terms of a near future but in terms of a MOVEMENT WITHIN past/future/present that may mean babies/ancestors/people and all, seniors/students/sisters/…
Most of OUR/MY installations/projects cannot be re-presented. Some of them have taken/created a road of their own. My role, here, is to tentatively bring out and project the larger story(ies), the potentials. This project is a way to re-use/re-CYCLE/UP-CYCLE leftovers, artifacts, older artworks or their documentation into new productions, which add or reset the perception and comprehension of that journey with OTHERS – artists, activists, educators, youth, tiny businesses – mixing races, genders, age, cultures, socio-economic status, educations… All that WE/I have chosen as values or power for the ARTS-IN-ACTION support OUR/MY/maYBE-YOUR attempts to challenge inequity. It shows what WE/I can bring to the field of the visual arts, to the wellness carried by all arts. It stresses what Art In/With Community conveys with and for the Arts, the search for that meaning civically, socially and emotionally; aesthetically as well. To help in this effort I was inspired by French poet Mallarmé to understand his quest for “THE BOOK” as a necessary dream, culmination, “a book to encompass all books.” Seems so futile, unproductive; how did he get there? Why do I get here? How did he influence me? Again, this work is not telling “THE STORY”. I am not doing that. I am fabricating a backdrop for YOU/WE to tell/re-tell, actually imagine future endeavors.
The Drawings/Murals/Installations in the Album are in effect SKETCHES. Or DRAFTS. My life is now too short to act otherwise. They are also SKETCHES/DRAFTS because, for a middle class French woman of my age to be an artist was quite a conquest. I did not see it as just the expression of a gift or a glamour revealed on Sundays. And to be independent was a daily conquest as well: no dependency on money from partners or men for survival or travel or to rent a big studio or… Luckily being born & raised in France, I did not cumulate health insurance or education debts!
Some sort of emergency always pushes me to do things fast, not only because there is so much to do but also because the GENERAL VISION often becomes more significant than the QUALITY OF THE CRAFT. In this case the series is more crucial than each of the parts. However both, the series and each part attempt to survive independently. I am not a specialist and I won’t be specialized. As Pablo Helguera wrote to explain some Socially Engaged Art “the artist expertise lies, as for Freire’s, in being a non-expert, a provider of frameworks on which experiences can form and sometimes be directed and channeled to generate new insights…” Paulo Freire (1921-1997) believed that education was a process of self-discovery, in collaboration with others. This may not work in a traditional fine arts market, but here social change is part of the equation…
This work grew out of the traditional practice of sketching, drawing. And it is searching for a link between that TRADITIONAL PRACTICE and much needed COLLABORATIVE ART INQUIRIES or any other explorations that were propelled by artists, mostly women, since the late 60s’. It wants to highlight a “moving mind” as well as a need to tell a multi-layered JOURNEY; a journey hopefully warming up you and me – YOU/ME-, as a good soup does some days… when we trust each other all the way.
Each portrait in these pieces has its specificity. It may mirror/keep or draw in/introduce AUDIENCES. Yes, THEY/YOU/WE are both actors and audience, actors and viewers, insiders and outsiders, creators and critics. Since portraits may be artsy bullies, erasing in the memory all other aspects of the model, they are not meant here, to represent anyone specially. But they wish to represent PEOPLE, GROUPS, PUBLIC, POPULACE, MULTITUDE, COMMONALITY, OCCUPIERS, COMMONALTIES, FOLKS, ORGANIZERS … and maybe YOU!
No perfection. No perfectionism. No beauty to be analyzed. No style. But CONTINUITY (or consistency?). A CASCADE, a flow, streams. Timing and speed are involved as well. It took me a long time to understand that perfectionism could be a tool to keep segregation/white supremacy in place and certainly a way to exclude some people by promoting one set of norms only. Although it would be great to be so gifted that whatever one gets into could be recognized within standardized or commercial criteria, this has not been my priority. I do agree with others that a work of art must bring you to THE UNKNOWN. And that requires an exchange which demands time of any length, and questions its historically charged criteria. Do not believe I don’t know most of them though. You may believe, however, that I do not and did not take the time to fit them in successfully. Additionally the more I age, the more the extent of what I don’t know grows. For all women searching to WORK differently, and purposefully… open barriers… no frames are readily welcome for long; because the arts must be a field of freedom, a field able to accept whatever is not fitting in other fields; a field to explore without pre-designed tests. Why did Rainer Maria Rilke write: “Beauty is but the first degree of the horrible” ?
It is the exhibition of Jacqueline Larrieu at the Galerie DIX291 in Paris, co-founded by my friends Bernard Crespin and Myriam Bucquoit which pushed me to get back into daily DRAWING sketches. The late Jacqueline, a friend and Cooperative Cairn co-worker, has sketched trees and landscapes in water color for decades, specially when, for many years, she was the squatter of her own apartment in a condemned building! Seeing all her sketchbooks together and an interview about them was so energizing. I quickly became interested in grasping faces in movement. The routine of watching PBS Newshour offered me an easy turf. I did not try for true-to-life portraits. I did not look at the pad. I only searched for the eye-hand coordination. Or how my far-sighted left eye and my near-sighted right eye operate together. The length of the lines, the nervousness of the day, the speed of the mind or its capabilities at that moment, create the sketch. My artistic goals could never be to re-present only, could never be uni-dimensional, or just a skill, or a gift. My brain is too stuffed with puzzling concepts and perceptions. There are moments when the mass of knowledge, of materials, of collective information, of pictures and images, is unstoppable and exposes the widening of the unknown. I kind of avoid making the type of selection that a master artist should make. I keep the mass and mix it together. Even at the expense of a clear aesthetics. Maybe because, as an alternative to art-making, I thought of being a brain surgeon! Or it may contain a bit of MY/OUR potentials. The whole instead of the individual. The crowd instead of me. The flea market – un Marché aux Puces – instead of a selected few.
This work is not a chronology. My engagement started with my childhood collections. Later on, it grew as a first book of collages inspired by a 1930 illustrated Larousse French dictionary. I called it “LEÇONS DE CHOSES” (Lessons from Things), named after courses every French child went through in primary school. “In these courses, one learned how to touch objects, how to evaluate their properties and their distinguishing qualities, in relationship to us… Thus a sensitive child could learn, perhaps, less the uses of things or an intimacy with them, than the strange quality of their relationship to us: a sense of surprise before their undeniable, insistent presence and their fundamentally unexplainable autonomy” (Objects Observed: The Poetry of Things in Twentieth-Century France and America” John C. Stout). This is poetry!
Should I call this work “LEÇONS DE CHOSES #2” ?
I am so happy I found a reference to Jochen Gerz in Jean-Marie’s diary. I have always felt close to the work of this conceptual artist, but I did not know he was building a website with an inventory of all his works (hundreds of pieces) as well as an installation: a giant book called “THE WALK: NO RETROSPECTIVE.” May I steal his title? MY/OUR title changes almost every day. What about ALBUM OF RECYCLED COLLABORATIVE ARTIFACTS? or AVANT-HIER (THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY)? So today it is a very long title:
ALBUM of DRAWINGS and RECYCLED COLLECTIVE ARTIFACTS
dedicated to collaborative ventures and explorations of Art in/with Community
A WALK ….
or this title proposed by Jean-Marie for our presentation together:
displacement, memory, erasure… a collaborative challenge?
SO! Working with a community has never been to use its members as a labor force. It has been to provide room, a space for their thoughts to become content – expanded content – sometimes the start of an action in their own terms. But, every time the work consists in the repetition of simple gestures, I do most of it myself. A good example is The Future Is On The Table #2 in Lexington KY: as the result of a former mail art project, 400 ziplock bags, containing 400 artworks or documents, were hung from a 6,000 6-pack ringers canopy, which required 12,000 knots. Inviting others to participate in the knot making was an opportunity for conversation and sharing knowledge. In the process I had not diluted my responsibility in and hands on this tedious fabrication work, although anyone could make them as beautiful as mine, even better than mine. I guess it is also like a practice, a training or a meditation.
This text is also an ‘UPDATE’:
– on how the Cooperative Cairn I co-founded still remains stubbornly in MY/YOUR mind, or at least its mission, some of its people and its values. They include the principles of no selection, no competition, which are social concepts as much as dreams; and the artists’ ability to talk visually or with words about their own work with others but without a middle-man, a critic.
– on the unplanned consequences of our collaborations, Jean-Marie and I (co-teaching, moving to Charleston, a café, co-artmaking, co-businessing, co-living, co-signing: “JEMAGWGA”…)
– on the beauty of Jean Piaget’s conversations with children as they develop their creative intelligence: What do you think with? Your head, is it full or empty? When the sun sets, does it care we are here? …
– on encountering Alternate ROOTS. ROOTS showed me the difference between I and WE in storytelling. Until then the ‘I’ seemed so individualistic, indifferent to society or community, while the ‘WE’ respected multiplicity. At ROOTS I understood that MY/OUR & WE/I did cover both, their psychology and sociology, AND their interaction. This brought me back within the necessity of collaborations.
Each piece in this presentation comes with artifacts of steps, made by ME/YOU, others, or together. They are now objects recycled for another life, not alone anymore. OUR/MY/YOUR practices/productions do not exist in a void. They live in circumstances which reflect our educations, our many communities, our cultures; How WE/I value gifts, luxuries, competitions, audiences, or charity; How do time availability, professional activity, stress, concentration maneuver objectives, fabrication, explorations, mis/understandings, re/conceptualization, transformation… and the amplification of the voice of others. How I/YOU think about the potentials of navigating, sharing, transferring power? Yet why art is still being so often reduced in terms of commerce and competition? Art can bring money. We know. I’m still forcefully asked by most around me to bring work out square-rectangular-framed-inTheColorOfYourCouch. How come this was never of any interest to me, except as an exercise, a sort of daily practice? I had heard Berthold Brecht quoted by Walter Benjamin“If the concept of ‘work of art’ can no longer be applied to the thing that emerges once the work is transformed into a commodity, we have to eliminate this concept with cautious care but without fear, lest we liquidate the function of the very thing itself…”
The joining of OUR with MY and YOUR acknowledges the fact that, in collaborative art, the following two statements are at work:
1- EVERYONE is an artist, “with the deep need and fundamental ability to create and be creative” (after Joseph Beuys).
2- calling yourself an artist demands a lot of ENGAGEMENT/RESEARCH/ATTEMPTS… Creativity does not come without liberation and failures.
This INTRO is too long!
I only hope this work will bring you some pleasure AND/OR puzzlement.