Anouchka Oler (France)
The thesis is still structured in 3 parts, a combination of the three possibilities offered for the thesis format. No order has been decided yet, but for the sake of the abstract it will be numbered 1,2 and 3.
1) Report on practice and research with the letters. A collection of letters I wrote to Guy de Cointet, Kirsty Roberts, Ettorre Sottsass, Franz Erhard Walther and the reader of the thesis (which is more an introduction to the letters). This people may or may not have some things in common but the main ones here are my admiration, interest in them and their work. This format allows me to work out why I or/and my practice seem linked with them or/and their work. I reflect on these people’s practices through my reading of their body of work but also how they influence my practice or how it allows me to read my practice through their oeuvres. The recipients have been casually addressed direct thoughts on whatever I was reading, doing or thinking at the moment. Subjects have been :
Sottsass’s letter starts with a quotation where he said he’d like to be remembered ‘as a good friend’. Set the tone and apply a fictional intimacy. Report influence of surroundings, objects personality through personal experiences in Amsterdam souvenirs shop and the Musée des Arts décoratifs Paris- Work out the ‘hand touch’ of my sculptures being my ‘presence’ by comparing it to Sottsass’s furniture’s that have their own and independent influence.
Robert’s letters : Speaking through the family sphere or enacting the family sphere as a way to reduce, ‘decapitalize’ the I. Mixing working space and living space. Kirsty’s detachment to her objects, producing becomes more valuable than to maintain maybe ?
De Cointet : Impossibility to write this letter because of too much respect or decadent fan attitude. Type written letter to avoid endless editing. Attachment to object instead of places as a result of numerous house moving. Necessity to attach to an object as a souvenir-holder, possibility to modify the souvenir but not the shape of the object. Discussion of the level of believability of Guy’s work, as a child game. Life and work of Guy became same value for me, same level of interests.
Walther : The need to touch or to hold a sculpture, to be a ‘serial toucher’ what happen when you can’t touch, especially in Walther case where they are initially made for it? Do they become symbol ? Interference of the hand and the action of holding something to understand a 2D representation of it. Importance of the souvenir in Walther’s work.
After reading Berenice Fisher's essay Wandering in the wildness : the search for women role models I started to write about it a bit and I can't really formulate it yet, but it might allow me to articulate a parallel between the letters to kind of role model & the role of the mother. Here is what I wrote for now : In Wandering in the wildness : the search for women role models, Berenice FISHER starts an analyse of female role model from hearing ‘the claim that we, as women, needed female role models’. She said she felt angry at first hearing this as she fought to ‘make (herself) an independent woman’ alone. As an art student in my bachelor, I was asked to present along with my work, the ‘referent’ artists that already worked where I was starting to engage. Having to automatically start and borrow someone’s existent path by throwing a ‘referent’ in the table to get hierarchy approval on your work implies that you can’t be trust by yourself and felt patriarchal. My cheesy self think about finding role model in a bit of a more romanticize manner. You can’t be in love with a love story, only fall in love for someone. You don’t go ‘role model hunting’, in other words it can’t be forced or compulsory. Role models are hyper subjective and selfish choice anyway. One chooses someone that they already recognize themselves in him/her or say identify (sex, gender, social origins, sensibility, interests) and admire what have been achieve by him/her. A model has to be both comforting and stimulating. As arms in which you can rest but also makes you want to do your own stuff, in a different way but still listening to this influent voice. A non-professional singer (at least I) sings better on top of a record playing than by his/herself. Fisher argues that having a role model is not enough to achieve your goals: ‘Capitalist and patriarchal structures prevent us all from succeeding’ no matter which role model you have. Even if the goals are maybe pre-inscribed in the role model’s achievements that is not what it takes to accomplish them. She then adds that looking for a model to fight with also implies not to consider your peers with whom you might actually fight, act. Not personally knowing your influent voice or not living in the same period doesn’t implies that you don’t fight with it. The important thing seems to me to turn your role model into something useful. It can’t be only remain symbolic as addressing a pray to a god and hoping you’ll be heard and that something will magically change. She then speaks about seeing May Stevens paintings and drawing series ‘Ordinary, Extraordinary’ that represents both Rosa Luxembourg and Stevens’ mum. Firstly starting with strong presence of Luxembourg and weaker ones of the mum, it ended up by the opposite; the presence of the mother had become stronger. Fisher : ‘ I sensed the dilemma of being pulled between two poles-the biological and psychological nurturing of the women who bore us and the moral and political nurturing of the women we so often, hope to be.’ This other ‘kind of mothering we also need’ in role model.
2) Analytical essay realized through or starting from the picture of my father holding a dressed chimpanzee when he was 15. Plan : 1/ Neutral tone. It is said that its my father, but not so important. Use the picture to develop on these points with no directs regards to my practice: Care, ‘nature’ of love ?: Harry Harlows’ twisted experiment on Baby monkeys locked in a cage with 2 surrogates mother one wired object providing food, the other covered by a piece of fabric, providing an aspect of care. Expected to prove that the love from a child to a mother was droven by the fact that she loves not because she feeds. Representation of the mother Mater amabilis, Madonna and child, Importance of the glance of the mother or the child, underlines the viewer turned into a witness of care, love. Represent the Mother deport a role expected to be done in society or in the family sphere to one’s practice. Looking at practices. 2/ This things in regard to my practice. Deconstructing the mother.
3) Creative writing done with collected experiences and writings during a trip with my sculpture the cousin.
The trip aims and relies on the abandon of the sculpture in a dramatic landscape. This part will reflect more on my intimate relation with my sculptures and will test its authencity maybe.
Until the May holidays, 2 days every week will be fully dedicated to the thesis. Until the interim Assessment: Continue part 2. After interim assessment until May Holidays so 3 weeks and a half: Part 3, trip & writing. Finishing part 2. Work out the connections with three parts. After May Holidays up to the deadline : Edit once the connections between the 3 parts have been established. Design. Print.
You’ll be delighted to know that the start of my final year as an art student has been quite okay so far. Of course, as one can imagine, it comes with a bit of anxiety from time to time as any year planned as final would be. So this morning, without any warning, I found myself staying in bed until the middle of the afternoon, thinking of a ball possibly staying somewhere in my upper stomach. [i know the feeling-ted]I imagined this ball that might not even exist and I picture it as a dense black slug, but really friendly looking. Lately, I started to write love letters to strangers. They are not total strangers to be honest; I just mean I never shook hands with them. I don’t really know them I only love what they did or do, but to be able to imagine them fully I need to picture them as friends, lovers, confidants or something in between. That’s also pretty much what I do in my artistic practice. Knowing by loving. For so, I take care of the objects I produce, as I am responsible for their presence. I aim to facilitate their belonging to our world by making them clothes or providing them a comfortable appearance (even though sometimes their coolness is a bit exaggerated), naming them, forcing them to relate to one another and by maintaining a relationship between them and I. To nurture this family, which is also mine, is as important as their existence.
It’s half past one at the time I write this, my computer is on my lap and on my left my three pillows are miscellaneously arranged one after another in a horizontal position, so they reconstitute a body. I imagine you being this body sitting next to me so we could maybe have a chat about what I want to develop in this thesis. I would maybe start by telling you more about what I do. I would hesitate a bit at the beginning and mention that I am doubtful about speaking to you at this intimate level, that you might find it absolutely vague, or embarrassing. We would go on anyway, since we are here. But we would have a rough start, so we would try to start by speaking about intimacy, and why I force you to be here with me. ‘Couldn’t this happen without me being here?’ you would ask. ‘No’. I can’t really explain to you why I need to have you laying next to me in order to talk freely. We have to hold hands to do this thing together. I’d maybe blush a little bit or stop looking at you in the eyes and tell you that I consider myself as the mum of my sculptures, and I’d correct myself by adding that I am only acting as their mum. Though, there might be a weird honesty or genuineness sometimes. A couple of months ago I made some pictures with a disposable camera in where I was holding my sculptures during daily life or touristic situation, as family pictures. I don’t usually hang out with my sculptures: everything was staged and faked. When I picked up the photos after they have been developed, I was a bit perplexed of how sincere and normal I seemed. Thinking back of the process it might have just been the presence of others people (friends taking the pictures, passers-by) and their acknowledgement of the objectophile* looking situation that might have force the lifelikeness by stimulating my self-consciousness of what I was doing.
Just as writing an open letter is: It put one’s in a strange position where he has to use the recipient to get to his point, whilst not doing it too consciously in order not to break the bound constructed just between them. For this bound to happen, you have to forget inevitably about the wider audience/reader for a moment. Such a thing that I don’t have even think of when I make art, I never made art for two. You, the wider audience or so- called third parts are like lifeguards. Knowing that you are there provides to swim too far, but allows swimming carefree.
[i'm not sure i get this completely, and i think i'd like to have this relation mapped onto the sculptures somehow...-ted]
I would make a short break; there would be awkward minutes of silence since you are not in a position where you can speak or where I can listen. Around 01:47 PM, my hands would describe a circle whilst I would try to explain how I am going to transfer my interests into letters in this thesis. So you see, love songs are my favourite. They always get picked up for lip-syncing or karaoke. Either because you identify with the I and so address the you with much anger or love, or you can also be the melancholic or happy you. I am the I who loves when I write those letters, and as I said earlier, I address two you, the recipient and the reader. But I also speak from two I. The sincere fan I and the rational though personal I. That is why I chose people I really really like, but who would also be good vehicles to speak about my interests. Some recipients are dead though. But it doesn’t really matter. It allows a bit of exciting lies and free suspicion, whilst aliveness allows dialogue and honesty by way of the game of social behaviour, as you hope for an answer and so try to provoke an attachment anyhow. Depending on the level of intimacy, the more you know someone, the more you can predict and anticipate his reaction and therefore be guided by this during the writing.
I’ld like to be more precise on one point since we are speaking of family, and to go back on my studio one. I do think they are teenage sculptures. Neither children nor adults. They are about to acquire their independence, but they just need a last bit of love and encouragement. There is no sculpture that I throw away or decide not to work with it once I make them to the end. I instantly feel attach to them through the making. For so I try to give them personal and social purposes before they can hypothetically have a life of their own. In a few month time, I’ll take my 5 kilos concrete rock like sculpture with me to go on northern Europe, and reach the sea side. I’ll surely go by bus or train, to make it last longer. We will try to engage a dialogue during this framed time, and once we reach the seaside, we will see if I can let it (the cousin) go and leave without it.
[will this process enter the letters?-ted]
Thank you very much for listening, I am going to take a nap now, if you don’t mind leaving.
Objectophile : someone in love with an object.
The other day, I saw an interview of you. You were quite old already. A journalist underlined this fact by asking you how you would like to be remembered, as if you already had a foot in the grave. ‘As a good friend’ you said. Since that I simply have no trouble telling you all about my life. Dear Ettorre, you are the one that I spontaneously think of when I feel oppressed by an environment or an object. I know that’s not really fair to always address my inner complaints to you, especially that you wanted people to feel happier and less lonely with your things and so maybe never to physically suffocate them. Though you might have done it, you little monkey! I started this letter about 3 months ago now. At this time I was thinking of you quite a lot, which unconsciously made me start my first ceramic sculpture. None of them worked out though; the cone object cracked all the way down, and at the same time my letter ended up in a dark corner of my computer, with some quotations from your wife about your life, your work and both of them mixed together. I didn’t want to talk with you (as if it was even possible), but possibly to write to you and about you only. But I guess what was disturbing was that you surely know what you’ve done and how great it was. You must have known, and I am not even sure you cared. After the ‘cone accident’ I made the form all over again in papier maché, and then another one in fabric because I couldn’t wait for the first one to dry. I wish you could see them now; they look like evil twins! You know I made them with you, neither for you or as you.
On the 7th of December, I went to Amsterdam for a day-off, so as to fairly mix a bit of wandering around and to see some shows. I walked down the main street from the train station. It was really windy and you could feel the winter slowly taking possession of the streets. I felt a bit hopeful when I dressed up in the morning, and put no tight underneath my trousers. I was wearing my grey leather jacket that let the wind eat your bones through its motif of triangles holes. When my lower jaw started to hit repetitively the upper one, I entered a shop to get some warmth. Not the first one encountered; I walked a few more meters to one Amsterdam souvenir’s shop. I was already dreaming of Christmas holidays and of what kind of object could I offer my family for them to think of me here without me being there. The shop was divided in two sections: one dedicated to the Amsterdam football team Ajax and another which seemed to fulfil the promise held by the shop name: Amsterdam souvenir. I wandered around every corner. Little wooden shoe key ring, big wooden shoes, white ceramics with blue drawings of windmills, weed
flavoured chocolate… Nothing was very particular to the city; everything was really charming. I turned over an alley of caps, bags and wallet pressed ‘Amsterdam’ by too many times. I was instantly reminded of the special feature of the city’s tourism, a ceramic penis bong was sitting on top of a glass shelf, right in the middle of numerous others weed machines. The all thing was painted in a creamy version of a strawberry pink, its veins were swallowed with a slight exaggeration that cancelled the softness of its colour. There was something really violent about it. It was too big, too hard and too obnoxious. I thought of a potential buyer or someone receiving it as a present. Who would like to put this in his own mouth? I was acting with so much prudery, I imagined asking the seller for the ceramic penis, then grabbed a wooden shoe key ring and went to him. 99 cents. It doesn’t exist here; they sell for prices that can’t be paid. ‘One euro’ he said. He took my coin and I left with my heart-warming single shoe.
I later on entered a bar. It was so busy that I felt sorry to be alone. I went to another one ‘The Snooker’ and used their un-coolness to get some peace. There, I started to think of you and either you’d have hate or love this ceramic thing. I really wished you would have been on my side, but there already have been several occasion where I think you wouldn’t have agree with me. I always thought I was too unprofessional or messy for you. That’s true that I often don’t see the point of doing my stuff materially well. I guess I just want people to know I have done them and for so, their defaults make them mine indubitably. [more on this attitude in your work and how it relates to his-bricolage etc-ted] That’s the thing, I don’t have your humbleness, I don’t want to back up to let them have their own influence. I am still there through their clumsiness.
I heard about you and your oeuvre quite late, but then I was like feverish about everything you’ve done! When I first googled you, I saw this famous picture of you in front several of your furniture at the LACMA’s retrospective in 2006. I vividly remembered having the French journal Libération in my hands with your face on front cover the day of your death. This exact picture. I remember opening it to see your Bibliothèque Claustra Carlton. And I remember not going further. ALL THIS YEARS I COULD HAVE KNOW YOU. I could have think of you for every weird object I acquired during those years. My piggy lamp, the creamy tool with its handle and four long flat thin plastic arms that the function remains unknown after all these years, the coloured grooved cones, my singing tooth brush, those kind of things. I don’t really know if either I provoke my experiences by building an overwhelming surrounding or if anyway the surrounding would provoke me.
I went to the Musée des arts Décoratifs last time I was in Paris. More or less just for you. I knew you’d be at the end of the chronologically arranged path. When I entered the first room, I was surrounded by dozens of medieval chairs. Sculpted pregnant ladies adorned their triangular backs. I was suddenly dreaming of sitting on those chairs, it became my only desire. I was burning and my legs appeared to be really weak. I went to the next room where three big chests from the beginning of the Italian renaissance were standing against the walls. A brown one wasn’t in particularly good shape, bruised by burns marks in many places, often circular like a stamp from a cup. All these years and all this marks by too many dead people unsettled me a bit, enough for me to seat on the guard chair. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked me when he came back from this long corridor where he seemed to usually pace. ‘Yes. Yourself?’ I answered. He quickly responded no. I 4
then had to move smoothly from the chair when I saw him grabbing its back with his thin hand. He then turned his long body to seat his butt in the same axe of the bottom’s chair and went slowly down. Once sat, he started speaking with a lower voice. He told me he has just been moved from the floor where he was keeping an eye on your things to this museum’s area. He added he has just been put here; he didn’t feel like staying next to these 3 massive chests. I was a bit dubious if I heard him well or if I this chest really got me nuts. He pointed at the brown one and said something like ‘I used to keep Sottsass’ things and felt light. To spend the day with his pieces of furniture always made me a bit too much dazed and too distant from the daily grind in a way that when I was going back home by tube, a coloured vase was replacing every person’s head seated next to me. Now I don’t see them anymore.’ The medieval area only provides him with too heavy ornaments and aggressive attitudes. Water-swollen woods, faded colours, saints with longs hairs, he was out of it he said. I left him alone as he started to speak louder and louder, looking at the brown chests with a bit too much insistence. Ettorre I couldn’t really believe it. I went through the other centuries a bit confused. And then I found you, You were glorious! You or your things.[i think this last phrase is interesting, and maybe can be developed through the continuing letters-ted]
I love you, from now and forever. [how sweet do you want to be? (serious question)-ted]
(have you spoken to lili about Sotsass? Shes interested in his experimental education work with global tools?? direct ways to form making communities outside of formal education, really interesting way to approach architecture - I think it's ok to be sickly sweet when talking to Sottsass, I very nearly bought his valentine typewriter last time I was in Glasgow but felt a bit grossed out by how romantic it all seemed- Kirsty)
I’ve been told to never start a letter with I. Though, I’m sure it is ruder to write to someone in the only aim to write about you, or even to write to yourself. It kind of happens every time though. Here, I am always self-conscious to speak too much about me when I write in English because of the capital i, which always pops out in a written text. If I see too much of those when I have a quick overview to what I just wrote, it almost makes me want to write in the third person mode which, in this case, is surely even worse. I wonder if it is something similar that you are doing with your mum’s art. If speaking in her name or from her in order to continue what she began in her artwork makes the entire thing less painful. It’s not that making art is painful, maybe it is just to maintain the capital i all the time. We both realised not so long ago that there are some common grounds in both of our work, I suppose, maybe, you and I are trying to use a tiny bigger sphere than the capital i, which would be our/a family. I can’t really help thinking in a very conservative manner, that if I act more like a mother or use the common idea of motherhood, you are more like a dad to your own work, trying to keep a line of descent through continuing your mum’s research and by pushing your objects to try several life option or simply function. The main thing that seems to move us aside is the fact that I enact my role, whilst you
might behave naturally, as I see it.
There is this book (Sennet, 2008) that talks about the craftsman‘s workshop as a prolongation of the house where ‘surrogate parenting’ can happen. Craftsman used to live in their workshop and kids would be sent there to learn a skill but also to be brought up. Here we spend so much time in our studios, I tried to open my house’s door with the school’s key, and my studio with my house’s key for almost the last two years now. Automatically and every day. Maybe it is just a blank moment that happens every time I hold my key to enter a space that I know is at least partially mine, but it always confuses me that I never get it right in which space I enter. It is not really surprising though according to how absentminded I can be, I make tea and then forget to drink it. But the cold tea is quite a meaningless fact; I mix my working place and my living space. I wonder if this is something that might have happened to you to and if this is related to what we do.
With all my very best,
I was so surprised by how quick you can deliver such an answer! Sometimes it takes me days, weeks to answer something. Sometimes I don’t answer emails almost on purpose, as kind of an inappropriate matter of principle, only because I hate to be asked to answer as soon as possible; I came to hate that internet made communication so easy that there is no other choices than to be easy too. Well, so, thank you for not being like me by giving me an answer! You made the whole letter thingy more real, I can’t speculate so freely on people now, which is for the best I think.
I did think you would be really horrified by my fatherhood-behaviour’s idea about your work, but you know, it’s something that simply crossed my mind several time. I am of course really glad to hear that your dad doesn’t treat you as you treat your ceramics! I think you mentioned once that if your objects were your kids, the way you treat them would be punished by law. Very true, very funny! In my occasionally chauvinist mother tongue, fatherhood also means authorship and vehicles an idea of possession and something that you have to claim. And I can’t imagine something further from your attitude. That’s what I mean by your father-like natural behaviour compared to my consciousness on enacting a mother to my sculptures. I know that those don’t need my care, but for so I provide it anyway as a topcoat of their thingness, or my own humanness. You don’t provide care for your objects, but you might simply provide them, on and on. I partially tried to pretend that my behaviour was natural to a guest tutor this year. I couldn’t perform my invented craziness for more than 40 minutes. Then I called him silly for asking where my sculpture was about to go on holiday, as I prepared it for a trip.
What you called coolness and a distance from your work, I always admired it, as a detachment from the materiality of the work and his possible fetishisation. Which is for me really hard to obtain as a sculptor/stuff maker. I in a certain way always feel attached to the things I do, even though maybe less when there are several of the same one. I still remember you in the middle of the opening of this exhibition we had last year in Geneva, grabbing a piece of unfired ceramics you made and throwing it on the floor to hold a wire. It is much more exaggerated in my memory than what it really was I suppose. But I stupidly really loved that moment of public bad treatment. People around you didn’t know it was yours. What if they thought it was maybe a game they could play? In the myth I created of you since this day, you would have liked it. Not 100% sure though.
Thanks again for your answer!
Have a nice day and see you later at school maybe,
[this section is great, but i'd be wary, as with some of the other bits in a lesser way, how insular it is. i think maybe this is part of your point with the whole audience configuration above. for example, does a general reader need more resources to understand what youre getting at...remember the lifeguards-ted]
△△△△△△△△△△△△ (This is a hand letter, but I cant upload the images.)
Dear M. Walther, About a year ago, I saw your things in Switzerland in the city where my mum comes from. It was the first time I could see them outside of a book or a webpage. Everything was packed or stored in glass boxes. White fabrics slowly turning yellow, a grey version of yellow. Drawings and pictures on the wall, in a single line as I remember. I mainly remember being slightly excited. Being the only one in the room, I got the same feeling as when one his favorite band in a concert and get the impression that ad singer is looking straight in his eyes. This peaceful feeling gently turned into frustration as I couldn’t touch neither unfold. We are used to impose this intimacy to objects, holding them is how we make sense of their functions and maybe we can feel them. So when we lose this option in museum, I think we also lose an understanding, a possible heat wave. I don’t mean it as a criticism for this experience I had in Switzerland> I absolutely love what you do and how you do it. This shift you achieve with the object becoming a form is absolutely brilliant I think. But there is this thing when you know you can’t touch. It does mean that someone is telling you you shouldn’t even expect this kind of relationship with the object. When I was a kid, I was told to ‘touch with my eyes’ in shops. Through the years, I had to develop some kind of strategy, so I could at least touch when I couldn’t hold. So in museum for example, I turn my back to the sculptures to face the museum guards so I can discreetly stroke it with my fingers behind me. I don’t think it’s a psychotic syndrome. In the book The Craftsman Sennet says that ‘stored information about holding a ball (…) helps the brain make sense of a two dimensional photograph of a ball’. So remembering holding something helps to recognize its representation. It is rather abstract in a way as we are so used to images that it’s quite particular to imagine not being able to recognize a picture of a daisy if you’ve never touch it. But it’s a truly charming idea. I became quite obsessed with it. Can you imagine if being taught how something is named would have to be done in the same time as holding it. We would learn how to touch in the same time as learning how to speak. Might also be why I admire your work, because I more or less think it’s what it’s about, maybe more specifically for the hand pieces. I often wonder especially for the Werksatz if the memory of the action is more important than the object that produced it in the first place. And that would be why they can’t be shown as objects, and so, why my frustration in Geneva would have been a bit childish. This letter has no agenda, but I’d still like to offer you this little thing that you might have got in the box. It’s part of my work as an artist, but of course I feel too shy to explain it to you. I hope you’ll like it anyway, this one is especially for you. I wish you the very best. Anouchka Oler
[general note-this is great, keep going! i think the format works perfectly, fragmented correspondences about bodily experiences...but you will need to draw tighter threads between them eventually-ted]
(I love the highly subjectual take on the thesis project and you really generously shine through. But considering that you are not far from pushing the word limit, you might have to eventually consider focusing on fewer specific correspondances as to leave room for further textual excursions? Because I agree on the element that Ted mentions on the possible insularity of it. Fro)
(I feel the opposite, it is only in the letter to me in which you don't have to include a wider readership automatically (we have some platform for conversation established) I worry about shoe horning thesis appropriate material into the text. There is a consistency to what you are writing, the letters are to people whose making directly addresses yours, you mediate their production through a bodily experience, it makes sense - Kirsty)