Dan T first draft proj proposal
What are you working on now?
I am working on unpacking, unpicking, analysing, rethinking and contextualising recent work and making small gestures towards new work. I'm interested in the relationship of subjectivity to immediate material conditions such as flesh, furniture and clothes, and also to ideological factors (especially gender) which inform and are informed by these material conditions. I'm motivated by the conviction that there are foundational fictions that let us link such ideas as the word "I" to the nearest body, and in trying to set up situations that agitate and investigate these links. I am working on finding words to better express the thought contained in the previous sentence.
What are you thinking of making?
I continue to be interested in the status of descriptions and plans, and in bringing these things to form in material and language works. I enjoy the tension around a very finished and polished object or text which is centrally concerned with another (absent or nonexistent) object or text. I find this interesting both on the level of tragic failure to have existed and the level of exciting possibility to come into existence. I also find it an approachable way into addressing perceived crises of objects in art, criticism etc without reverting to what I find a very dry, prescriptive and unsympathetic school of thought (object oriented ontology etc).
I am thinking of making a body of writing and a body of sculptural/performance based work, each of which fall between the miniature and the monumental. That is to say, they are mid-sized. The outcomes of my studio practice often contain large chunks of text and my writing practice often begins with descriptions or reflections on objects so it is likely that the two will cross-pollinate.
The body of writing is likely to be an 8,000 word story about the young crown Prince of an unnamed European state. A 3,000ish word version of this story already exists. The Prince lives in a crumbling medieval castle in the west of Ireland which he is renovating with the help of a modernist architect. He is an art collector, an alcoholic, and an unsuccessful womaniser. He semi-secretly hates modernism and is very lonely. He is ambitious and right wing. The story will describe a few minutes he spends in his study as night falls, attempting to write and send an email which collapses and folds together various of his concerns.
The body of sculptural work has far less certain and defined boundaries. My hunch is that the objects will be concerned with bringing resolution and scale to a number of ongoing concerns which include: -how can I give political stakes to silent situations? -how can I relate voice/language/sound/content to object/material/stuff/form in a way that is complicated and formally experimental? -how can structures and objects engage viewers' bodies without making implicit assumptions about what their bodies are like or what they are capable of? am I talking about ideas of bodies, materiality of bodies, materiality of ideas or ideas of materiality? -what are spatially interesting ways to exhibit drawings? -what does a wooden coat look like?
At the moment one very tentative avenue of exploration is making what I'm calling Public Museums of Private Space. These are made by finding ways of wearing sculptures I have made in the (recent) past and then going outside with them on. These sculptures mostly resemble domestic furniture.
How do you plan to make it?
I plan to make the writing mostly by developing modes of close reading. I'm interested in how atmosphere is generated in prose that on the surface feels crisp and rational and would like to study the mechanics of successful examples of this on the level of grammar, syntax, punctuation, duration etc. My immediate sources for this kind of writing include Elena Ferrante, Penelope FitzGerald, Lydia Davis etc. I have no problem generating large boring prolix blocks of text so I am interested in proceeding to analyse my own writing with the tools I develop and seeing if I can apply some of the successful techniques back to it.
The sculptural work seems to be happening through remaking and redrafting the existing things I am unpacking unpicking etc. So for example I begin with an object and performance I made for an exhibition in the summer. The object was a table with two round holes in its surface and a crude face sticking up out of it. It was accompanied by a recording of my voice speculating about what the table would say if the table could talk, describing how it would tell you about five chairs that had surrounded it. The voice speculates on how the table would know the things it was telling you, where it would draw its authority from, and how it would relate to knowledge and authority.
For the performance I lay underneath the table on its crossbeam and stuck my hands up through the holes. As the recording discussed each of the five chairs in turn I made blind drawings of them based on what the table could know or express about them, it is could know or express. I thought of the part of me that was under the table being a cross between a director and a stagehand ("backstage") and the part of me that stuck through completing the table and becoming a cyborg actor on the "stage".
I was interested in making a situation in which the voice was not exactly the table's, but approximated it, was not coming from my performing body but was my voice, and various other inter-related complications. I wanted to avoid the situation being directly 'about' personification, illustration, or exposition. Rather I wanted a few forms and positions to orbit one another in a complex 3-dimensional arrangement without quite cohering into a consistent fictional person or subject.
The relative ease and comfort of my under-table position created an authority or mastery of its own however, so next I was interested in making something that would create a more physically demanding performative relationship between the same elements. I wanted to table to play me rather than me playing it. Luckily I am the singer in a band called the Postpeople, which is like a rock band that has all weird wrong stuff instead of drums, guitars etc. For our most recent gig I lay on top of a table with holes in it for my face and arms so that the "stage" area was under the table and the "backstage" was on top. Through its relationship to my lungs, throat, shoulders etc this conditioned factors about how I could use my voice and body onstage in my "rockstar" mode.
The first Public Museum of Private Space so far involves me wearing the tabletop from this Postpeople performance as a kind of upright sandwich board-meets-comic foreground-meets-pillory. There are various images from Russian Constructivism and early UK punk stuck onto it. It's some kind of reappraisal or representation of historical incidences of the public presentation of radical politics which I am extremely reluctant to dismiss as 'failed utopias'.
Why do you want to make it?
I want to explore the possibility of a sculpture or a style being a prison for a voice. (this statement, problematic as it is, might be enough. ?? the rest of what follows in this section was maybe useful for me to write but is probably not a good way to pitch the coming months' work)
I want to see what strategies the voice might use to get free. Does the work "end" when the voice frees itself? When I read this question to the group some people misheard 'prison' as 'prism', which I think is valid. Is defraction as good a metaphor as forced containment for talking about objects/spaces which relate to but do not comfortably own their contents? There are really big questions about why I want to imprison something and why I am using such a negative and scary metaphor. I haven't been to prison and it might be a bit bloody rich for me with my nice art school life to use it as a metaphor for nice art projects I get to do.
I'm also a little bit concerned about the gender politics of the textual mimesis, mostly because at the moment I just don't know what exactly they are. I'm intensely conscious of the fact that this management of subtext and subcurrent is something that has been developed by female writers each with their own specific historical and political contexts and agendas but within a broad project of wresting the sole claim to the authoritative voice away from men. I enjoy Judith Butler's analysis of Luce Irigaray's performative mimesis of the philosophical father's voice and her unpacking of the meanings and effects of this mimesis. I haven't been able to perform a similar analysis of the results of my own experiments with mimesis. I'm worried that reverse or second level mimesis might be nothing more than boring fanboy-ery at best and unwelcome or even violent re-appropriation of this authoritative speaking voice at worst. I don't know if mobilising this reverse mimesis in the service of a critique of masculinity from within makes the situation any better or if it might even make it worse.
I'm also conscious that this is just an MA thesis and is maybe the most appropriate space I'll ever have to conduct this potentially disastrous and bastardous experiment.
I don't know why it is that I mainly work with things I hate. On a personal level I'm anti-sexist, anti-royalist, and in favour of prison abolition. I basically like furniture and sculpture though, even if I think they could use a little rethinking to be less normative. Liking these things calms me. One question is how to fold enough joy and pleasure into the mechanics of the critique to keep an audience interested and able to stay with the thing.
I'm aware that this "why" question has been answered by a rationalisation of reasons why not, but I think that my drive to continue picking at this scab despite this rationale constitutes the beginning of a "why".
Who can help you and how?
My tutors and peers and friends can help me in a thousand ways with their very intelligent words and generous critiques, as well as their inspiring practices. I'm extremely reliant on each of their different approaches and critical eyes. They also tell me to do things like speak slower and take it slightly easier on myself. Elena Ferrante helps me to understand the power of a barely controlled sentence. David Bowie helps me to be unfaithful to ideas of myself and my practice. Judith Butler helps me to remember to analyse the thing that grounds the thing I am analysing, to think about how any "given" is on some level a proposition to be challenged.
It is quite possible that I could use the help of a voice coach. I should probably go to the theatre more and maybe read more theatre theory because staging is sort of the big undiscussed unanalysed underpinning to everything I've ever made (I don't even know where to start with this, my name throws up the names Bakhunin and Artaud but I barely even know who they are).
The suprematists help me to believe there will be a future.
Lawrence Weiner is probably a bit too man-ish for me to take but I continue to agree that 'I don't want to fuck up someone's day on their way to work, I want to fuck up their whole life.' On a literary level I appreciate this statement's rapid turn from generosity to grandiose egomania.
Relation to previous practice?
My practice has been orbiting these themes and ideas for quite a while, and as I've described it tends to feed on itself and old works directly generate new ones. I see the work I'm planning to make now as a bit of a break in that I feel the desire to make something that is perhaps slightly more monolithic and cohesive, but also want to maintain and nurture the discursive and formally problematic elements that I value. I feel up to this challenge, despite this text's hesitancy.
Relation to a larger context?
I think some things I've talked about above about theatricality, performativity, exhibition making and the crisis of the object cover this on a sort of art historical level.
On a personal level I'm becoming really aggravated by the cash barrier to entering museums in most countries in the world, coupled with the generally boring quality of public art. I'm developing a weird low level conviction that I want to find non-condescending, non-elitist ways of connecting with larger audiences. I'm interested in art historical precedents for this though, and Vivian's seminar this year might help. Not speaking any Dutch could be a barrier or a boon in this regard.
Virility and Domination in Early 20th Century Vanguard Painting, Carol Duncan On Science Fiction, Anne Boyer Eileen Gray furniture and architecture, particularly E-1027 prototypes Alvar Aalto furniture Picasso guitar paintings, ballet russes costumes Testament of a furniture dealer, Ingvar Kamprad Gender Trouble, Bodies That Matter, Judith Butler Nomadic Subjects, Rosi Braidotti Testojunkie, Paul B. Preciado Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey F for Fake, Orson Welles Lancelot du Lac, Robert Bresson "The Neapolitan Novels", The Lost Daughter, Troubling Love, The Days of Abandonment - Elena Ferrante Figures in the Cycladic Museum, Athens One Week - Buster Keaton Shane MacGowan/The Pogues, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, David Bowie Joan of Arc: The image of female heroism, Marina Warner Cops: Twin Peaks, True Detective, Blade Runner, The Wicker Man, Memories of Murder, London Met Hipster Cop, Die Hard, The Third Policeman - Flann O'Brien Cartoons: Adventure Time, Maw and Paw, Gravity Falls, Avatar: The Last Airbender The Gift of Stones, Jim Crace A Month in the Country, JL Carr The Blue Flower, Innocence,The Beginning of Spring, Gate of Angels, Penelope Fitzgerald Testo Junkie, Paul B. Preciado Orlando, Virginia Woolf Tristan Tzara Sonia Delaunay The Complete Dramatic Works, Samuel Beckett Simon Fujiwara Frances Stark Laure Provost Tris Vonna Michell Hedwig Houben Mark Manders