Tracy's Text

From Fine Art Wiki

Working Things Out and In

In this text I will lay out briefly a previous methodology and describe some recent work/tests with which I am trying to come closer to establishing some new working methodologies.

Last semester, and for the previous seven years, I was focused on working with the materiality of video, working in quite an intuitive and process-based way. A lot of past projects were phenomenological responses to different sites and locations. I thought of myself as a medium or filter – which the site I visited travelled through and came out the other side in an artwork, in a gallery. I wanted to bring some of the essence of an environment or object and place it into an art object, that would have the ability to be the transmitter of this essence to a viewer so that they could experience it too – aiming for an affective response from the viewer.

Previous work was very singularly focused in method and concept. I haven’t totally come to work out what kind of direction I completely want to go in with new work but I feel I would like it to be messy, to ask questions constantly, I would like to constantly allow myself to take risks (because what’s the worst that can happen?).

A true story

At the beginning of semester two I wrote a text in short-story format (approx. 1,200 words) about the aftermath of my parents’ separation. The story is a true account written from my perspective. I am an interlocutor in the story – involved but on the periphery, having enough information to retell from primary experience but not located in the ‘center’ of the drama. The story tells of what happened between the couple to cause the break-up and tells of a relationship that my mother develops with a woman in the following years. Hurt and blame move and shift place throughout the text and never settle in one place. It is constructed chronologically, looking back over a six-year period. The text focuses on pivotal moments that economically deliver the narrative, acting as a skeleton to carry the story and convey tentatively its emotional impact.


Firstly, I did this because I felt like it. I wanted to engage with this subject, and I wanted to write something. Secondly, I was thinking a lot about what happens when an artist makes a work through assemblage/construction, or by whatever process and then it is presented as a fixed object in a gallery or other situation, a finished thing that is contained, is available for interpretation. It leaves the hands of the artist and is delivered to the potential responses of a viewer. I was interested in the idea that this situation has a bigger life outside of this work. In previous work my aim was to make an object that offered some kind of transcendence via a ‘special looking’ at reality. Here I wanted this telling to be true and straightforward, I didn’t wanted it to have any transformative quality but for it to be a glimpse at something bigger.

I showed it at the Open Studios as text printed on A2 card. I felt like perhaps it acted as the beginning of a conversation, that it was a personal sharing. I think the most effective way I’ve ‘shown’ it has been in tutorials reading it to one person. This afforded an intimacy that was more consistent with the text, and also I felt like I took more responsibility over it, more care for it – that I didn’t just place this revealing thing somewhere and run away. This is something I might look at employing when showing text works in the future.

Making clay things and thinking about making them

For the interim exhibition I showed an audio piece (approx. 6 min, looped) on a single set of headphones titled Kneading to Explain Myself. I wanted to think about art making in a very general way. I made a series of simple three-dimensional clay forms, about the size of my palm. During making them I examined and wrote about the process: my relationship to the objects during making them, after they were made, decisions I made about them and about how to make them, etc. The audio piece is a recording of me reading this text. This was located in the first floor of the gallery and labeled on the floor plan.


in studio

I placed two office-type cardboard boxes in the basement on the floor in a corner filled with the clay pieces, which were loosely piled into them. The clay pieces were not fired; therefor they are very fragile. I didn’t label them on the floor plan. I wanted to subordinate them and open the possibility to them being overlooked - to take the mantel from under them and tell them they weren’t really an artwork. As I describe in the audio, I had developed a relationship with them; they kept hanging around me. If I had shown only the audio it may have been read as speculative. I wanted proof of them to be in the space, and I also wanted to discipline them. I showed them like this to establish an inverted hierarchy between the objects and the description of the objects – an inversion to the normative artwork-text relationship in gallery display.

The making of this work was driven by a want to question what artistic practice is. In a way I was using it to follow a thread back to the beginning because I thought that would be the best place to start when trying to find new ways to work. This has sparked a keen interest for me in looking at the human impetus to produce art.

Interviewing others about making things

I asked my classmates could I interview them about the work they were making for the interim exhibition. So I’ve done seven interviews. I conducted these outside the studio, going for coffee or for a walk. I recorded the audio of these conversations. In these I wanted to hear about their impetus for making the work, their processes and the decisions they made and why they made them.

Currently, I am in a process of listening back and transcribing these files. I want to work through them to develop a more focused set of questions, with clearer intentions. I will then interview my other classmates whom have also kindly agreed to be involved. At the moment I am looking at this activity as research only – trying to understand through empirical questioning why people make what they make.

Talking to people in this format has opened up ongoing two-way dialogues with people about work, this also I see as being an integral aspect of method: discussing art making one-to-one, sharing ideas, concerns and helping each other.

Online conversations with Hannah and Oisín (two artist friends from Ireland)

In the year before coming here Hannah, Oisín and I met every so often to work together. We brought some of our artworks to one of our studio spaces and put them together to construct a blob/pile. As we met more we brought more things we had made, each time we met we would discuss the things, what they were by themselves, what they could do together - this discussion and physical assembling influenced what we would make for the pile the next time we met. We never showed the work in public.

The three of us have begun having regular online (live-type) conversations, about our work and about topics that interest us. We collectively try to work things out a bit. This has become a good tool in my ‘method’ (method to do what I don’t quite know yet). For me this is acting as a continuous dialogue that supports the development of thought surrounding practice and production. It also serves as an archive of this thought – useful for looking back, and also becomes an artifact of thought and process.


Using ‘interviewing’ as a tool to make artwork collaboratively with someone else (beginning with people who are not artists, which doesn’t mean they’re not artists)

This idea has stemmed from interviewing my classmates. At the moment I am working at resolving a method to begin this project. Currently my plan is to work with people in three sessions: 1. we meet and discuss their general interests, daily activities, likes, dislikes; 2. we meet and discuss objects, materials, forms which they might have a drive toward, and combine these interests and those discussed in the previous session to invent an artwork; 3. I film them describing the artwork.

I want to do this to explore again the impetus to create, and working with a ‘non-artist’ might mean working from more of a beginning point.

Writing bad jokes when I visit an exhibition

This is something new I’ve started to do. I’m not exactly sure why yet. (But it’s loads of fun.)


Making an oral story with my sister

I have started to invent a story with my sister over the telephone. We will construct a story through multiple telephone conversations, making things up, using bits from real life but we will not write anything down. I am interested in seeing how the story will be constructed only using oral technology and memory to sustain it. I will think how this process has influenced the type of narrative we end up with.

The fact that she is not an artist has two pertinences: her experience of having a chat is geared toward 1. helping me, 2. making a funny and good story that she can use in life as well. I wanted to do this project collaboratively so that there would be two data storage devices (or brains involved), and so that we can spark ideas off each other – and both our authorships/voices will be felt in the work – I think this might be the only way to construct a story orally (this is interesting).

Ongoing project: Foaming at the Mouth

This is a project I began a few months before coming to the Piet Zwart. It has greatly influenced my desire to change my practice, and for me to do more things with art.

I collaborate with my friend Emer (who is a curator) to curate the project. Foaming at the Mouth is an ongoing series of ‘visual art’ spoken word nights. Last summer we held a series of four monthly events in the basement of an old landmark pub in Dublin. This summer we are continuing the series with two events in Dublin and one in Amsterdam.

One of the most exciting things about this project was taking art outside an institutional setting, and placing it in an environment where it can be received in a very different way. It seemed to remove a heightened analytical response from an audience; their experience became one of live engagement, and this was driven by their previous experience of being in a pub. This has made think about the different kinds of experience art can engender, and I would like to consider this more in some future work.

Ending for now

I have felt over the past few months that I have needed to figure out exactly why I wanted to stop the way I was working – that their must have been inherent failures and I needed to work them out. If I do that though (and I have) maybe I discredit the work. Fundamentally I had become bored, and unexcited and this is what triggered a want to change. In moving forward then importance perhaps should be placed on not being bored pragmatically. I could have left some works out of this text and allowed for a more focused inquiry perhaps. But I feel like something that something important for future making will be keeping a broader spectrum of activity happening simultaneously so that art making, for me, will be a process of constantly working things out as opposed to honing a skill.

Some reference stuff:

Bernadette Corporation, Reena Spalding, and other collaborative works

Mike Kelley writings, also performance work

Pierce, Sarah, A Politics of Interpretation (p159-173 of Curating Subjects, ed. Paul O’Niell), (2007), Open Editions and de Appel

Diedrich, Diederichsen, Radicalism as Ego Ideal: Oedipus and Narcissus (2011), e-flux

Megged, Matti, Dialogues in the Void: Beckett and Giacometti, 1985, Lumen Books, New York

Bochner, Mel, curator, Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant To Be Viewed as Art, (1966) – Exhibition

General Idea

Beatrice Gibson (film work)

Brad Philips (writing and painting)

Maria Fusco

Donald Barthelme (writing)

Julio Cortazor (writing)

Lydia Davis (writing)

Tripp, Sarah, You are of Vital Importance

Bataille, Visions of Excess

Foster, Hal, Artist as Ethnographer (VSR Seminar)

Taussig, Michael, What Colour is the Sacred?

Dector, Joshua, Art is a Problem

Rubenstein, Raphael, The Miraculous

Myles, Eileen, Painted Clear, Painted Black,

Roy Sorenson writing on Blob

Jane Bennett on Vibrant Matter

Sculpture Communism, Jan de Cock

Chris Kraus, Where Art Belongs

Orality and Literature, Walter Ong

Dan Graham, Rock my Religion, documentary film

The Passion According to GH, Clarice Lispector (Jan seminar)

To look at: History of Shit, Dominique Laporte

Lexicon of the Mouth, Poetics and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imaginary, Brandon LaBelle

Finnegan’s Wake, James Joyce