One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, and Three Sideways

Posted on Monday June 18, 2012

Back in the studio, things is goin’ slow. After dropping my first project idea (because it was looking a bit obvious) in favour of Kristallnacht, I’m having the opposite problem – too many possibilities.

So far, I’ve painted a heap of timber (left over from pulling apart the stage built for the recent TEDx event here) and split it to create some wreckage-y items. My challenge is to recombine these in a way that isn’t too literal and heavy-handed, but suggests the destruction of that awful event in November 1938.

I’m also frustrated by the working space. It’s clean and well-lit, but it’s underground, it has walls, and it feels confining. I’ve ‘done a Geoff’ and expanded into the vacant next-door studio, but I still feel hemmed in. Maybe I’m just missing being able to see out. If I could, I’d see the base of Google’s NYC headquarters. I could watch them at the same time as they’re watching me – and you, and pretty well everyone else on the planet. (I find it ironic that there’s no sign on the Google building that identifies it as such).

Mr Google knows where you live…

In our studios we’re also restricted in the materials we can use: no spray products, nothing that makes a smell. That’s less an issue for the painters than it is for we sculptors, who like to use a range of sniffy glues, foams, plastic surface coatings and the like. And we also like to bash things, and set fire to them, and other sorts of wickedness – all of which are proscribed here, for fairly obvious reasons.

I need to smash a pane of glass, so I can capture some video and audio for inclusion in my work and to get a lot of little bits of glass. It’s taken me a day to find a space in which to do this that is acceptable to management here, and to build a frame to constrain the glass while it’s being smashed. Back home, a quick tap with the hammer and it’d be done. But hey, I have my own space, which is more than UMass provided last year, so who’s grumbling?

Making my work ‘work’ is more of a challenge. Today I did the first test assembly. It looks like a cross between a supersized ‘Pick Up Stix’ game and a demolition heap.

Work-in-progress

I guess it can only get better. Unless it gets worse.  In which case I’ll try to explain it away by claiming that it’s actually a playful piece that captures today’s struggle between an exhaustive, normative, post-zeitgeist fürschlagen* and a recombinant, paradoxical-yet-resolvable quest to find the inner self in a world in which only the outer self, the en-gendered self-as-projected-to-others, dominates in a queerly non-Manichean way.

I can see this is going to be a long week.

* Don’t bother checking your German-English dictionary. I made it up. Sounds convincing, though, don’t you think? Try it on your friends!