Wednesday, February 23, 2011

the thing itself

As I mentioned earlier this winter, I am sitting in on a sculpture class this semester at NSCAD. Taught by Thierry Delva, the class is called "science into art" and is studio based. Our second project is a challenge. In the class, we've been discussing the idea of the artwork being "the thing itself" versus "the illustration of the thing". Somewhere in the middle lies "the demonstration of the thing". The "thing" we speak of is the science. A lot of art work is referential: illustrating or refering to something that it is not. My mapping pieces are an example of this - they are not the actual shoreline, but are instead a representation of the erosion of the shore illustrated in woven cloth.

When we talk about the science becoming the art itself, we are delving into the realm of the work itself being the phenomena. And yet, this is different than a mere demonstration of a scientific phenomena which would veer into science fair project or museum display. Needless to say, I am having some difficulty coming up with a satisfying idea for this challenge. I may be over-thinking it....sticking with simple but poetic notion, and something that is accomplishable in one week (too many of my ideas I have involve lots of time passing).

In researching other artists, I have found two strong examples of pieces that incorporate textiles into works that are "the thing itself". The first is a piece by Judith Fergerl called Galatean Heritage: a circular knitting machine that creates a long cloth tube that is then spun, being forced to double up and twist back on itself.

The second is by Janine Antoni (I remember seeing images of this when I was a student and being very struck by it) called Slumber - the artist sleeps in the gallery on a cot with electrodes that read her brainwaves while in REM sleep. The next day, she wakes and weaves her brain patterns (on a loom of her own design), using strips she tears from the nightgown she wore as she slept. At night she sleeps under her dream blanket. After many performances/exhibitions of this piece, the blanket is now over 200 feet long.

I've been thinking about over-spun handspun wool: under tension at its full length, and when that tension is released how it wants to twist and turn around's really about time and space, but the question is, how do I make this curious material phenomena into compelling art?

1 comment:

  1. A lot depends on the definition of "science" which can simply mean "knowledge" but can also mean the process of inference and deduction from experimental procedures.

    The REM example is interesting, although I think it might actually be referential. After all, the brain waves produced in sleep do not cause the art to exist; they are the design, certainly, but the artist has to get up, go to the loom and then bring the artwork into being through reference to the scientific results. Which doesn't make it less interesting......

    Wool under tension, recoiling on itself could be interesting. My first thought was to wonder what could be achieved through the combination of core-spun and electricity, if the exterior fibres contained conductive elements and were charged (possibly by electricity produced by the spinning wheel's motion, like bike lamps), thereby producing an electromagnet.....

    Neat ideas with which to play!!