Thursday, November 09, 2006


Continuing on from yesterday's post, which you may read if you care for continuity, or skip if you are a rebel thought nomad, trim sails to the wind.

What I like about Hoegsberg's Thought Project is its unfinished nature, which is perhaps due to its quasi-collaborative method. It takes as its subject "thought", but doesn't present a rounded set of conclusions or deductions or implications: it focuses on thought (and ideas and even art) as process, not product. And I think I'm interested in the process of thought, as made evident in the narratives accompanying each photograph. They trace routes of thinking, sometimes doubling back, sometimes leaping across a chasm to end up somewhere different, but never sitting still, since I suppose that's impossible. Maybe thought is a kind of movement (a dance?) and too often we do the movement in private, attempting wherever possible to show the world only the finished pose, the final figure rather than the clumsy routine we've been through to arrive there.

Gillian Wearing's art frequently centres on the line between ordinary people's inner worlds and the faces they present to the public. I first saw her stuff a few months back at The Greatest Gallery In The World and was immediately impressed. It was in the same room as some shots by another favourite, Cindy Sherman, so I was double-chuffed. And Wearing's series of photographs which feature herself, um, wearing almost perfectly realised latex masks of other people is very Sherman-esque.

The photo sequence in question, though is part of the series "Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say". Wearing asked passersby to write a thought on a piece of paper, which they then held up as she took their photograph, and some of the results are fantastic exercises which question our expectations and social stereotypes.

Other works in the Wearing exhibition currently on at ACCA include a confronting and touching series of photographs of a working-class prostitute with various of her regular clients, each accompanied by a handwritten (and often barely legible) letter by the respective client, explaining his feelings about her. The notes range from the heart-rending (the old man who declares that he loves her and wishes she wouldn't sell herself for the price of a beer) to the shocking (the angry soul who seems worried that she calls him a dud in the sack, and soons begins a horrible diatribe against her).

Something about the method here prevents the series from simply turning into another exercise in voyeurism, in prurient gasping "look how they live!" sensationalism. I think it's the way the subjects are given the opportunity to express themselves, without editorial intervention from Wearing, though as the framer she does have a lot of involvement in that sense, of course. And it's very interesting (and I'd venture to say quite deliberate) that the woman in question doesn't get the chance to respond to these writings, or express herself. We don't get to know her at all. Do we get to know the men any better?

I typed in this web address today and came across a very sweetly sad little site - a blog from the US covering two and a half years of a relationship (between 'Jennifer' and 'Alan'). It was set up so that they could write how they really felt to one another, though reading it, I got the feeling that they'd be pretty open in real life too. Who knows. But charting the course of their ups and downs, the blog makes for fascinating reading, especially if you just click on random dates. There are times when they seem wildly, passionately in love, but other entries hint of a cooling off from one party or another, or a feeling that something is being held back, or that something is being covered over.

The saddest thing is the way it ends on Sunday July 25, 2004. Jennifer is the last to post, and her final line comes from nowhere: "i feel so sad and forlorn! where are you when i need you?!"

And that's all she wrote.

Unfinished, peripatetic, ideas-based, half-baked, processive, meandering: something seems to link all of these things, but I'm not sure whether one adjective will really nail it. And of course it's a family resemblance, not a single feature.

But it's hard enough finding work that I like, so I thought I'd start one myself, or at least throw out a net and see what it brings in. So here's a little pointer to a project I'm starting which will be a magazine called Book, or perhaps a book called Magazine.

There will be 52 copies. Each week, I'll post a copy of a blank book (each book will be different) to somebody, who will contribute whatever they like to it. Writing, obviously, and drawing and painting and music and cut-outs and pasted objects and origami and coffee stains and pieces torn out and lamination and essays and plagiarism and photographs and stencils and so on, it'll all be welcome. Every edition will have its own theme, though these can be interpreted widely. It's a pretty open brief. And when its recipient has added (or subtracted) as much as they want, they'll post it on to the next person.

The final results will vary in quality, I imagine, but in toto should be fun to compare. Who knows?

I'll track the various copies across the world via the website, too, and people will be able to post impressions on the developing books as they recieve them.

If you'd like to be added to the list, just keep an eye on the site for more info.

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