Assignment

A few visitors to Love is Awesome have quizzed me on the reasoning behind the assignment format. I have thought about this quite a lot during the past week and am forming a few ideas about my decisions.

I suppose I want to present a lot of ideas in ways that convey both the meanings that can be ascribed to small gestures and activities, and the sense that such activities may be reproduced by anyone. I want to make work that could be adopted by any person and used like a recipe or a knitting pattern, almost to provide an empowering stimulus for artistic activity. I am interested in conveying the idea that anyone else could go out and utilise the format of a specific assignment as the basis for doing something creative or meaningful, and that in this way, some kind of ideas-exchange or dialogue may take place as the assignments are taken on and adapted and changed and altered in the world, by other people. Even if none of that stuff happens, I want to make work that is always suggestive of this trend.

I think that a very exciting exchange takes place when the audience participates in the work, but the terms of this participation are always very varied. In terms of assignments and participation, the main kind of response that I am encouraging is one of imitation. To draw something is to try and copy it, and to try and copy it, is to try and figure it out. This copying and rendering of things is (potentially) a more involved, experiential way of making sense of the world than merely digesting someone else’s efforts at the same task. Now not everyone wants to draw, but many activities can reproduce things in a process akin to the inquisitive process of drawing, and the assignment format is perfectly suited to this idea. Like a bowl of fruit that people draw, an assignment is a thing that can be copied in a personal search for meaning and experience. The difference is that for the assignments I am not using oil pastel; the assignments are derived from the material of daily life. A day I spent in London provided the basis for my flier. Personal experiences of using mobility aids generated the brief for the knitted walking stick cosy competition that I set up in 2007. The memoryphones explore the material that is memory and mixtapes. Finding beauty in the city is an exercise developed through my own experiences of walking, and my willingness to participate in Anna Francis’ web-based project… and so on. So some of the assignments are my own, some are assignments that I found in the world – and which you can find too – and decided to undertake.

In the same way that someone might make a sketch of something that they enjoy seeing (which will undoubtedly deepen their relationship with said thing) someone who has seen Love is Awesome could potentially now go away and knit a walking stick cosy or start writing down sounds they find interesting, or remember a mixtape they have loved or make a flier of their day. I am very interested in that; in who might invent an assignment after seeing this show or feel compelled to reconsider the meaning of something they have already done, and in how other peoples’ interpretations of the tasks or assignments could change the way I see them. So those are some of the ideas I have concerning assignments and the artist/audience relationship.

Additionally, the assignment format reflects my own uncertain and studious position in relation to the ideas I am exploring in my PhD and – I hope – presents ideas in an open way that invites debate and input rather than in a manner that suggests I am making some sort of final statement about anything. I think it is important to openly fail, to make mistakes, to try things out, to demonstrate a fallible and curious stance and to therefore create a permissive, imaginative environment.

Principally in setting up the work as I have done for Love is Awesome, I am presenting the work as a kind of study of life and sounds. The 13 assignments each explore the meanings of everyday actions and things and ideas and sounds, and collectively represent a complex set of ideas to do with participation, exchange, recording and creativity. I wanted the humble manilla folders with their lovely screenprinted designs to convey simultaneously an air of care and attention to detail, and also study or unfinished work. In the same spirit of continuous study, some of the assignments are being completed during the course of the exhibition.

From observing visitors’ responses to my assignment folders I feel that in some ways the closed envelope style of them deters the less confident gallery goer from digging around and reading my ‘reports’ on each assignment, thus somewhat negating my intentions. This is why it is so essential to present work in a gallery space, and to get feedback on that work and to test out ideas. I am forever learning that what makes sense in my head doesn’t translate in real life! So I think the manilla folders have not been such a success. Although many people do open the assignments and read the contents, I think a more open presentation style would have made the assignment idea accessible to those people who are afraid of getting it ‘wrong’ in a gallery situation and opening or touching something they are ‘not allowed’ to touch.

So that is some of what I have been thinking about assignments.

Good assignment sites and resources:

Learning to love you more – Miranda July and Harroll Fletcher

There is beauty in the city – Anna Francis

The Artist’s survival kit – Kerri Smith

101 Experiments in the philosophy of everyday life – Roger Pol Droit (book)

Mundane Appreciation – Claudia Figueiredo & Kayla Bell

2 Responses to Assignment

  1. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Blog Archive » Sunday Art Market

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