Samuel Beckett's absurdest play Waiting for Godot was a play that sat on the shelves of my childhood home as part of my eldest brothers senior years of English and Drama studies. I was always curious about the title. It seemed to evoke a certain sense of obscurity without ever opening the cover. As a teenager I recall having attempted to read it but the seemingly trivial dialogue and impossible narrative made little connection. In 1981 I had the opportunity to discover a more poignant connection with 'Godot' as I attended an amateur performance in Dublin during a year of hitch-hiking in Europe. Although after a complete night of drinking with some of the cast after the performance in several Dublin bars the play remained as vague as ever. These transcripts written in reverse are not about finding meaning in 'Godot' but are more concerned with an interest in text and in particular how the text of a play establishes a certain thought-space, or liminal space within a continuum of references between language, performance and the play as a book form.
Writing instruments: wire strands bound with tape.
Archivum I-XXVIII (detail)...graphite, polaroid, text and bees wax.
The notion of an archive often affords the opportunity to engage in the unfolding of an historical narrative that attempts to construct a specific truth. The play between the methods of gathering descriptions of the past, our personal experience of the present and how one interprets the varying states of transition between the two is something that continues to interest me.
This is part of the reason I find visiting a museum environment more visually stimulating than art galleries. It's as if the methods of display and the placement of a diverse range of disparate objects within a blend of textual descriptions opens up a more visually stimulating experience of free association. The museum environment as a space that re-presents 'history' often gives one permission to merge the experience of the past and present into a collection of objects and surfaces that dissolve the notion of any fixed narrative.
Although there is a very deliberate sense that we are being presented with a singular historical narrative, inevitably the juxtaposition of different objects and information triggers associations that were never intended. It is this heightened sense of things that I find too often remains illusive within the gallery experience. Perhaps it is part of the reason why I believe that 'conceptual overlay' instead of 'conceptual underpinning' is destroying the experience of so much contemporary art.
This series of collage pieces explores the notion of the archive as a collection where elements of drawing, the photograph and text are deliberately placed in a state of flux.
Archivum I: graphite, text, polaroid and bees wax on bound paper.
A new series of small collisions of pencil drawings, polaroids and text...the bees wax bringing a contradiction of muted layers to surface and detail yet in places a heightened transparency. In some cases these feel as if they are 'sketches' for larger works...somewhat tentative and uncertain...perhaps more fully realized as a series of etching and collage pieces...whatever they are they seem to hold a certain transitional state...perhaps that is what they attempt to translate...the dissolving of any fixed 'concept'...to be honest I'm tired of the word...tired of seeing art works smothered by concept...tired of seeing it but in particular tired of hearing and reading concepts that simply impede the articulations of the visual...all that is ever needed is some kind of stumbling description...beautifully inadequate articulations.
Archivum II: graphite, text, polaroid and bees wax.
Archivum IV: graphite, text, found photograph and bees wax.
Archivum IV: graphite, text, holy picture of the Virgin Mary and bees wax.
Mnemosyne 1...polaroid collage in tobacco tin and resin.
Many of the works in Marginalia attempt to make connections between personal narrative and various manifestations of the past. At times a single sewing needle and thread floating within a resin surface has the capacity to evoke associations of a childhood era where clothes were hand or machined stitched by mothers or aunts.... a collage cut-out wing pattern that gestures toward the transition of things and of almost everything eventually taking flight. Resin as a material presents contradictory associations...allowing for a fluid transparency, heightening the presence of objects and yet capable of capture and embedded stillness. The past as subject matter is inescapably nostalgic yet it provides an index to something beyond a mere love of safe old things. It keeps the 'contemporary' desire for everything to be new at a distance and allows for an incremental unfolding of a melancholic reflection and a heightened awareness of the need to remain engaged with the past. Marginalia continues until March 22nd. at Bosz Gallery, Fortitude Valley.
Photographs by Jonathan Tse
Mnemosyne II...polaroid collage in tobacco tin and resin.