a plural association

Saturday, 28 April 2012 posted on the Cooper Gallery Blog: 

The human dynamics which make up our interactions are the life blood of our creative practice. As so with making the tea, making work, or making thoughts and then letting them mix in the wash. If people think visually with senses in tuned to their surroundings then perhaps they need to be taken away, at some point, from all the stimulants in order to order. The distance is needed to make sense of what is experienced in order to form a subjective output, in whatever medium they so choose. In the arena of visual culture the scrap of an image connects with a sequence of a Film and with the corner of a billboard or the window display of a shop we have passed by to produce a new narrative formed out of both our experienced journey and our unconscious.1 It is often in this state that something is observed, that ‘incidental incident’2 which connects the dots. This only half looking, when you want at be concentrating on something else, paradoxically can be a state of vigilance.

We are in constant collaboration. I enjoy Irit Rogoff’s diverse everyday approach to the sublimation of knowledge and in it we can draw parallels with Jane Rendell’s text Site Writing – the Architecture of Art Criticism.3 Rendell’s work like Rogoff’s suggests collaboration with space and the objects within that space as shaping our thoughts. These innumerable influencing signifiers which exist in that space being an integral component of writing, as it is with art, so this in its way becomes a collaboration between the body and the space.
Ashling Molloy has come online for skype. 4
The interchangeable possibilities are endless.
We need to collaborate. We are social animals and through interaction we learn. Through new spaces and experiences we are stimulated, yet we crave the space to spread out in whatever direction thought wishes to take us and to manifest that in an individual way. We look for the situations to retreat into which enable this; The quiet place to write, the solitary artist studio. It is a paradox, in small succession this bombardment is a fertile territory yet at some point it becomes stifling, prohibitive even to the making of work.
Bruce McLean sits centrally just in front of the stage, Christina and Ajay to his right, John Dummett to his left.. Behind there is a video projection of the events of Cut a Scratch a Score.. To the right of Christina there is a long rectangular blackboard vertically leaning against the wall. Written on this are the questions the writers wish to ask McLean.5
Bruce McLean doesn’t like the audience. He tells us so. You would tend to agree with him, not many people like to be peered at. He is uncomfortable sitting centre stage in an RCA lecture theater. Yet there is a controlled theatricality to the setup. Rightly so considering the previous events of A Cut A Scratch A Score. And this feels like the final performance re-staged, but with writers, not a choir. We’ve gathered because we have been intrigued by the previous work and events so now we want to see what will happen, what McLean will say. It’s a shame McLean doesn’t like audiences, they like him. We realise early on into the interview that it is indeed as billed ‘unlike any other’ Dummott, Hoti and Manning Lebeck move around, switch seats, interrupt each other, say the wrong thing right. The audience is enthralled. It is extremely refreshing and that is disheartening, in hindsight when you think how infrequently this kind of audience engagement normally accompanies an artist talk, or interview as this case may be. But these actions lie somewhere in between sculpture and performance. Sculptural performances. Performing sculptures. So if this is the case does this type of performance need an audience with which to collaborate and would the energy be the same if the interview were conducted among just these four?
Sssssssshissing of heavy rain.
Heat rising from the bed makes me wonder are my eyes playing tricks. It is however just the electric blanket.
The interview is focused on the many different manifestations of collaboration which McLean has been involved in over his long career.  He refers often to the ‘incidental incident’, an action or interaction which directs his thoughts and creative output. McLean speaks of these incidental incidents as if they were collaborations which are not set up. It seems in these incidents you can be passive, active, instigator or victim. They are described as instances of interactions that evolve into something big or to nothing big, but they seem to give direction. To McLean “Collaborating could mean anything”.This is very interesting, honest really to credit those who influence you, to embrace that from all angles however it is clear in his action and his words that McLean is very thoughtful about who he is (intentionally) collaborating with. It is in his awareness in the general direction in which he wishes the collaboration to go. He is also aware of the roles which we fall into within collaboration, or any kind of social interaction, and so in a sense he turns to curating a space to create the circumstances, specific to his interests and subverting roles, in which these interactions take place.  He even tries “to create an incidental incident everyday” Perhaps that is tongue in cheek, perhaps not, but his interest in the incidental incident and the disinterest in the audience is an oddity to me, when adding all these agents into the mix would suppose it to be the kind of climate conducive to any sort of incident. An audience or any gathering of people will always bring an influencing active element be it engagement or disengagement.
As we inhabit public space we are delving into collaboration with public and environment, bringing our presence, and noting the presence of others: “Collaborating could mean anything” and to ignore either is to miss an opportunity for an incidental incident, but I don’t believe McLean really does. He feeds from his audience, from his critics and commentators, how could one not. He has made art works commenting on the pretensions and hierarchies of the art world in works including, Postmodern Minestrone, 2012 and Urban Turban (A Moving Picture) 1995, and dealing with hegemonic structures within society as a whole, as in the Dowry Secondary school project completed 2007, to take just a segment of his career by way of example. Certainly it may be uncomfortable but it is within these discomfort zones in which McLean seems to be at his most productive. Perhaps that is the entire point. He doesn’t like audiences, but he is definitely drawn to them.

1 : Irit Rogoff., Terra Infirma, Geographies visual culture, Routledge. 2000.pg 30.
2: Referenced from transcriptions of A live ‘interview unlike any other’ with the acclaimed artist Bruce McLean featuring two of his films. An Action of words: Writers in residency, John Dummett, Ajay Hothi and Christina Manning Lebek,29/03/2012 Royal College of Art, London. Lecture theatre.. Transcriptions by Sinead Bligh. 2012.
3:Jane Rendell, Site Writing – the Architecture of Art Criticism., I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd.2010.  
4: Observations marked in red indicate disruptions to the writers train of thought whist in her flat.
5&6: Referenced from transcriptions of A live ‘interview unlike any other’ with the acclaimed artist Bruce McLean featuring two of his films. An Action of words: Writers in residency, John Dummett, Ajay Hothi and Christina Manning Lebek,29/03/2012 Royal College of Art, London. Lecture theatre.. Transcriptions by Sinead Bligh. 2012.

1 thought on “a plural association

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