Winter 2014 is a series of small sculptures placed along a path. This path is the one I walk, without variation, every Tuesday and Thursday after class. As I walk, I notice my surroundings and engage with them. It is this path upon which I have decided to place my sculptures so that they may not only mark my passage through this environment but may mark the paths of others as well.
I find myself turning to the Indian-born, British artist Anish Kapoor, who noted in his discussion with John Tusa that “sculpture occupies the same space as your body.” Our bodies, in this accelerated technological era, are no longer ours alone. We have attachments: watches, cellphones, headphones, gaming devices, that pull our attention away from what is around us. By placing these small sculptures around the campus, hardly larger than a cellphone, I hope to raise people's gazes out from behind their phones, expanding the limited field of vision they hold when absorbed in a Bluetooth conversation, game, or when they are in a hurry to get to class on time. It is my hope that the sudden glance up, upon seeing something unusual in a familiar space, will replicate itself throughout their daily life.
Some artists deny these distractions. Before entering a performance space to view an exhibition, Marina Ambramovic, on the website for her institute, demands that the viewer leave their watches and cellphones with a gallery attendant at the door. Instead of simply eliminating technological distractions, which creates a false utopian reality for viewers to exist in for only a moment, I want to acknowledge them and consider them as a part of my work. Not only do my sculptures perform pragmatically by offering subtle instruction to delight in the oddities of the world, but they also serve as an invitation. Someone could use their phone to interact with my art by taking a photo of one of the sculptures, perhaps sharing it in a social network. In this way my work weaves itself into the very medium it attempts to subvert, which is more effective than simply negating the fact of the cell phone's prevalence in everyday life. As our lecture notes illustrate, this is in accord with the harmony that Horace instructs us to seek: “if you invent, see that your invention be in harmony with itself.”
Each sculpture is a replica of itself, taking Plato's idea of forms further, as a copy of a copy of a copy (of a copy). The power of mimêsis in this work lies in each sculpture's recognizable, yet faceless body. It opens the possibility for a person to project themselves onto the blank face of the sculpture, to recognize the backpack on their back and the steps that they are taking down the well-trodden path. Like Aristotle, I believe that each of these “copies” exists within the real world, though they exist as imitations.
Because they are not realistically represented, however, my sculptures take on their own substance, their own being, and hold within them their own “truth” that is not just simply an imitation of nature. Their meaning is contextual: a person coming upon one sculpture at a point in the path will necessarily have a different response to someone who has seen several, or even all, of the sculptures. If we understand reality as the process by which the concrete takes on meaning, then the reality presented by these sculptures is ever-shifting and wholly dependent on the viewer. Though the theoretical framework for my installation is complex, I wanted to simplify the complexity on behalf of the viewer. I have titled the work Winter 2014 after a universally shared experience, so that the viewer may perceive many possibilities and personalizations in their interpretation. This installation is an homage to the close of winter, as spring arrives and new sprouts begin rising from the ground, and just as a season, it is temporary. Because I have made my sculptures cartoonish in their simplicity, I urge viewers to find humor in them and take away an easy enjoyment simply by looking, even if they don't seriously engage with the work.
As a public project, I have not taken care to prevent the sculpture's theft or vandalism. Public sculptures are usually large and anchored in some way to the ground. This is another way my work pragmatically engages with the world. I am not ignoring real issues such as vandalism or theft, the issues become a part of the work, join with it, and enhance its message. My work is political in this way, and, though it differs in scale from the works of Anish Kapoor, has a similar creative philosophy. Kapoor, in conversation with Homi K. Bhaba in 1988, said “is it my role as an artist to say something, to express, to be expressive? I think it's my role as an artist to bring expression; it's not my role to be expressive...But it is my role to bring to expression, [that] which one might use...and then move towards a poetic existence” (1). I do believe that these works are a part of myself. I think that is true of every work of art. The placement of the objects follows the steps I take, my habitual path carved out of a desire to keep myself the same. These figures are partial representations of my fear of change, and therefore express me greatly. But to the extent that this private message reaches others, my work is not expressive of a personal ideology, rather it conforms to the objective notion that art is art, that these sculptures exist on behalf of the viewer, are cast in their image as well as my own, for that is, after finishing an art, what I ultimately become: a viewer of my own creations.
Abramovic, Marina. The Abramovic Method. Marina Abramovic Institute, 2014.
Kapoor, Anish. “Interview with Homi K. Bahaba.” Anish Kapoor. London: Royal Academy of the Arts, 2009.
Kapoor, Anish. “Interview with John Tusa.” Anish Kapoor in Conversation with John Tusa. N.d.