City breaks statement
Abigail Reynolds, Mar. 2005
The Universal Now: St Pauls 1937 1965
The Universal Now.
Well, its a kind of
way of thinking what if I could travel in time
I thought that if I did itd be a bit hard to see because youd
have one time stuck in your head and another time coming at you
through your eyes and maybe these two views that of the memory
and that of the scopic would interfere with one another. Theres
something emotional about that vanished moment that can only be
partially re-accessed. When I think about time travel La Jetee by
Chris Marker comes to me. It describes a post-war world in which
everything we now take for granted (children, sky, park, museum)
has gone. The clearest emotional response to this is to feel fully
and appreciatively connected to those ordinary aspects of the city
once again. The idea of traveling in time is melancholy as well
as an exciting. These ideas are already contained within the most
standard photograph; The Universal Now also extends the way a photograph
can only record a moment that has necessarily gone.
The city is an energy.
It continually reinvents itself. Thats hard to intersect with
visually, especially as its so over-rich visually and experientially
already. I have a real hesitation in producing more images of the
city surface, proliferating it further. In previous work I have
tried to cut through the visual surface of the city to work with
something more structural. The urge to work with pre-exisiting tourist
images that only reflect the surface of the city is also the flip
side of my earlier decision. I sometimes think that in making work
every action really does have an equal and opposite reaction. The
table/door/display case hybrid that the books are closed in is part
of an approach Im taking in some parallel sculptural work
at the moment to do with modeling words. I prefer the idea of someone
picking up a book, flicking through it and just discovering that
someone has tampered with some of the pages. Maybe Ill find
a way to do that later.
In an image of Helsinki Cathedral
that I have interfered with, theres a boy standing with his
mother, and its 1948. Its obvious to think that
boy may now be dead, but all moments in photographs are dead,
which is why I dont like photographs of myself and perhaps
another reason why I dont like taking photos of the city;
it makes my temporal moment so obviously time-limited.
Richard asked what we thought of
making art in response to a brief as City Breaks is, rather
than showing something pre-existing the show. He asked if this wasnt
a false pretence. Maybe its easier to think there is an integrity
to studio work. I did respond to the commission
of making a new work in response to visiting Helsinki in a very
direct way, in that I wasnt thinking of making this work before.
Im not sure that I distinguish particularly between working
to a brief you set yourself, or take up informally, and one that
is suggested to you and that you decide to take up formally.
There are real dangers
in working to brief, like making art just to honour a commitment
(which is pointless) and theres a skill to it, just as there
is to generating work via a studio process. So, I dont think
of working to a project as a false pretence. I dont have a
studio now, I too easily feel trapped by the studio moment, which
for me is portentious and isolated. I like art to be a way of thinking
about things very actively and straightforwardly, which for me means
being based out in other places, and only occasionally having recourse
to a studio as a building area I often just do this in the
In Helsinki I was directed
to a quote: It is uninteresting to think about art;
we must instead think through it. Both the work itself and the common
exhibition project are thinking machines. Through them we reflect
upon our own reality. Art creates models of thought and offers our
perceptions of reality parallel narratives and strategies. These
models serve to understand, to scan, to challenge life. This
is of course a very generalized statement and can be loosely applied
to any work of art. I like it all the same. I think of the studio
as rather a false pretence. Like the gallery, it cuts off the outside
world and privileges art as-art-object.
I dont often do Yoga, but I like the way Yoga as a practice
is only about the moment of doing it to the best of your ability
for yourself in the moment of doing it, and nothing else. Art is
like that when you do it as a hobby but this enjoyable aspect gets
squeezed out of professional practice. I really like the idea of
hanging onto it a bit. So, this show the idea that its
a holiday project practically, that its about meeting up and
traveling and basically having a good time and a good conversation.
All that is important to me and is very much part of what I think
art practice should encompass, as well as making interesting work.
I also like the idea of being part of a discussion that makes me
lay my cards on the table as this one does - so I can see
what I think and potentially change my mind. Making art work is
the same to make a gesture in public, to be aware of the
public consequences of actions and a certain responsibility.
As I write, I am aware
that this is the opposite to the hobby part of art making
that I have just outlined. Making art always involves trying to
reconcile a whole set of confliciting desires; towards yourself,
towards the audience, towards the set of values you are pushed along
by, towards the materials you happen to be working with. In this
work I am showing now, there are aspects that I have let drop because
the context of the show already contains a consideration of process.
Its very hard to make a work that retains a genuine connection
to the performance of making it, and flags that up more than usual.
As a generation of artists
I dont think we are frank enough about the ways of thinking
that have generated the work. Theres a fear of saying too
much, which means that nothing is said.
Works at the Whitechapel Project
The Universal Now: Houses of Parliament from
the Thames 1951 1984
The Universal Now: St Pauls 1937 1965, The Universal Now:
Helsinki Cathedral 1948 1975
The Universal Now: St Pauls 1965 1937, The Universal Now:
Finlandia House 1975 1964
The Universal Now: Big Ben 1961 1982, The Universal Now: Olympic
Tower 1949 1964
The Universal Now: Big Ben 1982 1961, The Universal Now: Olympic
Tower 1949 1964