I wrote the literature review back in 2005 before I left Melbourne and took my first leave of absence. I was expecting to have to do a significant re-write, but in fact there was very little to add, and I found it sets a good foundation for the work I've done. There's about a page and a half of "context" which I thought I might share. There's a bit of jargon, and I do apologize for that, but I don't think it's terribly heavy reading.
If you're not interested, just scroll to the bottom to see a pic of a clay portrait I've re-worked on perspex for this installation. This is instead of the portrait on the canvas. Oh! and I've re-made the clay pieces for the floor that the cleaner threw away...
In 1991, Suzi Gablik proposed a new paradigm for art which rejects the “autonomous individualism” of modernism and encourages “the artist to see beyond social passivity, culturally conditioned modes of distancing and the denial of responsibility.” She argued that art can no longer be about “value-free aesthetics”, but rather that the artist has a role to play in drawing a community together in a process which is less about reference to the self, and facilitates a genuine culture of caring and healing.
Responses by artists to Gablik’s call, have been varied. Bill Drummond, former member of KLF, working along social justice lines, has established The Soup Line, which runs from Belfast through Nottingham to Ipswich. Any person living on this line can contact Drummond and he will make soup for them at their home. The idea was inspired by the 13th century tradition upheld by the Church of Scotland which celebrated communion once a year only with a communal dinner in the church.
Other artists, including Wolfgang Laib (Ottman, 2000) and Ana Mendieta (Viso, 2004) have sought to utilize their art work as a means to understand and embody their spiritual practice. Snell (2005) quoted Laib speaking about his work, “I have always had this almost naïve belief that a pollen piece, or a milkstone, contains a message that could change the world.” Laib has been strongly influenced by frequent trips to India where he experienced art, spiritual practice and everyday life as intricately interwoven. Similarly, Mendieta made pilgrimages to her birth land, Cuba and in her ‘Silueta’ series “sought out a primeval consciousness through spiritual communion with nature…these pieces were enacted as a kind of personal religious rite” (Feldman, 1999).
In a chapter on the potential of exploring the spiritual through conceptual art, Feldman (1999) discusses the work of a number of artists including Wolfgang Laib, Ana Mendieta and Bill Viola, video/installation artist. She states that: “Until recently, the work of German artist Joseph Beuys stood as the sole spiritual stronghold in conceptual art.”
Artists working in this way are connected by an engagement with the spiritual traditions of ancient civilizations and certain eastern religions. The belief systems underpinning such approaches focus on the interconnectedness of humans and nature, viewing life as a cyclic process, rather than as a linear progression. This is the underlying principle of process philosophy which “affirms the body-mind continuum, the social or relational self, and sympathy as an essential way of knowing. Process philosophy makes qualities and capacities that have been associated with weakness, vulnerability, and women central” (Christ 2003).
“The basic teaching of Buddhism is the teaching of transiency, or change. That everything changes is the basic truth for each existence” (Suzuki 1970). Likewise, feminist scholars of religion have attempted to define the spiritual in terms of immanence instead of transcendence and view physicality as embodying spirituality. Koppman (1999) asks: “…How would it change our lives if we were to accept change as constant, to see death as part of life as part of death?”
The work in this project will explore the concept of change as a central tenet of existence. The idea of “change” implies process, transience, fragility and ultimately death. Work which explores these must engage with time and performance, and heightens the sense of preciousness of the experiential. The notion of change and the human inclination to resist change will be explored through the materiality of the work.
This is the trace left on perspex by a low relief sculpture in white clay.
The darker lines and marks are shadows on the wall behind the perspex.