A new series of minimally inspired works. Scratch that, how about: works highly inspired by minimalism.
I feel a bit of explanation is necessary, especially with the complicated titles. I started these pieces thinking about 3 books: “Dark Matter” by Gregory Sholette examines the often invisible workings of the art complex, “Are You Working Too Much?” an E-Flux Journal publication focuses on post-Fordism and capitalist theory in the arts, and “Warped Space” by Anthony Vidler unpacks a series of spatial/architectural theories in the modern age.
Vidler’s text turned me on to a guy named Siegfried Kracauer (1889-1966), whose writings discussed the idea of the Mass Ornament. This is, basically, the workers of the assembly line creating abstract components without really considering the whole. Seen from above it is a choreographed dance, yet the workers relate to the parts as abstractions rather than as what they are: a fender or mannequin leg simply becomes a curved piece of metal or plastic. The ornament is developed by the mass of workers through specific, purposeful obtusity.
The Mass Ornament was considering Fordism, as in the Henry Ford assembly line. Now we are in the time of post-Fordism, or the time in which we have moved past relating the body to the machine and now have a cognitariat workforce who relate primarily to knowledge using the body only as a vehicle rather than relational tool.
So… how does one make drawings about this stuff? (After reading “Are you working too much?” I knew they needed to be minimal. ha. )
When starting to create something it often seems to need a narrative behind it. People tend to wonder “why that object, size and placement?” Most of the time people develop a series of rational footholds that allow us to strip narrative out as we develop abstractions: for instance I may start with drawing a defunct factory to speak of assembly line labor’s demise, and eventually I draw enough pieces that I can strip it down to mapping out the foot print of the factory and filling it in black to represent death. A logical progression to abstraction.
See how the meaning comes first and the end result is an illustration of the idea? This is a narrative, academic process we typically use. Well, I thought, I should do the opposite. In the most extreme versions of Mass Ornament the workers would scarcely have an idea what their products were, hence narrative rationalization is stripped out because a template guides the aesthetic. For the factory worker the piece comes first, the context of the finished product comes later.
It seemed like an interesting way to work: create something first and let it generate meaning and context later. After creating the pieces I measure the form to find the area in square centimeters. I took that number and looked it up in the Dewey Decimal System so that each piece has a category through which meaning can be applied. [ 4 cm x 53.8 cm = 215.2 cm sq = 215.2 is Astronomy. ]
I have also included a song lyric with each title from a song called “If I Had a Heart” by Fever Ray. The tune echoes common complaints about the heartlessness minimalist work with lyrics like “Give Me More.” And anyway, it’s a pretty good depressing tune syncing up with the slow death of industrialization in America.
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