After U.R. (a magnetic Superbox) from the exhibition “Truth in Form, Reason for Being” at Wright 21. Curated by Claire Warner and Sam Vinz who founded the fantastic Chicago based Volume Gallery.
Most of the time, I don’t attempt to talk or write much about our work as its meaning changes so often for me that it seems sort of pointless. For some reason though, I feel compelled to share a bit more about this project and some of the thoughts and questions we’ve wandered into.
I’ll start with the history of After U.R. (a magnetic Superbox) as I remember it. Twice in the same day – April 15th 2011 – I encountered the work of an artist I wasn’t familiar with named Ullrich Rückreim. First while reading Avalanche Magazine #3 and then later an image on Joe Gilmore’s blog void (). The work in Avalanche was mostly large outdoor stone sculpture that may have slipped past me had I not seen the work on Joe’s blog which was an image of the artist drawing circles around himself. Intrigued, I Googled his name and came across a photo, a pair of sculptures, that really, really struck me. I used the photo and the image I’d found on void () to make my own blog post. I was haunted by the sculptures for weeks. A month or two later, I tried to research the pieces but in the time that had passed, the photo of the two sculptures seemed to have disappeared from the internet with the exception of my blog post. A few days after my failed attempt at research, I encountered a large rock in Northern Minnesota that reminded me of the Rückreim works. It’s a landmark in the area because of it’s size, but the thing I liked best? Its magnetic properties. Seemed like a perfect metaphor and a sort of mystical command that we make something to respond to the Rückreim pieces which were mysterious not only in scale but lacked any kind of solid contextual information. We made a pair of cabinets that were based on what we saw in the photograph… we attempted to replicate the shapes as closely as we could using cheap materials we bought at the hardware store (as always : – ) and they ended up looking like this…
After U.R. (a magnetic Superbox) – Thea Dickman / Ullrich Rückreim photo unknown
So we sent these shapes back into the world as cabinets without knowing any more about the Rückreim sculptures. Just when we’d moved on we were contacted by Ben Heywood, the curator of the great Minneaplis gallery the Soap Factory. He’d dropped us a note of congrats and said it was fun seeing those Rückreim shapes again. Wait. “What?” We asked… “you mean you know something about these?” It turned out Ben had been involved in commissioning these sculptures when he worked at the Henry Moore foundation many years ago. There were nine in all. And we had the scale all wrong. Ours were much smaller.
In the end, it felt like the Rückreim work had sought us out… found us as much as we may have found it. Amazing.
So what is this act of taking forms and recontextualizing through material? What are we doing? I attempted to explain this to my friend John Fleischer this afternoon… but it really seems to depend on the day.
Sometimes it seems like we’re looking at photos of objects, architecture, sculpture, design, etc. and turning them back into objects. Trying to recreate a photo in 3d and, in the process, learning about how we interpret what we see. So much of the work I love I experience only through photographs and documentation. There are so many (unasked) questions I inherently answer (intuitively and instantly) when I first look at an image of an object or sculpture. Is an experience with a photograph of an object less than a physical encounter with the object? Something tells me yes but, either way, you are left with a memory which is, for me, hard to feel too concrete about over time.
Other times it seems like we are exploring form. Trying to unravel what makes an object powerful to us… is it the shape? The materials? The scale? The setting or place? And what do these things have to do with meaning?
It also feels related to internet language translators and the poetic possibility that’s often present. I love that something very specific in Japanese comes out beautifully clumsy, but essentially with the same meaning in english. What is the visual equivalent?
The ideas John Cage spoke of about randomness and sound… they connect me to the beauty of field recordings. What is the visual equivalent of a field recording? Is it looking at a thousand photos of art / design related things via tumblrs and blogs every day? And then turning the memory based residue back into something?
Sometimes it seems like a sort of pseudo-appropriation, like using a quote by someone else in an essay.
I think often about something Jo-ey Tang said to me: “a ventriloquism of form” which leads me to “Sitting as Seeing” and “Writing as Sculpture” and “Making as Thinking” the critic Jeff Kelley writes “(Allan) Kaprow downplayed the significance of formal structure and social commentary in favor of direct experience … if you don’t do the work, he seems to be saying, you can’t reflect upon its meaning.”
And “we are following the work. the work is following us. we are both bewildering each other. we are giving the photos a kind of life they have never had before.” – Rauschenberg quote adjusted by RO/LU
“she knows that the content of her thoughts consists entirely of what she’s read, heard, spoken, dreamt, and thought about what she’s read, heard, spoken, and dreamt. she knows that thought is not something privileged, autonomous, originative, and that the formulation “cogito ergo sum” is, to say the least, inaccurate. she knows too that her notion of “concrete experience” is an idealized, fictional site where contradictions can be resolved, “personhood” demonstrated and desire fulfilled forever. yet all the same the magical, seductive, narrative properties of “yes i was talking…” draw her with an inevitability that makes her slightly dizzy. she stands trembling between fascination and skepticism. she moves obstinately between the two.” – from “Looking Myself In the Mouth” by Yvonne Rainer
Most of the time it feels like all of the above. And this! it definitely feels like this.
Please enjoy the time as it passes by.
Posted by Matt Olson