Trace, Erasure and Personal Surveillance (working title)
Having been offered the Abbey for my graduation show I began this summer by exploring visual ideas for a site-specific installation. I then realized that this would be of little more interest than window dressing so I decided to scrap all my ideas and go back to basics – take an idea and research it and not predetermine where it will take me.
I am interested in the collecting of information by the Prism program of the NSA (National Security Agency). This follows on from the work I did last year on the manufacture of terror. I have been wondering if I could reduce myself to something resembling a bar code. Could I collect information on myself, give it a form and shape, abstract it down and form some elegant pattern? The work of Susan Morris and other artists in the Motion Capture exhibition at the Glucksman Gallery 2012 left an indelible impression on me.
I have decided to try to collect everything I do that leaves a trace. One example would be the electronic trace when I buy diesel on my visa in Ballydehob to drive to Wexford to see my son. Also there is the trace I leave on the CCTV in the garage, at the motorway toll, on the CCTV cameras I pass. I could go on to include the mobile phone company monitoring my calls and the journey itself, the emissions the jeep makes and the effect I may have on any people I interact with. There seems to be no end to the trace I make.
If there is no end to trace then I feel a desire for counter balance with some sort of erasure. I did some housework in the summer using a steam cleaner and I noticed steam (and cleaning) is a powerful form of erasure. I was reminded of the work we saw in the Venice biennale 2011 of the Chilean artist Ferdinand Pratts and I will go back to his work and research it further. I look forward to painting with a steam cleaner and using erasure on surfaces and I want to find other artists who work in a similar way.
Traces on surfaces remind me of Leonardo’s advice to would-be painters, to look at the marks, the splashes and scratches, made by carts on walls. I will try to collect these kinds of marks, especially when they seem to represent objects more powerfully than conventional representation itself (a form of simulacra). Marks made by the jeep on mud, my animals, dirty hand marks, cloud formations, scuffmarks – the list is endless.
I find I am increasingly interested in performance and during Skibbereen Arts week (July 2013) I took this idea of erasure and worked with another artist (Josephine Jefferies, whose current work revolves around cleaning) to create a “flash mop” with a feather duster and floor mop. This collaboration is to be continued in Venice in October and will hopefully continue into the New Year. This kind of practice seems connected to the work of the “theory girls” in the 70’s who used photography, performance and themselves to express ideas most closely associated with feminism and post-modernism.
Flash Mop, 2013, photo Det Schlich
My desire to collect all the data and trace on myself; meaningless, mundane and unaesthetic as it is, reflects the practice of many contemporary artists from Boltanski to systems artists like Kimsooja (Korean pavilion Venice biennale 2013) and Allan Mc Collum (the shapes project).
This desire to try to collect data and trace on just one person (me) as opposed to the millions the NSA manage to do has so far led to three strands of exploration for visual expression:
1/ the creation of an intelligence observation post on my trace taking the form of an installation in the shed on the first floor of the abbey. The collection of data for this will continue up to the assessment date
2/ an interpretation of the data abstracted and metamorphosed using audio, video, etc in the cloister. I want to delay the shape of the final outcome of this to allow ideas to develop out of research, process and time
3/ erasure – using performance, painting, drawing, print, photography and animation. This part of the work will be ongoing with outcomes produced continually up to assessment.