thinking in public

I came across Laurence Weiner’s work for the first time while in the UK – I saw the piece below in the Tate St Ives, and the fact that I could still remember the piece, and quote it in its entirety without effort two weeks later led me to buy this book that then doubled the weight of my luggage…


Fire and Brimstone in a Hollow Formed by Hand, at the Tate St Ives

I’ve been dipping in and out of the book today [penance for avoiding using my imagination by writing reports all day yesterday]. It’s a collection of essays about Weiner’s work, along with photographs and descriptions. As one essayist describes it, his life’s work is ‘the introduction of language as a sculptural material’. As he says himself:

Sculpture by virtue of its state
presents a material reality that by its presence
changes the inherent meaning of whatsoever place
it finds itself
bringing about a change in the relationship of
human beings & objects & producing a change in
the ambience
Caveat Emptor: It can at times block the way

[Weiner, 2006]

I’m thinking today about the myriad of possibilities that the basement space offers [while simultaneously contemplating how easily a myriad turns into a mire…]. I get the feeling we should be trying something new there; that we’re ready for a jump into a different kind of thing. I think the thing that holds us in common, as a group, is that we’re searching for a different way of being human, and a different way of being in relationship with the world and each other… [though i need to test that with the group], but we’ve been limiting ourselves a bit by seeing the possibilities through a singular lens. Maybe it’s time to add in a few other lenses. I don’t know what they are yet.

I just read this paragraph in Weiner’s book [it’s a retrospective of his work, and includes a collection of essays]. The last sentences are just brilliant:

During the 1950s and 60s, Weiner grappled with an existential crisis in the aftermath of the war by investigating more conceptual challenges to authority and prevailing hierarchies. Today, his approach – language as the material of sculpture – seems ever more relevant when considered within the context of a culture struggling with information overload and a lack of fixity. His work is generative and generous, capable of embedding itself just about anywhere and empirical enough to engage all of our senses. To experience Weiner’s work is to accept its logic and its material reality, as well as to be seduced by the beauty of its chain of associations and offers of discovery. Entering into it is to risk a state of bewilderment, like stepping into a fog without discernable boundaries, to risk being “perplexed in public.” In that moment, one locates oneself in relationship to the work; afterward, some part of what has been encountered, what’s proposed, stays.

Donna De Salvo, in As far as the eye can see

In the panel on curation that Jonny Baker led at Greenbelt, Martin Poole said that he hoped the spaces created by Beyond in Brighton offer a moment of epiphany. I said that I hoped the basement spaces here offer a moment of grace. I think I still think that… but i wonder whether we also want to offer a moment of incongruence; a moment of bewilderment that once encountered you can’t quite shake. I’ve been wondering if that’s a way that transformation happens – how people make the irrational, incongruous leap into being different, not just thinking differently. Bewilderment’s not quite the right word: I think I imagine something like what happens when you are told a parable, and the world reorients itself, just for a moment… and even though you recover your balance, quick as a flash, you’re never quite be able to shake the knowledge that the axis you think the world rotates on, is not the only one at all.