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WORDS & PICTURES
In a similar vein to Dada and Fluxus, albeit with different agendas, artists continue to look for alternative structures to show their work. These projects are not creating alternative gallery spaces but looking at other means of presentation and distribution. Recent projects to have emerged include a bounty of new bookworks and publication; Sarah Stanton's superstore; and Engaged - a zine published in a different format each time. In the US the X Art Foundation publish Blast: a podule of multiples. everything talked to Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth about WORDS & PICTURES, a project which produces three boxed issues of artists' multiples annually.
The following quotes are taken from introductions to previous issues:
"Fluxus is a ladder with which youth can climb above the world as it is and then proceed to throw Fluxus away"
"Like Miss World I lined everything up and announced the results in reverse order. By the time I had done that, the worst thing... the total loser piece... was now my favourite."
"The concerns here are truly disparate. As such it is not necessary to create an aura of difference. Instead the box will provide many art worlds within one container."
|J: I don't believe Dada and Fluxus are solely responsible for influencing any current interest in alternative structures for representing and showing art. I think it is largely circumstantial. Young artists need to find a way of promoting or representing their work which is economically favourable to your position. Therefore artists turn to what may be classed as alternatives to the conventional gallery structure.
I: I think another important aspect here is education. For so many people who have been through art or art history education, which is almost always presented as a completely linear concept, I think Dada represents the first point at which art becomes directly relevant to contemporary life. It provides a form of emancipation. I guess there are also a number of more recent influences in other areas, particularly music. Certainly the "punk-ethic" and the growth of an independent music scene. Basically it's about people wanting to communicate and to express and promote their ideas, without access to mainstream and conventional ways of doing it. People will always find alternative and perhaps, some might say, more appropriate ways of doing these things.
J: As far as the relationship of Fluxus to WORDS & PICTURES, I believe there is one significant and blatant difference, which is that you can consider both Fluxus and Dada to be movements and WORDS & PICTURES isn't a movement, nor a collective. I thing it would be impractical to work as a collective and it's of no interest to us.
e: Were the flux year box, fluxkit and fluxcabinet an influence on your showing group multiples?
I: The box acts quite simply as a container, as a point at which things can be collected together. One could perhaps assume this was part of the original intention of something such as the Fluxboxes. I think beyond that there is fairly little direct influence, certainly on us.
J: WORDS & PICTURES, in basic terms, is a product of contemporary art. We work with a wide cross-section of artists involved in a diverse range of artistic practice, therefore to attempt to share any kind of aim would seem almost ludicrous. We don't meet many of the artists. At the point of selection we know very little about a lot of them, what is important is the strength and concerns of their proposed contribution. I think it's important that when you approach the box you may be able to understand it or digest it by recalling Fluxus or Dada, but it is just one way of reading the product. Using the box probably draws as much influence from Fluxus as it does from Kelloggs.
e: The box's appearance is quite simple, does this reflect you wanting it to be just a container ?
J: What is important to us is the collection of work inside. We actually approached a straight down the line graphic designer and very much gave it over to her. The simple graphics and the use of a number and basic colour to distinguish each issue were ways of making it very neutral.
e: What gives each issue a separate identity, and is it important for the issues to be distinct from each other?
I: I think they develop their own identity once the work comes together. Themes certainly aren't imposed but can emerge. There are things that you can see in certain issues that relate in certain ways, but it's never curatorially injected.
e: So the links become apparent as you start selecting the work?
J: They can. For example, some of the work in issue 4 pushes the notion of "the book". However, I think it's patronising to inflict a theme or a contrived set of concerns onto a group of artists.
e: I agree that themeing can narrow parameters, excluding artists and force narrow readings on work which was made with different intentions. You come across your contribution to issue 4 when you reach the bottom. By making this piece and using the box, are you positioning yourselves and your work curating as another contribution to the box.
J: It was the first time we approached contributing not only as artists but also as the facilitators, organisers, curators, whatever word you use.
I: We had approached contributing to previous issues very much in the same way that any other artist would, obviously with certain advantages. We often know what much of the other work is going to be. In issue 4 we knew it was going to be hard to fit everything in, so we tried to make something which would alleviate the problem.
e: Could I push you further on that idea of your role - do you see yourselves as curators?
J: Not strictly as curators.
I: The words we used in the booklet are "organised by". I think where WORD & PICTURES is different, which changes our role, is that artists often come to us. I think "selection" is more suitable. Some people have called us publishers, again, in the strictest sense I don't think this term is applicable.
e: As with your roles, WORDS & PICTURES is quite difficult to classify.
J: Not having a way of categorising something always appears problematic. However WORDS & PICTURES is pretty simple to understand. We chose the title WORDS & PICTURES because in a sense you can't own it - it's such a general definition which encompasses so much.
I: The project also has a subtitle - Ultra-Paranoid (Extra-Spatial) Portable Art!, which was how Momus chose to refer to the project in his preface to issue 1. We adopted this because it seems to go some way towards creating a unique way of perhaps classifying or categorising what WORDS & PICTURES is. The preface and introductory texts that we have in each issue are also important, both critically and conceptually. I think they also go some way towards offering a range of perspectives from which to view the project without dictating how the viewer should approach it.
e: So where do your artists come from - how do you trawl for contributions?
I: From anywhere really - We often get work from artists who have never before made or perhaps had any interest in multiples. I think sometimes you get some very interesting ideas coming out of that - when an artist works within a new format, with some new restrictions.
J: There are also artists who often make books or multiples and it gives them a way of promoting their work as part of a collection. It can allow artists to make work they may never have made before and could seem pointless without the context to place it in.
I: We don't really include or encourage submission of art which has existed in another context or has already been created in a much larger edition.
J: The ideas need to be original to this format.
e: In that way work is site specific.
J: Site specific - maybe. Specific to the project - yes.
e: I liked Martin Maloney's introduction to issue 4 where he talks about taking things out of the box, ordering them in different ways and then dispersing them. Different people will make different links which is part of it not being linear; as objects are taken out they can be positioned variously and in different orders.
J: I agree. The box is able to impose an order on the objects, an order that can change every time you display them and take them out. It also allows a chaos of objects where, as you say, it can't be regarded as linear in any sense.
I: Work does begin, where possible, in alphabetical order for the very simple reason of neutralising things. It removes any injection of ego on our part, as in nobody goes on the top because it's the "best" piece of work.
e: Have you got any other projects you are working on and have you considered working in any other formats?
J: Working as facilitators with other artists - not at the moment: with our own practice - yes, we are planning events and also just making more work.
I: We have a desire to operate on a parallel level within two, possibly even three areas. One of those being making art, the other being ongoing projects, WORDS & PICTURES being one of those. Although WORDS & PICTURES is something which does have a very natural life-span, it will bring itself naturally to a close.
J: I think it's important that we actually want to bring it to a close. It would become both inappropriate and boring if we were to attempt to carry it on despite circumstances. I think its got maybe another two years in it. As long as we can support ourselves while it sustains itself.
I: WORDS & PICTURES does what it does and when it stops that something else will take its place. We have an interest in activity rather than any particular product.
J: Projecting what the next step may be is almost impossible. WORDS & PICTURES uses an alternative structure because of the circumstances that faced us when we began, and to an extent are still around us, but it does not have any kind of issue-based or political agenda. I imagine in the future there will be a different set of circumstances. A new project will begin, as a new project under a new title.