The discussion event
on Friday 27 July was a great success and well attended despite clashing with
the Olympics ceremony. The sun shone and tea and beer was served alongside
Alice Eikelpoth’s delicious carrot cake and biscuits iced with the words ‘WHAT
DOES YOUR SCREEN SMELL LIKE? Thank-you Alice!
Philip Elbourne took
charge of the proceedings and an intense debate ensued; at which point a
fearless large black rat popped its head out of the drain right in the centre
of us all and lightened the mood.
OF THE REFERENCES FOR THE DEBATE WERE:
Artie Vierkant’s The Image Object
Louis Doulas’ Within
Post-Internet, Part One
Gene McHugh’s Post-internet blog
Mark Hutchinson’s Painting in the Age of Digital Reproduction
Phil’s Questions/discussion points:
In contrast to mechanical reproduction, painting produces unique objects,
marked by the labour of the artist. In contrast to digital reproduction, it
produces a substantial, material surface. Paint has unique qualities…
The bias towards the surface of the screen, nudges artists towards
exploring different types of bodily shock effects. The relationship of
the body to the computer screen after all is different than that of the body to
the physical painting in space
These cybernetic relationships create a desire for clicking, scrolling,
and following—dynamic motion premised on sifting through an accumulation of
data rather than gazing for very long at a single pattern of light
Artists after the Internet take on a role more closely aligned to that
of the interpreter, transcriber, narrator, curator, architect.
Some of the subjects that came up for discussion were:
Phil Elbourne’s solo show on Ruben’s phone.
Nothing is in a fixed state: i.e. everything is anything else. Does
‘immaterialised’ necessarily mean ‘equalised’?
Attention as currency: has it always been, how do we deal with this? Is
power held by those who present things as worthy of attention?
The internet is more ‘real’
performative viewing process?
defined by the choices they make – i.e. indistinguishable from consumer.
the white cube versus the blank page.
Someone recently said of your paintings that ‘One of the reasons your paintings appear to keep updating themselves is
that in the face of our increasingly ‘virtual’ world of the digital, your very
real and tangible painted surfaces of bubbles (read pixels), pipes (read
optical fibre cables) and montage scenes (read computer windows opened together
on a single screen) are keeping Painting ahead of the game.’ Are these elements
of your paintings conscious mimicries of digital phenomena, and if so how do
you tackle the ‘perversity’ of depicting the immaterial in a very material way?
Anna: Your work examines the
notion of the party. ‘Amassing energy, collecting, grouping in order to
improve, impress, alter, intimidate or overwhelm. Events devised by, with and
for groups of people deal with the invitation as concept. The following
rhetorical formula is tied up in the work: to achieve a celebration - to
celebrate an achievement.’ Is it fair to say that both your medium and your
subject matter are people? So how does your work interact with the internet, a
medium that fosters isolation?
Tom: Coming from a gallery
point-of-view, have the ideas of ‘ubiquitous authorship’ and ‘ubiquitous
ownership’ affected the way galleries operate? Traditionally, a curator or
gallerist, as a single voice, in their choice of what to show, defines what’s
‘good’, which is usually a cultural object clearly authored by an individual or
small group. Now, images and ideas cannot be ‘owned’ exclusively.
Thank-you to everyone who came and joined in the debate. There were no solid conclusions made by the end of the discussion. The group all seemed to believe there was some role to be played by the internet in viewing art. Some people thought it was a better place to view it, being able to get even 'closer' than you ever would in 'reality', while others said they would not want to exchange the experience of seeing, feeling, hearing and smelling art in the flesh for the pixelated representation on the screen.
On a sweltering afternoon dashing about Karen took a
few minutes out
you think there is a duality in your work between the painting as surface and
the painting as object?
To me, they exist in a constant co-dependent
disagreement, like an old married couple. The surface telling stories of
painterly mystery, while the object reminding the surface of its limitations.
is a great thoughtfulness in your work; where every element is considered from
the exact shape of the geometric stretchers, the perfectly folded corners of
the canvas, beautifully applied paint to the placement of the crystals and
other objects. If one of these elements is out of place, do you feel the work
is unbalanced and therefore failed in some way? There is a lot of process, and like you say,
a lot of consideration. I have tried to be more liberal about these decisions,
but the end result never feels ‘right’ to me. Other people may not notice these
seemingly small details, but I would know they are lacking and my feeling
towards the painting would change.
play a large part in your work. Are they used in a cynical way or are you
questioning wider beliefs?
I leave that observation up to the viewer.
the physical presence of your art transfer to being seen on a computer screen?
Unless your work is made up of pixels (like
text-based or digital photography), being viewed on a computer screen would
never really be ‘true’ to any material other than pixels.
important do you think it is for people to engage with art in the ‘flesh’?
Isn’t the internet a fantastic opportunity to access art without ever having to
To a certain degree you can get the idea of a
work by viewing it on the internet, and sometimes that is enough, but at other
times there’s nothing like getting close enough to a painting to inspect the
surface and edges.
are your feelings about showing in a raw gallery space such as The Garage? Does
the environment in which you exhibit your work change how your work is
It’s not the space, but what you do with it
what does your screen smell like?
Amazingly, I have a ‘special’ pc which smells
of whatever my screensaver is. Right now, I can smell meadows.
found time to reply to a few questions on a rare sunny day in fitzrovia
Can you tell me the starting point for your work?
I am interested in taking imagery that already has an established cultural reading that I can wrestle with, adapt, exploit, examine and transform. Purloined pictorial elements from art history are veiled, conjoined,
contorted, revealed, emphasized, interpreted, translated, explored, repeated,
omitted and manipulated, imbuing them with a new spirit to my own ends. The
hybrids that I have constructed have so far taken the form of small paintings
on found book plates,pencil
drawings,large scale paintings
and photographic documentation of interventions made (with permission) at the
Museum of Classical Archaeology at Cambridge University.
There is an intimacy to your work whereby the viewer is invited
to get up close. It feels almost secretive, is this close relationship between the work and the viewer important to
I’d like the paintings to function both from afar and up close.
There is a level of detail that invites close inspection. Whether this
proximity affords a sense of “secrecy” or a “close relationship” is a question
of the individual’s response to the work – something that can be encouraged but
Do you meticulously plan your pictures from the outset or do the
marks you make influence how the pictures progress?
Your work has layers upon layers of references. How important is
it to you that people can access all these sources buried within your work?
I’d like them to continue, over
time, to reveal themselves slowly.
Within your practice you use a lot
of found old books, does it feel like a sacrilege to deface them and paint on
top, or is that partly the point?
Yes it does, and yes it is.
To what extent do you use the
computer within your work?
“Sending emails, receiving emails,
left-clicking, right-clicking – I could go on…”
Would you ever consider having an exhibition solely online?
What does your screen smell like?
Like a sky ‘’the colour of a television screen, tuned to a dead
Tim managed to find time to answer a few
questions between various sound distractions
You would I believe
describe yourself as a kinetic sculptor. Can you describe your practice to me?
I am a kinetic sculptor, or kinetic sound
sculptor to be exact. I have spent the last year searching for a material that
is both dynamic so as to be continually surprising and engaging but also
critically robust and creatively fruitful. (A
plane flies overhead)
That material is sound. A painter usually cannot paint without moving
something and the role of movement in my kinetic work is just as necessary,
only automated to continually produce a sound. My work is made to invite an attentive listener and is often very quiet
and considerate of silence. (Door
closes)I feel an artist who uses sound must not
forget the silence and should not interrupt it unless they have something
better to articulate.
Your work has a
powerful emotional effect on the viewer; something is shared between the sculptor,
sculpture and spectator. Is the emotional response intentional or a happy bi-
Some people might talk about the humour in a
work or bring some kind of emotional significance to the situation but this is
really just baggage. (Rattling in the wall
cavities) I believe
in some ways that artworks can be like terminals or depositories where thoughts
and ideas can be left or collected, perhaps revisited. But I think listening is an immensely
personal act. Critical listening places the perceiver at the centre of the
I believe that you
sometimes pine to be a painter. Do painters have an easier time within the
larger art world?
I suspect painters have an easier time in
general, but it doesn’t bother me being someone who sculpts. I am however a
little envious of the format of painting, (Telephone
Rings) but the
dynamic surface eventually closes down towards something finished. If it was
impossible to finish a painting then I’d paint. It’s partly the idea that a
painting can be finished that I find unsatisfactory about painting.
As a sculptor the
environment in which your art is seen must be very important. How do you feel
about your work being exhibited in a disused garage space? Do you think context
is important? I think as long as the art works aren’t
parked in the garage space, we’ll be alright. I consider more than most the
auditory environment, what sounds have the potential to interfere with or
modify my work in some way. Usually this is not a problem.
Your sculptures are
kinetic and by definition contain moving parts and also emit sounds. One might
imagine that the computer screen would be a compatible medium. Is this so?
The medium of the computer screen is such
that it does not allow my work to be engaged in the way I want it to be. My
work is centered around the listening body and there is no opportunity for a
bodily, reciprocal exchange through the screen.
Do you think there
will come a day when there is no longer a place for ‘real’ art in the ‘flesh’? (A
pen rolls off the desk and falls on the floor) I don’t think so. Ideas involving the
occasion, the body or the installation, these all require a live audience to
appreciate it fully.
Finally; What does your screen smell like? It smells
like it’s over heating.