Turkmenistan silk industry reporter Ning Hong 丨 CCTV.com
Photo credit Alex Wisser
Had a weird misunderstanding recently where I assumed it was possible to start a discussion about the transformative nature of art by using my art practice as an example. It started me thinking about a really old post from last year about the process where the post art making conversations sparked by the presence of my art about the death of my father were such an important part of my practice. In other words it’s as if my art and the engagement of the viewers with it is how the conversation starts that may or not be transformative.
Here’s part of that post again below
‘While an element of my practice has always been an engagement with community in the process of producing art, I reflected that often for me the production of the physical art object whether it be sound, video, installation, object whatever is then layered with additional engagement by a community post production. The physical work ” the art’ serves as a touch stone or means of putting an idea to a group or individual and then watching and waiting for the response. This process of engagement mostly in terms of conversation then becomes a totally ephemeral un-documented art work in its own right layered on top of the initial physical art.
My formative experience of this process was by accident. I hadn’t thought it through. I hadn’t designed it in any way. Following the medicalised death of my father I made an installation in the church of the town where he grew up. Aberdeen in NSW is a former meat works town of about 1500, now a dormitory suburb for the coal mines further down the valley. I had originally approached the rector about putting an installation in the church hall and his response was suggesting moving it into the church. Coincidentally on the day I opened the show the town’s pumpkin festival was being celebrated in the closed off street next to the church. That resulted in a lot of people coming to the exhibition without it being a big deal for them and coming almost by accident. With every group that came in I talked about the background to the installation i.e. the death and dying of my father. Nearly all of the visitors told me in response stories from their lives about when they watched and waited as someone died in intensive care, in emergency, at home wherever. These stories were the response that would not be shared between us without the physical presence of the art installation combined with the stories I told of my father’s death.
A while ago I watched the documentary ‘Night will Fall’ on the liberation of the concentration and death camps in Europe in 1945. Sequence after sequence showed graphic images of degradation, death and horror. Then there was a short interview about the first images from Dachau after liberation. These images were seen and shown in the negative and the shock of the power of those images has stayed with me for a long time.
This work is the first in a series exploring that power of the negative to dislocate your expectations and make you look again. Janette Winterton in an essay many years ago in the Guardian newspaper said that was the purpose of art.