On the ninth and tenth of October we had our first critiques. The structure of the critique sessions was that of a 'blind reading' - meaning that the group first discussed what was presented and only at the end was the artist responsible for the presented work allowed to weight in and defend or otherwise respond.
It's an effective structure, the group is not led to view the work in a certain way but instead allowed to make their own readings. In this case, however, many and more were in the very early stages of their work which led to some speculating and imagining rather than a focused discussion. This was certainly true for my critique session. I did however get some interesting references to look into, some new useful input on how to think about the development of one of my projects and also some help in confirming some of my own observations about my current work. I am also very happy that I have ended up in such a knowledgeable class and that the group does not seem afraid to speak openly and quite critically about the works presented whilst at the same time being courteous and respectful. It bodes well for future sessions!
In my studio I have started writing down notes on three projects that I am starting working with - I don't have a whiteboard so its just a large piece of paper divided into three columns, one for each project. One is a sculptural, one is a video, and one is a sound piece. I have put them next to each other in hope of finding some commonality between them.
After the critique it seems that it is clear that all the projects deal with concepts of power in different ways - the individual strength of humans, her aspirations and her achievements, structures or systems of power that exert influence on the individual and society at large, and the impact of forces of nature or 'acts of god' that are, possibly, outside the realm of human control.
I will briefly describe each project, mine own thoughts on them and how the critique has influenced the work going forward. The titles are all very work in progress.
1. Pushups: A multi-channel video piece. When I have worked with video I have always worked with short looped sequences. Kind of like elaborate GIFS. This is no different. The idea is to have a number of 'normal' bodies doing pushups in perpetuity filmed from the side. When screened together I want them to look much like pistons moving up and down, sometimes in sync sometimes not. Key themes of inspiration here are Sisyphos, work, fitness culture and the idea of progress. Comments from the crits: the pushups seem to be not well performed, it seems to be hard work, struggle. I think these are reactions that I would like to be had in the final work as well.
2. Sjöväder/Sea weather: a sound piece. Since 1939 there the Swedish radio has broadcasted very technical weather reports focusing on the seas around Sweden. They are read with a very monotone voice devoid of emotion. I am in the process of collecting these reports for situations of extreme weather from 1985 (the year of my birth) until 2017. What I will do with these I am at the moment unsure, but one idea is to make a composite of the collected weather reports and perhaps exaggerate them. Another idea is to leave them as is and just have them read in a chronological order. What I am interested in here is the contrast of the calm voice describing a state of emergency. Comments from the crits: what happens if the recording is instead a hysterical reading? Is it interesting to interview the broadcasters who read the weather reports? Is it interesting to look at weather logbooks of sailors? Quote from Titus Livius AKA Livy: "It is pleasant, when the sea is high and the winds are dashing the waves about, to watch from the shores the struggles of another." This played together with the pushup videos would be interesting.
I think that these are questions to be asked, especially since I am so early in the process it is important to explore different paths. I do feel however that it is the contrast between calm and excited that I want to explore. I also very clearly see a connection between the pushup video and the weather report. The myth about the Tower of Babel comes to mind or the story of Prometheus. The consequences of human striving unleashing uncontrollable powers is an interesting theme.
3. Carl Gustaf with Carl Gustaf: sculpture. This project is in many ways the outlier. There is an old picture of the current Swedish king holding a Carl Gustaf rocket launcher. I would love to make a monument of this picture. A classic bronze sculpture on a large pedestal. Realistically it is best to approach this project as a proposal, not to think that it will be realized but to work as if it was a commissioned and funded public art work.
Sweden is one of the worlds largest weapons manufacturers and it is a topic that I find very interesting to delve into. Swedes are so proud of their music, gaming and technology "wonders" yet we never speak about the Swedish weapons wonder.
Comments from the crits: Look into Hito Steyerl who works with associated themes. Is there a connection with the other works here? Where is the collision of expectations? The other works have poetic qualities, yet this one does not. What are other ways to approach the Swedish weapon industry? Can you be inspired by the calm reading of the weather report and work more with the marketing of the Carl Gustaf? All these works seem to, in a way deal with violence.
I very much look forward to exploring the work of Hito Steyerl and I am currently reading about monuments to further inform this work going forward. This piece stands out from the other works, it has something, some quality, that I like and makes me want to go through with it, at the same time it seems shallow in a way that I want to understand better. Much like my previous work Fools Gold I believe this seemed shallowness as deceptive, there is more to be had here than just a simple monument. The theme of violence is very interesting especially in relation to the monument (see my notes on readings). There are certainly many different approaches to work with this topic and I think that this idea of a monument does not mean I can not explore, for example, marketing strategies related to the Swedish weapons industry.