Documentation of art making
January 9, 2015 § Leave a comment
In 2011 I began documenting the making of work associated with detours that I had undertaken.
This was a response to two elements of my photographic practice: the adoption of what I now termed ‘Walking Practice’ & the accumulation of images that had by then reached a number such that they would most likely remain unexamined in perpetuity.
This response answered, practically, the question: what can I make that represents the detour that I have created and can stand in place of the photographic collection.
The idea of making objects in place of printing the photographic image (or allowing it to remain unviewed in a digital archive) moved on to the idea of a personal ‘museum’ and thence to the idea of gifting or ‘lending out’ these objects.
The ‘making’ also made a connection to the practice of the ’making’ of a photographic image. When I moved to Cambridge in 1995 I joined The Cambridge Darkroom; an exhibition space and open access darkroom then housed in Dales Brewery and the Old Bath House in Gwydir Street. The ‘alchemy’ of the making of ‘real’ prints stayed with me long after access to it had closed down. The interest that I had acquired in the processes of photographic ‘making’ later found expression in physical cut-&-paste of printed materials leading to the making of objects.
The objects were simple affairs; almost tokens of an act of walking. They did, however, create a connection with my walking practice both as record and as a physical production.
The idea of ‘production’ was important also. I had recently read two books by John Holloway: How To Change The World Without Taking Power & Crack Capitalism. If I were to describe his political stance I would use the term Libertarian Anarchist. His approach is ‘horizontal’ rather than ‘vertical’ — collective-collaborative against hierarchical & outcome-driven. He leans on Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts & writings on alienation and himself writes unequivocally on the producer retaining the product and the mode of its distribution — on non-alienated labour.
The ‘product’ over which I retained ownership and distributive control was not the aim of my practice but simply its manifestation. The aim of the practice was the practice itself: the conception, the walking, the recording, the making were all of one action as would be the distribution of the ‘made’.
The documentation of the making was a part of the ‘production’ process — an acknowledgment of the activity of ‘making’ as central to an art practice. The selections, the procedures, the tools of making, the components of a ‘document’, the packaging, the distribution were all integral to the ‘making’ and the ‘made’. In the process all labour was voluntary and all labour was retained; all of the ‘made’ was retained and could be distributed/gifted/exchanged as a self-chosen act unaccompanied by a monetary transaction.
I view the documentation as integral to and indivisible from the ‘making’. The detour, its recording and its representation are a single act of art making. The detour is a unique act of traversing a space; its photographic recording is indivisibly linked to that territory and its documentation is an imaginative rendering of a personal non-reproductive behaviour-act.
These actions are within a dialectic in that they are part of a transformation in an art practice that is perpetually in motion: an art practice of transition in which the transition is the act of art making; art practice as recognising and acknowledging the ‘act of making’; an improvised making that evolves as a response to a previous act.
The place of documentation in The Elephant’s Journey is central to its practice. From its outset we have documented the making, the placement and the history of our interventions including the course of the removal of work, its disintegration, its remains — art in its making not in its enshrinement.