I'm making an artwork from my current 10-month project of walking to the studio and collecting on the way.
Arranged like this they draw me in. Impressions on white paper of bits and bobs, lacking colour, mostly, more redolent of the texture of their origin with bits of soil embedded in the paper surface. They bring you closer to the shape of things. If I didn't remember them I would wonder what they are and then I wonder why they are gathered as they are. How similar they are as bits, yet how different. How can they be understood? What category do they fall under once they’ve fallen to the ground beyond being waste. I think it is fair to categorise under time as well as organic / inorganic. Some will have a long after-life on the ground, some substantially inverse to the life they once had. And why do we speak of ‘life’ at all when it comes to detritus?On one hand, I want to have a detached, scientific operating system for choosing, but on the other hand, I find I can't endure this. I want to create poetry in the shapes I find, and that requires aesthetic choice. Decisions constantly play off against each other when composing a painting and the same kind of system of composition seems to operate here. But is it aesthetics alone choice the only thing that causes me to collate and sort when it comes to embossing. Can this library of bits be grouped together as one thing? A taxonomy of waste?
Today I spread out some of the paper embossments of the things I’ve collected on the floor, carefully keeping them in date order. I’ve worked out mathematically how much space they will cover, but I have to see it so I arranged them in columns of three. I have 177 pieces so far - four months’ exploration in a single line of footsteps to a single point in the city, eyes glued to the ground, fingers elevating particles from life and stowing them away.
Each piece of paper is a record, not a memory. It's clear to me the ground is a major character in the work, but I wonder now, not quite half-way through my project, what taxonomic system am I operating and will I find it unexpected when all the papers are together? If I try to predict it will that spoil the surprise?
Currently, I’m very much aware of my selectivity. I can’t take absolutely everything off the ground. Well, I could, but that’s an indiscriminate job already performed by council services and I feel it’s my job as an artist to be discriminating. At this point, a regular train of thought oscillates guiltily to my failure to remove the dangerous things from the precious ground. There are some things I see that I cannot bear to pick up. Mainly, these are food-based. I imagine them squelching and slithering over my clean press and that makes me feel a bit sick, so I leave them for the street cleaner and look somewhere else.
I am squeamish, but I have limits, or maybe they are standards I need to challenge. I find that I am able to pick up a child’s filthy sock from the gutter but cannot bring myself to collect the g-string from under a car with steamed-up windows. But now I’ve written that I imagine I will return to that spot and see if it’s still there – because now I’ve written it and I wanted to be truthful to all of life in the city. Also, brought together in a blank impression on white paper possibly the imprint of human lust will not look so different from the imprint of tree pollen.
Other than what I can bear to pick up, there are things that I am bored of passing under the press. There are only so many imprints of Costa coffee lids and (so many more) sugar sachets I want to include. This begs a question over my aesthetic judgment. Items I haven’t seen before encouraging my curiosity, as well as the peculiar-shaped and ones of unidentifiable heritage. I pretty much always pick up rubber bands because I like the unfussy circle shapes they make in the paper that will look akin to gasping punctuation marks scattered across the final work. Besides all this, giving myself permission to pick stuff up off the street has created a collection of oddly shaped brightly coloured plastic too thick to go under the press roller, which also belies my former claim to make choices based on practical considerations.
What taxonomic systems are operating?
- the classification of something, especially organisms. "the taxonomy of these fossils" a scheme of classification. plural noun: taxonomies, "a taxonomy of smells".
I want to see an operating taxonomy of things that intrigues and surprises me but is recognisable to anybody else sharing my in-depth knowledge of living in the Anthropocene age. i.e. Everyone else. I spy the seasons in what I collect and I want this present in the work, but I don't know if it will be obvious. We have parity with plants in using the ground as collecting place, somewhere to begin again. For them, static incumbents of the ground, discarding parts of their bodies enriches the soil, for us, it’s to lose our past. The ground was never intended to regurgitate our past demeanors. Isn’t that how we see it? You go to the ground and end there. Only our bits and bobs aren’t ending quickly enough. For the ground to function as the never-ending recycling machine we seem to imagine it is we need to extend our timescales to match its.
Traces of Google algorithms peek in below this window I type in: ‘People also search for…’ Systema… Phyloge… Paleonto… Biodiversity - a taxonomy of taxonomies = google searches. How do you classify parts when everything is so lumped together to start with and clearly become drawn together again once you have finished. What is this urge to separate, collate and name things that constantly want to merge in response to gravity?