Practice Progression

Reflecting on the Two Exhibitions I was Involved in at Cain’s Brewery

After the meeting with Joe Orr our curator, we were aware that we were needing to put three pieces of work into the different spaces, all varying in sizes. I was then faced with the problem of how to exhibit a performance piece in three pieces. After thinking about the subject matter and context of my work, I thought about how I could show the piece in three parts, rather than pieces. This way, I could highlight the transitions from taking on negative feelings, to then changing them and sometimes evolving them in your mind, to finally unloading those feelings.

After settling on this idea, I soon realised that I would not know if this idea would be successful until I actually performed the piece on the night, as the piece involved manipulating unwrapped blocks of lard, which could only be changed from their original state once. However, by helping everyone else set up for the show, this helped me to look at the space from every angle, and think about the best places to put each part of my work. When I then came to put my ideas into practice, I was very familiar with the space and was happy working in a very spontaneous way, as this method has worked for me in the gallery space many times before.

For space one, the small studio space, I unwrapped all of the lard and piled it up in a block formation before my performance began. For space two, the gallery space, I set up a table to manipulate the lard onto, again before the performance. Finally, for the third space, the big warehouse, I left this initially empty, as I used this space to carry my manipulated lard sculptures to, to then drop in the space onto the floor.

As my performance began, I picked up as much lard as I could carry from space one, and carried it slowly into space two. I then manipulated the lard much like I did for my piece Thoughts on a Feeling 2016, before I felt the shape I had made with the lard was worked enough. I then picked up the sculpture I had made, and carried it into the third space, where I dropped it onto the floor, changing the shape of the sculpture right at the last second. As I repeated the steps of the performance over and over again, I felt that for the performance I could not connect to what I was doing at all compared to Thoughts on a Feeling 2016. I think this was a culmination of reasons including: the hub-bub of noise in the gallery space; the increased number of people interrupted the piece to ask what I was doing, and the amount of thinking and travelling I was doing in order to progress the piece at all. Due to these reasons, I felt that the second stage of my performance suffered, which was the part of the performance that was originally most important to me. This has now made me think about what needs to be changed in order to get back to how the performance was before Christmas.

However, the element of my performance that I believe was most successful, was the sculpture I made by dropping my individual lard sculptures onto the floor of the final space. This visually represented what I wanted it to, which was the culmination of all the ‘feelings’ I had demonstrated through manipulating the lard. I found it to be an interesting object which had been made accidently, but was formed through a culmination of other elements within the performance during the show (see left).

Once the show had finished, we were given another opportunity to be involved in a second show a few days later, which I embraced in order to experiment with the sculpture I had made at the first show. When looking back at the performances I have done, I realised how prominent the contradiction is becoming within my practice between the aesthetic and the internal. This had once been a contradiction I was doing everything I could to avoid, particularly by putting the material of lard on a platform to emphasise the internal even more. However, the fact that I was obviously involved in the performance, I myself became the aesthetic element of the piece, just by being present. Therefore, I am now trying a new approach to the contradiction I was trying so hard to avoid, which is now to battle the issue head on. By embracing it, I am recognising it, especially as feeling come with an aesthetic as well, as feelings are an abstract notion in themselves and need a physical tie in order to express them. Whether this be my own body, words (as is typical), or the lard, there will always be a physical, aesthetic element to my subject matter.

Therefore, for the second show, I decided to use the most aesthetic material I could think of that I have also used before in my practice, which was paint. I revisited it as a material, but this time used it in pigment form, to sprinkle in on as a base for my sculpture. I used bright colours for the piece, as I have been drawing on influences from Rachel Maclean’s film piece at her What are you 🙂 about? show in Manchester, along with drawing on what the artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd said about embracing colour in my practice in order to experiment, rather than avoiding it just in case it goes wrong.

I also used bright colours rather than earthy colours, because I again wanted to highlight the aesthetic nature of the world and the fake aesthetic people use in order to cover up feelings and pretend to ‘be ok’. Using earthy colours could suggest nature and natural themes, whereas I wanted to highlight the contrived nature of the aesthetic, rising up to hide negative feelings.

Exhibition One Piece: Unburdening: Parts One, Two and Three
Exhibition Two Piece: Aesthetically Internal
Still Image from Performance
Still Image from Performance

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