|Faust, Gretchen, Arts, "Casual Ceremony", March 1992, p. 79.|
The art/life relationship is thoughtfully investigated and developed in works by Claudia Matzko, Emil Lukas, Paula Hayes, Ben Kinmont, Toby Mott, Joe Scanlan, Siochain Hughes, and Tom Friedman in a show entitled Casual Ceremony (White Columns, December 13-January 13). Much of the work included in its very subject and form challenges the notion of a hierarchical boundary between the life experience and the art process. Though this issue has come up repeatedly and dominated most of the last century of art activity and its history. the two realms have always seemed to me neither diametric nor exclusive, but rather mutually inclusive. The issue of paying attention by example is investigated by Matzko's delicate, calendraical and literal pinning down of every minute of the day. The number of minutes is perforated into small white tissue-paper square that are affixed to the wall by means of tiny d4ressmaker's pins. This piece is almost invisible at first, and acts as an effective memorial catalogue of the silent, forgotten moments of each day's experience into activity. Siochain Hughes similarly draws attention to the overlooked by rescuing the cassette tapes one sees strewn by the sides of the roads. The tapes are scavenged, respooled, re-recorded, and presented with a map identifying where they were found. A tape layer is provided as well, so that the viewer/listener can participate in this urban "archeology." Toby Mott is more like a sort of aesthetic geologist making works that evolve from taking a visual record of the phenomena he experiences in his daily life. Here, taking the form of "drawings" on paper, are: stains from grass documenting a walk in a city park; the graceful tracings of a sweeping broom; the rubbed detritus from his studio floor. Joe Scanlan takes the rough-and-ready approach, in work that is considerably (refreshingly) less poetic than that of his peers. Scanlan presents as art things that he actually needs in "real" life—in this show he exhibits a tiled bathroom floor made for a very specific space. The dependency between life and art in terms of personal parameters is here made reciprocal. The art is generated by his specific needs—if he sells the tiled floor as art, he must then remake it to fulfill his need of it in his life. This sort of paying attention to the sometimes quirky inverse relations between life and art—that the distinction often takes only a very slight interference on the part of the artist—is most aptly demonstrated in the work of Tom Friedman. A seemingly minimalist white cylinder sits upon a white pedestal. Upon closer inspection is revealed to be toilet paper meticulously rerolled, eliminating the usual centered cardboard tubing. A bar of soap situated on the wall has pubic hairs embedded that form a perfect, hypnotic spiral. Fortunately the visual and physical preciousness of the work is matched and countered by the manic obsession revealed in the means by which it is made. that both Scanlan and Friedman use imagery and objects from the bathroom wittily indicates a relationship to Duchamp's urinal. The nature of memory and the interrelatedness of the many moments of daily (hourly, momentary...) experience is exemplified in the physical situation dictated by the form of Emil Luka's work. Many individual book-sized boxes, each offering a unique and cryptic visual "story," are stacked into a high vertical column. There is a specific order to the series each fitting into the other like a backbone, made of similarly shaped but uniquely positioned vertebrae. The sequential experience generated as each element is observed, handled, and placed back in order strangely mimics the process of recollection and memory born of the culmination of the moments of which our individual lives are constructed. Paula Hayes's work represents the most doggedly metaphoric of the shoe, dealing with specific memories of childhood and adolescence that culminate in a scattered, bedroom like installation that is illustrative of both innocence and trauma. Hayes seems bent on articulating the hidden part memory plays in determining our lives through its manipulation of experience into other, often gendered, visual languages. It is however, Ben Kinmont who really takes the issue of art/life to heart in his piece consisting of a stack of paper plates printed with an open invitation for gallery visitors to come to his house for a waffle breakfast. Not only might this dispel common misconceptions about the nature of artists and their lives, but also acts to break down the barrier between art and life (is life really non-art?), artists and non-artists (are there non-artists?), by introducing the element of mutual trust back into the art/life exchange.