Jelena Tomasevic’s 'Just Kidding', 2007, is a single channel video installation, placed in the mountain landscape of Tomasevic’s native Montenegro, 'Just Kidding' is a short film of an 8 minute single take, a narrative of surreal and enigmatic imagery using elements previously seen in her paintings such as a house, swimming pool, girl, and hair dryer.
In Cinema, the long take is usually a means to explore duration of the time and mimetic potential of the imagery, but in 'Just Kidding', this stylistic device is used as an allegorical compression; an artificial sublimation of the displacement, i.e. of the human Ex-sistence. Jelena Tomasevic’s vision is both melodramatic and ecstatic, functioning as both an anxious description and a serene analysis. Within the strange landscape: a house, a chair, a sliding board, a pool. Enters one person, a girl. She inscribes herself into this topography, this constellation of objects, and we as spectators are suddenly confronted with a hermeneutical enigma, maybe even with suspense - What's going on here, where does all of this lead? The answer lies in mise-en-scene: things have their meaning according to their (architectonic) position in the created symbolic network. As we watch our heroine, the girl, as a developing short story, different aspects are noticed; the sand being a disruptive element, the acknowledgment of the camera in the end, the hair dryer as the sword of Damocles hanging over the girl's head. When she enters the pool, one wonders if it is a blissful or tragic event, but that is Jelena Tomasevic’s 'Just Kidding': a mystery, that acute danger, that fragile beauty of our existential Frisson. Aleksandar Becanovic ↩
Lily Mellor, Searching and Finding (myself), September 2015 - April 2016.
A list of Google searches done from my mobile phone whilst travelling the world for 8 months. No matter where we are or what we are doing, we have instant access to information to answer almost any question, whilst never having to complete our search by committing the answers to memory. The variety of different questions in the list reflects my whereabouts and experiences during this time; mapping a constant state of transition, always moving, never settled. ↩
* 02 07 2010
What do we mean when we talk about how we feel about things? We spend so much time in our heads without listening to our bodies. Ninety percent of the information that passes between the gut and the brain via the enteric nervous system goes to the brain. This system transmits and receives impulses and registers emotional responses to events, yet we have become accustomed to ignoring these signals. In short our bodies are telling us what we feel before we begin to process and reflect on a response. According to the somatic feeling theory(1), a person perceives an external stimulus, there is a change bodily state and then the body feels this change, in that order.
Once a person has an awareness of the feeling associated with this stimulus, there are two options. One can hold onto or attempt to keep this feeling, resulting in muscular tension and a mind/body dislocation, or one can note the stimulus, associated feelings, changes in the body, and then move on. But, rarely do we listen to the guidance of the body, even when the symptoms of mind-body disconnect or illness are indicated.
What is my breathing like? Usually it is shallow, intermittent. There is muscular tension in the stomach. When I become aware of this, I realise that I am controlling my breathing, and effectively juggling two things at once. How can I be fully present, allow it to simply happen and stop myself from directing it? We get so used to being in control, or simply thinking that we ought to be in control, that the conscious mind starts to interfere with something as simple as the act of breathing. So, what should happen naturally and handled unconsciously by the autonomic nervous system, becomes directed or managed.
We should ask ourselves what the result of this managing is. In essence, “What is my motivation?” We don’t recognise the role of our minds as a tool in this process. We don’t even know we are doing it, but with the slightest effort, we are engaged in an egocentric game of wanting everything to become something.
We have a fear of nothing. We are programmed to think nihilistically, become negative and think that nothing is equal to an absolute state of absence. Rather, if we view it as no-thingness, we begin to understand that an object contains all possible qualities and therefore no independent or intrinsic nature of its own, rather than just those that we attribute to it. So, it is us that determines the thingness of things, and the value we then add to these, i.e. that which is driven by our need for these to be the case.
Failure is a great place to start as long as you don’t make up a story about it. i.e., “I can’t do this or I can’t do that”. We make up all sorts of ideas about what a thing is about, needing it to be this or that or “I should be this or I should be that”. But when we fail we have to start over. We have to start from scratch. This is beginners mind. We do this over and over again and realising this, is a great relief, as we no longer have to carry the burden of everything. We just have to show up with humility and as much of a clear mind as we can muster, forget attempting to move from here to somewhere else. We have it all already. It is not dependent on the mind, but is simply the nature of things, here and now, right under your nose, and without precedent.
(1) Prinz. Jesse. J., (2004). Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion (Philosophy of Mind Series). NY: Oxford University Press
Each day it happens quietly: an aliveness emerging slowly in waves of unfamiliar movement. It hovers between the rawest intimacy and the utmost calm, and in humming recognition of that which is unheard of, they seep between its limits into each other. Over time, escaping time axis manipulation, the work unfolds. Two paintings emerge that are almost entirely connected to one another. They stand side by side within a provisional sanctum: a meeting place for the no longer and the not yet. Things arise here. When mechanisms of capture make heavy with their claims, the nomad slips away, drawing strength from the torrent of what is becoming. Here, the sedimentation of habits dissolves and painting pulsates its patterns of transformation. In early summer I stumble across this place, recognising afresh the fragile web, encountering anew the fragility of becoming imperceptible. They rest, just waiting. In stillness they embody the joyful breath of life. Together they murmur. Slight conversations, sometimes just snatched words, thoughts, filter once more into the rectangles, into their skin. Their borders expand together in to life, in to this one life through which they are passing.
The Lawes of The Marches, 2015, considered the border as a process of enactment, reconceiving state spatiality as a temporal intervention. This three screen and single screen installation is one of the most complete video documents of the ancient border tradition of the Common Ridings, a 700 year old ritual of communal horse riding, all along the border of England and Scotland.
These ridings are as much about now, Scotland/England, the current political/social border landscape as they are about marking the common ground and commemorating the past. The installation interrogated what constitutes a temporal territory by opening as Scotland went to the polls to vote on independence, questioning how, for a brief window of 12 hours, UK Sovereignty lay not only in the hands of the Scottish people. It was also subject to the political rhetoric and campaigning that led up to the vote: that the border is not defined by laws, strictly speaking, but rather by an administration whose code can be constantly reconstructed by political intent.
This work provokes questions around how and why these borders are acted out in the public sphere. As the recent Conservative Party mandate for the British Referendum vote played out, an acting out of nationalism from multiple directions formed the core of the Leave and Remain campaigns to subsequently move the UK outside of the European Union.
The performances of these temporal borders not only sustain the fabric of the everyday but also the writing of histories and the shaping of Empires. They become the fabric of the everyday. If borders are explanations of identity and in building them we define ourselves, then only when crossing them do we redefine who we might become. This is why my practice and this work aims to expose the opaque nature of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and how and why the past becomes used as evidence for the present moment.
Stu BurkeMomentary Sculpture, 2016. Along the Hyphen
Nothing I make is permanent.
Nothing I make is final.
I make nothing.
I use gravity and tension and my adhesive. My 'sculptures' are always in a state of transit, unfixed, relying on the initial balance to keep them together, at any moment they could collapse and become new structures, 'sculptures', interacting with the space and spectators in a refreshingly different way to that of the first 'sculpture'
We then have these instances between the first 'sculpture' (point A) and the second (point B). These instances contain thousands of new 'sculptures' that last only for a split second each before progressing to the next, until they settle at point B.
Point B is a state of ruin, the final stages of an entropic arrangement, the remains of the ephemeral structure, evidencing that there once was a great monument that stood in the space. By using strong, masculine materials such as wood, bricks and metal, they give the 'sculpture' a false sense of permanence and also increases the tension within the work.
Some see the 'great monument' of Point A as the work of Art, worshipping it until its unpredictable demise. Others enjoy exploring the ruins and feel that Point B holds more artistic value. Of course, they are both wrong. The art, if any, and philosophical value is present, briefly, in the instance of transition between Point A and Point B. Commonly written on gravestones are the date we were born and the date which we die (e.g. 1952-2004). However, if we take notice of the hyphen between the two dates we actually discover (although obvious often overlooked) that the small horizontal line that separates, and is almost lost between, two titanic marks in the stone, is actually the life of the person. This hyphen represents everything that happened from birth to death, the human midpoint. With this in mind, it is only logical that anything of any importance will therefore happen within the 'sculptures' midpoint, between Point A and B.
The photographic documentation of my sculptural performances capture some of the moments within the 'sculptures' midpoint, along its transition from Point A to B. I coined these Momentary Sculptures and they are not the start of anything, nor are they the end of anything, they are a midpoint in my journey, part of my artistic hyphen. ↩
Sean Lowry, Invisible, 2016. Electronic artist book.
Lowry’s conceptually driven artistic practice employs strategies of concealment, subliminal appropriation, erasure, remediation and intermedial expansion to explore the outermost limits of recognition and specificity in the world of a creative work. INVISIBIBLE (2016) is the first in a series of ghostly electronic versions of iconic books in which Lowry seeks to implicate relationships between the material properties of texts-as-objects with invisible functions of thought. Here, seemingly conspicuous absence coupled with the barest of paratextual information invites the viewer to look into and beyond expectations of content to experience uncertain feelings of familiarity. ↩
Steve Hawley, The Barnum Effect, 2007. “You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage.”
The famous showman P.T. Barnum, believed that a spectacle should have something for every member of the audience, and used the human propensity for belief in vague statements in a mind reading act. In 1948 the effect was investigated by the psychologist Bertram Forer, who used random excerpts from horoscopes and tested them on his students, who rated the personality description produced as astonishingly accurate.
In the video, a series of statements are voiced by a narrator addressing the individual spectator, over a series of images shot in high definition video of a deserted salt pans, on the Adriatic coast in Slovenia. The seduction of the audience by the voice seems to question the seduction of the viewer by the hyperreal image itself.
Voiceover Heidi Schaefer Camera, script, edit Steve Hawley ↩
48.1%, Andrew Bracey, 2016. A number is shown on the screen in a number of different fonts at an increasingly frantic pace. The moving image of the number 48.1% lasts 51.9 seconds and is cut off, bluntly. Something ends. This makes me feel frustrated, sad, despondent, angry, fed up, gloomy, annoyed, cross, furious, depressed, irritated, fractious, glum, maddened, incensed, miserable, dejected, rejected, dislocated, removed, separate, exasperated, desperate, discouraged, disturbed, wretched, downcast, uncertain, unsure, fearful, so completely out of touch with so many around me... ↩
Midpointness: A willing ignorance of the ‘end result’.
What is an ‘end result’, when nothing in life really has a beginning, middle, or an end? We draw a line, put a full stop at the end, but things continue afterwards, just the same. And where did it begin? At the start? No, it was before that. Before there was even a thing to begin.
No one thing is truly detached from another. It is always in the middle of something. Always at a midpoint. We are in a constant state of midpointness, whether we are conscious of it or not, in our lives, in our work.
My art practice is a constant aspiration towards midpointness. A process, a mode of being, that carries me from one artwork to another, one action to the next, one thought to the next. Each interconnected, woven together into a mesh, inseparable from one another, indivisible and in flux.
Time-based, as opposed to outcome based. Without clearly defined objectives. Without clearly understood purpose or aim. The only thing that is certain is that time will pass during the pursuit.
Action without contemplation. The importance of momentum. Unquestioning. Not so much a work in progress as a journey in progress. Stop to think and you are wasting time. Stop to think and doubts will sneak up on you. Always aiming to keep one step ahead of doubt. Always putting one foot in front of the other.
Like a weed, a midpoint is a place whose virtues have yet to be discovered. An idea, a hunch, yet to take form. A notion yet to be fully realized as a concept. Nurture your midpoints. Keep them fed and watered, give them plenty of light and space, and they will grow. You need do nothing more.
It was this way before you and it will be this way after you. Your work can be continued after your death through the archives you leave behind. There is no end point. We don’t know where it all began. We are in the middle. We are forever at the midpoint.
When I stop...
I walk into the woods. I dig up the black earth. I haul it back up the hillside. I wash it through water and strain it through a large metal sieve. I wait. Days. I filter. I wait. Days. I spread the clay thick to dry out, just enough. I wait. I slice it up into boulder-sized pieces. Heavy and hard, I knead it until workable.
I sit and make small, palm sized balls out of the black clay.
I sit and make a small pinched out bowl from one of these balls. I place it to one side. I sit and make a small pinched out bowl. I place it to one side. I make another. Then another then another and another until, at some point, I stop. As each one dries it's earth smell rises and it's colour fades to ashen grey. When the hoard of dry bowls clutters the table and no more clay remains I stack them inside each other, place them back in the bucket and carry them back to the woods. Back to their hole. Return them to their geological time. Bury them and go. Onwards.
Doing and making is the work. The work is the labour of doing.
When I stop and acknowledge the learning from the doing that is a midpoint.
The midpoint, for me is, like this short essay, the point when I am called to acknowledge actions and making. Not wanting to succumb to art-speak. Not wanting to manhandle and misshape my making into meaningless verbiage, I prefer to talk face to face. This is also doing.
"Artworks" as such are midpoints but they aren't the work. They are a pointer from which I came and to where I may be going. The doing is a continuum of assimilating to my identity. I can talk about the work and I can be filmed doing the doing of the work but any artwork is a static moment of acknowledgement. It is when I stop. And I do not need a physical outcome, an artwork, and I do not need to show you what I am doing. I am an artist but I only work when I need to work something out. I don’t need to be an artist as an identity or to create meaningful objects. I have worked out that this is a folly.
“ideas come to us as the successors to griefs, and griefs at the moment they change into ideas, lose some part of their power to injure our hearts.”
The labour of making worked through a trauma. Showed me the way we all invest into objects and people. How we embody the other with illusory emotion. How we foster that and place it on high shelves or in keepsake boxes to cherish. But in so doing we stagnate ourselves.
The work on which we are all working is a process of exhausting representations in an attempt to assimilate ourselves to our experiences. We offer audiences the residues of this through relationships with objects that are made, or used to both supplement an illusory ideal or to mirror truth in as far as it is ever possible to know it. The working through of making was a way to vanquish attachment and to assimilate myself to my current identity, one I didn’t chose, that of being alone.
I walk into the woods again.
Obliterating all attachment to the outcomes of my labour through prolonged periods of making I didn’t feel the need to bury the latest hoard of disembodied forms. I questioned this. A midpoint had arrived. Why had I made them, what was I working through? Have I unwittingly attached to them? No answers came but the desire to place them within the floor of my new home started to grow out of nowhere. The answer was that I was assimilating to a new me, a new lover, and a new home all becoming my new life and the everyday. The past now diminished, no longer a raw trauma to mourn but akin to a volume residing on an easy to reach shelf which informs me who I am through the behaviours of the past casting varying illuminating hues of the behaviours of the now.
This load of clay, this new hoard of forms offered me something different.
My attention was pointed to the history of burying objects as acts of transformation. The witch bottle is an object of 17th Century folklore. A bellarmine jar filled with human urine, hair, nails, needles and pins, red thread, rosemary, feathers, stones or shells, and many other found objects. Buried in the furthest corner of the house, beneath the hearth or plastered into walls, the witch bottle is a device to draw in and trap harmful intentions directed at their owners.
I am not attached to them. I barely think about them. I remembered them when asked to do this.
But I was absolutely certain that as objects they had the capacity to hold something within them but not something I had put in or embodied them with. They had morphed into the talisman of the very act of relinquishing attachment and in doing so had become the perfect force field to stop any further harm coming to me through unhealthy attachment to others and things. I placed them into the wall of my home not as a reminder, I never acknowledge them, apart from now, but I truly believe I did it as an essential act.
The act of placing them in my home is a point, a marker of time, a moment between the beginning of a continuum of learning through doing and the onwards journey to my future selves.
Jelena Tomasevic life interest, 2016. Curator Fedja Klikovac pointed to Jelena Tomasevic’s work as encapsulating a state of Midpoint.
Jelena Tomasevic recent paintings are loaded with surreal scenes, with figures, objects and concrete, brutalist architecture that float in white undefined spaces. The architecture is reminiscent of Jelena’s home town, which was entirely destroyed during WW2 and rebuilt as a modernist utopian experiment, with inhabitants not able to cope with the challenges of new communal ways of living and pressure from ‘political and social mechanisms exerted upon them’. In particular, they express the difficulty for women to escape the stereotypical images of femininity and anxiety, resulting from the social pressure to conform to a masculine ethos. These dreamlike fragments are absurd, ironic, violent, melancholic, humorous and they are always shown in random groups from the ceiling to the floor of the exhibition space or rotating in groups of four on specially made posts. Fedja Klikovac ↩
Bracey & Dutton, Obstract, 2016.
About the contributors
Steve Dutton and Andrew Bracey are UK based artists and curators. This is the third Midpointness instalment of a four part monthly contribution to ThIS Blog. We would like to thank the contributors so far: Ali Ballard, Aleksandar Becanovic, Kate Buckley, Stu Burke, Simón Granell, Steve Hawley, Fedja Klikovac, Sean Lowry, Lili Mellor, Annie Morrad & Ian McArthur, David Reed, Jelena Tomasevic, Sarah Shalgosky, Kate Southworth, Elizabeth Wright and Stefan Zeyen.
Previous Midpointness Posts: