Mary Kelly brings up this subject in the book Mary Kelly by Margaret Ivrrson (et al, 1997, p130)
She gives a short synopsis on the history of writ ng in art from the late 60’s where it became more popular through to the 80’s where it lost its popularity. She highlights that there was little writing by woman through this time. Kelly addresses the issues she faced being a visual artist and involving g writing as well. She argues you can be both together through a ‘combined process’ and the artists that have spoken about their work are ‘assumed to be articulate’ but when they don’t they are not.
What I read from this is there is no fixed rule. You can be the artist you want to be and still articulate your work. I guess it depends on the work. Louise Bourgeois said that if she has to explain her work she has failed as an artist (destruction of the father; reconstruction of the father).
Both Bourgeois and Kelly are respected artists yet they hold such different view points.
What’s does this mean for my own practise?
I have tried both ways. I performed a collaborative piece in November 2013 in which I performed using what I call my ‘fine art process’. This to me is having an idea to begin with and then when performing going from moment to moment deciding what to do by what feels right or makes sense to me. In this way learning about self and human behaviour too. I can see my art psychotherapy roots coming out here.
After this piece my colleague and I went before the audience out of character, just as ourselves and took questions and feedback.
Now, again, I ask myself (as my tutor at the time asked) ‘why did we do this?
Was it because we were used to the feedback, group critique style from foundation? Did we feel we had to explain our work? Did we want to have a conversation with our audience about our ideas? I think all these answer the question. I can now see why it was seen as strange for some, having read some of the history on articulating your work. And I am also pleased to see Kelly too likes to debate her theories after she has made the work.
In my last series of performances I resisted the urge to speak to the audience at all. I started my performance with a strict dialogue with the public. I did so speaking one to one with individuals, one at a time asking them and them only the same question, ‘ Would you want my head in your hands’ I proceeded to offer them a cast of my head in plaster. The same was done by my assistant except she held a cast of my hand and went to individuals asking them ‘will you hold Marion ‘s hand’. This came from my interstate in double entendre.
I then placed the casts down and quietly asked my assistance if they were ready to help me perform. Prior to the event they were briefed on what the idea was and what to do. No words were spoken during the performance ( my usual method) and hand signals were agreed in case of emergency.
After the performance I silently walked out from the performative space and on return did not encourage a discussion.
My findings were:
1. I felt disconnected from the audience maybe due to the type of performance or maybe because I didnt engage with them afterwards when out of character.
2. I felt the ideas were left hanging in many ways apropriately. I liked the idea of people making their own minds up about the piece and how it may or may not be relevant to them.
3. I was left wondering what they had brought or not brought to the work and if they had come up with any connections, ideas or theories I could have followed up on. Is this what you must sacrifice to enable your piece be respected or done correctly/professionally. Is this what you have to sacrifice in professional practise as apposed to the studio / peer practise? I find these questions interesting and important to the development of my work.
For the cocoon series I chose to go what I thought looked like professional practise. Part of me congratulates myself for resisting temptation and the other part of me feels like going back and having debates and conversions about the work especially with the tutors I had access to at the time.
So how will I go forward? I think this needs further debate. 😉