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[ Backstage ]

3. Maintenance Regime III

In the normative set-up, when entering the studio an artist is often compelled to divide everyday life and studio practice, and act as a professional (often tormented and driven) artist. Similarly, to this artistic process, the viewer on entering the gallery is often seen as stripping themselves of related experiences (lived experience, memory and what has happened to you on the way to the exhibition) in order to appreciate art in its objective or ‘pure’ mode. In contrast, I suggest that we should admit that identities within the making and interpreting or art overlap with an accumulation of experience and the artwork is already impure through its contact with the accumulation of the artist’s everyday experience.

In terms of my own identity and its reading within British society, I am an intersectional figure, as my body can be read as a hybrid of female, daughter, student, artist, viewer, foreigner, tenant and prosumer etc. I find it awkward that, when stepping into a specific place I must change the way I am read in order for my body to be taken seriously or to be translated easily; I must switch into a specific character, user, artist, viewer, labourer or even remain a distant passerby. As Robert D. Sack’s has claimed in his article The Power of Place and Space (1993):

Imagining behavior in the absence of such rules leads to the second way in which place or space has power, for it emphasizes that people and objects interact in space and that there could be laws of behavior which govern these interactions. It forces the building of models of how
distance and the relative locations of people and things affect behavior.[1]

As Sack has stated, when people and objects are networked within a space, they will interact together and this relationship will affect all of the actors (human and non-human) and their behaviors. Moreover, Sack’s argument continues with describing the way in which space becomes a specific place when it has been interacted with by humans or has been occupied by objects. I assume that the presupposed rules in using a place have the power to control the user's behavior and reaction. For instance, we are directed towards etiquette in different places as it is suggested within the architecture of the institution. This reminder to the user of how to behave, how to follow the script, are the mechanisms of turning a space into a place. Sack highlights that museums institute specific types of behavior, ‘the museum has specific hours and regulations for the conduct of visitors because of what someone in authority imagined would occur if people were at liberty to enter and leave at will.’[2] Institutional rules are programmed from the start so that the user often becomes the follower, using the space as it has been planned and according to how the museum asserts it should be used. In order to not be ostracised users conform to social practices and usually follow the institutional rules. The initiation process is most obvious when the museum is training elementary students on an off-campus trip to a museum. If you aim to perform as a good student, the only path is to follow the rules or etiquette of the museum. However, museums require their users to also invest in this relationship with their model, so it is not a unidirectional form of power but is cultivated through interaction. Therefore, users do not always have to passively accept the route or path laid out for them. If avoiding being on the passive side of viewing, it is necessary to reconsider the meaning of the place and its coding. Thus, the viewer has to decipher the place and their intended use of it when interacting with its contents, in order to create what Sara Ahmed would state are their alternative ‘uses of use’.

At gallery openings, the artists who have artworks on show in the space are highlighted, named and introduced to an important network of artists, directors, journalists, collectors etc. As can be seen at these events, galleries tend to crown the artwork’s creator in order to co-construct the celebrity identity of the artist in the show and to bolster the authenticity, as well as the value, of their work. In contrast, when I exhibit my practice in a gallery, I aim to maintain my intersectional and less identifiable figure in order to present the way in which the artist’s identity moves through different layers (spaces, people and materials) and shifts itself in relation to these contexts. This avoids acting or reconfirming a specific and clear identity of the artist as sole author or celebrity. The gallery is a medium through which (promotion) and in which (housing) an audience is gathered. This audience is gathered in order to comply with their duty as a viewer to contemplate the artwork. Therefore, galleries have to be aware of the information, statement, etiquette, signs etc. that they supply or model to the audience. This is because they aim to provide a place for the audience to experience the artworks and this entails interactions with the work that institutions tend to try to direct or manage. In contrast, my practice suggests that it is necessary for the audience to be oriented by their own intuition and interpretation, as they co-construct the meaning of the work through their experience of the artwork as a process.

This direct interaction enables users to change the functioning of the space, much like Barthes’ claims for the reader in his Death of the Author (1967). The space of a gallery, studio or home are not much different and it is the actor (human/object) inside these spaces that is the key who transforms a generic space into a specific place. A studio environment can inspire an artist but, without the artist working inside the studio, it could not entirely function as the artist’s studio. It is where the artist is located that the studio appears or becomes active. In my practice, I collect inspiration and materials from my everyday life, experience and routine; every moment is a work in progress. I consider that my studio is not limited within only one specific place but is borderless and maintained through the endless collecting of materials. In terms of my practice, gallery spaces are the places that gather the public together and where materials are assembled together. My studio practice extends into this site by making my decisions and processes visible and tangible to the audience.

In this sense, the gallery becomes the site of my live studio that is open to the public. It is a space in which I uncover my interrelational network with the art material and gallery, as well as the several overlapping characters that I explore within my own identity, as an artist, labourer, overseer and viewer (of the wider exhibition and sometimes even the audience). The artwork materials are a language that I aim to listen to and speak with; to me these found objects talk about spontaneous networks, encounters and stories. This is similar to Grant’s declaration that, ‘It [artwork] is not meant to be viewed as an object, a performance or even a goal-oriented activity, but simply as a perfect process.’[3]  During my practice’s collecting process, my intuition and sensory faculties are deployed rather than an over-conscious determination of the end of product. This is so that I can present alternative formations or jointing than we usually encounter in society. I also try to encourage this intuitive process in the viewer, as I do not represent the assemblage as a end-product. Instead, I aim to embody the artist’s process and make this visible to the public, so that they can encounter, intuit and interpret their own experiences of the process.

[1] Robert D. Sack, The Power of Place and Space, Taylor & Francis, Ltd., Geographical Review, Jul. 1993, Vol. 83, No. 3, 326-329 <> (accessed 01. May. 2021)

[2] Robert D. Sack, The Power of Place and Space, Taylor & Francis, Ltd., Geographical Review, July. 1993, Vol. 83, No. 3, 326-329 <> (accessed 01. May. 2021)

[3] Kim Grant, All About Process: the theory and discourse of modern artistic labor (Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University, 2017), 238.


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