Part 5, research point

Brief: look at three of the artists listed in the course materials.

Before I began this task, I listed all the artists provided in the course materials and located websites with information and images. I did this over time, only at this final point eliminating the ones I had found least engaging, thereby leaving me with these three. At this point, I realised that all of them are mixed media, they all take discarded or found objects of some kind as their subject matter, and they all project a profound sense of meaning even if they are not always forthcoming about what that might be.

Avery likens dereliction to coral reefs with, perhaps, the intention of showing that no matter how clever we think we are, when we’re gone our precious objects will be repurposed by another lifeform. Boltanski rams home the message about child victims of the holocaust in Monuments (1985) and the inevitability of death in No Man’s Land (2010). Broodthaers draws on his catalogue of talents in art, poetry, and textual skills to deliver commentaries on books, visual art, museums and institutions.


Charles Avery | National Galleries of Scotland 1973-

The first piece of work I see of his is an installation called Coral Reef which presents the observer with the interior of a room which appears to be subject to demolition. There is debris around, tyres, a length of silver tubing possibly from an air conditioning unit, and a naked structure that might have been the desk behind a customer portal. At a guess, I’d say this is standing as a metaphor for sunken debris that is rapidly repurposed by marine life, and may also suggest that, with rising sea levels, this is our fate too.


Christian Boltanski – 42 Artworks, Bio & Shows on Artsy 1944-

Some interesting ideas here, “Preoccupied with collective memory, mortality, and the passage of time, Christian Boltanski creates paintings, sculptures, films, and mixed-media installations that approach these themes in a range of styles, symbolic to direct. Boltanski often makes metaphorical use of found objects, as in No Man’s Land (2010), an enormous pile of discarded jackets set to the soundtrack of thousands of human heartbeats, suggesting the anonymity, randomness, and inevitability of death. In Monuments (1985), electrical bulbs cast a seemingly bittersweet light on pictures of child holocaust victims. Describing his interest in personal histories, Boltanski has said, “What drives me as an artist is that I think everyone is unique, yet everyone disappears so quickly. […] We hate to see the dead, yet we love them, we appreciate them.” From the website.

Boltanski seems to engage with meaning in his work – Monument was the image that struck me first and before I saw what it was about.


Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective | MoMA 1924-1976

Marcel Broodthaers (Belgian, 1924–1976) worked primarily as a poet until the age of 40, when he turned to the visual arts. Over the next 12 years, his work retained a poetic quality and a sense of humor that balanced its conceptual framework; for his first solo exhibition, he encased unsold copies of his latest poetry book, Pense-Bête (Memory aid, 1964), in plaster, turning them into a sculpture. Broodthaers continued to invent ways to give material form to language while working across mediums—poetry, sculpture, painting, artist’s books, printmaking, and film. From 1968 to 1972, he operated the Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles (Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles), a traveling museum dedicated not to his work as an artist but to the role of the institution itself and the function of art in society. In the final years of his life, Broodthaers created immersive “décors,” large-scale displays in which examples of his past work were often unified with objects borrowed for the occasion. This exhibition—the first Broodthaers retrospective organized in New York—will reunite key works from all aspects of his art making to underscore the complex trajectory of his career, which despite its brief duration proved enormously influential to future generations of artists.

From the website.

Given my growing interest in taking a multimedia approach to art – in my case film, animation, and text – someone who mixes poetry with objects, texts, and sculpture, and also came late to becoming a visual artist is an interesting character. He seemed also to invest a great deal of meaning in his work, many of which involve discarded objects such as mussel and egg shells and some, black marker redaction of text which many of us have come to associate with legal documents hard won but ultimately useless to us. I wish he had given us more clues as to what he was saying in these works, what message he had. Remote interpretation only gets us so far and is little more than unchallengeable opinion.


While the work is impactful and often emotionally loaded, I am inevitably more curious about the psychological drivers of the artists whose minds made them. Where do these thoughts and images come from? What meaning is there in them for their makers? How do they view them when the public has access and makes up its own mind about what is meant? Do they get angry at misinterpretations or just add them to a catalogue of possibilities? I’m reminded of an author whose choice of blue for the curtains in a character’s room was debated in detail on a literary site and who, when interviewed about how it maybe represented depression in the character or in the author, or symbolised the sea or the sky, hope or engulfment, said no, I just like blue. Interpretation can be a fantastical loose cannon.

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