Ruth Barker

Caesar: How Things Are Made

2006

 

When an artist wants to make art, they routinely produce more than one object/image/work over a period of time. The objects/images/works produced over this duration have a relationship with one another and this relationship becomes an art practice. The investigatory nature of this practice (this series of relationships between objects/images/works produced over a duration) is crucial:

 

  1. it allows the artist to orientate themselves within a broader cultural sphere, and
  2. it allows art to be distinguished from other forms of activity such as craft or leisure pursuits.

Individual artists may not see their work as explicitly investigative, but the drive towards private resolution informs society’s ability to perceive and understand the world. Art’s capacity to generate new knowledge in a wider sense is explicitly investigatory, and so all art necessarily has some relationship to the process of enquiry.

 

As an individual’s practice evolves, the relationship between the objects/images/works becomes more complex. Each image, object, or work can be considered a node within the overall ‘sentence’ of the practice – to use the metaphor of transformational grammatology – where it indicates both a point of definition or pause, and a point from which further ideas can develop. Sometimes a lineage can be found when these nodes are compared, but equally sometimes they may appear infertile. The significance of every node however, is that it represents a point at which the artist’s ideas (impacted on by the physical and other properties of the external world) have intersected one another to produce an independently perceivable residue that exists in the world. In this way, we can see that art, like philosophy, is a charting of ideas; but that art, unlike philosophy, results in the tangible (that the object/image/work emerges from the coalescence of thought, rather than illustrating or representing it).

 

When an artist exhibits some of the objects/images/works that form part of their practice, they are positioning an edited group of these nodes in relation to a gallery, an essay, objects images and works by other artists, a city, a moment in history. When a curator selects objects/images/works by a range of different artists and presents them for exhibition, they enter into this equation as an external force that composes previously separate nodes along a thesis of their own. Some artists have mixed feelings about this.