Yane Calovski
Ponder Pause Process (a Situation)

15 May – 30 August 2010

In their publication Oskar Hansen’s Museum of Modern Art (2007), Yane Calovski and Hristina Ivanoska highlight the proposal made by architect Hansen for a contemporary art museum in their home town Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia. The walls of the museum would fold, expand and contract in response to the way in which the collection was to be displayed. Calovski’s interest in the dynamic investigation of models of cultural institutions chime with the areas of interest within the Centenary Programme.

Calovski treated the invitation as an opportunity to start a period of research within the collection at Tate. The collection holds works by artists who have inspired many generations of other artists and Calovski’s process led him to works that, in some way, document a direct experience of the everyday ritual and habits common to us all. His selection brings together works that rely on an active audience engagement with the institution and the works themselves in order for the conceptual promise to be fulfilled. Works selected included: Liam Gillick’s Big Conference Platform Platform (1998), Joseph Beuys’ Felt Suit (1970) and Christopher Wool’s Untitled (You make me) (1997).

Calovski added three additional and important active elements. The first was a sound work by French artist Samon Takahashi entitled A Flock of Rotation (2010). The second was a multiple work by Calovski.

U-LAY (2010), a multi purpose mat providing the viewer with a place and time to sit. The third was an event, a meeting held at Tate on 15 May 2010, for the members of OuUnPo, an itinerant project, whose members are based in various countries across Europe and meet only rarely. The meeting functioned as a performance in this very public space.

Yane Calovski

Making sense of something said: notes on Ponder, Pause, Process (a Situation)
Yane Calovski ‘In Conversation’, 15 May 2010, Tate Britain

I want to think of Ponder Pause Process (a Situation) as a collective portrait of ideas that trigger the mind of the viewer/participant. I had a rare opportunity to work with the vast collection at Tate and in a relatively short period of time to conceptualise a display with works by artists that have been influential for the collaborative, discursive and process-driven approaches in my own art. To describe essential qualities of the works in my selection, I am using my written and transcribed notes, images and references, in order to delineate a narrative. 

Big Conference Platform Platform (1998) by Liam Gillick was the starting point in envisioning the architecture of the installation. Seen as antidote to the likely user-appropriation of space, the work frames the plausibility of unscripted interaction. This work follows the first set of platforms exhibited at the What If Scenario exhibition by Gillick at the Robert Prime Gallery. 

Writing about the show, critic Jennifer Higgie observed, ‘Here, function doesn’t follow form, it defies prescription – it’s usually determined by the chance meeting of personality with material. Complications lurk behind straight lines’. Gillick’s platforms perform a certain kind of need to be (re)activated, used, tested and appropriated if we are to believe their conceptual justification. The concept of ‘function potential’ and the engagement of the viewer in reflecting on the possible forms and nature of dialogue interested me as I thought about the gallery space. While I treated my research as a series of sensations, approximations, assumptions and pathologies, I used Gillick’s platform as an anchor around which the works and the audience will gather, so amplifying the presentation. 

The Inattentive Reader (1919) by Henry Matisse depicts a sense of casual intimacy, with a distracted reader as the focus of the painting. The sense of intimacy evolves through the obvious state of melancholy of the sitter, whose identity in unknown. With all the elements embedded in the unifying idea of environment as opportunity for conceptual action, this painting becomes a sensation that evolves into an emotive space. I was curious to place Matisses’sitter in a dialogue with Jeff Wall’s amateur actors playing different roles in preparation for A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) (1993).  This work is an illusion of capturing a real moment in time and is made from over 100 photographs taken over the course of more than a year. I selected this photo collage for its analytical dexterity where we can see Wall’s tendency towards conceptual dramaturge. By meticulously assembling gestures and movement in order to conceptually alter the woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai, Wall’s craftsmanship in this work reads like an essay of a grand gesture. On the other hand, the interior bound intimacy depicted in Matisse’s painting, make us appraise the poetics embedded in the self-sufficiency of painting. ‘In order to paint my pictures’, he remarked, ‘I need to remain for several days in the same state of mind, and I do not find this in any atmosphere but that of the Côte d’Azur’.

I wanted to broaden the conversation with a work by Francis Alÿs. I selected The Commuters, or rather the documentation of one of the integral parts of the Seven Walks project commissioned by Artangel in 2005, in which he is questioning the elasticity of the concept of trust. He is known to compile notes and observations that reflect a particular social and economic environment and for being able to reveal details of a city and society: ‘to construct a convoluted portrait in time’.

The work, The Commuters, is both about exhibiting and performing. Each night a participant, a chosen carrier, takes the painting to another location. Propped under their arm the work is transported, unprotected, by public transport to its carriers chosen destination. This unpredictability works against all convention of the care of the artwork and extends the field of representation by reactivating the work in a suspended public context. This sort of ephemerality or monumentality, defines Alÿs’ art. The use of an original set of instructions given to the handler, and leaving an empty space on the wall for the painting that is no longer handled, created a devastating feeling of both absence and presence Alÿs’ work finds conceptual roots in Vito Acconci’s remarkable conceptual tests produced in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. He paved the path for performance-based situational research in public space. He is ‘the guy’ who ‘stood’ on the outside of the popular discourse, observing, looking, and creating a social, cultural and political commentary with almost anything he made. Acconci’s interest in the direct link between private and public space became significant in the context of my ongoing research into social/institutional rituals and habits. His pseudo-analytical work called Room Situation, which documents a performance work entitled Room Piece, staged in January 1970 over a period of three weekends, is a record of borrowing and returning household objects he has moved from his apartment to the gallery. This ongoing back and forth has some conceptual similarities with Alÿs’ The Commuters. Imbedded in it is the element of conceptual poetics while applying a sublime and effective dramaturgy. Acconci and Alÿs, both establish a situational dynamic in which the singular responsibility of the performer/ author is in control of the conceptual protocol. 

Blurring of the private and public actions is something that I wanted to encourage in the installation. This encouragement became a curatorial opportunity to incorporate two works outside the Tate collection: a sound work A Flock of Rotation (2010) by Samon Takahashi and U LAY (2010), a multiple in a form of a floor mat that I made for this exhibition. By adding these two works the installation becomes more than the sum of its individual parts – it becomes a meditation on the flexibility of the concept of time and the fluidity of curatorial and artistic interventions. U LAY is a reusable, receptive and practical mat that allows any visitors a chance to sit and observe – to declare certain physical autonomy within the installation. Takahashi’s work, A Flock of Rotation, on the other hand, is a sound work that continuously counts down the seconds throughout the day and reminds the listener to meditate on the concept of time. 

At times I try to extract something from the concept of collective memory, something that resonates in a seemingly constructed communal space, and link it to my self-referential biography. When I came across Joseph Beuys’ Felt Suit (Filzanzug) made in 1970 in an edition of 100, I thought of how unapologetically it resonates in the current socio-political context. Described as a quintessential ‘oblique’ self-portrait, for Beuys this work was about evolutionary warmth, about the return to the elementary understanding of self, sacrifice and spirituality. Relatedly, I searched for the unpublished manuscript The Violet Man by British painter, fiction writer and sculptor Sven Berlin. This is an autobiographical script of some 200 pages never formally finished and dating back to 1968. This was something that the artist treated as a testament that he wanted to be uncovered after his death. Both Beuys and Berlin created work with strong ties to spirituality and political urgency under the influence of their experiences during world war II and the development of modernism. During their lives both faced remarkable political challenges, emotional and physical strain, social acceptance and rejection. Although they were contemporaries, somehow they never met in person. Whilst their personal narratives remembered in art history are remarkably different, I simply wanted to see their work in a metaphorical conversation.  

Christopher Wool’s (Untitled) You Make Me (1997) is the first image the audience sees as they approach Gallery 1. I have used this work to open the audience to the importance of their role in the drama; that the work of the author of each work, the curator of the exhibition and the viewer is essential – the exhibition cannot function alone. The semantics that Wool applies in this work are consistent with the attitude in his overall use of text as material. He is teasing the viewer and plays with the expectations placed on the performance of the art object (and the artist) in context of the institutional value system in which they both participate. Almost reading as an artist statement, Wool’s painting asserts certain intellectual value to the misreading of artists’ intentions.

If we are left unsure of the origin and meaning of Wool’s words, we know what Emma Kay’s The Bible from Memory (1997) is saying and why. She has rewritten the Bible from memory and in her own words without falling back on the original. She designed the typeface and also has organised the text on the page to resemble the Bible itself. Kay writes with a satirical tone, minimizing the value of the grand narrative and subjecting it to a functional memory. As in all work that deals with the intrinsic use of memory, Kay’s is a form of self-portrait. It reminds us of the acuteness of the mind when processing a thought as a form of memory. It also refers to humour imbedded in the cognitive way we develop concepts, about information processing and our ability to trigger hidden aspects of our individual psychology.

This text has become an act of retracing memory. By addressing my idiosyncratic research process through rearranging analog notes with saved reference images, texts, and traced art-historical information, I see how I can understand the display as yet another archive, a container of inconclusive connectedness between works that (should) resist a linear art historical narrative. While I can logically explain what all the works mean to me and how I have gone from one to another, I somehow still believe that the installation was meant for the viewer who in time becomes a participant and therefore an active agent for a future/ potential narrative deriving from the display. I would have loved to hear the opinions and observations of others and be able to articulate my process through their retracted recollections. In situations like this one where the museum collection becomes a medium and the selected works tools, the museum as public space offers a possibility of augmenting a subjective curatorial method similar to drawing an anagram while proposing new conceptual possibilities. Maybe only then the possibilities of recreating, even reinventing, memory become a desired legacy of an experience.

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