Every Artist Remembered is a project I began in 2008, which feels like eons ago. I have returned to the project here for Power to the People. Although it is very much a procedural work, I am always confronted by the variables that give each appointment, conversation and resulting drawing or constellation its very specific qualities. Each appointment is open to the public, although there presence is quite incidental for each collaborating artist and myself. The intimacy and connection established between us is at times strong, and at other times tenuous. The audience can, if they choose, bear witness to how this relationship, and the resulting image unfolds.
I give each collaborating artist very similar verbal instructions before each appointment commences. It goes something like this:
The task is, as the name of the work suggests, to remember every artist. This is of course impossible but in this 2 hours we will attempt to do so. The definition of ‘an artist’ is yours. I put no limitations on this and will not censor any name you say. We will alternately recall artists name for exactly two hours. You will name the first and last artist. I will note the artists on this piece of paper as we go, although where I place each name is intuitive and bears no relation to the linear formation of our conversation. I ask that each name be said in relation to the name before. This specific nature of the relation is up to you – it could be linguistic, social, historical, lateral, geographic, sexual, intuitive etc. I ask this so the exercise does not enter the realm of a display of virtuosity or demonstration of encyclopaedic knowledge. It also limits the extent to which this names are a document of taste, although of course taste, virtuosity and knowledge all come in to it. I am not a good speller, and you can correct me if you choose. You may choose to use this a as chance to memorialise certain artists. We can converse about any of the artists either of us don’t know. It’s fine to sit in silence. Ultimately, there will be no evidence of who recalled what name.
The following are brief and cursory descriptions of the tone, quality and challenges of each appointment of Every Artist Remembered held as part of the exhibition Power to the People, up to now.
When I begin, I am sad already to mark the pages. My favorite time is when all the pages are blank. Ian and I have a playful time, adjusting to the flow of viewers coming and going. He is a formidable intellect and brings many names and practices to the field and fills spaces with anecdotes, history lessons and social insights. I am rusty and feel at sea much of the time. I am caught in the canon, and can’t find a way out. Ian begins with Alexis Soyer.
An excerpt for Ian’s response:
The two hours seemed over in a moment. There is a shock in seeing how the page somehow betrays and misrepresents as well as reveals – why is mine full of 50s and 60s Americans who I haven’t thought about for decades? Was it just the atmosphere of that exhibition? And there was that other surprise when I realised we had an audience, I hadn’t noticed them accumulating behind me until they burst into laughter at one point.
We attempt for the first time to use microphones so the project is more audible for viewers. This brings a sense of self-consciousness to the performance, and an experience of being disembodied from our voices, which does not serve the development of a sense of intimacy between us. Despite this, Barbara maintains a quiet focus and intensity throughout. For the first twenty or thirty names, we primarily remember women. In general, we take care to remember. There is a large and persistently present audience. Barbara begins with Tehching Hsieh. And concludes with Lygia Clark.
Domenico De Clario
I am more confident and I can feel we are in the flow. Domenico and I adjust well to each other’s logics and choices. We have discussed the likelihood of long periods of silence, and when they come, there is no sense of panic or fear. I feel as if the forceful flow of the canon is less likely to carry me away. Domenico mentions many novelists and spells many Italian names. There are less spelling mistakes. The audience is gentle and comes and goes. The poetry in the exercise feels clear. Domenico mentions Pele.
We begin with a glass of wine, something I had never considered before, but it serves its softening purpose. The audience builds steadily throughout. I am more conscious of the act of drawing and feel the emotional space to engage in this process as much as the remembering itself. Mikala and I ebb and flow between intimate rememberings and unknown (to me) names. The conversation seems punctuated by my enquiry into each artist who I have not heard of. The audience is lively and I can feel at times they would like to contribute more, however, the intimacy of the relationship between Mikala and I, and the intensity of the task, prohibits too much banter or audience contributions. At some moments I feel Mikala and I are really in the same space of remembering. Mikala retrospectively noted there were moments in which we seemed psychically connected. We agree we could have gone on for much longer.
I have a sense of quiet doom all day and Callum arrives feeling unwell. I feel bad for him, but he soldiers on. We begin early to get the pain over and done with, a tone which doesn’t really lend to much playfulness or intimacy. Nevertheless, we begin to accumulate names. As always, I become stuck any time a pre-20th century artist is mentioned and often seem to be wading through muddy glue. Despite this, many names are recalled that please me. Sometimes, it takes a number of 2 hour slots for me to ‘get to’ a name I have been trying to recall. In this case, it is often Callum who coincidently finds these artists and names them. I am pleased by this.The audience is ever present, there is a camera and a tape recorder. I feel Charlie willing his name and I resist my own tendency to try to please him/make him like me more by writing his name. Later, we discuss how this worked perhaps has been mis-framed as a performance, but more about this soon.