From the University of Massachussetts via a dialogue at Scope NY, 2015, to the Project Space at the GTG in Belfast is a journey less startling than the choice of making Belfast a Sister City for Boston. Yet, in 2014 the Boston Mayor Martin J Walsh spoke of “…our historic connection and deeply linked heritage”. His name places him anywhere in island of Ireland, and quite comfortably among the many Walsh’s in Belfast and Dublin.
The four artists Margaret Hart, Zach Horn, Elizabet Marran and Cat Mazza show competent visual art – a sort of polite gesture of a guest.
offers insights into her art practice in her
“”To review my entire portfolio is to see a diverse group of works. There are definite relationships between bodies of work,and it is possible to trace the progression from one work to the next. As I was organizing my entire oeuvre, I was struck by the nature in which certain themes kept surfacing. The content of my work, as well as my approach to different materials, has grown and evolved over the years.
The majority of my work is installation based. I was drawn to this form in graduate school and have explored it ever since. Installation allows me to bring together the variety of materials I enjoy working with and provides me a forum within which I can address larger critical issues. I have always been influenced by theoretical writings on the subject of identity. Both feminist works, and more recently, the many cultural studies texts on the developing cyber culture have fed my creative impulses. Michel Foucault, Luce Irigaray, Elaine Scarey. Donna Haraway, and Roseanne Stone have been very influential authors for me, especially their writing on identity formation and on the nature of the individual. Body issues, and the development of the individual identity, have always been central to my work.
From this centralized position I have continually examined the nature of the internal and external. In earlier works, such as “Masquerade” and “Mapping Memory: Recollections of the Self” both in 1993, the examination was focused on body issues from within a feminist framework. The internal psychological impact of body image, and it’s part in identity formation, being determined from the external patriarchal culture was a large part of these earlier works. Later, as my research for teaching purposes began influencing my creative work, issues of the technologically enhanced body began emerging and intertwining with my earlier concerns. “(base)Pair Recognition” is an obvious example of this type of work. In both cases the internal can be interpreted as the psyche, as well as the voyeuristic internal gaze of society. The external can be seen as the construction of the identity or the masks we wear.
Physically, the move from photographic based installation to sculptural and digital based works has been a slow, but obvious progression. The manipulated and repeated photographic imagery are now being interspersed with objects and digitally manipulated imagery. There has always been an obsessive element to my work. This has manifested itself through sheer quantity, physical labor, and, more recently, through the production of multiples. The materials have occasionally changed, but the obsessive nature of the work has remained constant. I have always been drawn towards technology and the content of my work raises many critical questions about the nature of technology, it’s impact on the individual, and our ever-shifting definitions of self.
The video feels unstructured. Abstract fields alternate with precision favoured by design and – in the case of genome, by science. If the viewer accepts that an open-ended lens based sequence has a potential to trigger either awareness or aesthetic experience , then the video succeeds. If not – there is no seductive beauty or distressing terror, or anything in between, to wake up deeper attention. On the surface, it is informative about the basic knowledge that nature in all its forms is connected. It attempts to disturb an expected comfort zone of viewing “just art” by deep cutting consequences of something flawed. But that peters out before the end. While I read this video as a “macho set of values” – her earlier series Tying the Knot exhibit subtle and private existence not unlike to moments we need to be still and quiet. (seen on firstname.lastname@example.org) Hart sent to Belfast collages titled Liquid Metal Series, 2016 instead:
CAT MAZZA (born 1977) exhibits six panels of Electroknit Series 2016.
The Electroknit Series is made in uniforms size of 12 x 16 in while harvesting handknit patterns from 1523 until the present.
Cat Mazza(b 1977) is an associate professor of New Craft and digital Media, the founder of microRevolt – aimed at improvement of working conditions in globalised knitting industry(see http://www.post-craft.net/catmazza.html). It seems that Mazza hopes that digitalizing the knitting will improve those working conditions. So far in the published interviews and statements she did not pronounced on the impact of that change on the availability of jobs.
Soon after the WW II, anticipating the augmentation aspect of the debate over AI and jobs, Alan Turing suggested that humans will be needed to assess the accuracy of the calculations done by digital computers. At the same time (similar to many of today’s commentators on the subject), he also predicted the automation of high-value jobs (held by what he called “masters” as opposed to the “slaves” operating the computer) and the possible defense mechanisms by what today we call “knowledge workers”:
The masters are liable to get replaced because as soon as any technique becomes at all stereotyped it becomes possible to devise a system of instruction tables which will enable the electronic computer to do it for itself…
They may be unwilling to let their jobs be stolen from them in this way. In that case they would surround the whole of their work with mystery and make excuses, couched in well-chosen gibberish, whenever any dangerous suggestions were made.
Turing concluded his lecture with a plea for expecting intelligent machines to be no more intelligent than humans:
One must therefore not expect a machine to do a very great deal of building up of instruction tables on its own. No man adds very much to the body of knowledge, why should we expect more of a machine? Putting the same point differently, the machine must be allowed to have contact with human beings in order that it may adapt itself to their standards.
Mazza puts herself as an artist in that context. The aesthetic/art impact of her exhibits is somewhat lesser than that of original hand knitted samplers, members of “lesser arts” so named by William Morris, who defended the subterrean kindness that governs knitting.
Both Mazza and Morris value the role of “lesser arts” in supporting ordinary life. Mazza’s project of microRevolt seemingly revisits Karl Marx’s distinction between political emancipation and human emancipation, the latter closely related to non-alienated labour. On the other hand, her manifesto also subscribes to Marx’s conviction that within the capitalist systems instruments of production must be constantly revolutionised.
ELIZABETH MARRAN teaches introductory and advanced courses in drawing and printing.
Traditional media such as drawing, painting and prints are remade with current technology. Yet, it makes little difference to the art, more to the loss of the aura or authorship and original. Even this democratising principle has roots in all old techniques of multiples.
The lightness of her touch perhaps recalls Joseph Beuys’ Multiples – without his daring innovation to print of blocks of wood.
The desire to keep the images abstract does not limit the semblance of some to objects the viewer is familiar with, allowing perception of warmth to misplace the cold intention.
ZACH HORN sent a video and a small painting.
(accessed on http://www.zachhornart.com)
I started these drawings because my son was born and I wanted to make work downstairs. I mean paint fumes just wouldn’t do. So I went back to the basics, pencil and paper, and I started to draw. What I didn’t expect is that the drawings would circle back to such representational imagery. Maybe it’s the muscle memory of 10,000 adolescent hours spent drawing? But what I happily discovered is that by using the figure I was able to talk about a much larger range of subjects.
These drawings are about my life, my memories, my screwy psychology. I don’t plan them out. There is no order. Even when I start the drawings I have just the faintest wisp of an idea, like wanting to draw a puff of smoke, or a huge baby, some lions or a face. In the beginning I try to hold the drawings loosely, and as they go, they start to assert themselves. The drawings tell me what they want to be. The hardest part is not to filter. I have to trust that every stupid, off-beat, taboo idea bubbled up for a reason. I think that it’s healthier for the drawings (and definitely therapeutic for me) to let it all out on the page. In the past they have called this inner voice, the muse, the subconscious, or the lizard brain. It’s all the same thing, trusting that little goblin in my head.
I’m usually surprised at the end of the drawing. I swear I didn’t know that Colossus was going to be about Goya, that the lady in Byzantine would have that other mouth, that the figures in the back of Easter Island would be bearing axes. The drawings asked to be like that. It’s only later that I realize that I am making a drawing about my life, about having a baby, about thinking about having more, about love, fear, weight, empathy, and cynicism. If you look at all the drawings together it would be a map of my brain, like the way that Hockney composited those photographs to create one image. These works are the last 12 months inside my head.
Since the subjects are so personal, I have been agonizing over the images. The alternative would be to make more expressive drawings, ie. violent arm movements as a symbol of my aggression. But, expressionism has a trade-off in that subject matter is often subjugated to touch. Because I’m drawing my son, my wife, me, my friends, my memories, my brain, I haven’t been able to sacrifice them to a looser hand. And I like it. I enjoy the challenge of waves, rocks, mist, smoke, and flesh.
I have had a blast making these drawings. I used almost no source material. I made up the figures, the rocks, the smoke, the fire, the clouds, the sky, the waves, the hair. I had to look up lion anatomy and some women’s shoes, but the rest is invented. Drawing from my brain lets every detail serve the composition. Light bends, perspective warps, figurative proportion distorts. Since I’m inventing it all, it’s mine to play with.
The video is humorous animation of drawings of lorries, houses, the street – superbly delivered. The drawings style reminds me of Marx Ernst – even the light touch free of heavy ideology or unsettling sentiment. (see http://www.zachhornart.com)
In conclusion: the vitality of Zach Horn’s humour, invention and technical skills invests a hope that his academic carrier will not rob him of it.
The inevitable use of new technology is valid, but it cannot by itself guarantee the intrinsic value of art.
The universities all over are guilty of stifling art by demands for statements that the administrators can understand and evaluate. Only some artists have been able to wiggle out of that deadly embrace the rationalising creativity inevitably brings about. And arts wither. In spite of good intentions.
Images courtesy Golden Thread Gallery.