Appropriation

A chest of draws with the word ‘MOONS’ on them was part of an art installation in Holmston House, Ayr a few year years ago.

The viewer walked into the space and saw the draws and some text and heard the same text as audio. If you have nine minutes to spare, you can hear what they did (below). It is pretty droll stuff, it was designed to be – but the concept was quite liberating for me. Have a play for a bit and I’ll continue after.

So as the audio describes, what you see before you is not a chest of drawers with a few dark wooded knots. Those knots are not knots. The Chest itself is The Planet Jupiter, housing the four Galilean Moons. 

Except of course it really is the drawers.

It’s something called appropriation, which in art circles is not actually physically making the art, or if it is, it’s to point out that there’s a much different meaning in it, or that meaning changes depending on viewpoint. That’s my interpretation. We’ve no energy for conceptual art theory here.

So, housebound-wise, If I could keep changing my relationship to the room and the street, but assigning different ways to ‘read’ it, maybe I could get more mileage out of being stuck in it. If I could develop these circumstances into a kind of ‘pallette’ of experiences, and learn how to daydream my circumstances, a kind of adaption of the space occurs.

So, I’ve got a bit of history with appropriation. I never saw the point of it at art school, coming from a working class background, why are we looking at pseudo-artists like Marcel Duchamp with his ‘readymades’ and toilets as art? And what about those stupid bricks in the gallery.

But when I became ill, I actually used some of these ways of seeing as survival tactics. And by the time a gallery had given me a residency, it had gotten out of hand. This was not at home but I couldn’t travel out of Edinburgh. So I made my own tour of it on my terms.

And it was cheeky…

Made in 2004, and commissioned by Furthfield.org, this short film cheekily looks at how I started flirting with my environment to make it more bearable. Designed in ten locations around Edinburgh, some of which don’t exist anymore, I confidently tell the story of my (imaginary) friend Erica Tetralix. Apologies for the quality, I need to locate the master and re-upload it.

I actually took people on a tour of the experience on a bus when I was fitter than I am now – and told the story of her life.

Except really it’s the story of my life.

If any of the participants on the bus were botanists, they would clearly realise that Erica was, in fact, a shrub and the tour ends with her death in the botanic gardens.

Some people wept when the tour got to this stage and I had to go through with the mission because this story was nothing but a distraction.

The much more important story was about how you develop coping strategies when in confinement. Now, although I am getting out and about in Edinburgh here, the principle is the same, especially in the examples in my stairwell and locality downstairs where the ‘calligraphy’ was.