Proposal for a Discussion Group


1 Lithograph (edition of 12), and 12 Drawings (pencil on paper)

The piece consists of twelve drawings of twelve Robin Day steel and polypropylene chairs, like those frequently found within educational establishments, positioned in a circle and drawn from twelve different positions within the circle. The drawings are accompanied by a lithograph (edition of 12) that is a rendering of the same circle of chairs as seen from the outside.

Four years before making this work I had given up producing art objects, having devoted myself to curating, but had decided to return to art making to see what impact this period away would have on how I approached a studio practice. I found myself generating complex structures to guide my production, part of which involved making drawings that did not necessarily end up being a visual component of a final work, but were embedded within it in some other way. In the case of this particular work, I imagined a series of discussion groups with twelve regular invited attendees who would respond to topics proposed by twelve others from outside the city. The sessions would be closed and unrecorded, and the topic would not be revealed in any public way. Those who participated would receive a gift that recognised and represented their contribution – the discussion group would get a drawing and the proposers would get a lithograph.

As with the structure of any artwork, it represented a gateway between the fundamental aspects of previous working methods and those that I might employ in the future. However, as I was making the drawings, I began to feel that this was precisely what was wrong with what I was doing – the clear and distinct way in which the different phases of the work’s process were to be enacted began to feel somewhat contrived, pointing as they did very directly towards curatorial, discursive and studio methodologies, and separating them. I was finding that the conversations I was having with colleagues and other visitors to the studio for which the in-progress drawings were acting as a fulcrum were more interesting and productive, and less artificial and aestheticised, than the planned ones would inevitably have been. When the drawings were finally complete, the process already felt exhausted, and they were cast aside.

I stopped thinking of them as artworks, but rather as the residue of a process of thinking about the pressures exhibitions exert on the objects within them. Despite their transitory nature, exhibitions essentially fix art objects as existing in a particular form (physical and discursive) at a particular moment – they become indexed as real and existing and public. They were first shown in a perfectly titled exhibition, Last Chance (curated by It’s Our Playground) in Glasgow in 2013, where they finally became objects for display, and subsequently in another exhibition titled perfectly for their second showing, All In (curated by Suzie Smith) in Winnipeg the following year.

Exhibited in:

Last Chance

SWG3, Glasgow (8 Dec 2012 → 19 Jan 2013)

All In

Martha Street Studio, Winnipeg (27 June 2014 → 8 Aug 2014)