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‘More stuff’ Anthony Heywood Artactivism research conference 2011 Climate change, precarious natural resources, demographic pressures and mass migration,

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Presentation on theme: "‘More stuff’ Anthony Heywood Artactivism research conference 2011 Climate change, precarious natural resources, demographic pressures and mass migration,"— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘More stuff’ Anthony Heywood Artactivism research conference 2011 Climate change, precarious natural resources, demographic pressures and mass migration, conflict and wars – with the globalised world in continued and accelerated crisis, activism has never been as important as today to bring about social, political, economic or environmental change are all concerns held within my practice which I embrace through my use of subject, context or materiality.

2 More stuff The aim of my proposal is to examine whether the near universal complicity with the idea of consuming nature and manufactured objects has had an adverse effect on the artist, and to ask whether it has distanced and debilitated the social role of the artist. Artists who have engaged in employing recycled and sustainable materials, household objects ready-mades and stuff and challenged the audience in scale, subject, function of materials and context. As consumption became more conspicuous, familiar images were appropriated by artists, but Warhol and Lichtenstein occasioned bewildered recognition rather than mass engagement, or, more importantly, a re-alignment of popular understanding. This is quite obviously not a plea for any artist to become deliberately populist in order to convey a facile message, but it is a call for some recognition of the high social cost engendered by relative artistic isolation.

3 Art Activism, stretching from forms of creative dissent and public interventions, to environmental or political campaigning and guerrilla tactics, raises pertinent questions regarding the spaces, values, functions and impacts of the arts - their ideological foundation, intellectual articulation and creative realisation. The work will consider and define the phenomenon of the estranged values of the 20C culture. Modernist culture and its successors have become inaccessible, self referential and remote, they have found commercial favour sometimes precisely for these reasons. Sculpture, while remaining an acknowledged minority taste was, and is, often pandered to by the media as an indicator of its own commitment to the wider cultural needs of society. post modernism has signalled some re-evaluation of cultural values and references, most evidently a critical redirection of thought which accommodates and utilises the past, but its interpretations are as diverse, and convoluted, and ultimately as inaccessible as the debates which surrounded modernism. It is through the juxtaposition of image and material which informs and empowers what we see in the sculptures. It will make us re- evaluate and dare to reject complacency.

4 colosseum5ceramic/coloured foams/ collected items The work is intended to admit and celebrate the fact that our culture is locked into commodities and they also admit that not even the grand iconoclasm of Marcel Duchamp could deliver the artist from sharing this fate. The irony is that it is those who were involved with art and its institutions contextualised the readymade in the gallery which brought Duchamp into the pantheon of art and by doing so effectively isolated and neutralised the power of the readymade object. What contribution do artists make to the methods and vocabulary of modern social movements, to tactics and technologies?

5 parthenon left 10 ceramic/coloured foams/ collected items

6 eiffel2recycled timber/coloured foams/ collected items Materiality sometimes evokes censure, but it sometimes a celebration, in other words, the use of material makes the viewer considers and re-align its suitability purpose and above all its actual worth. The sculpture admits to the fascination of the material objects but they ask us to question the depth and consistency of values.

7 Where and how do art activism and education intersect and share goals, strategies and tactic? My sculptures are intended to represent a conscious and sustained effort to operate outside the rarefied and the self referential, without losing cultural values which provide the onlooker with the vital authentic link with the world they inhabit. Art cannot compromise its relationship with society or resort to capriciousness because time is running out. The extent of environmental degradation is an event that is almost unimaginable in its implications and consequences even in an age which regularly engages in apocalyptic forecasting. In other words, however, secluded, remote. Privileged, painstaking, constructed or private existences or environments may be, they cannot withstand the destruction of our eco system. It is therefore physically impossible for the artist to disengage, and, given that we all acknowledge the unique power of art, morally reprehensible to do so.

8 What concrete societal conditions fuel and concentrate activist agendas? –I intend my sculptures to identify notions of the classicism of consumption, ostentation and material value centred upon a cultural and spiritual identity. The sculptures will capture classical form made from the used and useless, discarded relics of our societies needs. The value of our possessions that we covet and protect is brought into question by the work. –The work will also consider and define the phenomenon of the estranged values of the 20C culture. Modernist culture and its successors have become more inaccessible, self referential and remote, they have found commercial favour sometimes precisely for these reasons. –It is through the juxtaposition of image and material which informs and empowers what we see in the sculpture. It will make us re-evaluate and dare to reject complacency.

9 columns3ceramics/castings/recycled clays How does art activism shape and transform core values, public opinions, communities of affinity and engrained patterns of behaviour? It is self evident to us that art is a vital part, not only of our own cultural heritage, but of a wider international context. The aim of my sculptures is to examine whether the near universal complicity with this idea has had an adverse effect on the artist, and to ask whether this has distanced and debilitated the social role of the artist. Artists who have engaged in recycled materials, household objects ready-mades and played with their iconography both in scale subject and context.

10 How do experts and expertise relate to the public demonstrations of creative knowledge and understanding and reasoned inter/action? Max Weber divided culture into science, morality and art. 10 years into the new millennium it is legitimate to ask which of this triumvirate has abdicated its responsibilities with the greatest resolution. Art must be a serious contender. But, what are the extenuating circumstances? European culture was put into crisis by the enlightenment. Rousseau’s revelation, that passion and intuition would be subordinated by the hegemony of reason, caused disruption, dismay and profound disillusion amongst the intelligentsia. The realisation that reason had to encompass feeling and sensation without surrendering to subjectivity, or worse become the victim of that misguided rationalism observed first hand by Edmund Husserl two hundred years later, concentrated great minds. Eighteenth century thinkers then attempted to locate and chart this changed and suddenly uncertain territory by focussing on the aesthetic. Their followed dispute, redefinition, and occupation by many thinkers, but an indisputable claim was lodged by Immanuel Kant. His representation of the aesthetic as a reconciliation between nature and humanity designated an area where there is freedom that is unique to the will of the rational being: in other words, autonomy.

11 Series of works on the Elephant The Elephant In this work, context and content informs an image that does not suffer from isolation, nor is it neutralised. The catalyst was a television news item which was about the indescrimate slaughter of elephants simply for their ivory tusks. Apart from the obvious, and very relevant, considerations of suffering and conservation it was the ultimate irrationality of this barbaric act that engaged me to do the work, as I felt that as an artist I wanted to show my concern for the plight of the elephants. Why does ivory have such value and why do we allow the simple law of supply and demand- as applied not to basic essentials, but to conspicuous consumption, to exercise such a gross tyranny over our planet? The work therefore challenges traditional notions, initially by evoking classicism, a form which utilised materials of both symbolic and intrinsic value which would age gracefully. This idea of long term appreciation and value is quite obviously alien, not only to the procurers and purveyors of ivory, but too much of contemporary culture. Ironically, the medium of television, which was responsible for disseminating the plight of the elephants, is also responsible for the dissemination of a great deal of information and entertainment which is arguably of dubious value. A television set which is not performing the function for which it was designed, is a peculiarly bereft and graceless object- the very epitome of vacuity- the detritus of culture. The body of an elephant slaughtered solely for possession of its tusks is the detritus of a supply created to meet the demand of a particular rarefied ostentatious and perverted refinement of taste.

12 I have made several versions of elephants primarily due to the continued slaughter and destruction of the species my concerns remain the same as when I first made ‘earth elephant1’ in This idea of long term appreciation and value is quite obviously alien, not only to the procurers and purveyors of ivory, but too much of contemporary culture. Ironically, the medium of television, which was responsible for disseminating the plight of the elephants, is also responsible for the dissemination of a great deal of information and entertainment which is arguably of dubious value. A television set which is not performing the function for which it was designed, is a peculiarly bereft and graceless object- the very epitome of vacuity- the detritus of culture. The body of an elephant slaughtered solely for possession of its tusks is the detritus of a supply created to meet the demand of a particular rarefied ostentatious and perverted refinement of taste.

13 colosseum5ceramic/coloured foams/ collected items ‘earth elephant11’ 2.2m tall recent work made with nails welded into steel frame

14 colosseum5ceramic/coloured foams/ collected items ‘Earth elephant7’ sculpturebythesea.com bondi 2009 this work is made using collected items from the New South Wales district

15 ‘Pisa1’ – acid free papyrus paper and collected objects from everyday with sustainable polyesters These issues are reinterpreted in ‘pisa1’ when the mundane is exchanged for the spectacle of an icon of the 14c-15c, a near legendary building with many associations which once again plunge the viewer into competing complexities. The building symbolises all the early renaissance values, individualism and belief, it symbolises longevity of civilisation, learning power and influence. The idea of me casting a sculpture in paper is on one level a quixotic notion, heightened by the immense number of technical problems it inevitable posed. The challenge is not only the rendering of the ephemeral into the massively durable, but the jolting of the senses into recognition of changed values of waste, worthlessness and the passage of time. It is this juxtaposition of image and material which informs and empowers what we see. It makes us reconsider, re- evaluate and dare to reject complacency. The aesthetic must leave its sheltered accommodation before it is too late, before it atrophies into an exhibit in Fukayama’s museum of history, an object of disinterested contemplation dead to a world we dare not contemplate.

16 pisa1recycled papers/coloured foams/ collected items The notions of classicism and consumption, ostentation and material value re-emerge in this work and this time the context is that of civic pride and identity.

17 Edgar Allen Poe’s poetic reflections on ‘the glory that was Greece and Grandeur of Rome’, sadly omits the opulence that was florence, venice and Pisa, the Serenissima where as one medieval chronicler observed, ‘all the gold in Christendom passes through the hands of the Italian traders’, Yet this city of Pisa, along with Venice, Florence and Rome noted for the most precious and gorgeous commodities of East and west could not maintain their supremacy. The mosaics, the shining domes and bronze statues assumed the patina and decay and decadence. This notion is captured by this work by its classical form made from the used and useless, the discarded relics of mass consumption. The value of the gold, ivory and porphyry, the sumptuous silks and the precious brocades that powered the heart of Venice, I call all of this into question by the work. The purpose of the work is to make a classical icon in contemporary materials and therefore all of the pomp and intrinsic values of the original works are offered a space in our contemporary thinking.

18 'chief1'bronze/ suspended How does art activism shape and transform core values, public opinions, communities of affinity and engrained patterns of behaviour? Even Picasso’s Guernica, arguably one of the most powerful visual images of all time, did nothing to either change the outcome of the Spanish civil war, or averts the horrors which followed.

19 conclusion All of the works are manufactured using recycled and sustainable methods of manufacture, I have collected, both natural and man made materials and used them in juxtaposition to generate a vocabulary within the works, my use of the formal aspects of the architectural building or the use of a particular animal in conjunction with the use of the conspicuous consumption that our society produces is present in each works. I intend the sculptures to identify notions of the classicism of consumption, ostentation and material value centred upon a cultural and spiritual identity The sculptures will capture classical form made from the used and useless, discarded relics of mass consumption. My engagement with the urban environment is through witnessing how our buildings animals and insects are subject to environmental changes and human intervention.The sculptures admit to the fascination of the material objects but they ask us to question the depth and consistency of values.


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