Block and Tackle

A Block and Tackle is a simple mechanical system for amplifying the efficiency of a lift or pull. By using a set of pulleys and a rope or chain you can gain a mechanical advantage over a load.

I thought my father used a small, portable form of block and tackle when I was a kid to move stumps out of the water or to move boats. But the more I think about it the more I think it was an older neighbour at the cottage. My dad definitely used a come along which is a metal winch system based on the principles of the block and tackle.

I’ve imagined every detail of this piece but it would take a long time to discover the perfect natural setting so it might be easier to “create” the set of circumstances I need for the performance. Once again this work is about a series of actions that I would perform with nobody around. I could then photograph the end result as a document to the action.

For this piece I need two trees, two telephone poles, or any pair of objects that are very securely fastened and stable, and about twenty feet apart. I also envision there to be a grass or dirt area that separates the two object although it could be done on concrete . Directly in-between these two objects I would place a boulder. The boulder should be large enough that it can’t be moved simply by pushing or rolling, but small enough that with the aid of a three pulley block and tackle and a length of rope I can single handedly move it a distance. I’d set the block and tackle up and move the boulder towards one of the two extremes –the trees, poles or whatever. Once the boulder has been moved very close to the one extreme I’d reverse the action and pull the boulder towards the other tree, pole or whatever. Finally I’d reset the block and tackle and pull the boulder back into the middle of the area where it began. The I’d take a picture.

I can see taking pictures without the boulder, with the boulder, when the boulder is at both extremes, and again when the boulder is finally back in the middle.  Hopefully either side of the now centrally located rock would be clearly marked where the boulder dragged over the earth though and people might be able to guess what happened. These drag marks would then become a narrative element in a very strange and implausible story.

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Residencies look like a possible opportunity. I’ll research these in 2013 and propose the works explained below for a single exhibition somewhere in the world. The thought is to call the actual show Labyrinth.

Why not dream big. I’ll apply for Paris and maybe London. They can only say no.

Each of the following would be created in a few weeks time and all are meant to be exhibited together.

Nails – Photography. Take a photograph of an apparently random pile of nails on a white background. The pile will actually be an entire box of ardox 3” nails that has been meticulously sculpted into its the casual “pile” shape. Maybe empty a box of nails, and then create the same structure by hand beside it to create a photographic diptych.

Letter “a” Cutouts – Collage. I’ll purchase a favourite novel in a used bookstore and cut every single letter “a” out of it and affix to a larger piece of art paper with archival glue. Maybe  40 x 50″ Stonehenge, or perhaps on a blank piece of dibond.  This would then be subsequently mounted on a wall.

Perfect Circles – Film. Film me repetitively trying to draw a near perfect circle for 12 hours or until I succeed.

Hole Digging – Sculpture/Photograph. Dig as perfectly formed a square hole as possible. As I shovel out the hole I’ll place the dirt in a pre-constructed form that replicates the dimension of the square hole when finished. This would be constructed in such a way that I could take it apart easily and, if I can somehow form the dirt this will ultimately form a sculpture of the dirt that is taken from the hole. Negative and Positive space.

Paper Folding – Sculpture. Repetitively fold a large piece of paper until it becomes unstable. Continue folding the pieces until it is no longer paper but a mound of scraps of soft fiber.

Record Grooves – Photograph/Sculpture. Rework the groove of an LP with fine jewelers tools and a magnification light so the grooves become a traceable labyrinth. Remove the label. Photograph, blow up and display.

Newspaper Reading – Audio Recording. Read an entire newspaper but across the columns with a ruler so that several narratives mix together but can be followed concurently if the listener concentrates. See how much content can be read in 12 hours.

Wall Line Drawings – Drawing and Photograph.  On one of the walls of the gallery draw a line at comfortable height with a pencil. Then spend the rest of the day adding more lines above and below until the wall is covered. Make them as close together as possible and mimicking the original without touching.

Standing – Happening/Video. Stand for as long as possible in one place. Film. The odd break for the toilet is allowed, but have people hand me food.

Finger Tapping – Audio/Video. Tap my finger for as long as possible.

Human Clock – Audio. Repeat the time from a clock every minute for 12 hours. Create a sensor so that this runs continuously throughout the day but when a patron steps in the room the volume is kicked in and the clock counts the time audibly. When the patron leaves the room the clock shuts up.

Stitch – make a spiral pattern with small sewing stitches. Make it as big as possible over the course of 12 hours.

The Thought Novel – Audio Recording. Recite a story ad lib from scratch that lasts for hours and hours.



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Vogel Napkins

When I visit someone’s house, go to a family function, attend art openings or go anywhere that food is served I utilize the napkins. It’s polite and I was taught that good manners meant being able to dab at the corner of your mouth or have an approved place to wipe your fingers.

Inevitably every time I go out to a function with food I put a napkin in my pocket. Typically I’m saving it for the inevitable second helping of whatever is being served and I hate to waste paper but more often than not the truth is that I dislike putting a crumpled napkin on a plate. It just feels wrong to me and looks so disorderly and dumping it on a plate also makes stacking dirty plates awkward. It makes me uncomfortable. To me plates are designed to fit into each other and be so orderly that to leave them spread out on a counter with stuff all over them is hard to do.

On the rare occasion that a waste basket is readily available and clearly locatable it works out fine and I can deposit the napkin when I no longer require my plate. Part of the problem is I’m also not a fan of nosing around in a strange kitchen trying to locate the unfamiliar garbage, and even if I do suppress the feeling of invading someone’s privacy for long enough to detect the waste can how can I be sure which receptacle in this strange kitchen the paper goes into? Does the house-holder recycle and does the municipality in question consider napkins organic green bin material, paper to be recycled or actual garbage. Finally, it’s never a sure bet you’ll recognize the container for trash, recycling or compost.

I inevitably forget I’ve even put the stupid napkin in my pocket and only remember I’ve done so when I open the dryer at home several days later and see the abstract remains all ripped to shreds and sticking to every other piece of clean laundry in the machine. Sometimes I’ll find the thing if I remember to check my pockets before I put them in the wash sometimes I just discover them hiding out when I wear the article of clothing in question again.

Last night we were invited to a wonderful home to watch an awesome documentary on Herb and Dorothy Vogel. They’re the modest husband and wife collecting team that amassed one of the most important contemporary art collections of the last 50 years. When I finished my awesome pizza and salad I put a napkin in my pocket and mentioned I was doing so to a new friend. I had also had a few glasses of wine and explained in a very matter of fact and casual way that I was thinking I should create a work based on this awkward collecting habit of mine and that some how related –so clearly to me at the time– to the Vogel’s collecting habits and behaviors.

So the idea is to keep doing this obsessive thing with napkins and maybe consciously amp up my attendance at art openings. I’ll begin to seriously collect napkins for a very long period of time until I can amass enough of them to stack them into an impressive assemblage. I could create a paper spike that would somehow be manufactured to screw into a base or the floor somehow. I imagine this to be about 7 feet tall and to be”sculpted” to undulate in width as it grew in height based on the size differential of each napkin. The end result would be a type of shish-kabob structure. this also reminds me of a device from the past that people use to have on their desks and used to keep track of loose notes in pre-computer days. My father had one in the 70s that I use to play with that I’m pretty sure my oldest brother made in shop class in middle school. I could also make a habit of transcribing stuff on each of the napkins making them into the pages of a pseudo art diary. These could contain details of where the napkin was collected, make a short anecdotal comments about the event, review work or offer a derisive remark about some attendee. I imagine the majority of these would be from people’s houses or art functions.

All this was inspired by a group of very nice people and a movie about some seriously sweet and awe-inspiring contemporary art collectors. Weirdly enough that movie contained images of what I think was from a Robert Rauschenberg drawing of a sailboat. I framed a sketch of this work in the 90′s when I worked at AGS on Sorauren Avenue. it was also a time period when I new nothing about contemporary art. This sketch was also done on a cocktail napkin. As I write this I think this piece is about a bunch of stuff as described, but most importantly it’s about; another self-recognized compulsive habit, remembering my father’s desk and my brother’s hand-made completely obsolete office gadget, a desire to document and perhaps somehow comment on the wonderful world of contemporary art, wanting to create a beautiful object that encourages thoughtful discussion on what is art, what it means to make art, and what being involved in the art scene is like, and doing something that involves of bunch of different art disciplines and materials.

Thoughts and images to add this morning 09/17/2012; Missisauga Sunset photograph by Sonja Hidas from Facebook, previous post with the window display in support of the Quebec student rallies of the summer, draw a DNA strand and find a paper Spike picture.

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I came upon the idea for Constructions as I rode my bike to work and thought about an image I had taken on Monday of this week (previous post) . As soon as I arrived at work and locked my bike up I started thinking about it more seriously. I’d originally thought I’d call it Found, Constructions is a much more engaging and applicable term. I’ve been thinking about it all week now. It’s morphed into thought and imaginings revolving around Nuit Blanche 2013.

I’d like to suggest a Chris Shepherdly-simple curatorial thematic for the all night extravaganza next year. “Constructions” would incorporate ideas of discovery, luck, happenstance, searching, loss, misplacing, inspiration, building, representation, illusion, labour, etc. In a perfect world I could submit the theme, curate a zone, and research and perform a piece.

I’ll work on creating a curatorial statement.

The piece itself would bring together the majority of my focused concepts. A combination of Vacancy, The Task, The Clock, Waiting, Transitions, etc. It would be performance, sculpture and photography based.

For “Constructions” I would seek out existing building sites in several Nuit Blanche zones, get access to them and then rearrange / move elements of those locations. In the same way I moved the cinder block in The Task

Each site would have an imaginary Visual Frame of reference attached to some specific location on the periphery of the site. The optimal vantage point from where the piece is intended to be viewed. I would build a sculpture with pipes, blocks, pallets, etc. so that when viewed from that reference point — at a certain angle and dimension– the composition would be optimally represented. I’ve also toyed with the idea of making the “new ” compositions reference famous painting.

Effort – This is an adaptation of the above. In this variation of Constructions I would remove the complicated and somewhat overused reference to painting history and concentrate on more on the nature of effort and the dynamics of “appearance”. In a construction site with various piles of material I’d take a photograph. Then manually I would move the material until a mirror image of it’s original location and layout was achieved. It would then be physically flipped. At this point I take another photo. In Photoshop flip the original photograph. The two “twin” photographs would hang side by side as a diptych. The result should be two identical or at least very similar images but each would have a completely different meaning.

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The Clock

This was the original thought for the piece I ended up performing last fall in Hamilton.

The Task but using 1 pallet of blocks in a square space that has some access for filming from
directly above.

Place the pallet of block in the in the north center quadrant which will represent 12 o’clock. Move the pallet 12 times over the 12 hour period so that the finished pallets end up in positions representing the hours of a clock.

This task is completed when the pallet is returned to it’s original position at 12 o’clock 12 hours later.

Film onto a computer hard drive so the camera can be suspended and continuously film. Use larger block than Nuit Blanche to manage the hour between hours.

Do this on an actual stage and the audience can sit and observe like the most boring play in the world. Lighting and music included, it would be very cool if there was a trap door I could use as the escape route to washroom and eating. Maybe in the center of the stage?

Only requires 1 full pallet of bricks and an extra pallet to act as the transfer pallet.

Find a theatre that doesn’t have anything going on for Nuit Blanche. Maybe ask the Nuit Folks. The more elaborate the venue the better.

By selling the piece as a wall clock as a large edition. Make the cost of those pieces simply the cost of the drive required to hold/run the film.

I executed a version of this for the 2011 Hamilton Supercrawl. It was weird being in the thick of things, and I would have preferred to be arthritis free, but all in all I think the people enjoyed either discussing the piece or razzing me about it. I think the curatorial staff was pleased as well.

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