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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Probably the most interesting set of lectures I have attended at ECA, the only thing I was slightly disappointed with was that the ‘Ruin’ lecture happened after our seminars finished. I felt a bit outside my comfort zone in relation to some of the other topics but these lectures were great at making you really examine even the smallest details of our own culture and how we respond to it. The idea of the washing machine is a prime example of this, as Angela stated in the lecture the placement of the washing machine inside the kitchen can be perceived as being odd and different since in American culture the washing machine is placed outside the kitchen, separating the two forms of waste or dirt. Simple things like this never struck me as being cultural but obviously they are. The seminar readings were particularly interesting, the notion of commodities and how something goes through the processes of commoditization, decommoditization and recommoditization is fascinating. There isn’t much or anything that does not have the potential to have an exchange value. The part I struggled with the most in these seminars is how to relate the anthropological aspects to art in general. Eventually I began separating it out, and relating it directly not to my art but to the subject matters I use.

The commodity aspect made me look at the Genocide Museum differently. This structure houses the painfully memories of the nation but it is also a tourist attraction, a commodity for locals and global tourists alike. I understand the need for tourism in Cambodia since it is a huge part of the national income. This directed me to the ideas of dark tourism which is visible in Europe as well, locations like Auschwitz   and Dacau are both examples of this phenomenon.

Another huge influence on my reading of my subject matter was the amount we discussed power and power relations. This was evident in the anthropology documentary about the tribe in Papua New Guinea preparing the gift for another tribe leader. The task of preparing the gift was given to one man, he was in charge. However it was the rest of the tribe and his wife’s who had to prepare the gift and he oversaw the whole affair. However he said himself that he had to persuade the people of the tribe to do their duties. He did not have a totalitarian authority so then comes into question the ideas of power. Does he have the power or does the power lie with the tribe, since without the tribe he has nothing so can we say that he really has power in this situation?

This really got me thinking about the ideas of power that lie within architecture, the Panopticon is a prime example of architecture constructed with control in mind. A prison structure built in a cylindrical fashion with a tower in the centre. The tower in the centre works as a watch tower with all the cells facing it. The guards are hidden for view so the inmates never know if they are being watched so they must behave as though they are always being watched. This control over the inmate can only be made present with the belief of continuous surveillance.

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It’s time to push forward the ideas that have been developing through the maquettes and smaller sculptural works. This is a 1m x 1m board which I have meticulously hand drawn onto. The floor is in direct relation to the bed constructed on the top of the board.

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The drawing is completed and now the shuttering needs to be made and the round bar frame needs to be constructed.

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Now all that needs to be done is pour the plaster and allow it enough time to soak up the image below.

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It’s always nerve racking doing a presentation, even if it is just a ten minute one. However, during the time I was preparing this presentation I had an ethical dilemma about the subject matter. The task was to present our topic for our individual essay’s and I have elected to write about the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and its 3 identities. Throughout my research I have been confronted by horrific tails of human cruelty and some very vivid re-enactments and renditions, this left me with worries of whether or not it is my place, or if I have the right to discuss this subject. After rethinking my approach and the realisation that looking at this structure from a western perspective could be beneficial I decided to press on with it.

A plain reading of the history of S-21 is not what I feel is necessary, instead I have decided to look at the manifestations of power within the walls and the power the structure holds now. This will be done in relation to the power structures discussed by Foucault.

The structure has moved seamlessly from a school to a prison to a museum, all of which have got structures of power within them.

The school had western traces already built into it since the education system was a surviving element of the French occupation so it wouldn’t be hard to find traces of the Foucault’s Power/Knowledge ideas implemented within its walls. The school could be seen as a micro centre for control, instead of consolidating all control into a central body, it was individually implemented across different systems, the schools, prisons, barracks and hospitals. The control in these micro-systems allow the image of power to be separated and distributed across smaller groups.

The notion of education hit a reversal point in 1975, with the introduction of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s decision to impose the agrarian society. With the beginning of “year 0” all elements of Cambodian history and culture was to be erased. The power spread across the micro-centres was removed and consolidated into one central point. The first stage of this structures transformation began with the hollowing out of its occupants. The people first and then the interiors with few exceptions. This structure had lost the power imposed on it and now faced a form of punishment for having that power in the first place. It was mutilated to fit its new purpose as a prison.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This is the identity that I experienced and as the name suggests this object now has museum status. It does however have two other functions, one as a memorial and another as a site of performance.

Museums implement the same form of control you’d expect in many micro-centres of power, the interior establishment expects certain behaviours from visitors and implements them with surveillance and other measures.  We also frame them as institutions with our own expectations. Coming from a western society I have certain expectations to what a museum is and how I am expected to behave within them.

This is a bare-bones synopsis of what I am interested in writing about, I know I need to expand on the Foucauldian notions of power and also the agencies that have used the power within this structure, but this will come in due course.

I will be looking to expand on these ideas and will publish the finished result on this blog

Another year another Co2 project. Gosia and I decided to deviate from the format of our last Co2 venture and explore some new ideas. Unfortunately we had less time in the space than we did for our first Co2 so we decided to get creative. We obtained two old printers which were going to be thrown out and decided to see what we could do with them. We began by asking them to print straight forward black pages, and neither of them either decided or was capable to do so. The results were breathtaking.

 

 

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It was at this point we realised that these printers could be seen either as a representation of us as artists or as the artists themselves. The printers were present at the opening after producing hundreds of prints each and were continuing to print throughout the opening. They were exhausting themselves and it was visible as the printing motions slowed and the colours in the images began to drain more and more creating fainter and fainter images.

The personified objects took on personality traits and morphed into actual people, with biographies and histories of there own and became autonomous from us.

 

Interview with the artist