‘The search for the history of the hut at Natural Surroundings’ is a documentation of my research process for The Hut project and tells the story of my investigation into the hut’s history and the organisations and people who helped me along the way. Art documentation can be dry and I felt a straight forward presentation wouldn’t do justice to the rich experience of the research process.
Boris Groys writes about a shift within the art world away from the art product and towards documentation of art activity where documentation can be made in any media. However he points out that, “documentation is not art, it merely refers to art”. Through the use of documentation art can be seen to be a part of life rather than a means of describing or signifying aspects of life.
“art documentation is neither the making present of a past event nor the promise of a coming artwork but the only possible form of reference to an artistic activity that cannot be represented in any other way.” Boris Groys from the catalogue for Documenta 11, 2002
I decided to use the comic form because there was a kind of drama to the sequence of clues, rumours, co-incidences and surprises which unfolded within the ordinariness of small north norfolk villages. I was influenced by the comics I read as a child; the adventures of Tintin and 1970s girl comics such as Jinty and Bunty but my comic sticks to the narrative of real life events which gives it an inconclusive open-endedness. I wanted to show some of the ordinariness of the work of an artist; not a wrestle with paint or clay or even the enactment of an art performance or ‘happening’ but some everyday interactions in the world with an artistic purpose.
My decision to characterise myself as Elizabeth, the intrepid art researcher was a way of stepping back, gaining objectivity and remaining partially in the shadows as the artist/author. However in doing this I have at the same time portrayed myself as the central character. There is an inherent paradox in art making; creating an objectification of the world inevitably includes the subjective, ie the artist’s personal view point. Although the artist enjoys ‘artistic license’, the freedom to control what they show and don’t show it is impossible to eliminate the subjective, the work is always from the artist’s view point. I like the way a comic can show a sequence of images, narrative text, speech and thought bubbles simultaneously because it enabled me to portray my own thought processes and reflections (the artist’s view) at the same time as the external world I was responding to.
Although the comic is a collection of drawings it is not in itself an art work but a portrayal of my own art activity taking place and in this it has become a kind of self portrait. There is nothing new in artist’s portraying themselves making art and I am reminded of Picasso’s many images of the artist (himself) at work which show the compelling intensity at play between artist, subject and art work where the artist seems to behold not only a new view of the world they observe but also a new version of them themselves as an active participant in that world.
Page 1 of The search for the history of the hut at Natural Surroundings
To buy a copy for £2 email me or come to one of the events at Natural Surroundings in September.