This is how space begins, with words only, signs traced on the blank page. To describe space: to name it, to trace it, like those portolano-makers who saturate the coastlines with the names of harbours, the names of capes, the names of inlets, until in the end the land was only separated from the sea by a continuous ribbon of text.
— Georges Perec, Species of Spaces.
One month down – seventy-three note book pages – just eleven days as artist-in-residence at the MCA. Provided with a generous and simple office space within the NCCL, I have spent these days staring at graphical representations of the organisation – a diagram of reporting structures, floor plans, etc – and de/revising my strategy continuously amongst lovely conversations with the staff.
My Aim: Reveal and highlight how drawing^ underpins all organisations.
( ^ I am using the term drawing in its most extended form. Drawing includes all forms of mark-making, not just representational or compositional framings, but rather any movement that leaves a trace, both metaphorically and literally, intentionally and accidental. Movement of people through the space, the flow of capital, the signatures on contracts, postit notes, doodles in staff meetings, the website, so on. )
For this residency, I am using the MCA as a case study. It is acting as a representative for all other organisations. As such, my approach is looking generally at drawing while trying not to fall easily into the trap of making works that become self reflective – artwork/artist «|» art organisation. Ideally I would like that the strategies I develop for examining how organisations are generated by drawing to be applied easily to any other organisation – a school, a bank, telecommunications company, etc.
Key points of reference for this project so far include:
Lucas Ihlein’s Environmental Audit
A residency project at the MCA in 2010 as part of their exhibition In The Balance. Looking a how Lucas approached his residency has been really valuable for considering my presence within the structure of the MCA.
Barbara Steveni and John Latham // Artist Placement Group
Founded in 1966, APG was an artist-run organisation seeking to refocus art outside the gallery, predominantly through attaching an artist in a business or governmental context.
I have adopted the APG Manifesto as a praxis –
1. The context is half the work.
2. The function of medium in art is determined not so much by that factual object, as by the process and the levels of attention to which the work aims.
3. That the proper contribution of art to society is art.
4. That the status of artists within organizations must necessarily be in line with other professional persons, engaged within the organization.
5. That the status of the artist within organizations is independent, bound by the invitation, rather than by any instruction from authority within the organization, and to the long-term objectives of the whole of society.
6. That, for optimum results, the position of the artist within an organization (in the initial stages at least) should facilitate a form of cross-referencing between departments
Already I have noticed that my residency, completely unintentionally and mostly though conversation, has begun to facilitate informal cross-referencing between departments. Although so far I have mostly been harassing parts of the Education, Digital and the AV departments, so I will interested to see how this unfolds as I begin to engage with the other departments, HR, Finance, Conservation, Front of House – all departments are on my target list.
The grand father of institutional critique could not be excluded from my current points of reference. His work has been a continual touch stone through out my practice, and now seems most relevant.
One of my favourite philosophers – he wrote a book in the late 70’s called Laboratory Life. In it he looked at a biological research lab through an anthropological lens, and focused on how the specific systems of inscription and writing could be used to define the lab’s culture. He also wrote an essay Visualisation and Cognition: Drawing Things Together, where he develops the concept of the immutable mobile.
More to follow.
Benjamin Forster’s practice may be positioned within contemporary drawing, bringing together digital and biological technologies, installation and print to trace the boundaries of logic, economy and the role of the artist in art making. He received a Bachelor of Visual Arts with
First Class Honours from the Australian National University in 2009.
His Drawing Machine project was exhibited in Hatched 09: The National Graduate Exhibition at PICA, as well as the International Symposium on Computational Aesthetics 09 in Victoria, Canada. In 2012, Forster’s work was included in PRIMAVERA at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney in 2012 and NEW13 at ACCA in 2013.
Benjamin undertook a 6 month residency at the MCA during 2013, after which he was commissioned to create a work for the MCA.