Article written for .Cent magazine s/s 2009: The Spaces In Between. Issue edited by greyworld...
ART OUTSIDE THE BOX...
I don't like the idea that art relies on this pseudo-void as a prop. But I do quite like the idea of a white cube as a misplaced metaphor. Sometimes I refer to what I am trying to achieve as building my own white cube. By this I mean trying to get to a point where I see, understand and judge things in my own terms. Respond to things as personally as I can, not through the eyes of all the people that have taught me to see. Strip away learnt behaviour to construct my own language.
Think of the minimalist painting as a person. No frame, paint as paint-y as paint can be, a celebration of its own consistency and texture, honesty in its materiality. It cannot be anything else. No-one can accuse it of being so. Or use it for any alternative means. It is nothing but a painting, in its most true and simple sense.
The minimalist painting needs it's white cube. A void around it. To stop it being accused of decoration, or even a void in itself. A place where you can see the painting properly, without distraction. You leave your shoes at the door - in fact your whole self and everything you know - to allow this painting to be judged by itself and itself alone.
But of course this is a make believe space. It is in fact a room in a building, painted with B & Q Trade White paint and gallery-issue grey floor paint. Nail holes in the wall have been meticulously filled, sanded and touched up by a recent art graduate / 'art technician'. An undergraduate invigilator shuffles at the door wishing he'd remembered to bring his (insert art theorist). You read the handout given to you by the intern (3 months unpaid) at the desk to help you judge the work in someone else terms.
I see the role of the artist is to attempt to establish a personal autonomy, not - as the minimalists thought - to produce autonomous objects. To be able to dissect visual language and re-use it as a more accurate representation of personal - and therein public - truth.
To allow the audience to witness autonomy in action, I curate shows and exhibit works in alternative spaces, exposing the artistic process. In the white cube, the audience can feel that there are rules at play, rules that they are not privy to, rules that prevent them from engaging and investing in the work. Artwork made in response to and exhibited in alternative or public space offers a neutral ground between the artist and the audience, devoid of these rules.
Car parks, street corners, derelict lots, kitchens, trains, facades of houses, abandoned buildings, skips, sitting rooms, buses, building sites, roadworks... The audience often have as much, or perhaps even more understanding of site and context than the artist, which gives them access to the starting point of the artworks. It is my hope that this can inspire the audience to build their own white cubes.