Week 4 – Simon Welsh – January 26-February 1 – 2/4 – Poetry in court (27 Jan)

The fig-2 project shares with the original fig-1 project a sense of freedom from conventional notions of art practice and curation, where it is more about using the available space for a creative purpose, what ever that might be in whatever discipline.

In week four, the poet, environmental activist and public speaker Simon Welsh, delivered a series of forty-two minute lectures. I’m not going to offer critical commentary on what he said, just to try to share with you what I took from his words, with apologies for omissions and distortions. “The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood” (Cocteau). Simon’s vision is abundantly positive, with mythic Blakean resonances and a kind of panpsychical holism centred on the empowerment of the individual for the greater good of all.

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2/4 – Poetry in court (27 Jan)

We the people are remarkably similar in thinking we are different, and this is a lever for divide and rule. Josh Fox’s fracking documentaries, Gasland, unfold like poems, exposing the ‘biodiversity scam’ and sparking unprecedented interest, forming part of a community spirit allied against the frackers’ “dark Satanic drills.”

In this spirit Simon Welsh has made films about a Frack Free Sussex: the chant went out: Belt it out of Balcombe! He organised a demonstration that attracted six hundred people. Not protesters but protectors. He received criticism for developing a working relationship with the police, though this relationship ensured the safety of the protectors and a sense of the legitimacy of the cause. This is astute because the laws have been jimmied to make it hard for us to sustain a voice.

Public Order Act 1986 Section 14 allows the police to dictate the size and location of public assemblies, to atomise movements in a physical way on the ground.

The Queen is at the top of the constitutional power structure, but is she pro-fracking? “The Crown” says fracking is okay, but this could mean “The City” as it often does. The hymn God Save The Queen is “a black magic prayer to keep us separated from our divinity” to divert us from knowing that we are the custodians of our country, our planet, and keep us from empowerment.

Section 14 is a prayer too. While the police tried to read it to Simon Welsh, he sang, to drown it out. He was arrested anyway, and frisked in Crawley police station. A gay man, he brought humour to this invasive procedure, and the frisking officer blushed, then became the butt of humour among his colleagues. He experienced an empowered feeling at the same time as he was having his rights taken away. In the cells he wrote a poem. He was advised to use it as his statement, to say in his defence that he had experienced “temporary heart consciousness”

In court, the poem was his extraordinary defence: “Arrested for singing

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Week 2 – Charles Avery – January 12-18 – Untitled (Dihedra)

Charles Avery’s project for week two of fig-2 is now called “Untitled (Dihedra)” following the ubiqituous ‘Untitled (Title)’ format that never gets old.  I like the original working title “Ghosts Circumnavigating A Trefoil Knot”, from the sketch for the looped film that comprises the three-chambered heart of the work:

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Ghosts are sexy, though not as sexy as maths. Avery describes the work as “highly mathematical.. a distillation of different dimensions” intended to form an intersection of different spatial ideas. It sexily comprises several elements demonstrating these: hexagonal floor tiles in a 2-dimensional Euclidian plane, a cage which when projected against gives the line in one dimension across the wall, and then, projected from a noisy old ELF film projector, two pairs of dihedrons (two isosceles triangles together, in the shape of a bird) circumnavigating the path of a trefoil knot. The trefoil knot is made of one line weaving round on itself through a three-leaf clover shape (see above sketch).

The work feels Duchampian, mathematically precise, but there’s more to it than just geometry-porn. There’s us. On the outside of the enclosed projection space there is a framed statement “we don’t stay here because of gravity we stay because we like it”:

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This is initially puzzling in relation to the rest of the work, but is a big clue, intended to underline the centrality of our subjectivity in relation to the qualities we perceive in objects, rather than in the objects ourselves. Avery says “the cage represents the structure… in concrete terms, and the viewer brings the subjective element, which is the ghost.. which inhabits that structure.”

We are on the ground not because of the theory of gravity, but because we choose not to fly.  The ghostly projections of the bird-like dihedrons flapping around their trefoil have no choice in the matter; they are mechanical, mathematical. They are shadows made from the absence of light from the projection of film. They have no substance, even as light. They are ghosts. Ghosts are defining liminalities: both presence and absence at once. We as objects are abidingly present (unless you choose to “refute it thus” and break your foot) but our perceptions, and by extension the ‘quality’ of any perceived object, are liminal, ghostly too.

Avery says “the ghost of this being that inheres in objects is a lot to do with my idea of art as quality not as an object.”  Thus the work is only formally Duchampian, mathematical in its means, but really it’s an attempt to apprehend where we are in the world of things: what it all means to be yourself, the viewer, the ghost in the machine.

The final irony is that we thus become prisoners of our own subjectivity, little better than dihedral birds, ghosts circumnavigating a trefoil knot. Though that’s just my subjective view.

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Official fig-2 page for week 2: http://www.fig2.co.uk/#/2/50

Interview with Charles Avery concerning the work: https://soundcloud.com/fig-2-1/250-fatos-ustek-interviews-charles-avery