Memories of a Nervous System, MA: Art and Process Degree Show, CIT Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork, Ireland 29/11/18 – 14/12/18 Guest Speaker, Contemporary Artist Joy Gerrard
Memories of a Nervous System
Curatorial Catalog Text
‘My territories are out of grasp, not because they are imaginary, but on the contrary, because I am in the process of drawing them’
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari A Thousand Plateaux
Artists defend subjectivity. This is important, especially in a time when knowledge is received as data and privacy eroded. The creation of new unmapped, in-between spaces that we can inhabit freely, if only briefly, has always been vital to individuals and societies but it has now attained a new relevance. This is the field of Art and the context of this exhibition.
As title of our show, the nervous system is envisioned as both macro and molecular and refers as much to society and the living body as to the circulation between members of this MA: AP group. Here I write, not for the group but from within it.
Porous, continuous, independent from language, a nervous system has an infinite number of entry points. The principle of multiple entries resists attempts at interpretation, offering itself instead to experimentation. Circulating in real time, responding to multiple stimuli both internal and external, a nervous system’s memories can’t be abstracted from presence. They continually join up with presences, towards new becomings, mostly unseen, unarticulated, ‘clandestine passengers in a motionless voyage.’ In our practices, we engage with these internal voyages and listen for these becomings.
Our MA course is called ‘Art and Process’. We pay attention to the ‘how’ of things, the manner in which they are revealed, be they material or immaterial. Relationships and interactions form the content of our work, including those between the seer and the seen. John Berger wrote that, ‘the Cubists created the possibility of art revealing processes instead of static entities’. From the creation of this possibility onwards, according to Berger, the question that we need to ask of an artwork is not, ‘Is it true? or ‘Is it sincere?’ but instead, ‘Does it continue?’ This reflection is of contemporary validity because it acknowledges the continually evolving nature of how we see reality and the means we use to articulate our vision.
Process situates the artist in that strange middle space between labour and product. In constant movement, like a nervous system, it resists identification as data or territory. Its only mode is one of becoming. Doubt, failure, incompletion are part of our practice just as they are part of the streaming mutual life of the universe that we are indivisible from. For Deleuze and Guattari, the creative act is one of de-territorialisation; ‘to paint the world onto oneself, not oneself onto the world.’ To do so, is to remove oneself from the dominant language. In The Queer Art of Failure, Judith Halberstam identifies as queer, that which does not seek to be part of the dominant language.“The queer art of failure turns on the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely, and the unremarkable. It quietly loses, and in losing it imagines other goals for life, for love, for art, and for being.‘
During this year, these imaginings have formed part of discussions relating to our practices and to the wider frameworks in which we create. Shifting viewpoints and the acceptance of uncertainty or incompletion are often the basis of our work. These are states that remain, as yet un-coded, offering instead, experiences of mutuality that connect us. This brings to mind an anecdote where on discussing Kafka’s books one day with a friend, that I mentioned that I had never finished ‘The Castle’. He replied, “That’s ok, neither did Kafka.”
And so what form do these memories take? Awareness of memories becomes part of memory itself. At this time, we see them as resonances, after-images, becomings, not as interpretations of our collective nervous system.
Improbabilities of places and practices resurface: together in a showroom apartment, high up in Cork’s Elysian Tower, reading from Michel de Certeau; in the old gaol, reading Foucault, amid costume dressed dummies; a mink emerging from in a pond in springtime Garravagh; the nervous system of a clown; acupuncture for a silent landscape from 10,000 feet; Kafka’s Odradrek: the form oblivion takes; elevations made of painted wood, failure and possibility; clerical repetition freed from interpretation finding its own becoming in abstraction; liberating archaeology with glitter; summer solstice shafts of sunlight moving over models of cosmic phenomena; baling twine turned sea, turned sky, turned snow, turned none of these; lilies from Lidl triangulating in the studio; memories of a future drowned city on Garnish Island; between the solar system and the nervous system, veils of colour; silent psychogeographers on Douglas Street; an embarkation from the Pier of Tears… Watteau; and the Dunkettle Interchange.
Sinéad Lucey, October 2018