SPACE Studios, London, UK
March > August 2012
This exploration of the pragmatic aesthetic* within the urban landscape focused on maintaining—collecting, sorting, organizing and repairing—the unwanted, used and discarded things that amass in eddies in the urban landscape. These eddies are peripheral sites, overlooked and undervalued yet existing in plain sight. They typically feature layers of neglect, evident in the overgrown accumulation of leftovers from our contemporary packaged existence.
I search out these eddies and peel through the layers of accumulated leftovers to reveal the condition of things, which can be seen in two ways. One is accepting the condition as natural: neglect exists and has an aesthetic value, deriving its state from natural forces, an entropic neutralization of energy. This is where little to nothing is done and things are left to become what they will. The other is acknowledging the condition as artificial: neglect is controllable and the aesthetic value is altered, even improved, by expending energy, sustaining a perceived order to things.
In a city too busy to notice, there is an uneasy appealing quality to working in a forgotten parcel of land nestled in plain sight. I feel invisible and anonymous as the debris that has collected. This anonymous relationship to the condition of things is identified and made public through the work done within the chosen sites.
Once the sites have been maintained and much of the unsightly (not unseen) material removed, a further contribution is offered in the form of a hollow amphora cast in beeswax. The amphora, precursor to the contemporary trophy, was originally a disposable object. Once its purpose was fulfilled, it was broken into pieces and discarded in dumps that eventually became huge mounds of fired clay fragments, like Monte Testaccio in Rome. The contemporary parallel to the ubiquitous plastic water bottle and landfills is evident. In this instance, the amphora represents the material removed from the site and the trophy offered in recognition for the actions performed: a temporary, ephemeral, almost unseen gift that will disappear, likely to the replaced by rubbish.
*The pragmatic aesthetic refers to the intrinsic and evolving appearance of things, objects, places and structures found in our environments, appearances that are inherently dynamic due to use and the passage of time.