Last week was assessment week for me at Wolverhampton so the culmination of the first semester’s work. For the assessment, I was asked to display a piece / body of work that reflected my current 'thinking and understanding'.
During the last semester I had been researching the concept of repetition. Repetition touches many levels of existence. It can be a comfort and a disturbance; a compulsion and a revulsion. In Western culture, repetition is traditionally condemned as something parasitic and negative. Absolute originality is honoured over imitation. In my research I had been challenging this notion. Repetition may be the act of creating another and another ad infimum, but out of all of the similarity, something new may emerge. Repetition is not a static process, it is a dynamic one.
It isn’t the act of repetition that is important or even the nature of the repetitious events; it is the effects, or vibrations, of the repetitions. The moments between repetitions and the changes that take place are more interesting than the pieces themselves.
My assessment 'piece' was composed of a number of strands which are all interrelated. The 'piece' I called The Repetition Room.
The aim of The Repetition Room as a whole was to reflect the disordered, infinite nature of the various repetitious acts I’d been engaged in over the last few weeks. I wanted to see if anything of value could be teased out of the chaos. The question I have been asking with this project is: how can I visually capture the ‘sudden illumination of multiplicity’ (Michael Foucault). Gilles Deleuze states that the aim of the artist is to defeat the chaos by setting up a ‘being of the sensory’. I want to know: is that possible here?
Over the semester, every week I had put posters up around the art building. The point of the posters was to challenge people's assumptions about what constitutes art: can a copy of a pre-existing image and text become art? I also wanted to provoke thought about repetition and show how repetition is omnipresent through following various themes with the posters, such as TV, film and consumerism. Finally, I wanted to be an annoyance through the repetitious nature of the posters. The posters covered a wall and a half of The Repetition Room.
I also created what I called a 'repetition board' which was a piece of wood upon which I drew the same image over and over again during my travels around Wolverhampton and my home town, Shrewsbury. This board came with me everywhere and whenever I stopped, I drew. Immediately after each drawing I transcribed my thoughts during the drawing process. I wanted to ask a number of questions: Would the thoughts be related to the drawing? Would the thoughts be repetitive? What does the act of drawing do to the act of thinking? Do they impact each other? Would I become more conscious of my thoughts as I knew I was going to be writing them down? How much of what I wrote down would be genuine, based on memory, and manipulated?
In the centre of The Repetition Room stands a plinth which is covered with doodles about repetition. I had used this plinth as my sketch pad, to note down all my thoughts and ideas over the semester. I took the plinth home over Christmas and obsessively drew on it over the holiday. It interested me exactly how obsessed I became. It was like my drug.
The walls were also adorned with paintings of the same shape on the repetitious board. Again, these were drawn without reference to the original image (a sheep poo photographed on holiday in Wales), using colours as I found them.
The final element of the room was copies of 'nothing', i.e. holes in the wall. If you can replicate nothing, does nothing exist? Are my copies the positive of the negative? Is there something interesting about the repetition of a void?
In the room, which creates an immersive experience of repetition, I wanted to express the chaos and the rhizomic nature of repetition. The only way I could see to do this, was to saturate the environment with all of my current creative output.
If the aim of art is to find focus in the chaos or rip the fabric of ordinary existence with a ‘genuine encounter’, then I feel that I have been unable to do this so far within this project. I can, at this point, I decided, only reflect the chaos and omnipresence of repetition and hope to convey something of that to the viewer.
There is also a blog for the #FreeRepublicofRepetition: www.freerepublicoforepetition.com.