Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre (PSC) was delighted to host Life Cycle, Continuous on 3 December 2015. This evening of talks and discussion considered the life cycles of artworks, alongside the legacy of their artists, exploring in particular how these things transform, evolve and transition across platforms, people, places and time.
The evening began with a few words from the organisation’s co-directors, Dr Marsha Bradfield, Visiting Scholar at CCW, and Lucy Tomlins. The life cycle of artworks, especially sculpture, is something that has preoccupied PSC since the summer of 2013, when the organisation hosted an artist talk by sculptor Richard Wilson at his Slice of Reality on the Greenwich Peninsula. Here Wilson spoke candidly about the challenges of maintaining the public artwork, a chunk of ship, after the millennial project was decommissioned. Who takes decisions about an artwork’s care after it leaves its artist’s orbit? What responsibility do artists have to how their artworks are stored, shown, conserved or disposed of? Where does the work reside? Does it reside in the work that we look at? Does it reside in the idea of the work?
Jo Melvin presenting at Life Cycle, Continuous. Photo credit: Sinead Bligh
These were questions that CCW Reader Dr Jo Melvin engaged in her talk, The conundrums of remaking sculptural practices and their legacies. Melvin has been investigating the interconnections between the archives of artists’, critics, museums, galleries and magazines from the 1960s to the present day since the early 90s. For Life Cycle, Continuous, she considered specific conundrums in connection with re-presenting the work of Naum Gabo, Barry Flanagan and Christine Kozlov. For instance, she referenced the exhibition of Gabo’s Kinetic Construction (Standing Wave) at MOMA in 1968. When the artwork, owned by Tate, proved too fragile to travel, the possibility of whether it might be remade in the US came to the fore. Gabo agreed on the grounds that like Kinetic’s previous iteration, the artwork should be made from materials that were ‘ready to hand’. Crucial here is the artist’s specification. For as Melvin observed, without clear instructions about what conditions must be fulfilled for an artwork to be remade or represented, ambiguity pervades. She went on to discuss the challenges of identifying what and where the artwork is with reference to Barry Flanagan’s practice and his sense that his sculptures were not based on experience of the world but rather, each work is an experience of its making. Further, discussion of Christine Kozlov’s 271 BLANK SHEETS OF PAPER CORRESPONDING TO 271 DAYS OF CONCEPTS REJECTED touched on the thorny of issue of what traces slip away, either because they are perceived as unworthy for posterity or undesirable in some way. And in the case of this particular work by Kozlov, what is most important: concept or materials? Should only the 271 blank sheets the artist selected be shown, however yellow they become with age? Would would any ‘bank sheets’ serve to gesture towards the absence of presence that her artwork explores?
The other two speakers for Life Cycle, Continuous grappled with very different concerns in their talks. Artist Anne Hardy discussed the challenges of re-presenting site specific works like those recently featured in her acclaimed exhibition FIELD at Modern Art Oxford. Artist and senior lecturer Jenny Dunseath Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University discussed her ongoing research into the transmission of knowledge from artists to their assistants, based on her personal experience working in Anthony Caro’s studio.
Life Cycle, Continuous was part of the public programme that accompanied PSC’s 2015 artists-in-residence programme, with the talks talking place culminating exhibition, Which one of these is the non-smoking lifeboat? This approach to hosting the talks tracks with PSC’s ongoing commitment to making the making of sculpture more visible so as to better appreciate the process of an outcomes production.
Audio documentation of Life Cycle, Continuous will be available on PSC’s website in early 2016.
Top image: Jo Melvin installing heap 3 ’67/68, 1967/68 at Cullinan Richards, London, January 2015