One part of my practice is motivated and inflected by a concern for how visual arts practice is constrained by normative conceptions of human bodies – conceptions that are integral to the ways in which art is made, discussed, understood and assumed to be experienced.
The concept of the ‘autonomous object’ on a plinth in a white gallery space was challenged by new arts practices during the sixties. Against the backdrop of developing civil and human rights movements they challenged the way in which arts meaning was constructed and maintained though culture and economy and undermined the paradigm of arts and art institutions’ autonomy.
Documentation of site-related work of the late 1960s and early ’70s suggests that there has been little, if any acknowledgement of how normative values assigned to bodies have impacted on the creative practices of artists across the spectrum of physical body types.
Works were invariably made and marketed with ‘human scale’ in mind, but whose human scale? Whose bodies was it assumed were negotiating, navigating and experiencing the works and the sites they were located in? Artists, writers and thinkers with disabilities were not privy to this critical and cultural debate for a variety of reasons. Still widespread is the siting and installations of pieces in relation to normative dimensions of human scale.
Practice investigates these assumptions; work provides a way in to think critically about physical bodies in space. It does not confront normative environments or cultural attitudes with their downfalls in relation to ‘disabled’ versus ‘able bodied’ but begins to reveal interesting opportunities through the problematising of issues of architecture, environment, installation and perception and nurtures dialogue that does not start or end in polarised territories.
Investigations take a less essential and more universal approach when dealing with the construct of normality and constructed identities (yours, mine, ours, artists and audiences) suggesting that identities are fluid and that their essentialism is in doubt when confronted with varying frames of physical, cultural, political and social contexts.
The aim to remove inherent signifiers and autobiographical dichotomies, further attempts to upset paradigms, problematise and reframe in the presence of the unfamiliar.
Experimental processes and works of this era incorporated an economy of means and relatively low tech materials which are applicable to my methodology such as tape, pencil, yarn, wood paper, paint, chalk, builders string as well as wire, and Film.
One advantage in using these materials is that, if appropriate, I am able to manipulate and construct on a variety of scales with self-sufficient autonomy. For example, through repeated small scale motifs or components or by using light weight low tech materials. An outcome of that is that inherent in the making installing and aesthetic of work are elements of my own physical identity. This pragmatic approach to my work is married with a theoretical conceptual process which inflects making and via versa. Rather than reducing work to a dry intellectual exercise though, it seeks to create something experientially bigger than the sum of its parts without a heavy hand, a space for open, generous dialogue and reflection.