WORK I NEVER MADE
Stapled A4 book, 2018
This is a compilation of writing about work that I once planned to make but never actually did. The book is stapled rather than bound so that I can add it it, as the list of works that I never made becomes longer. See below for three of the texts.
When I did a Google image search for my name I discovered that lots of photos of colourful ceramic pots came up that had nothing to do with me. I looked into it, and found out that they weren’t real pots. They were virtual pots, made by an American woman called Rachel Tweddell who was interested in ceramics, but she didn’t make real ceramics. She was part of an online community of people who made and painted virtual pots, and rated and commented on each other’s work. She had been really busy with this and there were a lot of images of her pots online. I decided to have a kind of visual conversation with her through the internet by making real ceramic pots based on her exact designs – baking them, glazing them, photographing them and putting them online, with enough links to them from other sites to ensure that they would come up in a Google search. Then, if and when she googled her name, she would see images of her pots in the real physical world. We would have a connection - not a common connection like sharing the same unusual name, but a much more haunting and interesting one. I would be sending her an absurd and dream-like moment across the Atlantic. I went to the art shop near my studio and bought a big bag of clay to make the pots. It cost about £15. I took it back to the studio and then somehow got busy with other things, and I never got round to making the pots. Then I found out I was pregnant and moved studios to be closer to home. I took the bag of clay with me when I moved, though by this time I’d noticed that when I googled my name, not many images of the pots came up. I still thought it was a good idea worth doing though, and I stored the clay. I had my baby, and still I didn’t make the pots. Then when my daughter was almost three, my studio rent suddenly went up by 50%, so I split my studio in half and shared it with another woman, a painter. I had to clear out quite a lot of stuff to free up the space. This is when I found the bag of clay. It had been sitting next to a hot water pipe for years and had gone rock hard. I had to throw it away. The lift was broken that day. I was on the third floor, so I walked down the stairs with it. The clay was really heavy. I hadn’t thought about that Rachel Tweddell for a long time and I had never made the pots. They didn’t even show up in Google any more. All the way down the stairs I wondered about her, and her virtual pots. I realised I’d built quite a clear visual image of her in my mind. Then I dropped the clay into the big metal bin outside my studio building. It landed with a loud thud, and I went back upstairs.
In a charity shop I found a book by Edward Heath called MUSIC. It was a very dreary book about the importance of music in his life. In the middle of the book was a double page spread with nine photos of him showing conducting movements. He had a tan and was wearing a very white short-sleeved shirt, and holding a conductor’s baton, and there was something really annoying about the photos. For some reason, and I can’t quite remember how I reached the idea, as it was about 8 years ago, I decided to buy the book and screen print a hula hoop onto each photo of him. I think it was to highlight the absurdity of the photos and the self-important premise of the book – why would anybody learn to conduct from Edward Heath? And the perfect circle of the hula hoop looked great next to the straight line of the conducting baton, and reduced the images to a series of formal shapes, which I thought made the photos much more interesting. I decided that if I was going to go to the trouble of screen printing the books, I should make quite a few, so I went on ebay to buy other copies of the books. They were really easy to find, and really cheap – one of them was 1 pence - and three of the copies I found were even signed. I was so pleased with them when they arrived in the post. At that time I had joined Print Club, a screen printing workshop in Dalston. I loved going there and always seemed to get new ideas for work to make whenever I was there. I tried to screen print the hula hoops onto the photos but it was really hard to get them into the right place. The book was thick and heavy and didn’t open flat, so screen printing didn’t really work. I couldn’t figure out how to do it. So I started off by screen printing the cover – a circle, seen at an angle, like a hula hoop, in blue, and a straight line in yellow. It was really beautiful, and looked like a drawing by the minimalist artists I really admired, like Sol le Witt. I made a cover for every book, five in total, and then put them away while I figured out how to do the shapes on the photos. I totally forgot about them, and rediscovered them when I moved house years later. I’d kept them in the dark in a big cupboard. When I looked at them again I couldn’t remember why I’d found the idea interesting, or why I’d thought it might seem interesting to anyone else. It was just too pointless and airy. The books were also really heavy and big, so I kept one copy and gave the rest to the charity shop.
When I was 22 I moved to Berlin and lived there for four years. It was the first time I had lived abroad, and in that time I realised lots of things about the UK that I hadn’t given much thought to before. School children in Germany don’t usually wear uniforms, and when I went back to England for visits I was really struck by the sight of children all wearing one colour in a school playground. It was a blast of colour that seemed incredibly bright and theatrical. I had just met a man (who, it turned out, I would marry, though I didn’t know that at the time) who introduced me to the work of the French filmmaker Jacque Demy. He used colour brilliantly in his films. I found him really inspiring and started to get a lot of ideas about short films I could make based around colour. I had an idea to collect footage of primary school assemblies with as many different colour uniforms as possible. I figured out I could find at least seven colours, so could collect a whole spectrum. I can’t remember what I planned to do with the footage. I just got tied up very quickly in the logistics of how to get into the schools, and researching which schools wore which colour. In the end I decided the first school I could gain easy access to was the primary school I had been to myself, which had a bright blue uniform. The headmaster was still there and I arranged to meet him when I was next in England. I remember sitting in his office and explaining what I wanted to do, and in that moment realising that it was quite a strange and unresolved idea. I was suddenly overcome with shyness and went very red in the face, and I noticed that my voice was getting quieter and quieter, and he was struggling to hear me. He was very generous and didn’t object to the filming, which took place the next day. I set up my camera on the small stage in the hall, facing the children, and seemed to have a good view of them, but as he came in he stood in front of the camera and partly obscured the view of the blue uniforms. He was wearing a brown suit. I went back to Germany the following week, and resolved to find more schools the next time I was in England, but I never did.