Saturday, 18 January 2014

An Unsuccessful Serial Killer

I have re-connected with Foley Galley, New York at the London Art Fair this week. I was mentored by Michael Foley after being selected for the Summer Show Project in 2011.

During the mentoring sessions I developed some lines of enquiry, but (as is usual for me) my objectivity in the moment can be clouded by so many other considerations, that I can easily miss the most valuable developments. I have an understanding of this now and so rely more and more on a well documented archive. Ironically the 'wisdom of hindsight' can be applied to existing work as well as something closer to an audience objectivity to one's own work. I also find it useful to identify the long term themes that I return to, there are some processes and compositions that I am unable to emotionally escape from. I don't fully understand the motives but they are irresistible and there is a trail of clues left behind in everything I do. I would make a very unsuccessful serial killer; my modus Operandi would be very easy to identify.

The archive can equally pose some major issues when considering the concept of legacy and there is a huge temptation to 'do a Francis Bacon' and destroy everything that feels unworthy in the moment. There are some disastrous examples of horribly mined archives of great artists who were less careful. I remember specifically with dread, a show a few years ago of Robert Maplethorpe at The National Portrait Gallery London; they included a large body of his utterly banal commercial portraiture. It was horrible, it undermined his genius and I could feel the poor man turning in his grave.

Equally though, if we destroy images that we feel in the moment are of no value, we may miss their re-invention in a future defined by different aesthetic rules. Wolfgang Tillmans has been my most important influence in this regard and his example opened my eyes to a new way of viewing my otherwise lifeless previous work. I have destroyed over 10,000 original transparencies since then, by placing them in bins or leaving them in public places to be found by random strangers and I have no regrets but a concern for legacy can be a serious block to development and I love and am inspired by the likes of Michael Landy and originally Marcel Duchamp for the notion "Destruction is also creation".

I feel sometimes that I am creating work for a future audience, this is inescapably true as photography is 'immediate nostalgia' as Susan Sontag beautifully constued. Everything is an immediate archive. So don't delete those digital files? Not immediately anyway.

See below a rediscovered image and detail taken of performance artist Catherine Hoffmann changing before a test shoot during my residency at Foley Gallery.
Image_9376, Catherine Hoffmann changing, at Coldfall Woods, 2011 © Richard Ansett 2014
Detail from 'Image_9376, Catherine Hoffmann changing, at Coldfall Woods, 2011' © Richard Ansett 2014

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