On movement and power in Exploitation!
Frankly, Exploitation! is the best thing I've ever done. Granted I say this after everything I do, but this time I mean it. I have only ever had one mission as an artist and that is to move. In fact, I think it is our only power as artists. To move a person - move something within them. Move them to say or do something. Change something. Or to move a thing. A building, an institution, a system or belief. A wall. A mountain.
As always, my work has surprised me. That's my fave - I feel as if I have failed if even I am not moved by my own work. I knew it would do something, but I suppose as always, I was unsure what that thing could be. As soon as it started to take shape, I saw the impact it was making. Whether it was big or small, I saw the work at work and that made me think of who, if anyone, was responsible for these movements.
Sure I am the artist and to be fair, affecting the viewer is what I'm all about. I'm obsessed with the concept of having a limited amount of time, perhaps a split second with which to make an impact on a person. This is the main reason I decided to call it Exploitation!. With this title, I was referring to the types of devices I'd have to exploit in order to capture and retain the viewers attention. The process was as much about the tactics I was exploiting as the viewers response (or lack thereof) to these tactics.
In a sense then, the work became about power. Which things I as an artist can empower myself with in order to drive the viewer in a certain direction. But also an investigation into how much power the viewer has or wants.
For example obscurity was one of the aforementioned tactics. While I clearly used myself, my body and personal narrative, I used both cultural and political obstacles to shed doubt on a narrative that sets up cohesive expectations. Viewers wanted explanations and I was keen not to give them because I wanted the process to be self-exploratory. I would leave clues, hints, open doors, but I didn't want to dictate the outcome. Meaning then in the work, was a collaborative thing. I was starting a sentence and asking the viewer to finish it.
While in a sense the collaborative act blurs the lines of authorship, I have never felt more powerful as an artist. Ironically, giving the power of meaning away has only reinforced it. Moreover, the work has contributed a helluva lot to my research which talks to power dynamics within intimate spaces and the kinds of things these intimate powers can do. My strategy was to entrust the viewer with this responsibility, leaving the work vulnerable and somewhat unfinished. Unfinishable. The exhibition was an opportunity to see where I end and where the audience begins and where new work can begin as a result.
Of course, what I saw was astounding. I was moved by the amount of physical movement I could see within the space. The way certain people were offended, some ran out in a huff while some felt at home and made space for themselves. Even the complex conversations that surfaced and the new work that was made then and there made me think even more about power. Energy. Not just of the artist or the viewer, but the collective power that can be harnessed within these spaces and what can be done with it.