Monday, 29 August 2011

Ben Osborn writes about my work

I was recently talking to a friend who doesn't know Joe very well; they know him by reputation as a musician and music producer, but they didn't know about his art. I was trying to explain why Joe's art appealed to me so much.

I tried to explain that his art isn't about creating objects, or images, or events. He does create those things, but they are part of his wider project. His art is about certain, sometimes very specific, moments and feelings.

Surely that's very difficult, said my friend, impressed. To give an audience one particular feeling. Make them feel just that one thing and nothing else.

Well, that's not what he does, I realised. What's great about it is that you're free - usually encouraged - to feel whatever you want to, to bring that to the art. Joe is not interested, as far as I can tell, in being prescriptive or controlling.

Italo Calvino said that the poet of vagueness would have to be the poet of exactitude as well - 'able to grasp the subtlest sensations with eyes and ears and quick, unerring hands.' I think Calvino hit on what I am trying to say here, and why I struggled to explain Joe's art to my friend. How can I find, in this art, an exact, subtle feeling - as well as a liberating vagueness, obscurity, aleatory?

Calvino says that one can't really exist without the other. The random, chance elements that vagueness allows can only be understood through a magnifying lens of exactitude.

I'll try to explain using one of Joe's pieces. It is a drawing of Mulder and Scully. It's a pretty good picture and as far as I'm aware Joe didn't draw it. He put it on his wall, fastening the top two corners of the back of the picture to the wall of his bedroom with bluetac. He happened to place the picture above the radiator in his room. When the radiator is on, the hot air rises, causing the picture of Mulder and Scully to flap very gently up and down.

The combination of the image and the movement is the kind of thing you would notice out of the corner of your eye in your room or someone else's room, and that would stick with you all day.

Presenting that art gives the audience a tiny moment, and out-of-the-corner-of-the-eye glance. The feeling of noticing an unlikely juxtaposition - a pencil drawing of some characters, with all of the stories they may or not may not conjure up in your head, and this tiny, silly movement. It happened by chance, so it's only the act of observing that matters. But such a careful kind of observing, where the images at the corners of your eyes are the most important.

Ben Osborn

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