Objecthood

September 17th, 2017

Randy Gibson: Rational Time (Installation View)
Randy Gibson: Rational Time (Installation View) | Photo by Randy Gibson

September 17th, 2017


A different sense of time


My show of objects and installations, Rational Time, has been up at the Wild Project gallery for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve begun to think a lot about the psychological difference of presenting this type of work as it relates to my previously established working methods.

When I present a performance, there is an overwhelming amount of work that goes into those hours when we share the work with an audience. And that is a contract with the audience too, that goes both ways. I wrote a bit about this relationship in my recent essay for The Brooklyn Rail On Time. But I delved into this contract more fully in the original prepared remarks I gave at Nief-Norf.

What interests me most these days is the way that all of these elements (audio, visual, environmental) can work together to clarify the way we are sensing the world around us, how they influence the way we feel when we leave the space of the performance, and how we perceive the passage of time both during and after the performance. If we continue to present a concert the way it's always been presented, then what are we adding to the conversation? We ask a lot of our audiences and that they take away an experience that persists viscerally in their memory should be the goal, because ultimately, it's about time.

Now, with a gallery show up, this idea has become more complex in my thinking. Having presented performances, and the occasional short-term installation, for almost 20 years now, I have grown accustomed to the personal journey I need to take in order to perform the work, and maintain a healthy state of mind both leading up to and after a presentation. The relationship with work up in a gallery is something else entirely. A viewer may only spend a few moments with the work, or may linger over a particular piece. This is a completely different experience than the performances or even the installations, because a viewer can actually take something real from the experience in such a short time. The work becomes a part of the living environment of the room. While my performances subsume or transform the reality of the space, these objects, simply hanging on walls, amplify rather than obscure.

The feeling of completing a painting is completely new as well. Even though it doesn’t really feel complete until it’s hanging on the wall, there’s a finality to it that I was unprepared for. With my performances, I can continue to refine and perfect the work over multiple presentations. With the objects, I must accept the results of the work, and if I want to continue to refine, I need to make a New object, rather than continue to edit what exists.

In some ways this is very exciting, but the day after I installed the show I felt a real sense of loss that I hadn’t felt since that first performance I produced. The work itself now exists in the world, as a concrete thing. While our experience of the work may still be ephermeral – the way the light changes, or the perception of the color over time – the object itself undeniably exists and will go in a little box at the end of the show. Even though my thought process is the same when I approach creating a performance and creating an object (what are my parameters? what do I have to say? what do I need to achieve?) the end result feels profoundly different.