First, collect ...
The rusted objects were collected whenever and wherever I was - now and in the past. It strikes me that I have always been attracted to rust. I wonder why? What is interesting for me now is the psychological connection between them and my attuned state. This ‘selective attention’ seems to be what artists call ‘resonance’ with objects.
The method of collection was, and still is, very random and intuitive. An old crate lined with badly stained paper was the repository for whatever was thrown in. This occurred over a period of time and , without any input from me, the objects started to stain the paper. My move in response to this was to hasten the process (to accelerate it) by mixing a solution of an acidic salt, ferrous sulphate (a fertilizer), and pouring it into the crate and then forgetting about it. I'm allowing the rust to make its own marks without my involvement.
When I next looked, a surprising rust ‘print’ had developed. My 'dance' move in response to this was to emphasize some of the areas with pencil crayons. A few cast shadows and highlights provided an interesting tension between the flat 2D ghost prints and the 3D illusions.
I'm always aware now of the 'vital force in materials' (Runge in Lange-Berndt 2012: 96) and also of Bennett's 'vital matter' (in Sun 2015: n.pag) when I work with materials and this is something new that has emerged for me, after my usual desire for extreme human control of matter. My challenge is to choreograph the dance of agency so that my involvement does not disappear altogether but that materials have as much agency as is possible.
Sitting quietly with the print and its ghostly remnants of objects while following their shapes with a crayon, proved very meditative. I had experienced this before with my bitumen drawings and have connected the act of rhythmic movements and calming a restless mind with a decrease in pain. This is in keeping with my other mindfulness meditations and ties-in with Varela, Thompson & Rosch's thinking in their work on the Embodied Mind (Kindle ed. 2016)
Mindfulness sessions (via Zoom) with Roxana Chiappa are/were also useful in isolation. (Rhodes YouTube channel)
Rust print 2021
Ferrous sulphate, pencil crayons on stained Fabriano
42 x 42cm
The Properties of Rust March 2021
My ‘dance of agency’ (Pickering 2007) has involved moving around the waste site surrounding our home's construction site and I like to think of these moves as ‘dumpster dancing’.
The pandemic and the connected anxiety about my vulnerability is still operating as a resistance in this dance by preventing me from going out and working in other places and with other people. However, this isolated ‘dumpster dancing’ is proving to be an accommodation as it is providing me with much needed material and is also opening my eyes to the possibilities of raw iron and wood.
Rusted iron has been resonating particularly strongly with me. These rusted objects are sometimes hard to see as they disappear into the brownness of the surrounding wood, soil and leaves and it occurs to me that this could be rather common as a human perceptual feature. The mundane ‘disappears’ from our view. And becomes invisible to the human gaze. Could I make them less invisible? Could they have aesthetic qualities in their own right that are overlooked?
As in any dance, there could be 4 steps in a movement sequence and then the sequence would be repeated.
"1 and 2 and a 3 and 4"
Collect Consider Choose Contain
I have chosen this as a sequence for my involvement with rust in my dance of agency.
Barad’s idea of ‘queering’ became important (in a material sense) as I considered how to use these objects collected from a construction site in an art context so that they would “differ... in some way from what is usual or normal”.
(Merriam- Webster Def)
As Barad asks "How can the possibility of the queerness of one of the most pervasive of all critters – atoms – be entertained? These “ultraqueer” critters with their quantum quotidian qualities queer queerness itself in their radically deconstructive ways of being. The aim is to show that all sorts of seeming impossibilities are indeed possible, including the queerness of causality, matter, space, and time." (Barad in Nature's Queer Performativity 2012: 25)
What has built on this concept of inanimate material agency for me is the work done by Mcphie in the pedagogy of psychogeography. Here he asks his architecture students to interview buildings. His ideas on material agency also reference Symborska's 'Conversation with a Stone', which again resonates with my intra-actions with materials.
Note: The actual artwork was seen as a frame by many colleagues. The rust print was then considered the artwork! This was an interesting figure/ground perceptual phenomenon. (reference)
I have separated the two pieces and prefer it this way, hence version 1 and 2.
I visualize a physical area or virtual space as a rust laboratory, which contains the experiments, the chemicals and the record of dances to come. My new works will take place in this 'rust' laboratory. One is already materializing as a record of the temporality of my involvement as the rust moves on its own path at its own pace.
Rust containment - version 2
Neith Moore 2021