Westgate development Oxford Central Library: First lines

David Moore (Artist), Kate Davis (Artist)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


First Lines. A Me-We proposal for Westgate Oxford, Central LibraryKate Davis & David Moore 2016. This commission proposal for the Central Library comes at a point on our journey where we have been working collaboratively for a number of years, attempting to push the boundaries of language and image. In 2013 we spent the summer on an artist’s residency at the Cornelius Foundation in the South of France working on ideas exploring the relationship between writing poetry and making collages. In both cases, working together, you can cut and paste, moving image or text around in similar ways to arrive at a completed form. Changing various lines of poetry or re-positioning components of imagery in each others compositions to form new works whose authorship becomes entangled between us. Crossing between languages has been inherent in the work produced during these collaborations. Where we have deliberately engaged in converging visual imagery with poetry, text and musical scores.More recently we completed the first artist residency at StudioRCA [A new project space at Nine Elms funded by ST James] The residency was entitled “Double Pelican -a collaborative experiment.” The Double Pelican was a figure of eight vial used by early alchemists in the pursuit of transformations of base materials into gold. What excited us was the thought of using two named elements A & B to create a third C, an as yet, unknown compound that would meld together in the form of the figure eight(The symbol of infinity). In this way we were seeking a new series of art-works that might be unpredictable and mysterious. We would become A & B and our thoughts would be multiplied and interwoven to become the third thing C; the art works produced in this process. We also thought of these results as being a manifestation of an equation, the ego squared! Having bridged the activity of working with poetry and collage during previous collaborations we thought about adopting the use of parentheses -as in written language- as a way of understanding a collaboration or indeed a period of residency as part of a continuing individual’s practice; where the meaning or direction of the individual’s practice still makes sense out-with that activity but is none the less enhanced by this additional activity.During this latest residency we decided to make a series of images or experiments within the form of braces or curly brackets, which are not to be confused with parentheses but are used to contain whole texts or a number of lines from poetry: but most commonly as a third set of parenthesis within mathematics or in musical notation. The idea being that everything going on within these braces somehow questioned the rules of language - or equally - qualified everything held within them as a form of language.To this end we built two 5-meter braces, which took the form of workbenches or desks or display shelves and everything that happened on or between them became part of the language cross-over we explored during the residency; whether visual, text based or indeed the conversations between ourselves and others that entered the space during this period of experimentation. The drawing 'Afterthought I ' was made during this time; it encompasses much of our thinking around the boundaries of meaning within and across languages. It bridges the analytical and the intuitive mind: where the braces seek to define or contain and the free line gives expression to a more subconscious thinking. Read as a visual image it can be regarded as expressive, symbolic or even evocative. It can be viewed as flat or can be seen to have a foreground a middle ground and depth within the picture plane. Read as language or notation it insists on the free form of the thread as meaningful within the same hierarchy as all other forms of language: it insists on drawing as language.Here at Westgate we wish to use image and text in a new way. We propose to make two works that will be different in character but be similar in concept. Both will look at the library as a place of education, opening up a world of knowledge to its users. But we want to view all this knowledge as a kind of cacophony of information, where each user seeks out and adds to their knowledge from a vast resource and takes it away in combination with other pieces of knowledge and life experiences. That although the books inside have boundaries they all mingle into each person’s stream of consciousness [A term coined by William James, elder brother of Novelist Henry James and pioneering psychologist] As he describes it when writing on James in The Faber Book Of Science: John Carey states “the ultimate constituents of reality are individual momentary experiences. The substance of reality may never get totally collected.” Then quoting William James, from The Principals of Psychology, London, Macmillan, 1890, “The mind, in short, works on the data it receives very much as a sculptor works on his block of stone. In a sense the statue stood there from eternity. But there were a thousand different ones beside it, and the sculptor alone is to thank for having extricated this one from the rest. Just so the world of each of us, however different our several views of it may be, all lay embedded in the primordial chaos of sensations, which gave the mere matter to the thought of all of us indifferently.” The library can catalogue all this store of information for us in detail but the knowledge extracted and where it goes is multitudinous in nature. For the first we have developed the idea of an embedded ground based work, which will sit outside the entrance to the library and have pathways leading people into the library. Although based at present on the form of a miniature rose-hip, representing the tree of knowledge, it will also appear like a nerve ending or a scientific model. It is intended that each bud or berry would form part of an indelible monument to the community and the people that use the library. We intend to gather information from the many different users of the library and in a sense get them to catalogue the books inside by choosing their favorite titles. We would then have their favorite author alongside their name engraved onto the berry discs and they would be permanently sited in the public realm. In this way, they in turn would show their friends and relatives and future generations the plaque that bears their name and their favorite author and new conversations will be had and various exchanges will continuously keep interweaving in a constant stream pouring out from the library entrance day and night. The interior buds might have the people who work within the building and their favorite titles. The second work we propose should be a wall based work that will be placed on the brick wall of the stairway leading up to the library. This will have the appearance of a planetary like image or a burning sun. For this we would interweave the first lines of all the selected titles into a teaming mass of words and letters taking language back to its source if you like. Or to quote William James again as he continued his passage in The Principals of Psychology “We may, if we like, by our reasoning’s unwind things back to that black and jointless continuity of space and moving clouds of swarming atoms which science calls the only real world. We would view this work as representing the future possibilities of knowledge, the books as yet unwritten but in some way formed by the very material of all the books that have come before. As James continues, “But all the while the world we feel and live in will be that which our ancestors and we, by slowly cumulative strokes of choice, have extricated out of this, like sculptors, by simply rejecting certain portions of the given stuff. Other sculptors, other statues from the same stone! Other minds, other worlds from the same monotonous and inexpensive chaos!” We would expect the viewer of this image to pass the work as they made their way up the stairs and each time something new would jump out from the interwoven text it was comprised of. In this way the work would be experienced differently each time and by each individual when they visited the library and in some sense we hope it would represent the experience of the visiting library itself and of the stuff of language it holds within.as material for new understandings. As William James concludes in his passage entitled The World as Sculpture, “My world is but one in a million alike embedded, alike real to those who may abstract them. How must be the worlds in the consciousness of ant, cuttle-fish or crab!” This 1 document alone contains 2 proposals, which if broken down could be reformed as 5 pages 35 paragraphs 175 lines 1,480 spaces 7,262 characters and infinite possibilities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2016

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