Substance, Guilford Lane Gallery, Melbourne
Curator and Exhibitor, 8th – 18th July 2010
I started this project as I would most projects nowadays, as they tend to be site specific. This started with the word ‘substance’, The name of the show. I knew what the word meant but only in its common language usage, and so I looked at the meaning of substance:
It is a noun, From Middle English, or Anglo-French and derived from Latin substantia, from substant-, substans, present participle of substare to stand under, from sub- stare to stand.
It originates in its common English form in the 14th century, but has been found in documents in the early 12th Century
However has come to mean:
1 a : essential nature : the essence or fundamental or characteristic part or quality
2 a : ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change
b : practical importance: usefulness
3 : material possessions : property <a family of substance>
4 a : physical material from which something is made or which has discrete existence
b : matter of particular or definite chemical constitution
c : something (as drugs or alcoholic beverages) deemed harmful and usually subject to legal restriction <possession of a controlled substance> <substance abuse>
After reading this I became far more aware of the process of making words, I did not know that substance is loosely derived from the word to stand…This became interesting to me. I am constantly fascinated by histories. The processes and procedures that I go through, as a person, especially in terms of my art making, the processes that objects go through, even ones that words are propelled through.
And so I wanted to make a piece of art about the word substance, but wanted to include my interest in Etymology as a process, within the artwork whilst also skewing the viewer’s perceptions and understanding, whilst subverting their tacit knowledge. But the question for me was how to do that using ‘substance’, as a framework. This is where I struck upon the idea that the understanding would be about a substance that is used and under appreciated daily. So I decided to engage with a material. The question was which?
Firstly I wanted to make things out of cocaine, which was one of the dictionary definitions for substance abuse, but it seemed too obvious… So, eventually, I decided to create an object out of paper that would stand up on its own tensile strength. Its own constitution.
I wanted the object to be amusing, stupid, and useless because the art piece could not function. But is representative of that object. Just like a word…
I am constantly blathering on about the framework for art making and appreciation. Therefore It made sense for the object to critique the artworld in some fashion. This is where I realised that a beautifully simple display case would fit the bill.
It was simply made from a single sheet of paper, that measured 150 cm by 300cm I then cut out spaces for the legs and all the tabs, so that it could be securely held together. The 1st attempt used 120 gsm paper, which fell in on itself so, the 2nd attempt used 200 gsm paper which held up for the two weeks of the show.