Writing

A02: Introductions

‘introductions’ was a text collaboratively written between artist Tako Taal and curator Seán Elder, on the occasion of “Habits of the Coexistent (1)” a project undertaken by Gordon Douglas with various institutions including: The NewBridge Project, Newcastle; Edinburgh College, Granton Campus; and Platform, Glasgow.

Taal and Elder’s contribution utilised a previous project undertaken collaboratively as a point of departure for discussing the intersections between friendship and collaborative practice in a creative context. Ideas of boundary, threshold and support are examined through the dual voices present.


I

INTRODUCTIONS

documenta introduced to kassel with garden
plants introduced to continents
artists introduced to each other
introduction as a means of understanding the curator ‘making someone known to another’ – Naming A point of reference – introduction – Societal coming out // the débutantes.


1st phone call February 2016
“Tako, I thought I’d introduce you via-cyberspace (rather than a crowded
living room on Hogmanay) to Gordon.” It began with an intentional introduction. Not of Tako to Gordon, or vice versa, but Tako to the ideas and thoughts on the projects in the very beginning of its naissance. A phone call following a brief period of research. Seán remarking on similarities and a vein of thought that reminded him of Tako’s previous work – speaking of language, dual- cultures, and the third. I remember speaking about picturesque space in gardens, the ability of landscape to frame views. With an introduction of knowledge to more knowledge, there becomes an array of possibilities and potential ways of relating to one another. Re-inscribing, superseding, disavowing, intersecting, expanding or marrying are a few verbs that might provide an understanding of what this introduction might result in. During the phone-call with Tako, there became a folding of knowledge. Creases and interiors and exteriors met one another in our conversation.

The untainted space of a formal introduction became necessary. This necessity itself we can thank the Academic InstitutionTM for. The first, previous, informal introduction had taken place in a room with flashing lights, spilt drinks and chewed gums. It was an introduction of two persons but this, second, official, formal introduction took place in the bright lights of a backlit computer screen in a group email. This second introduction was for means of understanding the working methods of these two persons. Their backgrounds. Their thoughts. Now formally introduced, contact details exchanged, we artists were free to communicate amongst
one another. Two became three, one retreats, creating a third.


II

🙂 thats good! shall we talk about it?

The entrance points to working were often audibly and visibly “signposted.” There was a definite split between friend-chat and work- chat. Points in conversation became clear as boundary markers. Walls and fences, once passed meant the discussion of something else. The transformation of the conversation from social to professional. Or at least friendly to creative.

EXITS

I might ask Tako for some fashion advice though.

The initial site of the project took place within emails. The distances between curator, artist and artist meant that a series of google docs, conversations, facebook messages and eventually whatsapp archives became the initial points of contact between the three collaborators on the project. Points of interaction between Aberdeen, Glasgow, Berlin, Newcastle and New York took place throughout the project. The project itself expanded from visits to Botanic gardens in these cities, and news of what was happening in each place during individuals’ visits.

The relationships between artist and curator, so often written on, were less important during this, than the relationship between friends acting as colleagues. The relations between each individual within the project became subject to flexibility, stretching, expansion. Official emails were accompanied by simultaneous messages in alternative platforms that were not for the eyes of the Academic Institution™.

Intentional introductions have been motivated by individuals or groups who either;

(1) believe that the newly introduced species will be in some way beneficial to humans in its new location.

(2) species are introduced intentionally but with no regard to the potential impact.
.


III

“I’m not supposed to tell you this (lol) but techNICALLY [redacted] dont need details till next weekend

Perhaps the actual work and how it is structured, between friends and between colleagues is inherently the same. It is a leaking of information that permeates the friend-colleague boundary that alters the relationship and thus the labour dynamic. Without both friendship and colleague relationships existing between the members of the project there would nothave been such a bizarre event taking place in the Botanic Gardens. A group of participants, documenting the garden through whatsapp. Encountering digital works on their mobile phones as they passed under
bridges and through arboretum, trees above, vaping from purple pens that lit when they met your mouth, with a deep intake of air. Sweet sickly smells of synthetic fruits and juice coming in great plumes from the group.

It might not have worked out that way if we hadn’t the excitement and fervour that can only come from being within a network of friendship.

From the beginning friendship was at the centre of the project. Our communication and the mediums through which we spoke formed the work made through our interactions. These initial communiqués were self-aware. Aware of and reaching towards a public beyond us three.

Go go Tako (Context: an infamous playlist on Tako’s itunes, Gordon)

In-jokes are an occurrence between friends. The between-ness is of central importance to understanding how language operates in this way. Within a micro-social setting of friendship, and in this essay, regarding the context of the art-project a rich bed of source material, references and context begin to form. There becomes allowances for the ways that language, word and phrase can be used by the participants within these conversations. This occurs in both formal and informal settings. The use of ‘Go go Tako’ (referring to a self-motivation playlist made by Tako and encountered by Seán whilst they were living together) sits in contrast to other examples we might see in academic discussions, such as the notion of the ‘Other’d’ an odd meme used in social theory to discuss race, class, gender and sexual bias.

Within an academic setting these words and phrases make themselves known through repetition, and this also happens within a group of friends. A project co-ordinated between friends makes it likely for several of these occurrences to take place across both informal and formal settings. Utilising the existing friendship as a point of departure, the additional labour and production associated with creative pursuits will emulate and recreate the forms, quirks, and patterns of the aforementioned existing friendship.


IV

The curatorial, as a set of specific processes, procedures and etiquettes still remains largely undefined. The notion of the curatorial as a philosophical or research-based extension or appendage to the act of exhibition-making having only emerged in the early 90s. An invitation such as this, described as a ‘research-based curatorial project’ allows itself to be malleable and moulded, through its self-recognition of its form, structure and ontology. Negotiating the terms of an artist/curator relationship is already something very much open to interpretation, but with the added thread of friendship running through, this territory becomes more fluid.

…although would be good coming from you seeing as we’re friends and all I’m biased xx

The relationship of friendship between two people does not detract from the exterior pressures of organisation, collectivisation and administration. The role of the curator in this exchange is often one seen as one of mediation and impartiality, and so the weight and difficulties of emotion in exchanges so common in friendship-processes take a back seat to stoicism.

Forms of regulating emotion in the workplace have been termed emotional labour. In the service industry workers are expected to appear happy regardless of their actual emotional state. This is for the benefit of strangers (the customer.) Amongst friends working together, emotions are managed or removed for the benefit of the project. This relationship between the individual and collectivism exists in the space of the production of their shared labour – the project, it being a new third existing from this process. What are the other unintended results of collaboration? Collaborations result in products (exhibition, performance, making) but the fall out, or ‘Angel’s Share’ of processes like these are rarely examined.


V

Friendship becomes an obstacle to working. In some-cases being too close to something renders a perceived inability to be impartial or critical. Negotiating the terms of criticism amongst friends is difficult at the best of times. Within the structure of a project with some intended artistic or creative outcome, it becomes about more than just a criticism. In an ongoing process of re-ascribing boundaries (one way to think of friendship), the possibility of creative potentiality further complicates these already-moving borders.

Friendships functioning outwith this creative mode often serve a number of functions with no recognised concrete output – consolation, support and understanding – despite their familiarities as hallmarks of such relationships. In the space of the art-project, these friendships become a partnership with a necessity for output. A creation of the new. The strain of this necessity (whether self-imposed or otherwise) leaks back to the processes unfolding within a friendship. Leaking back and forth, this strain can be both beneficial and detrimental, dependent on several factors including, but not limited to:

the success of these creative pursuits
the labour invested by individual parties for collective production
the temperaments of each party within social settings

This osmosis will repeat itself back and forth again between the colleague- processes and the friendship-processes.

Did we manage to remain good (as in supportive) whilst we were working together?

Was our long and layered friendship conducive to the
development of the project, or a hindrance

Would we have been as flexible with each other if we were not partaking in the project from the established seat of
friendship we share?


VI

AN INTRODUCTION, LEADS TO THE
CREATION OF A STRUCTURE; THE
CREATION OF A STRUCTURE ALLOWS
REGULATION SURROUNDING STRANGERS.

Tako Taal & Sean Elder, March 2017

Exhibition

A01: On John Samson at GoMA, Glasgow

Following a visit to the recent show of John Samson films at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art, two members of Arkiv discussed their thoughts on the exhibition.

For the purposes of this article they will be known as A and B.
The conversation took place on Sunday, 5 February 2017 12:42.

A
For me, it was revolutionary in terms of GoMA programming.
I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during the meetings of the curator showing – or perhaps not – articulating the content of the films to the Glasgow Life board.

B
Yes. From the moment I walked through those clandestine PVC strip curtains it felt like a very different show for GoMA.
I really want to know how those negotiations went.

A
Absolutely. At first I felt I was entering a fetish butchers and I was not far off.

B
It was so clandestine, pushing through the weight of those PVC curtains and then being faced with this purple-lit room dominated by these giant screens and monoliths. The first impression was a big one.

A
The low purple light made me feel at ease.
Sort of like you could easily slip in and out… like a sex shop? We went round the back of the shop a.k.a. the gallery.
In other respects, on entry it felt very ‘British’ – even though through much of the texts and material it’s very focused on the fact that he is a Scottish filmmaker working in London.
[Note: British – the accents through all films were varied dialects of English and the presence of manufacturing was reminiscent of an imagined feel of a British (Colonial) Industrial Revolution.]

B
You’re so right, it was so British. I found particularly in Dressing for Pleasure (1977) everyone talked so politely and properly. In Tattoo (1975) as well there was a real cordiality. The arrangement of the screens afforded us that opportunity too, to weave in and out. I guess like a sex shop, yes.

A
Yeah, the contrast between this Queen’s English or very well spoken Northerners that were so heavily featured versus the rubber and the leather was really something.
I felt very anonymous in there, which was nice, sometimes viewing film in a gallery is like viewing people viewing the film. Here you could do it secretly.

B
Like voyeurism? But not just of the films, of the space the films were shown in too. It’s that point of entry that’s difficult with places like sex shops. Or even my first few steps into a Gay bar. Once you make it in though, you’re back in this open space, with like-minded people. The anxiety of entering the space lifts.

A
Yeah totally, and conversely, moving out of the space through the rubber zapped you of all the energy from the space in a way, back to ‘Glasgow Life’-life.

B
Yes! And it was so interesting to see all the different people watching these films. I think the diversity of subject matter Samson tackled meant there was a lot for people to gauge within one show. There was a lot of emotions – titillation and excitement but relief, which was mentioned a lot in The Skin Horse and then, just genuine interest.

A
Yes, The Skin Horse (1983) for me is the stand out piece from Samson.
Which I guess popular culture agrees with too, it’s probably his most well-known and critically well-received piece?
That scene where the narrator talks about Tony Gerrard, the comedian in the wheelchair and talks about the audience’s laughing and how it is a laugh of relief…that goes deep.

B
His reflections on where the laughs were coming from – it wasn’t laughs at him, or disabilities, but the fact a disabled man in a wheelchair was joking about leaving tire marks on his girlfriend’s thighs. It was funny. But I was laughing out of relief too.
I also really was impressed by Samson’s sensitivity – all the members of The Outsiders Club represented themselves. Which even now is rare when you have people like Eddie Redmayne playing Stephen Hawking. 1
[Note: That club featured in the film offered chronically disabled people the opportunity to meet, socialise with and date other disabled people became the subject of a tabloid shame campaign.]

A
Which also makes me think of the disastrous film The Danish Girl. 2
The woman in the film who writes the letter and chooses to have a “proper” voice over…

B
Her choice to represent herself that way was … I don’t know.

A
It also does sort of relate to Hawking, that idea that someone has a whole life inside their head that can’t be expressed properly through their body. She had a letter, Hawking has a computer. She was wonderful, I hope she found love.

B
It sounded like she was dating a guy from that party fairly regularly. But that reliance on others for that to happen – I hope it worked out for her. Those alternative forms of expressions seemed to speak of similar things to the other films, the wider programme.

A
Yeah completely, the rubber, the tattoos…
All social signifiers of an identity.

B
Yes.

A
The 3 sexes was also something we touched on briefly on Friday.
How does that relate to the present day notions of ‘other’? How would you classify the 3rd sex now if you couldn’t use the word disabled? That question is maybe a bit unclear…I was thinking that everything that doesn’t apply into a neat category is now ‘other’ or ‘prefer not to say’.

B
Yes, the notion that the Narrator brought up – there is male, female and disabled.
But I guess within the disabled community, there’s this diversity of people and abilities, and instead of they themselves creating that group, it’s able-bodied people that have always done that.

A
Yeah, the outwardly able/privileged classify everything in sight to be able to stand apart and maintain said privileges, as with all forms of oppression.

B
I found when he was speaking about them not being in control of their own bodies, and them being either fetishised or infantilised spoke of a whole lots of struggles – the women’s rights movement, access to abortion etc, and then the never-ending obsession with Trans peoples genitalia by Cisgendered people. But in this instance it was a disabled person representing disabled people, so it’s important not to detract from that.

A
Yeah, absolutely. I wonder what he asked John Samson about in relation to him wanting to make this work.

B
Even now I’m wondering what he’d think of two able-bodied people writing about the film. He’d probably ask us some very difficult questions. And I think boiling the film down to it being amazing and interesting is part of the problematics of it all (even though that’s how I felt). For the people in this film- their living with disability isn’t an amazing interesting thing, it’s a lived reality.
And yet they were all so incredibly impressive.

A
Yeah the viewing itself makes us complicit and they were, anyone able to give themselves over with such vulnerability and strength on film should be applauded.
For me, with The Skin Horse it was a shame that the main (big) piece Dressing for Pleasure was encroaching audibly on it. I love the piece of music at the end of Dressing for Pleasure – my dad would call it prog rock probably – but yeah, it ruined the audio/transfixing state you achieve in The Skin Horse.

B
Yes, every now and then you’d here some Londoner talking about their rubber gimp mask in between shots.

A
[Laughs] Yes.

B
I think that was a shame, but having all the films with headphones would have made the gallery space a bit eerily silent. That prog rock soundtrack really gave the room some life. Although every time I’ve been in to see this show it’s been busy with people – there’s an energy in the space.

A
It’s definitely a tough spot in terms of curating and yes, I’ve been 3 times now and I’ve never been alone, which I can’t say for other GoMA shows I have visited previously. I do think the way the space was laid out meant none of the films interacted/interrupted (depending how you see it) with each other, each one was given the space it needed.
I also liked the banners, but then again was a bit confused to the aim of them? – on a side note: I would have liked to buy a print of them though.

B
Yeah, I think they were another spectacle – I liked them a lot and their placement along the blacked-out windows was great. They seemed to serve a similar function to the text and interviews along the back of the big chipboard monoliths.

A
Yeah it tied together a lot of Samson’s materials in a more abstract way, layers of his interests.
The smiley, I wonder though, where did it come from?

B
I’m not sure, it just reminded me of ecstasy and the 90s.

A
Yes absolutely and reminded me of [redacted], he would have leggings with them.
Speaking of the 90s, I can totally imagine the Trainspotting cast going to see this and being like “art is alright eh?”

B
Yes.
If I saw Ewan McGregor’s Renton watching Dressing For Pleasure I’d probably find a good spot where I could see both the film and him.
[laughs]

A
[laughs]

B
Dressing for Pleasure had a great host of characters though – I think the two old women talking about making the outfits, and the requests they get were really reassuring in their response to the crowd they found themselves catering for.

A
The fashion show of the different coloured rubber clothing. It made me want rubber, the creaking sound from bending/moving…so ASMR. 3

B
It made me wish I could afford rubber.
Yes, every stretch and turn. And I think the women discussing being on the train in her gear was Jordan Mooney. It wasn’t until I was watching Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane (1976) that I realised the woman in the background was the same one. She was a kind of poster girl for Punk and whenever she wasn’t in London she was hanging out with Warhol at the factory. 4

A
Also interesting… in the context of the 50 Shades of Grey books…5
I wonder if any fans of the book also came to see this, which kind of goes back to our discussion of the politeness of everyone in the film…tip toeing around the exhibition. I heard no creaking of rubber amongst the GoMA audience.

B
I feel like people who read 50 Shades of Grey are very ignorant of leather and fetish culture.

A
Yes.
But they have fantasies that are perhaps impeded by this idea it’s wrong? And so the fantasy is not explored well, to its full potential? Stifled by badly written erotica, as opposed to this accessible normalisation of that fetish world.

B
The politeness is often disarming. I’ve found that myself when being in fetish club nights – it’s not the Christian Greys of the world waiting to tug your inner Goddess’ pubic hair or whatever.
There’s a real etiquette within the fetish scene and in the film the etiquette went beyond the people wearing the rubber and all the way to the people making it. They spoke of it with such respect and no judgement on their customers.

A
Yeah there was a real bond and understanding.

B
Bond…[laughs]

A
A real bondage.

B
When they were talking about the agoraphobic girl and how wearing rubber made her feel safe it was really jarring to think of rubber NOT as a sexual thing but as something practical and nourishing.

A
That felt bizarre to me at first and then I thought; darkness, warmth, sweat, – a womb – another skin, another body around you, safety.

B
I find the whole discussion around S&M so interesting – and I guess in a way I’m very lucky that it can just be ‘interesting’ to me. But Radical Feminism denounces it – which I disagree with, whereas Liberal feminism thinks whatever a woman chooses to do is 10/10 great – which I also disagree with because the way society influences your opinions and development can change the way you make choices. I know that as a Queer person. But I find that to discuss S&M’s problems within a male/female dynamic just tends to erase the fact that it emerged from Queer communities.

A
Yeah, for me, it’s hard to know whether anything I decide to do for myself is for men (read: society) or really for myself…in a way the water is so muddied now and I haven’t made up my mind. I definitely feel that I dress less feminine (in the normative sense) to push away anything that might resemble a play towards attracting that version of a hetero man because that really makes me feel uncomfortable…on a very daily basis. I like to think I dress for myself but inherently by being a woman, I never feel I have full ownership of my body. And if I wanted to dress in rubber it would be for myself as well.

B
It is difficult – a lot of them time I find myself trying to work out what situation calls for more or less makeup, really I shouldn’t give a shit though, but then the captivating thing about the people in this film was that it was a pretty solitary thing even if it operates within this community.

A
Yeah that internal conversation about what to/not to wear is hard, because it gets us/you/me into trouble.

B
In relation to the rubber, perhaps it might become something that you would invite a loved one into seeing – although of course there is the sexual aspect – but I think i was more interested in the emotional aspect of it.

A
Yeah, but maybe not, maybe I’ll masturbate and wear a rubber stocking one day.

B
Maybe you will. And hear the creaking of the rubber.

A
In a way sex drifted in and out of the film, but the human connection was always present, be it to themselves or to each other.
Also interesting to see the assimilation of rubber into popular culture, for example Katy Perry, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga amongst others.
“First come the gays, then the girls, then…the industry” 6

B
Yeah, and I wonder how many of these women have gay men dressing them?
It’s part of why female models tend to be so skinny and boyish. It’s gay men that have monopolized the fashion industry, which is a problem in itself – gay men and old women.

A
Here are Katy’s many, many, many rubber dresses in the same silhouette. 7
Also, question, why do they call it latex rather than rubber? – Is that to minimise the ‘fetish’ element?

B
I’m not sure I’d never thought of it.
Is one the brand name? Does it being a brand name maybe make it less sexy? Americans do that with everything though – they don’t have tissues, they have Kleenex and so on.

A
I think it’s a pretty general term, used in Drag as well.
It might be a slight difference in thickness? But I’m no expert, latex is perhaps a different formulation to rubber?

B
I am so clueless about Drag Culture from the 90s onwards. You and [redacted] might have to educate me.

A
We might have to, although, it’s not without its own problems in terms of transphobic and misogynistic behaviours.
Although I think the new season [of RuPaul’s Drag Race] has a trans woman in the cast, it will be interesting to see how the producers handle that…8

 

1) Hawking (film)
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/eddie-redmayne-on-the-theory-of-everything-stephen-hawking-and-disability-in-film-9948955.html
2) Problems with The Danish Girl
http://www.indiewire.com/2015/12/regressive-reductive-and-harmful-a-trans-womans-take-on-tom-hoopers-embarrassing-danish-girl-213499/
3) What is ASMR?
https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/12/how-to-have-a-brain-orgasm/282356/
4) Jordan Mooney
http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/32470/1/a-rare-interview-with-jordan-punk-s-enigmatic-frontwoman
5) 50 shades of hmmm
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/fifty-shades-grey-a-dominatrixs-773577
6) Sex And The City season 6, episode 6
Samantha Jones’ peptalk to her Absolut Hunk
7) Katy Perry in rubber
https://www.google.com/search?q=katy+perry+rubber+dresses
8) RuPaul is still problematic
http://www.pride.com/firstperson/2016/4/07/no-matter-how-much-you-rupauls-drag-race-its-still-problematic