Abigail Reynolds







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City breaks
(Nov. 2004)


City breaks
(Jan. 2005)


City breaks
(Mar. 2005)




The Group Process





City breaks statement
Abigail Reynolds, Mar. 2005



The Universal Now: St Paul’s 1937 1965


The Universal Now.

Well, it’s a kind of way of thinking ‘what if I could travel in time…’ I thought that if I did it’d be a bit hard to see because you’d have one time stuck in your head and another time coming at you through your eyes and maybe these two views – that of the memory and that of the scopic would interfere with one another. There’s something emotional about that vanished moment that can only be partially re-accessed. When I think about time travel La Jetee by Chris Marker comes to me. It describes a post-war world in which everything we now take for granted (children, sky, park, museum) has gone. The clearest emotional response to this is to feel fully and appreciatively connected to those ordinary aspects of the city once again. The idea of traveling in time is melancholy as well as an exciting. These ideas are already contained within the most standard photograph; The Universal Now also extends the way a photograph can only record a moment that has necessarily gone.

The city is an energy. It continually reinvents itself. That’s hard to intersect with visually, especially as it’s so over-rich visually and experientially already. I have a real hesitation in producing more images of the city surface, proliferating it further. In previous work I have tried to cut through the visual surface of the city to work with something more structural. The urge to work with pre-exisiting tourist images that only reflect the surface of the city is also the flip side of my earlier decision. I sometimes think that in making work every action really does have an equal and opposite reaction. The table/door/display case hybrid that the books are closed in is part of an approach I’m taking in some parallel sculptural work at the moment to do with modeling words. I prefer the idea of someone picking up a book, flicking through it and just discovering that someone has tampered with some of the pages. Maybe I’ll find a way to do that later.

In an image of Helsinki Cathedral that I have interfered with, there’s a boy standing with his mother, and it’s 1948. It’s obvious to think ‘that boy may now be dead’, but all moments in photographs are dead, which is why I don’t like photographs of myself and perhaps another reason why I don’t like taking photos of the city; it makes my temporal moment so obviously time-limited.

Richard asked what we thought of making art in response to a brief – as City Breaks is, rather than showing something pre-existing the show. He asked if this wasn’t a false pretence. Maybe it’s easier to think there is an integrity to ‘studio’ work. I did respond to the ‘commission’ of making a new work in response to visiting Helsinki in a very direct way, in that I wasn’t thinking of making this work before. I’m not sure that I distinguish particularly between working to a brief you set yourself, or take up informally, and one that is suggested to you and that you decide to take up formally.

There are real dangers in working to brief, like making art just to honour a commitment (which is pointless) and there’s a skill to it, just as there is to generating work via a studio process. So, I don’t think of working to a project as a false pretence. I don’t have a studio now, I too easily feel trapped by the studio moment, which for me is portentious and isolated. I like art to be a way of thinking about things very actively and straightforwardly, which for me means being based out in other places, and only occasionally having recourse to a studio as a building area – I often just do this in the gallery.

In Helsinki I was directed to a quote: “It is uninteresting to think about art; we must instead think through it. Both the work itself and the common exhibition project are thinking machines. Through them we reflect upon our own reality. Art creates models of thought and offers our perceptions of reality parallel narratives and strategies. These models serve to understand, to scan, to challenge life.” This is of course a very generalized statement and can be loosely applied to any work of art. I like it all the same. I think of the studio as rather a false pretence. Like the gallery, it cuts off the outside world and privileges art –as-art-object.
I don’t often do Yoga, but I like the way Yoga as a practice is only about the moment of doing it to the best of your ability for yourself in the moment of doing it, and nothing else. Art is like that when you do it as a hobby but this enjoyable aspect gets squeezed out of professional practice. I really like the idea of hanging onto it a bit. So, this show – the idea that it’s a holiday project practically, that it’s about meeting up and traveling and basically having a good time and a good conversation. All that is important to me and is very much part of what I think art practice should encompass, as well as making interesting work. I also like the idea of being part of a discussion that makes me lay my cards on the table – as this one does - so I can see what I think and potentially change my mind. Making art work is the same – to make a gesture in public, to be aware of the public consequences of actions and a certain responsibility.

As I write, I am aware that this is the opposite to the ‘hobby’ part of art making that I have just outlined. Making art always involves trying to reconcile a whole set of confliciting desires; towards yourself, towards the audience, towards the set of values you are pushed along by, towards the materials you happen to be working with. In this work I am showing now, there are aspects that I have let drop because the context of the show already contains a consideration of process. It’s very hard to make a work that retains a genuine connection to the performance of making it, and flags that up more than usual.

As a generation of artists I don’t think we are frank enough about the ways of thinking that have generated the work. There’s a fear of saying too much, which means that nothing is said.


Works at the Whitechapel Project Space:

The Universal Now: Houses of Parliament from the Thames 1951 1984
The Universal Now: St Paul’s 1937 1965, The Universal Now: Helsinki Cathedral 1948 1975
The Universal Now: St Paul’s 1965 1937, The Universal Now: Finlandia House 1975 1964
The Universal Now: Big Ben 1961 1982, The Universal Now: Olympic Tower 1949 1964
The Universal Now: Big Ben 1982 1961, The Universal Now: Olympic Tower 1949 1964