During good things come… several recent conversations between artist and curator Kevin Hunt and another artist in the exhibition will be published, discussing their work currently on show in the Gallery at Plymouth College of Art.
PA: Something I was interested to know was, how you first saw the work?
KH: Hmmm…well I guess I've never actually seen it in the flesh, only online, but it struck me as having such gravitas. I must have first noticed it in the Semi exhibition images. That show at Rhubaba looked amazing, wish I'd been able to see it…
…actually gravitas is an awful word, can I take it back? I guess what I mean is that it seems very commanding, for such a little thing, I like that.
PA: Yeah Semi was great, it was spearheaded by Tom (Nolan). I was really pleased to be involved in that show and thought the works had a great play between being incredibly dumb and deeply serious at the same time. Taking stupid things seriously was something we talked about during the show.
KH: I’m really interested in that 'dumb seriousness'
PA: Seriously stupid is good alliteration.
KH: Haha yeah! I was actually reading about that exhibition again this afternoon and there was something I kept re-reading about 'diminished human scale' that puzzled me. I thought it was interesting that notion of the body feeling small or inadequate in the landscape but reading about this all the time knowing the exhibition was presented in that tiny (but lovely) little gallery!
PA: I think that was regarding the Gelitin works, which are photos of the artists in the landscape looking very small with erections! An acute scale compared to the vast landscapes they were inhabiting. Here is one…
(Peter sends an image of one of Gelitin’s photographs)
KH: Nice image.
PA: Yeah, I'm interested in how something can be of adequate size - you know - just right in itself. Like my rock, it isn't small, it is just its own size, small only comes in when you compare it with something else.
KH: There is something here in the addressing of scale (whether it be a body with an erection within a vast landscape or your rock on a plinth crammed into a small gallery) that does something to those things, it brings them to attention.
It's interesting the notion of adequateness too, yes the rock's scale really is important, but like you say… its size is only relevant to everything around it, including you! For me the rock forms a key part of the exhibition and has been there right from the start in my thinking about the show on a conceptual level.
Did you make the work especially for the Semi exhibition or was it something that already existed?
PA: I made the work in my final year at art college.
KH: Ah ok, great.
PA: I showed it at the end of year show with the intention to continue the project of only touching it with my feet for as long as possible after, that was 5 years ago…
KH: I guess it’s still in process then? Do you see it like that?
PA: Absolutely. I was always interested to see where it would go and what kinds of situations it would find itself in and still am.
KH: I really enjoy how you're living with the work as you age (and it ages) and that history kind of really is the thing that makes it a work.
PA: Yes I agree completely.
KH: For me (and the exhibition) I guess the crux of the work's importance is how its scale allows this history to occur. If the rock was much bigger (like a boulder) or your feet were much bigger (like a trolls!) then you wouldn't be able to continue to only touch it with your feet.
"It seems very commanding, for such a little thing, I like that" — Kevin Hunt
KH: Your relationship since you first met at art college is completely intertwined with scale. There is something really beautiful about that.
PA: It’s definitely about that relationship - and I'm curious to see if that non-visible aspect can be inferred or communicated by the mute rock on show.
KH: I think the ‘non-visible' aspect of the work, this relationship, or the implied history is communicated, but that relies on a certain belief system. As audience we have to believe what the title tells us.
PA: And this is an important part of why I want to show the work, to see what happens when people are presented with the object that bears no resemblance or trace of the activity that has occurred - and how a train of thought is followed by a viewer. What do they imagine or conjure in their minds when encountering a work like this?
KH: We have to believe that you do/did/and continue to only touch the rock with your feet, without that belief the work doesn’t exist!
But does the title lead a viewer down a certain path? Can they take the mental leap to think about what it could mean if I have done what I've said I've done, and if not does the piece fall flat?
KH: I think I've said this to you before but the rock reminds me of that work by Tom Friedman called '1000 Hours of Staring'.
PA: Yes, it is such a great piece. Again, I find that it’s another work that functions in a meaningful way without seeing it in person.
KH: It’s interesting to think about the work like this, especially from your point of view as the artist who made it.
PA: How does the piece of paper Tom Friedman stared at become altered by his stares? I’m fascinated by that question. For me it is now imbued with an invisible register of time and of thinking and is transformed by taking on that history. I just have to take him on his word.
KH: There is a certain attitude you have towards the rock that I don't feel like Tom Friedman has towards the paper though (does he actually care if anybody believes that he starred at the paper or not?).
The interaction between him and the paper makes the work a work, but he doesn't seem to somehow care himself about that sheet of paper so much, or maybe as much as you care about your rock…
Perhaps the two works aren't as closely related as I first thought?!
"I'm interested in how something can be of adequate size - you know - just right in itself" — Peter Amoore
PA: Is that, for you, because it's a sheet of paper? And so closely related to materials artworks might be made from? An equivalent idea of a canvas and the 'white fright' where painters can't think of what to do, comes to mind.
KH: No, I think it’s the physicality of thinking about you moving around with the rock that is so much more important to my belief in the thing now, as an artwork. I imagine you kicking it down the street, chipping it up the kerb…
PA: Yet with Tom Friedman there is really just one position - in front of the paper staring.
KH: …fumbling around trying to get it into a box to keep it safe, like a drunken teenage game or something.
When I think about Tom (Friedman) I just think about a middle aged white man sat on a chair in a very serious way. Maybe this brings the conversation full circle? Back to the Semi exhibition Tom (Nolan) curated you into. There is a humour, a sweetness, a certain charm to your work that the paper work will never have.
PA: Maybe the humour of the gesture, or the familiarity with it (we’ve all kicked a stone) mean the work comes across as more possible…
KH: Yeah the possibility, I've never thought of it like that either, but it is totally possible (even probable) you did/are continuing to do this…
PA: I’m also heartened by your reading of the work, the fact that you can take these small bits of information - the rock in the room, when I made the work, its title - and take the piece for a mental wander yourself, up the kerb, along the street, avoiding the drain and so on. That the piece of rock yields no trace of the activity to the eye, yet you can go far with the work.
KH: It may be 'incredibly dumb' (to paraphrase your words about the Semi exhibition) to keep hold of a rock for years, yet its a deeply devoted act you've undertaken to never succumb to picking it up with your hands, it's funny and 'deeply serious' at the same time.
PA: Exactly, I know it's stupid, but equally that it is very important… to me!
KH: I know it's stupid too but it feels so wrong to somehow label it in this way.
PA: It’s stupid in the way that art can be - to go outside of certain logics. To me this is about opening up a space for being attentive and allowing room for speculation.
PA: Or allowing time to be attentive
KH: And that speculation demands time.
PA: This work certainly slows things down.
Peter Amoore’s work 'A rock I have only touched with my feet' is currently on show in good things come... in the Gallery at Plymouth College of Art, until Saturday 4 June 2016.