This week along with the zoccolo chair I’ve been working on the Princelet Street exhibition, for which I want to make lots of small objects. I just seem to be just making things up (“Tam you’re supposed to be just making things up, that’s your job remember”, Barns just said). That’s all very well but making things up is very easy to do badly.

Pretending is a tricky thing. There was a misunderstanding recently over something I’d written, and I had to remind the reader not ever to assume anything I write is true. Often what I write is made of true things, but the writing itself needn’t be.

Just for some context, here’s part of the proposal we just finished for the exhibition:

Tamarin’s small objects appear to be functional but have no clear purpose within the domestic space. Amended pieces of furniture, prosthetic table legs, quietly rotating constructions that cast light around the room, humming or clicking as two objects momentarily touch… the works conceal themselves within the homely vocabulary of the setting, revealing themselves slowly as one explores the space.

So far so good. Then comes this sentence:

Tamarin’s objects might be imagined as citations, and the ground around her citations as the room itself, with its furniture still in place: the raw material backdrop of the world.

Now. For these objects I’m being very careful with which bits to pretend and which bits to keep real. I feel it would be fraudulent to fake the physical urgency of the making of the objects, and I don’t want there to be anything disingenuous about the objects themselves. I don’t want to pretend the objects have been made to serve functions. I really do have to construct them so that they honestly try to serve real functions. Instead, it’s at the level of the proposition – the fact that the objects exist at all – that I want there to be some play.

This is interesting. This is the same place I allowed myself ‘play’ during my What To Do talk. In What To Do I wanted to draw attention to the fact of the talk itself – the surface of the lecture event – rather than the stories inside the talk. The subject matter of the stories was, to some extent, neither here nor there. (Though in fact I took great care to make the subject matter visually and analogically reflect the ‘real’ concerns of the talk in the same way that I’d like to make the objects themselves physically reflect the nature of my concerns in the coming exhibition.)

You see in What To Do, and in Conversation Piece, and now here in these objects, the matter comes last.

This week I’ve been scrabbling around in junk shops and drawers and under the sink for bits and pieces, and feeling uncomfortable and guilty that my decisions about what to collect and what to reject seem completely unfounded and just made up. And I think this is because I’ve been scrabbling for the matter of the work before I’ve got to grips with the work’s real concerns. My concern isn’t in the nature of the junk I collect, so no wonder making decisions about the junk makes me feel like the project is without direction.

Somewhere deep down inside my head I think I have a clear idea of which bits of my work constitute the ‘matter’ (the place-holders? the texts I translate? forks?) and which bits constitute the real ideas of the work. I think the role of the matter is to keep steady, like citations you have to quote word for word. The bit I really like is the frame I put around it.

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