… said my new tutor when he came to my Princelet Street show for the first tutorial of my MA. He asked me if the objects he was looking at had anything to do with attachment and detachment. I thought about all the other holders I’ve made that weren’t on show, and all the things I’ve made or planned to make that serve to keep things in sections. I agreed that there’s something to this, and that it might even relate to my concern with selling my objects, and even with showing them.

My departure from my work, or its departure from me, starts as soon as I begin to consciously have the idea of making the work. Once it’s got as far as being an idea, it’s already come apart from the world and is separate from the stuff of me, and it becomes something I’m working on, or working at, rather than something that’s still constituted by me. That’s the first jolt of separation. Then as it takes form, it eases itself away from me until the work is completed – I complete it – and its proper autonomy begins: another jolt. For someone else to enter, and rupture this closed, reciprocal bond, is the most difficult detachment, when I have to accept that my work can talk to strangers about things I never taught it to say. I could argue that once we’ve got this far, putting it up for sale isn’t a big deal. It’s already so many steps removed from me that it’s perfectly acceptable to assign it a common commodity value that has nothing to do with me, just like anything else in the world. I could argue that, but it’s uncomfortable.

Whether or not it’s related to all the clips and holders and boxes I make, there is a difficulty with the attachment I have to my things. What interests me is that my attachment to my text work is very different.

When I write, I’m specifically interested in my separation from the resulting text. My departure takes effect continuously as I write, and continues exponentially once the text is finished, which in turn means it’s never finished – or perhaps it becomes increasingly less finished as time goes by. The reader is as integral to the text as I am as a writer, and there are continuous exchanges between our positions as reader/writer/translator.

So far I’ve tracked this distinction between my things and my writing down to two unkempt ideas:

First, the objects I make are one-offs while the texts I make can be reproduced. Though even if I created a text that couldn’t be reproduced and had to exist as a one-off, that wouldn’t be enough to make the text an object and stop it being textual.

Second, the objects I make are problematic because they always risk being inauthentic, as I’ve described elsewhere. Writing, on the other hand, is always an inauthentic activity, but it is so clearly inauthentic that it exists in constant acknowledgement of this. Perhaps it’s because writing does not undertake to be part of the stuff of the world that I don’t tend towards ownership of it.

(I should lay out that for the time being I’m using the word ‘authentic’ to describe activities (always activities in my case, rather than objects or states, which I’d look at as results of activities) that act upon the world rather than within it. I think this is the best way of putting it. I imagine sleeping or brushing my teeth as authentic activities because they operate within the closed system of first-order experience. (I brush my teeth; I don’t meta brush my teeth.) I’d call writing or drawing or making artwork or speaking or thinking inauthentic activities because they draw a line around the world and differentiate themselves from it, and from a separated vantage point, reflect upon the world. I wonder if I could call inauthentic activities ‘linguistic’, perhaps, and authentic activities ‘extralinguistic’.)

I’m continually writing about this question of authenticity in my objects and in terms of my own presence in my work. There are two ways I want to take these problems. A good way and a bad way.

The good way is to look more closely about what I think is robust in my recent work – What To Do, for instance, and the Difficulty of Things text, and my Raft video – and try to learn from them what it is about the relationship between form and matter, and me and them, and them and the world, that makes them convincing to me.

The bad way which I’m secretly looking forward to most of all – is to make works that very obviously refer to me, are intimately connected to my own stories and thoughts, and are what I’d call very self-indulgent. ‘Confessional’ is a word people use about this kind of artwork isn’t it. Tracey Emin. Works that do something else with authenticity: that stickily, sweetly cling to me as close as they can. I want to do this because it’s something I’m continually trying to avoid doing because of a hazy idea that it isn’t a good way to work. I want to make the haziness go away and identify what it is that dissatisfies me about this kind of practice, and what aspects of it I can sanction. There has always been a visible personal strand to my work, but it’s often been rather guiltily present. Publishing online the thank you present I never made was a nod in this direction, and I have a couple of other sentimental things like that that I want to FRAME (yes literally put in actual frames). It’ll be very interesting to see what this kind of practice brings up.

Advertisements