Angela Eames/interview

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Darrell Viner interview with Angela Eames 1993

See Visual Archive 5 for With No Opinion images

Lanchester Gallery: Exhibition of work by Angela Eames, Entitled - With No Opinion. Extract from an interview with Darrell Viner - 1993

DV:
Where were these drawings done?
AE:
In Vermont during a residency which I had for six weeks in the Fall of 1990.
DV:
Taking a particular drawing, could you describe the process from beginning to end?
AE:
Well, for example, in Final Fusion 1, the layering of four drawings derived from four individual objects takes place. The order is grain-shovel, saucepan, pestle and mortar, sieve. Two, five foot squares of drawing paper are pinned to the wall and the computer made ready. Objective, perceptual drawings are then carried out using graphite on paper and electronic mouse and screen. I do a drawing derived from shovel on the first piece of paper and a drawing derived from sieve on the second piece of paper. I also do drawings on the screen by using the mouse, derived from the same two objects and store them to disk. This sequence is repeated with the remaining objects. The graphite, hand-drawn images are layered physically, the electronic, hand-drawn images are layered by individually calling them up from disk. When I've got to the fourth (or possibly one should say the fifth!) object as in this case, that's it. I don't work back into them.
DV:
What are the spots in Final Fusion I?
AE:
They derive from the welds attaching the handle of the grain-shovel to the main body.
DV:
In this Postmodern age, the values of things don't exist, each individual has a priority of process, your priority appears to be computing.
AE:
My priority is drawing. A driving force is the promotion of a less electronic dependent society and the work is a comment via questioning.
DV:
Are you then trying to subvert technology in terms of its order and control?
AE:
I don't think that a computer application has to elicit order and control although currently it appears that way. I see potential in computing and am not trying to subvert it. As one who engages with media, I feel obliged to use whatever is out there in the most appropriate way. We'll all suffer if technology is allowed to develop devoid of association with human thinking and needs.
DV:
Are you making a wolf in sheep's clothing?
AE:
I'm not sure that we are dealing with a wolf and as for the sheep's clothing, what we perceive as beautiful or attractive or even familiar, may in fact allow engagement, after all we tend not to engage with the offensive. I am trying through the means I have to become aware through engaging.
DV:
With reference to the piece entitled 'With No Opinion', and choices - this piece has no sort of opinion, but on one level you have accepted it. What has actually been accepted, is it the aesthetic image or the process?
A.E:
The process is accepted; the result is an image which I have put together and exhibited. I accept it for what it is and I hope it engages the viewer. The notion of aesthetic is not an issue here. In the other work the strategic mode is evident in the paralleling of the familiar (graphite) and the non-familiar (computer) approaches. I have been concerned with categorisation due to polarity. At present, I am beginning to wonder whether it would be beneficial to oppose that strategy and follow a spontaneous path. However the issue remains, regardless of how I approach the work, that is the trying to make sense of or rather trying to come to terms with what is out there.
D.V:
But that image has the feel of a natural history drawing - it seems partly scientific, partly natural history and in view of current fine art practice (Damian Hirst, Rachel Whiteread, Lisa Milroy), how much of a concern is the whole issue of categories and categorisation?
A.E:
In as much as choice relates to categorising. Choice is part of the working process but if I can eliminate choice -I will. In Final Fusion 1 and 2 the choice of the four objects was mine, arbitrary as I thought, but I selected four essentially circular objects. In some works I have asked others to make those choices. In 'With No Opinion', many people made individual choices. Images in existence on disk, stored under somewhat obscure names, (as anyone who stores files within a computer to attest to) were offered for selection to the local inhabitants of Johnson, Vermont. This was achived by standing at the checkout counter of the local super-mart and asking shoppers if they would fill in a questionnaire. They had no idea that images existed, let alone what those images looked like. They were simply asked to select as many words as they wished and list them in order of personal preference. Sixty four individual, consecutive, layered images based on those selections were the result. As one who is constantly trying to eliminate taste and habit, it interests me when the preference of others, conscious or unconscious is reflected back. Whether my process or the results reflect a mood of the time, I don't know. I don't particularly feel that the work slots into a specific mode of working but by virtue of being around at a certain time, perhaps this is unavoidable.
D.V:
Again I suppose it's the natural historiness of them but does the work touch on the cultural implications of computers, Frankenstein, Brave New World, even Eugenics? Are you developing a new animal in a sense, something that will supercede man?
A.E:
I don't think my interest is the supercedence of man or even the simple argument - man or machine - artificial intelligence and all that
Rather I’m worried that man will succumb and relinquish the capacity to think, possibly the desire to do, resulting in a self-imposed and unequivocal shift in human ambition and direction. There is a worry I have, of an ultimate dependency and belief that all knowledge is somehow already stored and available through the internet etc. Scary………….!
But in response to the developing a new animal aspect, now that is interesting……
If I layer up four images, the resultant image has it's own reality. It's not a fifth object but it is a fifth and hitherto unseen reality that derives from four particular realities; perhaps a new animal. The objects used in Final Fusion 1 and 2, each had a very 'hard' quality but the final drawings are organic. Someone once asked me if they were drawings of women's parts. They are not. It depends how you identify with objects, images or reality. Her question enabled us to have a dialogue about the nature of objects.
D.V:
Final Fusion 1 reminds me of x-ray crystallography. Take the instance of someone responding to the work and actually naming them 'women's parts', or if someone named them something else, there being a desire to name something in order to make sense of it. After all, people will name things, we all do, because if we can't name a thing it almost doesn't exist. What's your response to that?
A.E:
In that case there's a whole new reality awaiting naming. Seriously though, if in the naming of them, there is an identification in a particular way and if that identification allows a breaking down of categorisation, allows a dialogue and a questioning of location, then I would take that as a positive.
D.V:
But in the quality of them, if I think it's like an x-ray that in a sense is naming them and further if they are x-rays they are usually animal, usually human animal. Does that sort of progression of thought, naming, or categorisation offend you. Would you want to change them? I mean this relates to style in that you have a body of work which is recognisable as your body of work and in that sense it's a name.
A.E
I have no wish to change them. They are the result of a strategic approach - the fact that a humaness still persists is fascinating. It also seems to be a humanness which be revealed through the work without that strategic, ultimately distanced working approach I don't think one ever really loses that individual identification that authorship, since it is not to do with visual signature alone, even in programming. I just hope that in the visual language and possibly the titling, if titling is used, that the audience is allowed into the work. I’m interested in breaking down categorisation and open up new categories simultaneously perhaps... I wonder.

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