Monday, November 3, 2008

Installation of Reading and Writing Rooms, Artspace Sydney

The installation of Reading and Writing Rooms began at Artspacem Sydney this morning. Techniciaon and artist Adam Costenoble began the building of Work to Rule / Worker Rule 1981/ 2008 that wil also be built at te tuhi gallery in Auckland
Doors inserted into wall, painted signage.
Work to Rule / Worker Rule is a sculptural piece that is also performative. A series of ten doors built into the gallery space, the slogans on the doors were painted by two local sign writers; one, a senior practitioner, and the other, a junior wishing to learn the trade. Each had to individually negotiate with the gallery whether to work either for a fixed hourly rate commensurate with the average hourly wage for a sign writer in the employ of a company, or to tender a quote for the work to be undertaken.

Work to Rule / Worker Rule engages with labour and the exchange and negotiations involved in remuneration. Barber is also acknowledging that the traditional craft of sign writing is slowly disappearing due to technical developments. His intention is that the master sign writer will gradually take on the role of a mentor towards the more junior sign writer. This relationship between teacher and student is of great interest to the artist. Barber relates this work to a quote by French artist Gustave Courbet, who once said of the younger and older workers depicted in his own painting The Stone Breakers (1849): “you begin as one and end up as the other.”

The use of doors is also significant and reoccurs often in Barber’s work. He has said that ‘as a metaphor a door suggests conclusion and continuation.’ The historical precedents for the use of doors by artists are numerous, from as far back as Renaissance sculptor Ghiberti’s bronze doors in the baptistery of the cathedral in Florence, through to Marcel Duchamp’s Rue Larey—his apartment in Paris in which he presented a door that was ‘open and shut at the same time’—while it opened one room, it closed the other, and vice versa.

I also began work on For Marx a 1983 (1987) Installation being reproduced for Artspace and te tuhi which is described below
For Marx
Image painted on the wall with accompanying postcards and honesty box.

For Marx is a detourned (torn) logo from the 1980's masthead of the CCPML Canadian Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) Journal that originally showed the silhouettes of four major figures of socialism: Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. In making this work Barber excised (tore off) the head of Stalin from the original image and reproduced it as a post-card to commemorate the centenary of the death of Karl Marx (1818-1983) in 1983, six years before free elections in Poland the subsequent dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

The postcards commemorating the year of Marx's death were first exhibited in an exhibition of NSCAD faculty work celebrating the centenary of the institution mounted at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia that subsequently toured to other galleries within Canada. In the exhibition a plexiglass postcard holder was placed above an Honesty Box bearing the following statement: ‘Please take a card. Contributions will be given to a worthy Nova Scotia charity at the conclusion of the exhibition.’ At a later exhibition venue in Ontario, the box containing money was stolen. In an exhibition in Gdansk, Poland in 1992, three years after free elections had been held, a photographic enlargement of the image was made with an ambiguous drawn figure that was placed on a wall outside a locked room full of communist era literature viewable through two door scopes, six inches above ground level.

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