Is it possible for an art object to “embody” ideas or, indeed, anything? This is perhaps one of the most significant questions for visual culture that has been posed by art historians in recent times. How often do we talk about art works in some way as if they are extensions of living or deceased people? One only has to visit a museum and read the labels next to each art work, their very presence suggesting this connection. In fact, the art market would not be able to function without some belief in the link.
I have to admit, I found myself grasping at various descriptive words before settling for “embody” to describe the connection between the art object and its content. Even then I placed it between quotations. I probably could have placed other words to bridge the gap in its place. When focus is sharpened on how we talk about art, some of its “realities” become unstable, even bizarre. Is it an assumption that an art work can be an extension in space and time of an artist’s personality or, indeed, anyone’s personality if we bear in mind the role of collectors, curators and even the dead? And what of an animal’s personality, for monkeys and donkies have created art? How does one describe and explain what, on further scrutiny, appears to be a blind spot, even a sleight of hand in some instances, as one important art historian describes it? For a society that still fundamentally places great, even profound, importance on “scientific fact”, why does it prove so hard to adequately describe the elemental construction of this assumption without sounding logically poetic?
At the research level, Parallax AF (PAF) provides an opportunity to explore, even confront, such problems in a practical setting and construct further questions. How does space affect our relationship to objects and the assumptions we form concerning “looking”? If space is closed, does that somehow emphasise, even make available, the “object-ness” of art work or expose latent forms of anthropomorphism? Can an art work possess “personality” in such an environment and do we (perhaps unconsciously) attempt to make it function differently with other “personalities” around it? Where does the “art-ness” begin? With artists hanging their work at different times and the interplay of various diverse and random elements, the organisation of PAF opens up the problematic of curation. Traditionally, in order for curation to function properly, the curator and viewer must be willing, at some level, to blur the connection between object and content or simply to be unaware of them. Some curators believe, and/or behave as if, they can “see” and extract content from objects without any explanation of how they do this. However, instigate a disbelief and “curated” exhibitions collapse. Or would that be a form of curation? These are perhaps some of the ways in which PAF, ironically, becomes art. It is not some everted concept metaphorised in an event or production, but concerns how we talk about contemporary art.