Being on site means I have the opportunity to pop into the two, public spaces we’ll be using for the project – Fisherman’s Cellar 4 - until recently a working ‘net loft’ and the ‘Borlase Smart’ Room - Studio 10 named after the artist, Robert Borlase Smart whom the trust which owns and runs the Porthmeor complex takes its name. ‘TTP’ will be in interesting company alongside another site-specific but, semi-permanent work in Cellar 4 by USA artist, Mark Dion, titled The Maritime Artist. Dion’s 2013 piece brings together some of his key interests for dialogues created by not only unusual collections, their displays and juxtapositions of material and object, but his exploration of the relationship, for example, between objects and communities: in The Maritime Artist the contextual locus of artists and the fishing industry together.
Here’s Mark talking about what he describes as “…a very deeply collaborative endeavour…” working with eight students from Falmouth University and artist Jamie Barbour for St Ives Community TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJPXZ0NxYG8
Cellar Four, an internal space facing onto the courtyard contrasts nicely with our seaward facing site, Studio 10. Modern technology equips this studio for lectures/talks and community use from exhibitions to where some of our workshops, displays and performances will take place. Evidence of older technologies associate Studio 10 with the first know photograph of an interior of Porthmeor Studios taken c. 1891-2 at that time, occupied by the Dutch painter, Sigisbert Bosch Reitz.
Studio 10 also preserves concrete evidence of trace from its previous occupants, for example, in the form of residual paint on the window sills within reach to see and touch. I’m continually reminded in both spaces how tangible and real these experiences are; surfaces testify to the phenomena of creative practices relational perhaps to visual equivalents of the diachronic (evolved through time) and the synchronic (one point in time).
The Maritime Artist is an enigmatic fictional construct yet made of factual histories, material components and arrangements in situ. As viewers, appropriately perhaps, we’re always in two minds about the subject, its ‘ambivalent position’ a quality which Dion likes to embed in his work. Dion playfully disrupts the linear progression of time in this piece by interweaving ideas through narratives with objects and place. In installing, he asked artists on site for paint brushes and other studio ‘tools’. A donation from my shared studio (7) included, a paint brush with traces of cadmium yellow, a cassette tape, a useful and much missed plastic funnel, a pair of protective gloves and a favorite improvised butter/palette knife – so extending the project’s material and human collaboration with other detritus and objects gathered from artists in the locality and Porthmeor fishermen of the past.
This contemporary art work is a static piece - every item placed by hand, by Dion and his immediate collaborators, is as they left it in 2013. It perhaps asks potential questions about the notion of time trace and place in “…a very deeply collaborative endeavour” of our own forthcoming project.
See below, links to similar works by Dion installed in the field in different contexts: Neukom Vivarium ‘Nurse Log’ 2006 Seattle, Washington USA and Society of Amateur-Ornithologists, Essen, Germany.
TOVEY, David. 2009. St Ives (1860-1930 The Artists and the Community: a Social History. Tewksbury, UK: Wilson.
HUNTER, Becky. 2009. ‘Interview with Mark Dion’. White Hot Magazine (April 2009).
Images Copyright Clare Wardman Courtesy of Borlase Smart John Wells Trust