Axel Straschnoy 16.10.2015
I am packing my studio. Yes, I am. Placing things in boxes and then in bigger boxes. Finding old friends in the back of shelves. Finding things I saved just in case. Finding bits and pieces of works that did not come to be. Or leftovers from works that did come to be. The studio collects the remainders of the activities that takes place in it; things that did not immediately end up in the trash collect in drawers and shelves. Only to be found again when packing.
Packing is an act of selection. What of that which is in my studio today deserves to be stored? What should be simply discarded? And on what basis? What won’t be thrown out needs to be packed, lifted, and transported to the new studio. And there it will need a storage space. Because once it is taken from the bottom of a drawer it will need a place of its own, an official space in which to reside.
Objects in the studio could be divided roughly into three categories: they are either materials, tools, or the outcome of their interaction. Part of that third category are objects that have ended up or are planned to end up in an exhibition. But there are also other objects such as drafts, failed versions, mock-ups and other kind of supporting materials. Further that, it is quite difficult to predict which of the objects that are lying around the studio will be exhibited again or simply exhibited at all.
If a work has two possible final destinies: the garbage truck or the museum (a situation well presented by Kabakov’s The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away), objects in the studio are either thrown out or eventually exhibited (Francis Bacon’s studio being the extreme example).
According to a certain tradition, artworks are immutable discrete objects experienced by audiences during exhibitions. If, however, you understand art as a practice, works as processes, and exhibitions as one out of many ways in which audiences and works meet, the material side of the practice is composed of objects which are both tools to create the intended encounter between audience and work, and remainders of the artwork-as-process.
Much has been made of the relationship between the medieval cult of relics and certain practices of contemporary art. The word’s etymology points directly to that which has been left behind, that which has been abandoned. Inasmuch as they are in the studio, these objects are relics of the work they belong to, heavy with the past.
And while art is a historical field, the studio is essentially about the promise of the future.
Packing, it is said, is a form of cleansing because it makes room for new things by forcing one to get rid of things that are not needed anymore. It is a way of opening up to the future by staring straight into the past and coming to terms with it. It is a form of writing one’s own history.