Failures: Mental Furniture Industry Externalities

Posted in Failure, Research by chrisfremantle on August 12, 2020

The following failed as a proposal for a Flattime House Delta Research Residency.

ecoartscotland library as bing #1 (2016) digital image (published in Performance Research)

Statement of Interest

Latham offers a radical critique of ‘knowledge production’ linking the Mental Furniture Industry (MFI) with waste landscapes. During his Scottish Office Placement he reimagined the ‘bings’ (spoil heaps from the shale oil industry) which dominate the Lothian landscape as ‘monuments to our time’ and wrote to various authorities seeking their protection. In the ‘newspaper’ publication for his Fruitmarket exhibition of 1976 he explicitly links the bings with another of his key concerns – the MFI. The bings are an indication of his conception of the scale of the MFI, both in temporal as well as spatial terms.

Latham’s conception of MFI raises questions about production: about the waste produced, but also of caretaking, which is often overlooked. Care is a process, or in Latham’s terms an event. Care has two aspects. Firstly it requires attention to all forms and dimensions – mental, social, environmental. Secondly care is about extending life. Some have been legally protected. They do evolve over time. Latham’s reframing of them as ‘monuments to our time’ is apt as they have become biodiversity hotspots in monocultural landscapes.

ecoartscotland’s library, comprising books, DVDs, etc., is mobile in order to interact with practitioners and projects in specific contexts. It is related to the Martha Rosler Library and Nils Norman’s Geocruiser.  However, if it is understood as a manifestation of the MFI, then it is necessary to test the relationship between the library and the bing. Is the library a form of waste from a process of accumulating cultural capital? Or, as with the bings, can it support the emergence of a diverse ecosystem?

The Delta Research Placement will provide a period of focused attention on the materiality of the MFI as manifest in the both analogue and digital forms. The Ligatus Archive will be mined as a resource, both for further understanding of the MFI and bings, but also as a visual material source. FTHo as a live/work space will be investigated with a particular focus on waste and care.

Latham’s methods of working, such as collage and stop motion animation, will be used to appropriate the results of research into new forms with the support of the digital producers. Further analogue and digital experiments with the materials of ecoartscotland and FTHo (and potentially the Tate and other sources) will be undertaken.

Two specific areas of investigation are currently envisaged. Experiments to date have taken the Moodiesburn bing, the simplest form (reverse and tip), as a model. The ‘Five Sisters’ offers a more complex formal model to investigate, and the ‘Niddrie Woman’ a massive improvised model. These experiments have resulted in temporary arrangements of books as well as collaged images. Secondly the time base of the Ligatus Archive will be taken as a starting point for investigation in juxtaposition with the ‘plan and elevation’ of the bings as objects. ‘Reverse and tip’ will be explored as a literal and metaphorical process.

The contribution to the new digital platform will consider the issue of waste and the emergence of diversity.

ecoartscotland library as bing #2 (2018) digital image

Artist’s Statement

I am an arts worker. I work as a producer, lecturer, researcher, writer and artist. In 2010
I established ecoartscotland as a platform for ongoing relational work, growing and connecting the community of people interested in this form of hybrid practice. ecoartscotland has various aspects: events, exhibitions and publishing. It includes the mobile library.

My practice involves a dynamic and iterative relationship between research and practice. A consistent theme is the reuse of visual and conceptual strategies.

I have an ongoing interest in exploring failure as part of a creative process. The development of ecoartscotland library as bing (2016) came from the rejection of a more conventional proposal to represent it in a compilation on artists’ libraries. Reading the catalogue essays from Mental Furniture Industry (2013) led to reconsidering the library as material through various analogue experiments and digital manifestations. This is in line with other in-progress projects including Calendar Variations, a drawing project which explores changes of state (wet to dry, living to dead).

Building on extensive research and producer work with the Harrisons (Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison) I, with colleagues, have recently presented readings from their works. This reuse-to-keep-alive raises questions regarding re-presentation and re-performance which are rarely explored in the visual arts.

I am employed part-time as a Research Fellow and Lecturer at Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University. I am a contributor to the Mental Furniture Industry (MFI) through being an ‘active researcher’ with targets for publishing and impact.

I live in Ayr in South West Scotland. This opportunity to work remotely with FTHo and the Archive would provide invaluable time to develop experimental work.

ecoartscotland library as bing #3 (2020) digital image

Here is the announcement of what was selected

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