Aspex Portsmouth

Week 30, WORDS! Don’t Stand on Trifles, Part 2, 40 Stories

Les Buckingham, Director 1984-99

I described the genesis and rationale for this show in an earlier story. Here are three more of my favourite entries from a show that still lives with me.

One day a package arrived, beautifully wrapped and tied with coloured strings. My first thought was to preserve the wrapping and I carefully removed some layers to reveal a shoe box with the iconic name MARY QUANT printed on it. Mary Quant was the pre-eminent fashion designer of the 1960s who had taken the world by storm and become a household name. Her clothes are collectors items now and her show at the V&A last in 2020 was a sell out. Opening the box I found a brand new pair of the most beautiful women’s shoes, low strung and absolutely gorgeous! A perfectly shaped piece of acetate fitted snugly along the entire inner sole on which were printed the words:

There is no trace without resistance… there is no etching on a surface without pain.

The artist was Sally Madge and I immediately took the pair of shoes and placed them on the floor in the middle of the gallery to give them maximum prominence. The quote is from Marike Finlay, Post-modernising Psychoanalysis/ Psychoanalysing post-modernity, Free Association Books, 1989. Here is her commentary for the show: “My work deals with containment and separation, and questions of authenticity and the construction of self.  I’m impressed by the quotation’s complex allusion to the body and to writing (writing as ‘frayage’ – scratching).  I find the words intriguing and challenging and I can’t quite pin them down.”

The artist and curator Pavel Büchler asked that a pencil have these words embossed along its length so that the word ‘art’ finished at the sharpened end and would be the first to disappear when the pencil was sharpened.

Almost something almost nothing something like art

The quote is from the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, and to the question how did the text influence your work as a visual artist Pavel Büchler replied, “almost did/almost didn’t.”

David Connearn sent this enigmatic quote from the teachings of Huang bo Xiyan c.850:

No conceptual thought: No void either

David made it like a road sign and he wanted it put to a particular use. We bolted it to a lamp post in the street outside the gallery between two existing (official) signs which read “No Entry At Any Time”. By the end of the opening the sign had disappeared and we discovered that it was not collectors but officials from the highways department, tasked daily to check all road signs. To retrieve it David and I had to go and explain ourselves to the department and were told there could be a hefty fine and a court appearance for us. But we explained it was art and they let us off!

I always wanted to continue this project on the web. Perhaps now is the time?