There were 3 elements of Anthea Hamilton’s talk that struck me as important to my own practise and almost all of these were practical. For instance, the importance of networking and creating alliances with other artists, the use of scale and the importance of thinking about the physical exhibiting space.
In a way, I believe, it is the view that composition extends beyond the piece to the entire space and there is a hidden dynamism between the viewer, the piece(s) and the space. It is a threefold interconnection which needs to be both fluid, meaningful and harmonious.
I was also intrigued by her use of grass mats in an exhibition which enhanced this sense of dynamism and interconnectedness through sensory appeal which reached beyond the visual and kinetic.
Another aspect she talked about was her use of found images as muses and vehicles for new works, either through a change of scale or function. She spoke about the power of the doubling of images which I agree is a very commercial / capitalist manner of creating and viewing. It reminded me of the postmodern bombardment of simulacra Jean Baudrillard spoke of when discussing semiotics. The reproduction loses its sense of autonomy but can gain in power through production. The value of the ‘original’ becomes lost or obsolete in our contemporary culture as the means of production and digital formats make reproduction all the more accessible and/or democratised. Or does it? Is there an elitist, highbrow place for originals still? Is there an original? Is it in the new platform of digital art as opposed to traditional forms? Anyhow, what I liked about Hamilton’s work, was this idea of embracing what has been done, assimilating it, as opposed to being restricted by the view of art needing to be ‘original’ or ‘new’. There is in some art circles, a value placed on the original which the reproduction in a sense cheapens in monetary terms, unless of course it serves to create a new piece (I guess like Hamilton’s work) or becomes a comment on the power of reproduction. The words ‘new’ and ‘original’ therefore become quite problematic in today’s art world but nevertheless embraceable.
Finally, I enjoyed the way her art could penetrate and skirt the boundaries of other cultures (Japan Kabuki) as well as other disciplines (design, architecture, illustration etc.) without necessarily commenting on or representing it. Perhaps it is parody, perhaps it is pastiche, and perhaps it is beyond a label … yet.
Anthea Hamilton The Piano Lesson 2007 Mixed media 200 x 500 x 400 cm