Having Work Happening

The idea of installation, in an expanded sense or in an expanded field, is that of producing a site for work. This is also an aspect of the idea of curation: to produce a site in which work occurs as well as a site in which it is displayed. The projects described, shown and re-shown on the following pages are all matrices of this double-notion of ‘having work happening’. We sit and talk about this and about the works themselves, as works. They are, we know, works. They can be spoken of as such. But it seems a little artificial to prise them completely from the field in which they occurred. A book on the table we talk around, Things, is an idiosyncratic encyclopaedia. It points out, amongst its many things, that some of the first artificial limbs were arms made to hold a pen between artificial fingers so as to write. We all take notes, and spread papers.1When first discussing the project, whose beginnings can be traced back to 1986, we were thinking of formats that might get around the need to present every part – to make a complete digital inventory. The notion of a miscellany seemed attractive, in the way of Schott’s Miscellany, originally published in 2002. Things, which is a much older and exhaustive encyclopaedia, seemed a good place to begin thinking about taxonomies. We talk of Aby Warburg and pin-boards, the laying out of information and the laying out of matter. I think of the idea of collecting, and meteorites and asteroid showers, as well as the objects we send into space and which remain there in orbit. Space is, very slowly, being filled with such things. This project, the present one, is a means of laying out a narrative, but it attempts to avoid the finality of a definitive telling. It aims to keep the pieces in play.2As the project progressed, it became clear that content needed to be generated by (exa)mining the existing archive, followed by a process of partial contextualisation via other texts and images from our extensive libraries; the writing of texts took place before, during and after this process of consultation, since we thought we might keep the pieces in play, whilst also spooking others out of the woodwork. Or rather, it aims not to cease having work happening. Spaces that are never finished or are never definitive are important to all this – spaces that are working land; planted, harvested and turned over to maintain their fertility. Even at the moment of their lying fallow they remain working, doing the work of preparing themselves for more work.

Furthermore, a ‘white space’ can be left subtly unfinished or not-quite whitened. The space might then invite work to speak a little more hospitably, perhaps. But I keep thinking of the ploughed field, and that after the destruction of each harvest that the land is re-prepared. The word ‘fallow’ is spoken later in the conversation, by chance I think. I resolve to write things from the notes I make during the conversation, without knowing quite what they will be. I will conduct my real editorial work more covertly, in the footnotes beneath the words of others.