Douglas Park, born: 23-01-1972, United Kingdom, visual artist, writer (of literary prose and critical essays, both mostly art connected), sometime exhibition curator (and increasingly all practices and roles combined), currently U.K based and internationally active
Thursday, November 20, 2014
“I use up all possible options..” Douglas Park Interview with Odd Magazine
I hope you're excellent Douglas. And thank you for talking to The Odd Magazine.
So, tell me what's the oddest thing about your work?
It becomes challenging to identify eccentric aspects to my work, then select only 1 specific example.
I can but attempt. Hopefully this effort at least partly answers your question.
Visual art and art writing that seems more like or actually is literature. Itself, literature produced and operating as visual art.
Very often an unavoidable normality, of fantastical but believable places, phenomena and happenings (some such “stories” are based on site-visit and research projects) Nature and artifice fuse together into one and the very same, seemingly lacking source or origin, procedures self-enact — with unclarity about whether good, bad, harmful or benevolent. Any human element is almost excluded, apart from representation by other forms. Everything is pulled off and come across as though ordinary.
Sometimes, when allowed and needed, I arrange for my input to live off, dictate, use and maybe improve the host outlet. A potentially secondary or even ignored presence ends up predominant instead, whilst collective and joint ventures nearly end up as prima donna starring role and act.
I think you've hit the nail in the head with 'art writing' and 'exclusion of human element'.
I was piqued especially by the latter, since I was on a recent hangover with Brautigan and the art of Personification. I notice you have a almost painful empathy with the non-human world and in a super-conscious animation of it. What is it that draws you to it?
Just as you found yourself piqued, you deem me to be empathic. Not
necessarily attraction or choice, but being struck and unable to ignore, deny, resist, escape and defeat whatever; maybe more lured and trapped than drawn. Simply the high likelihood, sheer probability or even downright fact of the existence of circumstances, situations, conditions and status quo etc. Pain is 1 of many aspects.
As well as the entire experience I invent, I also strive for or maybe attain production or even a reality without (my own) authorship and responsibility. As though I'm not benefactor to blame or culprit to praise for end-result and any consequence or side-effect. Although, thats possibly (of all things!) only wishful thinking, hope, whim or fantasy.
By the way, theres an audio file of Richard Brautigan reciting 'Hunchbacked Trout' on this potlucky-dip magical mystery lottery webhole, of otherwise active input by invited (and living) contributors (including myself!): http://www.clickanywhere.crisap.org (curated by Dr. Salome Vœgelin, Creative Research in Sound Artistic Practice / London College of Communication, London, 2007 — no direct hotlinks available — move cursor around for names to flash up — then click on work's title — I'm represented by ‘Hollow Open Fort / Solid Cave Tunnel’ — 1 of my works thats actually about language and communication etc)
Do you feel solitary? If yes, do you enjoy it? Have had the feeling of a strange paranoia that people don't really understand your world and look at you like they read about UFO sightings, relishing in the novelty of it all, without getting it? Do you want people to get it?
Physical isolation occurs by external circumstance or choice, for all manner of causes and towards many ends.
Otherwise, unless its just the words and phrasing being used there, I don't, never did or will ever "feel" anything or act upon it. As with my work, all thats relevant is how things actually are, could or will be. Real and potential circumstances and wellbeing. Whether or not they're in any ways flexible or truly beneficial. Need attainment.
In life and art, I'm unconcerned about mere abstraction (about abstraction) and pure principle (about principle), which makes no good or bad practical difference to anything. Perhaps it dœsn't even happen in the 1st place to begin with. I couldn't even be bothered with the meaningless and non-existent.
As for interpersonal relationship with others (perhaps with what can loosely count as "the mainstream"). That kind of reaction happens to many or all people and creators, on grounds of them as people, as well as towards their work. Audiences take on whatever aspects to anything is always varied.
The most simple side to my work is very much playing around with basic and even ordinary reality and limits. But I' unsure if I ever expected comprehension or even took it into account. Definition and category (or at least explanatory description and critique) are possible, can and have been done by myself and others; as well as deliberate planning, self-conscious but not always unintentional patterns also emerge and are identifiable for possible analysis (names like "policy" and "formula" apply!).
Real and notional authenticity, truth, contrivance and falseness all figure in my work, which I address and use.
I was going through the transcript of an interview that you gave to a radio station in Korea (yes?) and they spoke about your spoken tongue and your visual language. I can understand somewhat the assiduous existence (pardon me for the want of words).
Do you physically feel words emerging?
Is it a consuming experience? Is that why you have a hyper reality that is intense by the very nature of its everydayness?
Persistence. To most or all levels of what I do, theres at the very least, a sense of some already up-&-running worldly presence or "vision from afar" (and maybe even long since been and gone astral phenomena or media signal!). Cliches about sculpture being previously existing and only needing discovery and activation, but perhaps some shared interaction and exchange, both ways, possibly mutually exploratory.
Real locations figure in my work and projects I'm involved with. I've even written an overgrown text, supposedly "about" that facet to my work — but in reality playing around with expectations, mechanics and norms to any supposed information.
As well as my engagement with readymade reality and culture, other aspects and factors make me consider and cite examples and references.
Basil Bunting (U.K and sometimes international, modernist poet and figure) claimed a poem's form came to him 1st, before any subject matter, content, verse, words and style etc, which Basil Bunting considered he applied — or that they fell into place.
To quote the U.S Minimalist sculptor (and sometimes visual poet), Carl Andre: "A man climbs a mountain because it's there. A man makes a work of art because it isn't there." Carl Andre also defined some or all artworks or other objects as being “A thing is a hole in a thing it is not.” If relevant, whatever any truth to certain allegations and dropped criminal charges brought against Carl Andre several decades ago — I totally disapprove of and don't support such behaviour and those who commit it.
The troubled Industrial Revolution era autodidact, John Clare, said of his own work: “I found the poems in the fields / And only wrote them down.” An early instance of cultural and all other production and consumption as being thefts & intrusions.
Before moving on to the next deeper questions, the "entropic" U.S land artist and writer, Robert Smithson, identified “ruins in reverse”. Not the “romantic ruin” (places which “FALL into ruin AFTER they are built”). But instead, place which “RISE into ruin before they are built” (from Robert Smithson's ‘A Tour of The Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey’ — 1st published as ‘The Monuments of Passaic’, in Artforum, December, 1967).
Consuming. Well, 1 of my titles could describe how taxing my work can be, for me, as author, to create. Recreational Servitude / Heavy-Duty Leisure.
The hyperreal, simulation, spectacle, aura, theatricality, the (death of) authorship, the informe etc. Cultural and social theory, as well as possibility and reality. A state of accustomization, whereby everything, whether real or false and good or bad, all ends up as one and the same. Power, force, conviction. Also, my concern with moral and attributive ambiguity, to the situations and conditions I describe.
I remember 1 of many times I discussed my work after a recital. This was with John Lalor. Paris based, expatriot Irish conceptual artist. We raised the subject of my sometime usage of repeated words and generative phrasing. John Lalor considered that to be destruction and disappearance. Just as I strive to go through and use up all possible options.
How do you think you are contributing?
Do you mean to joint and group collaborative ventures and projects? I suppose that’s as equally much how things work out and end up — as advance expectation and planning beforehand — but self-consciously aware of and identifiable.
Mixed and varying involvement (as well as potential benefit and gain). Ranging from being: secondary or sometimes exploited; supportive role or equal status; prominent or even dictatorial (yet always with reason, if allowed — and not without negotiation, contact and liaisons). Every side to being often marginal, excluded, invisible and absent within society (circumstances — again!).
Some of my “literary stories” and “written artworks” serve as “essays”, as well as being surrogate visual art (I also write more conventionally too). But unlike certain other essayists and critics, I insist on being told everything and try to find out as much as possible (by interrogation and harassment!); simply out of my own curiosity and interest, just for myself — as to be informative and for fullness (not forgetting, reduction and avoidance of over-similarity to other things I’ve done!). My input can appear (and could to some extent partly be) strange and maybe show-stealing, only still fair and hopefully effective.
As well as reusing my ideas, I sometimes select actual works to reappear in different situations. But only after consideration, never dishonest (and usually with pedigree and provenance acknowledgment and explanation etc). The veteran U.S conceptual and language artist, Lawrence Weiner frequently reapplies and readapts his own visual texts to all manner of places, events and contexts. To sound irrational and romantic (or at least sarcastic and ironist!), as though a nomadic and immortal spirit is forever on the move.
Much by me online, in print and on audio etc falls into being filed under these categories.
1 thing I do, is to write about the origins, development, interpersonal side and experience that went into these challenges and adventures and which they brought about. That Korean radio interview and transcript includes some such examples. Others elsewhere online are: ‘Inside-story about Cel Crabeels’ exposé of Dan Graham’s ‘Belgian Funhouse’ as partial insight into the author’s own work’ http://slashseconds.org/issues/003/002/articles/dpark/index.php and the ‘Explanation / Apology / Excuse / Attempt’ sequel to ‘Neon Graffiti / Shadow Camouflage’ http://www.e-flux.com/aup/project/neon-graffiti-shadow-camouflage-explanation-apology-excuse-attempt/ an almost runner-up candidate for such specimen-status = my untitled essay about Jan Mast’s ‘L'éclipse de l'âme’ (Eclipse of the Soul) movie and other works (which I helped with and appeared in) http://www.bepartlive.org/s-181---L%27%C3%A9clipse-de-l%27%C3%A2me-%282009-2012%29-#
Onto the way the others (my many and countless, recidivist and serial collaborative partners-in-crime!) are about this, how it affects them, if they deal with or even use it and what else happens. Not easy to even start.
Err...that was a slightly larger and a cliched inquiry..how are contributing as an artist to everything out there? Also considering the largely incisive nature of your work which many may take to for the novelty of it without delving involving themselves into the workings...how would you shape their worlds? Or do you, as many believe work for yourself and an invisible audience?
I can’t foresee or control the size of anything I write. Its whatever I’m addressing and saying, in all the words and phrasing that comes to me. Abraham Lincoln pointed out short texts are time consuming and demanding to write, because they depend so much on editing, reduction and streamlining. At least the basis of overgrown epics can be automatic and instant. Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway are the only notable exponents (at least to myself) of author’s really or supposedly working spontaneously. Whilst apparent and deceptive brevity (haiku, monostichs, constellations, imagism, minimal, concrete poetry, one word poems etc) is born out of compression and headwork (while not false or deceitful). Otherwise, consider how deep, profound and far-reaching Paul Celan’s dismal and grim precision and sparseness goes to, takes us and brings over.
Anyway, that explanation out of the way, then moving onto any possible influence and impact of my creation onto other people, society at large, the external environment, wider reality, grand scheme and order of things in general. If only these dreams came true, were alive and sprung into action, then took over from and replaced every thing and where!
There’s been so much feedback over the years. Often, still lodged somewhere in my conscience. Both audience and also colleagues. My main challenge is dredging it up and recounting it out. Now it arises, it’s something that should be written up at the time or not much later on afterwards. Self-authored entries and / or glowing testimonials right up visitor’s guestbooks (livre d’or / LEVRES d’or!). Anything public written about my work has been mostly part to or linked with the projects and outlets I’m in.
So what does come to my mind? Careful meticulous straining and desperate brute-force concentration, sehnsucht (beyond straining!) towards payoff and delivery!
Kris Delacourt. A fellow member of a team or “mission” I belonged to and helped christen with a name. Disquiet Tectonica ("collaborative research project on new audiovisual writing and uncanny architecture"). Our line up was: myself (Douglas Park!), Kris Delacourt, Nico Dockx and Michelle Naismith. In the early 00’s, we were active in several European countries, creating and presenting our multimedia “findings” from experiencing places and their impressions. Also, working with each other and different people on other projects before then, same time and ever since. Anyway, Kris Delacourt manipulated recordings of myself reciting my running commentary and narration (to join other audio and sound on moving image soundtracks). He claimed (but didn’t complain!) that hearing and studying what I wrote, made him dream about such scenery and affected how wherever he happened to be and go seemed towards him, combined with the crime-scenes we’d dealt with.
M. Jader. Martyna and / or Matylda Jader. Polish translator. She translated my “story” ‘Dream-Key Zodiac / Pandora’s Ark’ into Polish (becoming: ‘Sen-Klucz Zodiaka / Arka Pandory’!), as an “essay”, for Mark Aerial Waller’s The Flipside of Darkness, CCA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, 2008 (a book infested cover-to-cover with images of me and with several references to and mentions of me — more information here: http://www.markaerialwaller.com/publications.html and downloadable pdf: http://www.markaerialwaller.com/publications/The%20Flipside%20of%20Darkness%20publication%20web.pdf ). Well, to cut a long story short (how apt here!), M. Jader and others involved asked myself and others if there was any visual material or imagery to show for what the procedure and apparatus conjured up in ‘Dream-Key Zodiac / Pandora’s Ark’ — because they were seriously convinced I was describing possible and true experience! ‘Dream-Key Zodiac / Pandora’s Ark’ is a reused title of an unrealized work from my visual art days — which wouldn’t have been all that similar to the later “story” or “essay”. Some other translations of my works have involved more interpersonal cooperation and exchange, by contact or directly (Arabic, Welsh, French, German, Flemish / Dutch, Italian, Korean, etc).
Somebody else (for some reason, I seem to think that was the Belgian painter, Nono Pessoa http://www.nonopessoa.com/texts.html — I later wrote about them — and they used a word or phrase from my “essay” as part of 1 of their solo exhibition title) once asked me if 1 of my titles meant a real thing that truly existed, then if so what. Most probably: ‘Gossamer Feather-Light Aircraft / Heavyweight Wooden, Stony & Metallic Bird’ (English / Arabic, various translators), on Ronee Hui pages, in 6th Sharjah International Biennale Book, for Sharjah International Biennale, Sharjah, 2003 (but that title isn’t exactly a “label” for what happens!).
The Dutch veteran polymath, Louwrien Wijers, claimed that she found sensory and spiritual states came out of (maybe contrived and otherwise limited?) qualities, meaning, content and imagery. Last year, Korean and other Pacific Asian visitors to Kim Kim’s Douglasism festival events admitted that atmosphere seemed to build up and become more important that words or description. Both times, potential language barriers, cultural difference and generation gap etc didn’t seem to rear their heads, but other aspects impressed these people. more.
There’s many more anecdotes and case-studies, but the problem is remembering them, then their storytelling. Again, maybe I’d never given it any thought before until now, but it’s the sort of thing that ought to be chronicled, possibly as useful work-fodder in its own right. As I said before just now: “Anything public written about my work has been mostly part to or linked with the projects and outlets I’m in.”
At many stages, all works by every creator takes on lives of their own, as so many people appreciate and say.
Back to shared and mutual exchange and influence. As well as amongst people, also that which is between the innermost self and will with external environment and reality. While much earlier visual art of particular interest to me is usually concerned with both made-up and real place usage and even actual creation (gardens, land art, earthworks, architectural intervention, buildings and engineering as art etc), certain historical body art stunts and rituals strike me as illustrative (despite fact I never used my body during my visual art days, my performances are mostly spoken recitals and my acting roles have rarely or never been extreme).
The lating greating U.S artist, Dennis Oppenheim’s magical spell, ‘Material Interchange’, 1970, (possible satirical comment on deals and Faustian pacts?) "Stage #1. Fingernail lodged between gallery floorboards” & “Stage #2. Splinter from gallery floorboards lodged under skin": http://www.dennis-oppenheim.com/early-work/149 (1 of the subjects of U.K political artist and writer, Tony Rickaby! http://www.tonyrickaby.co.uk/writings/writings%201970s/unknown-artists.html — another earlier Dennis Oppenheim included extracting a wedge from a mountainside rockface — after those process and behavioural art fazes, he went onto spend many years making elaborate machines).
Coldwar Czech “actionist”, Petr Stembera’s ‘Stepovani’ (Grafting), 1975 (whereby Petr Stembera planted a botanical cutting into his flesh — “In a manner customary in fruit-farming, I grafted a branch taken from a shrub into my arm. Prague, April 1975”): http://artlist.cz/updata_az/a/a/e/stembera_stepovani.jpg Presumably, no hybrid was ever born from that unison! But just suppose some blossom sprouted forth. What species & generae of crop and harvest would breed, grow and be reaped?
Petr Stembera’s copatriot, peer and associate, Karel Miler’s more gentle ‘Stairs’ and / or ‘Measuring’, around same era. http://artlist.cz/updata_az/a/f/b/miler_mereni18.jpg Futile or maybe stealth gesture against overwhelming adversity and odds.
Not much later on, but younger generation, Belgian punk, Danny Devos’ ‘Push’ 1 & 2, 1980:
http://performan.org/performances/push-push-1/ (drawing pin pushed into wall using shoulder) & http://performan.org/performances/push-push-2/ (drawing pin pushed into shoulder using wall). I never worked with Club Moral, but finally worked with Danny Devos. Picnic At Hanssenspark, festival, organised by Danny Devos, De Bond, Bruges, 2014 (walking recitals, finissage event, for solo exhibition by Danny Devos, amidst an indoor temporary nature sanctuary — delayed from year before — when 1st scheduled to happen — book should be published soon).
Although the more altruistic, U.S maverick, Charles Simonds ‘Dwellings’ (unglazed clay mini settlements, planted in neglected urban neighbourhoods and shown in art venues) interest myself and others most, theres also his body + land + action = ritual private works about the sourcing of his materials. http://www.ubu.com/film/simonds.html & http://www.charles-simonds.com/films.html
Nearly relevant here, but not quite, are the nonetheless great Italian “Arte Povera” sculptors, Giuseppe Penone and Gilberto Zorio. While separate and not collaborative artists, both with differing subjects and interests, they each use their bodies and action to enforce ideas and planning onto processes and materials.
Doubtless there’s others, but enough of all that.
1 of my most bodily and corporal works (still with my usual concerns and style) is ‘Human Shield’. Recited and explained in its entirety during that Korean live radio interview, so also included in my transcript (consult both links in my answers to question 4). ‘Human Shield’s 1st proper use and outlet was linked to Richard Crow, who’s very much involved and active with his own and other’s live and time-based practices. Another exception to my “norm” is ‘Defence & Survival Gameplay & Sports’, on Emilia Ukkonen artist’s website http://www.emiliaukkonen.com/index.php?page=defence-survival-gameplay-sports A further contrast to many other works, is not being so phrase and detail laden (but that’s not unique).
Which audience, who and where they are, then how they can, should and will be dealt with etc, will always be a valid issue and problem, without easy answers or solution. Targets and congregation are allowed for, taken into account and not disregarded. But does that work and what gets caused? Myself and others directly involved, can at least expect and maybe gain opportunity and experience (but hopefully never become self-serving and indulgent!). Additionally, there can be exposure, payment, travel and more opportunities led to etc. That’s a routine matter-of-course, but not the most important goal or be-all-&-end-all, unless only the beginning and start. What counts and is always best is that there be feedback, discussion, rapport, note-comparison, engagement, exchange, sharing, togetherness and relating.