Tag Archives: Struan Kennedy

Krisdy Shindler, ‘A Reciprocal Process of Becoming’

by Struan Kennedy

Exceptions are nice things. Whether positive or negative, they stand for a world not always ruled by monotony. When they occur in that tricky matter of personal taste, then – well, they can awaken you to a new self.

I had such an awakening when I saw the animation, A Reciprocal Process of Becoming (2006), by Krisdy Shindler. If someone were to describe this work to me, they would probably start off by saying, “It’s video art…” and at that point, ordinarily, I would be sure to feel a sigh rising up from inside me. That was then, though – pre-exception thinking. Shindler’s animation has offered me an alternative way of thinking, and I am thankful for it.

So, what was it about this work that changed my stance towards video art? Well, there’s a few reasons, but first let’s turn our attention to the question of time. Both in and out of the world of art, time is a precious thing. Everyone is their own keeper of it, so the saying goes, and this is no less the case when viewing art. We have the luxury of choosing how long we stay with a painting, or how long we stare at a sculpture or a photograph. We are in control of our own time and are able to determine when it is we’ve had enough and want to break off our relationship with the artwork before us.

Video art, on the other hand, comes with a sneaky string attached to it. Unlike other media, it suggests an enforced encroachment upon our time – a time that had previously been ours to do with as we pleased. This encroachment, this little string attached, is the work’s duration itself, a detail usually stated alongside the work’s title and the name of its creator(s). Perhaps I am not alone in thinking that this factor of duration feels like a condition necessary for the enjoyment and understanding of the work of art. If you don’t watch it all, you’ve given up, failed in the relationship between viewer and artwork, and ultimately not reaped the benefits you may have gained from it. A lack of patience, uncomfortable seating (or, indeed, no seating at all), a humid room, the misfortune of walking in half-way through – or at the very end of – a video installation: these are just some examples of scenarios that would normally persuade me it’s time to move on from a piece of video art.

Until, that is, I saw Shindler’s efforts; I was struck by how much it was her work, rather than myself, that did the moving. On first seeing it, there was so much action contained in her animation that I did not wish to be distracted by anything else. Of course, the fact that her animation made a reasonably modest demand on my time, lasting just over three minutes, helped. (Having said that, three minutes can seem an awfully long time when faced with tedious material.)

One reason why I was so charmed by Shindler’s work was that, for me, it brought out an emotional core in the medium of animation itself. Not only is the work simply a record of animated images, but the particular way in which it is animated resonates with our own sense of imagination. This, like the short film itself, is manifested as a gradual ebb and flow of forms leading out to an exotic sprawl. The transformations that occur throughout the film do not happen in any predictable sequence. Rather, they consist of a variety of developments, from slow and steady image changes to what look like complete stops, before the animation seems to rush ahead of itself in a spurt of progress. In a moment, these first models for understanding her work leapt out at me: the sporadic nature of feeling, historical changes and developments in technology and our perception of time – time that is at once racing ahead in our consciousness and grinding on and on mechanically.

The idea came into my head to stage an exhibition where the only work displayed would be Shindler’s piece. The images and events that make up the animation would be fitting for the rudimentary curatorial model I was thinking up. Rather than dazzling an audience with room upon room of art, the exhibition would streamline an audience’s attention towards a single piece. The model hinges on exploiting the varying conceptual appearances of a work and, by this account, entirely justifies exhibiting the animation on its own.

Shindler’s use of the word ‘reciprocal’ in the title of her animation would become central to the exhibition model. Just what exactly is being reciprocated, and to whom? I believe it is the unfolding complexity of our relationship to art. For both ourselves and a work of art undergo multiple manifestations, especially when they confront one another. It is possible for us to grow and learn just as art grows and becomes ever more informed from the moment of its inception onwards, advancing through its conceptual journey. Though physically separated, we are joined to art by our shared occupancy, residing as we do in the state of Becoming. It is this searing synergy that would have propelled the exhibition on and on.

It was exciting to think what Shindler and I could have done with her animation, to think of where we could have taken it – literally. I wanted this exhibition to be a touring exhibition, a show to be stumbled across in a number of galleries, but also in many ‘non-art’ spaces. The work refuses to settle as one thing; instead, it wriggles and squirms – a motility also clearly seen in the animation’s palette of line, shape and colour. A curatorial restlessness, therefore, mirrors the work’s own capricious stance. “Unable to be held down for too long”: this is a phrase that adequately describes both of the reciprocating partners in this relationship. The show and the work move and develop, both conceptually and physically, sometimes together and sometimes apart.

For more of Krisdy Shindler’s work, or to view her recent and current exhibitions, see: www.krisdyshindler.com

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Storm in a Teacup

Struan Kennedy

You want every article you write to mean something: to be, in some way, important. So you prepare a shortlist of exhibitions that have caught your interest; you get it all arranged – times, addresses – and you look out for a sturdy notebook. At least… that’s the plan. It certainly was mine. I had an abundance of ideas about what I was going to do and exactly where I was meant to go.

But it seems the slightest of distractions can throw off those intended actions – the ones that were meant to mean something. In my case, it involved one of the most British of practices: the making of a cup of tea.

Last night I discovered a neglected cup in my room which was badly in need of a thorough cleaning. It was while I was scouring it in the downstairs kitchen that I was struck by its majestic resemblance. There was something, unmistakable for me, about the way that the bristles of the washing brush came into contact with the residual staining on the inner curvature of the cup that reminded me of Turner. Not the man himself (this was not some secular, creative version of Christ’s face appearing in a pancake) but what he was capable of, what he left us: a career of idiosyncratic stainings.

All of a sudden I was looking down into scenes familiar to me from having gawped at them in a more ‘artful’ environment. Wisps of sun-stroked shores, misty battles, scratched skies of some calming storm all came racing toward me in a single moment of staring into this cup. Of course, by now viewed as a new fantastical portal, this cup was no longer a cup to me. It was now gone – its former life, function and image swept away by the Romantic winds that were whipping up some ethereal matter into a Turneresque frenzy.

Plenty of people might point out the suitability of this article’s title, as they may think that a storm in a teacup is exactly what this all sounds like. They would refer to the phrase’s idiomatic use, to denote something small exaggerated out of all proportion, and I would be inclined to agree with them. In this instance, however, exaggeration is not a dirty word. In fact, it firmly and frequently belongs in the domain of art. When other structures in society do their utmost to remain reasonable and responsible, it is often liberating to consider something which is as free as art.

Turner was an artist of exaggeration. His stormy skies and deserted beaches have enough realism about them for us to recognise what they are, but they also have… something else, something much more difficult to pin down. It is that something else which ensures that the distinctive atmospherics of Turner will be remembered into the future. So then, if certain art is exaggerated – in, say, its depiction of nature – it is possible that the interpretation of this art can also be rightfully prone to exaggeration.

Which is why there is no shame in my saying that I saw a storm in a teacup. Art is not captive behind the walls of a gallery or, indeed, anyone’s walls. It is a thing more flowing than water and, occasionally, just as difficult to hold in your hands. The importance lies not always where something is placed but where it is that you yourself are standing – where your mind is at the time of the encounter. You can visit the most prestigious centres of art in the whole world and not be moved one jot; you can witness something passed-by by thousands and be halted dead in your tracks.

Take the current acclaimed exhibition of Turner’s work alongside that of Claude Monet and Cy Twombly at Tate Liverpool. Now, this show is at a fixed address, one that is by all accounts a steadfast, agreed-upon home of art. And yet this does not prohibit Turner’s visions from escaping the confines of the gallery and working their way into the most peculiar of happenings. By all means go and see the show – and be amazed! – but don’t switch off your eyes when you leave the gallery, or as you ride the bus home. You’d be surprised when you might just see great art again. If anything, the misplaced peculiarity of it will enhance its greatness. A greatness that – depending on where your mind is and what you’re looking at – might be found under your shoe, inside an envelope, over someone’s shoulder, or, as it was for me last night, at the bottom of a teacup.