Replacing the Invisible
Accumulation project, Boston, US 2014 / Review by Robert Moeller
Project in collaboration with Shannon Cochrane
The acquisition or gradual gathering of something
A word pulled apart, doesn’t fall to the ground but rather it seems, becomes a score. A series of musical notes to be struck by the tongue and sent out into the world before disappearing just as quickly. A word is ephemeral, a wholly disinterested and unbiased witness to our struggles. Even the actions that words describe in our head flutter quickly on an electrical pulse before being replaced. Words are a constant stream and constantly leaving us. The trace elements that remain as this process takes place are our feelings and thoughts. We are sculpted by an onslaught of information, moved, repulsed; but most often, simply overwhelmed. Language is the basis for our troubles. It signifies, underlines, falsifies and represents. It sends bodies into motion and fills those bodies with ideas. Words also ground us, leaving only quiet in their wake. They fill everything and leave only traces of things, memories, or memories of objects or simply the objects themselves. Everything begins with words and the accumulation of words and actions.
These fragments all contain information, even dormant information that is simply waiting to be reconfigured and used again. All objects have a history built into them. And that history fires the imagination in a continuing process that edits, reformats and distills what’s come before.
“Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting” is how the poet Robert Frost described the inner mechanics of a poem’s workings. What Frost described so elegantly casts an echo directly through the work of Shannon Cochrane and Marcio Carvalho. The hot stove, in this case, are the things left behind by other artists from previous performances. The melting, as it were, consists of the two artists immersing themselves in the detritus of a used-up environment and reanimating it fully.
Using a janitor’s cart to casually lead a processional much like a ritualized “Stations of the Cross” the artists circle the gallery space with a deliberate spontaneity in which their actions become the “thing”. Collecting the collection, the artists recontextualize everything in their path; scrubbing, replacing, hiding and transforming the objects they find. They are also “scrubbing out” the meaning of things they encounter and rebranding the work that has accumulated.
The cart they use is part altar, part carnival wagon. It also has its practical purposes as a means of transport and utilitarian device. It, too, grounds them in the space simply by being there and carries their things. It is a tool and a companion, a bit player without a line of script but a clear and calculating presence. It can’t be ignored. It also carries a ladder with leads the artists up and out of the gallery space, up high where window ledges can conceal objects and the space is stretched even further. Interestingly, the large windows of Gallery 808 allow people passing by on the street to stop and watch the performance as it unfolds, again adding another level of depth to the field the artists work in. The windows, big as movie screens, are portals to the outside world that broaden the “experience” while at the same time sheltering it from an unorganized outside presence. Here, everything is catalogued and reset.
At root, the performance has an anarchist bent to it. It is questioning and yet abstract. It removes to expand. It archives to erase. Cochrane Carvalho are both collaborators and collaborationists. They work together to disassemble the relics of other works before storing them so that the work can begin again. They work within the curated idea of accumulation while at the same time seek to undermine it as well. The storeroom behind the gallery acts as the epicenter of their work. It is “behind the scenes” and out of view. It is a restricted place, secondary but essential. It is a “storeroom” after all, an archive of “randomness” yet it is central to function and a natural beginning and ending to any process involving the harvesting of ideas and objects.
Acting as stewards of an idea within the larger framework of other artists doing the same thing, Cochrane Carvalho interact with what had come before; deliberating, improvising, and reassembling both the gallery space and an archive of relics from previous performances. The conversation they hold is mainly directed at the other artists involved with the project. Luckily, the dialogue they share, built on gesture and action, was hardly private but rather expansive and open.
Photo credits: Sandrine Schaefer and Daniel de La Luca