Thursday, April 05, 2007

Richard Nonas

55 meter long double-line of double-bolders cutting diagonally trough a formal grid of trees - Permanent work
Image from Galleri Andersson Sandstrom

Not the forest, or even the North, but simple places barren, and hard when you touch them - places that are clear about excess... 1997

Invited by Helen Mirra, Richard Nonas came to lecture in our sculpture class. He discussed his view on art, art trying to confuse the categories in a way the culture hesitates to or is not meant to do. He raised the question of the difference between entertainment and art. He compared to a meal "this is the difference between a meal that makes you feel well fed and a meal that you remember twenty years later." An artist is someone who devotes his life to the cause of what he is trying to achieve. It is not per se a profession. An artist looks at everything and question everything.

He explained that he became an artist by coincidence, being an anthropologist at first. He started building sculptures of objects that were powerful for him, such as two pieces of wood. He watches and observes people in their environment before creating anything. Richard Nonas invests in space and place. In the notion of space the world is untouched and undefined by human counsciousness, rather in place there is a direct interaction between the physical world and the human mind. It contains an emotional content of that of an hybrid between the physical world and the human being.
He builds sculptures as place and unsettled, for him the tension is the power. The notion of fragment is key because it is in the middle of something.

He is interested in the strong power of an object into a space. For instance, a dog shit on the ground and everybody walks around. The dog shit recreates the space. He is working on that type of power of an object that transforms a place within his work. He thinks that most outside sculptures are confusing: are they about entertaining? are they a logo? ...
Some outdoor sculptures that were powerful and moving to him, such as the ones of Richard Serra, have been removed and this argumented with practical reasons: terrorism, people using the sculpture as a toilet, ...

The confusion that Richard Nonas creates, is an opening, a discovery, it is not a closing. He does not try to annoy people. He mentions that it is very hard to draw this line. He needs to seat on a bench and watch people to understand their habits and not distub them with his sculptures. He wants to create a shift, a move, so that, for a piece of time, one cannot see the world the same way. This is important because we live in a wolrd of compromises and we makes choices that are important. We need to filter, and certain things are ambiguous while others are not. He finds this type of shift exciting, energizing, and also it is about wander. That way the world changes. He compared this shift with drugs, and he says "with drugs it is always the same thing" with art it is always different. Unfortunately with time everything becomes a cliche, for the artists of his generation, it is hard to see something new. He says he has this responsibility as an artist to keep this dialogue, and create this shift happening.

What an inspiring person! My PhD work is very different and extremelly practical. Yet I always integrated this shift component as a principle in my work. I try to empower people by letting different kind of complexity emerged and this by reducing the technical complexity of expressive tools. I also always worked on what can be seen as two contradictory elements: designing tools for people to create their personal content to be driven into someone else's perspective.

With the class and Richard Nonas, we will all go out for a drink later tonight, I cannot wait to continue this discussion!

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