Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Uncommon Threads

As is already explained elsewhere here, Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic's ‘This Too Shall Pass’ project consists of the artist's ongoing work-in-progress exchange, whereby in all manner of places she visits for whatever reasons, a single screw is removed from a fixture, replaced with another from the previous time, then saved up until the next opportunity, and so on and so forth etc.  Most examples are documented photographically, as well as with supportive explanatory backup information, also including her emotional state (like a diary, autobiography or written self-portrait), alongside major world events and current affairs from that very same time (bringing to mind press clippings and news headlines accompanying On Kawara's signwritten ‘Date Paintings’, 1966 onwards).

Although Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic admits a self-conscious and deliberate or accidental and unintentional start, amongst other things, what very much comes to mind is a strong sense of both everyday and less ordinary cycles and other processes which happen constantly and universally, whether noticed or ignored, with or without consequence.  In that respect, similar to concerns of Conceptual-era works by the U.S artist, Robert Barry, which were achieved by modest and sometimes almost imperceivable means like gases, nylon threads, radio waves and even thought; using lingual statements, photography, projected slideshows, spoken audio recordings, artspaces and publications.  At least part of Robert Barry's plan was to bring together the romantic and the rational, seriousness and humour, trivia and importance; perhaps in ways not otherwise known; often attempting such ends, as though through little more than passive observation of existing realities or simply the sheer phenomena alone. 

Unlike Robert Barry and his contemporaries, Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic specifically addresses her own self and life, the location and what's going on in the world around, while hoping others will identify with this and consider their own.  Seemingly, yet another offer, provocation or even downright enforcement to remind us of ourselves within a much vaster scheme of things.  Usually, a goal and task attained by grandiose imagery, effects and scale, often requiring expense and resources — which can distract attention away from the main issues.  However, same as with many historical conceptual artists and works, then more since, the unassuming æsthetic to this entire mission-impossible and the apparent end-result could afford more profound engagement.   

Whenever the texts and images are on display, shown and installed, in exhibitions, they could become as though they are the subject matter depicted, appear on or near anything resembling the original sources — or actually be such things.  Additionally, The audience has to imagine any missing examples, which for whatever reasons go unrecorded, hence absence.

What is very much become aware of are both whimsical notions and serious reality of constant movement and interconnection, spanning distances and timescales.  

Its possible that this and similar may well be like or the same as things done by others.  A question arising is: "what if others or even everybody were to do the same or anything of the kind, what might any outcome be, would that be good or bad?”  To which the most likely answer might well be: whether or not played according to these or completely different rules and formulæ, that would count as appropriation and simulation — or something else altogether. 

Then there’s possibility that the private, public, personal and shared experiences of ‘This Too Shall Pass’ resemble and might lend themselves to activism, collectivism, mass-conscience, togetherness, ritual and utopianism etc, maybe even bonding and actual telepathy amongst all parties involved.  

Fantasia scenarios breed, enact themselves and come alive.  Separate places link together and join up.  Spun cobweb circuit emerges as parabola constellation.  Prominently distinct features from chosen objects amalgamate together into composite hybrid.  Infinite and tireless growth.  Flowing pilgrimage, free-form meander, endless search quest.  Intrepid expeditions, not only find, discover and explore the unexpected, but actually invent and transform the familiar.  Wishes made, hope, yearn and strive towards change brought about.

As well as On Kawara and Robert Barry, some other previous avant garde artists and works seem worth mentioning. 

The Danish Fluxus artist and composer, Eric Andersen, early in his career (and that of the Fluxus movement) proposed that as many people as possible at a given stated period should simply think — about everybody else worldwide also participating in the same piece.

Another Fluxus member, Mieko (nee Chieko) Shiomi, for her ‘Spatial Pœm’, invited submissions from contributors, whose input would be whatever they found they happened to be doing anyway then or had decided to do especially for ‘Spatial Pœm’, to fulfil the criteriæ of several “Event” categories defined by Shiomi.  

Then theres policies lying behind the U.K collaborators, the Boyle Family’s practises (darts randomly thrown at world maps to choose sites for their ‘Journey To The Surface Of The Earth’; methods to obtain, distribute and plant seeds).

Contemporaries of Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic who’ve done related works shouldn’t stay left out.  The Mexican globetrotter, Gabriel Orozco, who makes cheekily satirical interventions playing games with humble materials poised in various settings.  The U.K artist, Dean Hughes, has restitched bus seats while commuting, as well as regularly refilling a dried up puddle, amongst other quiet yet dedicated actions.  The German, Leopold Kessler, who in addition to humorously customising functional civic property, has also repaired and cleaned things needing improvement, without other alteration. 

Finally, best left until last, is unlikelihood that Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic’s set task of ‘This Too Shall Pass’ will ever reach its obvious conclusion of affecting every country in the world at least once.  More importantly, is Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic’s inability to have proper involvement, presence or awareness at the last stage; involving her coffin lid.

On that note, several aspects of ‘This Too Shall Pass’ are descended from another ancestor.  From 1970-’77, the late Italian Arte Povera artist, Alighiero e Bœtti and his widow, Anne-Marie Sauzeau Bœtti, embarked on research and enquiries towards ‘The World’s Thousand Longest Rivers’ (embodied as a giant Afghan woven embroidery text) and ‘Classifying The World’s Thousand Longest Rivers’ (published as a bookwork).  A knowingly difficult and futile endeavour, given the uncertainty, contradiction and pointlessness of the data consulted and generated.  

Against (and despite) any and all such odds, there’s still undeniably great power and far-reaching complexity to the sheer attempt — and what could happen nonetheless because of doing it.

©, Copyright, Douglas Park Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic artist’s website, Berlin, 2009.  Essay, This Too Shall Pass, Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic, Kunstraum T27, Berlin, 2009

This Too Shall Pass by Anna Livia Löwendahl-Atomic

This Too Shall Pass is a life-long artwork by Löwendahl-Atomic that involves the clandestine yet public exchange of screws from buildings across the globe. Documentation of the work is currently being exhibited in the group show SPUREN at Kunstraum t27 in Berlin.

SPUREN features work by Klaus Abromeit, Jasmin Höher-Kosel, Geraldine Hudson and Sabrina Jung, five artists who approach the topic of traces (SPUREN) in different ways.

The below text is the exhibition catalogue essay for This Too Shall Pass, written by Rachel Lois Clapham in dialogue with the artist.


An Epically Pointless Proof of Life (art) OR This Text Too Shall Pass. 

Initially I felt that I had made my life so easy. Do you think I could put the text up on my blog after it is finished? Because I only have to change a screw to achieve something, but then lately I noticed that often I don’t feel like changing a screw :(. I could include a link to the exhibition on the blog post of course. But I still have to do it, and those days I feel really useless. Yes a link would be great thanks. Why do you feel you have to do it? OK give me names, dates of the show etc. Because this project will go on for the rest of my life. So you feel if you stop, the project will have failed? And in order to do that I need to ..well to do it. If your life gets cut off in its prime you will have still finished 'the project'? Stopping is not even an option. Like if you are run over by a bus the last screw won’t go in your coffin then maybe because people won’t know to keep the screw you have on you, unless you make a will? This is true but I have a back up. …A back up? Someone is always responsible for organising the screw etc after I am gone. So they will be responsible for nailing you shut? Yes. They will go back to the last place where you removed a screw, pick it up, and that will be the one left. It’s out of my hands :). …The screw you replaced it with I mean. Literally. Forgive me, this is all very fatalistic, but actually the work seems not so much about death as it is living. Performance, or life, and death inextricably linked of course- performance only remains through its disappearance (its death). Bodily remains only become such through the disappearance of life. I feel like paradox is never far away from your work. They will go get the last screw I did which will exchange place with a screw from my coffin. In the end there will be one screw left over. Yes, it is about living. Living with something for a very long time and having it burn a hole in your bag or pocket. It’s also in some way a secret mission. Does this project give your life purpose? Actually, it’s a very meditative. It’s funny I was writing about it yesterday and I was thinking about the secretive nature. The work is sometimes performative and sometimes clandestine. Perhaps all durational art, life art, as it were is secretive as you can’t constantly be showing and publicising what you are doing. It is necessarily private, like most process (as opposed to product or performance). It begs the question of why and when you think of it as art, and not. How do you mean? Like if you make art in the studio when no-one is looking, that’s unseen, secret, made in private for a deferred audience. True. But there is something different happening in the making of durational or life art because the audience is nearly always un-anticipated in a major way. The work is made to be purposefully unseen as work. Another paradox. You find yourself ‘going through the motions' and not really treating it as an out of the ordinary gesture. But then you pull it into an exhibition, a moment, a conversation with me, and then it is witnessed as art. But is that something different from the work itself. That goes back to what I first said, that I thought I made life so easy for myself as I "only" have to exchange a screw to feel I achieved something. I am interested in how to leave a trace without adding anything. With this arrangement. Like subtraction, and addition = 0 but also more than 0. And also how the work is simultaneously epic but also maybe pointless. How a dug out hole, later re-filled, can be an inverted mountain but walked over without noticing. I love epic and pointless in the same sentence. This feels important.

Rachel Lois Clapham is Co-Director of Open Dialogues

For information on Anna Livia Löwendahl-Atomic and This Too Shall Pass see

No comments:

Post a Comment