“What is the function of art, or the nature of art? If we continue our analogy of the forms art takes as being art’s language one can realize then that a work of art is a kind of proposition presented within the context of art as a comment on art. We can then go further and analyze the types of propositions.” – Art after Philosophy (1969), Joseph Kosuth
Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan are Glasgow-based artists who have been working collaboratively for fifteen years. Direct serious action is therefore necessary which runs from 2 October to 13 November 2010 was commissioned in response to the function, history and architecture of the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Glasgow. The choreography of individual pieces – from text to objects – circulated before and during the exhibition comprise the artwork, rather than the individual pieces themselves. Tatham and O’Sullivan draw from local histories to create works on rituals within art making and viewing, to question the parameters of contemporary art. Taking cue from Joseph Kosuth on his idea that art is a kind of proposition commenting on art, one is confronted with propositions related to site and structure, through their work.
The notion of a site, as both imaginary and physical locations are probed into, as the works take reference from or call attention to the mythical site of Scotland’s Loch Ness monster and the immediate context of CCA as historical architecture and exhibition site. As a creature whose physical absence creates an enduring mythic quality, imaginations surrounding the Loch Ness monster take on monumental stature, through large totemic structural pieces winding their way from the entrance through the cafe into the galleries. They draw attention to the architecture of CCA, where refurbishment in the 1990s revealed core sections of the Victorian-era Greek-styled building. Placed both outside and inside the galleries, the juxtaposition questions the function of spaces in relation to art. While in the cafe, they appear as architectural features for visitors to circulate around. When placed in the conventions of a white-walled gallery, they align themselves to our expectations as works of art to be observed.
Direct serious action is therefore necessary disrupts structures and the sets of established relationships within a work of art and its presentation, through investigating the role of text and rituals. In contrast to the didactic role of language within exhibitions, the written language in this case appears as a work of art in itself. A folded yellow handout with an image of a man on a horse is circulated prior to the exhibition, and is paired with text containing a first-person tirade in Glaswegian street language, of the blind eye cast by politicians to the situation of the working class. The title and language of the narration evokes an attitude, and seems dislocated thematically from the exhibition, playing against norms regarding how text serves as a filter for art. Individual labels for the individual pieces are absent in the galleries, and labels for the black and white photographs of Glasgow scenes, are visible only in the handout circulated before the exhibition and are placed in a way to describe the image of the man on the horse. In doing so, it questions the extent to which text produces art and the point at which a work is regarded as art when it enters a gallery space. The use of repetition – through a repeated phrase in the text, geometric patterns on the sculptural pieces, and repeated prints in the black and white photographs – serve more as connotative than aesthetic devices, in revealing the nature of their work in expressing systems in art.
Tatham (1971) and O’Sullivan (1967) met as MFA students at the Glasgow School of Art, and are both research fellows at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen, Scotland. Recent solo exhibitions include Does your contemplation of the situation fuck with the flow of circulation at Eastside Projects, Birmingham and You can take it as a thing or you can take it as a thing, La Salle de Bains, Lyon. They participated in Selective Memory in the Scottish Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2005, which toured to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh.