Notes From My Sketchbook 19/03/2006
The bottle project is based on an old idea I had in 1996, I simply placed an envelope addressed, ‘To Whom it may Concern’, in a clip frame, the theory being that the viewer would be intrigued and engage with the piece through their natural curiosity – the old adage being that we always want to know secrets and grasp at information that is deliberately withheld from us. A simple premise, a simple temptation.
I believe that art is for everyone and that everybody should be able to engage with anything that I make. I am at odds with gallery based art. Why should we only expect to see art in a gallery? Why should it not be displayed in a public space? I am also at odds with the idea of art as a commodity. The bottle is an ideal receptacle to leave in public places; it is familiar and already loaded with cultural meaning. The pieces that I make during the bottle project are to be lost, stolen, or destroyed – basically they are to vanish. Each piece is made for the unknown person who finds the bottle – what they do with the bottle is entirely up to the individual – my reference here is to the ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ Christian Boltanski 1996 Serpentine exhibition. Further references to the Fluxus artists of the 60’s.
The objectives of the bottle project are to, a) engage with the general public, b) to amuse and entertain the viewer, and c) to prove that art can work outside of conventional gallery space.
Most people are familiar with the idea of the castaway throwing a message in a bottle into a vast ocean, never knowing if their bottle will ever be found – and who has not walked along a beach secretly hoping that they might find one? I would like to be able to give my viewers a thrill, the thrill of finding something that perhaps would enliven their day and make it less typical. If you look hard enough you can always find treasure, this is the only way I know how to give it – of course there is always the risk that the viewer will throw his/her ‘treasure’ away.
There is something intriguing about having to break the bottle to gain access to the contents – and possibly symbolic. It is similar to the intrigue and desire we feel when given a beautifully wrapped gift – there is possibility – potential – desire to gain something – something that will possibly fulfill a desire or need. On unwrapping – mystery is stripped away – something quite basic/useful/simple/ugly/unwanted could be revealed. Isn’t the sense of potential a more engaging feeling? Why is the itch of mystery so difficult not to scratch? We destroy as we discover, but we gain understanding? Hope leads us on, we always hope to find that ‘elusive’ thing that we are looking for. The itch of curiosity.
The project to date has mutated; I am no longer sure as to whether I want to ‘leave’ the bottles randomly in open public spaces. Indeed, I have now formed an emotional attachment to them. I am being precious. I am still anti gallery space. I think the bottles would look aesthetically interesting if displayed as a collection – this a strong reason for not separating them. I think that ideally they should be displayed in a pub – a pub being where people go to drown their sorrows or soothe/destroy/enhance their feelings.
To abandon the bottles in open spaces still appeals to me as I like the idea that these bottles could be opened – it appeals to a sense of danger – of revelation. The process of the bottle ending up broken is also appealing – as in Donny Miller’s “One day the bottle where I keep all my feelings inside broke” – It makes sense that they do get broken – it’s an idea to play with.