What I know is…
Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
There’s an exciting exhibition at the Glasgow International Visual Art Festival this year, run by Shelton Walker, Carla Easton and Marlena Morris, named ‘What I Know Is’ (or The WIKI Project). The concept is brilliant (in my opinion) simply because not only do these three great artists create work of their own for the exhibition, but they all create work based on each others’ work. Follow me? No? Let me explain…
The WIKI Project is a 3 part project which centres around the ideas of Parody, Pastiche and Appropriation. Two of the three events have been done already, but the final event is on exhibition now at The Art Club (Bath Street). The exhibition goes like this:
Each artist created an entirely new work, which they presented at the first exhibition in February, all the while keeping their work shielded from each other.
Still following? Good.
The artists then drew straws to determine who they would share their piece with. So for instance, Shelton created a piece and only showed it to Marlena who then made a piece of art influenced by Shelton’s work.
In the meantime, Shelton was shown Carla’s work, and then was off to create a piece based on that, while Carla was shown Marlena’s work.
So, the second piece (again kept shielded from the others) was a remix of the original.
The final part involved more Musical Chairs, where each artist was then shown only the remixed piece and then created something from that remix.
The result is a triptych: one original, a remix of the original, and then a remix of the remix.
Here’s how it looks in a chart (I’m bad at charts so bear with me):
Original Shelton Carla Marlena
Remixed Marlena Shelton Carla
Remix of remix Carla Marlena Shelton
So, I had the benefit of sitting down with Shelton and discussing the project which, I have to admit, is absolutely fascinating to me. The ideas of copyright and inspiration are the underlying themes to the exhibition, and recently with the threat of stricter copyrighting laws, Shelton, Carla and Marlena are challenging the idea of true originality.
If you think back through history, this ‘ideas-influencing-ideas’ has been around since creation. Artists were always influencing each other; musicians took what others had done and built on it. Just like classical music gave way to the Romantic Era which gave way to Modern, then down the line it was folk, then jazz, then bebop, rock and roll…you see where I’m going with this. While the first influenced the next, society in each turn was both the influencer and the influenced. It’s progressive.
‘I think it will offer people something different than what you get at most exhibitions,’ explains Shelton. ‘It’s artists that are both simultaneously conforming to predetermined structure, but also subverting that.’
‘It makes plain to the audience what artists are doing all the time anyway, which is borrowing, ripping off, stealing and referencing other works by other artists, but that maybe aren’t always necessarily revealed to you as the audience. This is that part of the process exposed.’
So, I just gotta ask: Is it a compliment if someone rips off your work?
There is no hesitation: ‘Definitely. I think it’s one of the biggest compliments you can have.’ She goes on to explain that it can be simultaneously infuriating, but that the process is important. ‘To limit those possibilities would really, I feel, be the death of one of the things that the art world relies on most; that artists rely on most. I never want to see that compromised or jeopardized.’
The idea is brilliance; showing the process of artists borrowing and allowing themselves to be influenced by each other right before our very eyes. It happens all the time in art, but we may not realize that it’s happened. Shelton, Carla and Marlena have drawn back the curtain to let us see how art moves and transforms and progresses just through inspiration and parody.
Check out The Wiki Project down at The Art Club on Bath Street. The triptychs will be on exhibition until May 1.