A Foundation Liverpool

A Foundation Liverpool
67 Greenland Street
Liverpool, L1 OBY

Sachiko Abe
Cut Papers, 2010

New commission by A Foundation and Liverpool Biennial 2010 for Touched

It would be easy to believe that the gravel pathway you must traverse on your way to the Furnace Room is part of Sachiko Abe’s art installation “Cut Papers”, conveying as it does a sense of pilgrimage or ceremony. The shifting stones slow you down making you aware of each step you take and preparing your mind for the contemplative space you are about you enter. Once through the small doorway you encounter a vast empty chamber and your eyes are instantly drawn to a delicate white structure rising up in the centre of this former industrial space. On closer inspection it becomes evident that this fragile entity is composed of fine filaments of white paper precariously clinging to each other for strength and substance. As the form stretches upwards to the ceiling it narrows until it appears to be hanging by a slender thread. A pathway of this finely shredded paper trails along the concrete floor from the base of this curious object, leading the eye away to the furthest end of the room where it pulls your attention to a live ghostly figure, Japanese artist Sachiko Abe. Precariously perched on a ledge high above our heads and elegantly clothed in a pure white dress Sachiko is meticulously cutting A4 pieces of paper into minute slivers by following the edge of each sheet, turning it clockwise then cutting again and again until she has reduced it into a continuous one millimetre wide thread. The sound of this process is amplified and transmitted live around this immense industrial venue.

There is an obvious fairy-tale perspective to this work, its stillness and strange theatrical performance make it a beautiful yet haunting spectacle which the viewer experiences in reverential silence. Part performance, part installation it is difficult to stop your mind from being captivated by Sachiko’s presence and her undeniably beautiful creation. Unfortunately this means that our attention is diverted away from the obsessive nature of the very act by which the work is produced. It is at this point that we must confess to having seen Sachiko carrying out the same paper cutting exercise before, but in a completely different context and presented in an entirely distinctive manner. This was back in 2004 when she occupied the Concert Hall space of the Bluecoat Arts Centre, Liverpool, but there all similarity ends. At the Bluecoat, Sachiko provided the viewer with a text which partially explained her actions and how she came to spend up to 6 hours a day cutting paper. This included a description of time spent in a mental institution following a breakdown. It was here she discovered that using scissors to cut paper in this meticulous way actually calmed her nerves rather like a form of meditation. When the doctors witnessed the soothing effect of this otherwise potentially dangerous occupation they allowed her to continue. With this story in mind you entered the darkened, intimate space of the concert hall to discover Sachiko acting out her “controlled madness” behind a curtained area at the centre of the room. You could only glimpse her obsessively, though calmly, carrying out her incessant paper cutting through the gaps in the curtains which functioned in the same way as hospital screens. This impression was reinforced by the inclusion of a hospital bed and Sachiko’s garment, a standard hospital gown. The sound of the scissor cutting was again amplified and relayed through speakers placed on the floor around the room but in this more enclosed arena the noise was much more powerful and emphasised the drama of the setting for the piece.

There appears to be a significant shift in our role as a viewer once we are denied the “back story” to Sachiko’s performance. At the A Foundation, with no visitor information other than a press release to explain the work, one cannot help but interpret the piece entirely at face value and via the aesthetically beautiful presentation. In raising Sachiko above our heads we now see her transformed into a celestial being whilst we mere mortals occupy a more lowly status on the ground. She is out of reach and unattainable, a beautiful fairy princess who is unaware of our presence, deep in the contemplation of her futile actions and waiting for release. In the Bluecoat presentation we at least occupied the same space as her and could easily empathise with her tragic story. Her performance at the A Foundation is equally compelling and effective but lends itself to a totally different interpretation.

Below Sachiko Abe is a small house-like structure, an abandoned office complete with doors and windows. The space is entirely white and to a certain extent resembles a modern white cube gallery. Inside are two brightly lit rooms containing small wooden black framed drawings and within a separate room is a continuous drawing on a large roll of Fabriano. It’s a minimal environment where an explosion of concentration and perseverance are expressed with the simplest of materials, pencil on paper. A repeated organic pattern is meticulously drawn over and over again. The intensity of these small works is impressive and mesmerizing, each one devoid of narrative or story telling yet captivating enough to hold the viewer’s attention. The small scale-like cells are multiplied in pencil and display the slightest of application, a rhythm formed due to the regularity of mark making and consistency of pressure. These are as beautiful as patterns found in nature such as sand ripples formed by a receding tide on the beach.

In another enclosure within the Furnace Room is the installation ‘Paper Clouds 1’ which you enter alone and encounter the produce of the Sachiko Abe’s obsessive cutting process. Above, and touching your head and shoulders, are thousands of the fine cut strands. You are given the opportunity to get close and touch this shredded paper which you have witnessed outside.

 

Antti Laitinen
The Bark, 2010

New commission by A Foundation and Liverpool Biennial 2010 for Touched

The new commission, ‘The Bark’ comes in the form of Laitinen building a bark boat in the gallery at Greenland Street. Early on Saturday 25th September 2010 Laitinen sailed his craft on its maiden voyage across the river Mersey. (He sailed an identical bark boat across the Baltic in August 2010). Back at the gallery the boat is now on display, surrounded by construction tools, materials, bark shavings and other paraphernalia of its making as well as a strategically placed clump of seaweed. This installation appears artificially staged, an empty coffee cup left on a work bench making it seem as contrived as a folk museum reconstruction.

We literally enter the world of Antti Laitinen through a philosophy of bark to basics! A room is populated by a series of fake tree trunks clad in Laitinen’s material of choice, bark sourced from the floor of the forest from his native Finland. Made from chicken wire and using plastic ties to hold the sections of bark in place, this mock forest creates a kind of grotto effect which could pass as a plausible theatre set for a school’s retelling of a fairy tale.

Also presented at A Foundation are works from the past ten years, performances such as ‘It’s My Island’, ‘Bare Necessities’ and ‘Untitled’. In all these video works Laitinen appears as a sole player, acting out a Robinson Crusoe-like existence, battling against the elements, man versus nature. He appears quite a comical figure, none more so than in ‘Bare Necessities’ when he performs naked eating small insects and living in a shelter he has made for himself in a hole in the ground. And yet, throughout all these trials he plays the straight man, focused on his survival, serious in intent.

A set of drawings and prints which form ‘Walk the Line’ are evidence of the process which dictated a series of walks undertaken by Laitinen using his portrait overlaid onto maps in conjunction with a recording of the journey on a GPS device.
We find endurance and perseverance are themes which concern the artist and make him question his existence, but this is one man’s journey through the world and time. Laitinen cuts a lone figure and we find it impossible to see him as a spokesperson for all mankind. He is not advocating any political message or promoting any environmental issues but rather revels in his perfect isolation. This reading is reinforced by the very title of the 2007 work ‘It’s My Island’ which excludes our participation. The distinction between art and life is blurred by Laitinen’s self generated challenges and we are merely invited to act as a witness to his ongoing adventures.

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~ by looopart on December 19, 2010.