There is a stencil on the inside of one of the cubicle doors in the mens toilets here at Trocadero and its of Jon Campbells ‘yeah’ from his yeah flag artwork. Beside it in black texta is the query: ‘did Jon Campbell do this? It’s probably a safe bet that it wasn’t Jon, but the question is interesting. Is it still Jons work even though it’s a copy and the creative act (stencilling) of its making has been carried out by someone else? No one is going to think that a 14 year is the CEO of Nike because he shows brand loyalty or admiration by drawing the infamous swoosh tick on his schoolbooks; we all know it belongs to Nike. Similarly Jons yeah flag has also been commercially mass produced as tea towels, and we wouldn’t say that they are a work of art as products compared to the original flag, but where do they sit compared to the stencil by an anonymous vandal who is extending and promoting, in a sense, Jons brand?
I see far more images of artworks than actual artworks. Needing to have images OF images is oddly weird and slightly perverse, no? Whilst we probably know and have seen most artists work in this manner, through various digital mediums and platforms (facebook, personal websites, online portfolios, Instagram, artstack) we as an arts community still revere notions of ownership, despite any image online being a free-for-all, and still believe in the value of an original image, the first image. I wonder why this is so when so much of what we do within our practices (as artists and curators) is the opposite.
An example of the importance of these images of art work being valued more than the work itself was ascertained when I asked some artists involved in the exhibition that in the unlikely and hypothetical situation in which they were faced with a choosing whether an artwork was blinked out of existence, or the only documentation and images ever of said artwork, which would they choose? Most (but one) choose the documentation.
For this exhibition, No Werk, titled as because there is technically no actually artwork within it. I sought out in this way to be curatorially selfish, and ask artists to surrender images of their work to be displayed in any way I saw fit. I asked specifically for it to be posted, a kind of joking-gesture that mirrors the online process of ‘posting’ images online (I am a goof) and as a clumsily obvious act, would mean the images were literally out of the artists hands, (as they would be online also) and out of their control. I was surprised by the willingness, openness and trust of artists. Only one artist who I approached expressed apprehension and declined, and ironically, their work specifically engages with concepts regarding image ownership, appropriation and the internet.
These images in No Werk were never supposed to exist; they are like zombies, replicants, ghosts of artworks, not artworks themselves. Given the curious nature of how these images should exist in the space, beyond the screen, IRL, from a number of curators and received this (paraphrased) feedback:
“They (the images) are meant to be intangible, digital. They shouldn’t be on a wall as they aren’t actual art. You really shouldn’t put too much care or effort in, there should be an obvious laissez-faire to the approach, and that is because these images are second rate in a sense compared to the real thing, or are they just as important? Don’t manicure it (the exhibition)”
I hadn’t considered these images as “second rate” until now, and in a sense they are. They are the work horses of artistic practices. They represent the actual artwork on the digital frontier because the rules of time and space do not allow an artwork to be everywhere at any time for any person on the planet. These images are also provisional. The images themselves, the install, the curation and in some instances, their submission, was highly provisional, and yet these images that surround actual work, in most cases, do the actual work. They are the 99%.
NO WERK features the images of work (sourced from the artists with permission) by: Kate Tucker, John Neeson, A Constructed World (Geoff Lowe and Jacqueline Riva), Peter Atkins, Yvette Coppersmith, Jordan Marani, Louise Zhang, Nicholas Ives, Nabilah Nordin, Kent Wilson, Joanna Anderson, Michael Prior, Lucy James, Bill Noonan, Louise Blyton, Terrence Combos, Lila Afiouni, Tim Andrew, Lois Hopwood, Andy Best, Rachel Schenberg, Joseph Frederick Flynn, Yeok, Justin Hinder, Marian Tubbs, Natasha Frisch, Tai Snaith, Leana Kimn, Anna Hoyle, Kate Carey Peters, Emma Coulter and Adrian Stojkovich
and features the images of work (sourced from the internet without permission) by: Richard Prince, Sean Bailey, Matthew Collings, Tom Polo, Joseph Mallord William Turner, Ivor Lovheim, Claudia Dance-Wells and Josef Zachary Shanley Jackson, Ciarrai MacCormac, Jessica Simorte, Antonio del Pollaiolo, Grant Nimmo, and Stanley Kubrick.
Image by Leana Kim