A Proposal by Tom Inglis Hall & Simón Granell
The Poor Mouth, Flan O’Brian
… which describes his early childhood as “a child of the ashes”, meaning he was brought up playing with the dirt of life. Me dad read it to me when I was about 14 and I connected with this deeply. I think it was the fact that we had very little as children that made me have to make everything, and made me envy and hate those who did.
The new school desk
It was a present. A brand new school desk for my sixth birthday. When I opened it, it was full of everything you would need to start school. Six new pencils in a plastic sleeve. An assortment of new rubbers, one of which was flat and round, which I now know to be an ink rubber. A ruler, biros, a small cellotape in an equally small dispenser, two pencil sharpeners, a small paper stapler, a small hole punch, a Helix Oxford Maths Set, a twelve inch ruler and several new lined and unlined pads and workbooks. The desk smelt of varnish. Everything was new and unused. I would purposefully lay out everything I intended to use, almost like setting a dinner table for dinner.
This was a problem. Everything was already perfect, whole. Every time I took out a different selection of materials to work with, the result was the same, complete inactivity. The pattern was deafening. Take some things out and then sit, staring at a blank page and wait for something to happen. I could barely bring myself to doodle on a blank page. It seemed an abuse. The discomfort of sitting in silence on a wooden chair gave way to back ache, tiredness and boredom.
This scenario has rarely changed forty-three years later.
A segment of motorway flyover dominates the space. A pillar and section of roadway create a space beneath that feels like a medieval cathedral. The ground is covered thick in cardboard objects, broken down into rubble. Within the scene, a series of paintings, normally the inhabitants of the white walls of the gallery space are here offering an alternative temporality: mute yet materially insistent.
Waste Ground is an exploration of the future through the dissection of the past. It uses the discursive histories of two artists Tom Hall and Simón Granell as if they were the physical material of production; a favorite childhood book or place remembered, defining the structures of current thinking. These are not worthy and academic references but a mixture of recalled and misremembered sources. Both personal and political, truth and fiction coexist, to be excavated by the viewer. It explores the base relationship between their practice and their friendship through the manufacture, destruction and materialisation of memories and objects from their differing pasts, brought back together through a presentation of waste or residue.
The sense of the space they are proposing is about indeterminacy. Any conventional declaration of an object through the making process is withdrawn, through adjustments in scale or by virtue of it being smashed, broken down and mixed with others, so that it looses its quality of wholeness. The ‘wasteland’ is neither a real space or an abstract one, it is the place in which we can inhabit a hinterland between untrustworthy memory and fixed objects, a place of imminence and possibilities. French philosopher François Jullien suggests this is a space of neutrality that “manifests the potential inherent in the Center.” Where “the real is no longer blocked in partial and too obvious manifestations; the concrete becomes discrete, open to transformation.”1
The two artists are building a collective narrative of broken thoughts and memories, which through this reductive process of waste give their audience the chance to re-contextualize ideas by the artist’s pasts into a new future. Ideas of Marxist fetishization of the object mix with dystopian thoughts of conflict and iconoclasm. These are artists that understand the effects of dislocation, to be resolved but not through idealization, but acceptance of pluralism and ideological diversity.
1 Francois Jullien, In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics (Massachussetts, CA & London: Zone Books, 2004) p.24