Incremental Maintenance | Tasha Finn
Brooke Ferguson’s Incremental Maintenance forms part of an ongoing series of performance-based works which explore Duchamp’s concept of infra mince. Ferguson recontextualises the remains, in this instance dust, from sites of art making activity as an avenue for considering Brisbane’s Artist-Run Initiatives (ARIs) in the context of broader artistic dialogues.
Duchamp’s notion of infra mince refers to a process of transition which leaves a vestige of presence but does not necessarily leave a physical imprint on its subject. Duchamp’s notion evolved out of an earlier interest in Bergson’s philosophy of la durée, which explored the psychological time of lived experience as opposed to the scientific notion of measurable time.1 Duchamp’s seminal painting Passage from Virgin to Bride (1912) hints at the evolution of the artist’s interest in movement as a conceptual transformation. Infra mince came to stand for a state of instability, as a condition of being in-between two opposites. The concept also came to embody the state of potentiality, as a moment in time before substance becomes form.
When Ferguson transfers dust from one space to another, she is therefore decontextualising a state of infra mince, in this form a material which stands for the state of bodily presence yet at the same time absence. Ferguson’s choice to vacuum the spaces of three Brisbane-based Artist-Run Initiatives— Accidentally Annie Street Space, inbetweenspaces and LEVEL—allegorically positions these spaces within the context of the broader global art market. These spaces are the sites of both expression and
reception, and provide opportunities at a local level to reflect upon broader trends in international contemporary art. They provide spaces for critical dialogue within the arts and yet they are essentially invisible to the global art market. The qualities of infra mince are inherent in these initiatives, as they are positioned in an intermediary space of artistic dialogue.
Ferguson’s research into drawing as a process-led practice is reflected in her choice of dust as the medium of the installation. Unstable and seemingly intangible, the dust gathered from the local ARIs is heaped into three piles on the floor, devoid of plinths or contextual media, and exposed under stark lighting. As the viewer is confronted with the banality of the dust, one is reminded of John Cage’s 4’33 composition, a time-based performance in which no intentional sounds are made. The stillness of Cage’s composition induces the audience to become innately more aware of their surroundings, transforming time to a sensory-based experience.2 The bareness of Ferguson’s installation impels the viewer to become more aware of their bodily position within the space, and further, prompts the viewer to question their own role in the art- making process. Like drawing, Ferguson views her installation practice as a progressive experience. The use of dust not only references Duchamp’s idea of infra mince but draws upon the act of art-making as a mutable process.
Ferguson’s practice as process-led is manifested in her documentation of the project. Ferguson photographed each ARI she vacuumed, imparting a
a sense of the space into each image. The domesticity of Accidentally Annie Street Space is rendered through the inclusion of household objects, while the industrial feel of LEVEL is imparted through a vacant composition in which the vacuum stands as though autonomous. Ferguson’s play on the art- making process is most evident in this image in which the vacuum, carefully poised and central to the composition, is rendered as sculpture-like. Ferguson is suggesting in this image that the processes of art- making are indelible to its outcome as an art object. As a process-led work, Incremental Maintenance is ongoing, “leaving it open to multiple readings and new possibilities I hadn’t initially considered.” 3 The process of Ferguson’s work, therefore, is inverted to the status of the art object.
The positioning of the Artist-Run Initiative in relation to the global art market is reflected through Ferguson’s concept of process-as-object. The ARIs are presented in the form of dust as a hinge between presence/absence, material/substance and process/object. These spaces leave a trace on broader artistic dialogues as sites of potentiality, yet they are seemingly invisible. Like dust, they signal transformation, process and mutability.
by Tasha Finn
1. Ades, Dawn, Neil Cox and David Hopkins. Marcel Duchamp. London: Thames and Hudson, 1999. p. 57.
2. Robinson, Julia. “From Abstraction to Model: George Brecht’s Events and the Conceptual Turn in art of the 1960s.” October. 127 (2009): 77-108. p. 80.
3. Interview with the artist 7.5.11.
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