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elcome to my website. In it you will find a variety of my documented works, dating from June 2000 to the last months of 2010. During this time my involvement with the problem of art-making came increasingly to focus upon what is often referred to as `art in public space.´

 

In the autumn of 2011, however, with the sudden and quite unexpected news of my impending fatherhood, and with a mounting sense that things could not continue as they had, I decided to abandon this form of art-making. This has been a time of much change in my life, and whilst coming to terms with my new roles as a part-time job-holder and part-time stay-at-home father, I have reconfigured my approach to making art.

 

Nowadays I dedicate the time I have to the development of a single, long-term artwork. Loosely described, this artwork can be seen as a type of `picture book´. It is large in both format and page-number, and at present consists of four variously developed `chapters.´ Each of these chapters begin with a theme related to New Zealand - my country of birth - using drawing and photography, as well as sculpture, collage, and text to provide viewers with both visual and narrative detail.

 

Though it is true that I have abandoned making artwork for exhibit in `public space´, a number of elements from the artworks you can see on this website have made their way into my current working method. These include an interest in the visual presentation of social histories, in exploring the possible interface between image and actuality, and in the question of how art may elucidate upon the particularities of a place and a time. All of these things, it seems to me, continue to both plague and propel my approach to visual art.

 

At present I am preparing for the first exhibition of my current work at the "Room Gallery" in Brooklyn, New York, and I look forward to putting some documentation of this and other parts of my current artwork onto this website, once the work is ready and has found an appropriate exhibition space.

 

Thank you for your interest

 

M.Baskett

 

30. April, 2017

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: In the fall of 2011, when I first began to develop this website, I wrote-out and included a relatively in-depth, if not somewhat insistent account of what was then my working method. If you wish to read this, please click on the APPROACH TO WORK... tab below. . If you wish to read an outline of my educational background and involvement with art-institutional frameworks, please click here.

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or ease of use, the following text have been broken down into a series of short subsections. They can be read through from section 1–7, or, if you wish, you can refer directly to any of the section headings below and go directly to the subject area of interest.

 

 

If you wish to view a printable pdf file of the following text click here .This version of the text offers a good option for onscreen reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

section 1 title

This website provides a database of imagery and text related to things (with things in this instance being best defined as `material objects without life or consciousness´) - and these things have been produced with an interest that they may function as a form of visual communication to others. It is then perhaps best to begin here by providing a few background details regarding the overall scope and physical make-up of these things.

 

The materiality of the artworks documented in this website can be divided into four general categories - and these categories run as follows: (1.) the production of three dimensional objects - (2.) the production of imagery (primarily through drawing and photography) - (3.) the use of text - and, to a somewhat lesser degree - (4.) the presence of human bodies in the presentation of the artwork. Within each of these categories there has to date been no establishment of a favoured material. Rather, a wide variety of materials have been taken up and used, and each time a material has been used, it has been selected in the interest that it may first of all `find a voice´ from within the general category in which it has been used (the category “drawing”, for example) and secondly - that the use of a material may in some way `give a voice´ to a subject or thematic that exists outside of these general categories but that is nonetheless specific to the artwork.

 

The use of materials in the production of artworks has also been deeply informed by periods of exposure to, and training within institutional settings. And it would seem that this exposure to visual art as a field of practice has brought with it much in the way of both assistance and dilemma. Visiting exhibitions, looking at artworks, undertaking courses of study, and reading has both strengthened and conditioned my artistic practice. Yet this very process has had as its constant companion a dogged and on-going desire to transcend predefined modes of visual expressivity. In terms of art and visual communication – this is perhaps the conundrum that one can find oneself within when looking to establish a way to `speak´ to another that is at once audible and singular. At the level of material-usage, what this has resulted in is an on-going mix of experimentalism and traditionalism within my approach to the problem of producing art. Genres with long established histories, such as portraiture for example, have been turned to and returned to in a number of different works. Yet the manner of presenting portraits has generally been far less than conventional, with many images of faces appearing as elements not within a standard frame, but within a sculptural object, and that sculptural object has in turn been exhibited outside of the gallery setting.

 

To end this first section, I would like to briefly address the use of materials in relation to notions of value. From a monetary perspective it can certainly be noted that the materials presented in this website are, for the most part, distinctly uncommercial. I am not trying to sell you something. Nonetheless, an overriding theme that does pervade the artworks documented within this site is a type of on-going inquiry into the value of things. With respect to the artwork´s materiality, this thematic is approached from a twofold and perhaps also somewhat paradoxical perspective. On the one hand, it can be seen that almost all the artworks have been produced using low-cost, or what is sometimes referred to as `poor materials´. However, the low value of these materials often sits in stark contrast to the rather sizeable investment of care that has been taken in both shaping and transforming the initial properties of these materials. Crafting-skill and time-spent is evidenced across the surfaces of almost all of the artworks. In all, this type of attention to materials can be seen as a type of search for a grounding-point; a basis from which a formal visual language for a prospective art object may be established. It is a language constructed not primarily of words but of things: an array of materials moulded and marked that seek to function as a form of visual communication to others.

 

 

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section 2 title

As you may have already discovered in looking through the various files available in this website, the majority of artworks presented here have existed outside. And indeed, for the past 10 years this approach to art-making has been evolving into an activity that focuses heavily, yet not exclusively, on the production of temporary artworks for exhibit in public space.


At the level of ideality, this drive to produce art for the broader public realm can be described as a form of engagement with visual art that does not rely upon the viewer entering into an art-dedicated space such as a gallery or a museum. Existing outside of an official `art-context´, this is then an engagement with visual art that is conceived of as a type of `encounter´ embedded within flat, day-to-day living. As such, the viewership of these temporary, public artworks is closely bound to chance and to potentiality; an experience to be ignored, avoided, or entered into by an individual within their day-to-day traversal of the public domain. It also follows that the primary audience for these temporary public artworks is not the gallery- or museum-visitor, but the passer-by in the public sphere.

 

At a somewhat more pragmatic level, it can also be said that this interest in public art is, to some extent at least, a response to being a professionalised practitioner without profession. (Here I am certainly not alone. Given the radical lack of access to participation in forms of paid work and public representation in the contemporary visual arts field, this is the position that almost all visual arts graduates occupy today.) Here the practice of art in public space offers the opportunity to be involved in a communicative process with a broad cross-section of people when one does not have access to the larger viewing publics of centralised art-institutions such as state museums, corporate collections, and the like.

 

Whether ideally or practically orientated, the artworks made for viewing in public space have sought to function far less as the public presentation of a message-to-be-read, and far more as a type of open invitation-to-look-further. With each of the works produced for the public realm, an attempt has been made to first capture a viewer´s interest with the overall visual form of the artwork, and then provide those who wish to look more closely with enough content internal to the work so that they can - when they wish - dig further into that which they have encountered. This website has also been created with this approach in mind – this time presented in the form of a publicly accessible digital archive for curios parties.

 

 

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section 3 title

Another characteristic that can be seen in the artworks that have been exhibited over the last decade is an increasing interest in focusing closely upon the context in which the work is produced and shown. In this section, three points regarding the particularities of this approach to site-specific visual art will be addressed.

 

First of all, this approach to site-specific art-making has involved simply going to a place and digging for stories and subjects. The best results at this stage have often been achieved with the generous aid of members from subgroups who are already working in the place in which this initial investigation has been started. With the aid of those who have specialist knowledge of a subject, a time, or an event - a mass of visual and textual material is then gathered. Following this, the task of producing artwork begins - and this very process is used as a type of primary tool for working through the material that has been gathered. This is an important point, for though I am not interested in using the production of visual art to assume an expert position on a subject or theme, I am interested in using this process to undertake two key tasks. Firstly, this process seeks to utilise art making as a means to generate an attention to detail in relation to the subject at hand. Secondly, an attempt is made in this process to `make-visual´ a desire for generating some sense of conceptual clarification in relation to the subject under investigation.

 

What this process of looking into the specificities of a site does not propose to do, however, is endorse the preconception that visual art is capable of unearthing “core human truths” – or worse still – that visual artists can reveal that which cannot be seen by others. What is looked for here is a form of focus on a local place that has at as a central concern a movement away from an art that claims to uncover universalist truths. And it would seem that up until now the results of this approach have produced a working methodology that is more in keeping with an attempt to examine by visual means that which may be considered to hold as being generally true within the context of a local place. This is the second point that I wish to outline with regards to my approach to site-specific visual art. Characteristic to this approach is a pendulous movement between ideas of the universal and the particular, where the specific efficiency of a claim held to be both general and true can be tested against the example of a particular, real-existing context. Regarding art and the possibility of its relation to notions of truth - this has to a good extent aligned my approach to the problem of artmaking with another fairly wide-spread conception of visual art - namely: art as a form of ideology-critique.

 

To end this section, I would like to add one more factor that I feel plays a central role in my approach to site specific art – and that is the theme of fantasy.  Fantasy is a thematic that runs through much of my artwork, and although it may first seem to be a topic that sits at odds with the particularities of local places and site-specific events, I would claim that the use of this thematic can bring much to the investigation of the specificities of a site. For example, relating ideas of fantasy to the investigation of a place has to date been of much use in helping to expel fantasy from the artwork. Of critical importance here is the shift away from simply using a place as a type of screen, upon which one can project their own internal thoughts and ideas. What is instead looked at here is phenomena that exists outside of oneself - primary to which are of course subjects and events that effect broader groups of  people and have a socially-specific and historically-grounded reality. That said, when looking to find potential meanings in a particular subject or theme that is itself grounded in a particular time and place - this process does not simply involve dividing the subject or theme into categories of what can be considered as either true or false, as real or irreal. Quite the contrary. This has to date been a working process that has sought to prize out the possible phantasmatic visions that may be both present and relevant to a given site. What is at stake here then is not the denunciation of the role of fantasy within a given location. Far more, the use of fantasy in this sense signals an attempt to create an environment within the artwork that may invite viewers to consider the potential that phantasms can have, in their very irreality, on the act of forming, if not an `understanding of´, then certainly `a rhetorical attitude to´ a given place in a given point in time.

 

 

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section 4 title

In addition to drawing information from specific places, the employment of artwork-relevant concepts and theoretical concerns are highly valued in the development of artworks. This can be described as a somewhat academicised (or, if you´d rather – conceptually-oriented) approach to the problem of visual art production. It is also an approach that nonetheless primarily produces things rather than series of references to prevailing critical discussions, and it is an approach that has, by the simple virtue of its general absence from art-institutional settings, a primary audience that is made up of non-art-specialists. This way of approaching the problem of producing visual art is then to a good extent theoretically orientated – and yet it can also be said that these things that seek to occupy the position of visual art do not in turn seek to outline the working process of a theoretician. The following two paragraphs touch upon this rather tangled use of conceptual content - first within the context of the artworks - and then within the website.

 

Broadly speaking, conceptual content and theoretical concerns are considered to be of primary assistance in helping create a type of `lens´ in the production of artworks – a `lens´, that is, through which an approach to a subject or thematic can be brought into focus.  In keeping with this notion, the use of specific concepts is seen to provide a type of frame for the artwork – both at the level of the work´s production and in its reception. What is also important to note here is that this approach, as it is employed in the attempts to produce art, does not in turn attempt to crystallise or exemplify a single concept. Concepts are never approached in the singular, and it is also not my interest to simply illustrate pre-defined concepts by visual means. Rather, accumulations of conceptual interests are gathered and then deployed in a manner that aims, in some small measure, to honour the complex field within which the artwork´s thematic seeks to insert itself.

 

I would like to end this section with an admission. A decision was made fairly early on in the documentation of the artwork for this website not to include direct references to authors and conceptual frameworks. This decision was made with the belief that too strong a focus on one of the tools used in the creation of the artworks could result in the tool itself becoming the primary object of interest in the artworks´ reception. Rather than helping to draw attention to the subject at hand – it was feared that this type of foregrounding of conceptual frameworks could result in diminishing the subject or thematic that sought to be present within the artwork itself - like a crutch that comes to assume more meaning than that which it props up - or the undue fascination for a plaster that covers a wound.

 

 

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section 5 title

The themes looked at in the artworks documented in this website differ greatly in both subject and approach. Nonetheless, one aspect that can be seen to link these works together is an increasing focus on trying to have the artwork tell a story. This becomes all the more apparent when one begins looking through the texts that accompany the artworks documented in this site.  Many of these texts are - by comparison to many other artist´s presentations of their works - very lengthy. Unapologetically so. For many, this may well be an unbearable imposition upon their desire to quickly `get the message´ of an artwork. Yet this is also representative of an approach to the problem of art making that is struggling to overcome a certain conception of visual art - wherein artworks are considered to function as catalysts for the conveyance a general sense of things. As I see it, the task here is to establish an on-going working process that strives to move beyond an understanding of visual art that seeks to draw a focus upon a type of general, (generally) unnameable emotional state. To do this, what is looked to instead is the possibility of a form of visual art that may function as a type of unfolding narrative. At its core, this approach can be characterised by both temporality and processuality; an on-going and time-contingent series of movements presented in the form of objects, images, text-fragments, and performative actions.

 

This interest in pursuing an unfolding narrative within the context of the artwork functions as a shifting, two-fold operation that basically flips between ideas of reality and artifice. The following remarks will look to outline what this operation constitutes. To begin with then, a few comments regarding the function of an unfolding narrative in relation to ideas of reality. As discussed in section 3 of this introduction, my artworks do seek to involve themselves in real-existing phenomena that bear direct relations to the sites in which the works are shown. This should serve to indicate to viewers of the artwork that what they are looking at has some bearing to a reality that both they and the art object are at that moment inhabiting. What should also be made clear, however, is that the artwork is in no way equivalent to its subject or theme; for it is at best a facsimile thereof. What this in turn should do is help to locate an understanding of the work for what it actually is - an act of artifice - or to put it somewhat more technically - a derivative, historically determined construction that seeks to capture in object form some aspect of the complex and shifting social reality that surrounds it. By this time we have already entered into the second point in the operation of the artwork´s unfolding narrative - namely - the world of artifice, and the fictional object that (the artwork) that carries along that artifice. The very speed of this shift - from ideas of reality into that of the artificial  - can also help to more clearly outline what the use of the unfolding narrative is trying to achieve within the artwork´s overall make-up. Basically, what the art object seeks to do here is exist as a thing that is at once involved in and cut off from the environment that it inhabits. It is in fact precisely at this juncture that the unfolding narrative of the artwork seeks to perform its operation. As a strategy for exposing the contents of the artwork - this process is then one of constant oscillation, simultaneously making reference to the real-existing phenomena that surround the work and inviting the viewer to accept the artwork as a thing that exists through the very virtue of its artificiality, by its very lack of relation to the world that surrounds it. If this operation is in fact able to establish itself within the presentation of an art object, what can result is an artwork that may best be defined by its very undecidability: where the stories associated both with the place and the artwork become entangled a world of artificiality and reality - where narratives of assumed truth and value that are related to that which has occurred in a particular place seem difficult to separate from the presence of strange and seemingly unreal.

 

 

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section 6 title

Three projects are currently being worked on. They are as follows:

 

- The further development of a body of work started in 2010 that has as its theme one of the world´s rarest, and for that matter, newest species of leporid: the Enderby Island Rabbit. Among other things, this artwork seeks to work through visual material related to the rabbits that encompasses themes as diverse as biological evolution, anthropomorphism, and the ability to visually document for a human viewing-audience non-human acts of expressivity. To date, involvement in this thematic has resulted in two exhibits. For further information please click here.

 

- An artwork is also currently being developed that looks at ideas of fantasy in relation to the visual representation of unlimited power of the one over another. This work is part of an on-going series of that work under the title of “Phantasie Kunst in Errinerung an die Größten der eingeführten Phantasien” (Fantasy Art in Memory of the Luminaries of Imported Fantasy). At present it is intended that this artwork will be exhibited in the public space of the city of Zürich. For information about an artwork within this series that has already been exhibited, please click here.

 

- Finally, an on-going series of artworks that look has as its theme a psychiatric clinic that existed in a town neighbouring my home town of Dunedin, New Zealand are being further developed, and the search for a suitable partner for this artwork´s exhibit is currently being pursued.

 

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section 7 title

I hope that this account of some of the connections, contradictions, and on-going problems that both plague and propel my approach to visual arts production has been of interest to you. I also hope that you enjoy looking through this website. If you wish, please feel free to contact me with feedback, inquiries, etc.

 

 

Email: contact@mbaskett.ch

 

 

M.Baskett – 30/07/11