Flowers from the opening talk

Article entitled 'flowers from the opening talk' - 'Space you can't sit on'

You’ll have to excuse the nasty looking signs that say ‘please don’t place your wine or food on the table’, but I’m a little anxious the watercolours might easily be ruined. You see, the porosity of watercolour paper allows it to absorb pigmented water very easily. While this is a characteristic of most paper, I guess I am more conscious of it here in that these particular sheets of paper have not only absorbed painted on pigment but all the attention I’ve poured into them as well.

I think it is much for this reason I was somewhat surprised when first I stepped back to look at the framed works I’d just hung on the wall. Rather than be drawn into their architectural spaces as I had been for months while making them, I was thrown back into the space of this room by the perspex frames’ dazzling reflections that pictured me looking at them. (1)Much like the Australian artist Ian Burn’s ‘Blue Reflex’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Annoyed, at first, before I remembered I’d actually designed the frames – what surprised me was how I was unexpectedly jettisoned into the gaping hole of ‘intersubjective space’ without recognising it by its co-ordinates. Its coordinates, here, consist of oneself in two places at once: absorbed into the tiny architectural spaces outlined in pigment that our imagination shrinks us to size so we can wonder through the passageways, doors and stairs; while also remaining in the room we physically stand (as reflected by the frames).

It is the space between these opposing positions that I identify as ‘intersubjective space’. Recognition of it happens as one becomes conscious of moving from one position to the other as one ‘transcends’ oneself. This sounds spooky, but there is no ‘unearthly’ transcendence here as in being beamed up to heaven, but the earthly everyday sort that happens whenever one converses with another and bridges, through reasoning, the distance between us. (2)I’m not the first to create space this way — between opposites — in art. The first, for me, was the minimalist artist Donald Judd – though I am not so sure he would go so far as to call it intersubjective space. After a long study, though, of his art, I realised it is the recognition of intersubjective space that allows one to see his art, a recognition that allowed him to see Lee Bontecou’s art and acknowledge it as a leader of the new art in the 60s in New York.

The difficulty with intersubjective space as an art medium is that it is invisible. This raises the question of how to make space a visible rather than an invisible thing. A thing, an object, has limits. Space, on the other hand, is extension without limits that contains objects with limits. Yet this is not the type of space we’re speaking about here, since a ‘created space’  has limits. The question, then, is one of recognising these limits, of recognising the shape of intersubjective space.

If one makes a cake, for instance, it is easy to recognise the cake as a whole ‘thing’ separate to its surroundings. Yet if furniture — chairs, let’s say — were also made of cake, how might we differentiate between the cake we eat and the cake we sit on? While admittedly you can’t sit on the space I make, I nevertheless endeavour to make space a ‘thing’ identifiably separate to its surroundings. This is intersubjective space, a type of space we sometimes find ourselves jettisoned into as though a gaping black hole of dire misunderstanding. At other times, though, if we find its co-ordinates, we might also see it as something humbly majestic and beautiful – no matter the plight we are in.

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