OPENING REMARKS AT IRENE BRIANT'S COLLECTED PIECES, BETT GALLERY, HOBART, 19 APRIL 2013
A series of moments:
In Fullers Bookshop, the Hobart one, the day before I am to meet Irene Briant and view the work in progress for this exhibition;
Bookshelves - books shelved under 'Art', 'Architecture', 'Design'. I notice a number of books dealing with objects, collecting, finding, assembling - clearly a trend, perhaps 'post-archive;;
I pick up Orhan Pamuk's The innocence of objects. As an object it is, itself, beautiful. But I must resist the purchase ... it is impossible to own every book with'object' (noun, singular or plural) in the title.
I leave the shop.
Irene's dining room, the next day. We speculate, somewhat ruefully, on keep ahead, rather than simply abreast, of trends such as 'objects'. I mention Pamuk's book.
In the short essay I have written to accompany this exhibition I start with the next 'moment'Bett Gallery
Irene produces, not a rabbit from a hat but within the same applomb, a copy of Pamuk's The innocence of objects, and puts it on the table.
With that gesture, when I look at these works, these Collected pieces, I can now only do so through some reference to Pamuk's earlier, related, novel, The Museum of Innocence. [I may need to explain here that Orhan Pamuk has created, in Istanbul, the Museum of Innocence, which makes material the narrative of a novel of the same name, which tells of the collecting of pieces for this museum, those which are catalogued in a second book, The innocence of objects. This complexity of dealing with the parallel realms of the museum and its external realities, the fictions that can be established in the assembling of objects from everyday life is something I find often here, in these collected pieces]
Each object, each assemblage, is a series of moments. What I want to do now is present a few extracts from Pamuk's novel (short extracts, given the book is over 700 pages!). What I require [from the listener/reader] is that you consider Pamuk's words in their relationship to Irene Briant's own beautiful narratives.
So, to begin again, another series of moments:
My life has taught me that remembering Time -- that line connecting all the moments that Aristotle called the present -- is for most of us a rather painful business. When we try to conjure up the line connecting these moments ... the line connecting all the objects that carry those moments inside them, we are forced to remember that the line comes to an end, and to contemplate death. As we get older and come to the painful realisation that this line per se has no real meaning -- a snese that comes to us cumulatively in intimations we struggle to ignore -- we are brought to sorrow. But sometimes these moments we call the"present" can bring us enough happiness to last a century. (Pamuk, p.397)
In the light of the moon, each and every thing tucked into the shadows, as if part of the empty space, seemed to point to an indivisible moment, akin to Aristotle's indivisible atoms. I realised then that just as the line joining together Aristotle's moments was Time, so, too the line joining together these objects would be a storyu. In other words, a writer might undertake to write the catalog in the same form he might write a novel. (Pamuk pp.704-5)
After all, isn't the purpose of a novel, or a museum, for that matter, to relate our memories with such sincerityas to transform individual happiness into a happiness all can share? (Pamuk p.463)
It is difficult not to reduce this consideration of objects into textual moments or aphorisms: thus eah element must be taken in, with care. Pamuk again:
The past is preserved within objects as souls are kept in their earthen bodies, and in that awareness I found a consolding beauty that bound me to life. (Pamuk p.686)
The power of things inheres in the memories they gather up inside them, and also in the vicissitudes of our imagination, and our memory ... (Pamuk p.445)
And just when you are lulled into the pre-transcendent warmth of museumification, you get this:
Everything that was expressed, everything that was to be understood, though, was deeply rooted in an ambiguity we found entrancing. (Pamuk p.477)
All of a sudden, it's obsessive, addictive, perhaps (given the content of the novel) sexually intriguing. And then an expression almost melancholic:
I realised that the longing for art, like the longing for love, is a malady that blinds us, and makes us forget the things we already know, obscuring reality. (Pamuk p.415)
A little moment of self-indulgence, perhaps: Pamuk - or his protagonist, Kemal- are capable of that.
I think again about the place of the artist for How do we move from the individual object to the collection as a totality? Indeed, Pamuk requests that:
All the objects in my museum -- and with them, my entire story -- can be seen a the same time from any perspective, [so] visitors will lose all sense of Time. This is the greatest consolation in life. In poetically well-built museums, formed from the heart's compulsions, we are consoled not by finding in them old objects that we love, but by losing all sense of Time. (Pamuk pp.712-13)
A final moment, the conclusion of these words, and of the catalog essay:
'Irene Briant's Collected pieces is about objects rather than illusions. Each moment is caught in an arrangement that obeys a temporal rule, where a concern for placement precedes an intuitive sequencing of each narrative. Like time, each piece has its own texture, dimensions, extraordinariness .. and we want to hold it in our hands.'