Monday, April 25, 2005

INtroDUCTION Exhibition (archival)

Elspeth Duncan
First solo interactive multimedia exhibition
(October 2001)
Below are excerpts of writing from the exhibition brochure (i.e. my explanation of my work at the time to the audience that would come over the period of the exhibition), along with some images, newspaper articles and patrons' comments from the exhibition ... to give at least an overview of the experience. The entire exhibition was interactive.
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The Upper Room Gallery, Mt. St. Benedict, where the exhibition was held
I enjoy the process of bringing the intangible (feelings, thoughts, concepts, Spirit) into a physical form. Using writing, music and visual art as my basic tools of communication, I experience this Creative process as fluid expression ... an instinctive, multilevel dialogue between Self & Other.
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Lamp ("I AM") made from window of old house. Writing on window pane is of journalistic account of personal emotions at the time.
My canvasses are generally non-traditional (e.g. old windows, doors, pieces of wood, empty boxes and other random paraphernalia). The finding of an object is as much a part of the final piece as is the process. I am inspired by the concept that each "canvas" has a story of its own that is waiting to be picked up and translated into a visual/physical sphere.
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Finger labyrinth made of clay invites participants to experience the ancient adage: BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD
My work this far has been largely interactive, conceptual and functional, inspired by the exploration of inner-outer world reflections. As my inner and outer environments are constantly changing, so will my work and my media.
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PUNCTUATE YOURSELF. Depending on how you punctuate this piece it can have many different meanings ... The idea being that different people interpret it/themselves in different ways.
INtroDUCTION is my first solo exhibhition. I feel that I am suddenly a baby, learning to walk and talk, and that the pieces that make this whole exhibition are young expressions of themes and media that I will explore and develop over time.
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Writing out the final stages of my process of creation on large pieces of paper became a part of the overall exhibit - like large pages of a diary. I also left a blank "diary" page on one wall of the gallery for patrons to write their own experiences of the process.
Thank you for coming. I hope you enjoy.
1. People chose random words from a bag and filled out the missing parts of the story, resulting in hundreds of different versions of the same story. The idea behind this was that "Once upon a time everything was a strange combination before we got used to it". Hence, no matter how odd the words are that end up in the blank spaces, they still make sense when you really look at it.
2. SHOPPING FOR THE INTANGIBLE: These symbolic bags were filled with objects that were designed to guide or inspire the recipient to experience the word on the front of the bag: PEACE, TRUTH, etc.
3. WALK THE PATH: another interactive piece. The idea is to walk around the stones, each of which has something written on it, to lead you on a journey which takes you deeper into yourself. The path opens with (Stone 1) YOU ARE IN A SACRED PLACE ... (Stone 2) YOURSELF ... and continues until you are just left with YOU ...
4. The Wishing Portal: another interactive piece. This piece, made from the large door of the old law school contains a mail box into which hundreds of patraons passing through the exhibition, placed their wishes, written on brown pieces of paper. On the final night of the exhibit, these wishes were burnt in an outdoor gathering at sunset - the intention being that the smoke rising upwards would carry the wishes up to the sky like prayers to be answered. Also the fire below (burning the wishes) was mirrored by the fire above (the sunset)
5. FAITH IN BEAUTY: this piece is a tiled poem which leads viewers around one corner to the next to find a display of wire flowers that were created within the plot of the poem.
(The tiled Poem):
There is a man with a bike
who picks flowers from my garden every Sunday.
He ties them into a bunch with rope
and has enough faith in their beauty to twist metal.
He never sees me as I watch from my tiled kitchen.
He never hears me
as our thoughts meet at the junction.
TEXT from one of the newspaper articles:
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Guardian Features
Tuesday October 23rd, 2001

Story and photos by Attilah Springer

“I don’t see it as art. It’s more like playing,” 35-year old multimedia artist Elspeth Duncan says of the pieces in her first solo exhibition, INtroDUCTION.

She’s been having a lot of fun playing around with concepts of religion, spirituality, love, war and politics, leading you on a path to your own conclusions, ever since giving up her day-job as a freelancer in the local advertising industry.

“ I wanted to do my own thing. And now I’ve proved to myself that I could do something I enjoy and be able to pay bills, put food on my table, live.”

It’s not an easy choice for anybody, artist or otherwise, to make.

But as far as Duncan is concerned, it certainly beats having your creativity stifled in a job where your employers’ vision isn’t exactly yours.

Duncan has taken up full time, the job of artist she has done part time for years.

Observers of the contemporary art scene will remember her collaborations with other writers for “All of Emily”, a play based on a story she had written.

Or her other experiments with theatre like “The House that Jack Built” at the trendy CafĂ© des Artistes.

She is a videographer, having successfully staged “Obsessions”, a mini movie festival with fellow artist Melvina Hazard in 1998.

She is also a musician, having recently released her second CD “Moving Pictures”, which is like a walk on the wilder side of meditation.

There isn’t much that Duncan hasn’t done in the six or so years that she has been dabbling in the arts, well except maybe tap-dancing on pianos. Which isn’t to say that she won’t.

“I want to do more plays, but incorporating more than just the stage.”

Duncan also has plans to publish a book she’s been working on, with the hopes of making it into a movie.

Indeed it can be said that the reason Duncan is a multimedia artist is because she likes to play around with and explore the soul of a thing, whether it is a piece of driftwood, or an old door, a piece of music or a beach with mystical qualities.

INtroDUCTION, which is her first solo exhibition of work, is a fulfilment of an artistic journey she began in March.

There is something refreshingly unpretentious and honest about Duncan’s work, created seemingly with every imaginable kind of material she could get her hands on.

“I’ve always loved collecting junk,” Duncan remarks of her choice of materials.

What has resulted from her love of junk and helping things make themselves, is a body of work that is rich in textures, a delight for most of your senses, especially the extra ones.

INtroDUCTION, like her other work, is chock full of such visions that are so simple yet so powerful that they move you to tears or even fits of silly giggles.

“A lot of people don’t play anymore, my art is here to bring out that aspect that they may have forgotten or suppressed.”

The exhibition also includes a large amount of words as art, offering more insight into the artistic process.

Although a relatively unknown feature of art exhibitions, it fits in well with the general feeling of the exhibition, which asks only that you open your heart and mind to a new approach.

Duncan herself admits there was no overall concept guiding the work.

Duncan who did a first degree in Literature, at UWI, St. Augustine, went on to a Masters in Criminology at Cambridge University and never went to art school, but somehow, ended up being an artist.

“I used to be very analytical, but now I prefer to just go with the flow. In my art, I’ve learned a lot about faith and trust. Now I want to use my creativity to bring a message that will uplift.”

Like one of the pieces in the exhibition, a game in which the viewer must choose words from a bag and add them to the sentences on a piece of paper. The results are astounding, if a little eerie.

“It’s strange that something random may be true for me as well as for you. It’s as if what we experience is somehow tied to what other people see, feel. Personal, yet Universal.”

The interactive aspects of the exhibition succeed in making the viewer/participant feel like they are part of the art and not just engaging in enlightened voyeurism.

“Because people don’t just see them as pieces, but as reflections of themselves.”

At the Upper Room Art Gallery, where INtroDUCTION is being exhibited until November 3, there is a definite spiritual energy that has little to do with the fact that a church and a monastery are nearby.

Duncan admits that if the exhibition were somewhere else it would have been different.

“But for me everywhere is spiritual. Everything has a spirit, like a piece of driftwood, what kind of tree was it, where was it, how long did it live?”

The exhibition she describes as one of the many possibilities, many possible answers to the many questions that life poses.

“When I was small I would have more fun with the box than the toy that came with it. I guess that was because the toy could only be one thing. But the box, well it had all sorts of possibilities.”

In her artist vision, personal equals universal.

While those two may sound worlds apart, Duncan has managed to get the two to coexist.
Entering a new world is always a wonderful experience. Thank you!
An alternative view of life. Fascinating.
You have amazing courage to reveal so much of yourself.
Congratulations. I am intrigued by your work.
A new way of viewing life. Very mystical.
Thank you for sharing your light. You're an inspiration.
Makes me have to redefine my concept of art and the artistic.
Not what I was expecting ... Much better than I could ever have imagined.
Good feeling.
Me parece que te estas buscando internamente ... pero aun te falta mucho por encontrar
Spiritual/fun/moving and thought provoking
Absolutely mind blowing
Very "minding"
Interesting "inner journey"
A rare experience.
The work is incredibly beautiful and I'm searching now for words to describe the experience but it is beyond.
Amazing but extraordinary
A third eye
Most intriguing. Emotions and thoughts are cleverly expressed.
Highly spiritual.
Very interesting but we are tourist and don't understand English but some pictures were evaluate very high.
Very serene.
I'm filled to beyond ...
Very deep and sensual - great inspiration!
Very peaceful and comforting environment.
I am confused.
Therapeutic, for lack of words.
Different, confusing, unique and deep.
Being an artist myself I am no doubt compelled by the paintings to feel the energy.
Very unusual. Love the use of ordinary and simple materials. Makes one get a different perspective.
Can't pretend to understand, but the energy and creativity are undisputed. I enjoyed it!
Refreshingly honest and unpretentious. Health & Strength.
Took my breath away. Opened me.
Unique and uplifting - love it!
What sensitivity! to things spiritual and environmental.
A very soothing and profound experience passing through here. Thank you!
Simply in the active, the rhythm of thinking of life and of feeling life's purpose as you go along.
Moment of silence.
Thank you. Symbolism allows those of us with little life experience to see everything.
"Let all that is in me rejoice and be glad". Thank you!
Weird but wonderful.
Something happened. Still not sure what.
... and more.

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