Steve Pantazis talks to Maurice Carlin about his current project at Unit 5, Regent Trading Estate, Salford.
Steve Pantazis: Watching you working on your prints on the floor of the warehouse/gallery space in your current project Performance Publishing: Regent Trading Estate, you reminded me of Jackson Pollock working in his large abstract paintings. Has your approach being inspired by his?
Maurice Carlin: Not knowingly. Whereas Pollock’s work sits firmly within a tradition of painting, I have been exploring something very different, a history of publishing and print and its connection to ideas around performance and public space.
SP: Is the choice of this particular warehouse significant? Are you interested in the history of the space?
MC: I was interested in the physical characteristics of the space, particularly its irregular shape, and the mezzanine floor, which for my purposes becomes a natural viewing platform for visitors to watch the work as it develops. As a building, I would say it isn’t overly suggestive or evocative, which has meant that I haven’t felt limited by any particular histories or associations that might have come with it.
SP: Why is it important to you to document the gallery space through the printing process?
MC: I’m generally interested in how and why we try to record information and experiences. As well as the documenting of the space through the printing process, in this work, there are a number of kinds of recording happening simultaneously. The process of documenting or imaging the space is being recorded live via the webcams, whilst equally being witnessed by visitors to the space (another form of recording through memory). The analogue prints that I am producing which render an impression of the floor surface underneath are being digitally scanned at 1:1 scale and archived at http://softcopy.info/
SP: In order to print/ ‘document’ the floor surface you are following the ancient Chinese technique of stone rubbing and with a camera you are documenting the whole process. Are you interested in contrasting or bringing together elements from the past and present?
MC: Whilst the technique is entirely analogue, and as you say, references the ancient Chinese practice of taking rubbings on paper from texts and imagery cut in stone, the prints that I am producing appear initially as some form of digital imagery, resembling everything from geophysical maps to corrupted digital files, mis-developed photographic imagery or aged and decomposed fragments of paper. So yes, there are elements of the contemporary and ancient within both the process and what it yields. I am interested in the historic reference to the stone rubbing technique as I think of this point in history as being the birth of DIY publishing, the first known time that information was able to be copied and distributed, fast-forward 2000 years and we have the internet.
SP: Getting in the warehouse, viewers can see your prints, and you ‘performing’/working on their production from an upper level. I have the sense that you are trying to create a live image of the artist working in his studio, which in this case is the exhibition space. Is this your intension? Can viewers have access to the same level where you work and become also part of the artwork?
MC: In my work, I am broadly interested in considering the place an artist’s work might occupy in the world. In the recent past, I’ve tried to explore this through shifting my studio into public spaces, making an earlier series of these relief prints on Market St. (a busy pedestrianised shopping street in Manchester) to passing and incidental audiences. I’ve also been interested in a genre of painting from early 17th century Northern Europe, where artists for the first time depicted themselves ‘at work’ in their studios in highly choreographed scenes intended to put forward an image of themselves as thinkers and scholars, rather than the artisanal image they wished to make a break with.
SP: Why is it so important to record the process and have it live on your website?
MC: Whilst we would normally think of there being a space of time between the production and the presentation of a piece of work, in this process, that gap is diminished to close to zero, the webcam allows for the image to be produced and published almost simultaneously. I’m interested in this dynamic as I believe that this is where we are headed, with faster internet connections and the possibility to live stream our lives. I read recently that 1.1 million photos are taken and shared within 60 seconds each day in Britain, so it seems that images are taken primarily to be distributed, rather than looked at, this seems like an interesting development.
SP: The goal of your project is to ‘document’ the whole floor of the warehouse. And again viewing the work from the upper level of the warehouse, the final image will look as a large collage of abstract and colourful prints. This large picture will be fragmented as the floor will be broken down into different prints, which each of them holds the history of the space. Are you interested in stressing out the fragmentation of modern society?
MC: I held off on having a final ‘goal’ before embarking on the project. This is partly to do with the fact that I want the process to be as ‘live’ as possible, where I have left many of the decisions to be made in the moment. Although many elements of what I am doing have had to be put in place beforehand, I want to push the work into the ‘live’ arena as much as possible, my aim is to treat the experience of being in the warehouse space as being no different to how I would work in my studio.
SP: Can the final outcome (the prints, the online documentation and the actual performance) stand as separate works? Or are they only considered a single piece?
MC: I’m interested in any, or a combination of these elements as being considered as the artwork. My own personal interest is in a more fluid conception of the artwork, existing across a number of platforms, both digital and analogue, something which can be experienced in different ways at different times.
SP: Five writers will respond to the project. Will these essays be part of the piece? Could they be considered as the written documentation of the work?
MC: The essays are an important element of the work for me; they will be published in a book I intend to produce afterwards. The idea to collaborate with the writers is a reference to the 1950’s Art News series, Paints a Picture, where repeat visits to the studio of an artist (Albers, De Kooning, Mitchell, Pollock, etc.) resulted in a published text describing the development of a single artwork. In this case the writers are responding to the development of the work via the webcam, (the three that are based in the UK will also visit the site). Some of the writers have been using the live chat facility on the webcam page which has introduced an interesting and unexpected feedback loop into the work. Questions and comments posed by them and others are carried into the production of the prints.
Maurice Carlin – Performance Publishing: Regent Trading Estate at Unit 5, Regent Trading Estate (adjacent to Islington Mill), Salford, open via appointment until 29 September 2013.