sense of wonder 2008
Sense of Wonder installation
(LIMOUSINE BULL PROJECT SPACE 2008)
MM: I know that you are very sensitive about explaining the work, but if you could outline your intentions that might be a useful starting point.
MT: I want the viewer to confront their own ideas, construct their own narrative. If I go down the road of explanation there is the possibility of killing off the imaginative aesthetic, the ambiguity; the multiplicity of meanings that exist purely from “being”.
But to answer your question my intention has always been to explore the notion of photography as a vehicle for imaginative construction, a psychological place that the mind can enter and explore whilst also pushing the imagination beyond the physical boundaries of the photo into what is unseen beyond. I challenge the nature of representation and the interpretation of “truth”. There is always an absent presence within the photographic image this interests me and is at the core of my practice.
MM: You use the term “Absent Presence” do you see this as different from absence and presence?
MT: Yes, Absent Presence is quite different: I mean it’s more specific to a particular moment, place or object.
MM: I see. Are the places in the images based on any real places?
MT: Well reality is different for everyone, when I engage with a book or story the fictitious place becomes real in my head. The interesting thing about the dioramas is that they are to all intents and purposes real, physical space: but not such that you can physically enter. This causes them to become what Michel Foucault described as Heterotopias, real but somehow removed from reality. The photograph itself is losing its grasp on reality, a victim of digital manipulation its authenticity can be called into question and is now redundant in its position of supplying documentary evidence within the Law Courts. It is certainly true that the camera never lies however perhaps it’s the deception (or vision?) of the operator which make it a viable tool for imaginative investigations. Duplicity is key to this work, both from the point of subject and medium.
MM: There is a sense of darkness about the work was this intentional?
MT: As I said earlier fairytales have been an abiding influence on my work and they are unquestionably dark.
MM: Does this darkness frighten you?
MT: Yes I suppose it does, but as Alfred Hitchcock pointed out we all like to be afraid, to experience fear from a safe distance. Fairytales are consistently dark yet there is almost always a satisfactory conclusion! Darkness in photography is inevitable; by its nature it is retrospective. It only allows us to view what the operator (or photographer) wants us to look at, there is something disconcerting in that idea. Roland Barthes put it nicely when he said that “the image is like ectoplasm of what had been”. He believed that the photograph now was a prediction of death in the future. He also, (along with Baudrillard) says some interesting things about the museum object
MM: You have chosen to have some of the work suspended in the space, was this purely aesthetic? I am thinking about Cornelia Parker, was her work influential in any way?
MT: I find many contemporary artists influential and Cornelia Parker is certainly one of them, however there are other artists who suspend their work, Cai Guo-Qiang, Annette Messager, Christine Borland to name a very few.
I am first and foremost a sculptor and tend to think three dimensionally. The photograph becomes an object when there is space around it, allowing it a stronger physical presence. They become objects containing images of objects, hovering, suspended in time, all referring to something now elsewhere. I have been interested in the early spirit photographers, their images remind me of being caught, suspended in between worlds. An interesting technique was to have the plate with the deceased’s image placed in front of the plate which would receive the image of the sitter. I feel that by suspending the photographs I am in a way opening up to this idea the idea of them being in limbo, waiting for an unknown outcome( suspense) .If I placed them on the wall they become fixed, like a traditional oil painting and their meaning becomes fixed also. They have the ability to move albeit slightly within the space.
MM: The Peg images are presented in a quite different way and could be viewed as a separate piece of work or study, was this intentional?
MT: Peg was special right from the start. All the objects have been carefully chosen, perhaps because of their oddness, most are antique and their history mute, but something in all of them, for me created beginnings of a narrative. They are collectors objects and there is something creepy in a collection, things all linked by a common denominator!
Anyway Peg had a broken ear, and forelegs which I had to repair. I love the idea of a rocking horse as a replicate for the real thing. It has the ability to transform meaning into action. But Peg is different, a replicate of a replicate and can only be transformed through psychological play
MM: You admit you play?
MT: Don’t all artists? But going back to the Peg image. I suppose my captivation with the object made me realize I would have to treat it differently from the main body of work. I am interested in what the fragment can reveal, taking as a given that the photographic image can never be more than fragment. Can I describe Peg as a fragment since I don’t know the facts surrounding its history? Applying this again to the medium of photography it is interesting to note how each frame (or fragment) depends on the next to explain the image. So when presented with just one image we would be lost as to its meaning. Peg is the embodiment of the fragment, coming into my world, I have no a priori knowledge of it and can only speculate on its history.
MM: Can I just ask then why you call it Peg if you have no knowledge of its history?
MT: (Laughs) well I gave it that name… it’s a cross between the mythical horse Pegasus, which had wings and could fly (I imagine fast rocking at this point) and the traditional wooden clothes peg, roughly hewn (and which with a lace handkerchief provided hours of play as a home made doll of my childhood, much to my mothers disgust who spent a fortune on Sindy, Barbie et al