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The Natural World | A Conversation Between Josh and Jared Ginsburg

Touching faces (2015)

Touching faces, 2015


Jared Ginsburg’s third solo exhibition at Blank Projects opens today: The Natural World parts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. The mixed-media show is comprised of collage, audiotape and kinetic sculptures – all the results of a studio practise that couples absurd scientific experimentation with improvised material play. Following on from his previous exhibitions Hoist and Body Parts, the body of work contains discernible traces and mutations of both.


In general terms, the exhibition text makes it clear that Jared is “invested in the process of art-making as a means to explore alternative modes of knowledge production and transfer.” He recognises art as a tool that can be used to test and probe the world, and subsequently hopes to nurture strategies to engage with it in a productive manner. The studio, for Jared, plays a significant role in this equation and becomes at once a lab, an instrument and a character in conversation.


The main factor that distinguishes this exhibition from previous processes is Jared’s active redressing of works that were discarded or side-lined. With Hoist (2011) he tested the capacity to transform objects from the mundane world to the symbolic. In Body Parts (2013) he negotiated a dynamic interplay between sculpture and drawing. Now, The Natural World parts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 seems to be a record of his meanderings through the studio, seeking out the remainders, the forgotten and the discarded.


Ahead of Jared’s show, he and his brother Josh – also a practicing artist – discussed his work and process. What follows is an excerpt from their conversation.


The Natural World - Ginsburg (1)


Joshua Lee Ginsburg: At the Cape Town Art Fair, along with your kinetic sculpture you also showed The Natural World part 1, I’d seen the traces of it in here, at various stages or various versions of it, but even so it was refreshing to see in the booth– it felt like a clue or a proposal for some new experiments.


Jared Keith Ginsburg: I was also really excited by it. Its a fond reminder, or key-in to the conversation we had with James and Matt from Chicago. It’s funny, studio visits can be so helpful – even pivotal. People come in and offer new ways of looking at work – this work was very much on the cutting desk at that time.


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Jlg: Did it function a little like a note to self, a prompt to follow out those ideas some more? Thinking back on it now, we spoke about you consuming your own waste materials. Is that underlying these actions? Efficiency?


Jkg: I don’t think this is really about efficiency. Maybe more something to do with availability. In the sense that if they are around they can get used, repurposed, put to work.


Jlg: So in addition to discarded materials that you’re consistently scavenging from outside the studio, it looks like you’ve also started to scavenge off works you’ve made – to cannibalise.


Rather than sending failed drawings to the bin, you’ve been able to reframe them for yourself as ‘found objects’. It’s really just seems like a simple but powerful shift of category to me – that is from scrap to discovery?


Jkg: Much like Hoist. Same principle.


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Jlg: Exactly. I remember you noting to me the point of transition that occurred when the object finally lost contact with the ground – when 100% of its weight was hoisted and it was floating. The objects really did transform at that point. So applying that kind of logic now, ‘hoisting’ your left over materials to the point where they become reactive things again seems like closing a loop of sorts.


Has this shift also encouraged you to look back a bit further at stashes of old drawings that you’ve kept for some reason?


Jkg: Yes. With the bamboo sculptures this has been going on forever, the bamboo poles get used and re-used constantly. Most of the sculptures that you see have had many previous lives. A lot of them carry traces…


The Natural World - Ginsburg (4)


Jlg: I imagine it’s easy enough to justify keeping failed things for the paper at least, as scrap. But also I’m guessing you don’t keep everything so there must be a mark or a moment of some kind in each thing that prevents you from discarding it? Perhaps they are notes, reminders of things to try again to attempt fully another time? Something must save the drawing from the bin.


Jkg: Not really. Maybe. Each time is different. The majority of the drawings are failures, at first. Often I’m just too close to the making of a thing, give it a year in storage, a moment of discovery, suddenly I’m holding something that feels important to me. It’s a sort of an internal provenance.


Jlg: It’s an interesting duality that these long lost elements have, because as you say, they gain this ‘internal provenance’ (I really like that idea) but also you seem at ease to act on them as if they are still throw-away. Am I right that if you like a part of something, you simply cut it out? Or act directly over the parts you don’t? That mode feels like improvised music to me.


Jkg: This:


The Natural World - Ginsburg (5)


was a bit like that. At least the playing (or sounding) music part.


Jlg: I remember being at your flat and seeing you pull the ink squares out. On the one hand, they were the leftovers from Film of Drawing with all those resonances of the project and the period of its making, on the other, they were just a set of black ink squares each slightly different to the next and arresting as a collection.


Why you kept them in the first place also interests me and that’s something I want to speak about more but later. For now at least, when you kept them was it to work with them at some point in the future?


Jkg: No.


Jlg: So was it more like the way one may keep a concert ticket? More about not throwing away than about keeping it? I’m quite conflicted about these impulses of preserving, hoarding, that kind of thing. I’m guilty of that in a big way. I aspire to be able to brutally edit rather than store.


But being able to reuse or process elements from other parts of your life as if you’ve found them fresh like you’re doing now – that is interesting and useful.


Jkg: But the black squares weren’t just leftovers to me. They are drawings. The drawings from the film are under the ink. And they are the ink. Consider that Film of Drawing houses the making and unmaking of drawings, but these black squares aren’t just the only physical trace of making those drawings, they are the drawings. So, in response to what you said earlier about freely acting on these leftovers, this isn’t a good example of that because I respected these inked squares.


Perhaps a better example is this:


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Jlg: Ok. Yes, Blue Offal. Those are genuine off-cuts of material from Legs right?


Jkg: Yes.


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Jlg: So that’s a case much like what seems to be happening with the natural world things, where the looping process (of making, discarding, finding again) is happening in a shorter cycle or higher iteration. You seem to redressing drawings that you made last week or yesterday and actively – and then hopefully naturally – interpreting them as found (rather than from yourself). Is that the case?


Jkg: Sure.


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Jlg: In that case (Blue Offal), those two elements – the legs and the canvas of off-cuts – were produced at the same time and exhibited together. But even saying this, there feels like with the natural world there is a shift…


Jkg: I…


Jlg: Is the kernel of this process enquiring after the moment when one finds something? In the poster, you wrote performance? Is that what you mean?


Jkg: I said performed.


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Jlg: So is this performance / performed quotient, the experience of discovering something forgotten or neglected?


Jkg: ‘Performed’ refers to the potential of me shifting the installation within the gallery. Even if the positioning of objects do not shift, they will have ‘not shifted’.


Jlg: Oh. I see. That sounds to me like you bringing the studio to the gallery?


One of the things I love about coming to your studio is that it feels like a generative algorithm in which you are one component.  The studio is at work, operational, collecting fragments of stuff and assembling unexpected combinations and you seem to simply help that process along.


But also you perform this other crucial role, which to an extent is totally removed from the mechanism and to an extent is fully integrated into it, which is the role of extracting things from the otherwise infinitely generative cycle (from the almost gaseous process) when it feels like they are done or that something should just stop. Like stopper in a dark room. Or more like a person testing the integrity of a material at various points along a manufacturing process.


Perhaps that’s why I like the natural world series so much (and it’s title in relation to your process): It seems like the studio is flowing and you direct where possible, succumb to it where necessary and ultimately you perform your most crucial role by extracting the assemblages quite suddenly.


Jkg: Tricky thing is the studio does not always flow.


I’ve never thought of the studio as an algorithm before –


Jlg: True. I suppose the studio isn’t always flowing. Those times are interesting to witness too actually. Sometimes it feels like you letting the land lie fallow, sometimes like you can’t jump start the thing. Both have their challenges and perks I guess.


But the algorithmic quality still makes sense to me. I like the unusual relationship between an algorithm – which is often associated with computing – and natural growth of a land or flow of a river. They can seem discordant but also not.


Jkg: Do you mean feedback when you speak about the algorithmic quality?


Jlg: In part. Feedback is a large component of what I’m responding to I think. But also the qualities of routine, or practice, the loops and cycles.


Looking across the studio now, that audio tape recorder is a nice example. I remember when you got that machine.


Jkg: It was in Granny Jean’s storeroom, I went to fetch it when she died.


Jlg: Okay. Is it working?


Jkg: I cleaned the heads and it’s working well. I’ve been making loops from found tape.


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Jlg: I’ve noticed that, small ones, a few seconds long. But your reel to reel is basically always recording?


Jkg: Yes.  It records over itself – collecting and forgetting. Its great, it will be on the whole day and suddenly the door will slam or the train will rumble past loudly or, I don’t know, a sound occurs and you’ll see me running across the studio and diving to hit Stop to catch it on tape. In the case of the door slamming I wasn’t quick enough. I caught the train pulling away, and you can hear me running too.


Jlg: And now you’ve amassed a small collection of audio events.  But importantly, I still see these audio events as supplementary to the act of the machine perpetually listening. Is that the case or is the hierarchy inverted or non-existent?


Looking around now, I’m thinking of the scanner sculpture, (It never stops) and the other sculpture that seems like its reading seismic activity (Science Fiction) as abstractions of the audio recorder and then thinking of your drawings as similar to the audio loops, as micro recordings. Does that seem reasonable?


Jkg: Sure.


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Jared Ginsburg’s The Natural World parts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 opens on at Blank Projects on Thursday, 21 May 2015. The exhibition closes on 27 June.


The Natural World part 10 (2015)

The Natural World part 10, 2015


Woman with cigarette (2015)

Woman with cigarette, 2015


Remainder (2012)

Remainder, 2012


Blue Note 1 (2015)

Blue Note 1, 2015


Nude in blue (2015)

Nude in blue, 2015


Science Fiction (Scanner), 2015

Science Fiction (Scanner), 2015


Tape Loops, 2015

Tape Loops, 2015


Between 10 and 5