#eye #eye

Laura, Lachie and I making a text, and at some point, despite our distance, getting into it. At different times and intensities, it is fed, forgotten about, turned over and read. It starts with a work by Joseph Beuys. And then starts again with a list.

The voice of Astrid

The voice of Lachie

The voice of Laura

A list dump of things I’m thinking about
Display cabinets, folded paper, intention, glass, cracks, digs, bullies, humming base loops, confidence, newcomers, the farsightedness of age, stuffed bellies, turns of phrase, being on the move, tantrums, myth, bodily warmth, slipping, treading water, sore throats, semi-perfect artefacts, scepticism, a sequence of impacts,storage solutions, the bottle as hero,people who have the skills, flexibility, gold, waywardness, explanation, openings, laughing about it, <3 forgetfulness, trouble, standing in a circle, holding each other in the night,

the quality of allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.
the quality of being easy to perceive or detect.

the quality of lacking transparency or translucence.

I’m thinking of a work by Joseph Beuys. He’s holding a hare. The hare is dead,
and he carries it around inside a room. Sometimes he holds the hare’s long ears in his teeth, and uses his hands to move its feet. Sometimes he cradles it like a small child. People watch from outside a window and I watch through a camera through a screen on my phone. There is an audio track in German, translated for me at the bottom of the screen.

“He locks out the spectators. Like behind a vitrine, Beuys performs the role of a hero of exhaustion, producing gestures and images that are simple but not trivial.”

Then Beuys is being interviewed. He is wearing a fisherman’s vest and a nice hat. There are four people sitting in a prop living room, the conversation is structured a bit like a talk show. The people sitting opposite ask him about tenderness. He speaks intensely and prophetically. His hands are out like he is about to catch something. Rocking forward and back to punctuate his sentences.

“Art has to be understood in the sense of completely under-standing it, this means the work of art enters into the person, and the person internalises the work of art as well, it has to be possible that these two completely sink into each other”

“Understanding means I have to stand somewhere else right?”

Beuys talks about placing oneself completely into the object

“Art enters the person and the person enters the work of art”

Beuys made a habit of locking himself into situations. In rooms with coyotes or vitrines with dead hares. This lock works for Beuys and the audience that remains outside waiting to watch or feel something, or have this experience he narrows down.  He finds ways to escape this lock, vehicles that carry him from each space. I read a quote from an essay somewhere, I am skim reading and paraphrasing:

We don’t escape by exposing ourselves to subversion, we only experience our uneasiness at being deprived of what we want. We should be wary of this, aware at least that there’s a covert affirmation of the status quo in volunteering ourselves to discomfort.

When it comes to entering I think about Beuys’ foam lard sculptures, and the feeling of what it’s like to smell that (in Hamburger Banhoff, and later in Pompidou), and how it feels like something entering and dissolving inside you. I’m momentarily transparent. And I think of the oak trees he planted in Kassel, which we observed, tired and defeated after accidentally scheduling our documenta visit for half a day and not a day and a half.

We also breathe in Beuys’ 7000 Oaks in Sydney, which I only learnt when I came back home: there is one Moreton Bay Fig left by Beuys in between the old and new buildings of AGNSW.

I’m going under something to get into it
I draw a circle and its glints in the light like a wink. I am thinking of Jumana Manna’s work Thirty Plumbers in the Belly. The work is a collection of sculptures. One is a frame, free standing in a white room. Stretched across its wood is a transparent layered fabric, purple and

“Central are two ceramic series: limb-pipes and rotten bread. The limb-pipes draw their primary reference from drainage tubing in use within urban and agricultural infrastructures since ancient times until today. Normally hidden behind walls, under pavements, and made to remove unwanted sights and smells from bodies, gardens and cities, they arrive at the site of the exhibition as metamorphosed conduits.”

I’m remembering an image

Except I don’t know if it was a memory of an image, but your description of the Thirty Plumbers… and our bodies and the urban pipes reminds me of the modernist city (Paris), the second night there at the Celine model’s painting show, and the pipes of Pompidou. The memory I’m sure now was actually a video someone took of us through the gallery window, we’re talking excitedly with free beers in our hands and the cartoon colours of the paintings vibrating louder than even our bellies or mouths or hands. Through the glass it looks like we are explaining a ferris wheel. 

I’m displaying something
A box that shares the space the viewer occupies with the floor. A combination of object and glass.

Recently I’ve been thinking about texture. In an essay by Renu Bora, texture is examined as an affective element, Bora tries to track texture as it moves through the body, forming into thought and emotion. Texture in this sense can be applied broadly, Bora looks at the texture of literature as well as representations of texture.

Broad distinctions can be made between textures such as, rough/smooth which can also be extended to unrefined/refined. There are two other points that Bora makes about texture.

    • Texture is not something that comes out of nowhere, it’s something that we speculate about, it’s not only about what it is, but also about how it got that way.
    • Texture is often assumed to travel consistently inwards, if you hold a rock, you often assume that the texture of the inside will be consistent with the outer surface.

Now from this long bow I’ve drawn, you have me thinking of glass cabinets. In the glass cabinet there is the refined texture of the glass (smooth and shiny). The refined texture of the cabinet extends itself inwards, if you view an object in a cabinet, it too has this refined or complete nature.


I’m listening to Beuys being interviewed, with his eyes hidden by the shadow of his hat I feel that he is telling me to empty myself out. I imagine if I asked him how I should go about this, he would say:

“Pour everything out, possibly into a bucket or maybe into a pile on the floor. But take your eyes, ears, nose, fingers and tongue (if you must) and place these things on a dresser or chair in the corner. The action of arranging/remaking yourself is what will be observed.”

Laura tells us about Beuys trees:
I think about what might intersect this interest in the natural, institutional display and work that is inside or outside glass cases.

I'm thinking of ways the glass display case is more important (or interesting), than the object it might hold. I saw one of the best movies ever the other day. It's called Donna Haraway: Storytelling for Earthly Survival. I watch it in the morning in the radio room of a community centre and it levels the room, opening the day.  Donna is sitting at a desk talking about her dog, holding a plush octopus and a woven bowl. She says “there is nothing we can touch without inheriting the whole thing”.

“there is nothing we can touch without inheriting the whole thing” This has been repeating itself in my head ever since I read/you quoted it.

The term inheritance seems almost inevitably linked to ownership. Maybe Haraway is making this statement as an observation/critique of the assumption of touch leading to ownership/dominance.

I’m wondering if there is a small possibility of leaving this assumption of ownership behind in another definition of inheritance.

  • receive or be left with (a situation, object etc) from a predecessor or former owner.

I imagine this reception of “a thing” being alongside absence. To approach an object differently, other than something to be owned and dominated (as a brief example). If you inherit an object from itself, there is a contradiction of an object’s absence and presence. I’m interested in how this contradiction can be grown.

I think about how glass resists touch and this “thing”.I find that Donna Haraway has also written about this relationship. She connects the natural history museum and the object. In her essay “Teddy Bear Patriarchy: Taxidermy in the Garden of Eden”. She speaks about the creation of scenes/dioramas. The way glass cases can preserve a certain narrative, become illustrative. Haraway understands glass as a translucent, visible producer of cultural value. I think this and then I get back to where we started with Beuys and display and the screen and the see-through. I looked online and found that he also owned vitrines. Placing objects into them and allowing their context to imply cultural significance. I love them.

Astrid Elouise Bell is a painter, writer and general rummager who is currently all over the place. Her practice surrounds things that elude our grasp and the sites and stories that bring us to our work and each other. Always attempting to find ritual in the everyday, collective in the familial and histories within the object. Her recent work has been walking, talking, photographing and making friends; attempts to trail and reveal the phenomena of the everyday that is obscured by habit.

My writing practice takes heavy influence from my studies in Sociology. While I refer to a specific writing practice, I try to view my art and writing practice as interconnected and, ultimately, the same. My practice is often informed by viewing materials and thinking as socially and culturally active, with a past, a present and a future. Extending from this, the bringing together of objects, materials and thinking (which is also a process of making), is a contribution to the social/cultural lives and histories of these materials and thoughts.