Levitation, Magician, Who Could Have Guessed There'd Be So Much Diversity
16 June – 18 July 1993
The view from the window is of towering gasometers, and at even closer quarters, the canal. Really, I should say ‘windows’ as there is a whole wall of them.
In front of this window I am placing a work composed of an old hospital trolley, cut in half and reassembled into two display cases by adding stainless steel frame and legs to take the weight where the object has been left bereft of support by being chopped in half. The top will be contained by a glass case, which sits on the steel frame, and prevents the headrest from being extended to the full upright position. This piece is called MAGICIAN. It crosses ideas of surgery, display (of the body perhaps), and the illusion of chopping the woman in half (i.e. magic shows). The way it is made from a Victorian object by literally chopping it in half and crossing it with a contemporary object also implies something about our relationship to history - specifically the Victorian era. This object, as already noted, is sited in front of disused gasometers and a canal which would have originally seen much heavier, specifically industrial use. Now that history is used to see the area. The sell of the area being its prime use. Anyway, my object sits there, originally a functional object, now unusable except as an object to be looked at (display case/art object).
The idea of occupying this object (though originally it was meant to be and retains that reading) is out of the question, you’d literally have to be chopped in half to do so - whilst we reuse the past we also don't really have access to it.
Equally with the 15ft. long Victorian chaise-longue, though at first sight it appears to be maybe more approachable, you’d have to have your legs extended to occupy it fully. Also it is on the wall, floating against the watermarked taffeta wall panel (the chaise is upholstered in the same stuff) you’d have to balance precariously and become part of the picture/tableau/panel, though it appears much more possible than in the case of MAGICIAN it is still equally untenable. This piece is called LEVITATION. It plays on the notion of the Spiritualist Medium, usually associated with women and the Victorian era though it existed in different forms before, and continues to after.
The fishing hats/necklace displays are very much in the present. The neck reference works in relation to the chaise - the black band round the neck is linked directly to the Odalisk. The row of hats become trophies (both male and female). The fishing reference is apt in terms of the river-like chaise-longue and continues the shifting between male and female trophies. Of course the hat is worn, the neck is part of the anatomy, and again, of course, these are representations - illusions. Once you get into that realm anything is possible i.e. the realm of illusion. Masquerade and mimesis as a subversive act.
Both LEVITATION and MAGICIAN excludes you from places that were meant for Human occupation, but in different ways. They’re worlds you can look at but can’t touch, so’s to speak.
- Kate Smith