Anya Gallaccio’s installation takes up the entire space at the Thomas Dane Gallery. The white walls enclose a small canvas, a machine, and layers of clay. We are introduced to the organic, earthy theme of the installation upon entering the gallery. A painting depicts a marbled surface made of pigments and dirt, curves evanescing into the depth of the paper. Encompassed in the volutes, the sky and the ground are barely discernible. This small work announces what comes next. It prepares the viewer for the colour scheme, the vibrations, and the infinite loops of Beautiful Minds, the installation located a couple of steps away.
From a machine, which is in fact a printer, morsels of rounded bits of clay drop onto other rounded bits of clay. At first disorienting, the process isn’t clear, but it looks intriguing and calls for further reflexion on the material, the machine, and the general process. Gallaccio is known to work without expecting a specific outcome. She has laid roses to observe their natural decay and deterioration. She has left stacks of ice in a nineteenth-century water pumping station in east London, wanting to explore the process of change. The computer controlling the plotter’s pathway is hidden behind the buckets of clay, which will be used to supply the tank. Managers from the gallery are checking the computerized route of the machine pumping out the clay. Technology still has to be overlooked by a human eye.
Upon seeing the printer, I thought it would follow an accurate path, the one that the artist had chosen for it. But it appears that it doesn’t. Failures are interesting add-ons to the work; this is probably where the process starts to become artistic and not just a flawless project. Could it be suggested that the audience standing before the installation participated to this deviation, creating a piece which evolves, instead of going from A to B? The base of the clay is dry and is a different colour from the layers above. For the end result to be solid, the clay has to dry, and so can only be dropped for 3 hours during each weekday. Luckily, I happen to have stepped in at the right time.
The installation doesn’t appear to be an art piece, yet the process is. The symbolic nature of such a piece originates from the intentions, the constant search and experimentation of the artist, and the desired outcome, blended with the breaths and thoughts of an audience. The life span of such an installation is short, and most likely will get thrown out once it’s finished.
The brown tubular forms excreted from the plotter are not attractive. But it is the intention of the artist to transport the viewer onto the mountainside and let them approach the smell of the mud and rain. Gallaccio draws a parallel with the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. By reconstructing a smaller version of it and having the public witness its fabrication, live, she demonstrates the number of unpredictable elements required to build such a monument. For all we know, this set up could fail, and the replica of the mountain could never be achieved. Uncertainty is part of the art piece, it’s a component inherent to any kind of painting or sculpture. An idea might be interesting, an object doable, but the outcome can never be predicted as entirely successful.
The notion of time also plays into the process. From today, to the day the experience ends, the installation will have a completely different aspect. The accumulation of time will translate directly onto the final piece as an accumulation of clay. Perhaps it will look like the exact replica of the Devil’s Tower, or maybe it will be thought of as its interpretation. Either way, we will have, through this journey, travelled, and reflected on technology, time, and Earth as part of an artistic creation. We have dreamed of perfection, but only expected realistic endeavours.
Anya Gallaccio at Thomas Dayne (3 February – 25 march 2017)