ARKA: Field Work One, Critical Analysis, Oct 2010

Critical writing for Field Work One by Ben Jeans Houghton, as part of, – ‘THE ARKA DREAM FOUNDATION’

First published to accompany the THE ARKA DREAM FOUNDATION 2009; (documentation of 1 month performance) at cRash (group show), 110 Warner Road, Camberwell London, October 12th – December 6th 2009 – alongside texts by Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau, Iris Aspinall Priest and Cai Nyahoe.

So, we all know criticism is in trouble.

And theory for that matter.
The arguments are infinitely interesting.
Remarkably cyclical.

I could talk about criticism.

But I’d rather write.
And sometimes you need to be asked.

Ben Jeans Houghton asked me to write this.

We thought it might be useful. Over several coffees and several beers, we had several conversations.

Amongst other things, such as archives, allotments, antlers, objects, skips, postcards, metro tickets, tents, dreams and Darwinism, we talked about art. His enthusiasm is infectious.

Amongst other things, he makes art which transcends the conventional gallery context. Art which lives outside its walls. Which continues. For Jeans Houghton, the gallery is a kind of depository, where objects, archives and artefacts evince ongoing artistic endeavours.

Jeans Houghton explores the everyday.
Every day.

He hunts and gathers. Seeks and selects.
He saves the stuff we leave behind.
Adopts the things we no longer want.
Or no longer need.
He conserves and considers them.

Salvaged from streets or scavenged from skips, these orphaned objects are revived, renewed and re-displayed in carefully coded, artistic contexts.

Ripe for reconsideration, incidental items such as tickets, trinkets, tools, toys, slides, stamps, coins etc., swell with potential narratives. Possessions that were once personal are reclaimed. Absent histories are archived; creating cryptic collections of written records and oddly articulate, aesthetic arrangements.

The familiar and quotidian is rescued and revitalised. The things that clutter and animate our everyday lives, transported with care and unwanted attention to the sanctity of the art gallery. Material residues of experience, ownership and history become relics of Houghton’s artistic adventures.

Amongst other things he’s a collector. A forager. An archivist. A rescuer. A redeemer, of sorts. An analyst. An avid experimenter. A social spectator. A sort of scientist. A deep, deep thinker. And for his forthcoming piece,Field Work One, a sort of snail, it seems.

For 31 days and 31 nights Jeans Houghton will travel around London with a backpack, 2 pairs of clothes, a tent, a sketchbook and a camera. He will sleep somewhere new each night. In his tent. Carrying his home on his back, Jeans Houghton will set up camp in 31 different domestic spaces and photograph himself daily. The exhibition opening of CrASH, in Camberwell, South London, will display a small series of images documenting the beginnings of the project, along with a series of blank, wooden boards ready to receive the rest. As the project develops, the artist will return to the exhibition space every few days and add the most recent photographs. He also plans to add or bring back items from his travels. Bits and pieces, drawings, objects, responses and personal interpretations. The traces of an ongoing experience, safely deposited in the gallery.

That’s the plan anyway.
It might change a bit.
I’m yet to see the work and the artist is yet to make it.
But we’ve had several conversations about it.

I could write about Field Work One in a few weeks, or a few months. When he’s done it. When I’ve seen it. I could attempt to analyse the artistry of the photographs, critique the concept, write my reaction. Or I could work the way he does.

Concurrently and instinctively.

Before, after and in-between, I’ll use Jeans Houghton’s work to trigger thought and interpretation. To write critically and freely. I won’t see it all anyway. Despite the conceptual parameters Houghton has set himself, and the evidence of experience he’ll display at CrASH, Field Work One admits and exposes the impossibility of documentation.

Of ever encountering everything.

So, this isn’t really criticism.
Or collaboration.

Field Work One is indefinite and fragmentary. Like I said, it continues.
It encumbers criticism because we can’t really see it.

It’s co-dependent and capricious.
It’s a process in progress.