FIONA CONNOR : THE BRICK

Heavy! With thoughts? ― A BRICK

by Rosanna Albertini

Los Angeles, UCLA School of Architecture and Design, Room 1020 B Perloff Hall

An art exhibit in a classroom confirming that art is a strange ritual sometimes involving understanding and feelings, but not necessarily. The story features:

FIONA CONNOR, the artist, SIMONE FORTI, artist and friend, ROSANNA ALBERTINI, friend and writer, ALLAN KAPROW, the father of lifelike art

The three of us met the first time sitting on the grass of the Barnsdall Park with a few artists of Made in LA 2012 who were curious to know each other. Fiona was there, stretched out on her belly, handling a tape recorder.
She had in mind an alternative catalogue, and the conversation was a good starting moment, and was printed as it happened as a flux of words voiced by nameless people.

Simone felt easily part of that book out of order, more a bottle of water than a collection of statements. Words were kept in motion, escaping from their temporary blockage in meanings. When she performs, Simone’s body in movement is a fullness of feelings channelled into a slow motion physical language, almost savoring the quality of each gesture.

“I held a large grasshopper in my open hand. It swayed from side to side as we gazed into each other’s eyes. We sustained this alignment of sight through an exact correspondence in our movements, which created a certain resonance between us. We danced together like this for many minutes. I had just saved his life and we were very curious about each other.” (Simone Forti, Handbook in Motion, 1974)

Kaprow “When you do life consciously, life becomes pretty strange … so … a new art/life genre came about, reflecting equally the artificial aspects of everyday life and the lifelike qualities of created art. For example, it was clear to me how formal and culturally learned the act of shaking hands is; just try to pump a hand five or six times instead of two and you’ll cause instant anxiety. I also became aware that artworks of any kind could be autobiographical and prophetic. You could read paintings like handwriting, and over a period of time chart the painter’s abiding fantasies, just as you might chart writers’ thoughts from collections of personal letters or diaries. Happenings, and later activities, being less specialized than paintings, poems, and the other traditional arts, readily lent themselves to such psychological insight.” (Allan Kaprow, “Performing Life,” 1979)

The brick should be allowed to raise his protagonist voice in the room. No way. Kaprow hasn’t be around for a while. He never died for me. He might be happy to see a sort of happening resurgent in a school room in 2016. The brick, the English name doesn’t help to describe it. Italian is more direct: il mattone. Tongue and palate must stick to one another before the weight falls on the tip of the tongue and the lips shape an oval for the second o, that receives the accent. Sure heaviness, a compact thing. Like two teenagers dancing very close for the first time: il ballo del mattone, the mattone dance we used to call it. Brick, instead, is a Teutonic and French hybrid name: a broken thing, and the form of a loaf. Therefore, a baked form of clay. Architects of that day mainly saw the practical usage, the stillness of facts.

Our brick, along with 74 brick friends, lies in a corner of the room. On the walls, some bulletin boards replicate the originals at the Pacific Clay factory. Some bricks are wrapped with a printed sheet about the history of  bricks of the UCLA buildings. The building itself, and most of the other buildings on the campus, speak unmistakably brick language. But to hold only one, naked, unfinished, is handling a rough unit, a number asking to be a body, a body that would like to be something else: “I want to be an arch,” the brick told Louis Khan. The architect accepted the challenge. But here, in the school room, the only challenge is “doing life consciously” and feel a solid piece of clay transformed into a book.

Maybe Fiona looked at the brick like Simone at the grasshopper, were they very curious about each other? Clay is the opposite of an inert material. Minerals trap water into their molecules. And, in this Happening at the end of day, because of all the elements orchestrated around the little heavy red rough block, the mind goes through walls and buildings, the mind can feel what happens: the brick is a catalyst like any book, a substance that increases chemical reactions in our brain without changing her own composition. Water is trapped in our brain’s chemistry.

Suddenly The UCLA buildings appear melted back to the original condition of the clay, which was entirely dug from a site near Lake Elsinore. Let’s pretend it’s a virtual reality experience: bricks meet from ancient China, India, Egypt, and Northern Italy of course, they shake hands with their California siblings and go back to their functions in the walls, buildings reappear intact. It wouldn’t be history without hands and tools of their makers at the factory, without the people who provide the loafs, architects designing the forms, others teaching how to build, and inevitably taking the bricks for granted, as we do with our legs and arms. Fiona Connor gave to the brick a day of glory knowing it wouldn’t last. “Life,” also “conscious life” absorbs everything: geology, fantasies. The brick, a human idea.

bibliography: 

ALLAN KAPROW, Essays on The Blurring of Art and Life, edited by Jeff Kelley, University of California Press, 1993

SIMONE FORTI, Handbook in Motion, An account of an ongoing personal discourse and its manifestations in dance.  Contact Edition, Northampton MA, 1974

Commentary by Charlie Morrow:  

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mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS
bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi
mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS
bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi
mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS
bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi
mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS

 

Laurel Doody : DEJEUNER SUR L’HERBE

Déjeuner sur l’herbe – Garden Lunch  
February 28, 2016

Los Angeles, 3632 Grand View Boulevard, LA 90066

Lucie Fontaine’s employees hosted the thanksgiving lunch of Laurel Doody, Fiona Connor’s non-profit art space that has been active in Los Angeles for about a year. March 2015-March 2016.

 

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FIONA CONNOR, plates   Photos: Fredrik Nilsen

The gallery was also Fiona Connor’s small apartment. Often she moved her bed downstair during the day and brought it back for the night. The exhibition space was rigourously empty. The table for the ritual dinner at each exhibition was improvised and built at the moment. Laurel Doody was not only a whimsical initiative of a single person. Values were at stake. Exhibition by exhibition, it became an offering to the art makers, and their friends. By choice, not a commercial experience. Cooking and eating were parts of the ritual. A little like the Maori who offer hot soup to the stars, sitting on the seashore. Curators, writers, gallerists, designers, photographers, filmakers, performers were part of the collaborative group.

Many people in Los Angeles can say they were there, In Laurel Doody’s space, experiencing sincerity, honesty, passion for art and joyful time. Fiona Connor is an artist who likes displacements of objects and of their common meanings. She brought from her apartment to the Garden Lunch materials for the table: a small cupboard and two doors. The table setting was displayed on the doors. The artist set the table with ceramic plates made by her and with old white and blue Ginori 1900.

 

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Photos: Peter Kirby

As Claude Lévi-Strauss  would say, “The same mind which has abandoned itself to the experience becomes the theater of mental operations which, without suppressing the experience, nevertheless transform it into a model to release further mental operations. In the last analysis, the logical coherence of these mental operations is based on the sincerity and honesty of the person who can say, like the explorer bird of the fable, ‘I was there; such and such happened to me; you will believe were you there yourself,’ and who in fact succeeds in communicating that conviction.”

Fiona’s plates are made by pressing clay on architectural surfaces and the ground, then peeling them off and letting them dry over moulds. They were fired at Laurel Doody. At the end of the garden lunch, the friends of the project received their plate as a present.

BEGGING for a BOOK PRINTING and BINDING

 

THE STORY IS READ BY THE ARTIST
EXCEPT … PAGES ARE BLANK.

About AN ART BOOK by FIONA CONNOR edition of 100

(The art book was bound by hand by volunteers and presented in the gallery at Red Cat, Los Angeles, January 9 -10, 2016)

By Rosanna Albertini

“A collection of sheets of paper or other substances, blank, written or printed, fastened together as to form a material whole.” The Oxford English Dictionary             

 

Fiona-book

Unfolding the pages, one after the other, Fiona Connor lets the voice flow out of her memory. From January to March, some details have already disappeared. One can follow her journey through Los Angeles from Cloverdale to San Pedro, Santa Monica, Riverside, Ventura, El Segundo, Pasadena, Burbank, asking a few people she had met in the past, but mostly others completely unknown, the favor to print for her as many possible pages, if possible one hundred, of a book she conceived as an art piece made with collective cooperation. A family of printers are from Persia, a young woman is from Australia, and a guy, he just had a baby. Linda, Rich, Tiffany, Lynn, Jesus, Becka, Joyce, Damaris, Ed, Ben, Kat, and everyone else she asked, “kindly obliged” and printed at the bottom of each right hand page the template the artist requested:

‘name’ of the printing machine
address of the place where the printing happened
first name of the person who did the printing work

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I can’t avoid seeing her as a beggar, the artist who breaks the commercial ritual of buying the service. She becomes the person who serves the needs of the art piece: her feet on the sidewalks of the metropolis or on public transportation; her intention and desire to involve and obtain a certain amount of work everywhere she can find a printing device.

Downtown, while wandering around the gray brownish grid of pavements and buildings, she happens to find herself face to face with Harry Gamboa Jr., another artist who has made himself, for decades, a vessel against the lures of a power based on money. Fiona recognized him, his face often printed in art catalogues and books. It seems they looked at each other, did not talk. Fiona’s private persona is a shy one. For sure, he didn’t know who she was. This story is not in her reading.

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A conceptual art project in 2016.
The personal mark of the artist isn’t physical. Her name goes along with “the concept.” The © belongs to Red Cat. No author, no title. Therefore the book is left on his/her/its own nature: born from so many it could be an orphan. Or an outcast book mainly white, home of the white noise, unidentified presences. The artist dares to expose the absence of a traditional text as a value: although we see and touch that something is lost, it’s almost impossible to say or write what it is, even if the desire to express it is more than alive. In the XVI and XVII century Europe, this contradictory sentiment – the awareness of missing the point – turned into unfriendly attitudes toward beggars, women, the insane, hermits and illiterate humans: those who didn’t share the common knowledge, and failed to be heard.  Michel de Certeau called MYSTIQUE their lack of knowledge and made them the angels of the Mystique Fable (Fable Mystique, 1982).

I wonder if, unconsciously perhaps, Fiona Connor has reversed history as she often does in her work, so that readers and writers are the ones devoured by our contemporary Mystique Fable. They, we writers, are becoming the excluded from a reality in search of a different medium. Looking for something better than written words. In the meantime, artists try to keep on with ordinary things that have become furniture of the human landscape in our brain, we like to sit on them.

Let’s step back a few decades to the early seventies: Allen Ruppersberg calling for attention to the human matter that goes through words and pages: the living time, more significant than personality. He drew a book perfectly recognizable: Sanctuary by William Faulkner, and added: “Reading time: 12 hrs 43 min.” We shouldn’t forget his visual replica, word by word, by his own hand, of Walden 1973, and The Picture of Dorian Gray 1974.

Fiona Connor instead replicates steps, walls, museum benches, fountains, bulletin boards, bricks. The reverse engineering of the objects, that are very accurately remade, makes it hard to distinguish them from the original. The original could be surprised facing the archival translation of it’s body.

“Art should be familiar and enigmatic, just as human beings themselves”
“Art should make use of common methods and materials so there is very little difference between the talk and the talked about”

Ruppersberg’s thoughts are his own conceptual coat that strangely fits quite well with Fiona Connor’s art. Keeping the similitude between the two artists suspended on the acrobat’s rope, I add one of Allan McCollum’s observations ― about Al Ruppersberg reproducing or even embracing America’s banal traditional rituals ― that I particularly love and feel appropriate to Fiona Connor and our present time:

“In my memory, it was Al who reminded our troubled generation that simple, normal, everyday rituals of human commerce (horrors!) contained a significant complement of decency and joy that needed to be recognized and appreciated ― not in spite of, but along with whatever else might have been wrong with the world in those especially uneasy years.

Our years are not less uneasy, they are only uneasy in a different way.

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Photos: Peter Kirby

FIONA CONNOR’S PORTRAITS AND REPETITION

Fiona Connor

FATHER DIGESTING THE NEWSPAPER    ―   New Zealand, January 2016

“One of the things that is very interesting thing to know is how you are feeling inside you to the images that are coming out to be outside of you.” (Gertrude Stein with one alteration: images instead of ‘words’)

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Courtesy of the artist – Photos: Peter Kirby

Gertrude Stein’s portrait writing (from “Portraits and Repetition”)

“We in this period have not lived in remembering, we have living in moving being necessarily so intense that existing is indeed something, is indeed that thing that we are doing. And what does it really matter what anybody does. The newspapers are full of what anybody does and anybody knows what anybody does but the thing that is important is the intensity of anybody’s existence. Once more I remind you of Dillinger. It was not what he did that was exciting but the excitement of what he was as being exciting that was exciting. There is a world of difference and in it there is essentially no remembering.

And so I’m trying to tell you what doing portraits meant to me, I had to find out what it was inside any one, … and I had to find out not by what they said not by what they did not by how much or how little they resembled any other one but I had to find it out by the intensity of movement that there was inside in any one of them. … I must find out what is moving inside them that makes them them, and I must find out how I by the the thing moving excitedly inside in me can make a portrait of them.”

“Portraits and Repetition” is one of the five lectures Gertrude Stein wrote in 1934.
They were originally published in a book called Lectures in America, New York, Random House, 1935.

EQUALITY

  FIONA CONNOR and her effort to free community boards from their service as content containers  

by Rosanna Albertini

Fiona Connor Community Notice Board (Frogtown), 2015 Custom message center, paint, silkscreen and UV print on aluminum plates, light, pins, staples 32 x 64 x 13 inches 81.3 x 162.6 x 33 cm (Inv# FC85)

FIONA CONNOR Community Notice Board (Frogtown), 2015
Custom message center, paint, silkscreen and UV print on aluminum plates, light, pins, staples
32 x 64 x 13 inches  81.3 x 162.6 x 33 cm  Courtesy of 1301PE 

It’s likE dropping oil

on a Quivering sheet so

yoU don’t know how to touch it

the brAin gets slippery

maybe Lost in liquid thoughts

what Is language for the body

who’s wriTing or speaking

why invent anYthing on your own?

THE SCULPTURAL QUALITIES OF THE IMAGE DIM DOWN THE PURELY PERSONAL IDENTITY (Marshall McLuhan)

Fiona Connor Community Notice Board (Green), 2015 Custom message board, paint, cast aluminum handle, staples 27 x 32 inches 68.6 x 81.3 cm (Inv# FC82)

FIONA CONNORCommunity Notice Board (Green), 2015
Custom message board, paint, cast aluminum handle, staples
27 x 32 inches 68.6 x 81.3 cm   Courtesy of 1301PE 

To follow Fiona around the city is like following a humming bird, a big bird with no wings, but her stops on every display of content, either the working desk in my studio or a community notice board of a school, or a library, intensify her attention. A humming bird digging the flower. I see her mind in every part of her body, tense with inner movement.

Yet, when her art pieces are done, Fiona Connor is the first to step back. She makes herself an observer of the object she remade. Not a copy, not an imitation, the very object re-produced as it was: frame, cork, staples, paint, every piece of material remade identical to the components of the original object. Used and abused, damaged, because it’s a community tool, a framed board for immediate exchanges: lost cats and dance classes, mentors, baristas, trips for seniors, dates and prices. There are not many community boards now. Most passers by don’t even see them, their eyes on their smart phone, their private community tool. The artist found a bunch of them in Los Angeles, some almost completely destitute of function, empty. Scratched, marked by myriad holes. Some still carrying messages, messages on paper. They are archival artworks now, thin sheets of metal have replaced the paper, but one has to know it, the mutation is invisible.

 

Fiona Connor Community Notice Board (Laurel), 2015 Custom bulletinboard, paint, silkscreen and UV print on aluminum plates and vinyl, pins, staples 41 x 53 inches 104.1 x 134.6 cm (Inv# FC81)

FIONA CONNOR, Community Notice Board (Laurel), 2015
Custom bulletinboard, paint, silkscreen and UV print on aluminum plates and vinyl, pins, staples
41 x 53 inches 104.1 x 134.6 cm   Courtesy of 1301PE 

Fiona Connor Community Notice Board (Laundry), 2015 Custom corkboard, paint, silkscreen and UV print on aluminum plates, vinyl, pins, staples 25 x 18 inches 63.5 x 45.7 cm (Inv# FC79)

Fiona Connor Community Notice Board (Laundry), 2015
Custom corkboard, paint, silkscreen and UV print on aluminum plates, vinyl, pins, staples
25 x 18 inches 63.5 x 45.7 cm    Courtesy of 1301PE 

 

Fiona Connor brought to Los Angeles from New Zealand the heartfelt attachment to a sense of equality, a better word for democracy. Her art is a tribute to gestures and habits of social passing on that are not destined to last, or to be considered worthy of attention. Those moments and objects that slip through our fingers like water, like time. Small memorials of the living that nobody loves, just useful, they don’t count. “There is an ethics -she tells me- in renewing and reflecting people’s notice of common needs, to pay a tribute to ephemeral moments.” As most of life is.

COLLECTIVE VOICE

From FIONA CONNOR and MICHALA PALUDAN

Newspaper Reading Club, New York – Poster Project 2014

“Connor and Paludan ask participants to read from newspapers and periodicals of their choice, as they normally would, but to verbalize the process of skimming, commenting and personal editorializing that naturally occurs. A recording is made of the participants as they read through articles and make accompanying comments. These recordings are later transcribed to produce texts which become personalized documents of wider political trends, and which make visible the structures by which information is transmitted and absorbed. Through this process each edition of the Newspaper Reading Club comes to speak to the location in which it is held and the particular events present on the day of the reading.” 

To this official presentation I add that names of the readers are NOT given to the public. Posters merge into the texture of anonymous words hung and painted all around the passers by. Silent, unappealingly black and white, they are “a space of detachment,” as if they had given up having a body. Large pages, expanded leaves, they are not supposed to last. Marginal thoughts of unofficial readers. Their form is made with random and temporary reactions to the news daily printed. But THE READING MAKES THEM: which happens with no rules, each person cuts and runs on the pages following a sort of visual instinct, often masking the text with a texture of secret, unclear patterns. And words become crazy machines dispersing printed and uttered thoughts, a collective voice brought back to a fluid current, impersonal, fleeting. If the posters’ readers have questions, they become part of the flowing, of a FLUXUS perhaps? (R.A.)

 

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Signs that change buildings

Rosanna Albertini about Fiona Connor

They look exactly like the ones stuck near the sidewalk. Yet they are something else. An artist made them anew and brought them into her small apartment: one has long legs, must lean on the wall. Others sit on contentment. Never, they had never seen a house from inside. Words painted on them get quiet, what for? The LIVING MODERN of Brighten Villas lies down on the floor replacing the bed. What? They are supposed to compete! And scream their message, and help make money. “See what happened in a New Zealand artist’s brain?” the naked pole mumbles. “She brought me here with all of you, all dressed up with colors, and I have none. Who am I?”

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Maybe the oceanic distance of the New Zealand islands from all inhabited lands molds people’s thoughts as it does with birds and trees. They also think on their own. Fiona Connor is from Aotearoa New Zealand, and is of British descent.

“And the bird arrived from the other side of the world

 its flight so tiring the sun was scared it would be eaten,

  the bird fell to my feet and I carried it to the sea 

and cut open its stomach full of stones. 

The stones are now my eyes, 

white like my mother’s hair.”

From Tagata Kapakiloi, Restless People, by John Puhiatau Pule

In Los Angeles, Fiona’s eyes, ears still carry the native stones. History’s clock slows down. She records and prints conversations from which the stones erased the talkers’ names. “I replicate already existing objects,” she says, “materials and forms from a not very far past, usually neglected, mostly not worth looking at: benches, steps, real estates signs.”

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FC     To best understand a building, in addition to approaching it from the outside you have to be inside and look out. It is dependent on the environment it sits within.

RA    Same with objects? You try to be inside them?

FC    So interesting to discover the varnish quality, history of materials, the time they were produced, by whom, as well as cultural history, the taste of a different time.

ANDRE GIDE    Infinite receptivity of matter – porosity. The immaterial world – with infinite complications – fights against the matter’s brute memory, inertia postponed, apparent docility, until the matter becomes completely impregnated with it, changed. Passivity stops when the matter is traversed by an idea. (My loyal, true alteration of a real text by Gide)

RA    Trees peeled off  by Giuseppe Penone to touch their marrow have the white charme of new born creatures. Your replicas are not a modified original, they only show the original look, usually quite ruined, they are illusions! Physical ghosts and objective demostrations at once. Aren’t you afraid of being completely absorbed by the objects you are observing?

Walking on the seashore, Fiona stops by a small pile of clothes admirably folded: shorts on the shoes on the shirt in an impermanent, vertical sculpture. She clicks her phone. She is not afraid. What her art brings up is a reversed magnet redirecting her and our attention. If you are patient enough, you can discover how in Claude Lévy-Strauss words:

CLAUDE LEVY-STRAUSS    The same mind which has abandoned itself to the experience becomes the theater of mental operations which, without suppressing the experience, nevertheless transform it into a model to release further mental operations. In the last analysis, the logical coherence of these mental operations is based on the sincerity and honesty of the person who can say, like the explorer bird of the fable, ‘I was there; such and such happened to me; you will believe you were there yourself,’ and who in fact succeeds in communicating that conviction.

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 Photos: Peter Kirby