Inventory for a reverse journey : photographic image and found object : an investigation of travel and material transformation as a paradigm of artist's practice : Ed Ruscha, Douglas Huebler, Bas jan Ader, Jimmie Durham, Gustav Metzger, Kurt Schwitters & Cian Quayle
Inventory for Reverse Journey is the title of a collection of photographic artefacts and found objects, which I have collected over the last twenty years. The title refers to one specific type of artist's journey, which is applicable to the `chronotope' of my archive, as a `metaphorical journey in space and time' (Bakhtin 1981, p. 81). The `city',`provincial town', `road', `threshold' and `interior' are recurrent motifs, which Bakhtin fused together to describe the historical evolution of the novel in relation to its different genres. Bakhtin's motifs are expanded as the basis of an evolutionary nomenclature of the artist's-journey, as a form of spatial mapping and identity formation. Alongside other sources from literature (Alain Robbe-Grillet), cinema (Michelangelo Antonioni), psychoanalysis (Kierkegaard) and critical theory (Walter Benjamin) I have developed a theoretical framework, which initially originated in an empirical process, that is reflected in the antecedents of this project. The research process, as a journey itself, has concretised this approach within a systems-based practice. This is mirrored in the work of the artists under investigation, as their differences and similarities are highlighted within a broad contextual analysis. Accordingly the tone of the writing shifts its register at different points in the thesis. My journey is just one example of several paradigmatic formations of `travel' as a strategy, which investigates the work of six different artists, as a voluntary or involuntary form of exile. A deskilled use of the photographic image is examined in the work of Ed Ruscha, Douglas Huebler and Bas jan Ader in the spatial mapping of their chosen locations. The work of these artists manifests travel, as a strategy, in a benign form of regional and expatriate exile. The investigation shifts its focus from the New World to Europe, where the work of Jimmie Durham, Gustav Metzger and Kurt Schwitters is analysed in relation to their transformation of found objects and materials, and their relationship with a former 'home'. Their position registers different degrees of the `impossibility of return' to a point of origin, which exists in the mind rather than as a physical location. The transience of their work, and use of disparate materials, is counterbalanced by their physical presence in the work. Conversely Ader, Huebler and Ruscha are linked by a scale of decreasing visibility, as they are sublimated within their work in the formation of, what is now construed as, a unique photographic presence. The starting point for which is a return to the formative years of conceptualism in the 1960's, which set the scene for Durham and Metzger from the 1970's onwards. The spectre of Schwitters practice of forming (Formung) and unforming (Entformung) is significant for my analysis of the dematerialisation of the art-work and artist, by processes of series and repetition, distance and proximity, movement and stasis. Although `travel' is a ubiquitous term, I continue to use it as a portmanteau, which carries with it the themes and `salient' features of a typology of artist's journeys. In a moment of perceived obsolescence as digital information systems engender a culture of `selective-amnesia', these thoughts have informed my work, which runs parallel to the artist case-studies, and the material transformation of the photographic image and found object.