Artist Teresa Albor on making 100 paintings in 24 hours and why she does it
London-based artist Teresa Albor is not-so-subtly interested in turning over the stuffy model of art as a commodity, and her work shows it in projects like "Rufus Stone," which hands over art-making materials and, in turn, the cachet of art-making to non-artists. Then there's "100 Paintings in 24 Hours," which she'll be performing starting at 11 a.m. today at the Counterpath bookstore/gallery/performance space. We asked Albor to explain the work and how and why it unfolds.
See also: Teresa Albor: 100 Paintings in 24 Hours
Westword: What is the genesis of the "100 Paintings in 24 Hours" performance? Teresa Albor: I am interested in what art is, how and where it is made, and where it is shown. This performance piece plays with many of the tensions of a prevailing conception within the "art world" that art is a repository of value, a commodity that can be sold, a means of revenue for the artist, i.e. his/her "livelihood." The paradigm involves a "white cube" gallery in New York, LA or London where "precious" art made mysteriously in the studio of an artist is sold for prices only the elite can afford to pay. In this case, we are in an independent bookstore, the work is free, and it is produced openly, almost as if in a factory. Cultural production is depicted as an assembly-line process. In summary: This is "task-oriented" performance art, about labor and art, and the methods and systems of quantity-production. Do you go into it with a clear idea of what you will paint? For each performance, I come up with a painting system with rules and a defined set of resources. At Counterpath, the process will involve selecting a black-and-white page from an old art encyclopedia or exhibition catalogue at random, applying a thick coating of ink/paint,and then etching with a plaster rake and/or a fork before the coating can dry completely. In a way, I'm referencing a process from childhood -- coloring with crayons, covering that with a layer of black paint and then etching into it.
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How hard is it to keep painting? How do you pace yourself? It's very liberating to work with abandon. The actual work is methodical, and I break it up by hanging batches of a painting in a neat grid pattern on the wall. It is hard work, though, and there's always a point in the performance when I wish I'd called it "Fifty Paintings in 24 Hours." What is the significance of giving them away at the end? By giving away the art, I maintain control of the process; I don't hand it over to "the market" where the purchaser chooses to buy it. Instead, I choose to give it to whomever I want. Also, questions are raised about the "value" of the work. Sometimes people insist on paying me, because they are uncomfortable with losing control. In one instance, a man insisted and then forced $10 on me. What did that say about how he "valued" my labor or the piece of art he held in his hand? What have you learned from doing this kind of work? In terms of process, I've learned to let go. I think one of the inspirations has been the collaborative painting I do with Tim Stone, an intellectually disabled artist who is very intuitive and in the moment, whereas I can be too analytical. In terms of my thinking, the performance has opened up new questions about the role of art in society as viewed from economic perspective vs. the role it might play in everyday life. I know the "white-cube/repository of value" paradigm is not the only model out there, but I'm particularly interested in critiquing it because, besides its other limitations, it has historically been about privileged white males.
Can you tell us about the Rufus Stone project? Although Rufus Stone sounds as if he/she is a person, in fact this is a collaboration between myself and another artist. We have grave misgivings about current stereotypes and paradigms that define or describe "art," and the process of making it and presenting it (but we have every intention of subverting these structures if it is in our interests). Rufus Stone works with "non-artists" across the U.K., helping them reimagine what art means in their lives. We equip them with options by introducing them to mediums such as performance, sound and installation; facilitate, contextualize and frame their work; locate audiences and venues; and document the process. We ask them to take on the role of producers, to get past the notion of being participants. Through our contextualization, we "elevate" this work, so it can exist alongside "serious art," i.e. art that has been given a high value via the existing market. In a nutshell, we believe it is essential to find new ways of thinking about art, its peripheral characteristics, and the power of art to incrementally change the world.
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