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Talk with Andre Guedes

July 14, 2009

Andre Guedes will be presenting a work based on his residency at the Bluecoat in October.  Here are some notes from a really interesting talk we had…

Levels of access – as Andre’s current working practice has several different elements, including print, found art and performance, it is often possible for a visitor to encounter the artwork without experiencing the full ‘whack’ of his intention. The obvious parallels are to ‘Modernism’, which took prior knowledge and levels of reference as a necessity. Well, I love Eliot, and I think it’s generous to offer these different levels to the viewer who wishes to invest more in your work. It’s nice to be rewarded for your attention, I think, and lots of poetry really starts to heave and escalate when you understand the techniques and influences at work in it.  Perhaps the same can be said of art, but I have never bothered to find out!

Familiarity adding depth – this is another interesting and, I expect, common feature to an artist’s impressions of their life’s work. As I understood each project of Andre’s, I enjoyed how the practice and theory had developed: from interactive to multi-format, from personal interactions to the socio-political, conversely becoming more emotionally intelligent in the process. No artist can expect someone to be completely familiar with this journey though – it’s really a luxury afforded only to the artist themselves.

“Responsibility of the audience” – hm. Very few audience members feel this responsibility, although artists talk about it a lot. Making people pay huge ticket prices tends to increase their awareness of this responsibility. It’s this sort of talk that makes us hate audiences.

“With control comes responsibility” – relate: “Heavy the head that wears the crown” – finding a strain to develop more powerful and resonant work the further an artistic career develops and the ‘bigger’ the commission.

“Suspension of disbelief” – I suppose this relates in a rather shallow way to the “escapist” function of art. Andre used the phrase when describing how he’d put a sort of gauze over the windows to stop the view of the outside encroaching on his work. Attention to detail and control over the environment is an essential factor in achieving the ‘suspension of disbelief’ in the ability and power of artwork in general.

“Reflection” – in the sense that two objects reflecting back on each other create a third circumstance in the middle of them. This image is very strong, and ghostly, I think.

“The simple logic of the switch” – especially when related to the eternal image of ‘light’.

Also this phrase, when speaking about using art to develop global understandings, and Andre’s visit to New Zealand – “Travel failed to explain itself”. It’s really just a mistranslation, but I love it.

Now, here is Andre explaining why he is an artist. I have asked him to be succinct, which is a sure fire way to make someone bumble. Up to this point he has been much more eloquent. Mostly though, I enjoy the way this conversation has the journey (lightly edited) from speaking about art as simply the best way to earn a living, through art being the best way to explain experience, to art being the result of his heritage and family – a very affirming sentiment, I think – to the positive nature of the art environments… love, friendship, understanding…

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