For an artist to engage with the work of another in the act of drawing from, reworking or copying is to participate in a renegotiation: existing material is repositioned, removed, disturbed, recalibrated, processed …. allowing relations to become fluid and unfixed.
In One Way Street Walter Benjamin draws an analogy between the Chinese practice of copying books and its impact on Chinese literary culture and the act of walking and following a road vs the view of the same road from an airplane:
The airplane passenger sees only how the road pushes through the landscape, how it unfolds according to the same laws as the terrain surrounding it. Only he who walks the road learns of the power it commands, and of how, from the very scenery that for the flier is only the unfurled plain, it calls forth distances, belvederes, clearings, prospects at each of its turns… Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened up by the text…
As such, for Benjamin, the power of following or submerging oneself in the world of an existing text means that the renegotiation is not just with the material at hand but an internal renegotiation on the part of the copyist/artist. Copying is, thus, not simply a submission to a past canon but a testing of what the encounter itself, the embedding of oneself in the work of another, can do to open up to new prospects in the present moment.
Drift concerns itself with artistic acts of repetition, reworking and re-enactment as a mode of encounter that gives new form to what might otherwise be latent, creating relations that are alive and tending to a new situation. The artists in this exhibition share an interest in the material and conceptual potentials of this encounter: how renegotiation of pre-existing works or found material – both historical and contemporary – opens up a potential to think anew through new movements of meshing and reverberation.
Jesse Ash, Bernd Behr, Bernice Donszelmann, Cath Ferguson, Mary Maclean, Louisa Minkin, Tim Renshaw, Helen Robertson