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      Richard Layzell & Tania Koswycz – The Manifestation      
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spacerarrow Introduction
spacerarrow Interview

spacerarrow 100 Understandings


Interview with The Manifestation

participating: a voice and John Hammersley

JH: I wonder if I could start by asking how would you describe the art that you do?

Voice: Well, what I do is I become, offer or pass on an experience or range of experiences. These differ slightly depending on the space and to some extent the context. For example, in this last show at the Café Gallery I was a collection of videos, an installation, texts, a photograph and various made objects by the artists Richard Layzell and Tania Koswycz. I present their various works in what could be seen as a journey, where the art work is constantly becoming, much like many other exhibitions although I avoid linearity or try to avoid a beginning and an end.

JH: Are you describing the work that you do as becoming an experience? Could you give me an example?

Voice: Well, an example would be with the texts or The Stumbling Block, like with The Stumbling Block there is the object which I am given, which is the product I feel of either Richard’s or Tania’s experience. In fact I feel their texts do this well and emphasise what I am given, the before of the journey, the idea of a possible destination without it being too fixed. But then there is the experience of The Stumbling Block. It was moved around. It was considered and related to by Richard.  In being given to me to be part of my journey The Stumbling Block had the experience of being recognised anew. Almost like it was different at different stages on its journey. For this show it was journeying with me, and with the other objects.

JH: Do you feel this experience of being recognised anew or its moving around is apparent if you are seeing it for the first time in the middle of its journey?

Voice: No. I wouldn’t say everything was apparent for those who join the journey in the middle. Not even I have a perspective on the whole journey because of course Richard and Tania have the widest perspective but I would like to feel that for some of the middle of the journey, while Richard and Tania can’t be there I am doing the experiencing as well and I guess I would tie that idea of experiencing with recognising and things becoming apparent. It is not just a closed thing it is maybe an understanding thing. Experiencing as understanding and I feel this is perhaps a way I would like to see the work that I do. I make this understanding a possibility.

JH: So The Stumbling Block is an opportunity for understanding? Is this an understanding of The Stumbling Block?

Voice: Well, I can only give you my understanding of how others have experienced their understandings and of course I feel this differs slightly, possibly from Richard’s understanding. That sounded complicated didn’t it? Did you get what I mean? Okay! But I would add; I think Richard gets this absolutely. Well, what was I going to say?

JH: You were saying something about your understanding of others.

Voice: Oh yes, you really should interview Richard about this as well. But for one visitor who stands out in my memory The Stumbling Block was an experience of an obstacle we face in the artwork, in all art works.  I was struck by the fact that Richard seemed to have considered placing it elsewhere but when this visitor came to experience it he seemed to recognise that it had found its place. It seemed itself in front of a piece called Falling Phoebe. Now there is the obvious echo between The Stumbling Block and the tripping/falling of Phoebe but I think the understanding is more than that. In fact I think the understanding is possibly limitless or rather limited only by the person experiencing it, the limits of their experience so to say, that is kind of The Stumbling Block. It is the possibility of a person having the experience of recognising themselves in the work and recognising or understanding what their stumbling block to The Stumbling Block might be. Richard is very good at this sort of thing you know.

JH: Yes, it all seemed so perfect and I spoke to Richard briefly about it, the placing of the block to me seemed like an ideal viewing distance, but I recognise that I seemed to be making endless connections between things, such as a perfect viewing distance and the perfect image. But I worry that these things might not be intentional.

Voice: Oh I wouldn’t say that, or worry about it. That is what I think Richard and I achieve. I think it is not all about a hard kind of intention. I would like to think that I just sort of get him and he just sort of gets me. Kind of like good friends. But these connections you say you found through me, yes, they rely on you and your stumbling blocks or the possibility of you recognising your stumbling blocks but the odd thing is that I think this sort of synchronicity comes when you are yourself, or can only come when you are yourself. I think Richard, Tania and I and when I mention them here I think I am referring to their voices in the show, in particular the texts, their voices in the experience of me, they are being themselves and are comfortable to play with this feeling. I AM THE ONE is a great example of playing with the stumbling block of how others might recognise Tania for example.

JH: Yes, I have to say she has been a challenge to recognise or dare I say it to like. Especially in Cream Pages but she makes more sense when you understand the kind of friendship she must have with Richard I guess.

Voice: Absolutely and I guess I feel that word you use, friendship, is slightly metaphorical, maybe a way of describing an understanding or as I was saying a way of being yourself. I think the work that I do is also about trying to make this apparent for and on behalf of Richard and Tania.

JH: You mentioned the voices of Richard and Tania as being in the show, could you say a little more about that? I don’t remember Richard speaking in the videos for example.

Voice: Again I think this is a good reason why for you The Stumbling Block was such an important piece. Your stumbling block here is the constant shift between the object and the idea that I offer as an experience. I know that formal qualities and concepts have been thrashed out over the last forty years at least. I know this because I recognise it from Richard. But with me Richard seems clearly beyond a hard concept of concept and a formal relationship to form. It’s easier than that. I am not sure how better to describe it. I like to think he is just more in synch, more himself. It is through him that these things take on more intimate relationships.

JH: When you talk about being yourself and voice it reminds me of the notion of authentic. Do you think this is a word that Richard relates to or Tania for that matter?

Voice: That is a difficult one. I guess you should ask Richard directly and Tania although all I can say is that my experience of their voice when they speak with and through me is that it doesn’t feel preachy, it doesn’t feel aloof or dry and academic and I never feel that I condescend. At least I try not to. I am aware we are all human and I guess perhaps that is what Richard is aware of or that is what I become aware of and others. I guess I become aware of it when others become aware of it through me. It’s odd that. Like my understanding of Richard also depends on those who visit me. So yes, what can I say about authenticity, it’s not like I hear that word a lot from Richard but I think it is something that I get from him when he considers me. Like he is attentive. Like a good waiter. Not too in your face. Oh I could go on and on.

JH: Please do.

Voice: Oh, no! That is a little Bette Noir of mine, bad service in restaurants. When people come to visit me it can be like they want everything instantly and they want ketchup with everything. I don’t do ketchup.

JH: Are you saying that time and patience have an important part to play in the experiences and possible understandings you offer?

Voice: Absolutely! And the willingness to try new tastes. But I guess it is not that people should be more patient because our service is slow, it’s not. It depends on how used to searching for subtle or maybe different flavours people are. I think we have become used to only eating full flavours and this has dulled some people’s pallets.

JH: Yes, I think I know what you mean. But I liked what you said about waiting and this was also powerful for me. There was this time when I met Richard and You but Richard and I left you and went outside. I guess we didn’t want you to feel like you were being talked about, but anyway. Richard served coffee. It was one of those moments where things or boundaries evaporate I became so aware of the performance of serving and the fact that I had seen Richard as waiter with you. Anyway, it is rather odd me telling you all that but I just wanted to ask what you make of the video The Table?

Voice: I think you have just been explaining it for yourself. What you were saying seems like the boundaries between art and life seems less distinct when you talk to me about any of the individual works and the work that you are or were doing with me still seems to be on-going. Well I think that even when Richard has finished working with me our work will be part of his on-going work. This continuity seems so much a part of what Richard and I managed to put together.

JH: For me it is like understanding exists in relationship to time and memory as historicity. Richard isn’t trying to write monumental histories, is he?

Voice: I don’t know. You would have to ask him. I don’t think we were, although I know that he has a sense of wanting to notice or picture, perhaps make the journey apparent to memory through catalogues for example.

JH: Yes, I was sorry that there was no catalogue but then at one point I felt kind of happy there wasn’t. Like I had seen something privileged. But I recognise the selfishness in this I guess. I wonder if there is a desire for a greater understanding of Richard or when people meet you if there is a desire to meet Richard or Tania.

Voice: I would hope so, wouldn’t you? I think that is what is being lost with many exhibitions, the artist is becoming so remote and as you know Richard has been involved in performance. That seems to make so much sense of what you feel we came to an understanding about, the idea of relating at a human level. Richard I think did it with me exceptionally well, although I am biased. Tania of course recognised Richard and made his recognition of me in turn possible. It’s all a bit touchy feely for some people but I think there is a serious point to what I am trying to get at.

JH: Can I change the point slightly and ask you again about the perfect image. I am surprised by The Perfect Image. I have to say I found the idea quite difficult in the context of the rest of The Manifestation.

Voice: Oh, why was that?

JH: Well, so much of The Manifestation seems to me to be about relationships and understanding, and understanding seems to be this open-ended middle or being in the middle of things, but the Perfect Image seems somehow to fix something, pausing it. Is that what the Perfect Image is? I feel it is significant that it is a photo, a still so to speak. Although in White on White and Black on Black I guess there is another different feeling of perfection, like a striving for it.

Voice: It may be significant that The Perfect Image is a photo. For me the significance is different for every visitor. I am sure some people just look at it and move on.  Nothing is said. Like the title is not a question but an assertion. But I see all the titles as questions. I don’t get how some people can’t ask them of me. I guess some people are not that comfortable with questions.  I can kind of see what you are getting at with White on White and Black on Black but for many I guess they say as much about the labour or work of art.

JH: I wonder if I might change the subject a little and ask where you draw inspiration from?

Voice: Words. I mean both in the sense that the conversation seems to me to be inspiring but I find the words of Richard and Tania important in understanding my inspiration. They provide a breathing space for thinking and this is I think a possibility for many visitors. For me I feel that these words exist as part of the on-going nature of the work. Inspiration then becomes part and parcel of the process of Work / Art. Do you get what I mean?

JH: Well, what I felt at the Café Gallery was that you didn’t seem embarrassed by words or by Richard and Tania’s words. The dialogue, reflection or… I am sorry I keep coming back to this, it felt okay, authentic. I wonder if there is a return to words and concepts, a comfort with it that is inspirational. I think perhaps that is what is inspirational for me but we have turned the question around haven’t we?

Voice: But that is what I do, that is the work that I do. Or at least that is what I hope I do on behalf of Richard and Tania and of course with those who come visit and are happy to do the work of thinking, and talking. I turn things around!

JH: That links with one of my other questions which is… how do other people respond to your work?

Voice: Well that is more difficult. I guess they respond in a variety of ways. I feel that not many people go to pick up a brush or the Curve Measurer. Not many people kick The Stumbling Block but people do stand and wait before the tables. I seem to remember you did. Like you were waiting to be seated but there were no chairs.

JH: I must say I was tempted to try the handle of one of the brushes. I think the other things I just played with in my mind. I guess I may share a slight fear of objects in a gallery like a tradition passed down of 'don’t touch'. I wonder if that is still an obstacle for me of fully recognising myself in all the objects. I maybe find it easier in the videos and things, which speak differently as objects, more like installations that I enter into. But I guess that is highly personal to me.

Voice: What you say about tradition is interesting as I am still learning about the tradition of Richard and I guess I have become part of it. Again I would emphasise tradition as a living thing not something that holds on to all of the past. Perhaps Richard caries his past forward? Anyway, to go back to your question, I guess the tone of the on-going work of Richard’s tradition is inspiring. It inspires new possibilities for visitors and their conversation with me.

JH: Do you think that visitors might try to grasp you in a rational way and locate you in a familiar tradition, like performance or video or something like that?

Voice: I think I make it pretty obvious that it isn’t about the formality of traditions and that I speak with a different rationale, or logic. It goes back to how I think sometimes people can limit their understanding of what makes sense or how things can make sense. These clear or autonomous traditions can be new Stumbling Blocks. I guess I hope to speak to them in part but be trans-disciplinary. Trans-disciplinary in the sense that people are rarely one thing or rarely have hard limits to their various roles or perspectives. I think the relationship of understanding between Richard and Tania is a good example of this. I think not knowing where one begins and where one ends might be what makes some people uncomfortable. It is not graspable. You have to go with it and trust it.

JH: This might seem a strange question considering all that has been said so far but what does your work mean to you when you have finished it? Or I guess I should ask if there is a sense of finish about the work.

Voice: Well, not an absolute finish, no. But I guess I feel my ending more keenly. The finish is a real come down. I am very quiet when I have to move on, or at least I am until I go on to the next place. But I know it won’t be the same. And I guess that is the point. But I get the sense that for Richard and Tania the Café Gallery has been a full experience of collaboration with me. Did you get the sense that I gave you enough?

JH: Well, I think I took plenty away. I mean you, Richard and Tania have given me something to think about. Quite a lot actually. But I was kind of searching for this kind of journey and conversation. I wonder what people at different stages of their journey will take away from what you have to offer.

Voice: I think I have something for all stages. I think Richard would like to think so. I am not so sure about Tania. I guess it might also be down to those who look back on their journeys. It might help their next stage. I guess the possibility is there, of travelling together but not everyone wants to travel with someone else.

JH: What do you make of the meanings other people give to your work?

Voice: Oh, that’s a good question. I pass some of them back on to Richard. Sometimes Richard is with me to see what people like you have made of me. I think the question is more what role do I have in making the meanings other people give back to me. That’s tricky. I can’t know all that. In fact not all of what people make of me will come back to Richard or me. I am sensitive though. I create space and offer possibilities and I want to get recognition for this and the chance to go on offering. There are different publics though. Or rather other artists are also part of my public and for me this is no less important, I feel I have something to offer them as I am sure they have something to offer me. But I wonder about people writing about me and that kind of delay you get with reviews etc. Will it give me the chance to respond?

JH: I guess that answers my next question, which was, “How do you gather information about how they interpret your work?” But how do you interpret the meaning people give to your work?

Voice: I am not sure you have kind of got what I have been trying to get at which is that it is not so neat as your turn my turn. How I interpret the meaning other people give is part of how other people give meaning to me. My interpretation is an interpretation of them and their Stumbling Blocks, their Perfect Image etc. The texts, like the conversation between Richard and Tania, are not outside of me; the texts are part and parcel of me. There is nothing outside, no necessary key for translation, unless of course it is a work of art and part of the work of art. I think that goes for the visitor too.

JH: Do people’s responses have any impact on how your work evolves and changes?

Voice: Well for them yes. In our encounter and when I am made public to them. This kind of exposure inevitably has an impact on me. But I think it might get fed back into the inspiration of Richard and Tania. As long as their conversation is on-going then I think it has a place to go, to be felt. But I guess it might also have an impact on who else Richard and Tania might want to work with next. Not that I don’t want to continue working with them but we all have our limitations and Stumbling Blocks.

JH: I wonder if I could ask which three artists’ work today do you find means most to you? And in what way is their work meaningful to you?

Voice: Well obviously Richard and Tania. And I think our whole conversation has been about how inspirational they have been for me but a third is tricky. Do they have to be alive?

JH: Ideally yes, as I would like to talk to them.

Voice: Well I wonder if I can get back to you on that one. Is there one person that you feel I should talk to?

JH: Well, I have been surprised since I first met you I have met other artists such as another Richard (I forget his surname) who is about to start his PhD at Middlesex and who knows of Richard and I found one of Richard’s earlier catalogues on a desk in the apartment of a South American artist based in London who was away doing projects. I know the first is a photographer and the second deals with social art works. Well I don’t know if they caught you or if you can remember them at the Café Gallery, but I feel they would have enjoyed meeting and talking with you as much as I have. [pause] Well I think that is a good place to end it. Thank you for your time. It was very kind of you to speak with me.

Voice: I hope that is of some help to you. I feel there are one or two things there we could go back to if we had more time. Do contact me if you would like to talk further.

JH: Great, I will.

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