Installation 1

There has been a build-up to these two days of installing, the Wednesday and the Thursday, the last two days of January 2013, with some potential to spill over into Friday morning. Lists have been drawn up, journeys planned and agreed. So my planned trip by train to Twyford to collect and travel with the disassembled Cabinet in Richard’s van early on Wednesday made no sense if he could arrange some help loading at his end. This meant that I could drive in the aging estate car to my studio at Chisenhale Art Place and collect the other elements for the installation, after loading up at home in Finsbury Park with the starched table cloths, fabric rolls and other necessaries. I would leave early enough to have free parking in Bow. Inevitably loading of the other necessaries took longer than expected and I arrived at Chisenhale Road in need of a parking meter only to find that none of the payment machines were functioning. The inevitable stress of double-parking led to rapid ascent and descent of the six flights to Studio 28 on the 3rd floor, not realising I was setting a trend for double-parking, or was even ahead of the curve, as many parents gradually joined me in a column of illicit parking as they dropped off their children at Chisenhale Road Primary School, which makes a surprise appearance in the World Buildings Directory thanks to its natty new wing.

Now fully loaded, the drive to Enfield and Forty Hall was a negotiation of the A406 passing en route the Edmonton Ikea, whose Bargain Corner had been so instrumental to the disassembled sculptural construction that would shortly be heading east on the M25 in the back of Richard’s powerful black Volkswagen Transporter as I now took the A10 going north in my faded but trusty Passat, a car so brutally parodied by Jeremy, as his silent psychotherapist’s imagined vehicle of choice, in a recent edition of Peep Show.

I had an hour of unloading before Richard arrived, long enough to request and negotiate the special opening by Gavin of the Courtyard’s main gates so the black Transporter can be parked in style and we can move the stuff in with more ease. I’m slightly concerned that he may be accompanied by Tulip, his uncontrollably effusive part Staffordshire bull, rescued from Battersea Dogs Home. I imagine Tulip unwittingly trampling the Cabinet’s finer pieces in the back of the van. I get a call saying he’s lost but he arrives a few minutes later, dog free. We look at the Inner Courtyard and discuss the positioning of the Cabinet. Gavin has already emptied the display case, also located in the Inner Courtyard. There are large orange gripping devices still attached to its glass. This will later contain a mini landscape of chopsticks and stands, which I imagine working on after Richard has left.

Gripping devices

Gripping devices

So the intention I had was to locate the Cabinet somewhere in the middle of the space and the display case alongside a wall. In the adjoining Long Gallery there would be an installation of round tables, with one large table, loaned from across the Courtyard thanks to Forty Hall Banqueting, as a centrepiece. This was the plan. This is the plan. Not fixed but dependant on actuality and site-specific judgement. So there could be a reversal, with the Cabinet moving to the Long Gallery.

We look at the heavy MDF base, elevated a couple of inches by its wooden frame, imagining the rest of the construction in place. I assume it should be set at an angle, perhaps because that’s what I usually do, perhaps from the conditioning of the Private Dancer structure always being set ‘on the huh’. Richard is unconvinced, citing the squaring of the floor tiling on which it sits as a visual conflict and the proximity of the walls. I can see what he means and eventually acquiesce. I also want to acknowledge the collaborative role he’s had in the design and making of this piece, so how it’s positioned here is an extension of this process. We start to assemble it, look again, move it, look again, move it again. And there it stays. Once in position the actual assembly is fast and fulfilling. It makes its mark when the fabric rolls are attached in garish abandon, as parallel slashes of colour. It has a functional appearance, but the right-angled rolls don’t add up. That was the plan.

Cabinet in position, Inner Courtyard

Cabinet in position, Inner Courtyard

We have lunch in the Courtyard Café and Richard decides to head back west, having abandoned Tulip to a neighbour. I’m left to contemplate the decisions we’ve made, the finishing touches to the drawers of the Cabinet and the impending unnamed mini-installation in the display case. This will be the fourth in a line of miniaturised pieces, dating back to the Window Wall for Cornerstone in Didcot and Fine Food for the Gooden Gallery. I’d used a specialised display case similar to this one at the Lynn Museum a year ago for Re-Home and liked what I found. ‘Display’ has its own attributes when it happens within a state-of- the-art, museum-styled unit. Even the visually intrusive internal strip light has its attributes as it distinctly marks out the lit from the shaded. Is display equivalent to assemblage, design, layout, composition and installation? Am I elevating the commonplace Chinese brush and chopstick stands to a precious, untouchable status? I see it as a dialogue of east and west, of scale, the everyday and the universal, the architectural and the detail, of chopstick, fork and brush, bamboo, stone and steel, blue, white and silver. Bamboo is a very fine material, carved, split, sliced, shaved, sanded and cut, intimately imbued in the east, so inextricably linked with eating that the Chinese word for chopsticks kuai-zi literally translates as quick bamboo.

My research had begun with the chopstick rest and moved on to the brush rest, the first examples acquired at a store in Hangzhou, so they really did exist, I later found them in London’s Chinatown. And the visual link between the two rests became the thematic slanting of the installation, resting objects at a slight angle to protect hygiene and paint slippage, and here, with the keen focus of the inner light, the slanting shadows, the angle of incidence, the rows of usefulness and ambiguity.

Angles of incidence

Angles of incidence

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