A Journey Without End – thoughts towards the work The 14th Kilometer: La Petite Mort (2009) of Inigo Rose
Some things are best left unsaid, like asking an artist, ‘What does this mean?’ At a time like this, meaning is merely a short cut, a sell out or compromise. If you seek the answer, you are settling for less. For here is not an accumulation of parts where words restore units to order and establish a categorical regime. And who wants it, really, this unity of elements where contents are levered into definitive statements? In the words of Deleuze and Guattari:
‘We will not look for anything to understand in it. We will ask what it functions with, in connection with what other things it does or does not transmit intensities.’
The work of Inigo Rose functions like an abstract machine; a collection of parts, which perpetually draw on, and refer to, other assemblages and systems of enunciation. The intentional references are many and diverse, shifting in and out of our awareness: alchemy, shamanism, contemporary Fine Art, neuro-psychology, and numerous others. As the alchemist (artist) operates the machine, the work is transformed from stasis into movement, and its silent parts are no longer trapped in the timeless poses of aesthetic contemplation. There is life here, a multiplicity of elements (comprising objects, people, events and contexts), which ceaselessly make connections within and between themselves.
‘a throng of dialects, patois, slangs and specialised languages.’
(Deleuze and Guattari)
I am tempted to ask, ‘Is this sculpture, animation or performance?’ but this is simply a bad habit of mine. I am aware that work such as The 14th Kilometer: La Petite Mort (2009) moves in and out of such orders of signification. It resists the power take-over of words (of critical language and the contemporary Fine Art market). In that sense, it resists my training. I am not prepared for it. It moves across the borders of academic ‘speak’ and critical language, moving in and out of intelligibility. In the process, the work of Inigo Rose highlights the slippery nature of intellectual life in the current scene, where ideas shift like sand and rapidly move into unchartered territory. The work sets out on a course and expresses a wandering. And when it moves, it carries its stories and affiliations with it. I could resist the journey and impose my own sense of narrative coherence on it, but what’s the point? Better to draw lines of flight and imagine temporary place-holdings. Allow the pattern, rhythm and connections of the work to take hold, for assembled within its codes are the almost-drownings, near death experiences, trance-induced hallucinations and happenstance conversations of Rose’s own autobiography.
As the static forms – of eggs, unicorn horns and bright red skulls – move into life, this assemblage of parts increases in dimension, expanding connections and moving towards infinite causality: Shamanism, Conrad Shawcross and Carsten Holler, Altermodernism and Relational Aesthetics, The Matrix and Bullet Time, Marcus Coates, Louis Greaud and Situationist subversions; the list goes on. When people are gathered and the work whirrs into action (under the disorientating and trance inducing effects of a strobe), the determinations, magnitudes and dimensions of the work proliferate/accelerate. The event of bringing the artwork to life generates a time-sensitive space whereby temporary affiliations can be established between objects and people – peripatetic connections.
There is ritual here, but it is not the common-sense ritual of the contemporary museum or gallery. A piece such as Diplomatic Device for Affirming Unity (2008) is more inspired by the vast expanse, social inclusion and immersive environment of the American Art festival ‘Burning Man’ – than a conventional Fine Art mausoleum. Inigo Rose invokes the multiplicity of the meeting place, with its cacophony of people, voices and objects, many of which are traced here, if only as particles in flight. Like meeting someone in a crowded coffee house, you might see things and you might hear them, but you won’t engage with the totality of the assembly. The totality is but an elusive ideal, subsumed within the multiplicity of ambient sounds, colours and movements. As Deleuze and Guattari remind us, being caught in the middle is where the pleasure begins:
‘The middle is by no means an average; on the contrary it is where things pick up speed … ‘
In conversation with Julia Moszkowicz and Inigo Rose.
JM. In relation to the idea of ritual, you have said: “I’m more interested in expanding thought-forms than supporting limits.” In what ways does the notion of ritual expand contemporary limits on thinking? What limits do you see?
IR. Well…in a ritualistic or ceremonial situation I can provoke perhaps a ‘real’ viewing of the artwork rather than a cursory acknowledgement of the work … in this way the artwork has an ‘embodied’ reception so it’s not just a configured experience … Certainly ‘Live-Art’ offers a ritualistic possibility … So hopefully I create an immersive environment where the ‘stuff’ of the mind meets the material and where a work can have a real physiological affect, maybe even a transpersonal connection with an audience, who in any case I regard as participants, rather than offer a purely intellectual experience. In so many ways life has become increasingly habituated and this quotidian way of living and experiencing can block us from having new experiences… and from the experience of the NOW!! we can end up taking something new and experience it in a conditioned way … We’ve grown accustomed and lazy to the newness in things so In performance I’m interested in bringing presence into focus.
…yet in performance there is a danger of being taken too seriously, so perhaps the work could be seen as irreverent … and there is a sense of doing it ‘badly’… of ‘bad art’ and this is important… I dress up as a Chef (my superhero costume!) and the ritual is slightly ‘wrong’. I hope to generate a sense of discomfort and self-consciousness within the audience. “How can we take this seriously?” This heightens their awareness that they’re having an experience.
JM. How can you be sure that people stay with the work? Your ritualised performances involve the demarcation of space but the demarcation of time is also significant. Maybe that’s as much as you can hope for, to exert some authority for a short period of time?
IR. You can’t really ensure it, but you can make an invitation to audiences to be with the work. I came to this understanding when I was looking at the work of Stanley Milgram the Auschwitz survivor and Yale University experimental psychologist who devised experiments on the theme of social authority. I looked at these works because they bring up important issues regarding free will and responsibility (versus devolving your responsibility). Performance is interesting because it places the viewer in a situation where the performer is in a position of authority, so in a sense by ritualising performance, I can supply authority.
…but this may be a limited way of looking at it, another reading of the work might be that I am interested in suggesting authority. Within an art context, maybe this loosens up the viewer and a few blockages in myself as well. Seeing experiences as ritual takes us into a different appreciation of that experience … an appreciation that is not bounded by limited thought patterns.
JM. You have commented that, ‘My interest is in provoking inquiry into the unknown.’ What do you see as the benefits in this for the participant or viewer?
IR. Well … that’s completely up to them!! I really don’t know what I’m doing on so many levels (laughs), however it is important for me to follow an authentic investigation that has arrived from my own life experiences … now I feel the need to share this more and more, where previously I avoided exhibiting if it caused me the slightest inconvenience! Now there’s something in me that wants to provoke a reaction! ..to share an ecstatic experience perhaps or to suggest a new understanding or reading of ‘Art’ –what ever that is! … so it’s the choice of the viewers to come, to suspend their judgments and relinquish their control long enough for something new to take place. By putting the work in a performance space I might be giving them an authority: I’m working on bringing people into the inner quiet that’s necessary to receive. In listening (or paying attention) there’s always an interaction between what’s being heard (or seen) and what’s being given. It’s a difficult thing nowadays because we have an overload of information. At the Venice Biennale, for example, we see work after work of ‘genius’. Wow, I’d been there for just over an hour and I’d already seen so many ‘works of genius’. …makes one run to the Café’! In terms of food it’s the equivalent of eating in a hundred of the best restaurant-in one hour!!!! So by slowing things down with ritual or performance I’m helping with mental digestion!
JM. Well perhaps you’ve brought up what you’ve called the ‘ecology of the mind’. Can you tell me what this means to you? Why ecology and not economy, for example?
IR. Ecology is about interactions between organisms and bio-systems, and if you take that to the mind, it is the interaction between thought-forms and the bio-system of the mind/body complex and how we navigate within that. That’s why I’m using ecology, not economy.
JM. The term ‘economy’ seems to have more resonance in Fine Art, though …
IR. Yes, and I don’t think that’s a true reflection of the human spirit. In the practice of everyday living we don’t have ‘economy of living’, we have an overflow of elements … There’s nothing economical about it … seemingly. What’s going on in the ecology of the mind is not an economy of the mind.
JM. Economy, I would argue, is widely perceived to be on the side of ‘the rational’; whereas ecology, like nature, is largely seen on the side of the irrational.
IR. It’s been known for a while that the world doesn’t work like that. For many years I have had the great good fortune and experience of working with Shamanism, first in Mexico and more recently in the Amazon. When I worked with Ketsimbetsa outside of Iquitos in Peru I was taken to a place of envisioning. The Shaman tend to look at their work as being rational in the sense that they view it as an exact science based on experience and controlled experimentation. Yet we in the west rationally refuse the validity of this cornering the market of what can be considered rational. Such is the economy of the mind … the shamans seemed interested in an ecology of mind, maybe then after we have a functioning ecology of mind we can arrive at an economy of mind. I have a problem with all these frames of reference … words have different meanings for each of us according to our experience and understanding so are only approximates and often are misleading.
Indian philosophies have a brain centred aspect. They identify brain areas in terms of charkas so even within the spinal cord there is a sense of thinking. We think from different places: the body, the emotions, the intellect … In neuroscience they have found that various states of brain activity relate to different states of being as do different areas of the brain and their correspondence to areas of the body. Both Shamanism and neuro-science can manipulate the physiological ‘brain-state’. The thinking problem solving brain exists in a beta state where as the dreaming brain exists in theta state. There is an ever-expanding knowledge from the reconciliation of these thought modalities and a clarity that emerges. The ecological mind opens up more and more doors so the more we see, the more we are able to see … we can see connections.
Culturally we haven’t contextualised these ‘new’ understandings or reconciliations of viewpoints … My work (The 14th Kilometer: la Petite Mort) touches upon this willingness to question, especially an obedience to science economic entitlement. Perhaps I’m working on this borderline between pseudo science and pseudo art, maybe pseudo shamanism…
JM. You’ve managed to evolve an interesting status as an ‘outsider artist’ within the context of the art world, do you think of yourself this way?
IR. I’ve just followed my passion, so the label seems … inadequate … a limiting thought form (he laughs). I do understand the reference, however I did go to art school and I have shown my work when I felt the necessity, its just that the venues for exposition have been perhaps off the radar screen of the conventional art world. For many years I’ve participated as an artist at the Burning Man Festival in the high desert of Nevada an experience indeed! Perhaps what I’m most interested is the art itself and the venue is dependent on the nature of the art…it all has to fit and not like a label!!!