I am not an artist. I have never been an artist. But this summer, Derek Liddington invited me to approach 100 pounds of clay alongside him and use the material as a way of recording our conversation.
Our untitled work became part of Flesh Marble Leaf & Twig, an exhibition at 8-11 that included additional collaborative projects Liddington made with Chris Heller and Ulysses Castellanos. Forms were determined through an exchange of rubbing, bending, pushing, clawing and kneading, rendering a physical record of the duration of the conversations, reflecting an interest in the impact of shared memory and the politics of the gesture on an intimate scale.
As we discussed the possibility and politics of cross-cultural translation, I held in mind two wildly different references: the exquisite brushwork of Monique Mouton and that scene from Ghost (1990), you know the one. I can sense both of these cultural quotations in the work when I look at it, but I’m not sure either could possibly be evident to someone regarding the work in a gallery. And such is a lesson about what it means to make, that not everything that mattered can be there to read in the end.
In conversation with artists Stefanos Ziras and Eleni Papadimitriou, whose work was also part of Flesh Marble Leaf & Twig, Liddington described the clay sculptures as democratic negotiations. However, I prefer to think of our work as that of two dictators coming into contact with one another. Liddington proposed we use a material I was completely unfamiliar with, pushing me. I proposed we decorate the clay with graphite, pushing him. There was no vote taken or attempts at consensus, but rather a willingness to accommodate the inclinations of the other despite reservations. Approaching our collaborative object with generosity, I’d say that we hoped to show that the work of translation is not just rendering an idea intelligible in multiple ways, but that sometimes the work of being in contact means making room for something that you can’t understand.