Title: Inhabitance   – the presence of concern
By-line: A response to Inhabitance, a residency by Sian Torrington
Author: By Rachel O’Neill

Early on in the residency, you entered the place through a red door at street level, which had a lock but no door handle. When Sian let you in, you stepped into a solid cold concrete hallway, the wall a dirty cream colour. There was a door on the right but you passed it. Though, now that you think about it, this is what happened on the second visit. When you came here the first time Sian was out getting a coffee and so the artist behind that door you would pass the next time let you in. He said hello, and you followed him into his studio even though you’d just met because you were feeling nosey and his room was nicely heated.

Due to a series of direct questions, you discovered that he worked for the Council and that he’d got permission some years ago to use the space as an art studio while the Transport officials decided whether or not to build a motorway through this building and the many others in the block that they’d purchased for this potential purpose. The building is in the path of what is referred to as a paper road, a pseudo road. It is a maybe baby. You’re getting a picture of the building’s history, a paper history that in many ways hasn’t even taken much shape on the page yet.

Sian’s neighbour artist makes things with bronze, and there was hot wax somewhere and you were reminded of something tangential, like the things you tried out at art school when you discovered feminist performance art, which included dipping stockings into hot wax, and making some of them look bloody and making a lot of references to vaginas, and not just because vaginas had worked out so well for Judy Chicago. You had your own reasons. You think back to your end of first-year exhibition, the one that your mum came to, and the questions these things must have flagged for her.

The next time you visit, Sian takes you straight down the hallway. There’s a cupboard under some invisible stairs, and her interventions with string, paper, knitting needles and chalk marks suggest a musical instrument has been sent here for tuning work in the hands of a colourful professional, or has emerged out of architectural necessity. Further down the hallway a window appears, and pink chalk marks have been applied to the opposite wall, a leopard print, to mimic the peeling paint that hangs off and the ceiling and several other surfaces. This building has a skin condition that’s being intentionally repaired through exacerbation. There is also suggestion that nature is looking for alternate surfaces, new grounds for presence, via abstract, obfuscatory processes.

11.33AM All eyes are on the oblivious future. Everyone is choosing things to take there.

11.33AM But the poor fact is left to fend for itself.

11.33AM While concerns are slow thoughts urgently grouped.

11.33AM You need things here, including faces and axes.

There also appears to be a sense of freedom about the light fixtures, many of which are missing bulbs or coming away from the ceiling. So the building has its own wonky rights to contend with, you think, a set of vulnerable and yet determined freedoms that pollinate the entire five-roomed space – bedroom, bathroom, living room-next-to kitchen, and another room that Sian’s boarded up because it’s too creepy to work in.

Each room becomes populated, materially socialised, paper is layered onto walls, marked with chalk and looped across distance with string, uncut rolls of zipper, sometimes humble black insulating tape. Yellow, mustard, white glittery material is wrung from flat rolls and clumped, or made to cover and stretch out from sticks rising from red carpet to curve at their limit on the ceiling. Knitting needles are stuck in the wall, and twice, canvas is turned into human-scale cacoons.

The bath tap is left to drip and blue glitter reacts tidally to the increase of water. Blue chalk accompanies the dance on the walls, and the shadow-stains of objects removed are pencilled back in, a sketchy mirror appears. Crepe paper chains are strung above the small inland sea, an interlocking net ready just in case there is a flicker in gravity.

In the last weeks, photographs appear on the walls, images of the works in the space, attached on top of the works themselves, reprinted and strung out in series. These are a slick, slippery, surface life force.

1.14PM The lines of sight will turn a blue wounded wool colour, but succeed as verbs and cobwebs

1.14PM The lines of sight will at last hang out in an orange tent. But who and what can live here?

The repetitive photographic mapping is significant. It’s not paper road, nor is it without acknowledgment for holding up the work, spatially more than temporally, so that what it lets come and go in this specific location, enables specific subjective and objective arrangements to be present through succession.

3.14PM Fingers slip and fall into the habits of photographs.

3.14PM They caress it and abet its standing on end.

3.14PM We follow the caress that breathes in time with us.

3.14PM A breath of fresh air, she said, and what it can demand of us.

Sian’s 2010 final-year MA exhibition touched on the way narratives are acted by troupes of words and objects to make certain aesthetic discourses, and their relations to power, gender and sexuality more transparent. In this residency, Inhabitance, Sian worked with things, scope that builds on her past investigations of troupes of words and objects and the aesthetic discourses they tango with. Inhabitance is an experiment in letting the tango of things, the concerns illuminated by the play of subject and objects play out via representational succession.

Throughout the residency Sian worked in a certain place as a cohabitant for a specified period. Her cohabitants included the things she brought to the space during the residency, the building itself, her energy and her sense of aesthetic and discursive play, the ghost of city council and the paper road that cut through the building, council funding so she could work full-time in the space and produce this catalogue, and the mustard washes of a sometimes readily assumed awareness of simultaneous if not synchronised gestures/suspensions of history and memory.

She did this so as to concern herself and her viewers with the rights or distant freedoms of things. The way things – comprising subtitles, chalk, dust, photographs, a blog – make claims to validity in an always chaotic arrangement of scale, gravity, funding, PR, occupy this residency. Engagements with things underscore options for subjective and objective presence, available even amidst this everyday clatter, or clutter of things.

Noon: We do what we can to muster the distance and closeness that we need to foreground our concerns. We get a little abstract in the swamp of temperamental life, which charges us with keeping our facts where they belong, our hands outstretched, open amidst their entanglements.

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