It started when Charles Sauvat and I worked together for two-person exhibition at Alliance Francaise in Kumasi titled In Exchange. Charles’ sculptures seemed to incorporate space as an element in their design. The objects (mainly characterized by rhythmic placements of welded metal to form geometric shapes and meshed with diagonal lines in-between) and their unique placement in space gifted the works with an alluring dynamism while epitomizing the artist’s eloquence in his application of space as a tool. I was always fascinated by these works and impressed with the artist’s combination of the basic linear elements employed— vertical, horizontal and diagonal… He always made miniature models of his works from match sticks; one of which he gave me as a parting gift on his return to France.
At the Queens JCR (which used to be our favourite hangout on campus), Moye (see THE SANBRA PROJECT) and I, would usually treat ourselves to a game of pool and reason out on issues. This time, I needed ideas for my final year project. He expressed a similar interest in appropriating Charles’ sculptures and had wanted to collaborate to create a similar structure but one which could inhabit space as well as be itself inhabited.
My main areas of interest with this project were with perception (its phenomenology), space, the seamless proximity existing between the ideas of the subject and object/ the maker and the made, and how this singular piece would stand as an object born of interdisciplinary efforts and be itself subjected to a plethora of interpretations by the spectator. Along with Moye, I recruited Winter (an post-graduate student architect at the time), Eric Chigbey (an undergraduate Sculpture major: we were in the same class our freshman year) and Abbey (a professional carpenter). I needed other perspectives on this project as much as possible. I felt the structural perspective (especially) would make the habitat a workable one, as well as an artistic combination and assemblage of material would make for good enhancements. The professional carpenter (whose role I cannot demean) simply had most of the tools and expertise required for the job.
We set out acquiring the requisite tools and materials; Included were Jute sacks, jute ropes, wood, nails, bolts and nuts. The work took five days to put together. It was installed in-situ— involving the spectator in the creation process. Every day in the life of the making produced another body of work to be experienced. The work groups two right-angled triangles of uneven sizes face to face to form two three-sided pyramids. Three wooden planks crisscrossed the mid-portion of the piece to create the trompe l’oeil of finely woven yarn on a giant hand loom (an effect consequent of weaving the jute ropes in-between); it looped from an apex of 4.5m on the opposite three-sided pyramids.
The giant triangular parts were fitted, mounted and positioned in the centre of the Queens Hall courtyard. They were joined together with bolts and nuts (used instead of nails to aid easy removability— also to take away the rigidity that accompanies nailing). One of our concerns was to make the work, as grand as it was, easy to disassemble and reinstall should we decide such.
The work was intended to elicit three transitory experiences—grading from a hollow (empty) space through to a meshed area then on to a space of opacity: When you examine the Sketch Model, it is evident that the final work differed from its original conception. In the working process, we realized that this enclosure, when implemented, would mark an ‘end’ to the experience which was not desired. And so we improvised in that area using plywood and other ‘found’ materials—continuing the experience with ‘framed’ skyscape portraits— what we referred to as ‘unfamiliar views of a familiar space’. Wood shavings/ stripings of various tonal qualities and plywood were employed to this effect. We got these courtesy of a local lumber factory.
The indistinct form of the object provoked interesting responses from spectators. Its austerity teased out quite interesting interpretations and tasked the imaginations of the public. Upon encounter, the work is immediately being made ‘sense’ of. When we failed to provide satisfactory responses, interpretations were bestowed on the piece—some of which made larky biblical references to Noah’s Ark.
The working process was concerted. Another exciting part of this project was how it stimulated interest in people both known and unknown by us. Most of our friends willingly offered to help out. The communal experience and congenial environment enriched the process and embedded the psychic signatures of all who were involved.
The work is not only significant in its relevance as a legitimate subject of inquest—a questioning of space, how ‘external’ objects, given our existential temperaments, affect (or not) our perceptions and interactions within [un]familiar environments— it is also wrought with a sense of nostalgia… each time I visit the video and a part of the project, so many memories flood my mental; fond memories. I was emotionally bonded to the process, and as a result formed a relationship that goes beyond familiarity with many people. For me the most important aspects of the untitled… (I can’t draw) project was the collective and interdisciplinary efforts and collaborations and also the interpretations and interactions formed during and after the process.
Videos of the making have been uploaded to my Youtube channel.
Follow IUB’s youtube channel at www.youtube.com/user/theiub
NB: Photos for the project are shown on a separate page titled ‘I CAN’T DRAW [PHOTOS]’…