I remember being apprehensive about going to see the two Russians in 2017. The two Russians were Ilya and Emilia Kabakov and I was going to see their works at the Tate Modern. But I had doubts about being able to enjoy conceptual art. Looking at strange structures and then trying to work them out like a puzzle while walking around in a public space seemed intimidating and a little bit tiring. Those doubts were truly catapulted out to space by ‘The Man who flew into space from his Apartment’ . With this installation the artists had created a fantasy world of the highest order. There was a catapult in the centre of the room and a place for a person to fit themselves into it. A pair of shoes could be seen just under it and our eyes went directly to them. The room was about the absent person, and the shoes were a symbol of that absence. There was a big hole in the ceiling. The text of the title and the accompanying text created a fictional narrative. The lonely inhabitant of this room designed this catapult and escaped into space.
To survive in a restrictive regime like the USSR people would have to create all kinds of stories of escape in their mind. Its not just in harsh conditions though, we create little ongoing narratives, little melodramas all the time in our minds. It’s how we interpret the world around us. Our posturing and role playing gets us through. Going to the exhibition made me realise that my art doesn’t have to exist in isolation. I started to think of the process of finding what I wanted to create, gathering the raw material and finally the process of creating my work as part of one big story. So if I read a poem about the sea to take inspiration that narrative that character would be part of my work.
A different narrative came to me while I was walking to the beach to gather the material for the art work above -The woman who found the beach. The photos, painting and the text are part of one piece of work.