Moments after stepping off the bus,
the rain begins to fall
thick and heavy
like a sheet of water
draped across the landscape
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick states ‘the weather has a privileged place in a discussion of complexity.’ (1) Everyone has something to say about the weather. It is what happens here and now, to our settlements and landscapes, to us. It is the one circumstance in life which we share in common.(2) But when you talk about the weather, do you really mean something else?(3)
Robert Morris writes ‘the experience of the work necessarily exists in time. Language, memory, reflection and fantasy may or may not accompany the experience.’(4) Two days after I had placed the prints inside bus stops around Hackney, I returned to find that they had already been replaced with adverts. Next to one bus stop, there was a small gallery space. I asked the man who was sitting at the front desk if he knew when the adverts in the bus stop had changed — was it yesterday or today? He didn’t know, but he “vaguely recalls noticing that something was different” in the last 48 hours.
Lucy Lippard wrote in The Lure of the Local, ‘spontaneous attraction to a place is really an emotional response.’ (5) Following the journey of a bus route on my usual cycle to work along Kennington Lane, I located the first series of prints. Mostly to see how long they would last. The prints are never made with a specific site in mind and the choice of location has become arbitrary.
On January 1 2007, São Paolo introduced its Clean City Law. Over 15,000 billboards and 300,000 business signs were taken down. (6) On March 15 2013, a group of French activists were ‘acquitted of defacing advertising billboards in a symbolic act of civil disobedience.’ They claimed their “right of reception” had been violated by being forced to engage with advertising.(7)
The choice to place the artwork in the bus stop is not more or less relevant than the image which is being placed. The work also exists on its own. Not specific to the site, but the site is occupied by the work. In his essay ‘Notes on Sculpture, Part II’ Robert Morris writes ‘the space is altered in certain desired ways by the presence of the object.’(8) In Situation, Claire Doherty describes artworks as ‘situated’ if their starting point is the context. My starting point is the weather. (9)
The bus stop
A non-place: a space of transience, where we remain anonymous. There is not enough significance for it to be regarded as a place. (10)
A place: ‘our own local entwined with personal memory, histories or marks made in the land that provoke and evoke.’ A place is ‘temporal, spatial, personal and political.’ It is about ‘connections, what surrounds it, what formed it, what happened there, what will happen there. The resonance of a specific location that is known and familiar’ (11)
It is for no one and it is for everyone.
Something personal shared in the public - a memory, a feeling, an encounter. An act of bravery? Undefined, unexplained. Seth Price writes ‘collective experience is now based on simultaneous private experiences.’ (12)
An artwork when placed outside may lose its original value - it may be defaced, destroyed or become weathered over time. What is the act of placing it under the glass of the bus-stop, a public gallery space, where passer-bys have no choice but to look at it, whether they asked to or not.
The moment the print is inside the bus stop: it is no longer mine. I have no intention of owning the space, yet it is being occupied by something that once belonged to me. Authorship is lost.
1 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, The Weather in Proust (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2011), p.3
2 Richard Mabey, Turned Out Nice Again: On Living With the Weather (London: Profile Books, 2013), p.
3 Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, (London: L. Smithers, 1899), p.25
4 Robert Morris, ‘The Present Tense of Space’ in Situation, ed. Claire Doherty (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2009), p.27
5 Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (New York: The New Press, 1997), p.8
8 Robert Morris, ‘Notes on Sculpture, Part II’ in Situation, ed. Claire Doherty (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2009), p.26
9 Claire Doherty, Situation (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2009), p.26
10 Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (London & New York: Verson, 1995)
11 Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (New York: The New Press, 1997), p.7-8 12 Seth Price, ‘Dispersion’ 2002, quoted in Claire Doherty, Out of Time, Out of Place: Public Art (Now) (London: Art Books Publishing, 2015, p.16