artist / participant
#8, Closed for Installation, Sequence of Events
The New Zealand-born artist Fiona Connor makes sculptural installations in which she replicates objectsand structures of everyday life. Her recreations of bulletin boards, drinking fountains, furniture, and doorsnot only draw attention to these widely overlooked items and their forms, they also reconstruct thehistories and micro-economies of communities. Many of her works respond to the infrastructure of theplaces and environments where she exhibits them, uncovering the underlying mechanisms that mayinform our interactions with art and art institutions. The sculptures reveal the artist’s deep curiosity abouthow things are made. They play with the ambiguity of the handmade and the manufactured, as well as with the boundaries of an art object.
For her exhibition at the Secession,#8, Closed for Installation, Sequence of Events, Connor hasdeveloped a body of work that comprises 23 bronze objects that resemble tools commonly used in theinstallation process of an exhibition: a measuring tape, ruler, pencil, dolly, etc. The sculptures work with the rules of a certain period of labour and maintenance, replicating tools that look very similar all aroundthe world and are usually out of sight at the opening of the exhibition.
In the framework of Connor’s exhibition, the artist was also realizing two projects outside of theSecession: One at Karl-Marx-Hof, a municipal housing complex, where she made a copy of a communitybulletin board and relocated it for the duration of the show to a private apartment. The other one is to permanently exchange a standard door from another social housing project in Vienna with a door from a house in Los Angeles.
Interview with Fiona Connor
Annette Südbeck: For your exhibition at the Secession, you had sculptures cast in bronze that all resemble tools commonly used in the installation process of an exhibition. How would you describe yourprocess of making these replicas? Is this based on observation or do you, rather, apply mechanicaltechniques?
Fiona Conner: It is a mixture—I selected the objects through observing and taking notes and collectingand drawing. Then I had to figure out how I wanted to cast them. I worked with three different foundriesthat each have different approaches and employ different technologies. For some of the tools I reenactedhow they were originally made with sand casting, and then for other more chaotic forms like the plasticbags, I used silicone molds, and then for some objects I used a combination of the two.
AS: Does the notion of the handmade matter to you, for instance in the sense that the viewer is able to notice the artist’s touch?
FC: I am interested in confusing the distinction between a handmade object and a mass-produced one,for instance making something that looks manufactured, but is actually handmade. I am interested in thatambiguity, and I also like it when the environment touches an object, like weathering or wear, and theobject is changed.
AS: You have also realized two projects in municipal housing complexes in Vienna. What is the ideahere?
FC: For my exhibition I wanted to connect the gallery at Secession with these other sites in Vienna wherepeople are living today. The works are part of an ongoing project called Sequence of Events that consists of mostly permanent installations in homes. A home is a place for using and living with objects; artworksin a domestic context have a more limited audience but over a longer period of time, so the relationshipwith the artwork is ongoing. The relocation of the bulletin board from a public space in the Karl-Marx-Hofto a personal residence in some sense turns the building inside out, and the swapping of the doorsbetween Los Angeles, where I live, and here in Vienna suggests another kind of exchange andconnection.
AS: How do these works relate to the ones shown at the Secession?
FC: The installation of tools that are normally cleared away when a show opens and the off-siteinterventions in domestic spaces all engage with the hard edges of exhibition-making—the physical andtemporal boundaries of a show.
AS: Was it also part of your consideration to double the bronze works and show them concurrently at theSculpture Center in New York and at the Secession in Vienna?
FC: I like to think about the repetition and singularity of every install—the routine maintenance and usualprocedures that produce a unique exhibition. The set of bronze objects will be the same in bothexhibitions, but they will be installed differently and become two different representations of labor.Interestingly, in their previous lives both gallery spaces had a relationship to maintenance—the SculptureCenter space was a tram repair shop and the gallery Grafisches Kabinett at the Secession was an apartment for the housekeeper.
AS: Focusing on the idea of reproducing something, what do you think happens in the gap betweenoriginal model and copy, between source and work?
FC: The process of remaking something requires obsession: you look at the object and you draw it andmap it and work out how to remake it—in some sense you become the thing—and when it is made,although it reminds you of the original thing, it has a different sort of heat because it has been translatedthrough another body and a different set of tools.
AS: Reproduction techniques are closely linked to the idea of appropriation. In the history of appropriation there are many approaches: the Pop artists, for example, focused on anonymouslyproduced goods, and a couple of years later, the so-called Pictures Generation mainly turned theirattention to mass-media imagery. How do you choose what to reproduce? What are your parameters? I noticed, for instance, that many of your works are grounded in social contexts and deal with how objectsare used.
FC: I am interested in making work about civic life and sculptures you can sit on. For me, when I remake an object, it is a way of taking possession of something without directly disturbing the social fabric fromwhere it was sourced—like taking a photo.
Fiona Connor was born in Auckland in 1981 and lives and works in Los Angeles.
The exhibition program is conceived by the board of the Secession.
Curator: Annette Südbeck