Liz Magor, talking about the work Being This
24 of a series of 78 boxes, paper, textiles, found objects
48.2 × 30.5 × 6.3 cm (each box, approx.)
Courtesy Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver
This large wall that’s made up of many garment boxes… looks like sweaters, shirts, blouses, jackets: it’s called Being This. And to make this work it was quite different for me. Mould making and casting to make a sculpture is a laborious and onerous and difficult process that I’m interested in because of the consequences. With a cast object you have a hollow space. You have the appearance of solidity but you have a hollow space that invites something into it. So I have lots of interest in that issue of appearance of the real. But I can’t be making moulds and casts all the time. I need to have some aspect that’s faster and lighter so that I can keep using my imagination without so much commitment. Many artists use drawing for that area of lightness and quickness. I’ve never been able to use drawing in a light, quick way; it becomes just another big old problem for me. Some of the works in the exhibition have happened more quickly. In a way they may be like drawings and paintings…
So Being This is fast. To make it I… Maybe I should say I started by looking through the racks of garments at a place like Value Village. These are quite large department stores of second-hand clothing and objects. And I visit the Value Village in Vancouver on a regular basis. A bit of a treasure hunter, but also to see what is flowing out of the desired place in people’s homes on its way to the garbage. Value Village is the stage before the dumpster. So that means most of the things in Value Village somehow have lost their charm. They’re out; they’re on their way out. So that’s really interesting to me because, what is charm? The thing is exactly the same but something’s gone. So I went into Value Village and I saw these clothes that I would call anxious clothes. They are clothes that, sometimes they are too decorative, they have too many sequins on them or a frilly collar that’s a little bit hysterical. Or sometimes they’re shouting out what college you went to, or what club you belong to. They’re clothes that are over-identifying, I guess.
So I collected all of those, and in the studio I had heaps and heaps of these anxious clothes. Then I collected a whole bunch of transparent clothes that are sheer, they’re made of mesh, or tulle, or see-through fabrics. And I just began to do something like a collage, putting one on top of the other. And my goal was to make layers of signs. Because in the anxious clothes those signs are anxiously trying to tell you something. And I wanted to diminish that anxiety; I wanted to push back against that talking or that signifying. So if I make it very confused and have a whole bunch of signs together it shuts it down, it almost neutralizes the voice. And then I have, almost in every box, there’s something similar to a hand that’s pointing at something. As though you are pointing to your name badge. Or you are pointing to your… identifying something that identifies you. Because that’s another anxiety of announcing yourself: “I am here. I am me. I’m in a crowd but look at me!” That drive to appear, and appear as significant, again it’s a never-ending drive. It causes a lot of pain or anxiety; it’s difficult to accomplish it. So in this work, each one of them is sort of like a caricature of that process.