Revisiting the rock on the western shore of Harakka Island once again made me think of the materiality of this kind of reworking, remaking, returning, replaying of what was before. Although the rock, the wooden stairs, my scarf are all the same as twelve years ago, I have a hard time making the connection. I do not remember what I experienced in October 2002, rather, I have some vague images in my mind of the video thus created, Year of the Horse – Sitting on a Rock, which I saw recently. Probably the same goes for many memories, we do not remember the events but only our retelling of them.
In her paper at the conference New Materialist Methodologies – Gender, Politics and the Digital, Barbara Bolt spoke about her work based on Robert Motherwell’s paintings and mentioned a text by Jan Verwoert about appropriation and invocation. I was fascinated and found the text called “Apropos Appropriation: Why steeling images today feels different” on the web, published in Art and Research vol 1 no 2 summer 2007. He is discussing postmodern practices of appropriation in the 1980’s compared to appropriation today, and contends that invoking images involves dealing with ghosts, referring to Derrida, as well as the ceremonies involved in invoking them. He describes the move away from interest in the arbitrariness of the sign to the performativity of language, how things are done with words, how language through injunction and interpellations enforces meaning, like a spell cast upon a person. When you call up a spectre it will not be content with being analysed, it will have to be negotiated….
Invoking the spectre of German romantic painting, as I did in the year of the goat (2003) by trying to re-stage “Der Mönch am Meer” by Caspar David Friedrich on various shores besides Harakka Island resulted in the work Year of the Goat – Harakka Shore 1-3 and Three Shores, among other things. And in that context the idea of negotiation made sense. Referring to that painting evoked a whole legacy of idealist interpretations and also recreations.
But what about now? I am not appropriating a previous work of my own by recreating it, but I do invoke it in some way. And then I have to ask, why call up exactly these ghosts? Why sit on a rock again? Should I not rather consider what kind of ghosts could be worth calling forth at this moment, what spectres should be summoned for help right now? And in the spirit of acknowledging the performativity of all kinds of artistic practice, what kind of injunctions or spells should be used at this moment?