Paint pours through a system. Run of the mill white emulsion runs through pipes into canvas, fills canvas, pours out, through a series of neatly cut holes, runs down, is caught, fed into pump, fed into pipes, into canvas, through and round. Natasha Kidd’s Flow and Return (2006) is a cyclical loop of white paint pumped continuously, the movement of a viscous liquid over a duration of an exhibition; a kind of performance, always in motion, always active, never still.
The work enacts its liveness in relationship with the context of its space; humidity, gallery attendants, audience — all players in a choreography set to the score of instructions and non-variables. The paint is always the same paint, the system unchanged in each realisation, but as in all performance the chance is in the happening. The paint seeps, clogs, drips, coagulates, forms its own path — a series of stalactites, each the production of one dribble drying drip by drip at the bottom of the canvas. In the feedback loop of the never still machine a resistance occurs. The paint — such an unassuming material — begins to disobey. The system negotiates, a series of movements, a slow dance of material, until it breaks, stops, gummed up, clogged, thick, caught in confrontation with its own material reality.1
The work responds to a set of instructions, as performers to a score. To score is to scratch a mark, a gesture, and also to keep a tally. The instruction is bound to the requirement to act. It comes with a necessity, a force. The hardened, stripped back language foregrounds clarity and prioritises understanding, compressed and efficient, designed for smooth, taut reception. In the transmission of instruction an interface appears [an opening]. Any transmission requiring reception faces this space, a void opening between nodes, wide and ripe with interference; a static tangling that demarcates the crossing of a boundary.2 Like the resistance of a copper wire that muffles and muddies an electrical signal over distance, growing as the lengths become significant, always present. It’s just whether we notice it.
In the gesture, the artwork points outward to something beyond itself [exit from the closed loop], finding in the space of instruction, between the cogs of the depicted and the seen, the transmitted and received, a resistance of form. Where the rough surface of the poetic and the meaning it accumulates aggregate to an unspecified end.3 The artwork is the interface, a corrugated surface that collects and holds things in relation to one another. No longer merely the realm of the aesthetic, constructed from the inside, not seen from the outside, the system takes the instruction and embodies it. We are invited into the system to understand we are always within a set of relationships. This collection, or constellation, makes up the world, a microcosm, and ultimately points outside of itself. To what, it doesn’t know. The system opened up to include whoever or whatever the viewer has become. And in this world, constructed along the lines of the process, instructions are the simplest of functional exchanges, language compressed and stripped down in the striving for specificity and efficiency.
As each new layer of material congeals, obscures that which has come before, overcoating, overpainting, a gummy, gloopy chewing, the tendrils hang like chewing gum masticated.
Negotiating blocked airways, the instructions obscured and language impeded. In the finding of form, the instruction is lost, its recording overwritten in the drip dribbling ooze of paint. A haptic malleability clashes. The sharp, neat precision of clipped instruction drowned in the thickening. This porousness, a solip-like thread of saliva, stretches. Each lick of drip acts as an inscription of knowledge, coordinated in a score of constant restlessness.4
A proposition referring to an outcome that is never realised, that has not been imagined yet, or thought. The proposition is tied to possibility, to process. The etymology of proposition begins in a Latin meaning, a riddle, but becomes a suggesting, a laying out. Instruction begins in teaching but also comes from a root meaning ‘to spread.’ While its meaning is close to ‘a laying out,’ ‘to spread’ is less optional. Language runs through these systems as voraciously as the paint. Perhaps they can be construed as language made form, an emptying out of everything to make space for the attempted telepathy of instruction; an unearthing of all the plasticity and fallibility of language, all its stretchiness and breakage. Language does fail, utterly and completely. And we cannot name what is pointed to, where the gesture to the outside goes, what the proposition is. The noun becomes telegraphic and the instruction requires a faith in itself — an upholding of its masquerade. The setting up of an arbitrary binary; do this or don’t.5