by Jason E. Bowman
a work for Now97, A Festival of Arts for Today
18 Oct. - 16 Nov., 1997
The artist used a can of stain block, a decorator's aide, spraying it onto one of the beams before the final coat. This prevents blemishes leaching through the newly painted surface, symbolic of the bleaching process Jason's work is replicating.
The video accompanying the work, gives voice to the artist of the piece as a 'regenerator'. The work has been developed as a comment on the regeneration of historic city areas which in Nottingham is happening in the former lace producing area. It is sponsored by the local authority and coincides with the city's centenary celebrations in a potential tourist bonanza.
Research for the work at the local history and archives departments revealed a strict demarcation of this historic area. By contrast the initial encounter with 'Untitled' is a labyrinthal journey up dirty stone stairways. These lead past tall cobweb-covered sash windows into a large workspace and then on further to the capsule-like room of the 'regeneration'. Previously the room was stripped of the residual presence of its former occupiers - the video shows shots of this, a shelving unit sits empty except for a pair of shoes. Then the walls were re-plastered and the floor sanded. At this point the installation became public and the floor was varnished during the private view. For the six days of public view the artist and assistants were at work painting and installing lighting; all seen through a doorway blocked by a non-opening reinforced glass panel.
This apparent mundanity of process (labour) and product (sanded floor + white walls)is a comment on what Jason calls 'the monopolisation of history'. The viewed process of labour as part of the art work (whether frenetic plastering as seen in the video or the more steady job of painting) is a replication of the (labour) history that is subsumed to the production of multi-copy showpiece spaces like this. On my way in to see the installation I overheard another viewer say 'This would make one hell of an apartment'. The need for stain block becomes clear.
[In addition the use of local authority money for a project that will after six days become the private property of the vendors of this building is emblematic of a general one-way trend of exchange processes - art and tourism create private economic profit.]
The process of regeneration is apparent in the viewer's journey. Going through the 'untouched' space to the end space of bleached white nothingness and anywhere-ness is like a 'before and after' in motion. The experience is one of being at a historical disjunction matched by the uncomfortable transformation of the grime of abandonment into the wipe-out of 'stain block'.
Miranda Mason 16 November 1997