PROP 2004 (left) and what remains 2014 (Right)
Richard Higlett’s photograph of his sculpture Prop spells out 2004AD, an elegy to the Countdown font, a typeface designed in 1966 by Colin Brignall. In its day this typeface was aspirational, designed to reflect a futuristic utopia in a decade where space exploration was embryonic. The clumsy typeface embodies the optimism that would ultimately never be realised. The future of then didn’t happen as the Cold War played out and the space race became grounded. Now seemingly misplaced in a timeless wood, Prop operates between the boundaries of Nature and Artifice. The metallic structure signifies the presence of man, yet the piece becomes ultimately lost in the surrounding environment: the mirrored surface doesn’t reflect the shiny new age of the 21st century, only the trees that surround it. ‘In a recent essay Richard wrote: In Mel Brookes’ classic comedy western Blazing Saddles(1974), Bart played by Cleavon Little rides through a wild west town. As the scene extends we see the timber backs of the Salons and Livery Stores, two-dimensional props. Riding on further, the joke is embellished as we see an orchestra in the desert creating the dramatic musical score. The etiquette of the flat screen theatre of Cinema is broken and briefly we are transported out of the film’s illusionary environment. It is this transition of experience that interests me and the moment of realisation that something it not as it appears.’ It is perhaps this that unites these three artists; nothing is as it seems. In between the worlds of the visible and invisible is the area I would describe as non-visual. Items exist, they are solid, they can be seen but ‘they’ do not desire or nurture a direct visual interaction from the viewer. My work does not demand to be looked at but can be discovered by the viewer, or not. Its placing impacts on a certain environment, but only when it is observed. Does anything exist before it s witnessed or recalled by the voice? There is a German children’s game that looks at the idea of something being there and not there, a binary condition. With one representing a tangible object and zero representing an intangible, non-visible object usually existing as thoughts, semantically or as text in their primary non physical form. Art came up with a third condition of existence, that of representation, so much so that photography has become adopted as the substitute for the reality of presence. When we refer to a photograph we usually point and refer to images of people as the actual presence of the person, that’s him, there! we exclaim. My work is about this replacement of the actual and how the parameters of observation can be altered to create work that aspires to be ‘non visual’ as opposed to being expected as visual and not actually invisible. We can now create representations of objects that only suggest some of the characteristics of the original but are able to perform as mimics or props of objects when sited within the condition of physical items within society and the
complicit acceptance of the nature of things in the world. For example; a scarecrow, a decoy duck or, as used in the second world war, an inflatable tank used to fool reconnaissance aircraft into recording inflated figures for enemy troop movement and numbers. All these examples are impersonations of something else. Direct physical ocular engagement quickly realigns the object as itself, but my interest is the period before contact when it exists as assumed and not eager to aspire the gaze. What you see in today’s society is rarely what you get, as perception is influenced by value and the meaning and value of objects is shifted by factors such as design, style, and consumerism to a point where the condition of people, in relation to objects, is one of compliance. Our movement within urban society is monitored subconsciously by our relationship with our surroundings. In Mel Brookes classic comedy western Blazing Saddles (1974), Bart, played by Cleavon Little, rides through a stereotypical Wild West town. As the scene extends, and the camera moves out, we see the scaffolding and timber props supporting the facades of salons and livery stores. Riding on further, the joke on the myth of film is embellished as we see an orchestra in the desert musically underpinning a scene we feel we are familiar with from hundreds of iconic westerns. The etiquette is broken and briefly we are transported out of the film’s illusionary environment. It is this transition of experience that interests me coupled with the moment of realisation that something is not as it blindly appears. This transition reoccurs in my work to a greater or lesser extent.