Die Matie, 30 Julie 2003
Allowance for imagination
By Karen Breytenbach
CURRENTLY showing at the Sasol Art Museum is Alan Alborough's Work(ing/in) pro(cess/gress). It is an evolving tension between the creative process and the expected product. Subsequently, and very appropriately the 'exhibition'(?) has been extended from the end of July until the end of October.
Alborough, who lectures at the Department of Fine Arts, is primarily responsible for the creation of the as yet, and possibly permanently, unfinished work. He 'resists the idea of the artist creating meaning'. When one walks into the museum, or looks at the poster, there are some clues for the viewer. One such clue is that the central theme is French knitting or tolletjiebrei. Alborough sees this information as equally essential to the creation of expectation worth the viewer as the cotton reels are for the use of knitting (and an expectation of a created product).
Alborough explains that the 'premise' he works from is the "set of assumptions of the viewer who creates his own imaginary space". The viewer is thus "the primary element" in the process. "The islands of material in the corner also give suggestions about what is going on, but it is up to the viewer to imagine what it is going to do." Alborough believes this will create a sense of excitement in the viewer which acts in tension with reality. This may tempt the art cit to label his work as conceptual, while in fact it is precisely about the process and not simply the concept. There is an "antithesis in creating a relationship between the concept and the production, which shouldn't be a dichotomy." The viewer expects a result and is forced to revisit the museum in order to monitor the process of creation. But Alborough asks us the question: "Is all accumulation (or development) climatic?" Should there be a tangible result? If not, it "makes sense that the process should live longer".
The space of the museum, in particular the round opening on the mezzanine level and its surrounding space, has been used both as a workshop area for school children that Alborough involved in the project, and a gigantic spindle from which it seems a cord or "enormous sock coming out of the door" will be knitted.
These clues about knitting seem to be the only indication of what the work is about. But this luxury should be taken lightly. Alborough uses these to stimulate memories of childhood and creativity. During his workshop, which marked the halfway date of the exhibition, 4 June, he taught children as well as adults how to tolletjiebrei. The children's imperfect efforts are displayed on the walls leading up the stairs tot he main gallery. He hopes that their participation will stimulate their interest in creativity and the exhibition's progress itself.
A tension is created between the children's knitting and work in the main gallery. Alborough's work has been prepared with an almost mathematical/mechanical precision by using white string and blue and white transparent plastic bottle, spindles, black nylon baubles and cotton reels. He uses familiar objects from our everyday environment. By using these he forces us to "relook our environment from a creative angle", while not attempting to educate his audience about clich̩d recycled art. The materials work off each other to create a tension between organic and inorganic or structure and lack of structure. There also exists a tension between the mechanised object and the man made product. This is not open to participation, while it is entirely done by Alborough. The process itself is the inorganic part of the exhibition, while the organic is the time expenditure and work itself being created. Alborough leaves us with questions like: "What is creative practice?", "How is meaning made?" and "Who is making it?"
The viewer is taught to trust what he thinks about the process. As yet, there isn't much to see except for the glimpses of potential construction that Alborough has already installed. As he explains, the "keys of most of what has happened and is about to happen is there", but your satisfaction with it is entirely up to you as a viewer.