Shona Macnaughton

shonalesley (at) gmail (dot) com

Ornamental Wheat (2014)

 

This text was developed from a performance for Estovers II: Digital and Libidinal Enclosures an event organised by Emma Balkind at the CCA, Glasgow in 2013. It was then commissioned as an essay as part of the exhibition publication for To The Reader, Impakt Media festival, BAK, Utrecht, The Netherlands (2013)

 

For the whole summer I have had nothing but an iPad and my partner physically present to me to communicate with. This has been somewhat limiting. These parallel ways of seeing have begun to merge during these months. The iPad device has begun to reveal itself as similar to the operational mechanics of a monogamous, long-term relationship. You can touch it, it is close to you, you can have it in bed, but there is always something out of reach. You can receive and you can give but you can’t alter what you receive or give. You cannot dissect its parts, the elusive promise of the personal computer, it must instead be taken as a whole. You are not in control, the power dynamic is on the side of the balance from equal to dominated. You can never dominate it, but you always feel dominated. You play other but never feel other. The dialectic is not complete.

 

It is incompatible with others, a singularly singular device to make a couple. You can’t really share it, not intimately anyway. Your privacy has also been sacrificed. By linking yourself to this connected other you leave yourself open to the cloud and to the social respectively. Just by asking how you are you can be divulged at any time.

 

There is a reason why the monogamous long-term relationship endures, in the model of a straight line. And has come back stronger than ever. From former hippy portal to the whole world to current hipster hand held locale, it fits economically to a romantic poverty. It’s cheaper, more portable. It is about a soothing of the immaterial fragments of our cognitive overload… Open source is a nice idea but …

 

It is about an idea of reproduction. And it is about love of course, love as a happy construct, felt for sure, by tapping at an image.

 

Within this landscape the closeness we get is post the original enclosure of a wild space of non-property and multiple enclosures since of commonly held property; the vestiges of brief social gains now built to anticipate the moment when welfare wholly goes out to tender. Schools. Prisons. Appartments. Hospitals. Office blocks. Interchangeable and flexible, they all look like this. Here within this wreckage my love protects me from myself. Indeed it gives and gives my partner, very generous. But it conceals its inner workings so I can love:

 

“Who knows not how to hide, knows not how to love”

 

It will never propose to me but I don’t want it to, better to share bank details, properly appropriate to the regime under which we dwell. Other people’s weddings we will attend with aplomb and applause. They are the best live theatre around, like post mediation Brechtian learning plays, the audience is fully implicated and we play at communism for a harmonious day, it is all we can muster, there is too much bad connotation in the word, and red bot can spot it too easily in networked life.

 

Now as carefully positioned as the symbols within a Dutch 17c painting, a tight roster of props for the day that can only be positive. After the weekend of Enough Togetherness, and adding of postponed digital comrades, we’ll share in these images that are absent of people either in front or behind the lens. No conditions which have imposed themselves, nothing is manipulated. For the light is constructed, and the composition is unimpeded. Everything is deathly clean. Waiting for life. It was the ultimate symbolic exchange masquerading as gift, whats mine is yours and together we are hot property, marriage, mediated by its mediation. The bearer of ornamental wheat.

 

And increasingly these images, like the debt they encourage, are prescribing the personality of their future inhabitant. On the back of the museum to liberalism things have gone from bad to worse with the erection of a prosperous tusk which mirrors all around it. It was so blatantly visible that it became desirable to live as close as possible to it, premium property was so close so as one could only see oneself. In 2009 when I discovered the first photo they still believed in the wealthy non-gendered hipster still life but now they had abandoned this for strokes of a globalische success man, an abstract oily impression of finance, to whom I could never aspire, only serve.

 

But the thing is I didn’t actually like or not like John Lennon or Tiger Woods. And I barely even noticed they were male. For I had learnt to re-identify with the female professionally, carry plates for celebrations, fold napkins for marriage, wear skirts for authenticity, dance for serving drinks, polish glass clear for gifts. I smile in your face. Professionally. I organise. Professionally. I administrate. Professionally. I charm. A performing subject setting the coffee table for your Liberal Salon.

 

There was of course constructors of these images but they could scarcely be accountable authors, more subscribers to a type of taken for granted desire of the masses, just doing their job. So who was causing these final enclosures, that of even our prized choices? I had actually began to start looking at the price of butter in the supermarkets. I began to search for one who was responsible but my attempted personification evaded selection, future archaeology was not popular with the artist run volunteers. “we were so surprised at the number who applied and by the strength of application”

 

Pay walls continued to be erected, but how to tear down something that is not immediately visible, that is hidden with(in) love. I can’t accelerate through an invisible wall. Increasingly we realised we had found its limits, it’s shape, and there was no hope of rupture. It was purer, more refined, so transparent that it mocks us, mimics us. We can’t revel in it as in the everyday the actual and the virtual have merged. Abstract IRL.

Could we mimic it back or was that a position of stasis? A circulating sibling irritant: I’m going to copy everything that you say, I’m going to copy everything that you say,

I’m going to copy everything that you say…

 

Hermetically sealed, off the hangar pockets of community got worn within the other option of good citizen costumes, hired for stag and hen feeding. But I couldn’t get that right either: the professional activists were suspicious of my brogues, even if, as I said, it was 2nd hand office wear, too stretched for a mole.

 

Clutching the ornamental wheat which we were way past owning, an image of someone else’s property I tried to plant it firmly in a communal garden. It doesn’t take long to find one nowadays. The latest I found was on the roof of the modernist national library, languishing in the benevolence of its social democratic design. But the design was not enough anymore, just being a tomb of knowledge was impotence, the building itself had to be seen to be doing something productive, active, positive. The concrete roof was resistant to the vulgarity of my blatant reference to the feudal idyll. Here on the private land of the publicly accessible spaces the problem seemed to be that I was trying to plant an image in an image. And this was not a commons, what was planted could not sustain us. It couldn’t actually function beyond the costume-wearing niche within which I was mingling. Rye bread gave me the shits on the residency. My body would not take it, this image of wheat.

 

So was there a third option, could it, this image be yielded, last without being eaten, weaponised, not instrumentalised. What could happen in the aftermath of its consumption? In the ruins of my empty bowels there is no space left to reform, no boundaries for the avant garde to play, only a flow of meat into installations which historicise the social through the glaze of rise, Hudson, sierra, sutro, hefe.

 

These images seemed to be our only estovers, existing in the only wild space without property, given to us, apparently free and without agency, belonging to our prosumer’s gaze, we are permitted them at least.

 

From their surplus I have laboured on an image of your personality and from their time I have unmasked a character that can now be made accountable. A collective character. A capital accretion. I tried to insert some of my own images, but their conditions of production were such that they fell short. They failed to mimic, they enacted a bad impersonation of absense. The security guard takes a while to twig but he does because the scene is not quite as it was meant, but neither is it as it is.

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