This morning I went down to St. John’s college to view a room in which I’ve proposed to exhibit work during a conference to be held there in April. The conference is titled ‘Travel and Trauma: Suffering and the Journey’ with a sub-heading; ‘A Writing Journeys and Places Interdisciplinary Colloquium,’ and therefore I wanted to show something which would fit in with this theme. Even though much of the work on my MA has already dealt with this subject and would be entirely appropriate for this event, I have in mind to do something new. And so, I went to view the space to see what possibilities it might afford me.
The space itself is a room in a modern block and what I noticed right away was that there was a lot of glass with, and as a result, a good view of the outside. I asked if the outside might be used and there seemed to be no objections to this. However, the more I thought about the space, and the more I thought about the conference title, the more I saw myself writing – creating a work with text. I thought of some of the work I’d done in the past, and the painting I made after my visit to Auschwitz gave me an idea.
The text written across the painting and resembling wire immediately made me think of writing in a similar style across the large windows in the room (perhaps with a black chinagraph pencil). But what would I write? Whatever it was would have to be relevant to the space and the idea of tourism and after thinking for a while I considered again the view beyond the window – the reality of what was on the other side of the glass. I thought of writing a history of St. John’s college but then considered instead, the idea of writing a description of what was actually there outside, framed by the window at which those reading the text would be standing; reading and yet blind to the reality of what was in front of them.
So what would this mean: people reading the text describing the reality of what was there ahead of them, blind to that reality because of the text/wire behind which they are held? For me it signifies the impossibility of getting near to the reality of an event through writing/reading about and expriencing a place, but saying that, it wouldn’t be a work suggesting the futility of such experiences – far from it – but it would hopefully raise questions about our role as tourists.