There comes a point in any artist’s trajectory (be it an established artist, or an unknown student who can’t even visualise a time when someone would respect them enough to give them the time of day), when they must take stock of everything they have done before. It is necessary if one wishes to go forward, rather than backwards, sideways or plot a drunken, stumbling line of periphrastic aspect around the things one has already said and done. The phrase “one step back,” loathsome and clichéd as it is, summarises the creative impasse which every artist faces – and there are times when the only way to go without falling flat on one’s face is to cherry-pick from the back-catalogue of works and find those things which succeeded, and even begin to contemplate those works which fell short. Because at some point, even the things that fell short have to be re-considered as having potential (why did they fall short? Is there anything that could have been done differently? Were they made for the wrong reasons then, and can the right reasons be found now?). Every artist revisits old themes: like a musical refrain, these themes and methodologies keep cropping up time and again in the careers of any artist who remains in the game. The frequency of these motifs helps to create the tempo of an artist’s output: if John Baldessari repeats such-and-such an idea once every ten years, then that is ten years he has spent exploring other ideas, but this nonetheless means that he had an idea which was worth repeating.
Given my present circumstances, I have had little choice – due to time restraints and the urgency to present new work of substance – but to revisit old ideas, and these ideas happen to be in the form of an idea I had a few years ago of juxtaposing high-brow literature with low-brow ephemera. The first time I went in this direction, it was a hackneyed commentary on Greenbergian themes, but when I began to explore this again I found that other “tensions” were there to be uncovered. For instance, Maurice Blanchot’s Thomas the Obscure (being a short fiction noted for its impenetrable nature), begins to assume a dark humour when placed within the context of an old comic book. Similarly, the “Body without Organs” piece used in conjunction with a Popeye comic strip begins to open up notions of diological tension – questions are continually raised (much like the questions one would imagine Deleuze and Guattari firing at one another when preparing to write).