SPAG held its first gallery talk last Friday night. A huge success with a number of artists explaining their work to a fairly large crowd. I think these talks are crucial because they give us another idea of what is going on in the artist’s mind. Sometimes this enhances the work, sometimes it can actually take away and sometimes it gives us something to ponder, such as in the case of David Ford.
I was chided by a reader for not mentioning this work when I reviewed the show and this talk gives me the chance to do that with added understanding-or perhaps added confusion.
Ford explained this is the beginning of a series of works on the theme which he says is inspired by Jack Kervorkian’s willingness to help people end their life when they feel they no longer can continue. Ford supports this and believes that as a society we tend to be too fearful of death and therefore unable to fully commit to life. His work, he says, encourages us to continue engaging life to the fullest even when we know it will bring about death.
I fully support his ideas on committing to life and getting over our refuseal to face death, but when I look at his work it seems open to an entirely different interpretation. Ford has been working for a number of years with works which are designed to self-destruct over a period of time by wholly natural means. This time he has created a sculpture which consists of a crank attached to a large green gear which when the crank is turned, makes a saw type of implement cut into a wooden bar set across one side of the piece. This is therefore the first one of his pieces which is destroyed through man-made means. It really is a wonderful piece, and a nice bit of worksmanship, but if one looks at this by itself given the title “Assisted Suicide”, then one can easily see this also as a representation of a self-destructive action. In other words, you continue to destroy this bit of wood-(yourself) by continuing to turn this crank i.e. by continuing along whatever path you are on. It seems to me that the only people who might think this desirable are seven year-old boys, and those who might want to consider entering some sort of 12 step program. Perhaps others see this piece as encouraging one “to go for it’, but as I said with this title and this setup it just seems open to this completely different interpretation. The title, of course, is crucial as the piece would become something else entirely if it were called “persistence” for example.
None of this is meant as negative criticism of the work; it is simply opening up of a discussion about it, and is, in fact, an example of the sort of good which comes out of an interchange between artist and audience that a talk like the one at SPAG provided.-David Sokolec