This was a performance I undertook during a late night event at Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester in summer 2013. The performance was simple, requiring only a chair, a table and a box of pencils.

Record - Part I (Performance, 2013) 

When the gallery opened, I sat down and began to sharpen the pencils right down to their stubs. I focused solely on this task till the gallery closed. I did not move from the table or acknowledge anyone who came near.

I sharpened the pencils using an ordinary metal sharpener. This simplicity is common to my practice: I am interested in what my hands can achieve with minimal apparatus.

From the artist's point of view, a pencil is a sacrificial object. Bit by bit, it must be destroyed in order for a work to take shape. In other words: in order to set ideas free, a pencil's life must be shortened.

Much of my work involves long-winded manual processes. I relish the fact that the same action repeated over and over seems pointless, whilst simultaneously suggesting a sense of progress.

In Record I tried to intensify this disconnect more than ever before: there was no question that I was ever going to draw with the pencils I was so intent on sharpening.

After about 3 hours of silent action I was left with a big pile of pencil shavings.

At this point, Record - Part I was complete.


 

 

 

 

Record - Part II (Sculpture, 2014)

I often have a wish to make pieces with an in-built capacity to move or change shape. I feel uncomfortable fixing things in place, even though sometimes I have to.

Making and unmaking are so often intertwined. The old is happily destroyed to make way for the new. This is what our ideology demands of us.

Not long after my performance, I opened up the box of pencil sharpenings and over the months that followed, I painstakingly started to glue them back onto the leftover pencil stubs. It was a purposely pointless, but optimistic gesture.

I enjoy the idea that these tools have not only moved beyond their intended function, they've also escaped the purpose that was forced on them.

At the same time, I realize that I have freed them from one form only to trap them in another. They're strange looking objects now, hovering somewhere between life and death, use and disuse.