Barnard College Senior Thesis
I aim to explore the idea of failure in my work, as it relates to fragility and entropy. The most interesting pieces for me are dynamic—they are completed through their own disintegration. I spent many hours knitting a long strip intended to be unknit by the viewers. There was something very charged about this act, both of the futility of creating something that will disappear and the catharsis that came with undoing it. It was not with ease that I dedicated myself to destroying my own work. To build failed expectations into my practice opens it up to the processes of the world, allowing the thread to unravel when the stitches were themselves imperfect.
Robert Smithson was once asked by Allan Kaprow whether building a monument in a remote area like Alaska or Canada would be satisfactory, to which he replied “I think ultimately it would be disappointing for everybody including myself. Yet the very disappointment seems to have possibilities.” This idea had a big impact on me. What can happen if we shift the criteria for judging art’s success?
By allowing the premise of a certain breaking-down into my work, I have felt freed, in a sense, from the tyranny of the end-product. There has been something comforting in the endlessness of a gesture like covering paper with dots or clay with holes. I struggle with the implications of a finished artwork that becomes inevitably alienated from its maker and fetishized into a symbol of itself. This project is an attempt to counteract some of these processes that can be so limiting for a work of art.
© 2014 Vanessa Thill