MU:ZE:UM: Traces 1982-83
1982-83 Museum of Modern Art, Oxford
Site-specific recording installation/intervention by
Bruce Gilbert, Graham Lewis and Russell Mills
Site-specific recording installation/intervention by
Bruce Gilbert, Graham Lewis and Russell Mills, Netting, Arc lamp fitted with slow strobe, earth, leaves, the “Hanging Man”, invented archaeological “finds”, trestle tables and a surround-sound system. On the first floor of MoMA, a museum with no collection, Gilbert, Lewis and Mills, seeking to pose questions about art, art ownership, museums and collections, created a mock archaeological excavation in order to search for the Museum’s lost art.
For two months they visited the Museum once a week, bringing new “finds” that were “buried” in the site to await discovery. A new sound work was made that exploited the huge resonance of the gallery and in particular of the false floor, with speakers placed face-down under mounds of leaves at each end of the gallery. For one day during the installation’s duration, the musician Michael O’Shea (rectified electronic zither and effects) took up occupancy as resident busker. Wishing to critique the art world’s self-serving myopic view of culture, its slim understanding of art history and its snobbish elitism, Gilbert, Lewis and Mills also persuaded MoMA’s Directors to allow them to showcase the work of a young unknown local artist who they felt deserved attention.

Using Selloptape to collect dust and detritus from the floors of the Museum, Mills created hundreds of 35mm transparencies. These, along with invented titles and descriptions of the work, exaggerated dimensions, nigh-on impenetrable interpretative texts and a wholly fictitious artist’s biography, were prepared and presented to the Directors for their consideration. They were impressed and agreed to the proposal to set up an area of the gallery as a space to present this new Wunderkind of the art world, whom Gilbert, Lewis and Mills had named Eric Bostick. His mixed-media “paintings”, projected up to 10′ x 8′, revealed an extraordinary world of wonder: delicate calligraphic lines weaved and arced gracefully over exploding galaxies flecks of bright colours flashed from dense rolling storm clouds. A biography pasted to the wall informed the public that Bostick, having graduated without distinction from Didcot College of Art, had worked, for just three weeks, for South Oxfordshire District Council highways department maintaining street furniture and painting white lines on roads.
This was followed by his tenure as the first artist in residence on the ill-feted Spirit Of Free Enterprise ferry between Dover and Calais.



"During the prolonged period of enforced Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, I suspect like many others, I spent some time in reflective mode. I found myself returning to the set of 30 works I’d made towards possible uses on the Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks release of 2013. All of these works were subsequently published in the Cargo In The Blood limited edition multiple that was released following the album’s release. I’ve had and continue to receive enquiries about the possibility of some of these pieces being made into limited edition prints, so decided to go through them with this in mind, selecting those that I think will make good prints.

As well as considering the original works, I was also intrigued as to how a set of prints could be made using some of the pieces from the second half of the book, which is titled The Reverse Is Also True. This section features all the artworks subjected to various negative treatments and printed using the four-colour process over a fifth base printing of metallic silver ink. I chose to explore this five-colour process because I was intrigued to see how the unpredictability of this process would affect and work with the overprinted full-colour images. It also mirrored how my work evolves out of experiments with prepared chance, combining chemicals, solutions, man-made and organic materials. The results from such experimentation are always unpredictable, and while there are the occasional disappointments and failures, for the most part, they are surprising and often revelatory. Working in this way ensures that control is surrendered to the unpredictable nature of the materials, thereby avoiding the known and removing any ego from the work.

Having started life as mixed media works, they were photographed, then converted into the digital, after which they became the source of potential new works in their own right, works that could only have been achieved in the computer, the ultimate collage tool.

I’ve chosen a few of my favourites, which, instead of using the five-colour lithographic printing process as used in the production of the Cargo In The Blood book, are to be printed using the digital eight-colour process, onto a very beautiful iridescent PhotoRag Metallic paper produced by Hahnemuhle, the paper manufacturer whose paper is used for all of the Limited Edition Prints.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to emulate metallic inks on a computer so it’s impossible to show what the finished prints actually look like. You’ll just have to take it on trust that they look wonderful; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be being offered for sale.

Both sets of these new series, in signed limited editions of 150

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Russell Mills

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