Susan Collis, Sweat

10th September – 18th October 2008

For Sweat, Susan Collis’ second solo exhibition at Seventeen, the intense labour underpinning much of her detailed practice is laid bare before the viewer. In addition, a playful yet considered engagement with two distinct modes of production – the industrial and the hand made – runs throughout the exhibition.

The space will be dominated by the bustle of ongoing productivity, a team of workers sitting on benches at tables producing what appear to be laundry bags, the type of which you find at markets and thrift stores around the world. However, divorced from the type of rapid process that would ordinarily mark the production of such a ubiquitous commercial object, the workers instead pour intensely over sheets of Fabriano paper. With delicate precision, using only pencils and biro pens, they slowly mark out the bag pattern upon the surface of the paper. When fully patterned, the paper will be cut and assembled by the workers in order to form an object that straddles the status of both drawing and sculpture while appearing, on first look at least, to be neither. Standing in front of one of these works, it appears to have the perfect semblance of an everyday, nearly disposable item – only upon further detailed examination does the punitive hand made production value of the object become evident.

Facing the workers stands a digital clock, blinking slowly, governing the working day. The seven segment display isn’t illuminated by an LCD though, the time is illustrated in a complex video animation shown on an institutional monitor. The video is composed of individual drawings laboriously unified into a single movement via stop-frame animation. This work, like the bags, is unfinished. It will take an estimated two more years of labour to complete, emblematic of Collis’ extreme perseverance, its deliberate incompletion highlighting  the production process.

For Sweat Collis has constructed a world in which values according to production are realigned and reconsidered. A world in which the smiling benevolent gallerist is transformed into factory foreman via a portrait commissioned by the artist and which hangs directly over the workers as they go about there good work. Collis draws attention to the systems employed to produce her work, so much so that production – it’s conditions and multivalent modes – becomes the work itself. Crucially, this renders the object nothing other than the necessary documentation of a greater performance, a performance of never ending creation undertaken by the artist and which, momentarily at least, transcends the idea of the finished work or final object.

Susan Colis, On vacation, 2008
Biro inks and pencil on paper
20 x 11 x 24 inches

Susan Collis, Performance of Sweat, 2008

Susan Collis, Performance of Sweat, 2008

Susan Collis, On vacation, 2008 (detail)
Biro inks and pencil on paper

Susan Collis, Installation View, 2008

Susan Collis, One day… , 2008 – present
Digital animation
Duration: 24 hours
COLLIS Monarch 08
Susan Collis, Monarch, 2008
Biro inks and pencil on paper
20 x 11 x 24 inches

Susan Collis, Boris, 2008
Biro inks and pencil on paper
15 x 13.75 x 10 inches