Waugh, Katie

Posted in: Artists




COLLECTED SUGGESTIONS. 2010. Graphite on paper, digital video & sound. Installation

This work tells the story of contemporary American political and institutional discourse. I am drawn to the subtly iconic cultural habits that shape social and political interaction by the very fact of their quietude, repetition, and widespread acceptance. My work seeks to understand material expressions of authority, propriety and identity within the context of the countless meetings, summits, and hearings at which life-changing decisions are made.

There emerges a pattern of pomp and tradition expressed through the material objects and interior architecture of places of discourse, debate, and protocol. Specifically in relation to my work, the way that textiles are pleated, pressed, and hung to convey importance in these scenarios offers a useful metaphor for understanding systems of authority in American institutions. Haphazard swags of fabric are still deployed to convey a sense of rigor or seriousness in committee hearings and public announcements; however, these are made often of cheap synthetics. Gone are the days when large swaths of richly coloured fabric actually conveyed wealth and power. Even seemingly luxurious fabrics such as velvet are more cheaply made now, given industrialization and global economics. Therefore, by clinging to antiquated symbols of refinement and territorialisation in the form of the ubiquitous table skirt, a conflicted message emerges. The message-makers who design such events consistently site these old economic and civil structures that used to convey such decoration with specific monetary and cultural value. However, now table skirts stand in for broad, ambiguous aspirations for an image of cultural importance and legitimacy, banking on the vague and subtle historical weight they carry.

Having identified such a tightly-wound social code embedded in these textiles, I can allude to metaphors of upheaval and revolution by simply disrupting these habits of formality. In this way, I can speak to the exhilaration of making one’s own sensory experience, even when trapped within banal institutional surroundings. For instance, my drawings present the disrupted fabric as a medium which remembers the hand that touched it; the rebellious act is recorded in the folds left behind, and those folds in turn create sumptuous visual complexity. My video expands this idea further, by simulating the sublimity of the ocean using the institutional environment. Specifically, the audio is created by adjusting a recording of an industrial air ventilation system, and the video identifies the connection between waves and pleats.

Through research and observation, I pry open microscopic fissures in social systems, presenting what lays inside in an effort to uncover the values, ideologies, and cultural forces that brought them about. By employing a practice akin to collage, I uncover, repeat, reassemble, and re-contextualize pivotal details of structural patterns. I find particular interest in those things that appear to exemplify the strength of their respective structures, while simultaneously indicating some level of failure or discomfort. In this failure I find release, empowerment, and sublimity.



Comments are closed.