Transmitting Culture (after Régis Debray)
The entirety of my working practice, from collages in the 1970’s, through constructed sculpture in the 1980’s, to more recent audio-visual and text-based works, as well as my curatorial and publishing projects, has been concerned with processes of re-making and re-configuring pre- existing material. I have always collected fragments of stuff from everyday situations, all kinds of things – material objects or pictures or sounds or words, so that I can put them back together again in a new order to tell a new story.
‘Transmitting Culture (after Régis Debray)’, made for Marion Harrison’s Short Fuse broadcast, is the first manifestation of a project that has occupied me intermittently for several years. I have been ‘collecting’ the manufactured objects referred to in the abstractions of philosophical and theoretical texts. I am interested in the extent to which even the most densely abstract thought is dependent upon the metaphorical and illustrative use of not just the material world but the manufactured world for its understanding. The products of the human mind, even as purely philosophical ideas, are thus always dependent on the products of human labour.
The array of goods and products represented in the writing of thinkers from Marx to Lyotard, from Adorno to Ranciére, is extraordinary. From the many lists of such objects I have now accumulated, Regis Débray’s ‘Transmitting Culture’ (Columbia University Press, 2000) seemed particularly apt for the context of an artists’ radio broadcast and, referencing the ubiquitous form of the three-minute single in popular music radio, I have used it to assemble an audio work of that length.
The full list of manufactured objects used by Débray in his text, and appropriated by me, is as follows: bill, balloon, engine, organ, stained glass, altarpiece, wafer, flag, plaque, pediment, textbook, chair, thread, audio-cassette, CD-ROM, radio, television, computer, loudspeaker, camshaft, universal joint, drive wheel, drive belt, black box, newspaper, shelving, copper plate, stylus, typewriter, saddle, celluloid, projector, daubed canvases, axle, chassis, pipe, toolkit, mincer, paper, a thousand bayonets, mailbox, doorstep, switch , tablets, elevator, crutches, door, hinges, crown, pegs, monumental columns, roundabout, ladder, harp, viola, kitbag, Bach records, speed-bump, alarm clock, Mercedes, chopsticks, arrows, plough, crossbow, treadmill, video-camera, armchair, blue jeans, T-shirt, transistor, fibre-optics, pedestal, thermostat, vinyl records, magnetic tape, hand-axe, knife, water-clock, astronomical compass, brush, concrete, locomotive, helmet, spur, glue, yoke, harness, rudder , tiller, telephone, photosensitive paper, silicon chip, drawing board, snapshots, mirror, identity card, bell, calendar, wristwatch, map, roadside kilometre marker, keyboard, novel, corset, cart, keel, asphalt, ring, rotary press, Linotype machine, harpsichord, piano, photocopier, record player, sewing machine, bicycle, gearwheel and pinion, Leica camera, Polaroid camera, photographic negative, pamphlet, binoculars, puff pastry, cherry cake, feathered cap, booklet, spectacles, telescope, sundial, catapult, turf, hook.