uncommon threads

by Douglas Park

As is already explained elsewhere here, Anna Livia Löwendahl-Atomic's ‘This Too Shall Pass’ project consists of the artist's ongoing work-in-progress exchange, whereby in all manner of places she visits for whatever reasons, a single screw is removed from a fixture, replaced with another from the previous time, then saved up until the next opportunity, and so on and so forth etc. Most examples are documented photographically, as well as with supportive explanatory backup information, also including her emotional state (like a diary, autobiography or written self-portrait), alongside major world events and current affairs from that very same time (bringing to mind press clippings and news headlines accompanying On Kawara's signwritten ‘Date Paintings’, 1966 onwards).

Although Anna Livia Löwendahl-Atomic admits a self-conscious and deliberate or accidental and unintentional start, amongst other things, what very much comes to mind is a strong sense of both everyday and less ordinary cycles and other processes which happen constantly and universally, whether noticed or ignored, with or without consequence.  In that respect, similar to concerns of Conceptual-era works by the U.S artist, Robert Barry, which were achieved by modest and sometimes almost imperceivable means like gases, nylon threads, radio waves and even thought; using lingual statements, photography, projected slideshows, spoken audio recordings, artspaces and publications.  At least part of Robert Barry's plan was to bring together the romantic and the rational, seriousness and humour, trivia and importance; perhaps in ways not otherwise known; often attempting such ends, as though through little more than passive observation of existing realities or simply the sheer phenomena alone.

Unlike Robert Barry and his contemporaries, Anna Livia Löwendahl-Atomic specifically addresses her own self and life, the location and what's going on in the world around, while hoping others will identify with this and consider their own. Seemingly, yet another offer, provocation or even downright enforcement to remind us of ourselves within a much vaster scheme of things.  Usually, a goal and task attained by grandiose imagery, effects and scale, often requiring expense and resources –which can distract attention away from the main issues.  However, same as with many historical conceptual artists and works, then more since, the unassuming æsthetic to this entire mission-impossible and the apparent end-result could afford more profound engagement.

Whenever the texts and images are on display, shown and installed, in exhibitions, they could become as though they are the subject matter depicted, appear on or near anything resembling the original sources –or actually be such things.  Additionally, the audience has to imagine any missing examples, which for whatever reasons go unrecorded, hence absence.

What is very much become aware of are both whimsical notions and serious reality of constant movement and interconnection, spanning distances and timescales.

Its possible that this and similar may well be like or the same as things done by others.  A question arising is: "what if others or even everybody were to do the same or anything of the kind, what might any outcome be, would that be good or bad?” To which the most likely answer might well be: whether or not played according to these or completely different rules and formulæ, that would count as appropriation and simulation –or something else altogether.

Then there’s possibility that the private, public, personal and shared experiences of ‘This Too Shall Pass’ resemble and might lend themselves to activism, collectivism, mass-conscience, togetherness, ritual and utopianism etc, maybe even bonding and actual telepathy amongst all parties involved.

Fantasia scenarios breed, enact themselves and come alive.  Separate places link together and join up.  Spun cobweb circuit emerges as parabola constellation. Prominently distinct features from chosen objects amalgamate together into composite hybrid.  Infinite and tireless growth.  Flowing pilgrimage, free-form meander, endless search quest.  Intrepid expeditions, not only find, discover and explore the unexpected, but actually invent and transform the familiar.  Wishes made, hope, yearn and strive towards change brought about.

As well as On Kawara and Robert Barry, some other previous avant garde artists and works seem worth mentioning.

The Danish Fluxus artist and composer, Eric Andersen, early in his career (and that of the Fluxus movement) proposed that as many people as possible at a given stated period should simply think –about everybody else worldwide also participating in the same piece.

Another Fluxus member, Mieko (nee Chieko) Shiomi, for her ‘Spatial Poem’, invited submissions from contributors, whose input would be whatever they found they happened to be doing anyway then or had decided to do especially for ‘Spatial Poem’, to fulfil the criteriæ of several “Event” categories defined by Shiomi.

Then theres policies lying behind the U.K collaborators, the Boyle Family’s practises (darts randomly thrown at world maps to choose sites for their ‘Journey To The Surface Of The Earth’, methods to obtain, distribute and plant seeds).

Contemporaries of Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic who’ve done related works shouldn’t stay left out.  The Mexican globetrotter, Gabriel Orozco, who makes cheekily satirical interventions playing games with humble materials poised in various settings.  The U.K artist, Dean Hughes, has restitched bus seats while commuting, as well as regularly refilling a dried up puddle, amongst other quiet yet dedicated actions.  The German, Leopold Kessler, who in addition to humorously customising functional civic property, has also repaired and cleaned things needing improvement, without other alteration.

Finally, best left until last, is unlikelihood that Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic’s set task of ‘This Too Shall Pass’ will ever reach its obvious conclusion of affecting every country in the world at least once.  More importantly, is Anna Livia Lowendahl-Atomic’s inability to have proper involvement, presence or awareness at the last stage; involving her coffin lid.

On that note, several aspects of ‘This Too Shall Pass’ are descended from another ancestor.  From 1970-’77, the late Italian Arte Povera artist, Alighiero e Boetti and his widow, Anne-Marie Sauzeau Boetti, embarked on research and enquiries towards 'The World’s Thousand Longest Rivers’ (embodied as a giant Afghan woven embroidery text) and ‘Classifying The World’s Thousand Longest Rivers’ (published as a bookwork).  A knowingly difficult and futile endeavour, given the uncertainty, pontradiction and pointlessness of the data consulted and generated.

Against (and despite) any and all such odds, there’s still undeniably great power and far-reaching complexity to the sheer attempt –and what could happen nonetheless because of doing it.

Copyright, Douglas Park, 2009

Douglas Park (b. 23. 01. 1972, United Kingdom) is a visual artist, writer - of literary prose and critical essays, both mostly art connected, and sometime exhibition curator (and increasingly all practices and roles combined),currently U.K based and internationally active.