Not fully present: Five artworks by Maddie Leach

Sammanfattning: This PhD by Prior Publications is a composition of five artistic projects by New Zealand artist Maddie Leach produced between 2008 and 2019. The text identifies persistent methodological tendencies in her artistic practice that combine an obstinate attachment to making something happen and willing cooperation with incompleteness, inconclusion, and variation. A central question emerges of how commitment to an artistic decision is maintained while also leaving things undecided. The art works under discussion have occurred in diverse geographic locations in New Zealand, Ireland, Sweden and Canada. They include a coastal boat shed in Wellington (Perigee #11, 2008); a park in a former Jewish neighbourhood in Cork (Evening Echo, 2011); the sea floor of the Taranaki Basin (If you find the good oil let us know, 2012–2014); a record store in Gothenburg (The Grief Prophesy, 2017), and an early twentieth-century monument in New Westminster (Lowering Simon Fraser, 2019). Their material results have been equally diverse: a barrel of mineral oil transformed into a large concrete block, new versions of a black metal instrumental recorded on 12″ vinyl, lunar weather forecasts, a remote lamp-lighting system, letters to the editor of a local newspaper, an electronic billboard, and a graphic novel. Together these five projects offer a contribution to sculptural-conceptual practice with a clear lineage to site-specific and place-based practices. What is distinctive is the way each project demonstrates sustained fidelity to an artistic idea while remaining attuned to encounters with uncertainty— functional absences—that play an integral role in challenging, reorienting, or strengthening the project’s logical operation and public reception. The term functional absence is a re-working of James Meyer’s notion of functional site inflected towards Alain Badiou’s concept of the void, which he develops from set theory. Demonstrating this influence, functional absences are considered as interruptions in the artistic imaginary at work, arising from something previously invisible or unincluded, which requires legitimisation and recognition within the project. They may have stronger or weaker effects, but there is always a process of rearrangement around the absence, and the artistic project does not proceed as it was before.

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