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John Wood and Paul Harrison

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Answers to Questions


John Wood and Paul Harrison

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Answers to Questions


7

Video Works 1993 to 2010

113

Selected Drawings 1993 to 2010

185

Answers to Questions Toby Kamps

190

Technical Information, Video Works 1993 to 2010

195

Recent Exhibition Documentation

210

Director’s Postface Bill Arning

212

Selected Exhibitions


7

Video Works 1993 to 2010

113

Selected Drawings 1993 to 2010

185

Answers to Questions Toby Kamps

190

Technical Information, Video Works 1993 to 2010

195

Recent Exhibition Documentation

210

Director’s Postface Bill Arning

212

Selected Exhibitions


Video Works 1993 to 2010


Video Works 1993 to 2010


Board

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Board

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Harry Houdini

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Harry Houdini

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Shaft

Headstand

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Shaft

Headstand

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Boat

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Boat

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Device

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Device

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Three-Legged

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Three-Legged

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Six Boxes

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Six Boxes

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October 97

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October 97

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Two Wall Sections

Twelve Reasons to Stand Somewhere

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Two Wall Sections

Twelve Reasons to Stand Somewhere

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Volunteer

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Volunteer

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Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things)

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Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things)

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Hundredweight

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Hundredweight

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66.86 m

100 m

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66.86 m

100 m

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Notebook

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Notebook

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The Only Other Point

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The Only Other Point

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Another Pair

Tape Measures

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Another Pair

Tape Measures

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1%

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1%

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Photocopier

Blind / Spot

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Photocopier

Blind / Spot

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Shelf

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Shelf

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Space Wallpaper Fan / Paper / Fan

Mic / Amp (Apologies to Mr. Reich)

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Space Wallpaper Fan / Paper / Fan

Mic / Amp (Apologies to Mr. Reich)

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Toothbrush

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Toothbrush

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Pencil / Line / Eraser

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Pencil / Line / Eraser

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Night and Day

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Night and Day

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Of Knowing Where You Are

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Of Knowing Where You Are

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100 Boxes

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1000 Points

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100 Boxes

98

1000 Points

99


One More Kilometre

White Shirt

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One More Kilometre

White Shirt

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500 Pieces of Paper

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500 Pieces of Paper

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500 Thoughts

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500 Thoughts

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111


Selected Drawings 1993 to 2010


Selected Drawings 1993 to 2010


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I AM JUMPING UP AND DOWN

SPACING IS IMPORTANT

FREE NELSON MANDELA

YOU AIN’T HERE TO PARTY

A PARTICULAR POINT

THERE SHOULD BE ONE BIG BOOK

ENGLISH SPOKEN

ARTISTS KNOW NOTHING ABOUT SCIENCE

AND SO I SAID

THIS AND THAT

TASTEFUL THINGS PLACED HERE AND THERE

THIN IDEA

SOMETHING AND SOMETHING AND SOMETHING ELSE

THIS ROCKET SCIENCE BUSINESS

ONE OR TWO IDIOTS

FAILED MONORAIL EXPERIMENT

AWAY FROM THESE MINUTES

TRYING NOT TO GIVE IT AWAY

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP

BACK TO NORMAL AGAIN

YOU CAN NEVER TELL ANYONE ANYTHING

ANTI-MATTER

SOME THINGS ARE MORE IMPORTANT

MAKING THINGS BETTER

UP AND DOWN

YOU ARE DISTANT

RUNNING OUT OF THINGS TO SAY

A DARING RAID

WE’RE ONLY MAKING PLANS

INTENTIONALLY BLANK

NOTHING SPECIAL FROM SOMEWHERE SPECIAL

DON’T BELIEVE A WORD I SAY

WHAT SHALL WE DO NEXT

TEN MINUTES AGO

I GIVE UP

SAME DAY DRY CLEANING

YOU ARE MOVING

MY CONTRIBUTION

HEAR THE DRUMMER GET WICKED

IT IS IMPORTANT

AVERAGE CONTENTS

ENJOY YOUR PIZZA

NOT QUITE AS GOOD AS YOU’D HOPED

IT IS DIFFICULT

BELIEVE ME

KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE

NO MORE WORDS

IT WAS EASY

WE ARE MAKING A FILM

LAST DAYS / LAST FEW DAYS

EVERYTHING MAKES ME ANGRY

A MILLION MILES AWAY

ILLUSTRATING THE POINT

DAYS ARE NUMBERED

COMPLETELY LOST

POINTING OUT THINGS YOU ALREADY KNOW

MAKING IT OBVIOUS

RUMOURS OF SNOW

ALL SINGING ALL DANCING

PRETENDING TO CARE ABOUT THINGS

DOING WORDS

YELLOW SPIRIT LEVEL

YOU ARE HERE

SILLY ARTISTS, SILLY CURATORS

ROUND AND ABOUT

SOME PEOPLE THINK ITS FUN TO ENTERTAIN

THINGS THAT HAPPEN

SOME THINGS, SOME MORE THINGS

SORRY FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE CAUSED

EITHER SIDE

LEFT HAND SIDE

165


164

I AM JUMPING UP AND DOWN

SPACING IS IMPORTANT

FREE NELSON MANDELA

YOU AIN’T HERE TO PARTY

A PARTICULAR POINT

THERE SHOULD BE ONE BIG BOOK

ENGLISH SPOKEN

ARTISTS KNOW NOTHING ABOUT SCIENCE

AND SO I SAID

THIS AND THAT

TASTEFUL THINGS PLACED HERE AND THERE

THIN IDEA

SOMETHING AND SOMETHING AND SOMETHING ELSE

THIS ROCKET SCIENCE BUSINESS

ONE OR TWO IDIOTS

FAILED MONORAIL EXPERIMENT

AWAY FROM THESE MINUTES

TRYING NOT TO GIVE IT AWAY

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP

BACK TO NORMAL AGAIN

YOU CAN NEVER TELL ANYONE ANYTHING

ANTI-MATTER

SOME THINGS ARE MORE IMPORTANT

MAKING THINGS BETTER

UP AND DOWN

YOU ARE DISTANT

RUNNING OUT OF THINGS TO SAY

A DARING RAID

WE’RE ONLY MAKING PLANS

INTENTIONALLY BLANK

NOTHING SPECIAL FROM SOMEWHERE SPECIAL

DON’T BELIEVE A WORD I SAY

WHAT SHALL WE DO NEXT

TEN MINUTES AGO

I GIVE UP

SAME DAY DRY CLEANING

YOU ARE MOVING

MY CONTRIBUTION

HEAR THE DRUMMER GET WICKED

IT IS IMPORTANT

AVERAGE CONTENTS

ENJOY YOUR PIZZA

NOT QUITE AS GOOD AS YOU’D HOPED

IT IS DIFFICULT

BELIEVE ME

KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE

NO MORE WORDS

IT WAS EASY

WE ARE MAKING A FILM

LAST DAYS / LAST FEW DAYS

EVERYTHING MAKES ME ANGRY

A MILLION MILES AWAY

ILLUSTRATING THE POINT

DAYS ARE NUMBERED

COMPLETELY LOST

POINTING OUT THINGS YOU ALREADY KNOW

MAKING IT OBVIOUS

RUMOURS OF SNOW

ALL SINGING ALL DANCING

PRETENDING TO CARE ABOUT THINGS

DOING WORDS

YELLOW SPIRIT LEVEL

YOU ARE HERE

SILLY ARTISTS, SILLY CURATORS

ROUND AND ABOUT

SOME PEOPLE THINK ITS FUN TO ENTERTAIN

THINGS THAT HAPPEN

SOME THINGS, SOME MORE THINGS

SORRY FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE CAUSED

EITHER SIDE

LEFT HAND SIDE

165


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Answers to Questions John Wood and Paul Harrison, a British collaborative duo, make single-channel videos, multipart video installations, prints, drawings, and sculptures that elegantly fuse advanced aesthetic research with existential comedy. 1 The artists’ spare, to-the-point works feature the actions of their own bodies, a wide variety of static and moving props, or combinations of both to illustrate the triumphs and tribulations of making art and having a life. In their not-alwayssuccessful experiments with movement and materials, many of which critic Tom Lubbock has described as “sculptural pratfalls,” 2 Wood and Harrison employ exuberant invention, subtle slapstick, and a touch of lighthearted melancholy to reveal the inspiration and perspiration — as well as the occasional hint of desperation — behind all creative acts. Wood (b. 1969) and Harrison (b. 1966) describe themselves as performance artists and sculptors whose audience is the video camera. They met in 1989 at the Bath College of Higher Education, where both received bachelor of fine arts degrees in painting, and have worked together since 1993. They share a studio in Wood’s city of Bristol, to which Harrison commutes from his home in Birmingham. In college, Wood, who made videos and Super 8 films based on “simple performances and Frank Sinatra songs,” and Harrison, who also made performances and diorama-like sculptures and installations incorporating “sugar cubes and model planes and boats,” knew each other only in passing. After school, though, while Harrison was on a two-year residency at a private school in rural Uppingham, England, Wood, looking for fellowship with another young artist, invited himself for a number of visits to share the school’s studio. After many casual conversations, they began a number of casual collaborations. The early performances were not especially significant, claims Harrison: “Just messing about in front of the video camera.” 3 But they established a method for creative cooperation. Wood says: “Spending time together trying things out with a video camera and just experimenting — during this period of about eighteen months, we formed a basis of a vocabulary and an outline of what we were interested in doing, as well as a way of communicating and working together. And in the time we weren’t together, we were doing drawings and posting them to each other.” 4 184

The artists’ easy rapport and genuine friendship have served as a foundation for a creative partnership based on physical trust (necessary when projects involve the risk of injury) and equal ownership of ideas and roles — although they both agree that Wood, the shorter and stockier of the two, is the better straight man and often cast him as such. Each work begins with a simple drawing. In what Wood describes as a playful, “liberating process,” they collect hundreds of concepts in sketchbooks and on scraps of paper. 5 The sources for these sketches — which often contain short, descriptive texts and notes on engineering and timing — are sometimes identifiable, as when Harrison saw a man swinging a plastic bag in a high arc at a bus stop, an action that recurred in the six-channel work Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) (2001). But more often the catalyst for a work is their shared sensibility and sense of humor, rather than any particular object or event. “We have to spark each others’ imaginations,” says Harrison, recalling a recent trip to a costume shop during which he collected lists of rentable outfits. After a brief discussion of the store’s space suits, they quickly workshopped the idea for a new work titled Bored Astronauts on the Moon. 6 The artists’ long common history means that each has a clear idea of what the other will like, and their many multipart works are their most democratic products because once they agree on a structure, they take turns contributing ideas for component parts. Device (1996) is an early example of this tag-team approach. The single-channel video consists of the artists interacting with a variety of contraptions that Harrison describes as “built for the camera,” meaning painstakingly constructed so that their shapes, spaces, and outlines align or harmonize with the lens’s perspective. 7 Wood, stone-faced, crashes to the floor strapped to a mattress, “dives” in slow motion from a board suspended by a block and tackle, climbs a ramp wearing step-shaped wedges strapped to his shoes, ascends a shaft on an inflating plastic bag, and moves seamlessly from yoga’s push-up-like “plank” to upward-facing “reverse plank” position with the help of a conveyor belt. In each vignette there is a momentary grace note, an instant of triumph or an elegant pose held for half a beat. Here the slightly nerdy artist becomes a superhero of the studio. Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) expands the format of Device, keeping the expressionless, nearly static performances but expanding the variety of the situations. The twenty-six short scenes in 185


Answers to Questions John Wood and Paul Harrison, a British collaborative duo, make single-channel videos, multipart video installations, prints, drawings, and sculptures that elegantly fuse advanced aesthetic research with existential comedy. 1 The artists’ spare, to-the-point works feature the actions of their own bodies, a wide variety of static and moving props, or combinations of both to illustrate the triumphs and tribulations of making art and having a life. In their not-alwayssuccessful experiments with movement and materials, many of which critic Tom Lubbock has described as “sculptural pratfalls,” 2 Wood and Harrison employ exuberant invention, subtle slapstick, and a touch of lighthearted melancholy to reveal the inspiration and perspiration — as well as the occasional hint of desperation — behind all creative acts. Wood (b. 1969) and Harrison (b. 1966) describe themselves as performance artists and sculptors whose audience is the video camera. They met in 1989 at the Bath College of Higher Education, where both received bachelor of fine arts degrees in painting, and have worked together since 1993. They share a studio in Wood’s city of Bristol, to which Harrison commutes from his home in Birmingham. In college, Wood, who made videos and Super 8 films based on “simple performances and Frank Sinatra songs,” and Harrison, who also made performances and diorama-like sculptures and installations incorporating “sugar cubes and model planes and boats,” knew each other only in passing. After school, though, while Harrison was on a two-year residency at a private school in rural Uppingham, England, Wood, looking for fellowship with another young artist, invited himself for a number of visits to share the school’s studio. After many casual conversations, they began a number of casual collaborations. The early performances were not especially significant, claims Harrison: “Just messing about in front of the video camera.” 3 But they established a method for creative cooperation. Wood says: “Spending time together trying things out with a video camera and just experimenting — during this period of about eighteen months, we formed a basis of a vocabulary and an outline of what we were interested in doing, as well as a way of communicating and working together. And in the time we weren’t together, we were doing drawings and posting them to each other.” 4 184

The artists’ easy rapport and genuine friendship have served as a foundation for a creative partnership based on physical trust (necessary when projects involve the risk of injury) and equal ownership of ideas and roles — although they both agree that Wood, the shorter and stockier of the two, is the better straight man and often cast him as such. Each work begins with a simple drawing. In what Wood describes as a playful, “liberating process,” they collect hundreds of concepts in sketchbooks and on scraps of paper. 5 The sources for these sketches — which often contain short, descriptive texts and notes on engineering and timing — are sometimes identifiable, as when Harrison saw a man swinging a plastic bag in a high arc at a bus stop, an action that recurred in the six-channel work Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) (2001). But more often the catalyst for a work is their shared sensibility and sense of humor, rather than any particular object or event. “We have to spark each others’ imaginations,” says Harrison, recalling a recent trip to a costume shop during which he collected lists of rentable outfits. After a brief discussion of the store’s space suits, they quickly workshopped the idea for a new work titled Bored Astronauts on the Moon. 6 The artists’ long common history means that each has a clear idea of what the other will like, and their many multipart works are their most democratic products because once they agree on a structure, they take turns contributing ideas for component parts. Device (1996) is an early example of this tag-team approach. The single-channel video consists of the artists interacting with a variety of contraptions that Harrison describes as “built for the camera,” meaning painstakingly constructed so that their shapes, spaces, and outlines align or harmonize with the lens’s perspective. 7 Wood, stone-faced, crashes to the floor strapped to a mattress, “dives” in slow motion from a board suspended by a block and tackle, climbs a ramp wearing step-shaped wedges strapped to his shoes, ascends a shaft on an inflating plastic bag, and moves seamlessly from yoga’s push-up-like “plank” to upward-facing “reverse plank” position with the help of a conveyor belt. In each vignette there is a momentary grace note, an instant of triumph or an elegant pose held for half a beat. Here the slightly nerdy artist becomes a superhero of the studio. Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) expands the format of Device, keeping the expressionless, nearly static performances but expanding the variety of the situations. The twenty-six short scenes in 185


this work, which can be shown as a single-channel linear version or as six- or twenty-six-channel installations, feature the artists performing such aesthetic absurdities as opening a door in a white room and having the plank-like minimalist sculpture propped on the other side bonk them on the forehead, using a leaf blower to hold a large sheet of paper against a wall, and arresting a slide down a diagonal chute by inflating a life jacket. Notebook (2004) also continues the concept of cataloging ideas developed in unison but nearly eschews performance, keeping the artists’ actions to a bare minimum. The scenes are of Rube Goldbergian machines or scenarios set in motion by the artists’ hands or by nearly invisible fishing lines. A wooden match propping open a dictionary is ignited, causing a miniature conflagration that is extinguished when the match consumes itself and the book slams shut; a tilting rack tips tiny cans of red, yellow, and green paint onto a folding beach chair, creating a mini color-field painting à la Morris Louis (1912–1962) — or, to British eyes, re-creating a well-known 1970s deck chair design; and in an expertly timed, briefly seen pièce de résistance, Wood, seated in profile at a wooden table, uses a puff from a can of compressed air to roll a ping-pong ball off the far edge into a waiting cup. Ordinary things, the artists convincingly demonstrate, can be as expressive as ordinary humans. Wood and Harrison’s staging and filming, they insist, should always be “straightforward” and “undramatic.” They reject the dynamic camerawork and elaborate editing common in artists’ films today, employing a basic, do-it-yourself style that highlights their physical activities and constructions, the latter of which often include kinetic elements. Usually made with a fixed camera, their low-tech works contain no special effects or gimmicks other than occasional tracking shots and artful cuts or fade-ins and fade-outs that give the appearance of seamless movement. The stripped-down visual and physical language that Wood and Harrison have developed harks back to the 1960s and the casual, bare-bones works of video art pioneers such as Bruce Nauman (b. 1941), Joan Jonas (b. 1936), and William Wegman (b. 1943), which focused on artists performing simple, often repetitive tasks in nondescript spaces. Nauman’s self-descriptively titled “studio exercises” from the late 1960s, in particular, are important precedents, both in their schematic form and in their art-interrogative nature. 186

Works like the photograph Failing to Levitate in the Studio (1966) and the video work Dance or Exercise on the Perimeter of a Square (1967–1968) were inspired by the artists’ existential thought: “[If] I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art. […] At this point art became more of an activity and less of a product.” 8 This transformation — spinning doubt, stuckness, and other creative blocks into art — is the alchemy of Wood and Harrison’s work too. Like Nauman and other predecessors, Wood and Harrison are influenced by theories of performance developed in the 1960s by dancers like Yvonne Rainer, who cultivated the idea that inspired amateurs, performing to the best of their abilities, were as valid as trained professionals. This inheritance, however, in the artists’ case, is more intuitive than studied, stemming at the beginning of their careers from what Harrison calls “a suspicion of dance.” “Our early work Board [1993] was an attempt to understand dance. We’d seen a lot of dance while we were at college and thought, why do all these flourishes with your hands, when you could accomplish something just as powerful just by simply sitting down in a chair on stage? But of course we also were a little jealous of trained dancers’ skills. The central prop of our dance, the board, allowed us to do things that our bodies couldn’t do on their own.” 9 Board, Wood and Harrison’s most dance-like performance, documents the artists making dozens of interdependent, choreographed moves on and around a large sheet of particleboard, which they take turns holding and manipulating. The work highlights their unselfconscious athleticism and genius for unlocking unexpected permutations in materials and gestures. Similarly, another singlechannel video, Two Wall Sections (1998), uses no props in a simple pas de deux in two acts (the two “sections” of the work’s title) in which Harrison lifts Wood and holds him against a gallery wall, once right side up and once inverted — an act so reminiscent of picture hanging that one cannot but read it as an ironically literal expression of the idea of the artist becoming a work of art. Early on, Wood and Harrison realized their physical limitations as performers and instead cultivated their own brand of anti-virtuosity based on skills like wit, ingenuity, and subterfuge, perhaps more commonly associated with visual than performing artists. “We try to make this perfect world with these little stupid things that happen

within it,” says Wood. 10 Three-Legged (1997), a harrowing attempt to move in unison with legs tied together as in a three-legged race while a high-speed serving machine fires tennis balls at them, shows how the artistic partners learn, succeed, or fail together. Just before the machine runs out of balls, the exhausted pair discover that all they need to do to avoid getting badly beaned is duck. In many of the works in which Wood and Harrison figure as protagonists, there is an element of archness — a tiny pregnant pause or twinkle in the eye — that signals self-awareness. In this sense, they are heirs to intensely physical American silent film comics Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and, of course, Laurel and Hardy, with whom they are often compared, as well as to the miniaturized merriments of vaudeville, which compressed the sophisticated and the broad. They also acknowledge a debt to a legacy of uniquely British television humor built on a national embrace of the silly and the uptight found in comedians like the eccentric Spike Milligan and the understated double act Morecambe and Wise, whose legendary send-up of pianist André Previn the artists are fond of citing as a kind of cracked manifesto. When Eric Morecambe attempts to play a Grieg piano concerto, Previn says, “You’re playing all the wrong notes!” Morecambe replies, “I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.” 11 Since the 1970s a number of artists, predominantly male, have formed creative duos, often working in performance, installation, video, and other new media. The British pair of Gilbert and George is a common point of comparison for Wood and Harrison, perhaps because something of the former’s deadpan yet knowing spirit infuses the latter’s work. But Gilbert Proesch (b. 1943) and George Passmore (b. 1942) are more persona-based, making their lives and romantic partnership works of art by presenting themselves as “living sculptures” and protagonists in large-scale, photo-based symbolic images. In addition, Vitaly Komar (b. 1946) and Alex Melamid (b. 1945), originally dissident Soviet artists, use outrageous humor to travesty Socialist Realism; the Swiss team of Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (b. 1946) make low-key, comically conceptual sculptures and videos using commonplace materials; and Houston’s Art Guys — Mike Galbreth (b. 1956) and Jack Massing (b. 1959) — view human behavior as the final aesthetic frontier and make performances and objects that explode distinctions between art and life. Starting out, the artists were

aware of such trailblazing teams and looked to them as models for their collaborative partnership. Wood and Harrison are experts at marshaling materials and in the physics of everyday life. Their understanding of the foundational principles of minimal and conceptual art is equally evident in complex works such as 66.86 m (2004), a depiction of an elaborate grid composed of white and black rope and turning blocks that, after much pulling, eventually resolves into the outline of a chair. Their firm grasp of the obvious also is evident in a group of related prop-based works of 2007. Photocopier is a simple stop-action animation made by photographing the tray of a copying machine as it fills with sequential images of a sailboat moving across a horizon. Blind / Spot consists of an image of a black spot on a white field that, after a few shuddering seconds, reveals itself to be drawn in ever-larger scale on a procession of snapping and retracting roll-up shades (the titular “blinds”) so that, from the camera’s fixed point of view, it remains the same size. And Fan / Paper / Fan illustrates a feat of mundane prestidigitation in which a piece of paper is balanced on edge between two fans and dances suspended. Manifesting a concision simultaneously brilliant and lunatic, the artists always use the bare minimum of affect and materials to shape their ideas. The simplicity and one-subject focus of One More Kilometre (2009), for example, makes it a humble heir to iconic conceptual works such as Walter De Maria’s (b. 1935) many sculptures that give physical form to measurements, including Broken Kilometer (1979), made of sections of metal rod equaling one thousand meters, and the installation Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977), a one-thousand-meterlong buried metal rod. In this single-channel work, Harrison (we cannot see his face) applies a belt sander to a stack of sheets of paper whose combined length is one kilometer, creating a sinuous, undulating white wave as pages fly into the air. The studied neutrality of their performance spaces, the spare geometries of their props, their recurring interest in grids and sequences, and a clear, illustrational quality in their work indicate that Wood and Harrison are steeped in the culture of reductive and idea-based art. As curator Catherine Wood points out, the artists in a sense reverse the age-old impulse of avant-garde artists to export their progressive aesthetics into everyday life. Wood and Harrison, she points out, appear to be two men who have volunteered to live inside the white cube — the sacred space of modern art. 12 187


this work, which can be shown as a single-channel linear version or as six- or twenty-six-channel installations, feature the artists performing such aesthetic absurdities as opening a door in a white room and having the plank-like minimalist sculpture propped on the other side bonk them on the forehead, using a leaf blower to hold a large sheet of paper against a wall, and arresting a slide down a diagonal chute by inflating a life jacket. Notebook (2004) also continues the concept of cataloging ideas developed in unison but nearly eschews performance, keeping the artists’ actions to a bare minimum. The scenes are of Rube Goldbergian machines or scenarios set in motion by the artists’ hands or by nearly invisible fishing lines. A wooden match propping open a dictionary is ignited, causing a miniature conflagration that is extinguished when the match consumes itself and the book slams shut; a tilting rack tips tiny cans of red, yellow, and green paint onto a folding beach chair, creating a mini color-field painting à la Morris Louis (1912–1962) — or, to British eyes, re-creating a well-known 1970s deck chair design; and in an expertly timed, briefly seen pièce de résistance, Wood, seated in profile at a wooden table, uses a puff from a can of compressed air to roll a ping-pong ball off the far edge into a waiting cup. Ordinary things, the artists convincingly demonstrate, can be as expressive as ordinary humans. Wood and Harrison’s staging and filming, they insist, should always be “straightforward” and “undramatic.” They reject the dynamic camerawork and elaborate editing common in artists’ films today, employing a basic, do-it-yourself style that highlights their physical activities and constructions, the latter of which often include kinetic elements. Usually made with a fixed camera, their low-tech works contain no special effects or gimmicks other than occasional tracking shots and artful cuts or fade-ins and fade-outs that give the appearance of seamless movement. The stripped-down visual and physical language that Wood and Harrison have developed harks back to the 1960s and the casual, bare-bones works of video art pioneers such as Bruce Nauman (b. 1941), Joan Jonas (b. 1936), and William Wegman (b. 1943), which focused on artists performing simple, often repetitive tasks in nondescript spaces. Nauman’s self-descriptively titled “studio exercises” from the late 1960s, in particular, are important precedents, both in their schematic form and in their art-interrogative nature. 186

Works like the photograph Failing to Levitate in the Studio (1966) and the video work Dance or Exercise on the Perimeter of a Square (1967–1968) were inspired by the artists’ existential thought: “[If] I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art. […] At this point art became more of an activity and less of a product.” 8 This transformation — spinning doubt, stuckness, and other creative blocks into art — is the alchemy of Wood and Harrison’s work too. Like Nauman and other predecessors, Wood and Harrison are influenced by theories of performance developed in the 1960s by dancers like Yvonne Rainer, who cultivated the idea that inspired amateurs, performing to the best of their abilities, were as valid as trained professionals. This inheritance, however, in the artists’ case, is more intuitive than studied, stemming at the beginning of their careers from what Harrison calls “a suspicion of dance.” “Our early work Board [1993] was an attempt to understand dance. We’d seen a lot of dance while we were at college and thought, why do all these flourishes with your hands, when you could accomplish something just as powerful just by simply sitting down in a chair on stage? But of course we also were a little jealous of trained dancers’ skills. The central prop of our dance, the board, allowed us to do things that our bodies couldn’t do on their own.” 9 Board, Wood and Harrison’s most dance-like performance, documents the artists making dozens of interdependent, choreographed moves on and around a large sheet of particleboard, which they take turns holding and manipulating. The work highlights their unselfconscious athleticism and genius for unlocking unexpected permutations in materials and gestures. Similarly, another singlechannel video, Two Wall Sections (1998), uses no props in a simple pas de deux in two acts (the two “sections” of the work’s title) in which Harrison lifts Wood and holds him against a gallery wall, once right side up and once inverted — an act so reminiscent of picture hanging that one cannot but read it as an ironically literal expression of the idea of the artist becoming a work of art. Early on, Wood and Harrison realized their physical limitations as performers and instead cultivated their own brand of anti-virtuosity based on skills like wit, ingenuity, and subterfuge, perhaps more commonly associated with visual than performing artists. “We try to make this perfect world with these little stupid things that happen

within it,” says Wood. 10 Three-Legged (1997), a harrowing attempt to move in unison with legs tied together as in a three-legged race while a high-speed serving machine fires tennis balls at them, shows how the artistic partners learn, succeed, or fail together. Just before the machine runs out of balls, the exhausted pair discover that all they need to do to avoid getting badly beaned is duck. In many of the works in which Wood and Harrison figure as protagonists, there is an element of archness — a tiny pregnant pause or twinkle in the eye — that signals self-awareness. In this sense, they are heirs to intensely physical American silent film comics Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and, of course, Laurel and Hardy, with whom they are often compared, as well as to the miniaturized merriments of vaudeville, which compressed the sophisticated and the broad. They also acknowledge a debt to a legacy of uniquely British television humor built on a national embrace of the silly and the uptight found in comedians like the eccentric Spike Milligan and the understated double act Morecambe and Wise, whose legendary send-up of pianist André Previn the artists are fond of citing as a kind of cracked manifesto. When Eric Morecambe attempts to play a Grieg piano concerto, Previn says, “You’re playing all the wrong notes!” Morecambe replies, “I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.” 11 Since the 1970s a number of artists, predominantly male, have formed creative duos, often working in performance, installation, video, and other new media. The British pair of Gilbert and George is a common point of comparison for Wood and Harrison, perhaps because something of the former’s deadpan yet knowing spirit infuses the latter’s work. But Gilbert Proesch (b. 1943) and George Passmore (b. 1942) are more persona-based, making their lives and romantic partnership works of art by presenting themselves as “living sculptures” and protagonists in large-scale, photo-based symbolic images. In addition, Vitaly Komar (b. 1946) and Alex Melamid (b. 1945), originally dissident Soviet artists, use outrageous humor to travesty Socialist Realism; the Swiss team of Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (b. 1946) make low-key, comically conceptual sculptures and videos using commonplace materials; and Houston’s Art Guys — Mike Galbreth (b. 1956) and Jack Massing (b. 1959) — view human behavior as the final aesthetic frontier and make performances and objects that explode distinctions between art and life. Starting out, the artists were

aware of such trailblazing teams and looked to them as models for their collaborative partnership. Wood and Harrison are experts at marshaling materials and in the physics of everyday life. Their understanding of the foundational principles of minimal and conceptual art is equally evident in complex works such as 66.86 m (2004), a depiction of an elaborate grid composed of white and black rope and turning blocks that, after much pulling, eventually resolves into the outline of a chair. Their firm grasp of the obvious also is evident in a group of related prop-based works of 2007. Photocopier is a simple stop-action animation made by photographing the tray of a copying machine as it fills with sequential images of a sailboat moving across a horizon. Blind / Spot consists of an image of a black spot on a white field that, after a few shuddering seconds, reveals itself to be drawn in ever-larger scale on a procession of snapping and retracting roll-up shades (the titular “blinds”) so that, from the camera’s fixed point of view, it remains the same size. And Fan / Paper / Fan illustrates a feat of mundane prestidigitation in which a piece of paper is balanced on edge between two fans and dances suspended. Manifesting a concision simultaneously brilliant and lunatic, the artists always use the bare minimum of affect and materials to shape their ideas. The simplicity and one-subject focus of One More Kilometre (2009), for example, makes it a humble heir to iconic conceptual works such as Walter De Maria’s (b. 1935) many sculptures that give physical form to measurements, including Broken Kilometer (1979), made of sections of metal rod equaling one thousand meters, and the installation Vertical Earth Kilometer (1977), a one-thousand-meterlong buried metal rod. In this single-channel work, Harrison (we cannot see his face) applies a belt sander to a stack of sheets of paper whose combined length is one kilometer, creating a sinuous, undulating white wave as pages fly into the air. The studied neutrality of their performance spaces, the spare geometries of their props, their recurring interest in grids and sequences, and a clear, illustrational quality in their work indicate that Wood and Harrison are steeped in the culture of reductive and idea-based art. As curator Catherine Wood points out, the artists in a sense reverse the age-old impulse of avant-garde artists to export their progressive aesthetics into everyday life. Wood and Harrison, she points out, appear to be two men who have volunteered to live inside the white cube — the sacred space of modern art. 12 187


The visual art world, however, is not the only well from which the artists draw their ideas. Mic / Amp (Apologies to Mr. Reich) (2007) references minimalist music. When Wood and Harrison discovered that the video’s central action, swinging a microphone from its cable in front of a speaker to produce a range of feedback sounds, had been the basis of composer Steve Reich’s (b. 1936) 1973 composition Pendulum Music (for Microphones, Amplifiers, Speakers and Performers), they acknowledged the overlap by appending a parenthetical apology to the title. The history of film is another inspiration for Wood and Harrison. They admire the elegant staging and pacing of Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Playtime, a languidly paced, nearly dialogue-free physical comedy set in lobbies, apartments, and restaurants in high-modernist buildings. And the eight-minute tracking shot of a pileup of cars on a highway in Jean-Luc Godard’s film Weekend (1967) is the inspiration for the twenty-seven-minute Shelf (2007), a series of static and moving tableaux made from household hardware and toys arranged on a shelf, which are filmed and edited so that it appears as though the camera is moving along an endless shelf. As the lens moves serenely past them, these objects perform their own mini dramas: a tugboat sinks; a toy train hits a car straddling its tracks, pushing it to a waiting ambulance, police car, and tow truck; and a row of alarm clocks go off in succession, creating a cacophony of electronic chirps. Developing its own logical momentum as it progresses, Shelf suggests that everyday objects have lives of their own that need only be seen with fresh eyes to reveal themselves. A love of low-tech special effects infuses all of Wood and Harrison’s work. Perhaps the most obvious example is the singlechannel video Space Wallpaper (2007). The central action of this simple fixed-camera work is the scrolling and unscrolling of a roll of cheap wallpaper emblazoned with stars, comets, and planets. Endearingly hokey, it re-creates the view from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise with hardware-store technology. Night and Day, a single-channel work of 2008, also uses rudimentary psychedelia — flashing lights — to create a panoply of stop-action effects. Demarcated and animated by flashes and extended periods of light and dark, the scenes depict an assortment of human and mechanical actions: a swing-arm desk lamp comes to life; arrays of hanging globe lamps rearrange themselves in patterns that 188

recall Busby Berkeley’s dance productions; and a Sputnik satellite rides a wire across the room. The video also features scenes of the artists doing the impossible: appearing to hover around a rotating ladder as they snap pictures with a stroboscopic flash; accomplishing skateboard stunts possible only through crude, jump-cut editing; and, in a non sequitur nonpareil, sword-fighting with their right and left hands as they stare blankly into the camera. A cracked compendium of Wood and Harrison’s ideas and approaches, Night and Day also makes explicit some of their philosophy of art and of irony. The work opens with a shot of the artists stock still and emotionless in their customary dark pants and shirts and sweaters. Each time the lights blink on and off, a new subtitle appears paraphrasing the Gospel of Matthew on the nativity of Jesus: “They could hardly contain themselves. They were in the right place. They had arrived at the right time.” Written texts — descriptive, poetic, daydreaming — are central to several new works. They are the subject of a new series of 365 offset-printed posters, Some Words, Some More Words (2009). In them, plain capital letters set against dark blue backgrounds spell out self-reflexive rhetorical and artistic koans like “Two words / Four words,” “One liner,” “Good idea / Bad idea / No idea,” and “Shut up / Do things.” Like the famous “Think!” sign tacked to so many office bulletin boards, these broadsides — part motivational posters, part typically British piss-takings — suggest the guidelines for Wood and Harrison’s creative process. Words also permeate the mostly black-and-white animation Of Knowing Where You Are (2009), which the artists assembled from hundreds of individual digital JPEG images. Featuring texts by Wood and images by Harrison, the video, Harrison says, consists of “lists of instructions and thoughts on navigation and location, but it’s also about standing around thinking about something else.” 13 Patterns, drawings, and captions form and dissolve as the work progresses, suggesting a behind-the-eyes tour of the artists’ consciousnesses or one of their sketchbooks come to life. This is, as one sequential text summarizes, “A film where nothing (much) happens / But not a boring one.” The plays of Samuel Beckett (1906–1989) are an oft-cited inspiration for Wood and Harrison’s work. In his 1948 drama Waiting for Godot, Beckett places his two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, in a barren landscape, where they struggle desperately to fill the time as they wait for an acquaintance. Subtitled “A Tragicomedy in Two

Acts,” Beckett’s play is widely considered a prime example of the theater of the absurd, a genre defined by its cyclical action, resistance to resolution, and emphasis on the absurdity of life. And an aspect of Beckett’s outlook — which is colored by existentialist philosophy — can be seen in Wood and Harrison’s work Hundredweight (2003), a collection of thirty-six activities recorded from above in a ceilingless room. In Hundredweight, named for a passage from a children’s book in the artists’ studio library stating that the air in an average house weighs 112 pounds, or an imperial hundredweight, Wood is shut in an enclosed space where he performs a series of ridiculous artistic activities, including knocking over standing tubes to create a geometric composition, marching across a grid of floor panels that collapse under his weight, using a roller to paint a line around the room’s perimeter, and pouring buckets of blue paint onto the floor, forming puddles that — suddenly, surprisingly — become white as they reflect overhead fluorescent lights. “We liked the idea that something that you aren’t aware of, like air, actually weighs something,” says Wood. “This mirrors the activities in the room, which might not seem important or real but do weigh something — things that appear as nothing are in fact sculptural, and there might be no such thing as an empty room.” 14 Like Beckett’s protagonists, Wood and Harrison may be stuck in the space in which they perform, but unlike the world of Vladimir and Estragon, it is one of their own creation and one that always offers an opportunity for revelation. Through their efforts — no matter how absurd, Sisyphean, or masochistic — Wood and Harrison reveal the inventive play behind all art, even its most ephemeral strains. The creative sparks they throw off in their simple, self-effacing video works are the raw material of human culture. They trigger the small epiphanies and perspective shifts that make life worth living. Grounded in a reverence for the quotidian, Wood and Harrison’s unique blend of the absurd and erudite, high and low, philosophical and funny, captures both a sense of wonder and the necessary thrill of risk and experimentation in art and life alike.

1. This essay builds on the author’s text of the same title published in Answers to Questions: John Wood and Paul Harrison, exhibition brochure (Santa Barbara: University Art Museum, University of California, 2010), which accompanied the first, traveling version of the exhibition. 2. Tom Lubbock, Independent Review, May 13, 2003. 3. Paul Harrison, e-mail correspondence with the author, December 22, 2010. 4. John Wood, telephone conversation with the author, January 2010. 5. Paul Harrison, e-mail correspondence, December 22, 2010. 6. Paul Harrison, telephone conversation with the author, January 5, 2011.

9. Paul Harrison, telephone conversation with the author, December 13, 2010. 10. John Wood, e-mail correspondence with the author, December 15, 2010. 11. See Eric Morecambe and André Previn in www.youtube.com/ watch?v=vP8TUe993uo (accessed January 13, 2010). 12. Catherine Wood, ‘In / Out’, in 124 Minutes: John Wood and Paul Harrison, exhibition catalogue (Cardiff, Wales: Ffotogallery, 2006), p. 12. 13. Paul Harrison, conversation, December 16, 2010. 14. John Wood, e-mail correspondence with the author, December 17, 2010.

7. Paul Harrison, telephone conversation with the author, December 16, 2010. 8. Bruce Nauman, in Ian Wallace and Russell Keziere, ‘Bruce Nauman Interviewed’, Vanguard (Canada): p. 8 (February 1979): p. 16, cited in Bruce Nauman, exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonné (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1993), p. 22.

Toby Kamps Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Menil Collection, Houston Former Senior Curator, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

189


The visual art world, however, is not the only well from which the artists draw their ideas. Mic / Amp (Apologies to Mr. Reich) (2007) references minimalist music. When Wood and Harrison discovered that the video’s central action, swinging a microphone from its cable in front of a speaker to produce a range of feedback sounds, had been the basis of composer Steve Reich’s (b. 1936) 1973 composition Pendulum Music (for Microphones, Amplifiers, Speakers and Performers), they acknowledged the overlap by appending a parenthetical apology to the title. The history of film is another inspiration for Wood and Harrison. They admire the elegant staging and pacing of Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Playtime, a languidly paced, nearly dialogue-free physical comedy set in lobbies, apartments, and restaurants in high-modernist buildings. And the eight-minute tracking shot of a pileup of cars on a highway in Jean-Luc Godard’s film Weekend (1967) is the inspiration for the twenty-seven-minute Shelf (2007), a series of static and moving tableaux made from household hardware and toys arranged on a shelf, which are filmed and edited so that it appears as though the camera is moving along an endless shelf. As the lens moves serenely past them, these objects perform their own mini dramas: a tugboat sinks; a toy train hits a car straddling its tracks, pushing it to a waiting ambulance, police car, and tow truck; and a row of alarm clocks go off in succession, creating a cacophony of electronic chirps. Developing its own logical momentum as it progresses, Shelf suggests that everyday objects have lives of their own that need only be seen with fresh eyes to reveal themselves. A love of low-tech special effects infuses all of Wood and Harrison’s work. Perhaps the most obvious example is the singlechannel video Space Wallpaper (2007). The central action of this simple fixed-camera work is the scrolling and unscrolling of a roll of cheap wallpaper emblazoned with stars, comets, and planets. Endearingly hokey, it re-creates the view from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise with hardware-store technology. Night and Day, a single-channel work of 2008, also uses rudimentary psychedelia — flashing lights — to create a panoply of stop-action effects. Demarcated and animated by flashes and extended periods of light and dark, the scenes depict an assortment of human and mechanical actions: a swing-arm desk lamp comes to life; arrays of hanging globe lamps rearrange themselves in patterns that 188

recall Busby Berkeley’s dance productions; and a Sputnik satellite rides a wire across the room. The video also features scenes of the artists doing the impossible: appearing to hover around a rotating ladder as they snap pictures with a stroboscopic flash; accomplishing skateboard stunts possible only through crude, jump-cut editing; and, in a non sequitur nonpareil, sword-fighting with their right and left hands as they stare blankly into the camera. A cracked compendium of Wood and Harrison’s ideas and approaches, Night and Day also makes explicit some of their philosophy of art and of irony. The work opens with a shot of the artists stock still and emotionless in their customary dark pants and shirts and sweaters. Each time the lights blink on and off, a new subtitle appears paraphrasing the Gospel of Matthew on the nativity of Jesus: “They could hardly contain themselves. They were in the right place. They had arrived at the right time.” Written texts — descriptive, poetic, daydreaming — are central to several new works. They are the subject of a new series of 365 offset-printed posters, Some Words, Some More Words (2009). In them, plain capital letters set against dark blue backgrounds spell out self-reflexive rhetorical and artistic koans like “Two words / Four words,” “One liner,” “Good idea / Bad idea / No idea,” and “Shut up / Do things.” Like the famous “Think!” sign tacked to so many office bulletin boards, these broadsides — part motivational posters, part typically British piss-takings — suggest the guidelines for Wood and Harrison’s creative process. Words also permeate the mostly black-and-white animation Of Knowing Where You Are (2009), which the artists assembled from hundreds of individual digital JPEG images. Featuring texts by Wood and images by Harrison, the video, Harrison says, consists of “lists of instructions and thoughts on navigation and location, but it’s also about standing around thinking about something else.” 13 Patterns, drawings, and captions form and dissolve as the work progresses, suggesting a behind-the-eyes tour of the artists’ consciousnesses or one of their sketchbooks come to life. This is, as one sequential text summarizes, “A film where nothing (much) happens / But not a boring one.” The plays of Samuel Beckett (1906–1989) are an oft-cited inspiration for Wood and Harrison’s work. In his 1948 drama Waiting for Godot, Beckett places his two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, in a barren landscape, where they struggle desperately to fill the time as they wait for an acquaintance. Subtitled “A Tragicomedy in Two

Acts,” Beckett’s play is widely considered a prime example of the theater of the absurd, a genre defined by its cyclical action, resistance to resolution, and emphasis on the absurdity of life. And an aspect of Beckett’s outlook — which is colored by existentialist philosophy — can be seen in Wood and Harrison’s work Hundredweight (2003), a collection of thirty-six activities recorded from above in a ceilingless room. In Hundredweight, named for a passage from a children’s book in the artists’ studio library stating that the air in an average house weighs 112 pounds, or an imperial hundredweight, Wood is shut in an enclosed space where he performs a series of ridiculous artistic activities, including knocking over standing tubes to create a geometric composition, marching across a grid of floor panels that collapse under his weight, using a roller to paint a line around the room’s perimeter, and pouring buckets of blue paint onto the floor, forming puddles that — suddenly, surprisingly — become white as they reflect overhead fluorescent lights. “We liked the idea that something that you aren’t aware of, like air, actually weighs something,” says Wood. “This mirrors the activities in the room, which might not seem important or real but do weigh something — things that appear as nothing are in fact sculptural, and there might be no such thing as an empty room.” 14 Like Beckett’s protagonists, Wood and Harrison may be stuck in the space in which they perform, but unlike the world of Vladimir and Estragon, it is one of their own creation and one that always offers an opportunity for revelation. Through their efforts — no matter how absurd, Sisyphean, or masochistic — Wood and Harrison reveal the inventive play behind all art, even its most ephemeral strains. The creative sparks they throw off in their simple, self-effacing video works are the raw material of human culture. They trigger the small epiphanies and perspective shifts that make life worth living. Grounded in a reverence for the quotidian, Wood and Harrison’s unique blend of the absurd and erudite, high and low, philosophical and funny, captures both a sense of wonder and the necessary thrill of risk and experimentation in art and life alike.

1. This essay builds on the author’s text of the same title published in Answers to Questions: John Wood and Paul Harrison, exhibition brochure (Santa Barbara: University Art Museum, University of California, 2010), which accompanied the first, traveling version of the exhibition. 2. Tom Lubbock, Independent Review, May 13, 2003. 3. Paul Harrison, e-mail correspondence with the author, December 22, 2010. 4. John Wood, telephone conversation with the author, January 2010. 5. Paul Harrison, e-mail correspondence, December 22, 2010. 6. Paul Harrison, telephone conversation with the author, January 5, 2011.

9. Paul Harrison, telephone conversation with the author, December 13, 2010. 10. John Wood, e-mail correspondence with the author, December 15, 2010. 11. See Eric Morecambe and André Previn in www.youtube.com/ watch?v=vP8TUe993uo (accessed January 13, 2010). 12. Catherine Wood, ‘In / Out’, in 124 Minutes: John Wood and Paul Harrison, exhibition catalogue (Cardiff, Wales: Ffotogallery, 2006), p. 12. 13. Paul Harrison, conversation, December 16, 2010. 14. John Wood, e-mail correspondence with the author, December 17, 2010.

7. Paul Harrison, telephone conversation with the author, December 16, 2010. 8. Bruce Nauman, in Ian Wallace and Russell Keziere, ‘Bruce Nauman Interviewed’, Vanguard (Canada): p. 8 (February 1979): p. 16, cited in Bruce Nauman, exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonné (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1993), p. 22.

Toby Kamps Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Menil Collection, Houston Former Senior Curator, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

189


Technical Information, Video Works 1993 to 2010

Board *

1993

3:02 Single channel S-VHS

Boat

190

1994

1:30 Single channel Hi8

1995

1:15 Single channel Lo Band U-Matic

Harry Houdini

Device *

Shaft

1995

0:45 Single channel Hi8

1996

2:45 Single channel Beta

* Indicates works exhibited at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Three-Legged *

3:39 Single channel Hi8

Headstand

1995

1:02 Single channel Hi8

1997

Six Boxes

4:18 Single channel Mini DV

October 97

1997

7:00 Single channel Beta

1997

Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) *

26:59 Multi channel Mini DV

2001

Two Wall Sections *

1998

Twelve Reasons to Stand Somewhere

1998

Volunteer

1:00 Single channel DV Cam

1:10 Single channel DV Cam

6:22 Single channel Mini DV

Hundredweight *

66.86 m *

100 m

2003

29:17 Single channel DV Cam

3:28 Single channel Mini DV

2004

1998

2004

3:52 Single channel Mini DV

191


Technical Information, Video Works 1993 to 2010

Board *

1993

3:02 Single channel S-VHS

Boat

190

1994

1:30 Single channel Hi8

1995

1:15 Single channel Lo Band U-Matic

Harry Houdini

Device *

Shaft

1995

0:45 Single channel Hi8

1996

2:45 Single channel Beta

* Indicates works exhibited at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Three-Legged *

3:39 Single channel Hi8

Headstand

1995

1:02 Single channel Hi8

1997

Six Boxes

4:18 Single channel Mini DV

October 97

1997

7:00 Single channel Beta

1997

Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) *

26:59 Multi channel Mini DV

2001

Two Wall Sections *

1998

Twelve Reasons to Stand Somewhere

1998

Volunteer

1:00 Single channel DV Cam

1:10 Single channel DV Cam

6:22 Single channel Mini DV

Hundredweight *

66.86 m *

100 m

2003

29:17 Single channel DV Cam

3:28 Single channel Mini DV

2004

1998

2004

3:52 Single channel Mini DV

191


Notebook *

2004

49:40 Multi channel Mini DV

1%

4:08 Single channel Mini DV

192

2006

The Only Other Point * 2005

Another Pair

13:44 Single channel HDV

3:47 Multi channel Mini DV

Photocopier *

2007

2:56 Single channel DV Cam

Blind / Spot *

0:40 Single channel Mini DV

2006

Tape Measures

2006

1:58 Single channel HDV

2007

Shelf *

27:02 Single channel HDV

Space Wallpaper *

2007

5:00 Single channel Mini DV

2007

Pencil / Line / Eraser

3:50 Single channel HDV

Mic / Amp (Apologies to Mr. Reich) *

2007

Night and Day *

24:18 Single channel HDV

2007

3:16 Single channel HDV

2:21 Single channel Mini DV

2008

Fan / Paper / Fan *

2008

Of Knowing Where You Are *

12:00 Single channel HDV

Toothbrush

2008

63:00 Single channel HDV

2009

100 Boxes *

2009

1:40 Single channel Mini DV

193


Notebook *

2004

49:40 Multi channel Mini DV

1%

4:08 Single channel Mini DV

192

2006

The Only Other Point * 2005

Another Pair

13:44 Single channel HDV

3:47 Multi channel Mini DV

Photocopier *

2007

2:56 Single channel DV Cam

Blind / Spot *

0:40 Single channel Mini DV

2006

Tape Measures

2006

1:58 Single channel HDV

2007

Shelf *

27:02 Single channel HDV

Space Wallpaper *

2007

5:00 Single channel Mini DV

2007

Pencil / Line / Eraser

3:50 Single channel HDV

Mic / Amp (Apologies to Mr. Reich) *

2007

Night and Day *

24:18 Single channel HDV

2007

3:16 Single channel HDV

2:21 Single channel Mini DV

2008

Fan / Paper / Fan *

2008

Of Knowing Where You Are *

12:00 Single channel HDV

Toothbrush

2008

63:00 Single channel HDV

2009

100 Boxes *

2009

1:40 Single channel Mini DV

193


Recent Exhibition Documentation

1000 Points *

2009

0:40 Single channel Mini DV

500 Pieces of Paper

12:30 Single channel HDV

194

One More Kilometre

2009

2:45 Single channel HDV

2010

500 Thoughts *

White Shirt

2009

5:00 Single channel HDV

2010

12:35 Single channel HDV

Von Bartha Garage, Basel, 2008

195


Recent Exhibition Documentation

1000 Points *

2009

0:40 Single channel Mini DV

500 Pieces of Paper

12:30 Single channel HDV

194

One More Kilometre

2009

2:45 Single channel HDV

2010

500 Thoughts *

White Shirt

2009

5:00 Single channel HDV

2010

12:35 Single channel HDV

Von Bartha Garage, Basel, 2008

195


196

Von Bartha Garage, Basel, 2008

197


196

Von Bartha Garage, Basel, 2008

197


198

Von Bartha Garage, Basel, 2008

199


198

Von Bartha Garage, Basel, 2008

199


200

University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2010

Kunstmuseum Thun, 2010

201


200

University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2010

Kunstmuseum Thun, 2010

201


202

Kunstmuseum Thun, 2010

Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2007

203


202

Kunstmuseum Thun, 2010

Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2007

203


204

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2009

205


204

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2009

205


206

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2009

207


206

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2009

207


208

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2009

209


208

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2009

209


Director’s Postface When I was a student, there was a moment when my compadres and I first encountered conceptual art in its purest form: a Joseph Kosuth definition piece. In that classic artwork, an actual chair was juxtaposed with its dictionary definition of “chair” and a photographic image of the same chair — three ways of expressing the same concept. We worked ourselves into a tizzy trying to figure out what role was left for our finely honed sense of rarefied aesthetics, of which we were insanely proud. How, we wondered, could one critique something as invisible as an idea? Finally one of our instructors made the possibility clearer, explaining that there could be room for aesthetic judgments with incorporeal, propositional, or anti-retinal works by using humor as the prime example: “Look, when you hear a joke, do you ask yourself ‘why is that funny?’ No. The same happens with conceptual art. The beauty or pleasure of a conceptual proposition will be as clear as day, just as the funniness of a joke is clear — at least when it is funny.” The other paradigmatic forces animating conceptual art — such as value, logic, and mystic thinking — that would complicate conceptual tropes for us in our advanced studies had not yet been encountered. So in my mind at least, the connection between conceptual art and humor was cemented, and it is still what I use with reluctant audiences. Post-war art history is dotted with humorously witty art practitioners — William Wegman, Michael Smith, Martha Wilson, The Kipper Kids, Ann Magnuson, and David Shrigley. Then there are the numerous artists whose denaturalized behaviors and performances leave viewers feeling slightly uncomfortable — wanting to laugh but being unsure if such a response would label one a rube. Such is the case with Bruce Nauman’s studio actions, cited as a source for John Wood and Paul Harrison in Toby Kamps’s essay in this volume. Goofy walks and silly puns are at the core of much absurdist humor. Laughing comes easy, but it seems inappropriate when one thinks one is in a temple of culture. But museums are as much spaces of play as worship, and rarely is laughter an inappropriate response. Artists who grant us permission to laugh do not cause more complex thoughts to vanish, but they do change the nature of those thoughts. 210

When experienced over laughter, the cultural authority of “art” reveals itself as a mere proposition for us to interpret as we may, rather than holy writ to be accepted. I would say this is a change for the better. Were I to teach a similar group of proud undergrads, I would start the lesson in conceptualism with the irresistible art of Wood and Harrison, and in some ways I have. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of my jobs was to program a video art wall in a main corridor of the campus, and on many days hundreds of people would pass by, but only a small percentage would stop and watch for a bit. They were the very definition of a “non-art-world” crowd, and amongst the least likely to self-describe as fans of conceptualism. One had to work hard to find artwork that was important art but would also penetrate the over-full minds of MIT students. In that context Wood and Harrison were amazing ambassadors for conceptualism. Their comedy was physical and cerebral in equal measure — British comedic restraint mixed with slapstick. They were perfect for that odd context. Comedy is all about timing, and one of the glories of video as an art form is that one can perfect the timing in the editing process. Busy students and professors on their way to classes often didn’t wait for the magic moments, but those who did were hooked — and late for class. This show began when Kamps and former CAMH Interim Director Linda Shearer — now at Houston’s estimable Project Row Houses — were in their former positions at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center. Those of us enjoying the show today in Texas should be grateful for a long-ago conversation in Ohio, and for Shearer’s insight into the possibility that these two English lads would beguile American audiences (their prior museum exposure has been almost exclusively in the UK, Europe, and Japan). Many folks have been involved in bringing this project from dream to reality: Ralph Rugoff, Director, Hayward Gallery, London, first introduced these artists to Kamps; Jeffrey Grove, now Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Dallas Museum of Art, in his earlier role as a Curator at the High Museum in Atlanta, helped Kamps create the show into its current form; and Nicholas Baker, Director of fa projects, the artists’ London gallery, was a tireless promoter of their work from 2001 until he closed its doors in 2009, and he continues to be instrumental in Wood and Harrison’s renown today. Several of our colleagues will be hosting this exhibition, and we

thank them for sharing our enthusiasm. We are grateful that Kathryn Kanjo, former Director of University of California, Santa Barbara’s University Art Museum, Raechell Smith, Founding Director of Kansas City Art Institute H&R Block Artspace, and Mark Scala, Chief Curator, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, are helping CAMH and Toby Kamps to show Wood and Harrison to a larger American public. All the many supporters of CAMH have helped make this exhibition a reality, but it’s really the work of our Major Exhibition Fund donors that allows CAMH the opportunity to pursue curatorial excellence unencumbered. Their vision and generosity year after year allows our great curators to do their important scholarly work. Being able to count on them is the lifeblood of our museum, enabling us to mount large-scale exhibitions of artists who have little commercial support in the USA. This catalogue is made possible by a grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc. Their support is pivotal for allowing the research and argument so carefully developed for those who may never experience the physical exhibition. Although not seeing the installed version of the show would be a shame as it is as an experience in real space and time that the case for these artists is made most irresistibly. In the 2011 lifestyle of ubiquitous floating screens, too often we fall under the delusion that all videographic works are essentially endlessly resizable and reformatable, unchanged when translated from an iPhone to an IMAX screen. That is not the case with Wood and Harrison’s work. Kamps and the artists, with the active collaborations of his CAMH colleagues Tim Barkley, Jeff Shore, Kenya Evans, and Bret Shirley, worked hard to create an irresistible installation. All of the CAMH staff have once again brought their considerable expertise in making this an exhibition to be engaged, enjoyed, and cherished. Special thanks go to Curatorial Manager Justine Waitkus who made the exhibition happen during Kamps’s transition period. Seeing their level of shared vision and mission was a daily treat that I will miss, as I am sure, will they. It is fitting that curator Toby Kamps should end his tenure at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston with a show by Wood and Harrison. During his three and one-half years, Kamps’s CAMH shows were marked by a gentle humor. As a curator, friend, and colleague, Kamps’s regard for arts in all forms, as an amiable conversation, will be missed at CAMH.

It is a great pleasure to work again with John Wood and Paul Harrison and I can honestly say they are as witty and friendly as they appear to be in their work. Their vision and talent are breathtaking and although this exhibition is a survey designed for audiences on a new continent, I can assure you it is merely an introduction to work by artists you will be seeing much more of in the future. Bill Arning Director, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

211


Director’s Postface When I was a student, there was a moment when my compadres and I first encountered conceptual art in its purest form: a Joseph Kosuth definition piece. In that classic artwork, an actual chair was juxtaposed with its dictionary definition of “chair” and a photographic image of the same chair — three ways of expressing the same concept. We worked ourselves into a tizzy trying to figure out what role was left for our finely honed sense of rarefied aesthetics, of which we were insanely proud. How, we wondered, could one critique something as invisible as an idea? Finally one of our instructors made the possibility clearer, explaining that there could be room for aesthetic judgments with incorporeal, propositional, or anti-retinal works by using humor as the prime example: “Look, when you hear a joke, do you ask yourself ‘why is that funny?’ No. The same happens with conceptual art. The beauty or pleasure of a conceptual proposition will be as clear as day, just as the funniness of a joke is clear — at least when it is funny.” The other paradigmatic forces animating conceptual art — such as value, logic, and mystic thinking — that would complicate conceptual tropes for us in our advanced studies had not yet been encountered. So in my mind at least, the connection between conceptual art and humor was cemented, and it is still what I use with reluctant audiences. Post-war art history is dotted with humorously witty art practitioners — William Wegman, Michael Smith, Martha Wilson, The Kipper Kids, Ann Magnuson, and David Shrigley. Then there are the numerous artists whose denaturalized behaviors and performances leave viewers feeling slightly uncomfortable — wanting to laugh but being unsure if such a response would label one a rube. Such is the case with Bruce Nauman’s studio actions, cited as a source for John Wood and Paul Harrison in Toby Kamps’s essay in this volume. Goofy walks and silly puns are at the core of much absurdist humor. Laughing comes easy, but it seems inappropriate when one thinks one is in a temple of culture. But museums are as much spaces of play as worship, and rarely is laughter an inappropriate response. Artists who grant us permission to laugh do not cause more complex thoughts to vanish, but they do change the nature of those thoughts. 210

When experienced over laughter, the cultural authority of “art” reveals itself as a mere proposition for us to interpret as we may, rather than holy writ to be accepted. I would say this is a change for the better. Were I to teach a similar group of proud undergrads, I would start the lesson in conceptualism with the irresistible art of Wood and Harrison, and in some ways I have. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of my jobs was to program a video art wall in a main corridor of the campus, and on many days hundreds of people would pass by, but only a small percentage would stop and watch for a bit. They were the very definition of a “non-art-world” crowd, and amongst the least likely to self-describe as fans of conceptualism. One had to work hard to find artwork that was important art but would also penetrate the over-full minds of MIT students. In that context Wood and Harrison were amazing ambassadors for conceptualism. Their comedy was physical and cerebral in equal measure — British comedic restraint mixed with slapstick. They were perfect for that odd context. Comedy is all about timing, and one of the glories of video as an art form is that one can perfect the timing in the editing process. Busy students and professors on their way to classes often didn’t wait for the magic moments, but those who did were hooked — and late for class. This show began when Kamps and former CAMH Interim Director Linda Shearer — now at Houston’s estimable Project Row Houses — were in their former positions at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center. Those of us enjoying the show today in Texas should be grateful for a long-ago conversation in Ohio, and for Shearer’s insight into the possibility that these two English lads would beguile American audiences (their prior museum exposure has been almost exclusively in the UK, Europe, and Japan). Many folks have been involved in bringing this project from dream to reality: Ralph Rugoff, Director, Hayward Gallery, London, first introduced these artists to Kamps; Jeffrey Grove, now Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Dallas Museum of Art, in his earlier role as a Curator at the High Museum in Atlanta, helped Kamps create the show into its current form; and Nicholas Baker, Director of fa projects, the artists’ London gallery, was a tireless promoter of their work from 2001 until he closed its doors in 2009, and he continues to be instrumental in Wood and Harrison’s renown today. Several of our colleagues will be hosting this exhibition, and we

thank them for sharing our enthusiasm. We are grateful that Kathryn Kanjo, former Director of University of California, Santa Barbara’s University Art Museum, Raechell Smith, Founding Director of Kansas City Art Institute H&R Block Artspace, and Mark Scala, Chief Curator, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, are helping CAMH and Toby Kamps to show Wood and Harrison to a larger American public. All the many supporters of CAMH have helped make this exhibition a reality, but it’s really the work of our Major Exhibition Fund donors that allows CAMH the opportunity to pursue curatorial excellence unencumbered. Their vision and generosity year after year allows our great curators to do their important scholarly work. Being able to count on them is the lifeblood of our museum, enabling us to mount large-scale exhibitions of artists who have little commercial support in the USA. This catalogue is made possible by a grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc. Their support is pivotal for allowing the research and argument so carefully developed for those who may never experience the physical exhibition. Although not seeing the installed version of the show would be a shame as it is as an experience in real space and time that the case for these artists is made most irresistibly. In the 2011 lifestyle of ubiquitous floating screens, too often we fall under the delusion that all videographic works are essentially endlessly resizable and reformatable, unchanged when translated from an iPhone to an IMAX screen. That is not the case with Wood and Harrison’s work. Kamps and the artists, with the active collaborations of his CAMH colleagues Tim Barkley, Jeff Shore, Kenya Evans, and Bret Shirley, worked hard to create an irresistible installation. All of the CAMH staff have once again brought their considerable expertise in making this an exhibition to be engaged, enjoyed, and cherished. Special thanks go to Curatorial Manager Justine Waitkus who made the exhibition happen during Kamps’s transition period. Seeing their level of shared vision and mission was a daily treat that I will miss, as I am sure, will they. It is fitting that curator Toby Kamps should end his tenure at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston with a show by Wood and Harrison. During his three and one-half years, Kamps’s CAMH shows were marked by a gentle humor. As a curator, friend, and colleague, Kamps’s regard for arts in all forms, as an amiable conversation, will be missed at CAMH.

It is a great pleasure to work again with John Wood and Paul Harrison and I can honestly say they are as witty and friendly as they appear to be in their work. Their vision and talent are breathtaking and although this exhibition is a survey designed for audiences on a new continent, I can assure you it is merely an introduction to work by artists you will be seeing much more of in the future. Bill Arning Director, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

211


Selected Solo Exhibitions

John Wood b. 1969, Hong Kong Bath College of Higher Education, 1988–1991 Lives in Bristol, UK Paul Harrison b. 1966, UK Bath College of Higher Education, 1987–1990 Lives in Birmingham, UK

Selected Group Exhibitions

2010

2008

2004

2010

No Beginning No Middle No End Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland

Something and Something and Something Else The Lowry, Manchester, UK

Art Now Lightbox, Tate Britain, London, UK

Made in Britain British Council, Visual Arts International Touring Exhibition Programme (toured)

Answers to Questions University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara

Notebook PICA, Perth, Australia

John Wood and Paul Harrison, Selected Works Galerie Ho, Marseille, France

From One Thing to Another Picture This, Bristol, UK

Deadpan MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles

2007

John Wood and Paul Harrison, Selected Works MOMA, Queens, New York John Wood and Paul Harrison, Selected Works List Visual Arts Center, MIT, Boston

2003 John Wood and Paul Harrison Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Hundredweight fa projects, London, UK

2009 2006 Some Words, Some More Words Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK Plan B Château de Rochechouart, France No Time Vera Cortês Art Agency, Lisbon, Portugal There or Thereabouts Von Bartha Garage, Basel, Switzerland

Five Rooms Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary Selected Works Villa du Parc, France Another Pair Beckett Centenary, Reading, UK

2005

Notebook NRW Forum, Düsseldorf, Germany (online project)

Selected Works Space Gallery, Bratislava, Slovakia Notebook Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, UK The Only Other Point fa projects, London, UK

212

Remote Viewing MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles

Nuit Blanche Metz, France The Source of Inspiration Von Bartha Garage, Basel, Switzerland Fresh Out of the Box New Art Gallery, Walsall, UK Artist’s Publications Galeria Vermelho, São Paulo, Brazil

The Artist in the (Art) Society Motorenhalle, Dresden, Germany Ecce Homo Ludens Museum Contemporary Art, Serigan, France

2007 Breaking Step Salon, Belgrade, Serbia Echo Room Alcala 31, Madrid, Spain Les Jeux Sont Faits Kunsthalle Palazzo, Liestal, Switzerland MIMA Collection Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, UK

2008

I Am Making Art Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland

El Cuerpo (Con)Sentido Saragossa, Spain

2006

Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) Chisenhale Gallery, London, UK (toured) John Wood and Paul Harrison, Selected Works Galerie Markus Richter, Berlin, Germany

2 de Copas Vera Cortês Art Agency, Lisbon, Portugal All Over Galerie Martine Aboucaya, Paris

Long Distance Information Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Le Mouvement des Images Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

1998 John Wood and Paul Harrison, Selected Works Galerie Articule, Montreal, Canada

Supernova British Council, Visual Arts International Touring Exhibition Programme (toured) Modern Times Mönchehaus Museum, Goslar, Germany Both Ends Burning Kunstverein Ludwigsburg, Germany -tainment Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin, Germany

Density +_0 École Nationale Supérieure des BeauxArts, Paris, France

All That Cinema Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary

You’ll Never Know Hayward Touring, Hayward Gallery, London (toured)

Occurrences Betty Rymer Gallery, Chicago

La Methode Graphique et Autres Lignes Galerie Edouard Manet, Gennevilliers, France

Tongue-Twister Vera Cortês Art Agency, Lisbon, Portugal

Smart Art Kunsthalle Osnabrück, Germany

2003

Display: Objects, Buildings and Space Experimenta, Lisbon, Portugal

Dimensionen Von Bartha Garage, Basel, Switzerland

What Makes You and I Different Tramway, Glasgow, UK

2009

Weder Entweder Noch Oder WKV, Stuttgart, Germany

2005

I Am Making Art Contemporary Art Center Centro Huarte, Navarra, Spain

Irreducible CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco

Video, Un Art, Une Histoire Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France

To Be Continued Kunsthalle Helsinki, Finland

1999 Obstacle Course John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, UK (toured)

Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

2004

2002 Selected Works Ffoto Gallery, Cardiff, Wales

John Wood and Paul Harrison Studio Trisorio, Rome, Italy White Shirt: Empty Cube Appleton Square, Lisbon, Portugal

Rewind Fondation de La Vache Qui Rit, Lons, France

Composition Rouge Parc Culturel de Rentilly, France

Space Revised Künstlerhaus Bremen, Germany The Genius of Things Museu de Mataró, Barcelona, Spain

A Century of Artists Film in Britain Tate Britain, London, UK Bienal de Jafre Jafre, Spain Printemps de Septembre Toulouse, France Orifice Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia

213


Selected Solo Exhibitions

John Wood b. 1969, Hong Kong Bath College of Higher Education, 1988–1991 Lives in Bristol, UK Paul Harrison b. 1966, UK Bath College of Higher Education, 1987–1990 Lives in Birmingham, UK

Selected Group Exhibitions

2010

2008

2004

2010

No Beginning No Middle No End Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland

Something and Something and Something Else The Lowry, Manchester, UK

Art Now Lightbox, Tate Britain, London, UK

Made in Britain British Council, Visual Arts International Touring Exhibition Programme (toured)

Answers to Questions University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara

Notebook PICA, Perth, Australia

John Wood and Paul Harrison, Selected Works Galerie Ho, Marseille, France

From One Thing to Another Picture This, Bristol, UK

Deadpan MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles

2007

John Wood and Paul Harrison, Selected Works MOMA, Queens, New York John Wood and Paul Harrison, Selected Works List Visual Arts Center, MIT, Boston

2003 John Wood and Paul Harrison Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Hundredweight fa projects, London, UK

2009 2006 Some Words, Some More Words Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK Plan B Château de Rochechouart, France No Time Vera Cortês Art Agency, Lisbon, Portugal There or Thereabouts Von Bartha Garage, Basel, Switzerland

Five Rooms Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary Selected Works Villa du Parc, France Another Pair Beckett Centenary, Reading, UK

2005

Notebook NRW Forum, Düsseldorf, Germany (online project)

Selected Works Space Gallery, Bratislava, Slovakia Notebook Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, UK The Only Other Point fa projects, London, UK

212

Remote Viewing MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles

Nuit Blanche Metz, France The Source of Inspiration Von Bartha Garage, Basel, Switzerland Fresh Out of the Box New Art Gallery, Walsall, UK Artist’s Publications Galeria Vermelho, São Paulo, Brazil

The Artist in the (Art) Society Motorenhalle, Dresden, Germany Ecce Homo Ludens Museum Contemporary Art, Serigan, France

2007 Breaking Step Salon, Belgrade, Serbia Echo Room Alcala 31, Madrid, Spain Les Jeux Sont Faits Kunsthalle Palazzo, Liestal, Switzerland MIMA Collection Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, UK

2008

I Am Making Art Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland

El Cuerpo (Con)Sentido Saragossa, Spain

2006

Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) Chisenhale Gallery, London, UK (toured) John Wood and Paul Harrison, Selected Works Galerie Markus Richter, Berlin, Germany

2 de Copas Vera Cortês Art Agency, Lisbon, Portugal All Over Galerie Martine Aboucaya, Paris

Long Distance Information Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Le Mouvement des Images Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

1998 John Wood and Paul Harrison, Selected Works Galerie Articule, Montreal, Canada

Supernova British Council, Visual Arts International Touring Exhibition Programme (toured) Modern Times Mönchehaus Museum, Goslar, Germany Both Ends Burning Kunstverein Ludwigsburg, Germany -tainment Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin, Germany

Density +_0 École Nationale Supérieure des BeauxArts, Paris, France

All That Cinema Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary

You’ll Never Know Hayward Touring, Hayward Gallery, London (toured)

Occurrences Betty Rymer Gallery, Chicago

La Methode Graphique et Autres Lignes Galerie Edouard Manet, Gennevilliers, France

Tongue-Twister Vera Cortês Art Agency, Lisbon, Portugal

Smart Art Kunsthalle Osnabrück, Germany

2003

Display: Objects, Buildings and Space Experimenta, Lisbon, Portugal

Dimensionen Von Bartha Garage, Basel, Switzerland

What Makes You and I Different Tramway, Glasgow, UK

2009

Weder Entweder Noch Oder WKV, Stuttgart, Germany

2005

I Am Making Art Contemporary Art Center Centro Huarte, Navarra, Spain

Irreducible CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco

Video, Un Art, Une Histoire Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France

To Be Continued Kunsthalle Helsinki, Finland

1999 Obstacle Course John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, UK (toured)

Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

2004

2002 Selected Works Ffoto Gallery, Cardiff, Wales

John Wood and Paul Harrison Studio Trisorio, Rome, Italy White Shirt: Empty Cube Appleton Square, Lisbon, Portugal

Rewind Fondation de La Vache Qui Rit, Lons, France

Composition Rouge Parc Culturel de Rentilly, France

Space Revised Künstlerhaus Bremen, Germany The Genius of Things Museu de Mataró, Barcelona, Spain

A Century of Artists Film in Britain Tate Britain, London, UK Bienal de Jafre Jafre, Spain Printemps de Septembre Toulouse, France Orifice Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia

213


Published in conjunction with the exhibition Answers to Questions John Wood and Paul Harrison Organized by Toby Kamps Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Menil Collection, Houston Former Senior Curator, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara February 17 – May 16, 2010 Contemporary Arts Museum Houston February 12 – April 24, 2011 H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute June 10 – September 24, 2011 Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville February 2 – May 6, 2012

This exhibition has been made possible by the patrons, benefactors and donors to the Museum’s Major Exhibition Fund: Major Patrons Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen Fayez Sarofim Michael Zilkha Patrons Louise D. Jamail Mr. and Mrs. I. H. Kempner III Ms. Louisa Stude Sarofim Leigh and Reggie Smith Benefactors City Kitchen Catering George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation Jackson Hicks / Jackson and Company Marley Lott Poppi Massey Beverly and Howard Robinson Andrew Schirrmeister Susan Vaughan Foundation, Inc. Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Wilson Donors A Fare Extraordinaire Anonymous Baker Botts, LLP Bergner and Johnson Design The Brown Foundation, Inc. Jereann Chaney Susie and Sanford Criner Elizabeth Howard Crowell Ruth Dreessen and Thomas Van Laan Marita and J. B. Fairbanks Jo and Jim Furr Barbara and Michael Gamson Mr. and Mrs. William Goldberg / Bernstein Global Wealth Management King & Spalding LLP KPMG, LLP Judy and Scott Nyquist David I. Saperstein Scurlock Foundation Karen and Harry Susman

214

The Museum’s operations and programs are made possible through the generosity of the Museum’s trustees, patrons, members and donors. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston receives partial operating support from the Houston Endowment, the City of Houston through the Houston Museum District Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and The Wortham Foundation, Inc.

Published by Contemporary Arts Museum Houston 5216 Montrose Blvd. Houston, TX 77006

This publication is made possible by a grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc. and is supported by Bath Spa University and The University of Wolverhampton.

Tel. (713) 284-8250 www.camh.org

John Wood and Paul Harrison would like to thank Toby Kamps and all the staff at CAMH; Galerie Martine Aboucaya, Paris, France; Von Bartha Garage, Basel, Switzerland; Vera Cortês Art Agency, Lisbon, Portugal; Studio Trisorio, Naples.

© Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the artists and authors. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher, except in the context of reviews. The publisher has made every effort to contact all copyright holders. If proper acknowledgement has not been made, we ask copyright holders to contact the publisher. ISBN: 978-1-933619-31-6 Library of Congress Control Number: 2011920661 Available through D. A. P. Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. 155 Sixth Avenue, Second Floor New York, NY 10013 Tel. (212) 627-1999 www.artbook.com

Continental Airlines is the official airline of Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Photography: University of California, Santa Barbara, by Tony Mastres; Kunstmuseum Thun by David Aebi; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo by Osamu Wantanbe; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham by Stuart Whipps; Von Bartha Garage, Basel, by Andreas Zimmerman Designed by James Langdon Set in Union by Radim Peško Printed in an edition of 1200 by Die Keure, Bruges, Belgium

Blind / Spot, Photocopier and 1 % commissioned by Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Night and Day, Fan / Paper / Fan and Mic / Amp (Apologies to Mr. Reich) funded by Capture and produced in association with Picture This; Another Pair commissioned by Beckett Archive, Reading, England; Shelf commissioned by The Lowry, Manchester, England; Notebook commissioned by MIMA; Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) funded by Arts Council England; Of Knowing Where You Are and 100 Boxes commissioned by Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, England. ‘Selected Drawings 1993 to 2010’ includes preparatory drawings for video works, both existing and unrealised. All material untitled and undated.

Museum Staff Bill Arning, Director Tim Barkley, Registrar Quincy Berry, Assistant Gallery Supervisor Cheryl Blissitte, Administrative Assistant, Director’s Office Amanda Bredbenner, Development Manager / Special Events Kenya F. Evans, Gallery Supervisor Natividad Flores, Housekeeping Olivia Junell, Membership and Annual Gifts Coordinator Peter Lucas, Education Associate Connie McAllister, Communications and Marketing Manager Paula Newton, Director of Education and Public Programs Valerie Cassel Oliver, Senior Curator Sue Pruden, Museum Shop Manager Michael Reed, Assistant Director Victoria Ridgway, Development Coordinator Virginia Shaw, Museum Shop Assistant Jeff Shore, Head Preparator Lana Sullivan, Receptionist / Staff Secretary Justine Waitkus, Curatorial Manager Amber Winsor, Director of Development

Board of Trustees Edward R. Allen III, Chairman Darrell Betts Kelli Blanton Robert J. Card MD Jereann Chaney Susie Criner, co-chair, Committee on Trustees Elizabeth Crowell, co-chair, Long Range Planning Ruth Dreessen Jonathan B. Fairbanks, Vice President Deborah A. Fiorito James Furr, AIA, chair, Buildings and Grounds Barbara Gamson Dan Gilbane William J. Goldberg, Treasurer and chair, Finance Committee John F. Guess, Jr. Lynn M. Herbert, chair, Programs Committee Leslie Ballard Hull Louise Jamail, Secretary Sissy Kempner, President J. David Kirkland, Jr. Chad W. Libertus Marley Lott, chair, Development Committee Leticia Loya Poppi Massey Libbie Masterson Andrew McFarland Judy Nyquist, co-chair, Committee on Trustees Cabrina Owsley James L. Robertson Howard Robinson, Vice President James Rodriguez Lauren Rottet Reginald R. Smith, co-chair, Long Range Planning Harry Susman Martha Claire Tompkins David P. Young

215


Published in conjunction with the exhibition Answers to Questions John Wood and Paul Harrison Organized by Toby Kamps Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Menil Collection, Houston Former Senior Curator, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara February 17 – May 16, 2010 Contemporary Arts Museum Houston February 12 – April 24, 2011 H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute June 10 – September 24, 2011 Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville February 2 – May 6, 2012

This exhibition has been made possible by the patrons, benefactors and donors to the Museum’s Major Exhibition Fund: Major Patrons Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen Fayez Sarofim Michael Zilkha Patrons Louise D. Jamail Mr. and Mrs. I. H. Kempner III Ms. Louisa Stude Sarofim Leigh and Reggie Smith Benefactors City Kitchen Catering George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation Jackson Hicks / Jackson and Company Marley Lott Poppi Massey Beverly and Howard Robinson Andrew Schirrmeister Susan Vaughan Foundation, Inc. Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Wilson Donors A Fare Extraordinaire Anonymous Baker Botts, LLP Bergner and Johnson Design The Brown Foundation, Inc. Jereann Chaney Susie and Sanford Criner Elizabeth Howard Crowell Ruth Dreessen and Thomas Van Laan Marita and J. B. Fairbanks Jo and Jim Furr Barbara and Michael Gamson Mr. and Mrs. William Goldberg / Bernstein Global Wealth Management King & Spalding LLP KPMG, LLP Judy and Scott Nyquist David I. Saperstein Scurlock Foundation Karen and Harry Susman

214

The Museum’s operations and programs are made possible through the generosity of the Museum’s trustees, patrons, members and donors. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston receives partial operating support from the Houston Endowment, the City of Houston through the Houston Museum District Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and The Wortham Foundation, Inc.

Published by Contemporary Arts Museum Houston 5216 Montrose Blvd. Houston, TX 77006

This publication is made possible by a grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc. and is supported by Bath Spa University and The University of Wolverhampton.

Tel. (713) 284-8250 www.camh.org

John Wood and Paul Harrison would like to thank Toby Kamps and all the staff at CAMH; Galerie Martine Aboucaya, Paris, France; Von Bartha Garage, Basel, Switzerland; Vera Cortês Art Agency, Lisbon, Portugal; Studio Trisorio, Naples.

© Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the artists and authors. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher, except in the context of reviews. The publisher has made every effort to contact all copyright holders. If proper acknowledgement has not been made, we ask copyright holders to contact the publisher. ISBN: 978-1-933619-31-6 Library of Congress Control Number: 2011920661 Available through D. A. P. Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. 155 Sixth Avenue, Second Floor New York, NY 10013 Tel. (212) 627-1999 www.artbook.com

Continental Airlines is the official airline of Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Photography: University of California, Santa Barbara, by Tony Mastres; Kunstmuseum Thun by David Aebi; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo by Osamu Wantanbe; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham by Stuart Whipps; Von Bartha Garage, Basel, by Andreas Zimmerman Designed by James Langdon Set in Union by Radim Peško Printed in an edition of 1200 by Die Keure, Bruges, Belgium

Blind / Spot, Photocopier and 1 % commissioned by Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Night and Day, Fan / Paper / Fan and Mic / Amp (Apologies to Mr. Reich) funded by Capture and produced in association with Picture This; Another Pair commissioned by Beckett Archive, Reading, England; Shelf commissioned by The Lowry, Manchester, England; Notebook commissioned by MIMA; Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things) funded by Arts Council England; Of Knowing Where You Are and 100 Boxes commissioned by Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, England. ‘Selected Drawings 1993 to 2010’ includes preparatory drawings for video works, both existing and unrealised. All material untitled and undated.

Museum Staff Bill Arning, Director Tim Barkley, Registrar Quincy Berry, Assistant Gallery Supervisor Cheryl Blissitte, Administrative Assistant, Director’s Office Amanda Bredbenner, Development Manager / Special Events Kenya F. Evans, Gallery Supervisor Natividad Flores, Housekeeping Olivia Junell, Membership and Annual Gifts Coordinator Peter Lucas, Education Associate Connie McAllister, Communications and Marketing Manager Paula Newton, Director of Education and Public Programs Valerie Cassel Oliver, Senior Curator Sue Pruden, Museum Shop Manager Michael Reed, Assistant Director Victoria Ridgway, Development Coordinator Virginia Shaw, Museum Shop Assistant Jeff Shore, Head Preparator Lana Sullivan, Receptionist / Staff Secretary Justine Waitkus, Curatorial Manager Amber Winsor, Director of Development

Board of Trustees Edward R. Allen III, Chairman Darrell Betts Kelli Blanton Robert J. Card MD Jereann Chaney Susie Criner, co-chair, Committee on Trustees Elizabeth Crowell, co-chair, Long Range Planning Ruth Dreessen Jonathan B. Fairbanks, Vice President Deborah A. Fiorito James Furr, AIA, chair, Buildings and Grounds Barbara Gamson Dan Gilbane William J. Goldberg, Treasurer and chair, Finance Committee John F. Guess, Jr. Lynn M. Herbert, chair, Programs Committee Leslie Ballard Hull Louise Jamail, Secretary Sissy Kempner, President J. David Kirkland, Jr. Chad W. Libertus Marley Lott, chair, Development Committee Leticia Loya Poppi Massey Libbie Masterson Andrew McFarland Judy Nyquist, co-chair, Committee on Trustees Cabrina Owsley James L. Robertson Howard Robinson, Vice President James Rodriguez Lauren Rottet Reginald R. Smith, co-chair, Long Range Planning Harry Susman Martha Claire Tompkins David P. Young

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Profile for Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Answers to Questions: John Wood and Paul Harrison  

John Wood (born 1969) and Paul Harrison (born 1966) fuse their aesthetic research with existential slapstick comedy. Working together since...

Answers to Questions: John Wood and Paul Harrison  

John Wood (born 1969) and Paul Harrison (born 1966) fuse their aesthetic research with existential slapstick comedy. Working together since...

Profile for thecamh
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