Sculptor Georgia Dickie’s interest in the ‘found object’ is a question of potentiality. After all there are things you can do with objects which are already fully formed and things you cannot — they come with their own boundaries, their own shapes, sizes, attributes, ways of sitting and standing. Yet the whimsy involved in how Dickie has fused these disparate objects often confuses their original utilitarian values. Sang Bleu had the opportunity to ask Dickie a few questions about the limitations of physical material, labour, class, uselessness and carrying sculptures as handbags.
It seems as though artists who work digitally have endless possibilities in terms of how they create visual languages. Do you find working with physical material limiting?
Yes, physical materials have their limitations. I can’t actually see, for myself anyway, how working digitally would be less limiting. But limitations are extremely important to the way I produce work. I require them. In general, I don’t begin with my ideal outcome and then deal with the limitations that present themselves along the way. I begin with the limitations, allowing them to dictate how and what the work becomes. In this sense found or acquired objects are a good starting point. They are limiting in the sense that they can only offer what they are physically when you first acquire them, but what they are can always be further manipulated or re-contextualized to go beyond their formal qualities. Combinations of objects are what interest me, not the individual objects in themselves. I maintain an optimistic view that you can make something new happen between materials. At the end of the day the materials don’t really matter all that much, it’s about potential. For me, I just have to make choices quickly and start with whatever is there. I think the materials I use are convenient and ambiguous. The final products are the residue of the larger process. Sometimes I use the same components over and over again in more than one piece and it causes logistical challenges.
Most of your sculptures have a humourous side to them. Are you aware of animating these objects? And how important is an ’emotional’ (for lack of a better word), component in the work?
Thank you! Humour is important to me and when someone laughs at/with something I’ve made that’s great. I really can’t foresee how people are going to respond to my work, it’s totally out of my control. I take responsibility for what I put out into the world, but I try not to let myself think too much about how an audience will perceive that.
Is there a relationship between usefulness and uselessness in your work?I am interested in the relationship between both. I think about this all the time. I’m attracted to objects, or combinations of objects, that suggest functionality. But then, I have also made sculptures with handles, for example, that you can actually use to carry them with you. It’s very practical. For a period of time I was affixing functional appendages (vents, handles, knobs, etc.), to other more useless materials in an attempt to animate them, but also to make them sculptural. As time goes on, I think more and more about making art that serves a specific function.
Certain objects often operate to define class structures. This is most obvious with brand names, or with objects which are commonly associated with the poor (e.g. shopping carts). Your sculptures use objects that at one point, possibly, gave physical, material identity to someone’s experience of class, and that now seem removed from any typical class structure. The objects don’t give a sense of what they were before. The original material is distorted enough to evade our regular associations.
It’s possible that if there is a class structure that can be applied to the objects that create your sculptures, it is the class structure inherent in the gallery (or inherent to a site-specific environment). Could you talk about this idea? Is it relevant for you to ask yourself where these objects came from, and what their previous meaning was, in terms of class, labour and identity?
I really like what you are saying here. I often think about the hierarchy that exists between objects, and how that affects the decisions I make regarding what to use, what to reach down and pick up, etc. It’s very rare that I am seeking something out. A question I often ask is how do you measure the “foundness” of an object? There is so much shit around, so much garbage, I have to make decisions on what is worth keeping around. It also brings up the notion of value, which is a whole other conversation. I have a really skewed sense of what value is, I think a lot of our generation does. Perhaps that comes through in my work. I try to set up a system for myself where I acquire objects incidentally. This is why I often use materials that are sort of, the bottom of the barrel. Discarded remnants with the least obvious potential for reinvention, that appeals to me. But I also use many objects that do have a more obvious inherent beauty, a more nostalgic weight to them. I try to contrast different object identities. I really can’t say how exactly I select objects, but I am always looking for things that are primary in form, have a certain level of ambiguity, and reference something about the past that could be renegotiated. It could be something about my own past, or something about someone else’s past. It’s this distortion, as you say, that I am interested in. It is relevant for me to consider where these objects came from, what they were used for, who was using them, so that I can make decisions on what should happen next. I’ll never have the whole story and that’s what I find exciting.
More of Georgia Dickie’s work @ georgiadickie.com