Cedric Tai

Under Construction...

So here's a review of an exhibition that had a lot of plaster work in it instead.

In Conversation With: Cedric Tai

Text by Kenneth Davidson.

Images courtesy of Zsolt Keller and Cedric Tai

(1,918 views) Filed under Kenneth Davidson in conversation with Cedric Tai

6-26 July 2013.

The nominal title for the show here is ''Indirectly Yours'', An Intervention by John Nicol of Cedric Tai. -- It comes with the proviso that ''This is a solo show featuring the work of Cedric Tai / but this is also a solo show featuring the work of

John Nicol.'' I'm writing about this exhibition -- and so we have to think about authorship also -- because it is not only John and Cedric, they are not alone. There is social context. (Contract)? Professional context. Appropriation is another thing. Not only me here; also others. Also you. The gallery, the INTERMEDIA space is like a PROJECT ROOM up in the top floors of the (Alexander GreekThomson, 1867-1868) CCA building, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. Thework shown was supported through CCA and Glasgow Life. Two Hungarian photographers accompanied me. (I went to the opening).

This is the full title of the show:


At INTERMEDIA, for the set-up, the ''get in'', a couple of days before everything opens, -- that's how you do exhibitions, plan ahead, prepare: -- Cedric (Tai) turned up, left his exhibits in the room, a pile on the floor; and left. His work was done? Fait accompli? (Just) like that. All of it, on the floor, there: everything. John (Nicol) managed the display. ''Hung'' it. The objects. Displayed the ''work''. What Cedric left in a pile for him: John put on the walls, on the floor, on the shelves of his ''home-made'' waist-high chipboard shelvers. Arranged it. Installed it. PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW. (Glasgow's new byline). That's how it is. Modern Art is about Life?

¿So, it's John Nicol's exhibition? The vacuum blown moulds on the shelves and the floor? The square tile plastic bead crochet pattern guides (crozys)? -- (John collected these latter ones, he picked up one or two every week for a while, £1 each, someone used to come into his work, sold him one or two, each time -- his habit; he said he didn't know what to do with them, but he used them here. ¿Cedric included them? Cedric said the vacuum mould machine was broken. But he got moulds anyway. He had moulds of plastic wraps of rice crackers, of those plastic containers you get in the supermarket, and all these, the containers with the moulding machine's neck still impressed: the process, the mould -- negative space. There were plaster casts of joke / plastic noses. I didn't ask about those). So, it's Cedric's work? His appropriation? The paint from the palettes of four painters: Hee Joon Lee, Seth Schwaiger, Lauren Wells, Weizi Xu ? -- (1 South Korean, 2 USA, 1 Chinese: all Glasgow -- GSA). The fetish: artificial hair (a sort of electric green) on a wire arc. (High wire act?) -- A floor sculpture? Art & Language? That was what George Wylie was always standing by: art is questioning. The dirty plastic pipettes in the glasses on the floor, remaindered from Cedric's previous exhibition? -- An installation.

People don't like to touch things too much in galleries, really, or at least, they are not encouraged. They like to see things displayed, yes. At least, that's the convention. Display cases. Alarms might go oƒƒ, even then. And outside the gallery, on the streets? In the home? Every display is orchestrated? Even flowers in a vase? There were no flowers here, and understandably, visitors are nervous. You could do something''wrong''. Sculpture, the art object. These are funny things. And this is why I liked what thesetwo men, two artists, did here: to exhibit the structures, the mechanisms of art. Of course it is deconstruction. And alongside that position? Something other than the Society of Spectacle?

I was there, at the show. You could touch things, pick them up, turn them over. Put them back. Take the paintings oƒƒ the wall. See both sides. All around. Put them back. Like ownership? At the opening, Cedric took Hee Joon Lee's «palette painting» oƒƒ the wall, -- chemical blue, chemical yellow. He showed me the paint, the unused, (a lot of Burnt Umber), on the underside; the perspex box holding it all: the palette, like that. Then he put it back on the wall, matter-of-factly, just so. For me, that was like sunshine.

A palette is what a painter mixes paint on -- what you might say, is an identity of colours: artist and palette. Sometimes there is more paint on the palette than on any painting -- at least, to an observer, to me: how it seems on first sight, if you don't know. You can see it in Francis Bacon's studio -- they ''preserved it'', the blobs of paint. That unmixed paint. The spatters. The swathes. The mounds. (±). I have a painter friend who became allergic to paint. Paint's toxic. Heavy metal. Rare metals. All that. It's a chemical process. Even watercolour. -- The palettes here, a little bigger than A4. The individual, same-sized perspex boxes around each, the four palettes. I mentioned that. And so, the «palette paintings» were sort of abstract samples? Somehow representative? The colours on the face? The paint on the reverse? Out the tube? And the mix on the forward face -- the colour as surface / the colour as volume? Reversible paintings? Cedric's palettes were displayed? Sorry, I'm sketching. What I'm wanting to say is that what is on show is what is not for sale. Just so: NOT FOR SALE. People don't usually purchase used palettes, Museum's sometimes do. + -- Cedric actually sold all the palettes on the night. He didn't feel comfortable with that: apologising, he cancelled the sale the next day; felt better.

A painter's palette is their DNA, their colours, their painting: ergo, their work? No, sorry, I'm partially colour-blind, so I like that even more, how, you know, artists have their own colours? The palette is a trace of that work. Mixing paint, for me, is almost impossible. I can see though, see enough. I suppose painting is diƒƒerent for me. How colour is. And you know, Van Gogh was colour-blind. It's the cones in your eyes. The colour receptors. (4.5 million cone cells). There's no single ''normal''. But I see. How colour is there, all around, codes and marks: what describes, what shapes, what reveals. Character. Vision. Style? ============== I know Cedric knows about research, -- I think partly, because he is working with an Archive, and he can see the questions also, in that notion: what is preserved. And this is the shift? Transparency? Multiples and authenticity? Nostalgia? Perspicuity?--Sketching again.

Cedric's from Detroit. Detroit presently (2013), and famously, has a sign on the city limit: ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK. The police cannot guarantee your safety. That's what the sign is. (International) law and its application. This is part of what we are talking about: decentred democracy. Fictional identity. These are legal notions -- and aesthetic: the corporate entity, the person and the political. In Jurisprudence. In Company Law. Criminality is personal, and so, in its identity, a legal agency -- ex mores ad artes. In a psychiatric sense also, (because I am interested in this), social engagement is positive. That's where the law and medicine get complex. New Economics. And ergo, given this, what I say (?), what does social interaction look like? Something beyond the law? The American Edge? I'm going to get back to the art. -- Preoccupied?

Glasgow has its own social sculpture -- that's a given. This social sculpture is also a psychogeography -- and in Glasgow, local histories, creative communities, in networks and groups, groups of people, the city, individuals: the city likes to say, ''structures'' -- at its extreme, ''whaur extremes meet''. So, Pychogeography is not individual. Reflexive, yes. Never identical, no. Per ipsum. No. That's why I raise this. It (Glasgow / the exhibition: Indirectly Yours; both) develops its own (schizo-)analysis and extends that, -- this, to social millieux; to plateaux. That's the story. Situationism.

(Automythography is the other one: the ''Glasgow miracle''). And so, totemic? (My opinion). Maybe it's just being Scottish, what Glasgow says as a city, its ''transaction'' -- it's almost surreal: not that art is political. But the politics of art is undeniably so: a transaction. I am a friend of Cedric Tai.

♬ I belong to Glasgow. Glasgow belongs to me. ♬

Let's get back. Cedric's been going through the archives at the CCA. How it is. -- Part of what CCA are doing just now, trying to make those accessible -- reassess what is there. We talked -- me and Cedric Tai; and me and John Nicol:-- at the opening of ''their'' exhibition. I know some of the history of the CCA: the THIRD EYE CENTRE. I remember. I didn't know it was on Blythswood Square before it was on Sauchiehall Street. That hadn't sunk in. Its history, in among the backgrounds:
Compass, Little Sparta, Scotland 1970s, Glasgow 1970s, the Scottish Arts Club, Tom McGrath, Barlinnie Special Unit. Fiona Rae. Alison Watt. The Glasgow Boys. New Contemporaries (1989). My memories. From a friend. Other things. And we've got other things, more modern things, going on here. And I'm supposed to have an authority: the authoritative voice, here. That's the play. The polar opposite to what Cedric looks towards? Because the criminal act is singular?

When I started this article, I wrote a note to myself: DICK HIGGINS FLUXUS. (I've deleted it now). But I need to talk about that. Because in part, it's part of Cedric Tai's background. I've never visit Detroit. I passed through Chicago (O'Hare). I produced work at the Cleveland Performance Art Festival (Ohio, 1995). I am familiar with the aesthetics from here. Detroit/ Chicago: that divide -- because I was a dancer, Acid House. FLUXUS and neo-FLUXUS. Neo-Dada -- that's a Chicago thing. Ok. Mime, also, that's how I know that. Detroit? That's HipHop. Motown. How it sounds. So that's still my caricature. North and South. The Great Lakes. And Detroit. Scottish. I need to be there to talk about it? What are we talking about? -- I made a note to talk to Cedric about this. I don't have a tape recorder. This is me summarising my notes.

I met Cedric, after the show. Three days later, Monday July 8
2013. --(It's important to keep track of the time, how it slips by). We had noodles, 1 o'clock lunch, the Noodle Bar, Sauchiehall Street. (I had chicken and black bean sauce with crispy noodles). I am writing this section now, here, after that meeting: to try and write this better; this ''review''. Cedric read the above. I sent him it, a late draft -- e-mail, 8 July, 2.45 am -- for fact-checking, out of courtesy; I had his contact details from the Friday. (There were a couple of corrections to make). We talked for two hours in the Noodle Bar. Backgrounds. Art school. Politics. We exchanged stories. Glasgow / Detroit. What I wanted to do was crystallise things.
  1. ) In this exhibition, Cedric Tai removed himself as author (?)

    1. ) The exhibits displayed are the mechanisms / instruments of art: palettes, crozys, vacuum moulds, samples, pipettes for moulding; --the disguises of the plaster cast plastic noses.

    2. ) These mechanisms / instruments are from industrial, commercial, traditional and fine art practices.

    3. ) They are obtained from others, other artists, and so the exhibits have vicarious identities: of the painters (from their palette choices), of mass-produced containers (from the blown machine moulds), of trade (the pieces of cloth, the fake wig); and even, of a previous exhibition by Cedric Tai (from the pipettes); as equally as of ''industry'' (the studio style divisioning, the 'studio display'). --The exhibition shows the 'unseen''.

    4. ) John Nicol stages the exhibition. (Not unusual in exhibiting, where teams of people can be involved in mounting work). --Here, the technical work of John Nicol is accredited as of a solo artist alongside, Cedric (Tai). While John's practice is in this line: commonplace materials, found objects, the questioning of preciousness. --John didn't make the work? --Neither did Cedric?

    5. ) The exhibits are shown as if ''in studio'' -- in a typical multiple occupancy low-rent studio with its work areas and shelvings;-- like art school? And learning what isshown here, what the objects are, that is education? The exhibition is the art? Neo-conceptual synecdoche?
    2.) There are questions of the Archive. -- I talked with Cedric about this, also. What the Archive is. Stripped of the artist? Stripped of the people attending? Like this exhibition, stripped of the artist? Is it not rather, a living (shared) memory? That distribution? Folk memory? What the presence implies? Rewriting history? Something else?

    3.) The exhibition is clearly, urban practice. But what is that? The traces of (the) culture (industry), of (artistic) production? In the city? Fluidity of exchange? Transparency? (International relations)? (Cultures)? This is Transience? Synchronicity? (Complexity)? Representation? Social engagement? Practice? Place? (Fine Art)? -- We talked also about current Immigration Policies in the UK.

Today, Cedric posted a status. People had come into the gallery for the show. They signed the visitor's book. This is what they wrote: ''I don't know much about art, but you are doing fine.'' Cedric was so pleased with that. Me too. Because somebody else saw that.

At the Noodle Bar, we talked about mime a bit. Etienne DeCroux. Antonin Artaud. This latter is, maybe, by-the-by -- because I'm interested in the body, the body in society, and the body in architecture: where you are. I brought up Bauhaus, negative space, mathematics, new physics, partly in these contexts -- because that was what caught me at INTERMEDIA, how the vacuum moulds looked, in some senses like mathematical modelling,3D mapping. And we talked about negative space, modelling objects from their absence, dark matter. --And today, I read an article about HolographicDuality (Mapping 3D from 2D, 4D from 3D, et al). At lunch, Cedric mentioned seeing the GermanSchilling company 3D mathematical models in the University Museum in Dundee,-- from the early1900s; -- he said he'd bought a postcard of one. I brought up Heidegger. Maybe Cedric was not thinking about these ideas, not as quantum physics. Politics. Ideology. We didn't get time to talk about that. But may it's thinking, trying to shape thinking around ideas which will never have single answers. I did not mention Gustav Metzger. But those ideas: shapes, craft, sculpture; creative drives: presence and absence. Those were. We talked about human scale, the humane; that scope. Art and Education. Decentred democracy. Feminism 4. London. LA. New York. Moscow. Detroit.Glasgow. Sao Paolo. Hong Kong. Frankfurt. Novosibirsk. The stories of diƒƒerent places in Glasgow, other places. Being around.

My note above? The DICK HIGGINS FLUXUS!? To close: what I was going to say. Dick Higgins used to describe his work as being ''intermedia''. FLUXUS. -- Cross-discipline, cross-art form, interdisciplinary. Intervention, Activation, Installation. Time-Based Art, Live Art -- these too. But Asger Jorn, COBRA. 1950s. CO-penhagen/BR-ussels/A-msterdam. I mentioned him. In those terms.
-- Intermedia, CCA, Glasgow. An Exhibition, Indirectly Yours, by
Cedric Tai and John Nicol. -- Detroit, MI, 2015. (Photographs Attached)

In the form of a footnote here: August 3. Cedric showed again, August 2 -- at the former Mattress Factory, 134 Renfrew Street, just up by the GSA -- a group show, 'RESTART, PLUG IN': Steven Papadopoulos, Anthony Schrag, Ian Swanson, Cedric Tai, and Lisa Ure. Cedric used what he found there -- in what is now in effect, an empty warehouse showroom. He re-displayed the fittings left behind. He intervened in and activated the space. A kind of phenomenological viewing experience was what we talked about. I've had to rethink about that a little more. Because partly, that is a piece of my attitude; practice is a way of thinking. It's reflexive. And maybe, just maybe, that reflexivity, what I am pointing at, maybe that is also something which can not be commodified. Perhaps not. So, integrity, that's what it is? -- But a PS now -- part of the purpose of this footnote. At Intermedia for the 'closing', Cedric and John gave away all of the moulds and plaster they showed. I got a broken-mould rice cake (I thought I might keep things in it), and a plaster nose. I found out: the noses. They were casts of Cedric Tai's nose.

See images of the show here.

"Pushing so hard it lifts itself up" (2013)
Plaster rice cakes (2013)