Ewan Morrison on my 8GB retrospective from Broken20


Ewan Morrison on the sublime arts of Chris Dooks

Notes from deep immersion in the work of the artist April/May 2014


Breathe in, hold it inside and breathe out. Notice the slight difference in temperature between your inbreath and outbreath. The slight difference in moisture on your lips. The air you exhale is warmer and wetter. This is what you give back.

Dear Chris, the way you use fragments, samples, of sound and picture - I find this to be very moving and upsetting in ways I try to explain but cannot, not directly without recourse to cliché. There is always a conflict of opposites at work - the wire resonates. 

Sound art. Found art. Beauty is to be found only in the places where civilisation has overlooked it. You seem to find it by means of audio (perhaps because audio is the cheapest and most overlooked of all forms). A man amidst an unfolding apocalypse walking around with a high quality microphone the way someone else might use a Geiger counter.

An old piano in an echoing room, a rice shaker, a few words by a child turned into a mantra. Or is it a rattlesnake and an old woman singing a real mantra? A track by you and three minutes of my life that will now turn into six.

The average human being will take seven million three hundred thousand breaths in their lifetime. The average person, living within modern western culture will only have listened to the sound of their own breath during a medical emergency.

I think we are now moving too fast to notice the direction of where we are going or to ask why we are even moving at all. 

Chris Dooks is an important contemporary artist who has done precisely the opposite of what the art stars of our generation have done. He did not ‘grow up in the limelight’ – this a myth anyway, as the artists who were subjected to the limelight stunted their growth, stopped growing entirely, dissipated themselves and vanished into images of themselves. Chris Dooks has hidden himself in the dark, working in subtle ways and has amassed a vast body of work that now has to see the light of day. Success will probably kill him, but his work demands to have a life beyond him. 

Are these Buddhist works? You live long enough with eyes open enough and you see the cyclic patterns of human suffering. You can’t help people. Why should you? They enjoy their egos too much; they enjoy even their sufferings and the dramas that ensue too much, they make this the entire content of their arts. The suicidal sufferings and melodramas of the ego. It is excruciating to watch the excitement with which people throw their bodies upon the wheel that will soon turn their pleasures to suffering. Do they not see the wheel they are on? Every turn of the wheel the suffering repeats itself. Schopenhauer was a Buddhist. Christ, it turns out was a Buddhist. Anyone with half a brain and half a fucking heart should be a Buddhist. The wheel turns.

It is a rare gift to be able to drop out of this busy noisy world that thinks itself so important and urgently sells itself to itself. A gift to be able to slow time, to stop the wheel. To breathe and listen. 

The most terrifying thing about reaching artistic maturity in an era which values youth and over maturity, and the next new thing over the evolving body of work, is the realisation that the language you speak and the issues you hold dear and have spent your life exploring may not even make sense any more in this new era. The language you use to explain yourself is no longer their language. You cannot make yourself understood. The things you have to say, the frame of reference is lost, the things you have to say - they take too long to explain because you have to rebuild the context before you can even speak. 

Silence and loss were once subjects of art. Now there is only the noise of denial and over-abundance.

You ask the simplest, most important questions. What is it? Why is it here? You ask stupid questions - What is light? And the answers are terrifying and illuminating. We don’t actually know what light is. We respond to it in too many ways. We don’t know anything much. We pass on received knowledge. And that’s about it, some words for things that we were taught. It terrifying how ignorant we are, how we cling to words to protect us from the mute physicality and contingency of life. We are very scared animals indeed and we still do not know what light is. There are beacons to guide us, there are maps and then there is the horror of things themselves. No-one sees black. The above from three artworks by you.

Some artists are their work. They can’t explain their work because to explain would be to no longer speak in the language they speak in - which is their work. You are a conversation between a seagull a car door and a jet plane.

Dear Chris, I think there is something incredibly important going on in your work which might be an answer to the problem of indifference to all culture and the oversaturation that is sweeping through our culture. The problem is how to let people know without having to subject you to their trivialising noise.

It is probably true that the formerly distinct categories of music, film, documentary and art are collapsing into each other as a result of the expansions and cross pollination of digital media. Very few artists can make anything from this. There are simply too many possibilities. You seem to have cracked it, the answer is to take the bare minimum from each form, almost nothing in fact.

To paraphrase Joseph Beuys in his paraphrasing of Marx – everyone is an artist. 
To paraphrase the advocates of the digital revolution, the hackers and file sharers and mashup artists – everyone is an artist now.
To paraphrase Syndrome, the bad guy from the Pixar movie The Incredibles – when everyone is a super hero, no one will be.

We live in a time now where the dialectic is dying, in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to say I love this, I fight for this, I oppose this, this and this only is of value, this is black and this is white and I am wrong and you are right. Pluralism has destroyed the ability to make distinctions, to take positions. Everything is tolerated and everything is equal. Difference is turning into indifference. We like everything, we are into everything, we move on swiftly to the next thing.

To save a moment of time – a sampled voice, a comment from an interview, tied within its own time to the real of its time. To make that resonant and somehow alive, to make it transcend the locality of its origin, but still to carry what is particular and specific, what is intimate. To save the intimate moment – the lives we are living - from oblivion and to also communicate something of that oblivion. 

Your work says ‘Sit still, be still!’


Ewan Morrison 2014

www.ewanmorrison.com