Space Practising Tools
by Gail Hastings
with an introduction by Jon Roffe
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The book is a great, thoughtful contemporary answer to the most important artist books and artist theories since Albers, Judd and LeWitt.
DPhil, Head of the Daimler Art Collection, Stuttgart/Berlin
One form of learning and knowing comes from separating and connecting. But how can we learn to know space? It is everywhere, and in a way, because we often take it for granted, it is nowhere! In this seriously experimental book Gail Hastings starts from the fundamentals: force, flow and fixity. From here, we can see how space becomes visible by means of arrangements.
Professor, Director of the Research Unit of Public Cultures, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne
Space Practising Tools is much like a storybook. The main character is space. In the beginning, we fear it. As life goes on, we learn to ignore our fear and, as a result, we learn to ignore space. This makes it difficult to see space in three-dimensional art in which it is central. In Space Practising Tools, the artist Gail Hastings records a practical way to see and to work with ‘actual’ space in art. Her book documents spatial interactions through photographs, watercolours, and diagrams of five space practising tools the artist handmade. It aims to develop an eye for space separate from our shared space that we tend not to see. It calls on Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color of 1966 as a precedent in its experimental approach to studio observational procedures.
Unlike colour, though, space rests on a process of recognition in the face of self-repulsion. With it, space reinvigorates art as necessary. Without it, space is invisible.
The philosopher Jon Roffe enlivens Space Practising Tools with a historical perspective in his introduction, which unleashes a twist in aesthetic adventures. As seen in his highly renowned inclusive approach to Deleuzian thought, Roffe’s illuminating and erudite attention encourages the book’s reach and applicability in the everyday process of being.
GAIL HASTINGS is a visual artist. Her sculptural situations include ‘Missing walls: bureaucracy at work’ and ‘Difficult art decisions: wall six’ both in the Daimler Art Collection, Berlin and ‘So she said’ in the Art Gallery of NSW collection, Sydney. The MCA Primavera collection began in 1993 with the purchase of Hastings’ ‘Flower power:1960s/1990s’; and the MCA adopted her sculptuation ‘To make a work of timeless art’ as the title of their 2009 Primavera Acquisitions exhibition. Her recently published book ‘Space Practising Tools’, 2021, is the culmination of an extensive studio-based project for which she is grateful to have received Australia Council for the Arts funding.
JON ROFFE is a Deleuzian scholar and considered ‘one of Deleuze’s best interpreters’ (Daniel W. Smith, Purdue University). He is the author of ‘The Works of Gilles Deleuze I: 1953-1969’ (re.press 2019), a ‘[w]itty, unpretentious, yet rigorous, erudite and illuminating‘, and a ‘truly remarkable book—compelling, provocative and original’ (Ronald Bogue, University of Georgia). He is also the author of ‘Gilles Deleuze’s Empiricism and Subjectivity’ (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), and co-author of Deleuze’s Philosophical Lineage II (Edinburgh University Press, 2019). Roffe teaches philosophy at the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy.
Art Journal, New York, published ‘The Power of Inclusion in Donald Judd’s Art: Observations by an Artist’ in 2018. It is an essay by Gail Hastings that appears alongside the beginnings of her ‘Space Practising Tools’ project. Both culminated in the book Space Practising Tools of 2021.
The Art Journal editor Rebecca M Brown writes In This Issue: Muttering and Listening that :
Gail Hastings notes that sometimes artworks seem to be reticent teachers, “muttering a lesson,” which we have to pry out of them. As both an artist and scholar reading the material and spatial in Donald Judd’s sculpture Untitled (DSS 33), Hastings rejects this metaphor, stating with and through Judd’s work and words that “The knowledge we therefore seek of DSS 33’s space cannot be found as a critically apt, well-packaged utterance detachable from the work. It is found, instead, in the reciprocal movement of the work’s self-determination, the ‘living force of its existence,’ forever in process of creating space while perpetually wading through the ‘natural confusion’ of life this embroils.” (A pause, here, to agree whole-heartedly with Hastings’s formulation while recognizing it as, indeed, a well-packaged utterance of the highest calibre, one that does not deliver a didactic lesson.)
Rebecca M. Brown, ’In This Issue: Muttering and Listening‘, in Rebecca M Brown (ed), Art Journal, College Art Association, New York, Vol. 77, no. 3, Fall 2018, p.5.