An Account of 100 Hours - Gordon Douglas
I only saw the traces of 100 hours, a performative-studio setup in Studio 41, a compact re-purposed retail space in Garnethill, Glasgow. The process of 100 Hours, from what I understand of it, was for four art students to relocate their working spaces from their studios around the art school down the road to Studio 41. Once there, the artists would source materials to use within the space then live and work in the space for the duration of one hundred hours. What I cannot comment on is the one-on-one experience with the artists in the studio as every time I passed by I was late for something. So I can only begin to analyse the process from what I have seen, and can only speculate on the spectacle of 100 Hours from this retrospective viewpoint.
What did I see? Well, I arrived at the opening filled with an audience of art students crowded around a series of intricate and laborious works loosely read as variations of the theme repetition. This definitely pointed to the kind of work that had taken place over the four-and-a-bit days. Presented at the opening (in an aesthetically refreshing curatorial manner), a one-night-only museum in which the art student audience who have known about the project since the beginning are welcomed in to imagine and mythologise the process. As an audience it is up to us to decide, whether out-loud in conversation or in our heads, the narrative between the relics. What I saw earlier, when I arrived one hour after the one hundred hour endurance test was complete was the removal of everything decided upon by the collective as ‘work’, or at least work they were willing to present. This mediation process is actually what brings the artists back into the work, and transforms the studio back into the gallery. The sculptures, the paintings, the installations, the text-works become part of a museum transformation of the studio; the mediated artwork and its qualities abused to return the space to its original state. Even this piece of writing is an effort to transfigure the workload into art, to see studio as gallery. This too is interesting, as Studio 41, with a two-year long record of being a gallery space, was so convincingly transformed into a studio that the return to gallery is a shock, and something that contradicts images we have invented in our minds before attending the opening.
This contradiction between our opening night and premeditated thoughts combined with any live experiences with the one hundred hours within the gallery-studio-gallery, is crucial in discovering the element of the work that actually makes me, not only really like the piece, but see it as a critically aware and conscious effort to fill some kind of void between studio practice and performance art as an oeuvre.
What I found in my experience was so potent was absence of the artists as individual personalities. They had somehow distilled into a collaborative body whose products were on show. The authorial drive is lost to the instruction, the script and score of the performance override the products themselves and the presence of the artists as well. The artists and the performance gone, 100 Hours, as a branded and unique identity, haunts the space; the collective interpretation of an instructional palette published through social media, a poster campaign and word-of-mouth. This constructed preface to the gallery-as-studio and the show itself manufactures a certain response and reading of the work: that the actual score in its various manifestations in print and on the web become monument to the work itself.
I believe the work takes on political meaning within a current economic climate that places performance as its fundamental rule. We as citizens of late capitalism are performers born into a system that simultaneously sees us both as individuals and as anonymous masses integrated in incorporated entities. We lose our singularity under figureheads, figureheads that appoint themselves monuments to the trauma of mass collectivisation. Through collaborative performance, all authorial quality dissolves, and what is left is an equally responsible party. Nike for example becomes a mutual effort, were blame and praise is almost impossible to pinpoint, all components performing efficiently as a holistic organism. As I said earlier 100 Hours as ‘brand identity’.
The political crux to the work combined with the warping of the traditional notion of artist’s studio is ambitious, and I believe points us to a reading of artists working as an entire cultural body, one that is multifaceted but purely one unit. A cultural composite of performers working towards the production of capital in the form of mythologies, narratives and historically significant objects. The artists in 100 Hours cease to be artists, but begin to perform the roles of artists. The window at the front of the retail unit facing out into the street becomes a fourth wall where the outside world can look in at the carrying out of the instruction. The anti-spectacular nature of the artist’s studio, and by extension all spaces of work, is exposed as theatre itself. And we, as responsible onlookers, watch the workers endure one hundred hours of labour.