MFA Exhibition: Derek Toomes
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
By Greensboro Project Space

unconditional response 
by Derek Toomes
Opening: March 30th, 6pm - 9pm 

“A dissatisfaction with the current social and political system results in an unwillingness to produce commodities which gratify and perpetuate that system. Here the sphere of ethics and aesthetics merge.”

-Barbara Rose

During my time at GPS, I will be building a small enclosure which I will seal myself into for a period of four days, during which, I will create a piece of writing that will be a contribution to the project I am naming as my thesis. This room will be referred to as: the writing room.


When approaching the final semester of my graduate career, I asked myself what I might be able to make that would be most relevant as well as radical to the circumstances of my conclusion of the MFA. This project intervenes in the functional purpose of the thesis and weds it to the formal purpose of art, the consequence being that it is somewhat disruptive to both.


I’m currently thinking about the outward or external factors that my work and my experience may resist. Academia uses the thesis as an archival method of collecting data from its graduate students. The thesis is used by the graduate committee to enforce the clear conceptual grounding of art in the realm of ideas and words. The thesis serves also to ratify the intellectual validity of art that is made by MFA candidates. The thesis used as the basis for an art project cannot possibly do all of these things because it now operates on the merits of being an experience and process in time: experienced either by me as the individual enclosed within the writing room, or by the viewer who contemplates the thesis as a contingency of the writing room.


In this way, my thesis becomes more of a ‘thing’ and less of an object. In his essay, Thing Theory, Bill Brown explains that we look ‘through’ objects, because they serve a purpose in codifying the world in ways commensurate with our expectations, or in ways that condition our expectations. For instance, we look through a window in order to encounter a view. But, if the window clouds, or becomes dirty enough to be opaque, it is no longer an object that we can look through, and it no longer functions to create a view. Rather, it is a ‘thing’, and a ‘thing’ cannot also be a window.  This thing has its own physical reality and identity, and what we encounter based on these characteristics, is its ‘thingness’


My project, which enables the creation of the thesis in certain controlled conditions, also has a physical reality. When the walls of the writing room are deconstructed, and used to create a container in which its contents, including the thesis, are to be condensed and housed, what is this thing that I have made? What do I call it, and more importantly, how does it provoke a space in which to contemplate the larger question: Is art the presentation or containment of experience, or is art experience as containment?



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