Text has always been an important part of my practice, it takes the form of narratives, poems, memories, happenings. It has many functions. It is part of my practice which is both in the foreground and the background. It is something which enables me to make sense of the things that I am making or sometimes it informs the things I am making. It can be both a catalyst for experimentation and/or a way of evaluating and understanding a process. It is integral. It is the spine of my practice.

The realisation that text was important to my practice was a slow process. Even though it has been present in my practice since the start of the MFA course, I still did not recognise it as something which could potentially be foregrounded and perhaps be used as an art piece on its own. It took nearly the whole two years of the course for me to build anything that foregrounded text. I think this had a lot to do with me being unsure about my practice in general and unsure about the validity of using text alone. Although I was fully aware that text could be used as art work, it had not quite computed within my own practice.

At the beginning of the course I wrote a text which sparked my interest in using text further and which has informed my practice until the present. The text ‘What are little boys made of?’ was potentially the most important of the early text works that I made. And yet at this time I was not ready to foreground it completely, Instead I used the text as a background sound scape for a performance at the ActsReActs Performance festival.

During crits and tutorials It was also clear that text should be highlighted. In nearly every tutorial I was pointed towards using text more within my practice, but it was not until much later that I realised its potential. During unit three I decided to start to explore using text as a stand-alone art piece. This was informed by looking at artists such as Robert Montgomery, John Baldessari and jenny Holzer. Seeing how they used text to make statements or to point towards ideas has given me real drive to continue using text with my work. 

I had the idea to make signage which could be burnt. The burning of text has a dual meaning for me, it is both a catharsis (a getting rid of something) and a renewal. It takes the text and gives it a platform which highlights its potential and import, but then tries to remove it through destroying it. What became clear when I did burn the text was that it can never actually be completely destroyed, it always leaves a trace. Whether that be the ashes that are left after or the fragments of text the remain. The first piece that I burnt was ‘Be gone Masculinity be gone’, this text was written after reading John Stoltenbergs book. This book was also further integrated at one of the Agenda groups that myself and Daniel Curtis organised.

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Selected texts: click to enlarge

Be gone, Be Gone- Video, Benjamin Martin, 2017