The Canadian Art Database

Victor Coleman

John Greer/Eye/Ear (1972)

Open Letter 2/1, Winter, 1972
[ 797 words ]

The only thing that is different from one time to another is what is seen and what is seen depends upon how everyone is doing everything. This makes the thing we are looking at very different and this makes what those who describe it make of it, it makes a composition, it confuses, it shows, it is, it looks, it likes it as it is, and this makes what is seen as it is seen. Nothing changes from generation to generation except the thing seen and that makes a composition. — Gertrude Stein, Composition as Explanation.

John Greer is dealing with points of view. Maybe they're concepts and maybe they're not.

       If you lie down with the point of view that you are lying on the side of the earth,
       the horizontal line becomes vertical. When you stand up, you stand out.

Which is actually a 'political' statement: that to 'stand out' you first have to have a point of view. Not an opinion that's too easy but a point, a spot on which any man might stand, if it were his own, and see it as it is. This is very simple.

'I used to do a lot of paintings at one time, until ... '66 I think it was ... and from then on all the paintings were just interior decoration and I got really fed up. So I went out and I was settin' under a tree and a dog came by ... from that point on the work got strange; because of that dog.

'You're educated to think that you don't do anything like that; it's sort of a ... a blessing; but when the dog came by it brought that other point of view along. The dog looked at me and went on its way, wherever it was going.

'But then I thought, okay, it's an evolutionary flaw. That was fine for a few days; like I was figuring, well, that's it. And then I figured that in order to get over that you have to work your way through it until you can make it obsolete. The work since then has been coming from that point of view.'

One of John Greer's pieces frames the words 'I Look Like a Little Dog', which is written so you have to cock your head to read it.

He believes our roots are dug deep in phenomena and he digs deep in the earth of that phenomena to show us the roots with the earth left on them.

Flaws, mistakes, etc. play a major part in each of his compositions, exemplifying clearly the kind of conflict we find now in so-called art; if discovery were the end of experience and not its initial; that he can investigate light and discover, almost by accident, modal relationships in his head which are aural. (viz. The Kodak Mantra: 8 x 10 prints of many people saying 'cheese').

A piece is much bigger than a situation.

And, given its flaws and mistakes, the situation remains open, cannot truly be explained or documented (dominated?). So that I find his two tide pieces most particular; because in both a flaw in the concept has simply let in a little more light, a little less dark to contain us.

Water Bottle. A group of photographs (not a series) showing various positions of the piece. 'I took a five gallon bottle and fixed it to a piece of plywood. To each corner of the plywood I attached 10 foot ropes. The tide lifted the sheet of plywood to the ten foot level and the continued to rise, filling the bottle and then rose another ten feet. The tide ebbed and I capped the bottle full of water. This contained water rose with the following tides occupying the original space from which it was obtained. Unexpected occurrence: On the second night and the fourth tide, being a night tide, a storm blew up. One of the ropes broke. The plywood pounded on its side in the surf. The bottle came loose and broke. The contained water was returned to the sea. August 197I .

A bag was hung from each of the nine roof beams of the gallery, one foot from the floor and on the low side of the gallery. The gallery roof sloped one foot and the bags accented the physical space. (A Space, Toronto, June 1971 )

Plumb and feather on elastic cord. It is released from the chair. The observer watches it as it goes and until it stops about one half hour later. Your depth of focus follows the plumb. The feather responds to the wind set up by the motion of the plumb.(A Space, Toronto, June 1971)

Open Letter 2/1, Winter, 1972

Text: © Victor Coleman. All rights reserved.

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