At the first DRAW event, artist Zoë Mendelson and Tania Kovats (MA Drawing Course Leader) hosted an afternoon discussion exploring the exquisite acts of destruction, drawing and waste and the connections between drawing and reading. An audience of UAL Postgraduate students, staff and alumni contributed to the event, which took place at Wimbledon College of Arts.
Zoë provided the provocations; ‘La Poubelle Agréee’ (1974-6) by Italo Calvino (a text featured in her 2013 book) and a performance of ‘Appropriated Mishap’, an animation accompanied by a reading from a book about waste.
Event Details: 2 July 2015, Wimbledon Space, Wimbledon College of Arts, London
Guest speaker/ artist: Zoë Mendelson
Text (supplied beforehand): ‘La Poubelle Agréee’ (1974-6) by Italo Calvino
Reading (performed at event by Zoë with accompanying projection):
This Mess is a Place – my edited book (2013) – includes a reprint of Italo Calvino’s essay La Poubelle Agréée. The essay is an autobiographical and socio-political look at systems for and attitudes to taking out the rubbish.Initially – I mistakenly sent to print the wrong copy of La Poubelle Agréée. I had one thousand sheets of an earlier version with added letters, the odd out-of-place comma and an un-italicised poubelle. I was not permitted to print a version with any tiny error, of course, so it itself became a waste product.
After publication, I returned to this ruin from Calvino’s text and began to consider ways I could get rid of it. Using clues embedded in the text I set up possibilities for its demise. Using stop-frame animation, collage and stills of collaged domestic spaces, I played with regurgitated versions of the text in both form and content. The ‘character’ I charged with the task of disposing of La Poubelle Agréée is a surrogate maker: An animalistic (and self-reproducing) counterpart, made of my own hair. This ‘figure’ inhabits the text and digests it, manipulating it through various modes of destruction such as rubbing it with soap and prising it through a shredder. The hairball is simultaneously creator, editor, mistake-maker and ultimately destroyer of the text.
The resulting twelve-minute long animation, Appropriated Mishap is broken up with quotations from Calvino. It is also accompanied by a live element: an unscripted selection of readings from an out-of-print American educational book about waste, which I draw onto, crossing out and highlighting sections, as I read.
‘Farmland’, Chapter Five of The Detroit Project (my novel-in-progress)
My novel deploys collagist techniques in its construction. It takes place across two real cities, London and Detroit. However each location is increasingly fictitious, dominated by the pursuits of two principal characters whose relationships to space, collections and memory influence the cities they seem to inhabit. In the section I’d like to read – pending discussion – the mayor of a future, urban farmland version of Detroit, Martha, commissions a wall drawing for the Detroit Institute of the Arts, a tribute to the changing production values of the city from industry to greenery. The wall drawing, by a Detroit artist named Sandra Climes, riffs off Diego Rivera’s mural from 1932, in the same location. At the end of a chapter which focuses on labour, investment, growth and change, the mural is vandalised by a group of performance artists and we remain unsure as to whether Sandra commissioned the destruction of her own work.
Featured image credit: Zoë Mendelson ‘Appropriated Mishap’, (still from animation), Animation with live reading, 2014