During her residency at Hotel Maria Kapel, Lauren Gault researched the idea of objects and materials as carriers of (non-physical) knowledge or experience. For this purpose the artist looked into the history of the city of Hoorn and its whale hunting past. During the seventeenth century whaling was a rather large industry in Hoorn; drawing many riches from the northern seas to the small harbour town. One of the most valuable resources coming from the hunt on whales was a substance called ‘spermaceti’; a kind of wax that is found in the head cavity of the sperm whale. This high quality wax had an enormous range of uses: from candles and cosmetics, to fertilizer and oil for train engines. Even NASA found use for the whale oil, and the famous Hubble Space Telescope – as well as many other man-made objects circulating our planet – contains this material in order to carry out its delicate operations. The wide use of the wax has caused the material to be embodied in many different places and times. This strange idea of the whale, this large unknowable thing from the sea, being ‘everywhere’, is uncanny, and the question arises if it is somehow possible to feel its presence through the objects it inhabits. Can this one material connect us to the past, the past to the present, and outer space to the deepest regions of the sea?
In an attempt to connect herself to other places, times and experiences, or even recreate the ways in which transferences can take place, the artist undertook several performative actions such as quite literally trying to listen to what the objects she encountered during her research have to say by recording their sound, only to end up with the sound of her handling them. Furthermore, Gault placed clay in several locations throughout Hoorn. The clay was left there for several days, absorbing its surroundings, becoming inscribed with it. When Gault retrieved the clay and brought it back to the chapel, she in a way took part of that location with it. The clay which was used in the works shown in the chapel is no longer ‘blank,’ but contains the knowledge of events that happened when the artist was absent. Thus, the clay has become a kind of ‘vessel of experience’. With the material’s direct relation to sculpture, these actions aim to question how meaning is inscribed into (art) objects, how content can be transferred to a viewer, and how unseen processes can be made visible or felt.
The exhibition contains the following materials:
Metal, clay that was left at the harbour in Hoorn, petroleum jelly, memory foam, towels, clear resin, acrylic, water, cold rubber, phosphorescent rubber eyeball toys, rubber matting, colour print, hair, Mexicans crystal balls opened by the artist after 80 million years after their creation, ground selenite, sound recording of sperm whale ear, teeth and scrimshaw samples, temporarily hosted museum sample of spermaceti (courtesy Westfries Museum and Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam).
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication and a performance to be launched and performed on April 18.
Lauren Gault (Belfast, 1986) lives and works in Glasgow. Gault has upcoming projects with Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow and Jupiter Artland as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival 2015. See also: www.laurengault.co.uk
Plosive blows has been made possible by the kind support of Mondriaan Fund, municipality Hoorn, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Noord-Holland and Creative Scotland
Photography by: Gert-Jan van Rooij