As the world moves into a digital age where our lives exist on Facebook and Google, the concept of the object is gradually becoming obsolete. Artist, writer and curator William Corwin, in collaboration with esteemed archaeologist Colin Renfrew, has examined the concept of object, particularly in art, as a relatively new one and one that may have little relevance in the future. Primarily a sculptor, Corwin’s work not only focuses on the concept of objects and object making, but also in transforming the surrounding, everyday environment into objects of art themselves.
When it comes to analyzing the origin or art and object making, it’s difficult to define what makes an artist tick and from where he or she draws inspiration. Sometimes art is a manifestation of the artist’s imagination, but other times it’s a reflection of the immediate environment.
Left: Untitled, mixed media. All photos: David Riley.
Inspired by his surroundings, artist, curator and journalist William Corwin’s fascination with objects is an ongoing project. Using the immediate space from casting his studio corner in plaster to capturing the imperfections of a local street curb, his artwork is a reflection of the space we inhabit and our community surroundings and manifests in his work from a variety of angles.
Dipping his hand into an array of different projects, ranging from discussions and research with prominent archaeologists into the history of object making to his various trans-continental residencies, as well as curating, writing and his creating his own sculpture back in his hometown of New York City, the theme is a recurring one across his oeuvre. For William Corwin, space and objects are cornerstones of his work, which is perhaps why he has undertaken residencies in three continents, in cities scattered across the globe.
Right: Staten Totem (2014), at Surviving Sandy exhibition.
After his most recent stay at the micro-gallery Puccs in Budapest, William Corwin discussed the value of residencies in an artists’ development, from the fresh perspective of a new space and city to the cultural exchange with the local community.“The Budapest residency was very referential because it was the first time I did something really where I utilized the space I was in”, he tells me after he returned to New York, “During the Budapest residency in the Puccs Project space I actually took casts of the space itself and began to reference and take the impression of the space I was working in and use that as a sculptural element.”
William Corwin creates his sculptures using plaster and chicken wire, taking molds of the corner of the room or street curbs. For him, his work captures the spirit of his surroundings and transforms the space itself into an object, but not only that, he also sought to examine sculpture as a broken object, seeing how much breakage defines damage to a sculpture. His interest in prehistoric art, cave paintings and ancient sculpture also manifests itself through the simplicity of form and the interactive level of his work.
Left: Shadow Box 1, mixed media
“I have been working with Colin Renfrew, arguably one of the most famous archaeologists in the world right now and an important figure in the idea of paleo-history in this long standing project that has turned into several articles and interviews on whether art is something really, really old or really, really new,” says William Corwin.
“I’m looking at this from the point of view of it being something really new, as something that has just emerged over the last couple of thousands of years. It’s been an exciting project and it has involved different scientists and thinkers, writers and artists who are drawing from all these different inspirations to try to come up with a definition of art and discuss whether art really existed before society as we know existed. It’s been fascinating because being in the caves, I realized there was a time when people didn’t make objects at all and lived in very small communities where they didn’t really make anything. The cave drawings are extraordinary because they come from a time when people didn’t really create visual objects so much, they lived in this close to nature life, which is very different from now, and it’s only when people settled down, created villages, hierarchies, classes, and established religion that they began to create objects that referenced that. So, object making is relatively new in human society.”
Detail: Motorhead exhibition
His interest in object making not only looks to the past, but also projects into the future in an upcoming exhibition called “Cyborg”, which opens at the end of November in the Zurcher Studio in New York. However, while his other project focused on prehistoric history, Cyborg examines a world where objects become obsolete in the digital realm, addressing how contemporary artists imagine the body and consciousness as we evolve into the next generation of being human.
“Object making is relatively new in human society, so there I am working on a series of articles about object making and whether it will exist in the future as we become more and more connected via social media, which will eventually become integrated into our actual bodies, so we won’t need to have objects anymore. It’s a weird look at the last 10,000 years of object making and whether it will continue to exist, since it didn’t really exist before that for another 100,000 years,” he adds.
Right: Puccs Contemporary Art, 2 Motorhead, 2015
“In Cyborg, I’m going to be looking at artists and how they look at the human body, and how they look at where the human body is going in the next couple of decades, when we start transforming ourselves into something that will be quite different from now, so it’s very interesting.”
Originally published in ARTES Magazine.