Extract from 'Chance Finds Us', 2014.
Writing by Iris Aspinall Priest
Saturday 19th March, 2011
Kennedy's concern with the themes of failure and accident within a system is epitomised by works such as his Spinning Top drawings and site-responsive drawing Faultlines (7 Days) (2011) in which the artist consciously and deliberately collaborates with materials and processes which limit or interfere with his control. With pieces such as Spinning Top (Pass/Fail #17) (2007) this process kept him at such a distance that it meant almost inevitable ‘failure’ in relation to the ‘aims’ of these drawings.
In a recent solo show Degrees of Freedom at Durham's DLI Art Gallery he exhibited a large body of his Spinning Top drawings. The cumulative effect of this repeated action was striking, particularly as he presented so many of the drawings that they completely covered one wall of the gallery space. Each of these drawings was produced by placing a pencil into a spinning top and by trying to spin this from a predetermined starting point to another point on the page (enclosed by a circle). Each of these drawings featured a stamp confirming whether the drawing had ‘Passed’ or ‘Failed’ and the distance by which it had failed in millimetres. Whilst these drawings were serious and systematic in appearance and operation, there was also, I thought, something slightly playful and witty about the mark left by the spinning top and by this definitive stamp on a drawing as being either a categorical “Pass” or “Fail”. By limiting the artist’s control over the drawing’s outcome and developing an aesthetic based on chance movements, the traditional hierarchy of what constitutes a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ drawing – connected with the depiction of likeness – seemed to be subtly brought into question through these works. As I walked along the wall of drawings, examining the stamps (…“Fail”…”Fail”…”Fail”…”Fail”…”Pass”…”Fail”…) I found myself trying to find patterns in the random, arbitrary labelling. But unlike the scholastic idea of art (where, if you exercise control and learning you will produce “Pass” results), no pattern or order emerged with time or intent. Instead, these drawings remained autonomous and random, removed from the intent or control of their creator in order to communicate with something else (a mute something else, be it the universe, order or chaos). It reminded me of John Cage’s description of his own music in its employment of chance as “Imitating nature in its manner of operation”.