Three times in the past month, I’ve come across an image of a corner. Firstly an implied corner behind a set of stairs seemingly rendered in parallel perspective (as opposed to the point-perspective system), mirrored by the hands of a clock which are set to around 10:10:30 – the most aesthetically pleasing arrangement according to watch sellers (Google ‘Rolex’). But rather than trying to flog complex shiny cogs, these hands in Nazim Ünal Yilmaz’s painting act as the inverse of the implied corner – mirrored in the horizontal, appearing as the upper corner of a room – with the arrows of the clock hands becoming a gesture, extending the axes into infinity.
The next corner was at Hollybush Gardens – a print framed by the edges of the ply that created it, by its thin wooden frame, and by a broad critique of the politics of contemporary labour in the projected film Ambiguous Journeys by Lis Rhodes displayed on the floor below. Andrea Büttner’s corner initially revealed itself to me as an ambiguity of its own. An architectural object, when (re)produced on paper using linear perspective, only produces a fixed position for the audience when two or more vertices are visible – when we see an image of a house, the corners together allow us to plot our position in the picture space (see the Google SketchUp example below – more on this later). An isolated corner, on the other hand, gives us nothing; we can discern from the image little more than the angle from which we are viewing the suggested corner, and even this is fraught with geometrical complications. Practically speaking, when I look at Büttner’s corner, I do not imagine how it exists or where it ends (where I might find another vertex to confirm my location); instead, the corner is all that there is – a set of endless axes.
This ambiguity bears an interesting relationship to the content of the exhibition material, which initially discusses the association with shame and the naughty-corner – a punishment which dissociates children from their peers (a similar dissociation to that which Büttner’s corner produced in me). Evidently, the shame referred to in the work is more concerning an intangible shame found in the ‘constant permeation’ of art production; Büttner’s corner is ostensibly devoid of drawing and draftspersonship – pencil lines being a signification of labour, a propagation of the working-or-not-working dichotomy of productivity which I will return to later – which produces a supplementary ambiguity in the work, a question of how the work coincides with a standard of art production, and an ambiguity which conceptually acts as the eternally diverging axes of the corner.
This notion of diverging axes is attributable to Google SketchUp – a pioneer in opensource 3D modelling software which, in 2010, became the software used to build virtual cities into Google Earth, and has, for me, usurped the corner and assimilated it into a new notion of progress. On opening the program, we are presented by a small model of a painter-decorator who acts as our scale and is dwarfed by an infinitely extending set of x, y and z axes in the positive and negative direction – much like Nazim Unal Yilmaz’s inverted corner/clock. This vehicle for design is a possible metonym for a current understanding of progress – that being production, building out and upwards from the origin, proliferating from the singular notion of where we came from to the infinite expanse of where we need to be.
The final corner I want to address is that which is implicit in Peter Schuyff’s Untitled, 1986, as seen in the exhibition of his work at White Cube, Mason’s Yard, curated by Katharine Kostyál. What importantly differentiates this corner from that of Büttner is the sense of materiality and evidence of labour. Rather than being produced in a ‘bulk’ process of printing with ply, the shaded surfaces of Schuyff’s corner are decidedly and visibly applied by hand. Further to this, the meticulousness in the application and the shading is driven home by the foregrounded transparency grid, whose laborious production is evidenced by the still visible pencil marks – the clear indication that a draftsperson was present.
As the labour evident in Schuyff’s work becomes more visible, so too does Büttner’s withdrawal of that ‘justification’; to put it simply, as the dichotomy goes, Schuyff appears to be working, while Büttner does not. While both being corners – naughty or otherwise – one is an architectural triumph, the building block of design and productivity, while the other is almost invisible, devoid of any notion of its construction. This dichotomy seems to crucially define the stretch of time that exists between the two works, not just in terms of attitudes towards labour in the political sense, but in terms of attitudes towards production in general. The corner is a de facto symbol of stability, construction, and progress, but, through a conversation with its own symbolism, Büttner’s corner also becomes representative of shame, ambiguity, and restriction.