Dot dot dot. Grammatically speaking, this symbol (“ellipsis”) is used to signify an omission of one or more words from a greater section of text, and often indicates an indefinite beginning or end. In Harriet Body’s The 24 Hours Series – Dots, the ellipsis itself is repeated indefinitely, if imperfectly, spilling over onto a second sheet of paper with eternally unsaid things, stopping only when the 24 hours allocated for painting sequential dots has run out… Left behind lie a choppy sea of ellipses, hypnotically hinting that the distinction between art and void (or the space that features zero creative effort) is illusory.
It’s a surreptitious statement that filters its way through the entire 24 Hours Series. The body of work features three central pieces, each a document of a different 24-hour period devoted to one consistent creative act: painting dots, filming paper and cracking eggs. The series aims to explore the importance of making itself, going so far as to suggest that the artistic value of the creative process is infinitely higher than the finished product. The 24 Hours Series can be regarded as a campaign for this idea, a presentation of artefacts that hope to communicate the importance of their conception and gestation, Chinese-whispers style. They do this in a somewhat pathetic effort to get the audience on the door, free entry into a world to which they once belonged – vapid starlets acting parts although the curtain fell long ago.
Still, just as volcanic activity may be deducted from igneous rock, glimpses of that world may be seen in The 24 Hours Series. The way the dotted lines occasionally veer and congeal in Dots suggest the topography of influential feelings and ideas Body felt over the day and night she spent painting. A moving shadow on Paper insinuates that the artist had to answer the phone, or fetch a snack. The 24 egg yolks in Egg – pooled neatly here, running overboard there – testify to the 24 accompanying egg whites Body fried and ate; surely to the point of utter ennui. Empathy, the mouthpiece for the human condition, connects the audience to the artist’s experience. Meanwhile, as the exhibited works flex their phantom limbs – the technicalities of which are left to the audience’s imaginations – Body makes the point that the creative process appears in a sudden collision of slow-cooked and unassuming circumstances, or in other words – like magic, out of nowhere, really.
It’s in this “dust thou art” way that The 24 Hours Series equates the idea of the void with the idea of art. Art springs from the void (of daily routine, of mundane necessity) just as the void springs from art (the visage that conceals its own inevitably inaccessible fount: the creative process). “What is absolutely crucial to the artist’s happiness is the creative process,” Body herself declares, defying outright the idea that the artist’s lot in life consists of chasing an end product. Any potency The 24 Hours Series has as a creative spur – for those who consider it in their weekly opening rounds, or those on a night out with an arty friend, or those who chance to quench a passing curiosity – is rendered a knock-on effect, supporting the notion that the creative process is both the true and the inherently, maddeningly incomprehensible source of artistic merit…