As the virtual landscape is increasingly obscured by identikit blogs dedicated to random composition and directionless moodboards, the search for informed art appreciation and critical theory becomes harder. History of Our World is a self-styled online repository for collected images and texts based in New Zealand. It explores the interrelationships of its creators with the work they feature, in the context of their geographical surroundings. Novembre spoke to the collective about their references, methodology and the threat of blog mentality.
NOVEMBRE: Physical space and the importance of place seems a key theme running through the project, what is it that inspires you about this concept?
RUFUS KNIGHT: The essence of our research is to form different atmospheres; these may be built up through pervading moods of physical or emotional space depending on the viewer’s perception of the imagery and text. If there is an emphasis on physical space it stems from our interest in memory, or traces thereof, and it’s physical record on built forms, the heart and landscapes.
N: Can you relate to something in the relationship between the viewer online and their disconnection from the environment or objects they are looking at?
RK: The connection to place that is visible in History is informed by the relative distance New Zealand has to the rest of the world and the insight and naivety this geographic isolation offers.
N: Do you ever perceive what you do in terms of curating?
RK: The idea of curation in relation to blogging and its various discontents is questionable. Generally speaking, blogging is beginning to strip the online documentation of art and culture of any credibility by fostering an unconscious (and uncredited) ‘blog-mentality’ which is fucking terrible.
What we try to express are ideas of process and substance; consciously removing the immediacy associated with the online medium and trying to create something that is thorough, informative, well edited but most importantly adds to our understanding of either the subject or ourselves. Also trying to present something to the viewer that has a sense of physicality and honesty to its original source and cohesiveness in its relationship to the larger body of works featured on the site.
N: Do you recognize the boundaries between art, fashion, architecture, and product design in what you do, or are these categories becoming irrelevant in terms of contemporary design and critical theory?
RK: I would say we do, and that these parameters are still necessary in contemporary design in order to interpret the properties of each discipline; the more you understand the fundamental aspects and/or limitations of a medium, the better position you are in to understand when the approach or expression is multidisciplinary in nature. However, I would say that if there were overriding aesthetic criteria for the way we approach and edit our content it would be emotion and resonance.
N: Which people and places have proven to be key inspirations in your work?
RK: Primarily New Zealand – its isolation, depth and geography are highly motivating factors.
The people who have influenced History are simply the people who view our content as relevant, engaging and help to connect it to larger bodies of thought.
N: Do you create unique original imagery and writing yourselves?
RK: Although the content we feature is sourced from various physical publications, in some ways you could validate what we post as original content; the scanned images quite often posses imperfections from their original source giving them a signature, the juxtaposition between the image and text often lends itself to further interpretation, also if you were to analyze the interrelationship between the artists we feature, even the specific work of the artists, you can begin to see an investigation into the aforementioned themes of process, substance and atmosphere resulting in what could be considered as an original narrative.
N: There appears to be a focus on the rough, fractured, unfinished, manmade, raw, and human in what you use – are these aesthetic values that you are always drawn and attracted to? Why do you think that is the case?
RK: This focus represents our interest in raw materials, atavistic expressions of craft and the processual; ideologies derived, again, from our interest in the landscape.
There is an apparent honesty and permanence in these works that connects with something very base. Although quite violent in there articulation there is always an inherent passion in these works that speaks to our interests in the trace of memory and weathering.
N: What are your plans for developing the project?
RK: New Zealand has a rich and reasonably esoteric cultural history and History of Our World will aim to document the artists we feel have shaped our personal and cultural identities and are of international relevance.
Also we will try to incorporate parts of this into an online medium to subsist our understanding and exploration of international art and culture.
Something that could become more realized is a discussion or critique of our content; if the viewers are interested in discussing the featured artists or works this is more than encouraged.