I used the term ‘historical insertedness’ earlier today, and wondered was it highly pretentious, obscure, or just obvious. Perhaps I was moved to using the term by a book that arrived on my desk this morning, Sean Lynch’s Yesterday’s papers. Lynch’s practice is hard to define; it makes art out of the historical reception of art, using mass-media sources from the near past. These sources make us look odd, daft, playful, confused. When they are fed back into an art context, the result it sometimes bewildering. Lynch’s best-known image is probably of a pile of chalk dust, alledgedly wiped from a blackboard that Joseph Beuys had been drawing on; what do you do with an image like that?
Yesterday’s papers is thoroughly engaging. It consists of old media photos and newspaper clippings. A headline proclaims ‘Girl pupils expelled from convent’. We read that they were supposedly expelled following a school-organised visit to Rosc in 1971. In the report, a school spokesman semi-denies any link: “Mount Sackville did not expel any pupil at all merely as a result of a visit to Rosc." And there’s Nigel Rolfe’s show getting smashed up in Gorey, back in 1977; the vandals left a ‘down with this sort of thing’ note: “Take this rubbish out of Gorey – we don’t want it."
And the Beuys blackboard makes another appearance, though this time ones that were used at a talk in the Hugh Lane, Dublin. It seems the ownership of the blackboards led to some head-scratching, as they had been borrowed from Coláiste Mhuire, but the Hugh Lane gave back different blackboards. The writer of the article speculates on who had got the better deal.