Samuel Yates SAMUEL YATES          Work          Street Names          Endless Objects


ENDLESS OBJECTS
a.k.a. OBJECTS UNLIMITED

Note:

The following text is an excerpt of a work in progress. It has been sitting unfinished for many years, waiting for me to tie up all the loose ends, primarily regarding examples of works by other artists and how they do or do not fit within the categories I define. In the meantime, it has not served its general purpose of defining these categories and solving several problems I face as an artist without a defined art-historical framework in which my work may be understood and maintained. This text can produce that framework despite not being fully buttoned-up. Accordingly, I’m posting it here so it may serve that purpose as it continues to evolve.

Aside from personal discussions, the first public discussion and outline of these concepts was at the Rhode Island School of Design during a talk I gave for the Painting Department on April 20, 2016. Before that, in his August 5, 2008 introduction to my work at Palo Alto City Hall for the unveiling of “The Color of Palo Alto”, art critic Glen Helfand, who coined the term “Mission School”, for example, wrote, “It’s worth noting that a number of his artworks are designed to be open ended and evolve infinitely.” That is the closest I have seen to an accounting for this type of work—the fact that a name for it could not be used because it did not exist testifies to this situation. The following text attempts to address this gap in contemporary art history and terminology.



FOREWORD

Largely, this text is produced by necessity. When someone acquires an animal, they understand that it’s a living thing that requires care and feeding. When someone acquires a living artwork it is not so obvious, given the lack of art-historical precedent, that it’s alive and, without proper care and feeding, it can die. This text is an attempt to define and name a category for these living artworks, which I have called “endless objects”, and thus call attention to them so they may be viewed and understood according to these terms, and cared for accordingly.

First, regarding the name, there are many options to consider. We might conveniently say “hyper-object” but the object-oriented ontologists have taken that one. We might say “uber-object”, “exo-object”, “anchored object”, “tethered object”, “living object”, “open-ended object”, “infinite object”, “unlimited object”, "neverending object", “spacetime object”, “networked object”, “linked object”, “bureaucratic object”, “outside object”, “real-world object”, “IRL object”, "storied object", “ongoing object”, “external object”, but they all have their faults and limitations. In the end, the term “endless” offers the most precise openness for both the temporal and the spatial, despite the name feeling somehow already-dated: it seems to reference both Constantin Brancusi’s “Infinite Column” from 1938, popularly known as the “Endless Column”; and combined with the word “object” somehow feels like it belongs in the 1960s. Nevertheless, there it is. In a 2010 university syllabus I referred to these artworks as “social objects”, referencing the social, institutional, and bureaucratic components of some of the objects as being in conversation with “social sculpture”, “relational aesthetics”, and the larger category of “social practice”. But again, that term did and does not convey the specific endlessness of these projects as I wish them to be understood, as an endless art.

For the purposes of this discussion, we will use the term “ongoing objects” to refer to objects that continue to evolve: that are deliberately open-ended; that is, they have the “endless time” component. In that, there are both “ongoing objects (lifetime-limited)”, as in those works that will cease to evolve when the artist dies (e.g. Gerhard Richter’s “Atlas”); and “ongoing objects (lifetime-unlimited)”, works that will continue to evolve after the artist dies (e.g. Samuel Yates’ “Vern”). And we will use the term “external objects” to refer to objects that have a formal component outside themselves; that is, they have the “endless space” component. Within that, the internet complicates things but I think we can account for it simply with the term “external objects (images and text)”, ignoring Roland Barthes et al (“From Work to Text”, etc.) for the moment but saying it also includes books, magazines, posters, internet, and the like. That category is basically accounting for the normal types of things that exist outside the art object, and don’t really account for a new type of work, except in the rare exceptions where this paradigm itself is the subject matter of the work. Another exception, perhaps, is where the image or text is uniquely relevant to propel the story of the work, such as the documentary film about the painting "Vern" in which the film itself fulfills the goal of an actress to be on the big screen, similar to the way the painting itself fulfills the goal of an artist to be in a museum. I would say an important definition for me is “external objects (governmental)”, which are formal components that persist and cannot or should not be ignored (they could also be called “external objects (legal)”, but “legal” alone does not as effectively communicate the larger systems and people involved): part of the work is about foregrounding these systems, so to ignore them is to ignore a large part of the work. That said, it is the loopholes within the law that create the space where the work of art can be inserted. Another term is “external objects (performance)”, both “lifetime-limited” and “lifetime-unlimited”, illustrated by “Clarion Alley Vacation”. Another term is “external objects (systems)” embodied in the lexicon of color, system for the endless creation of artworks outside the "art world", and several other components outside the "art world", in “The Color of Palo Alto”. The project “Row B, Plot 33” contains examples of “external object (object)”, which is a physical piece of the sculpture outside the object itself in the gallery (with “gallery” as a stand-in for any “art world” framing device, including a collector’s wall). And, of course, “external object (networked)”, that is, an object connected to the world outside the gallery via the internet or some other network. So, to be clear, we might define them as:

Ongoing Objects (Temporal)
- Lifetime-Limited (ends when artist dies)
- Lifetime-Unlimited (does not end when artist dies)

External Objects (Spatial)
- Images and Text (the normal state of affairs in which objects are photographed and written about, and those photos and texts are then shared; not noteworthy in this discussion except in rare circumstances where this paradigm itself is the subject matter, or where the image or text is uniquely relevant to propel the story of the work)
- Governmental (or Legal, outside the “art world”)
- Performance (Lifetime-Limited/Lifetime-Unlimited, outside the “art world”)
- Systems (outside the “art world”)
- Objects (outside the “art world”)
- Networked (outside the “art world”)

Endless Objects (Temporal & Spatial)
- Ongoing Objects & External Objects combined (excluding Lifetime-Limited objects)


INTRODUCTION

I’ve been waiting for the past 18 years for someone to define a movement into which my work falls in order to provide some context for the audience. In part, it is a search for a conceptual framework to help the owners and stewards of the work understand that there are key elements to the work that exist outside the artwork itself and they must be understood as part of the work and thus maintained and, for lack of a better term, respected as part of the work, not as something to get around. I’ve not yet found such an overarching concept, so here I’ll try to outline some of the parameters of the work and see if we can’t create some accounting for it. I’ll use the term “endless object” as a framework for the discussion, which is a temporal and spatial double entendre. That is, I am referring to objects that are not limited to a fixed time or a fixed space: they exhibit both an endless time and an endless space. Below, I’ll identify a few works by other artists that adhere to one or the other, but not both, and I’ll try to explain the difference and describe how several of my works uniquely adhere to both. First, I will define the “Endless Object” as having BOTH of the following criteria:

1) Endless Time (Ongoing Object): The work does not end temporally; it continues to evolve over time. Its form and/or content are not fixed in time. This is symbolized by the creation date with a dash indicating there is a start date but no finish date since it continues to evolve, i.e. 1999-. This is different from the term “ongoing”, which may eventually have an end date; similarly, then, for these works, one might use the term “endless”, such as “1999-Endless”, but I personally like the dash alone because, like tombstones that have been laid in advance with only the birth date, the implication is that the referenced entity is still living.

2) Endless Space (External Object): The work does not end spatially; it continues beyond the confines of the object in the gallery. Its form and/or content are not fixed in space. It is not fixed to the same space (dimensions) of the object itself. This is represented by some element outside the gallery or art world in the real world. It is a toehold in the real world that can activate the work at any moment. In part, it is this activation that evolves the story of the work, and thus the work. The work is often subject to external forces beyond the art world.

An Example of an Endless Object

To begin, I will describe one of my artworks, Vern, 1999-, and the two key aspects of endless time (ongoing objects) and endless space (external objects) that define the work. We will then use these two examples as benchmarks of endless time and endless space against which to frame other works, including those by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, John Baldessari, Tom Marioni, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Maria Eichhorn, Artie Vierkant, Gordon Matta-Clark, Robert Smithson, Andrea Zittel, Trevor Paglan, and others.

[End of excerpt.]



ENDLESS OBJECTS BY SAMUEL YATES


Title Endless Time
(Ongoing Objects)
Endless Space
(External Objects)
Untitled 1996-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
United States Library of Congress, Copyright Office
  External Object (Governmental/Legal)
Museum Gift Shop Items
  External Object (Object)
Self-Portrait 1997-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
United States Department of State: Freedom of Information Act
  External Object (Governmental/Legal)
Bachelor No. 9 1997-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
United States Postal Service: City of Berkeley, Bulk Mail Permit
  External Object (Governmental/Legal)
Clarion Alley Vacation 1997-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited) &
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Limited)
City of San Francisco, Public Works: Public Street Vacation
  External Object (Governmental/Legal);
Street Art Performance: "Text-Based Conceptual Artist"
  External Object (Performance Lifetime-Limited)
Vern 1999-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
State of California: Certificate of Death
  External Object (Governmental/Legal);
State of California: Affidavit to Amend a Record
  External Object (Governmental/Legal);
State of California: Application and Permit for Disposition of Human Remains
  External Object (Governmental/Legal)
Documentary Film
  External Object (Images and Text)
Big Picture Frame 1999-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
InterNIC: Internet Domain Registration
  External Object (Governmental/Legal)
Untitled (Minuet in MG) 1999-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
State of California, DMV: Bill of Sale
  External Object (Governmental/Legal);
State of California, DMV: Application for Title or Registration
  External Object (Governmental/Legal);
Guinness World Record
  External Object (Systems)
Row B, Plot 33 1999-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
County of Siskiyou, California: Cemetery Deed
  External Object (Governmental/Legal);
Tombstone
  External Object (Object)
Buried Sculpture
  External Object (Object)
[Project A] 1999-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
[Undisclosed Until Shown]
  External Object (Governmental/Legal)
[Project B] 1999-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
[Undisclosed Until Shown]
  External Object (Governmental/Legal)
[Project C] 1999-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
[Undisclosed Until Shown]
  External Object (Governmental/Legal)
[Project D] 1999-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited)
[Undisclosed Until Shown]
  External Object (Governmental/Legal);
The Color of Palo Alto 2001-
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Unlimited) &
Ongoing Object (Lifetime-Limited)
City of Palo Alto, California: Proclamation
  External Object (Governmental/Legal);
City of Palo Alto, California: Civic Center Plaque
  External Object (Object);
Lexicon of Color
  External Object (Systems);
Paint, Paintings, Photographs, Patterns, Clothing, Etc.
  External Object (Systems) & External Object (Object);
Year of Data Sampling (Photography)
  External Object (Performance Lifetime-Limited);
Samuel Yates Street View
  External Object (Performance Lifetime-Unlimited)
  External Object (Networked)





Samuel Yates
Last update: 2017-07-20







Copyright 1996–2017 Samuel Yates. “The Color of Palo Alto” is a trademark of Samuel Yates.
The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
The artist shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein.