Making Excel beautiful: The Necktie Archive III

Having made an illustrated book of the tie catalogue of 500 neckties found at the Elsewhere Living Museum in North Carolina, it occurred to me that one might display the data in other ways. This print is the result, it shows the complete Excel spreadsheet of the data I recorded on the ties.  The print is over two meters long; huge and intractable like the data it contains. Its intractability made me think about Ordinance Survey maps and how they too are huge pieces of paper which have to be dealt with when one is out walking in high wind and rain. So thinking of it as a map I folded the print into a cover, which makes it three dimensional and sculptural. Though it is considered disrespectful to fold prints by those that know, the folding clearly makes it more informal and approachable.

The ties, once part of a vast and undifferentiated mulch of used consumer goods, have, through being extracted, ordered and documented become a discrete and bounded formal archive, though the information is not easily accessed; the archivists‘s subtle way of indicating their superior intellect. The print is an example of our innate human propensity to seek and create patterns, to order and to classify. Through systematic cataloguing we convince ourselves that the universe is understandable, controllable and even, in parts, ownable. Data recorded is data controlled.

There is a strong sense of the ridiculous in my work. It attempts to dominate through size, placement, or complexity; accumulations of data organised so meticulously its underlying logic is not questioned. My interest is in how we humans jostle and politic, making our way through society: the posturing, the pomposity, the hubris, the hypocrisy. Absurd attempts to keep a frightening world a bay through order, classification, archiving, collecting; it all gives an illusion of order, and of power. There is a certain challenge here, a certain aggression which attempts to prevent viewer seeing beyond the bluster to the frightened being sheltering behind the work.


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