Page after Page

Ceal Floyer, Facsimile, 2011

Ceal Floyer, Facsimile, 2010

What made me start thinking about Ceal Floyer’s work was the idea of emptiness and of the work making the whiteness of the space. And in that respect the work that came to mind was from an exhibition I saw at the Lisson Gallery rather longer ago that I first thought. It seems on the whole improbable that it’s three and a half years since I saw Facsimile – though the evidence is unambiguous – given that it remains very clear in my head. The projection – almost completely white – fills the wall. It takes a while to get the significance the slight trace of movement that constitutes the image: the video is of a fax machine; the paper being passed through it seemingly blank. If the fax is sending rather than receiving a message, there could of course be all manner of important information on the other side of the page but there is no visible trace so it reads as a transmission of emptiness. In the days when fax machines were commonplace – and I don’t know about you but it must be years since I’d sent a fax even in 2010 when Floyer made the work – it seems entirely possible that I regularly got confused about which way up to put the paper and send page after page of nothingness to confused (non) recipients but the deliberate whiteness of Floyer’s Facsimile is intriguing. I find myself enjoying the emptiness rather than wondering what message I might be missing.

Ceal Floyer - Page 11083 of 11083 - 2010

Page 11,083 of 11,083, 2010

Elsewhere in the gallery, there were more absences to be found. I’ve posted about the plain white page as art here before (both in terms of Martin Creed’s use of A4 copier paper and Jack Brindley’s handmade paper) so it’s interesting to also think about Floyer’s work Page 11,083 of 11,083 in which 11,083 (presumably, I was hardly in a position to count) sheets of numbered copier paper become, well, what  exactly? A column? An empty plinth? Either way, the neatly stacked paper becomes an object in the space: (almost) blank paper as sculpture.

Ceal Floyer - Page 11083 of 11083 - detail - 2010

In a way I find this work alarming. One clumsy mis-step and its form would be altered to 11,083 (presumably) pieces of paper littering a gallery floor. That would be very bad. But it’s also intriguing. Often in a gallery space a stack of paper is an invitation to take a sheet away. It’s very clear that this is not the case here, but I also wonder whether anyone is tempted. And, of course, there’s that text: printed neatly in the corner (in the footer area, in a format that suggests that, as well as sculpture, this might be a 11,083 page Word document saying very little): Page 11,083 of 11,083. This is it, the complete set. But of course, there’s no way to be sure. Is the pile really just over eleven thousand sheets high? Is each sheet numbered? Are they stacked in order? While I can assume that they are, I have no way of telling and both the ambiguity and my assumption of Floyer’s ordered completeness please me. This could so easily come across as rather dry, conceptual work but, as with Monochrome Till Receipt, there is a lightness of touch that makes Facsimile and Page 11,083 of 11,083 easy to enjoy.

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