Maud Cotter
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We exist in a network of relations, one that allows formation in pattern in order to engage with its force. In this field of play, in which things carom, my practice lies. Sculpture as an action is critical to our understanding of this mercurial game of randomness and order. I understand the human condition as being, not just tentative by virtue of our vulnerability, but one that is necessarily so, in order to retain our closeness of connection with a changing world.

Moments in which one thing resonates with another are special. This gather, or coupling, of elements is at its most profound when a feeling of the found is retained in the final mix ; when aesthetic boundaries are not forced. Corporate culture limits our relationship with matter into measurable units, offering us only an impoverished understanding, a limited relationship, deactivated matter, captured and dead. Within the intangible lies the aesthetic glue that allows units of matter to reach a transcendent whole. Recognition and activation of the void provides a deep level of integration of idea and matter. Making in this arena of presence and absence, within the full context of the work, offers continuity, live engagement - a propagation of form and idea. Achieving this level of live engagement within the work is my primary goal. I seeks to assert such spatial sequences, movements in time, as the viewer moves around the work in a commitment of seeing, allowing the piece to reach completion in their perception of it. The strength of the work lies in its ability to hold intangible moments, to capture a part of the void, like a ghost within the work.

My current body of work feeds on the skeletal tenacity and fitness for function of an eclectic mix of objects, interior and exterior. Litter-bins, sieves, filters; holders of the transient flow of the discarded and used take the floor. They are space frames, carriers within which things exist. Released from corporate constraints and values, they are transformed, renewed, re-expressed in space, claiming an intangible territory of aesthetic measure. What is of use is retained, reinterpreted, that which passes through continues on a cycle of it's own revision.

Maud Cotter’s recent exhibitions include : Matter of Fact, solo show at domobaal Gallery, London, 2016. 2116: Forecast of the next century, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork, 2016 touring to Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, MI, USA. Compression, Ormston House Gallery, Limerick, curated by Ed Krčma, 2015. Fourth Space, Inaugural Exhibition, Uilinn, West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, 2015.  From Point A to PointB and Back again…, Point B, Williamsburg, New York, 2015. The Air they Capture is Different, The MAC, Belfast. 2013 and a solution is in the room, a solo exhibition at CIT Wandesford Quay, Cork, 2013.

She was also Initiator/Curator for The Land of Zero, Crawford Art Gallery, Cork.  2014

She lives and works in Cork, Ireland. She is a graduate and Adjunct Faculty Member of the Crawford Municipal College of Art and Design, Cork, Ireland. Cotter has lectured in Art and Architectural Colleges in Europe and America. She is co-founder of the National Sculpture Factory and a member of Aosdana. She is currently working on a one-person exhibition for Limerick City Gallery, in 2018.

Download this CV as a PDF

Lives and works in Cork, Ireland
Maud Cotter was elected a member of Aosdana in 2000.


*2020 a consequence of – entanglement , Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Ireland
*2019 a consequence of – a breather of air, The Dock, Carrick on Shannon, Ireland
2018 a consequence of – without stilling, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Ireland
2016 The Fact of the Matter, domobaal, London, UK


A Solution is in the Room, CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery, Cork, Ireland. (Artist's Newspaper)


All Stuff Is Farce, book launch and solo show, Rubicon Gallery, Dublin, Ireland.


All Stuff Is Farce, book launch, Irish Consulate, New York


Rumpus Room, The Third Space, Belfast.       


Objects that are no longer themselves, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris


More than one way out, Rubicon Gallery, Dublin


Rumpus Room, Point B, Williamsburg, New York, U.S.A.


Open Studio, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris


Not the Full Story, Rubicon Gallery, Dublin


Studio/House Open, Shandon, Cork


More than anything, Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Wales (catalogue)


More than anything, Model Arts and Niland Gallery, Sligo (catalogue)


also, Rubicon Gallery, Dublin;


West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Co. Cork (catalogue)

  Things of no Fixed Meaning, The Process Room, I.M.M.A., Dublin.


Shadow, Street installation, Temple Bar, Dublin


In Absence, Rubicon Gallery, Dublin


Outer Veil, Inner Shroud, Economist Plaza, St James's, London, England


Mute Displacement, Galerie Schlossgoart, Luxembourg (catalogue)


The Heart Asks Pleasure, Rubicon Gallery, Dublin


My Tender Shell, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork;


Maison Internationale de Rennes, France;


West Wharf Gallery, Cardiff, Wales (catalogue)


Solo Show, Riverrun Gallery, Dublin


Stained Glass, Painting and Drawing, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork (catalogue)



YOU ARE HERE, La Tannerie, France


Josef and Anni Albers: Voyage Inside a Blind Experience / Please Touch, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork, Ireland


Nasty Women, Knockdown Center, New York, USA


Some thing as a line, Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, Ireland


2116: Forecast of the next century,, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork, Ireland and Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan, USA


Compression, Ormston House, Limerick, Ireland, Curated by Ed Krčma


18 x 8: From Point A to PointB and Back again… PointB Workspace, New York, USA


Forth Space, New West Cork Arts Centre inaugural exhibition, West Cork Arts Centre, Cork, Ireland


The Land of Zero, Initiator/Curator for The Land of Zero with Pluck Project,  Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. 21 November – 17 December.


a soul’s escape, Irish Georgian Society, Dublin 2, Ireland.


Re-framing the Domestic In Irish Art, Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, Ireland.


The Air They Capture Is Different, Joint exhibition with Karl Burke, MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Artist's Newspaper)


Neither Here Nor There, a video made in response to Seamus Heaney's poem Postscript, Poetry Project, Ireland.


 THE FUTURE PERFECT (Brave New World), Rubicon Projects Brussels, Belgium.


Prelude Speaker : Castletown House,  Co. Kildare, Ireland.


Into the Light, The Arts Council 60 Years of Supporting the Arts, Dublin, Sligo, Cork. 

  The God of Small Things, Rubicon Gallery, Dublin.


this little bag of dreams, Catherine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, USA.


Point to Point, Kinsale Arts, Cork. Ireland


Gravity, Crawford Gallery, Cork. Ireland.


ENTER SLOWLY, The Lab, San Francisco, U.S.A.


Emblem of My Work, The Laurence Stern Trust, York, England.


Between Metaphor and Object, I.M.M.A., Dublin


Then and now, Lewis Glucksman, U.C.C., Cork


The Weight of Light, VISUAL, Inaugural Exhibition, Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow.


Discussions in Contemporary Sculpture, The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon


Pulse Miami Art Fair, USA (with Rubicon Gallery Dublin)


Pulse NY Art Fair, USA (with Rubicon Gallery Dublin)


Self as Selves, I.M.M.A., Dublin


Kilkenny Arts Festival (curated by Hugh Mulholland), Butler House, Kilkenny


Coffee Project, Temple Bar Studios, Dublin


Pulse NY Art Fair, USA (with Rubicon Gallery Dublin)


Fiac Art Fair, France with Rubicon Gallery Dublin


Irish American Awards (nominee), New York USA


Vinyl, Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture, Cork


C2, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork (catalogue)


Passing Through, Selected Students of the Crawford College of Art and Design 1975 – 2005, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork


Forty Shades of Green, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork, Ireland (catalogue)


New Sculpture from Ireland, New Art Centre Sculpture Park and Gallery, Wiltshire, England.


ArtBrussels Art Fair, Belgium, Fiac Art Fair, France and Art Cologne Art Fair, Germany (with Rubicon Gallery Dublin)


Solid Space, Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast


In the time of shaking, Art for Amnesty, Irish Museum of Modern Art(catalogue)


The Raw not Cooked, Fenton Gallery, Cork, Ireland


Tír na nÓg, IMMA, Dublin, Ireland


ArtBrussels Art Fair, Belgium, Fiac Art Fair, France and Art Cologne Art Fair, Germany (with Rubicon Gallery Dublin)


Something Else, Contemporary Art from Ireland, Turku Art Museum/Amos Anderson Art Museum Helsinki/Oulu City Art Museum, Joensuu Art Museum, Finland (catalogue)


No Object No Subject, No Matter, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin


Irish Art from the Collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Stedelijk, Museum, Aalst, Belgium


ArtBrussels Art Fair, Belgium and Art2002 London, England (with Rubicon Gallery, Dublin)


ArtBrussels Art Fair, Belgium and Art2001 London, England (with Rubicon Gallery)


Locus International, series of site-specific responses to Swansea, Wales


IMMA / Glen Dimplex Artist Award, IMMA, Dublin (catalogue)


ArtBrussels Art Fair, Belgium and Art2000 London, England (with Rubicon Gallery Dublin)


0044, Irish Artists in Britain, PS I Contemporary Art Center, New York, USA;


Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, USA;


Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast, Crawford Gallery, Cork, (catalogue)


Half Dust, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin


Objects in Time, West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Co. Cork


A Measured Quietude – Contemporary Irish Drawing, Drawing Centre, New York; David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University, Providence, USA


Some Bodies, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin


Theme, Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast


Art1999 Art Fair London, England (with Rubicon Gallery Dublin)


Human Nature – Seven Artists from Ireland, touring Newfoundland, Canada (catalogue)


Compulsive Objects, Rubicon Gallery, Dublin (curator)


10, Galerie Schlossgoart, Luxembourg


Irish Steel, Model Arts Centre, Sligo; Limerick City Gallery; Crawford Gallery, Cork (catalogue)


10, Galerie Schlossgoart, Luxembourg




Garden, The Department of Defence, Newbridge, Co. Kildare.


House, Courthouse, Cork, Ireland


As I was saying, Sligo County Council, Tubercurry, Co. Sligo, Ireland


Of Air and Everything, Looking Glass, Speculum, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, N. Ireland


Four Clouds Approaching, Law Society, Blackhall Place, Dublin, Ireland


Shadow, Temporary Installation, Outdoor Images, Curve Street, Dublin, Ireland


Absolute Jellies Make Singing Sounds, The Green Building, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland


Fast Fish Loose Fish, Castlebar Library, Co Mayo, Ireland


Michael Scott Memorial Window, St Pancras Church, Kingston Lewes, East, Sussex, U.K.


That Sound Meets Sense Straight as Lemons Meet Fish, Dublin Castle, Ireland


Route Impeller, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, Ireland



2016 Ed Krčma, To Diagram without Stilling : On Maud Cotter’s Sculpture, (domobaal), 2016.
2015 Maud Cotter, “hairless dogs have imperfect teeth”, Irish Arts Review, Winter 2015           
2014 Peter Murray, Three Centuries of Irish Art, Crawford Art Gallery Collection (Gandon, 2014) In a Short Time, 2002, page 262 – 263 & More Than Anything, 2004, page 28

Paula Murphy, Art and Architecture of Ireland, The Royal Irish Academy, Sculpture volume III (Yale University Press, 2014) page 78 – 79, One Way of Containing Air, 1998, page 78

  Catherine Marshall & Peter Murray, Art and Architecture of Ireland, The Royal Irish Academy, Twentieth Century volume V (Yale University Press, 2014) More Than Anything, 2009, page 507


Sarah Kelleher, “Karl Burke and Maud Cotter: The Air They Capture Is Different, The MAC, Belfast”, Enclave Review (Cork, 2014)


Fergal Gaynor, “Maud Cotter: a solution is in the room, CIT Wandesford Quay Galley, Cork”, Enclave Review (Cork, 2014)


Matt Packer, “A Solution is in the Room”, Artist’s Newspaper “A Solution is in the Room”, (Rubicon Gallery, 2013).


Aengus Woods, “40 Digressions on Measure”, Artist’s Newspaper “Measure”, (Rubicon Gallery, 2013)

2011 Lara Marlowe, “Materials Girl”, Painted With Words (Liberties Press, Dublin)
  Brian McAvera, Maud Cotter, mind over matter, Irish Arts Review, Summer 2011


Joseph R. Wolin, “All stuff is farce” & Matt Packer, “to begin with a title?” All stuff is farce catalogue, Rubicon Gallery, (Dublin, 2010)


Dictionary of Living Irish Artists, Plurabelle Publishing, Robert O’Byrne


Tim Maul interview with Maud Cotter, Circa


Disturbingly domestic, by Aidan Dunne, Irish Times Review, 9th September


Review by Kate Butler, Sunday Times, 27th September


A storm in a cluster of coffee cups, by Lara Marlow, Irish Times, 19th April


Aidan Dunne, Irish Times review Arts, 31st January


Creative Space, by Gemma Tipton, Irish Times Feature 4th November


Angelika Richter, “Relational Sculpture”, More than Anything catalogue, Rubicon Gallery, (Dublin,2005)


Katy Deepwell, Dialogues: Women Artists from Ireland. (I.B.TAURIS) Peter Murray, (introduction)


C2, Contemporary Art from Cork, (Gandon Editions).


Objects, Structures and Systems, Visual Arts Newspaper, May / June issue


Brian Kennedy, Simon Cutts, Erica Van Horn (ed), Forty Shades of Green. (Coracle Press).


Regina Gleeson, ‘Maud Cotter at Model: Niland, Circa, Winter 2004. 88-89


Peter Murray, “Modular Infinity”, Irish Arts Review, Autumn 2004


Cristin Leach, ‘Lost in Space’, The Sunday Times, Oct 17. 8-9


Felicia Hughes-Freeland, Locws International, Swansea, Wales.


Sarah Glennie, also, West Corks Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Co. Cork


Maja Koskinen, Something Else - Irish Contemporary Art, Turku Art Museum, Turku, Finland


Medb Ruane, “The Outer Limits”, The Sunday Times, 21 April 2002, 10-11


Brenda Mc Parland, Hugh Campbell. Glen Dimplex Artists’ Award, (Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin)


Peter Murray (ed), 0044 Irish Artists in Britain, i-v by Nuala Fenton (Crawford Gallery, Cork)


James Kerr, 'Project, The Burlington Cartoon’, Circa, no.88, 17-28


Profile 8 Maud Cotter, essay and interview by Luke Clancy (Gandon Editions) John O’Regan, (ed), (Gandon Editions, Cork, 1998)


Brian McAvera, “Maud Cotter”, Sculpture, (Nov,1998) 78-79


Hilary Pyle, “in absence”, Circa,(84, Summer 1998), 45-46


Mark Ewart, Irish Steel (Gandon Editions, Cork, 1995


Janice West, Mute Displacement, (Galerie Schlossgoart, Luxembourg, 1995)


Rudi Stem, Neon-Glas-Licht, Galerie Monica Borgward, Bremen, 1993


Marina Warner, Women’s Art at Newhall (Newhall, Cambridge)


Maud Cotter   My Tender Shell, essay by Nicola Gordon Bowe, introduction by J. Montague (Gandon Editions)


Hilary Pyle, ‘Cork Glass Now', Irish Arts Review Yearbook (Dublin) 44-52


Nicola Gordon-Bowe, Cork Glass Art (Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, 1986)


Mark Ewart, Irish Steel (Gandon Editions, Cork)


John Hutchinson, The Irish Times, 3 Aug.




Critical Review, fourth year, Cork Centre of Architectural Education, Cork.
Critical review, Masters of Architecture Course, Queens University, Belfast.


The Land of Zero, Initiator/Curator for The Land of Zero, 21 November – 6 December.
The Land of Zero opens a space as a sculptural action for discussion within showing.This investigative form is achieved throughout the duration of the project with four distinct layers in process.
The Land of Zero. Presented in association with Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork City Council, Crawford Art Gallery, Pluck Projects, The National Sculpture Factory Cork. 


On Line Studio Visit, hosted by Joseph R. Wolin, MFA Low Residency Students, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. USA.


Symposium, ‘Doubt & Visual Representation’, Keynote Speaker, University College Cork, Cork.


Lecture, ‘Spatial Intangibility – a Companion to Form’ and critical review, Masters of Architecture Course, Queens University, Belfast.


Consultation for the C.C.W. and Wellcome Trust, collaborative project, ‘The Changing Perception of Images’, Camberwell College of Art, London.


Lecture, ’Intangibility in Form’, Masters of Architecture Course, Cork Centre of Architectural Education, Cork.


Appointed Jury Member of Architects Association of Ireland Award.


‘A Solution is in the Room’, AAI Lecture Series with Dominic Stephens.


Lecture, ‘Overview of Practice’, with critical review, Masters of Architecture Course, Queens University, Belfast.


Final critical review fourth year, Cork Centre of Architectural Education, Cork.


Lecture, ‘A Practice’, with tutorials first and second year, Limerick School of Art and Design, limerick.


Visiting Artist, Kent State University School of Art, Blossom Program, Ohio, USA.


Every Way Out, a domino effect to the future. Maud Cotter, Visual Artist Ireland & Veronika Valk, Architect Estonia; present a synopsis of ideas shared at a seminar & week long workshops in Cork City September 2011. (in association with Rubicon Gallery Dublin, Cork City Council, The National Sculpture Factory Cork, Crawford College of Art & Design, Cork Centre for Architectural Education, Cork Institute of Technology)


Every Way Out, a domino effect to the future. Presented by Dublin Contemporary (in association with Rubicon Gallery Dublin, Cork City Council, The National Sculpture Factory Cork, Crawford College of Art & Design, Cork Centre for Architectural Education, Cork Institute of Technology)


Studio visit and artist’s talk to students of Rhode Island School of Design, R.I., U.S.A.


Studio visit and artist’s talk to students of Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, U.S.A.


Lecture, ‘Into’, Educational Department, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin


Studio visit and artist talk to students of Rhode Island School of Design, R.I., U.S.A.


Assessor, West Cork Arts Centre Architectural Design Competition.


‘The Space In-Between’, Project Assessor, for Crawford College of Art and Design, the Cork Centre For Architectural Education, University College, Cork and the National Sculpture Factory.


‘The Cork Experience’, Tutorials given to School of Architecture and Interior Design, University of North London, London. U.K.


Lecture, “Inside”, School of Architecture, University College, Dublin


Member, Arts Council of Ireland


Lecturer and Course Director on Glass Painting, Ausglass Conference, Canberra College of Art, Australia.


External Examiner, Glass Department, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh, Scotland


Lecturer, Public Art Module, Chelsea College of Art, London


Lecturer and Course Director, Stained Glass, Crawford Municipal Art College, Cork


Founder Director of National Sculpture Factory, Cork


Speaker at the Peter Rice Colloquium, Queens University, Belfast.


On Line Studio Visit, hosted by Joseph R. Wolin, MFA Low Residency Students, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. USA.


Lecture, ‘Spatial Intangibility – a Companion to Form’ and critical review, Masters of Architecture Course, Queens University, Belfast.


 Consultation for the C.C.W. and Wellcome Trust, collaborative project, ‘The ChangingPerception of Images’, Camberwell College of Art, London.


Lecture, ’Intangibility in Form’, Masters of Architecture Course, Cork Centre of Architectural Education, Cork.


Appointed Jury Member of Architects Association of Ireland Award.


‘A Solution is in the Room’, AAI Lecture Series with Dominic Stephens.


Lecture, ‘Overview of Practice’, with critical review, Masters of Architecture Course, Queens University, Belfast.


Final critical review fourth year, Cork Centre of Architectural Education, Cork.


Lecture, ‘A Practice’, with tutorials first and second year, Limerick School of Art and Design, limerick.


Visiting Artist, Kent State University School of Art, Blossom Program, Ohio, USA.


Every Way Out, a domino effect to the future. Maud Cotter, Visual Artist Ireland & Veronika Valk, Architect Estonia; present a synopsis of ideas shared at a seminar & week long workshops in Cork City September 2011. (in association with Rubicon Gallery Dublin, Cork City Council, The National Sculpture Factory Cork, Crawford College of Art & Design, Cork Centre for Architectural Education, Cork Institute of Technology)


Every Way Out, a domino effect to the future. Presented by Dublin Contemporary (in association with Rubicon Gallery Dublin, Cork City Council, The National Sculpture Factory Cork, Crawford College of Art & Design, Cork Centre for Architectural Education, Cork Institute of Technology)


Studio visit and artist’s talk to students of Rhode Island School of Design, R.I., U.S.A.


Studio visit and artist’s talk to students of Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, U.S.A.


Lecture, ‘Into’, Educational Department, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin


Studio visit and artist talk to students of Rhode Island School of Design, R.I., U.S.A.


Assessor, West Cork Arts Centre Architectural Design Competition.


‘The Space In-Between’, Project Assessor, for Crawford College of Art and Design, the Cork Centre For Architectural Education, University College, Cork and the National Sculpture Factory.


‘The Cork Experience’, Tutorials given to School of Architecture and Interior Design, University of North London, London. U.K.


Lecture, “Inside”, School of Architecture, University College, Dublin


Member, Arts Council of Ireland


Lecturer and Course Director on Glass Painting, Ausglass Conference, Canberra College of Art, Australia.


External Examiner, Glass Department, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh, Scotland


Lecturer, Public Art Module, Chelsea College of Art, London


Lecturer and Course Director, Stained Glass, Crawford Municipal Art College, Cork


Founder Director of National Sculpture Factory, Cork

booklet | ‘Notes for a consequence of – without stilling’, edition of 100
modigliani paper, sirio paper, linen thread, wax, 25 x 17.6 cms, 2018
‘Notes for a consequence of – without stilling’, by Sarah Kelleher
Booklet made in collaboration with Claire Power
a consequence of – without stilling , one person exhibition, 30. 09. 18 – 06. 01. 19, Limerick City Gallery of Art

To Diagram Without Stilling: On Maud Cotter’s Sculpture, by Ed Krčma, 2016
145 gsm Modigliani perla paper, 18/3 black linen thread / kozuka gothica pro, 25 x 17.6 cms, 2016
Matter of Fact, Solo Exhibition, Domobaal, 7 April – 14 May, London, 2016

All stuff is farce
(Rubicon Gallery, Dublin, 2010, with essays by Joseph R. Wolin, 'All stuff is farce' and Matt Packer, 'to begin with a title?')

More than Anything
(Rubicon Gallery, Dublin, 2005, with essay by Angelika Richter, 'Relational Sculpture')

(West Corks Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Co. Cork. 2002, with essay by Sarah Glennie)

Profile 8
(Gandon Editions, Cork, 1998, with essay and interview by Luke Clancy)

My Tender Shell
(Gandon Editions, 1991, with essay by Nicola Gordon Bowe & introduction by J. Montague)


Anneliis Beadnell

Download a PDF of this text

Wednesday February 2, 2011

This past November I was lucky enough to have met Maud Cotter at her book launch of her latest publication All Stuff is Farce, at the Irish Consulate here in New York City. My immediate attraction to Cotter's work was her capability to take everyday objects and extend their life into a whimsical realm where realities are questioned and curiosities of form prevail.

I was scheduled to do a tour of Brooklyn with the wonderful artist, and professor, Rocky Horton of Limpscomb University and knew we had to get his students in to see Cotter's studio at Point B. Cotter greeted us and then proceeded to enlighten; reflecting back on her previous explorations, building on those that she embarks upon in her current practice. By the end of the visit my pot was boiling with questions and yet again, Cotter was lovely enough to comply.

AFA Brief: All Stuff is Farce with Maud Cotter

AB: Congratulations on your latest of books, All Stuff is Farce. As I was enjoying the essay in your book by Joseph R. Wolin, he linked your work with the writings of Czech philosopher Vilém Flusser. How has his influence shaped your latest body of work displayed in your recently published book?

MC: Thanks Anneliis re 'All Stuff is Farce'. As to the question…big question….Here it goes….I see my practice as an investigation into the nature of energy in all its forms, human and natural and it's activation into the future. How it/we remodel the world.

Vilem Flusser has articulated an understanding of material that helps me to position my work within that very broad context. For example in his essay he speaks of the world of phenomena as we perceive it as being an amorphous stew. As a student I painted a watercolour titled 'Primordial pastrami' which was approaching a similar idea of 'stew', so this cauldron, this stew which contains everything, existed for me at the very start of my being an artist.

It was my first port of call, as it were. He calls this the 'material world' and calls it illusion naming the "eternal unchanging forms' that lie behind it as the reality. I am not sure about the unchanging and eternal part of his thesis, for me everything is in a state of relativity and change. At any rate he talks of matter/form, how one occupies the other, and translates matter as 'stuff', which I think is very witty, being a noun and a verb. He simply talks of the material world as that 'which is stuffed into forms; giving them a filling'

This is, to my mind, a critical consideration in putting ideas together. It also clearly offers the possibility of changing the forms, remaking the world, even if the stuffing remains the same. Changing the stuffing and leaving the exterior packing is another play on this.

I modeled the title of the book from his essay…… he says " everything material in the world, everything made up of stuff, is a farce"……I say as a title for my book 'All Stuff Is Farce'.

As a matter of interest I gave a copy of his essay 'Form and Material' to the writers who contributed to the book, Matt Packer and Joseph R. Wolin, just that, images of the work and nothing else, no notes of mine

"Soul Mates" 2006 by Maud Cotter, China And LaFarge Model Dur Edition Of 2 (Variations) 14.5 X 14.5 X 126

AB: Often your work has been tied with domestication, due to the categories of ready-mades that you appropriate from. For example in the works of Soul Mates and Not the Full Story, you have chosen to work with rose covered teacups that seem to have spilt their contents into a space like dimension. Do the teacups reflect more to your feminine sensibility or is it the form and function that lend to your decision of using them in your work?

MC: My entry into smaller domestic objects as a field of play came at the end of a number of years investigating larger forms made up of repeated elements. These clustered into swarms of elements making larger forms, in the case of 'More than Anything' (2004) they became investigative mechanism, a tool. A form that behaved like a disease in the way it occupied a building, ingesting space, adaptive etc …..long story. Having made something potentially endless that dispersed and morphed into every given situation I became located on the intimacies of building, the hinges, the detail, rather then a system that extended built form. That is the way it goes with me sometimes, having made something big, I make something small. Maybe I was looking for a root, what I found was the place where the body meets smaller intimate objects, ones that we live with like a cup, for example. The space in one's mouth mirrors that which we offer to it, in the form of a cup. I began to see the simplest of objects as generators of the larger built world. The domestic condition is the human condition, to me it speaks of our intimacy with materials.

"Not The Full Story" 2006 by Maud Cotter Perspex, China, Fimo, Lafarge Model Dur & Wooden Shelves 137 X 192 X 35 Cm

In the case of 'Not the full story' I withdrew the function of the cup and implanted another energy. The yellow Perspex lazer-cut elements in the piece are the cut out pattern of a wooden kit which makes a dinosaur. I bought it in the Museum of Natural History in London. I assembled it not to make a dinosaur and made it behave like a spider plant. I like the mix. Is that a female way to behave? I am not sure…it has a echo of conversations through generations, both my brothers and myself would have had tea from such cups in my grandmother's house.

"Crying Over Spilt Milk" 2006 by Maud Cotter, Mirror, Mahogany, Lafarge Model Dur

AB: In your book Wolin discusses your work Crying Over Spilt Milk, he wrote that the work was operating via "emotional residues" when "the material substance occupies the form of a table." Could you please explain further on the "emotional residues" and how it affects your process?

MC: mmmmmmm…emotional residue, when Joe is referring to this he is referring to something I wrote when I made 'The Cats Pyjamas',(2004) a hybrid of furniture and an emotional residue that I saw in used objects. I will just inset that, as it might help focus my answer,

'Object which posses a form of latent volition, want to be found. They carry emotional residues which have clustered around them by virtue of their history. These gather, like the accumulation of dust under a bed, into unexpected forms. Nudging their way forward into reconsideration, they act out a different story with humor and venom. Now is their time to be found. Here they come.'

"More Than One Way Out" 2009, by Maud Cotter Mahogany, Brass, Paint. 335 X 210 X 330 Cm.

When choosing a found object, I tend to choose one's that have acquired some emotional weight as it were. Used and reused objects allow something I call 'emotional residue' to gather around them. I use this as part of the energy in the piece. When it comes to larger objects like Chartres Cathedral for example such residues and aspirations gather like a cloud in the interior, suspended between one's head and the roof of the building.

"Rumpus Room" by Maud Cotter installation shot in Point B, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

AB: Last year you created a great work here in New York, Rumpus Room that critics attribute to the synthesis of your explorations in your sculpture. Tell me about your artistic love affair with Point B residency here in Brooklyn and how it has helped you in your artistic practice?

MC: Yes I made an important piece in terms of my practice at Point B last year, called 'Rumpus Room. I used the space frame or drawing of a room to explore some ideas of objects transcending their domestic context. The turbulent tone in rumpus appealed to me, gave me an opportunity to tumble and lift objects away from their normal existence. It was great to first of all work on the piece there and then to install it in their Project Space.

I have been coming to Point B for the last four years, that continuity has fed a stream of change in my work. Point B provides a great base, a perfect mix of a living and working with as much isolation or contact as you like, a simple but great idea. One feels in a close relationship living and sharing the space with other artists, while being alone at the same time. The culture of Point B is a special one, It allows one space and time to explore new ideas, with the backdrop of New York to examine them against. It's a real hide away from the world and yet it is close to an intense centre of practice. It works for me.

Currently, Maud Cotter's work can be viewed in an exhibition called Enter Slowly, curated by David Cunningham at The Lab in San Francisco until the 19th of February. Blog, San Francisco Art Beat does a lovely write up of the exhibition writing:

Maud Cotter's work is a highlight of the show: a sculptural work of interlocking wooden square pieces placed somewhat sporadically throughout the gallery in stalwart pillars, undulating over walls, and traversing down stairwells. Maud Cotter's work examines the inherent meaning and physical properties of sculpture and architecture and the space it inhabits, while concurrently working toward a space between a figurative existence and an abstract prominence. Known in Ireland for her 30-year career in sculpture and pioneering the modern genre of the medium, Cotter founded the Sculpture Factory in Cork, and has installed similar sculptures like the one at The Lab in the Court House of Cork, Ireland, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Brussels, and galleries in New York, France, Wales, Ireland, and England. An opportunity to view her work here in San Francisco should certainly not be missed.

"More Than Anything" Installation view of Cotter's work for exhibition 'Enter Slowly' at The Lab in San Francisco.


Joseph Wolin

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In her recent sculptures, Maud Cotter essays a mode we might call the domestic surreal.  She employs ordinary furniture and crockery, yet makes them appear wondrous—and slightly disconcerting; her strangely transformed homely objects seem to express latencies and desires we didn’t know we—or the objects—had.  We can discern hints of this predilection in her current work at least as far back as 2000; in the installation Things of No Fixed Meaning, she filled to overflowing a regular white bookcase with all manner of stuff, from photographic images to pieces of clear plastic sheeting, from bits of string to bolts of cloth.  Fabricated elements, including some in her then signature medium of corrugated cardboard sliced thin and dipped in plaster to form ghostly and rigid white honeycombs, sat atop the bookshelves and amid the assembly of things that surrounded them on walls and floor.  Only the bookshelves themselves constituted quotidian readymades, yet their central presence as a container for a myriad of articles, along with the materiality and palette—mostly white, brown, and gray—of the other items in the ensemble, ensured a sense of the familiar and the everyday.

Even this brief description of a precursor to her recent practice reveals certain ideas—verbally expressed in reaction to material instantiations—that resonate throughout Cotter’s work.  The phrase, “all manner of stuff,” characterizing the mélange of objects and materials that fill the shelves in Things of No Fixed Meaning, brings to mind Vilém Flusser’s account of “stuff,” the things that make up the world.  “The word stuff is both and noun and a verb (‘to stuff’),” he wrote in The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design, a text important to the artist in conceptualizing her own practice.  “The material world is that which is stuffed into forms; it gives them a filling.”   By “forms,” Flusser means “neither discoveries nor inventions, neither Platonic Ideas nor fictions, but containers cobbled together for phenomena (‘models’).”   In Things of No Fixed Meaning, we might see Cotter’s bookcase-cum-container, holding both found objects and abstract ones of her own manufacture, as exceeding its own physicality, and becoming literally and figuratively a “form.”

Crying Over Spilt Milk, 2006, represents an early example of Cotter fully teasing implications of “form” out of a piece of household furnishing by means of subtle alterations.  An ordinary mahogany tea table has grown tall on its six spindly legs.  Its piecrust top, now chest-high, supports a similarly scalloped mirror, which casts a mysteriously buoyant reflection on the ceiling.  As well as in height, the table has grown in uncanniness; the familiar has become strange.  The table seems, like the furniture in so many movies we watched as children, about to come to life and scuttle away, insect-like.  In fact, Cotter’s table bears more than a passing resemblance to Louise Bourgeois’s series of great metal spiders, and, like them, inspires a sense of whimsical dread.  Cotter transmutes the tea table with simple means—a mirror and stilt-like extensions below its pad feet—but, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, succeeds in giving the dumb object almost animate life.  And this alchemical mutation through the restrained manipulation of the table’s physical characteristics—non-radically altering its form but endowing it with its own individuated persona, articulating what the artist has called “emotional residues” —calls our attention to the way its material substance occupies the “form” of a table; in other words, we can imagine Flusser noting, Cotter’s table seems to embody the way “stuff” fills “forms.”

More Than One Way Out, 2009, comprises a trio of wooden tables that similarly appears caught in the process of evolving into living beings.  They have also grown leggy, but no two of their elaborately turned legs match; two of the tables have sprouted legs in excess of the expected standard four, and all the tabletops, raised to eye level, have morphed as well, curving in convoluted amoeboid arcs (à la Jean Arp) and even seeming ready to divide like cells undergoing mitosis.  On the one hand, Cotter’s interventions in woodworking here address our own stature, making us child-size once again, lost in a forest of table legs, eager to stand on tiptoes to see what’s up top.  (And when we do, we find an abstract geometric topography painted gray.)  On the other hand, her efforts free the furnishings from our purview nearly altogether, and they take on a creaturely life of their own, recalling a family of mutant giraffes striding placidly across the savannah.

The slightly comic tone of Cotter’s vivifications of domestic articles, as well as of Flusser’s hypotheses about things and forms, finds a correspondence in the philosopher’s playful observation that “The French word for filling is farce; this makes it possible to claim that, from a theoretical perspective, everything material in the world, everything made up of stuff, is a farce.”   All stuff is farce.

Two other works from 2006, Soul Mates and So and So, take flowered teacups and saucers as their point of departure, conjuring not only the domestic sphere, but the specific arena of the feminine.  From the pair in the former, two stalagmites rise up to tower over their containing vessels, their rough, unruly contours that evoke natural processes of growth and accretion contrasting with the genteelness of the porcelain and its reduction of nature to a conventionalized image in the patterned flowers.  The cup and its irregular saucer in So and So hang sideways from the wall, a shapeless white mass spilling out of the cup towards the floor below.  In both dreamlike works, the ceramics seem to disgorge incongruous and incommensurate blobs of material, like ectoplasm at a séance.  The modeling compound from which Cotter created the quasi-geologic mounds and spills approximates the appearance of the vitreous china of the cups and saucers, suggesting that what they vomit out comprises not their mere contents but their very essences.  In this, we might again recall Flusser’s notion of forms and stuff, and consider Cotter’s sculptures as illustrations or literalizations of “how the amorphous phenomena flow into forms, occupy them in order to flow out into the amorphous once more.”

A Gesture of Belief in the Built World, 2009, features a ceramic sauceboat resting on a small bracket on the wall.  A larger and more elaborate white stalagmite grows from it, the gravy—or the serving piece’s own matter—it seems, having taken on an aggressively baroque character to evoke a turreted sandcastle.  A twiggy matrix of epoxy-resin elements held together by magnets cages it in and hangs down past the sauceboat, creeping along the gallery wall, like a kind of schematic kudzu.  The architectural allusions of the work’s title ostensibly refer to the sculptor’s structures growing out of the found gravy boat, but on reflection we might note that the sauceboat represents by far the more rational and designed element of the ensemble.  Here, Cotter joins the domestic object and the informe mass it appears to have engendered to a third term, the linear net that seems somehow to measure and assess what it touches and delimits.  That this network holds together by the unseen power of magnetism adds another kind of energy—invisible, but present nonetheless—and another kind of particularity, even “emotional residues,” to the work.

A set of corner shelves displaying a service of nine sets of cups and garish patterned plates, far too large to be saucers, Fallen, 2009, looks familiarly normal, until we realize that none of the china sits on the shelves at all, hanging above or even below their supposed supports.  Moreover, dribbling out from the teacups, mounted perpendicularly to the wall on their respective plates, a colorless, translucent substance falls toward the floor in branchy tendrils.  And from the end of each tentacly appendage dangles, ensnared, a small plastic animal.  As if the faintly hideous porcelain had just given birth to the beasts, each animal quivers slightly at the end of its umbilical extrusion.  The various species of animals represented on their individual branches evoke a taxonomic spectacle.  Yet, cast in stock poses, the bottoms of their feet unfinished, the animals can never transcend their literality as inexpensive collectible figurines; in conjunction with the shelves, dishes, and the extraterrestrial jellyfish that hold them fast, they move freely from kitsch object to metaphoric symbol and back again.

A recent work, Rumpus Room, 2009, occupies a position midway between sculpture and installation.  We can think of it as a quasi-architectural mise-en-scène, a schematic stage-set on which sculptural objects act out interior dramas.  A structure of wooden poles, painted a cold, bluish white and held together at angles by aluminum corner brackets, outlines a fragmentary cube, delineating a volume of space like an architect’s cutaway rendering of a room.  From one of its crossbars dangles a bent, rounded element made of Cotter’s familiar stacked slices of corrugated cardboard that suggests a basketweave blob doing chin-ups.  Within the broken cube of the poles, two balls of the same corrugated construction emanate from a glass creamer suspended in midair, as if the old-fashioned jug levitated while expressing thought bubbles.  A mushroom-shaped cloud of lazer-cut, interlocking, paper-thin, identical wooden elements hovers overhead (Cotter had first manufactured these elements to her own design for an installation in 2004), recalling the canopy of the forest from which it was made, as well as the modularity of so much of Modernist design.  Counterweighted by a large wooden egg attached to the bottom of a steel cable, which hangs through a hole in a weathered handcrafted wooden stool, the wooden cloud also becomes an atomized echo of Marcel Duchamp’s bicycle wheel.  Another assembly of the modular pieces, this time fabricated of stained heavy cardstock, sits like a forlorn architectural model on the turquoise vinyl seat of a low-backed, white-painted wrought iron vanity chair, tipped up, with one leg balanced on another wooden egg.  Several more eggs lie scattered on the ground.  And garlands of scores of turned wooden spindles, each one unique, joined together, like the network in A Gesture of Belief in the Built World, by magnets embedded at either end, loll in catenaries from wall to wall on a diagonal through the entire ensemble, connecting the schematic room with the actual one that contains it and enmeshing its abstract theatricality within the matrix of the real.

An evolution beyond the transmogrification of domestic furnishings into entities endowed with personality and incipient animation, Rumpus Room casts an array of found objects and nonrepresentational forms as characters in a tableau that, if not exactly vivant, is nonetheless lively.  Her sculptural personages seem to act out of inner necessity, thinking their private thoughts.  And they seem to give access to our own reveries as well, less-than-conscious notions of which we may have been only dimly aware.  In this, Cotter’s work relates to Surrealism—Alberto Giacometti’s The Palace at 4 a.m. provides an apt precedent for Rumpus Room—but her impeccable stage-management of materials, forms, and relationships raises the curtain on a playful new production, where our desires meet the object’s in a place dedicated both to recreation and a kind of abandon.  The title provides a clue to the character of the space.  “This is the place where the house lets go,” Vincent Abbott wrote about the new construct of a room for recreation in 1935, implying that the abandon could be ascribed to the house as much as to its inhabitants.

In Rumpus Room, emphatically specific found and fabricated objects share a theatricalized non-space, utterly imbricated with our own real space.  Here, I think, Cotter makes it difficult to distinguish between Flusser’s categories, between “forms” and “stuff” and the “amorphous phenomena” flowing between them.  We can see Rumpus Room as synthesizing the artist’s recent practice—appropriating real objects and using them as containers for stuff that throws into sharp relief their philosophical condition as “containers” for “stuff”—and her older mode, in which she utilized idiosyncratic materials to construct abstractions, thereby pointing to the way “forms” get filled by “the material world.”  Yet Rumpus Room also seems to synthesize Flusser’s heady farce of words and ideas with Cotter’s funny materialism, which arises from impeccable craftsmanship and a deftly strategic use of materials.  Cotter endows her sculptures with remarkable humor and incisiveness, despite the fact that what her works express tends towards illustrations of the subconscious and irrational.  Cotter’s dishware, furniture, and nonrepresentational entities gathered in assemblies, in fact, seem to dream their own dreams, dreams of escape from quotidian usefulness, sterile domesticity, and inanimate lives as static objects.  And they invite us to do the same.

Joseph R. Wolin

Vilém Flusser, The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design (London: Reaktion, 1999), p. 22.

Ibid., p. 26.

Maud Cotter, “Objects, Structures and Systems: New Works by Maud Cotter,” The Visual Artists’ News Sheet (Dublin) 3 (May–June 2005), p. 16.

Flusser, pp. 22–23.

Ibid., p. 22.

Vincent Abbott, “Game Rooms,” House & Garden 67, no. 5 (May 1935), p. 27; quoted in David A. Hanks and Anne Hoy, American Streamlined Design: The World of Tomorrow (Paris: Éditions Flammarion, 2005), p. 188.

Matt Packer

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Words are in space, yet not in space. They speak of space, and enclose it. A discourse on space implies a truth of space, and this must not derive from a location within space, but rather from a place imaginary and real - and hence 'surreal', yet concrete. And, yes - conceptual also.
-Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space

To begin with a title?
At best, titles are a meta-drama for the work itself. A kind of lens of language through which we project. At worst? An accompanying tag, existing somewhere between name, date and materials. The magnet for nervous gallery spectators; the default approach for nervous writers.

There are titles by Maud Cotter that point to the minor crisis of everyday life, that suggestively correspond with Cotter's use (and disuse) of domestic objects in her sculptural works. Crying over spilt milk, or A slip of the tongue, for instance - both titles borrowing from sayings that are commonly used to shore-up a potentially embarrassing social situation or faux pas. In a similar way to the operation of these titles, Cotter's work takes us to a point where familiarity and recognitions of polite order give way to unspoken, darker undercurrents and perversions of form.

More Than One Way Out, Not the full story, and Waiting for the future are titles that conjure a more existential and elemental drama. Less enclosed, anticipating, and elusive, these titles suggest a tentative status: the artwork existing somewhere along the road of certitude. Furthermore, these are titles that are part of each sculpture’s consistency: part of its dynamic, its brain, and its vocabulary. More Than One Way Out, for instance: words that we might imagine emitting from the sculpture like a voice, as though inside the work itself there was an active organism, expressly seeking an exit.

Life has settled among and on top of things, as on top of objects that need neither oxygen nor food, are dead without decaying, always at hand without being immortal; on the backs of these things, as though they were the most familiar scene, culture was established.
-- Ernst Bloch, Traces

To begin with an object?
If recent sculpture by Maud Cotter could be said to incorporate a range of objects and materials, then there are certain objects that suggest themselves as starting points to the work as a whole. In A Gesture of Belief in the Built World it is the ceramic sauceboat that acts as the formal lynchpin to the arrangement, but also the source of emissions: seeming to produce to fountain of congelated matter and to a structure of steel that resembles the overrun ruins of a Buckminster Fuller experiment.

It could be similarly said of the decorative plates in Fallen; one element among many in this work, arranged on the wall amid a set of three corner shelves. These plates seem to exude extraneous matter, expelling plastic filaments and toy animals that hang suspended between the wall and the floor. In both of these works, it is found objects – the sauceboat and plates – that provide the space and the setting for more organic forms and indeterminable endings to develop; as if the restraint of domestic utility were seething within these objects, always threatening to bubble over. Whether a table, crockery, or office equipment, Cotter’s chosen objects are considered for the space they assume by habitual use and design. They enter into Cotter’s sculptural arrangements sucking on the memory of routine domesticity and the habits of handling. And yet, these objects are never presented simply as they are. Appended with seemingly incompatible, foreign materials, and often quite-literally ‘turned on their head’ – Cotter’s treatment of objects seem to draw in our recognitions, only to expel our recognitions in turn.

For ought we can know a priori, matter may contain the source or spring of order originally, within itself…
-David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature

The objects in Cotter’s work are also chosen for their particularlity as vessels that shape, withhold and propel the transfer of formal properties, as they extend from one thing to the next in the entire sum of Cotter’s sculptural arrangements. We might describe works such as A Gesture of Belief in the Built World with a certain formal causality: beginning with a found object, unfolding through a liquiform mass of plaster and onto a modular lattice-like structure of steel. The work is not so much the bringing together of these separate elements in a force of contradiction; the work is more a system of channels, intuitive with one another, that follow the same directional flow.

Cotter’s use of objects encourages any description of these objects to be accompanied with performative verbs. In her work, we find that sauceboats emit and plates exude; cups anticipate liquids, and mirrors seek to extend their allocated space. It results in a sense of objects not as fixed entities, but capable of pro-activity and determined character. In this regard, we might return to consider the detectable ‘voice’ in the title of the work More Than One Way Out. The sculpture consists of three tables, each with legs that have been individually ornamented - some sourced from reclaimed furniture, others newly fabricated. If we allow ourselves to imagine the words of the title uttered by the inner character of sculpture itself, then we also come to assert that the sculpture has a determination of its own dual being and becoming. As Cotter herself has described of this work: 'they courteously allow themselves to look like tables, but they are walking out of what they are’.

The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.
--Michael Foucault, Of Other Spaces

To begin with a space?
A set of circumstances, perhaps. The features of the room, it’s scale and dimensions. A different country, the gallery wall, or none of the above? In recent years, Cotter has shared the approach of many artists in working across a number of sites and locations. While, for some, this would be a simple question of opportunity and facility, for Cotter it suggests itself in other ways. The transfer of one space into another has become a definitive feature of Cotter’s work, almost as though the principles of travel, mobility, and multiplicity, have absorbed themselves completely.

We might consider the transfer of space in terms of Cotter’s use of objects (as already stated), or else more explicitly in her interventions into the gallery space, which have included discreet elements of wall painting and architectural modification.

There are also works that seem to extend space as much as they absorb it. Waiting for the Future is such a work, combining an upward cascade of glass and mirrored table surfaces, with a downward entropic slide of cups, saucers, linked with precarious limbs of more-formless matter. Waiting for the Future seems to transmit space - recasting the surrounding space of the room, and yet also retrenching and swallowing space like a virus. To continue the viral metaphor further, we might consider her recent installation Rumpus Room, where the entire gallery space becomes contaminate, as sculptural elements track across the floor, extend from the ceiling, and connect to walls: searching out all perimeters with an assimilating touch.

Cotter’s work seems to resist closure, just as it resists the reconciliations that are suggested by any clear beginnings. How is any ending appropriate, in considering work that reaches forward at every attempt to call it back? Borrowed words from another spatial fantasist will have to suffice, and the short story of Ersilia by Italo Calvino, seems more than sufficient in describing the pulse of Cotter’s work:

He describes the fictional city of Ersilia, a city networked with coloured strings that stretch from building to building, physically mapping the relationships that exist within it. Each of these strings colour-coded according to the nature of relationship, whether based upon family, trade, authority, or agency. As these relationships develop over time, strings are added, criss-crossing one another, and increasingly becoming entangled. Eventually, there comes a point when Ersilia's inhabitants are no longer able to manoeuvre through the city effectively, with string blocking every entrance and pathway. The day comes when the inhabitants are faced with no other option than to emigrate - dismantling all of Ersilia's buildings, before beginning a journey to another location where a new city and new relationships can be built. Onwards they go, leaving Ersilia as nothing other than the “spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.”

Matt Packer, 2010

Tim Maul

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Maud Cotter: Rumpus room, 2009, installation shot, Point B, Project Space, Williamsburg, New York; courtesy the artist

Tim Maul: My first physical encounter with your work was with Rumpus room, across the river in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at Point B's exhibition space. My immediate reaction to the piece was a sense of almost Dada portability and of 'play'. (I am thinking of Duchamp's mutable, rubber Sculpture for traveling, 1918.) Residencies abroad have stymied several artists I know because they are denied access to the familiar in both their workspaces.

Maud Cotter: Your comment prompts fond memories of Williamsburg and the luxury of play in making Rumpus room. Thanks for the introduction to Duchamp's Sculpture for traveling - rubber strips cut from bathing caps, randomly assembled and extended with strings, what a brilliant piece. How did I miss it? Stitching oneself into a changing environment makes perfect sense to me. There is a weblike structure in Rumpus room that is woven together with magnets; this is portable, instantly achievable as a form, not unlike Sculpture for traveling, except that it has an element of self-assembly. It is a connector for me, via Rumpus room, with the changing context of the piece. Magnetism is a new conceptual glue for me, it feigns volition, it has its own impish behaviours, and preserves randomness within the piece. I love working with it.

I think the Dadaist reference is relevant as well: the disruption in Rumpus room is a wish to lift the room and its contents into a mercurial condition, away from the norm, suspending their function and meaning. Yes, Rumpus room carries a Dadaist gene. I like to think of it as an antechamber to the reinvention of how we see and function in the physical world.

Maud Cotter: Rumpus room, 2009, installation shot, Point B, Project Space, Williamsburg, New York; courtesy the artist

As to the disruption of routine in the context of residencies, I think the act of change itself provides a stimulus to look at one's practice as though from a distance. That, to me, is a good place to be, a good place for decision-making and self-criticism. As for the workspace/ laptop scenario, I think of my laptop more as a useful tool; I have come to depend on it for a lot of storage and connection. This is invaluable. I don't think of it as my workspace; actual space, that active, live, relative entity is where I work.

TM: Many words jump off the page, Maud. The description of magnetic attraction as 'impish' could be taken from the Romantic era... Richard Holmes' book The Age of wonder is high on my 2010 reading list. And 'rumpus'? Did it derive from 'rumpus room' - a space designated for children's play? I cannot recall that in '60s Ireland there were such rooms - my family's living space was very formal, even television watching was like gathering around a hearth. In Where the wild things are Max shouts "Let the Wild Rumpus Start!" which leads to a loss of control... so many art spaces here provide 'rumpus' rooms for young artists to act out in...

MC: Perhaps the Romantic strain you picked up on is my attitude to material. I do not think of it as finite, something that is rationalised, measured, predictable and controlled. As a visual artist I preserve my right to see the world anew, and for that I could be labelled 'romantic'. One of the consequences of this is that my world is one of skepticism and wonder, odd bedfellows. Skeptical about "how things are going" [1], and yes, I still have a sense of wonder at the simplicity and beauty of the ordinary. As science unlocks ever-smaller processes - I am thinking of nano technology here - my wonder just extends to a micro level of consideration. I am reluctant to allow my visual universe to get streamlined by the complex of systems and measures within which we live. I cannot help thinking that when the world becomes even more speedily packaged and spent than it is now, decisions informed by individual vision will be one of the more valid ways forward.

Maud Cotter: Rumpus room, 2009, installation shot, Point B, Project Space, Williamsburg, New York.
Courtesy the artist

As to the origins of Rumpus room, in 2008, while at the Art Fair in Miami, I visited the Wolfsonian Museum. There were two exhibitions on show, the first A Bittersweet decade; The New Deal in America, 1933-43, and the second American streamlined design, the world of tomorrow. Part of theAmerican streamlined design show mentioned the invention of a space called the rumpus room.

I was interested in the invention of a space that absented the order of the rest of the house, "a place where the house lets go..." Vincent Abbott (critic, 1935). The fact that such a form emerged in American culture in a period of recession interested me further. The 'letting go' bit interests me more than anything else, inventing a new function within an old form. Americans built a bar, had friends round, danced, watched home movies, played pool table, and generally engaged in activities that they normally did outside the home. I recognised immediately that this form provided me with a space frame within which to cluster ideas, a space with a host of flexible readings. It may be worth repeating a few lines I wrote prior to making the piece:

Rumpus room references the creation of a room in American domestic culture, "a place where the house lets go..." Vincent Abbott (critic,1935). To investigate another revision of form in the context of the domestic is appropriate now, to allow for a new formation of material. The present economic downturn adds an atmosphere of contemplation to this revision. Rumpus Room seeks a mechanism within built structure that will transform it. It seeks an internal system, or series of systems that will, through their expression, release a new energy, prompting a turning of function to other ends. The contents of Rumpus room wishes to turn the notion of the conventional room as container inside out. Framed within a skeletal structure, under the pressure of its contents, Rumpus room will cluster, presenting a desire to break the bonds of the forms that bind us. [2]

Maud Cotter:Rumpus room, 2009, installation shot, Point B, Project Space, Williamsburg, New York; courtesy the artist

TMRumpus room has several round stones balanced within it and includes two intricately formed structures that appear attached or 'caught' like kites in a tree - so it's 'look but don't touch'. One of the results of the popularity of the art context as family destination is the increased desire for children to interact with sculpture. In the post-minimal era choreographers produced installations and sculptors began to push material around in public. But back to Dada - I am sure that if confronted with Duchamp's Bicycle wheel (1913) in his studio that one couldn't resist setting it in motion - since a stool is central to Rumpus room would you agree that there is a performative reading to the piece?

MC: The round elements you refer to are egg shapes. I had about a dozen of them turned in wood with a view to using them as joints for the frame. When I unpacked them and allowed them to spill onto the studio floor, I liked the liquid feel they gave to it, so I left them rest in a languid fashion as they were. I also lifted one into an upper joint of the piece, as originally intended. They remind me of a piece by Anna Maria Maiolino, Entrevidas (on the margin of life) installation, 1981, where she is walking barefoot on a cobbled street through a field of eggs, a wonderfully tentative movement forward. I don't think that the tension of the floor in Rumpus room would be right without my considerably larger wooden eggs.

The shifting of weight from the physical elements of Rumpus room is an important part of the piece for me. The woven cardboard element is even more tentatively suspended, and is meant to convey a sense of vulnerability. I imagine interaction with the piece as a meeting place in the fabric of the piece and the fabric of the mind of the viewer. The participation and interaction of the two is a plastic interwoven space, more of "knots of relations (connections)" [3] , than a physical relationship.

Maud Cotter: Rumpus room, 2009, installation shot, Point B, Project Space, Williamsburg, New York; courtesy the artist

I don't think of the piece as a 'family destination'. My intention was to purposefully remove the family room to another place, in order to view, and review it at a distance. The choreography of the piece to me is more of an entering of the elements into play with other forces. Gabriel Orozco's The Weight of the sun is lifted and turned in a way that I admire. The performative element of that piece, to me, is that it lifts material into another realm of consideration. I think that performance is integral to all work that engages with three-dimensional space; as Marge of The Simpsons said when looking at a piece of art, "whatever it is doing, it is doing it now." [4]

TM: I believe that Simpsons episode, where Homer becomes an artist, featured the voice of Jasper Johns - an individual not known for his accessibility. The direct opposite of him is someone like Buckminster Fuller, whom Matt Packer refers to in his essay about you ('More than one way out', 2009). The Fuller show at the Whitney Museum here was one of the sleeper hits of 2008 - both utopian and deeply eccentric. It nonetheless underscored Fuller's belief that his ideas could serve others and offer 'average' people a better 'way of life'. These are perilous times, Maud, and I wonder what you think. As I wander through the juvenile play-spaces that Andrea Zittel constructs for adults I wonder if the artist / practitioner is up to the task...

MC: Are we as artist up to the task of meeting the future? This is a big question, and one that I regularly ask myself. There are a number of issues within my practice that I think are relevant to these 'perilous times', and I believe that the work I make is worth the time and materials it takes to make it.

I find Buckminster Fuller's work very inspiring, his activation of "nature's architectural inventiveness" [5] in a combination of hexagonal and pentagonal elements extended an evolved structure to new ends. His geodesic domes pointed to a future wherein "most of the problems of mankind could be solved through an efficient use of technology and resources... but the achievement of this goal would require a new cultural attitude and a better method of managing resources." [6]

My work fits into making shifts in cultural attitude. We have to start at a micro level to enact profound change on a large scale. This focus of realising the unused potential of material by changing the meaning and pattern we attribute to it, is an important part of my work.

Enhancing our intellectual and physical connection to the material world is important.

The insistent waves of experiences that fill our days become more and more vividly commercial, neutralizing our sensitivity and creative energies.

The arts provide a live avenue of reconnection. I am a maker and have chosen to address the object, specifically the domestic object over the last few years. This is an attempt to shift the function and meaning of things at the heart of our everyday lives. This aesthetic process can strip down old meanings and add new ones, remake the given, a sort of aesthetic recycling. Within this idea lies the possibility of slowing down our rate of consumption and production, while formulating new values to govern how we live. Art is slow, well my kind of art is, but I think that the shift in thinking will need to take root in our personal lives and homes.

Another issue that is very much on my mind, and the motivation behindFallen, one of the pieces from my last one-person show, is our potential to genetically design at a level and rate of change that is unprecedented.

The piece does not offer any answers, but suspends my anxiety around this issue, thereby posing some questions, perhaps giving rise to some discussion. The visual arts have the potential to raise questions in a very intimate and critical way. The nature and context of human intervention with an emphasis on the material world is my area of concern. Maybe a selected list of some of the pieces I have made to address this would provide an appropriate ending to this interview.

TM: Thank You Maud.

Things of no fixed meaning, 2000. Don't touch me, 2000. The evidence of things, 2002. More than anything, 2004. The Cat's pyjamas, 2004. Crying over spilt milk, 2006. Not the full story, 2006. Waiting for the future, 2007.Welcome to other forms of propagation, 2007. Objects in an act of survival, 2008. Console, with object that are no longer themselves, 2008. More than one way out, 2009. Falling, 2009. A gesture of belief in the built world, 2009.Rumpus Room, 2009.

1. Vilem Flusser, The shape of things, A philosophy of design. First published in English 1999
2. Maud Cotter, Rumpus room, 2009
3. Vilem Flusser, op cit
4. Sigune Hamann, film-strip (whatever it's doing it's doing it now). photographic transparency, positive, 2008
5. Philip Ball, Shapes, 2009
6. Donna Goodman, A History of the Future, 2008

Angelika Richter

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The work more than anything, which has the same title as Maud Cotter's exhibition in the Model Arts Gallery in Sligo, is central to the artist's current practice. This is situated at the interface between sculpture and architecture and embraces a range of forms, running from sculpture's spatial appropriation to the shaping of new spatial relationships. Within this Cotter transfers objects and sculptures into structural systems with a direct relationship to the place in which they are exhibited. In addition to their aesthetic dimension, the works open up a space, which, whilst constituting a social space, can simultaneously be experienced in physical terms. This space describes the relationship between the artistic work's appearance and its interaction with exhibition visitors. On various levels of artistic intervention Cotter also extends this mesh of relations beyond the limits of the exhibition context.

Even in the smallest unit of her work Cotter puts this extended notion of plasticity into practice. The building blocks and initial fundamental forms of her installations more than anything, In other circumstances and amalgam are flat, square plywood and laminated cardboard elements, developed by the artist and manufactured industrially.

References to the vocabulary of Minimal Art emerge in her recourse to serially manufactured units, whose modular character can be compared with Carl Andre's reduced geometric floor tiles or Sol LeWitt's cubes. There are also similarities between Cotter's oeuvre and the House of Cards by Charles and Ray Eames (1), an interlocking system in which the basic parts can be joined together from all sides, opening up into a serial structure. Here just four of the basic units fitted one into another reveal the third, i.e. the spatial, dimension. The elements of More than anything thus multiply themselves in a horizontal and vertical grid of varied heights and gradations. Along the gallery walls, over doorways and in front of windows they form transparent wall modules or lie on the gallery's wooden floorboards like a second, fragile floor. The structure permeates the inner rooms as fine threads reminiscent of a nervous system, appropriating the space, whilst at the same time describing autonomous ramifications and formations. The tentative fragmentation and dissolving of the existing situation means that the structure is not purely a negative print or representation of the locus but instead makes sensitised perception and unexpected readings of the spatial structure possible. The work develops its own dynamic, with the courses it takes becoming an expression of a non-hierarchical ordering of space. more than anything does indeed have architectonic aspects, but in the exhibition these do not pursue a goal or have a particular function.

In bringing the architecture of the museum and the artistic work into play, Cotter does not adopt Minimal Art's reductionist gesture of actuality and pure material. She does not seek to assert objectivity and neutrality with the surface and the material. Cotter creates not merely visual but rather actual transparency here. Whilst many of her earlier works were of glass, plastic or silicon, in other words, materials associated with ideas of permeability or semi-transparency, her current tissue structure, made of plywood squares, La Farge plaster and cardboard, forms completely permeable systems. Air, light and shadows are filtered through the grid of these materials and can pass into, through and out of the structure virtually unimpeded. The works also exist in this open relationship vis-á-vis the physical presence of visitors. The latter move along, into and through the sculptures and become an immanent component of the complex structure of relations.

Cotter understands more than anything and all the other works represented in the exhibition as a changeable element of the overall context. The individual sculptures and larger installations can be perceived differently over and over again, through both the altering charge of the environment and via their interactions. However, the very structure of the works allows viewers to identify their openness and tendency towards immaterialisation. Although the basic building blocks of card or plywood are a functional feature of the works, their arrangement and multiplication within the structure simultaneously entails their dissolution.

A symbiosis of colour and form between the structure and the gallery space is to be found above all in Cotter's installation in other circumstance. The work is similar to a monochrome triptych. Hundreds of laminated cardboard modules form a thickly woven net structure, which at the same time appears both fragile and permeable. Its flat courses and borders convey an impression of white projection surfaces rather than of a taking-into-use of the third dimension. Hanging from the ceiling, in other circumstances discreetly structures the gallery space, as was also the case for in absence from 1998, and enters into a close correspondence with the white walls and the emptiness of the rest of the gallery. Like intricate blinds or 'curtain walls', the work becomes a locus of the immaterial play of light falling through the window and its shadings. The appearance of the work thus undergoes constant changes, fluctuating between being visible and dissolving away.

in other circumstances does not fill up the space but instead accentuates its inherent translucent potential. Cotter's withdrawing of this gesture gives visitors sufficient scope for their own placing-in- relation to the sculpture and the space. in other circumstances can hence be read precisely as a conceptual rather than a materialised statement by the artist concerning the transparent and partly ephemeral character of her works.

In amalgam viewers can, through participation, clearly experience the subtle placing of the components, namely the interplay with the works and spatial discovery by the visitors, which were already present in more than anything and In other circumstances. The grid structure of birch ply basic building blocks mounted on the gallery walls becomes a locus of direct action in the exhibition. As Cotter invites exhibition visitors to bring along used or everyday objects and to ascribe a place to them in the space matrix of amalgam, the structure is lifted out of its purely aesthetic dimension, creating a short-circuit to individual traces of the most diverse experiential, conceptual and life spaces. Thus we find here not just that the individual perspective and the artistic object come together, but also that exterior space is integrated into the exhibition location. Two realities interpenetrate, the aesthetic and the everyday.

In her installation The cat's pyjamas Cotter also continues to grapple with the relation between subject and object. The most unspectacular relics of material everyday life, such as pudding bowls, doilies, discarded chairs and tables, bedside and standard lamps, cutlery trays or clothes-horses, serve as objects here. Cotter allows these once functional objects to merge with abstract grid-like sculptures made of cardboard and resin. The sculptural objects are appended to, placed or hung upon the relics of everyday life and in the process become a playful or even anatomical counter-image of the predetermined forms, whilst at the same time growing rampantly out of these. The volumes of the individual objects are filled up in a manner that reflects and visualises their qualities, and in parallel describe unconventional spaces, becoming space themselves. Both the smallest ensemble and the installation the cat's pyjamas become a hybrid of Objets trouvés with the corresponding traces of individual use and wear, with residues of energy and allusions to everyday reference points on the one hand and to the sculptural intervention on the other hand. The narration of the everyday objects is reinforced by being brought together with the aesthetic context, whilst at the same time the artist's gesture of asserting authorship is withdrawn and the autonomy of the artistic elements is broken. the cat's pyjamas switches, as was already the case for things of no fixed meaning from 1999, between the two poles of aesthetic form and symbolic charge. The sculptures are situated in a transitional phase without a definitive form and meaning. In using everyday objects and materials Cotter selects unfamiliar interfaces. She gives visual form to fragments of small, intimate narratives and does not employ abstract materialism or formalism. the cat's pyjamas is in some respects similar to the language of Arte Povera. This encompasses in particular the simple artistic gesture, the use of frugal materials and the open combination of diverse fragments. Added to this are ordinary everyday objects, which bring their own history with them. Whilst Cotter still carries out the final spatial placement for the cat's pyjamas as an ensemble, in amalgam the objects brought along by the visitors to the exhibition determine the growth and character of the matrix affixed to the wall. The work is changed continuously throughout the duration of the exhibition although intervention by the artist is excluded. Thus we are no longer looking at simply the conceptual possibility of the sculpture being developed further, as is the case in more than anything. In amalgam there is genuine conversion of the work via the direct participation of exhibition visitors.

The transportable boxes, which constitute a further element of amalgam, are consistent with Cotter's advancement of the notion of the sculptures' spatial growth and way in which the exhibition space becomes permeable. Reduced to their most elementary unit and form, 594 of the card modules are stored in boxes as a potential structure and await their chance to become space outside the exhibition site. Whilst in lung from 1998 it was still the artist herself who could simply transport both net structures and construct them anew elsewhere with the aid of plaster, amalgam corresponds to the idea of entirely handing over the work to the visitors. Without any further instructions from Cotter, visitors can determine the formations of the structure as if playing a game where they make up the rules and construct in other non-art-specific places. Intervention by the artist is here clawed back to the most radical degree. Whilst in the matrix installation of amalgam and in the cat's pyjamas Cotter enabled everyday life and reality to penetrate, she hands over the process of grappling with the relationship between space and place, object and subject to the exhibition visitors entirely with the structures stored in the boxes. In so doing, Cotter intends on the one hand to render her work autonomous, and on the other hand to foster direct intervention by visitors.

The sculpture can thus extend itself infinitely, at the same time experiencing a transcription into a subjective system outside the artistic framework. amalgam thereby becomes a social space, opened up in the exhibition, transported to the exterior where it undergoes practical implementation.

Similar assertions apply to i don't know about that, which is both a spatial installation and a set of tools for Game. The latter is a game specially devised by Irish mathematician David Korowicz. i don't know about that is composed of a large-format wall with an ordered structure of elements in La Farge plaster, card, acrylic and timber. These are distributed over the wall at regular intervals like minimalist pieces in a game. In a small-format copy of the installation, visitors to the exhibition can move individual figures upwards, downward, diagonally or laterally or remove them entirely from the field. If the elements are pushed out of the left or right edge, then they vanish. However, if they are moved up or down, the figures reappear on the other side and describe an abstract space with their movement. If only a third of the figures are left on the 'board', all the elements are reintroduced and the game begins again. The rules serve to (pre)-structure the work to an extent that makes it accessible and allows it to be played. However, as a component of a non-determined system Game assumes its own dynamic and takes on a panoply of formations, which are decided and influenced by the players.

Like more than anything or amalgam, i don't know about that can be conceived as a visible excerpt from an infinite and complex spatial and intellectual system. In the works shown in the exhibition Cotter depicts the behaviour of elements and structures in time and place, which she describes as Choreography within infinity.

In Cotter's artistic practice it becomes clear that the questions: Which formal and aesthetic changes do the works describe during the timeframe of the exhibition and beyond? What emotional and intellectual spaces can the artistic systems open up in an interaction with the perceptions and interventions of visitors to the exhibition? are central in motivating the works. Her structures and installations disclose social and artistic contexts; these are constantly in transition and describe processes of change. Whilst sculpture is structured as a spatial experiment and moves through new forms, it responds to the actions and interventions of visitors. The sculpture is thus relational.

All of Cotter's works become an experience of space that can be moved into and through. At the same time the mobile and changeable basic building blocks suggest flexible uses of the structures, as hinted at by the bench, a further detail in amalgam. Calculations and drawings by Christopher Southgate and Associates, Consulting Engineers, Civil and Structural Design Project Management, also comprised in the exhibition, confirm the modules' great load-bearing capacity. The elements can be used to construct architectonic units and indeed even entire houses.

References to interfaces between sculptural and architectonic interests also emerge in Cotter's photographs two by two, which include depictions of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and the National Sculpture Factory in Cork, where she worked for many years as a sculptor. In 2002 Cotter built the eight-metre-high sculpture of air and everything, which is simultaneously an architectonic element integrated into the building complex of the hospital.

When Cotter refers to criticism of Modernism in architecture and cites as a model the Endless House (1947-1965) by Austrian architect Friedrich Kiesler, the intention underpinning her conception of sculpture and architecture becomes clear: to create spaces that behave symbiotically towards those who visit and live in them and that change accordingly. Kiesler, who worked in the era of Modernism and knew Modernists such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, contradicts the dictum of the era, namely Form follows function. The shape and form of the artificial skin of Endless House are not determined primarily by building legislation but rather by users' lifestyles. A continuous and at the same time social space develops out of this. Current artistic projects tackling specific social, political and economic living conditions are, for example, Marjetica Potrc's reconstructions of innovative housing designs for the destitute in the American South, Homeless Vehicles by Krysztof Wodiczko and ParaSite by Michael Rakowitz, a living unit to meet the basic needs of marginal social groups in the urban context, or On or off Earth by Florian Pumhösl who in his installation presents a critical analysis of the aesthetics and rhetoric of Modernity. (2) These examples are listed here to suggest the range of contemporary practices dealing with the idea of living space. However the box houses and light spaces of the German artists Wolfgang Winter and Berthold Hörbelt display particular parallels with Cotter's works. The installations, composed mainly of plastic drinks crates or light screens (gridded slats), exist on the boundaries between architecture, sculpture and urban planning. Their Lichtspielhaus Berlin from 1998 served as a temporary cinema, meeting place and walk-in sculpture, with the topics of transparency and reflections of light very much in the foreground. Through their pavilions the artists create new spaces for cultural and social life.

In more than anything one leaves the exhibition with a box full of building blocks as if with an other attachments (3). With it one takes the idea of space and construction away too, in order to perhaps build a shelf, a small stool or a bench by the stove later. Objects that are not simply present, but to which one is particularly attached and which slowly begin to bear traces of everyday life and wear- and-tear. Or one might like to take the box away, to have the option of playing the game together - a game, then, for the 'whole family'.



1) Each playing card from the set designed in 1952 shows familiar images from the world of flora, fauna and minerals. Six slits in each card enable a House of Cards with an individual design to be built.
2) The cited works, which deal with designing living spaces, were displayed in various exhibitions including Designs für die wirkliche Welt, 2002 in the Generali Foundation, Vienna and in Xtreme Houses in Hall 14, Baumwollspinnerei, Leipzig in 2004.
(3) Other Attachments is a work by Cotter, made up of several inconspicuous paper units, which appear to be simple address tags for suitcases and bags. The words lost, also, same, into are printed on them.

Sarah Glennie

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Maud Cotter’s work has at its core the physical, material and conceptual experience of existing.  A day-to-day existence that is informed by a series of judgments and questions that are part of a continuous process of realigning ourselves in relation to others and our surroundings.  Maud Cotter distills this process in her work, probes at it, questions it, revealing to us things that we constantly overlook in the everyday.  She has expressed a wish for her work to be "a way of reawakening our perceptual grip and understanding of the world we live in".  Encountering a Maud Cotter installation is a disquietingly familiar experience, as her work is not about creating new points of reference but about the extraordinary overlooked in the ordinary.  She wrote about the new work in also: "within these pieces lies a remembrance of the ordinary, spaces that cushion the everyday and intervene between our flesh and other things."

Maud Cotter's sculptures give form to this distillation of the experience of living. She uses a limited range of mundane man-made materials, namely cardboard, plaster and resin, which she pushes to reveal the full possibilities of their nature. The resulting forms and surfaces define the works but also seem to suggest associations beyond their declared materiality.  The resin covering the three cardboard columns of the evidence of things creates a constantly shifting dynamic between density, fragility and transparency while the delicate cardboard ‘skeleton’ inside into is given weight and density by its lumpen skin of Lafarge plaster.

These different‘effects’are not accidental and come out of a long period of studio-based research where chance and accident run parallel to control.  Cotter fully understands the nature of the materials with which she works. ­­­ Each piece is underscored by a series of experiments testing their capabilities and then is fabricated through a set of deliberate procedures to achieve the desired result. But there is a point in this fabrication when the objects themselves find their own form - the way they sit on the studio floor as they are setting, the temperature as the materials set, all contribute to their final character.  Cotter harnesses these moments of transition and so creates a tension that prevents the objects from slipping into the mannered and purely formal.

This ‘hands-on’ materials based focus in Cotter’s practice is informed by a strong conceptual framework.  Consequently her studio is as much a thinking space as a physical space for making, as Cotter herself has said; "strictly speaking my studio is in my head, I often think that all I need are my ear-protectors to help me concentrate."  Studio time is very important to Cotter as a place for thought, experimentation and making.  However, her interests and motivations as an artist are not developed in this isolated and removed environment; they are very grounded in the real and the connected.

In a text describing the work in also, Cotter describes the ‘pockets’ of air left by our bodies as we move through our environment and which unrecognised, leave potent evidence of our existence:

"...the air we shift on opening a door defers to our passing. That held by a coat seeps out a trail of absence. These vapours have grown meek through lack of recognition."

Just by being, we become part of our surroundings and this tenet informs all of Cotter’s recent work.  She is not concerned with a connection between the individual and an ideal elemental landscape but the reality of the urban world, our complicated relationships to equally complicated beings and our position within complex and encompassing structures and systems.  She does not present a picture of the isolated, autonomous being disconnected from this environment, her view is one of a physical and conceptual integration between the body and man-made structures.

It is possible to find references to the scale and proportion of the body in the forms of the works, but they are not about the figure in a descriptive sense. Instead the forms refer to a "molecular body in a state of connection with everything".  Architecture is a key interest for Cotter, but architecture defined in the broadest sense as the enclosure of spaces; spaces that are permeable and of which we are part, materially and conceptually.  As the artist has written: "There’s a simple and a very complex truth in acknowledging our material connection, how we are part of everything around us...I think that this is a fact of existence, not an approach but a condition," an idea seen in works such as in a short time where there is a fusion of suggested architectural forms with an implied human presence.

This relationship between ourselves and our surroundings is not fixed and is subject to a shifting balance between cause and effect.  Similarly there is an openness in Cotter’s work that defies a single fixed reading.  The three forms of the evidence of things at once enclose and expel the air surrounding them.  Cotter describes this as a process of inhalation and exhalation that is part of the constant push and pull of existence - our taking in and dispelling of air changes the balance of things around us and these permeable objects extend beyond their form into all the spaces of the gallery.  More discreetly, the gently broken surface of the same amount ruptures the apparent self-containment of its closed-off forms and allows the surrounding air to seep in.

The relationships between the objects in the gallery is crucial, they are individual but are at all times affected by those around them.  Many of the works are made up of multiple elements and the relationship between them establishes a numerical dynamic that reflects our position within groups, particularly filial relationships.  They raise questions about how we function within groups, at which point we are separate and at which point our individuality is absorbed by the unit.  There is a tension in the pairing of the two forms in originally there were two of us, they are perceived as a unit but still maintain a distinct separation from each other while the three columns of the evidence of things gently assert their individuality within the cohesive group.

The viewer to the exhibition is a crucial part of this dynamic.  Cotter describes the viewer as a ‘participator,’ as entering the exhibition is not a neutral process. Our presence adds a new dimension to the complex relationships between the different objects in the space and it is impossible to walk through the gallery without a heightened sense of our own physicality.  Cotter’s position as an artist is not about grand sculptural gestures.  While we can appreciate the sculptures for their formal qualities, this is a means to an end and not the reason for the work.  At all times there is a retreat from a position of drama and definiteness to one of uncertainty, tension and fragility.  This allows space for the viewer to engage with the strangely ambiguous forms that contain rather than describe our experience of living.

Sarah Glennie Summer 2002

Ed Krčma

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To Diagram without Stilling:
On Maud Cotter’s Sculpture

Ed Krčma

Maud Cotter’s work sets up an exchange between the most humble and rudimentary of everyday objects and far-reaching abstract and conceptual models. The simplest domestic tools and containers – sieves, waste-paper baskets, cups, lampshades, and filters – provide a first lexicon of forms to be enlarged, augmented and distilled into spare and lively ‘drawings in space’. The resulting linear, diagrammatic sculptures are large enough to orient and articulate the rooms in which they are installed, and combine apparent simplicity with a powerful sense of emergent complexity. Their simplicity derives from the compression of their formal means, with Cotter often employing geometric, symmetrical, concentric, and modular structures to order her elements. The complexity is produced both in the process of making by hand, whereby 6mm mild steel rods are bent over the knee and welded together, producing inevitable irregularities, and in the responsiveness of the sculptural drawing to the movements of the viewer’s body, which in turn has its bearing on the movements of the mind.

The design of the centerpiece of the current exhibition at DOMOBAAL, matter of fact (2016), is loosely based upon that of an air filter. The three-metre-long cylindrical form is composed of three concentric layers of welded and bolted mild steel rods. It is stationed on its horizontal axis so that the circular ends (one rounded, the other squared off) open onto the room, as if to charge, cool or cleanse the air that moves through it. This basic structure is complicated by the roseate curvature of each of the circumferential sections, and by the addition of small rings at each welding point, and the smaller fixtures used to bolt the sections together.i This armature houses a smaller hollow cylinder made from thin sections of cardboard. Cut from the correct angle, the corrugations of these tightly packed strips – of the simplest and cheapest of packing materials – create a visual effect of great complexity: beads of light peep through each of the corrugations, creating a moiré effect that is responsive to the slightest movement of the viewer’s body: even the rhythm of the breath produces a perceptual shift.

matter of fact grew from a body of large-scale works that Cotter has been making since 2012, a number of which were exhibited at the MAC in Belfast in 2013.ii These consist of sculptural armatures – with parts often painted in striking artificial colours – which refer to the shapes of basic everyday containers. These frameworks serve to house modest, precarious but strangely elemental contents: in Capture (2012-13) a neon yellow mild steel lampshade-like frame supports a transparent plastic sack filled with water, presenting a humble yet beautiful light trap; Once More With Feeling (2013) holds the delicate movements of the thinnest of translucent plastic bin bags as it renders visible the movements of the air around it; and in Measure (2013) the form of a waste-paper basket, lifted by the vibrant pink of its upper section, energises the space it ‘holds’ within it. Introducing the current exhibition, the syncopated armature of litter bin (2012) supports a paradoxically lightweight but boulder-like object constructed from the same slender strips of corrugated cardboard. A kind of formal irony at play here, as the works play on the conjunction of opposed qualities: solidity and emptiness, opacity and transparency, regularity and variation, lightness and weight.

The open linear frameworks and their variously porous and translucent internal elements articulate rather than fill the space they inhabit. Just as a drawing divides and rhythms the surface onto which it is inscribed, as opposed to covering it, Cotter’s work charges space rather than sealing it. Writing in the 1930s, the French art historian Henri Focillon wrote vividly about drawing’s particular relationship with materiality:

One might reasonably suppose that there are certain techniques in which matter is of slight importance, that drawing, for example, is a process of abstraction so extreme and so pure that matter is reduced to a mere armature of the slenderest possible sort, and is, indeed, very nearly volatilized. But matter in this volatile state is still matter, and by virtue of being controlled, compressed and divided on the paper – which it insistently brings to life – it acquires a special poweriii .

Although emerging from a very different historical moment, these sentences bear powerfully upon the logic of Cotter’s sculptural language, which combines the presentation of emphatically everyday materials with distilled formal constructions. The proportional relationships developed in the labour-intensive process of production – excising unnecessary elements and adjusting the relationships of part to whole – aim at a structural integrity that will fortify the slightness of the material constitution with a strong but responsive compositional scheme, one that now organises our perceptual engagement with a three- rather than two-dimensional field.

Such work takes its place within well-established trajectories of 20th century art practice. The idea of sculpture as ‘drawing in space’ was first conceived in the late 1920s by Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso and Julio González who each devised ‘a means of sculpting volume without mass’, as Anna Lovatt has put it. iv Such developments themselves made contact with Picasso’s earlier Cubist experiments, and with the Corner Counter-Reliefs of Vladimir Tatlin and the constructivist programme of Naum Gabo. In the 1960s in America, artists such as Richard Serra and Robert Morris produced works that directly engaged the scale, movement and explorative tendencies of the embodied viewer, presenting sculptural propositions that variously enticed, frustrated and threatened the body that negotiated them.v The language of industrial fabrication and heavy, permanent materials of Serra’s steel slabs, Judd’s galvanised iron, and Morris’s mirrored cubes, for example, would be reconfigured in the later 1960s by artists such as Eva Hesse, Fred Sandback, and Gego, to question the role of integrated sculptural form by way of lines literalised in space, which did away with the physically bounded sculptural

Cotter’s formal language plugs itself into a variety of such historical modes, inflecting them differently by way of a repurposing and re-synthesis. There is something of the extravagance of Judd’s colour here, the element in his work that connects him to Pop’s artificial surfaces. More significantly, perhaps, Cotter takes as fundamental both the integration of the artwork into the spatial conditions of its environment, so characteristic of Minimal and post-Minimal practice, and the centrality of an address to the scale and mobility of the embodied viewer. Yet whereas there was often something of the formalist endgame about this kind of American art made in the 1960s, Cotter’s approach has perhaps more in common with developments in post-war Latin American art, such as the Brazilian Concrete and Neo-Concrete movements emerging in the 1950s and 60s. Briony Fer has recently described the way in which forms of European geometric abstraction were reconfigured in Brazil, shorn of older associations with either universal themes or machine aesthetics. Instead, Fer writes, a number of experimental Brazilian artists were guided by

the idea that abstraction could be ‘sensitized’ to external circumstances and is highly receptive to lived experience. No less significant were their ideas that art could behave according to experiential models that were heavily charged by the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Susanne Langer. Even more of a radical challenge to the mechanized vision was the sense that geometric abstraction was ‘organic’, more like a body than a machine.vii

The specific nature of the address to the body in Cotter’s work is difficult to determine, however. On the one hand, her emphasis seems to be upon an appeal to the body as conceived in phenomenological terms: on bringing attention to the shifting horizons of perceptual experience, of probing the friction between forms conceived by the mind and those negotiated by the perceiving body, and of encouraging the imagination to exercise itself in filling out the lively and condensed frameworks she presents. This body seems to have little to do with that which is subject to social construction (as raced, gendered, and otherwise positioned by way of categorical identities), or with a body operating under the sway of the desiring forces of the psyche. Yet there are moments when Cotter’s exploration of new materials does reach into such fraught regions, when qualities of precarity, vulnerability and decay come to the fore.viii falling into many pieces / one (2016), one of a series of wall-mounted works deriving from the form of a hayrack used to feed livestock, a more visceral and even abject dimension of the body is engaged. The piece is installed high on the wall so that the viewer peers up at the underside of an aeroboard disc supported by a curvaceous stainless steel frame. The underside of the disc is covered by a scatter of cotton wool balls covered with a thick, distressed coating of dental plaster. Sharing affinities with Eva Hesse’s latex and cheesecloth work, Sequel (1967), the surface of this strange assembly is eloquent less of healing and repair, as the medical associations of its materials might suggest, and more of a worrying accretion of malign lumps, crackings, blisters and nodes. The clean curves of the steel frame foil the blistered and desiccated plaster’s bodily associations take on particular potency as it puckers around a hole cut in the disc’s centre. Indeed, such pieces make contact with a more explicitly psychologically loaded body of work that Cotter produced in 2006, which presented lava-like and rather abject liquid spillages and eruptions emerging from everyday china teacups (So and So, 2006, and Soul Mates, 2006).

It makes little sense to describe Cotter’s work in terms of the outmoded binary of ‘abstract’ versus ‘representational’ visual languages. Rather, it is a question of the relative determination of the associations that her forms and materials evoke. Perhaps most insistently, many of Cotter’s sculptures derive, initially at least, from the rudimentary but enduring forms of modest domestic containers and filters: bins, lampshades, cups, sieves, and holders. The sculptures retain more or less determined associations with these lowly objects, but in a language that is distilled and abstracted so as to suggest more mobile formal and structural concerns. Indeed, we might say that Cotter’s work virtualizes the forms and materials from which it is constituted. Material elements are rendered language-like and thought-like, released from their contingent particularity as much as grounded in it. In this they are made available to extensions and transformations of the imagination, that mode of thought which, as Canadian theorist Brian Massumi puts it, ‘manages to diagram without stilling’.ix

March 2016

i This cylinder is supported by a rectangular base below, made of the same mild steel, and each fixture was made by welding together three small circular perforation offcuts, drilled at the centre.

ii See Sarah Kelleher, ‘Karl Burke and Maud Cotter: The Air They Capture Is Different’, Enclave Review, Issue 9, Winter 2013, p.1. On Cotter’s recent work, see also Joseph R. Wolin, ‘All Stuff is Farce’, and Matt Packer, ‘To Begin with a Title?’, in Maud Cotter: All Stuff is Farce, Dublin: Rubicon Gallery, 2010.

iii Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art. New York: Zone Books, 1992, p.100.

iv Anna Lovatt, ‘Drawing Across and Between Media’ in Drawing: Sculpture, London: Drawing Room 2013, pp.5-17.

v See Alex Potts, The Sculptural Imagination: Figurative, Modernist, Minimalist, New Haven and London: Yale University Press 2000.

vi Such explorations have been developed by a host of contemporary artists, from the spectacular and seductive installations of Lygia Pape and Ranjani Shettar, to the more modest and precarious explorations of Sara Barker, for example, or younger Irish artists such as Isabel Nolan and Aleana Egan. For a useful survey of such developments within the history of 20th century art see, for example, Catherine de Zegher and Cornelia Butler (ed.), On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010.

vii Briony Fer, ‘Foreward’ in Paulo Venancio Filho, Possibilities of the Object: Experiments in Modern and Contemporary Brazilian Art. Edinburgh: The Fruitmarket Gallery, 2015, p.32.

viii The best account of the relationship between Cotter’s work and questions of embodiment is that currently being developed by Sarah Kelleher in her doctoral thesis being written at University College Cork, provisionally entitled Sculpture’s Metamorphosis: On the Work of Maud Cotter, Dorothy Cross and Alice Maher.

ix Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002, p.134.

Sarah Kelleher

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‘Notes for a consequence of – without stilling’

Sarah Kelleher

without stilling presents a bristling facade, a climbing, open-sided ellipse that stands over head height at its highest point. Made from individual slats of pale birch ply as fine as card, it is almost bafflingly complex in its construction. Each element has been bent into a tensioned loop and scored with a pattern of incisions so that slim ribbons of wood spring free from each flexure. Additional slim lengths, which Cotter calls extensions, flow from straps of birch attached to the side of each element, and finish as strips following the form as its turns. The ends of these extensions have been cut at a sharp angle, these chamfered slats then cross and interlace and hang loose at haphazard angles. Viewed from a distance this brier-y surface has the effect of blurring the edges of the curved structure, imparting a sense of immanent dynamism - it is a spinning form, gathering speed, disintegrating at the edges. The curve is open, inviting us to walk inside and examine the intricacy of its facture which, for all its density, appears unexpectedly light as if hovering inches above the floor.

Meanwhile, in another part of the Limerick City Gallery of Art hang a series of wall mounted assemblages of an entirely different character to without stilling’s structural complexity. The eleven works that comprise watery life & rock are radically, breathtakingly reduced - each consists of an elongated black bracket or loop that bends out from the gallery wall at 90°. To each bracket has been appended, or fixed, or in some cases simply balanced, a piece of ordinary stuff - some nylon cord, a long tube of packing foam, an off cut of mirrored foil. Arranged in a loose constellation, this series presents for our consideration fragments of mundane, disposable, mass-produced things. Longer attention however reveals careful formal calculations and balances; the eye is drawn to densities of opacity and translucency, to the tensions of various lines cutting through space or succumbing to gravity. The scattered installation of the series invites us to appreciate the formal qualities of each component and its relationship to the others, like words and sentences in a poem.

How should we best understand such apparently divergent approaches to sculpture? Although alike in their resolute abstraction, the facture of these pieces veers from the intricate and complex to the acutely spare; from imposing, expansive structures, to delicately scaled assemblages, from carefully engineered networks of materials fastidiously worked, to minimally altered odds and ends of stuff. What conceptual or historical framework best accommodates Cotter’s address to space? Within what constellation of meanings, relations and trajectories can we place these objects?

a consequence of – without stilling continues a train of thought Cotter has been pursuing for almost five years - indeed without stilling takes its title from Ed Krčma’s catalogue essay for her 2016 Matter of Fact exhibition, in a kind of relay or responsive exchange of ideas. The origins of this body of work start with the eponymous work matter of fact (2016) which was first shown in the domobaal gallery in London, itself in turn, a development of a series of large scale, emphatically linear works made for the MAC in Belfast in 2013. matter of fact consists of a complex radial framework which forms a drum of concentric circles, holding within it a cylindrical structure of layered, honeycomb card. These are materials and processes that Cotter has been using since the late 1990s; 6mm mild steel rods and ribbons of cardboard layered into hollow volumes, held or balanced within slim, linear frames. These materials are non-imposing in and of themselves but set up complex optical effects of opacity and transparency. The form is a loose riff on an air filter, and although resolutely abstract, the human body is doubly inscribed in its structure. The mild steel armature is so fine as to be physically responsive to the presence of the viewer, almost quivering when one walks around it. Meanwhile, each arc of the steel was formed by hand, or more precisely, bent around the artist’s knee, so that it holds and retains the trace of her gesture. Monumental but light, substantial but airy, her work calls attention to and dramatises the space between body and object.

Positioned within the trajectory of her practice then, a consequence of – without stilling represents the progression of a body of work developed over five years, but in a larger sense it is a continuation of an avenue of investigation that is threaded throughout her career. Since the 1980s, Cotter has explored the formal and conceptual potential of translucent sculptural materials, matter that ‘transmits’ light beyond its physical bounds, following this aesthetic engagement through stained glass to wax, plastic, rubber sheeting and porous card. Through her materials, structures and spaces, her work evokes boundaries that are at once tractable and reversible, spaces that are replete with air and light, and bodies that are at once fragile, porous and tenacious. Connections can be made for example between without stilling and In Absence from 1998, a free-standing wall made from stacked ribbons of tri-wall corrugated card which divided the Rubicon Gallery in two - both are honeycomb structures that play with closure and control, openness and extension. We can also draw links between matter of fact and Cage exhibited in Economist Plaza in 1996, or example - a temporary outdoor work made while living in London, and an important early step in her investigations of the ‘experience and conditions of the body in the city.’i Two tall, slim cylindrical cages, one surrounding a spill of black latex, a little like a folded umbrella, the other topped with a billowing hood of clear PVC. The documentary photographs show how the work was effectively animated by its outdoor position – one can clearly see how the PVC veil would flap and swell with each passing breeze, and so chaotically, or at least unpredictably spill beyond its confines. The inflation and deflation of the plastic hood expressed something ‘filmic’ for the artist, a sense of connection and dispersal that remains a core concern of her project.

In his essay for Matter of Fact, Ed Krčma described the works as ‘diagrammatic’, and probed the relationship between Cotter’s ‘lexicon of forms’ and their ‘language-like or thought-like’ qualities.ii The word diagram stems from the Greek diagraphein meaning ‘to mark out by lines’. As a classificatory system, it summons specific ways of thinking, both corralling information into an easily understood graphic, but also a way of making connections between disparate concepts, creating rhizomatic schematizations of ideas and philosophies. Cotter has been influenced at different points by the thinking of Joseph Beuys, the 14 th Century Christian mystic Julian of Norwich, and the recent turn in the humanities towards New Materialism as articulated by Jane Bennett - all of whom have put forth different systems of understanding the material world or explaining our experience of being in and among the ‘stuff’ of the world. Cotter’s sculptures do not function as or take the form of diagrams, but her linear armatures and frame-like structures function as ways for her to process or ‘digest’ what Vilém Flusser described as the ‘amorphous stew’ which surrounds us.iii

Arguably, the common element linking the works in a consequence of – without stilling is less wood or plastic or metal but line: line extended into three dimensions, line in the form of minimally thin sheets of ply spliced into ribbon and woven into structure; line in the form of bundles of nylon or cord or foam suspended from whip thin metal frames. The work in this exhibition furthers Cotter’s investigation into the potential of line extended in space and an engagement with materials and structures that are porous, slight, precarious and reactive. In this sense, Cotter’s practice is in dialogue with a post minimalist, post medium moment where the boundaries between sculpture and drawing have been productively abraded and complicated, a mode of enquiry which has been vital since Picasso and Julio Gonzalez in the 1920s. Her sculptures and assemblages, to paraphrase art historian Anna Lovatt, ‘demarcate space without filling it, sculpting volume without mass’, while her tenuous, unravelling and often wall mounted works recall the work of Eva Hesse and Richard Tuttle.iv In order to approach the specificity of this new body of work however, it is necessary to move beyond the now familiar trope of ‘drawing in space’ which has been used to describe the work of artists as varied as Gordon Matta Clark and Fred Sandback to the more recent installation work of Sarah Sze or Monika Grzymala. Cotter’s project is determinedly different - concerned neither with describing figures or objects as per Picasso or Gonzalez, but neither interested in non-referentiality in the manner of Sandback or Hesse. Lovatt offers some productive alternative points of contact between the practices of sculpture and drawing; the most relevant to Cotter’s practice being the quality of slightness which applies to the delicate, intricate structure of matter of fact or without stilling as equally as to the speculative, unobtrusive qualities of watery life & rock or a dappled world. Slightness, Lovatt proposes, puts forth an alternative to the bombastic or spectacular strain in twentieth and twenty first century sculpture.v Given that Cotter trained in the Crawford School of Art under John Burke, arguably Ireland’s most important proponent of large scale Modernist steel sculpture, whose influence can be seen in the work of Cotter’s contemporaries Eilísh O’Connell and Vivienne Roche - this strategy of refusal or opposition holds weight. Each cribriform structure or loose-knit grouping offers a model of sculpture that implicitly challenges the medium's claims to discreteness and autonomy. Importantly though, Cotter’s interest in responsive materials and in porous structures are an address to space that rebuffs the common tendency to read slightness or susceptibility as feminine. Instead, her works are in sympathy with the outlines of Merleau-Ponty’s description of the intending consciousness, articulated by art historian Norman Bryson as ‘always already in the world, in the thick of material existence, and not as standing apart from matter in some transcendental vacuum’.vi Her sculptures and drawings figure a mode of experience that is emphatically not about heroic individualism but offers instead an understanding of the world in which we are not separated from our materials but are rather impenetrably integrated.

This approach to spatiality is made visible in her drawings, several which are exhibited in a consequence of – without stilling. The turn towards drawing in critical and academic writing, particularly in relation to twentieth and twenty first century sculptures, further emphasises the fact that drawing can no longer be regarded as merely preliminary, but is in fact central to the conception of, and importantly the process of making - as art historian Jo Applin describes it: drawing understood as material, as matter and mattering.vii Therefore an examination of Cotter’s drawings offers an insight into her approach to and understanding of space. other drawings; a series of works in pencil and white gouache on dark grey paper; turns around ideas of suspension and draping. Take other drawings | five for example: the mass on the right of swift, glancing elliptical marks describing a slightly squashed orb; on the left a tighter pattern of loops or discs quickly washed with white outlines a spinning helix. These loose skeins of lines are determinedly open, not so much delimiting structure than describing the fall or movement of light. desk drawings | one contains loose evocations of works for the show; recognisable in the foreground is an abbreviated sketch of falling into many pieces | two. The surface is washed with primer, an almost opaque off-white over the darker linen surface so that the sketched structures seem to inhabit a thick, almost murky medium. Space to Cotter is not a neutral, empty container for objects, but is itself teeming and dense with air and light and shade, communicating what architect Juhani Pallasmaa has described as, ‘a strengthened sense of the materiality and hapticity, texture and weight, density of space and materialised light.’viii Both of these drawings describe a certain phenomenological attention; that which reminds us that we are ‘caught up in things’ and that the ‘body is a thing among things’. ix

In order to explore this heightened apprehension of networked openness, Cotter presents us with a series of material and processual experiments of increasing complexity. The three works entitledfalling into many pieces | one, two and three for example all riff on the idea of a wall mounted loop that holds a circle draped, hung or overlaid with amorphous material - warty bubbling plaster; a yellowing frill of latex stretched tight across a hoop, a loose spill of net. The tension or formal interest arises from the play between the elegant, minimal geometry of the steel frame, and the chaotic spill or accretion of matter. a dappled world similarly plays on the process of bundling: a series of three wall mounted assemblages, light and loose clusters of found banal materials - curls of plastic tubing, a wodge of insulation foam, some string - are assembled with a disarming lightness of touch. Collectively, the group presents an investigation into the tension between degrees of softness and hardness, of the interplay between mesh or crystalline or solid surfaces, or between densities of line and shadow. Each pale cluster is linked by a line drawn in pencil on the gallery wall, thus enacting a drama between two and three dimensions, creating an interplay between lines drawn, shaped and shadowed. Both series occupy space in a distinctive way: deploying light, translucent materials and cast shadows to blur discrete contours. Infra thin sheets of latex, or loose skeins of cord or net negate the distinction between interior and exterior, while each wall mounted arrangement is carefully lit so as to emphasise the collaboration between material and shadow. Such strategies enact a defiant, yet subtle territory grab, making work that takes up more space by seeming to leach out into it, either dissolving its edges or casting dense patterns of shadow that appear even more substantial than the sculptural object. Translucency allows her works to take up space without being territorial.

This subversive approach to spatiality is all the more compelling given Cotter’s interest in, and frequent collaboration with architects and architecture: without stilling for example, stemmed from a conversation with Clancy Moore Architects. However, her references to architecture are less inclined towards the heroic, monumental or stable than then the provisional and aleatory. Returning to without stilling’s interior curve, we are faced by straight edged fins, each element carefully marked in pencil with a code relating to its place in the larger structure. This Euclidean core, orderly and rational, spins out into an increasingly ragged and chaotic fringe. & bone is described by Cotter as a both a ‘requiem for architecture’ and ‘a spent architectural drawing’; it presents us with structure like an improvised crane anchored by a fluted plaster element that references a Corinthian column and balances a large hoop which in turn holds a limp greyish yellow latex fringe, like a burst balloon. If architecture, as Juhani Pallasmaa describes it, is our primary instrument in relating us to space and time, and to giving these a human measure, it is also widely recognised as having been instrumentalised ‘to transmit and reinforce the power of the strong over the weak.’x xi To think about the death of architecture then means to the think about a meltdown of the ways in which we order the world. However, these works are not in any sense pessimistic, but address a sense of slippage - the moment when familiar systems or patterns of thought are re-oriented. Cotter’s research for this exhibition centred on ideas about the mutability of concepts once regarded with certainty. a dappled world refers to Nancy Cartwright’s book of the same name which questions the limits of the mathematical sciences and proposes that principles of order in nature are much more entangled, emergent and piecemeal rather than any kind of closed, causal system. the moon is falling - a low, spreading pool of alternately transparent or blue plastic tape, over which hovers a group of blistered plaster discs like an orrery of flattened planets -refers to changing apprehensions of the laws of gravity.

These sculptures, poised between dissolution and cohesion, refer to intangible, abstract concepts. However, each work is realised through an intimate engagement with matter informed by familiar objects, often containers of various types such as cups or wastebaskets. without stilling makes reference to an aspect of vernacular material culture: the woven, open sided cylinder, made without adhesives, references an archaic, Irish drinking vessel, known as a noggin. Claudia Kinmonth, the Irish furniture historian, describes the vessel as, ‘… most impressively complex and intricate […] made with no metal or glue, by a specialist known in nineteenth-century Ireland as ‘a “noggin weaver” because of the artistic finish of the wooden hooping. The wooden hoop was a broad band, the full depth of the vessel and cleverly woven together at the junction’.xii However, it is less the structure or mode of facture of the vessel that is important to Cotter, than an intensity of engagement with material that comes from making by hand. without stilling is the accumulation of a repeated gesture, amassed over months by Cotter and her small team of assistants, movements of restraint and release that have built to a point of tension so that the meticulously planned composition of each individual piece gives way to a cumulative effect of unravelling. The work enacts a drama between the submission to and the agency of material.

The works that comprise a consequence of – without stilling therefore are arrived at through ‘a conversation’ with materials rather than an interrogation, and a sensitivity to the capacities, or the structural possibilities of materials and found objects. This is particularly apparent in watery life & rock, where for example, a rubber ring like a large flat washer is threaded onto the steel, or a single length of grey latex draped across the lip of the loop, or a slightly dingy wad of green upholstery foam stuffed through the bracket. The elements that Cotter deploys in these works are less everyday industrially manufactured materials but bits and pieces of discarded or leftover scraps. Nevertheless, the spare arrangements elicit from the most unprepossessing of materials rich visual incident, distilling from an unordered mess of detritus works of perfectly phrased formality.

The assemblages are reminiscent of Richard Wentworth’s Making Do and Getting By series, an archive of photographs of ‘happy accidents’ which registers his chance encounters with unexpected structural improvisation; incidents where objects have been hijacked from their original function and pressed into unintended service. These range from the prosaic - a wooden hanger keeping a window open or a bottle top as an ashtray, to the more abstruse; a piece of carpet used as a car fender, or a bucket jammed onto the side of a dented car so that the headlight will still operate. Cotter’s sculptures however, although similarly attuned to the links between the poetic and the mundane, reverse the emphasis by focusing on the formal liveliness inherent in unexpected materials. These are abstract arrangements that can’t be fully abstracted - the chunk of upholstery foam remains recognisably a chunk of upholstery foam. These ordinary, prosaic fragments of stuff are not rendered extra-ordinary or spectacular, but worthy nonetheless of sustained aesthetic attention. The series presents us with, to paraphrase critical theorist Bill Brown, ‘bits of quotidian stuff, displaced from quotidian routine, provoke[ing] a kind of intimate inspection as form and as matter, as a mystery of matter reformed, restaged.’xiii These rogue and raggy accumulations have an inherent coherence despite their seeming precarity or the sense that these casual agglomerations of films and tubes and strings are on the verge of falling apart. What Cotter points to is a condition of things ordering themselves - the weight of a material drooping, of one element falling against another, the pressure of gravity and the fall of light. Rather than celebrating human ingenuity, her work is alive to the fact that we are entwined in matter, and that humans and objects form networks or assemblages across which agency is distributed.

Cotter’s sculptures articulate a model of thinking - an attitude towards the open and susceptible condition of being in and making space in the world, and a sculptor’s awareness of the consequences of submission to and engagement with the agency of matter. This manner of thinking chimes with the recent turn towards what had been termed ‘Vibrant Materialism’ in the humanities. The ‘vibrancy’ of matter is a concept put forth by political philosopher Jane Bennett, who explains this ‘vitality’ as,’ the capacity of things - edibles, commodities, storms, metals - not only to impede or block the will and designs of humans but also to act as quasi agents or forces with trajectories, propensities or tendencies of their own.’xiv The upsurge in interest in ‘new materialism’ (as opposed to ‘old materialist’ Marxist questions about the uneven inscription of labour), provides a different vocabulary for thinking about matter, broadly articulated as more amorphous than discrete objects.xv As art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson has recently suggested, by taking seriously the idea that we are comprised of the stuff around us, we might be moved to creatively envision a more ethical relationship to the world around us. xvi Bennett similarly argues that an ‘enhance[d] receptivity to the impersonal life that surrounds us and infuses us, [will] generate a more subtle awareness of the complicated web of dissonant connections between bodies.’xvii In our present moment of rapidly advancing technological and scientific potential, such attention might encourage a new way of thinking about our place in the world, not as the apex of a pyramid but rather interwoven in a lattice. What Cotter seeks to register is a shift in values between the natural and the material worlds - that we have things wrongly categorised. As Bennett argues, ‘a newfound attentiveness to matter and its powers […] can inspire a greater sense of the extent to which all bodies are kin in the sense of inextricably enmeshed in a dense network of relations.’xviii

anatomy is a small work, housed under a mouth blown glass dome. Two steel rods topped with a tilted circular plate are decisively bolted together with a trio of fletched fixings and stood on an upturned plastic funnel. A short strip of silver tape unevenly ripped at its top margin and flecked with blue at its base adheres to the rim of the glass, echoing the vertical of the steel. The reflective tape sharpens our awareness of the transparency of the glass, while the fasteners’ bulk contrasts with the fineness of the steel bars. An oddly affecting arrangement of prosaic elements, the piece enacts a drama of balance, creating an encounter that looms large without being monumental. In many ways the vertical arrangement of anatomy distils Cotter’s project in a consequence of – without stilling: sculptural presence is built through moments of excess and restraint to arrive at a breathing moment, poised between dissipation and compression.

September 2018

i Katy Deepwell, Dialogues: Women Artists from Ireland, (I.B. Taurus: London, 2005), 25

ii Ed Krčma, ‘To Diagram without Stilling/On Maud Cotter’s Sculpture’, Maud Cotter: Matter of Fact (domobaal: London, 2016), unpaginated

iii Vilém Flusser, The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design (Reaktion: London, 1999), 24

iv Anna Lovatt, ‘Drawing Across and Between Media’ Drawing : Sculpture (London: Drawing Room and Leeds Art Gallery, 2012), 6

v Ibid, 15

vi Norman Bryson, ‘A Walk for a Walk’s Sake’ in Catherine de Zegher (ed.) The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act, (The Drawing Centre: London & New York, 2003), 154

vii Jo Applin, ‘Eva Hesse Sculpture by Elizabeth Sussman and Fred Wasserman (ed), and Eva Hesse Drawing by Catherine de Zegher (ed) Review’, Art Book, Vol. 14:4, 2007, 31-32, 31

viii Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (Wiley Academy: Chichester West Sussex, 2005), 37

xi Maurice Merleau-Ponty ‘Eye and Mind’, trans Carleton Dallery, The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History and Politics , trans James E. Edie et al (Evanston: Illinois, 1964), 163

x Juhani Pallassma, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (Wiley Academy: Sussex, 2005), 17

xi Leslie Sklair and Laura Gherardi, ‘Iconic Architecture as a Hegemonic Projects of the Transnational Capitalist Class’, City, Vol. 16, 2012, 57-73, 57

xii Claudia Kinmonth, ‘Knowing our Noggins: Rare Irish Drinking Vessels Rediscovered’, Folk Life: Journal of Ethnological Studies, 55:1 (2017), 46-52, 48

xiii Bill Brown, ‘A Questionnaire on Materialisms’, October 115, Winter 2016, 11-13, 11

xiv Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, (Duke University Press: Durham and London, 2010), vii

xv Julia Bryan-Wilson, ‘A Questionnaire on Materialisms’, October 115, Winter 2016, 16-18, 16

xvi Ibid

xvii Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, (Duke University Press: Durham and London, 2010), 11

xviii Ibid,13