The Meaning of Return: Scott Myles

1 March – 30 April 2014

A suite of prints made directly onto the walls of the Mumbai Art Room, which will be whitewashed away at the end of the exhibition, show an array of sculptural objects laid out across an expansive floor. The squarish room in the prints, a ballet studio with a mirrored wall at one end and barres running horizontally along the other walls, is not unlike the space of the Mumbai Art Room itself, with one wall comprised entirely of panes of glass doors. Self-referentially, the previous exhibition played with the dimensions of the room, to resemble a single vitrine, or entry into the space of the diorama. In the current presentation by Scott Myles, (born 1975 in Dundee, Scotland) the public space of the gallery is likened to a ballet studio, a space of private performative gestures - like an artist studio - for rehearsal, and trial. In the ballet studio where the photographs were taken by Myles, he replaced the dancers with his own sculptures, composed of found objects - a wheelchair or the wheels of a swivel-chair, and parts the artist made to form his choreography of anthropomorphic performers in the space. The barres running horizontally may be read as a kind of horizon line, a bar for support and a line of stability, within a space of unlimited choreographic possibility for movement. 

Challengingly, these large unique screenprints in silver overlaid by black ink, serigraphed directly onto the wall, are changed by the surface textures of the walls - their bites, dips, scuffs and scratches. The walls and columned plinths of an art gallery space, meant for the display of work, become the work itself, and negate certain ideas of display-conventions at the first instance. Overlaid the idea of the gallery, is the idea of the ballet studio, and over this the idea of the artist’s studio. The monochrome silver colour field of the wall prints over which the black inks of the photographs are printed, can be further likened to the silvering of the reverse-side of glass used to make mirror, and suggests also an allusion to moving image and film. The overlaying of metaphoric rooms is an enchanting part of Myles’ conceptual art practice. But this form of conceptual work is tinged with the romantic, in the crafted beauty of the shimmering silver and black printmaking inks, an aspect we are perhaps slowly coming to acknowledge within the common perception of conceptual art as dry or formulaic.


Myles’ use of silvering, mirroring, duplication, reversed images, twinning, doubling and reflection in his works are artistic techniques; interestingly, the very terms by which the philosopher Gilles Deleuze considered games that define the 'imaginary’. For the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, the Imaginary Order is formed during the 'mirror stage’, and is related to mimesis, to the copy, to the ‘fraud’, through the turning of oneself into an object that can be viewed by the baby from outside of himself, when they first recognise themselves in the mirror. In one of the wall-prints, two similar plinths stand side by side on the floor, their presence is again doubled and reflected in a mirror producing many alternate selves. The sculptures appear to be trying to make sense of themselves through their reflections in the mirror. If this is the realm of Lacan’s mirror stage, then the horizontal supportive barre running around the room may suggest the notion of stability and unity, against the mise-en-abyme of the mirroring-Imaginary. Alternately, for Jean-Paul Sartre the imaginary was about freedom in the broadest sense, and he wrote that the extent to which an object could be visualised and held most distinctly and precisely in imagination, reveals the possibility to imagine other forms of social and cultural existence, the extent to which we can be free. To bring these concepts of the self-recognising mirror stage and the imaginary into the spatiality and temporality of the display gallery, and the studio, begins to raise the dimensions of what an audience enters an art gallery to do, and why. The work of the audience comes in focus in this exhibition, as much as the work of the artist as producer.


The presence of the missing artist takes the form of a triangular wooden sculpture, we meet as soon as we enter the small square room. The height and length of the sculpture corresponds exactly to the height of the artist - 194cms - as if to say: ‘hello it’s me’. This work is evocatively titled 'Social Sculpture’, and to some extent is an echo of the many triangular shapes of ladders and upturned chairs that make up the performing sculptures within the prints. A footrest on the diagonal plank echoes again the shape of the large triangle sculpture, immediately implying the performative nature of the sculpture. The audience is welcome to re-enact the first performance, where in 2008, Scott Myles performed 'Reciprocity On Three Planes’ in which the bodies of three people stood vertical, lay head-down within, or using the footrest leaned diagonally against each plane of the hollow triangular sculpture. A similar performance occurred in the space for this exhibition. Dressed in black, posing still and expressionless for twenty minutes, three members of the audience held a half-filled wineglass perfectly balanced with the horizon of the barre in the prints. The interactive nature of this sculpture, and the title, ‘Social Sculpture’, immediately connect with the idea of the art world itself as a ‘social sculpture’, in the way the conceptual artist Joseph Beuys extended the concept of art to art's potential to transform society, an artwork that includes human activity. 


The suite of prints were produced from a digital files of the separated photographic images, exposures were made with the Sir JJ School of Art - for the first time in this large-format size, and silk screens specially framed at this scale. The whole process of printing onto wall has been documented by the JJ printmaking studio, and is now being used for teaching purposes by Professor Anant Nikam, the head of the department, who lectures across colleges in Maharashtra. The social sculptor structures society using language, action, or objects. Playfully interactive, the sculpture collects fleeting performed gestures of the community and audience who enter the space, just as we begin to de-code the title of the suite of prints ‘the meaning of return’. There and gone, like the flash of a mirror’s returned stare, it catches the dematerialised, temporal nature of exhibition making, or of thought; beheld in silver, for the brief time of the exhibition.


- Zasha Colah


Scott Myles, ‘The Meaning of Return’, a suite of five unique screenprints on wall, 2014.


Scott Myles, ‘Social Sculpture’, wood, 2014.


All works courtesy Scott Myles/ The Modern Institute/ Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow.


Scott Myles and Mumbai Art Room would like to acknowledge the support of Professor Anant Nikam and the Sir JJ School of Art, Bombay, Sachin Bonde, Nikhil Raunak, Mangesh Kapse, Prasad Nikumbh, Alexia Holt, Below Another Sky, Creative Scotland, Glasgow PrintStudio, Claire Forsyth, Scott Campbell, and Murray Robertson in the making of this exhibition.