CUE Emerging critics program
Posted August 13, 2012 by jake moore
Slyboots Promise: Stephen Schofield and the making of believers
The “conditional” is a verb tense used to express what would happen given certain events or actions. Equivalents exist in many languages; in English, additional words are required to put potential into linguistic play. In French, the conditional is expressed through a form of conjugation, so the potential for a shift is thus inherent, or rather, structural. The things that Stephen Schofield makes are such; his sculptural works, drawings, performance video - his entire oeuvre - manifests as something that ‘could be’ while asserting an uncanny existence as something that already is, or has been. The linguistic reference is an apt starting point for a bilingual artist living and working in Montréal, Québec, where language is always at the surface - often as an index of difference. Schofield’s use of language is full of care and deeply considered, and parallels his method of engagement with other kinds of making.
With Slyboots Promise at Cue, Schofield offers several of his inflated textile sculptures alongside video and performance. Giddy Cosmonaut, Sailor’s Delight, Sexton and Gentle Shade are textile inflatables with direct relationship to the body, sculptural tradition and personal narrative, Ann’s Dream - a video – articulates a relationship to material, action and time, Drunken Tutor) exists in both media and will be the focus of this essay for it demonstrates both Schofield’s facility and deep understanding of media specificity. At first, this giant male form seems somewhat awkward. It is sewn from a honey-coloured ultra suede, its hundreds of pattern pieces stitched together with visible seams, like the welds inside the Statue of Liberty. The seams add structure and definition; they delineate the musculature, much like drawings in space, yet uniquely, these lines allow for volume, for when the textile assemblages are inflated with air (from the discharge valve of a vacuum cleaner) and stiffened with sugar, they are equally enlivened and stilled. The cloth now serves as membrane - a selective barrier between two phases. It is the separation between inflation and collapse, line and form, hyle and entity. Dualities all, yet hinged as sites of potential. Conditional