The placing of this work was key to it’s reception. Nestled against the corner of a partitioning wall it somehow indicated a path around the edge of the divide and yet on the other side there was nothing to be found. So there is an act of physical return to the object once passed, which is appropriate, because the work speaks of many returns.
Terry spoke to us about this work in reference to the labour his family performs when harvesting olives from their farm in Greece. This communal act signifies the return of the seasons and memories of years gone by for him. Three heavily sealed bottles were placed amidst three canvas sacks. The pattern used to tie a rope around the bottles was done in a way that showed there is one bottle missing, a reference to a loss, trauma or suffering of an intimate nature it would seem.
Upon inspection it was not clear what could be in these bottles. Terry did mention that the sacks were meant to smell of olives and I think if the scent had been stronger it would have really compensated for the unclear nature of the liquid. In general I think it would be great to have more work which engages the sense of smell and touch in the gallery context and these are two things that Terry is really encouraging in this work.
As it stood in the space there was a primal sense of survival/anxiety which was being provoked from the excessive way Terry’s mother had wrapped the bottles. This was apparently done so as to stop them exploding under the pressure changes in the plane. I really liked this aspect of the work because it reminded me of my own experiences of trying to ‘smuggle’ similar food items back to the UK from Iran. However in this case I feel there is still work to be done in terms of making the story of the different elements clearer – because that is not necessarily where I think the mystery needs to be with this work. Maybe, instead of using the same materials that his family use on their farm, Terry needs to find something that is more broadly associated with the narrative he is placing before us, allowing the work to function as poetic rather than documentative.
In any case there is a strong concept within this work that speaks to me of many returns, of the rhythms of nature, of family and food across borders and of the resurfacing of memories and figures who come back in the form of processes which gain a ritualistic dimension. These practices of Terry’s family really resonate with the invocations of Heidegger and the image he paints of the farmer who gains sustenance from the same soil that becomes their resting place and feeds their offspring. This is also in line with Nietzsche’s radical embrace of suffering which precludes his philosophy of eternal return. Such that loving that which is necessary requires the embracing of both good and bad in a way that they are inextricably linked. In section 3 of the preface of The Gay Science, he writes:
Only great pain is the ultimate liberator of the spirit….I doubt that such pain makes us ‘better’; but I know that it makes us more profound.