Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Michael Rouillard and Jonathan Borofsky

Many of the long-term art projects explored on this site involve practices that are time-consuming and labour-intensive to produce. 

Making the dimension of process visible in the final product becomes very important, because this alerts viewers to the artist's expenditure of effort. 

Some artists have recognised that their outlay in time and work can be powerfully conveyed to viewers when it is insinuated, rather than seen.   

In around 1968 Jonathan Borofsky started to count for several hours each day, recording his progress on sheets of paper. Drawings occasionally interspersed the chain of numbers, although the basic process of counting remained his primary focus. By 1975, he had reached 2,346,502 which amounted to a stack of pages that stood 34 inches off the ground. By 1986 he had got to 3,227,146.


Viewers can only see the top page of his vertical, paper column, and have to imagine the appearance of the millions of numbers on the sheets below. The ragged edges of the pages, as well as the small variations in colour, come to stand in for the many hours a day that Borofsky had devoted to his obsessive project over the previous 18 years.  

Michael Rouillard has chosen to adopt a similar mode of display for his long-term drawing project, which he has called 'Stacked Pages'. The work dates back to 1993 and remains ongoing.  

It involves covering sheets from a sketch pad with a ball-point pen. In order to ensure that the ink is distributed evenly across the entire surface, he uses four pens in both hands, and rotates the pages frequently, working both sides. Once the sheets are completely covered in a sleek layer of ink, they are added to a neat pile, which is exhibited on a custom-made steel shelf.

Rouillard last exhibited the work in 2003, when it consisted of 43 pages (although now there are closer to 80).

The 2003 display specifically invited viewers to consider what the work would look like, if they could see all inked surfaces at once, arrayed side-by-side.


Rouillard drew a line, 3 feet from the ground, which represented the height that the sheets would reach if they had been affixed to the white gallery walls from the floor up. The effect is that his discrete pile of drawings seems to float on an imaginary high water mark of ink-filled hours of expended effort.