Reflections - Presence : Process : Materiality : Objectification of presence / by Ally McGinn

I use the word presence a lot in my writing and thinking. There are three main elements to it, as I see them and in relation to my practice ;


  1. My presence. In a purely personal way I find presence is the only formula for making work. It is vital, it is the thing that drives it. My presence in the studio. This is a rather motivational use of the word but in an honest reflection a note must be made.  Where possible I strive to take a step back in the work, although I'm coming to realise that this is less important than I had worried. The hand seen in the work is generally not mine, at least not at first. The choices of placement and form are mine but the materials used are from someone else. However the audience doesn't know this, at least not at first.

  2. The presence of the work. This is primarily linked to the idea of installation, or at least the purpose of it, to allow for the embodiment of the viewer; or for a closer interaction between viewer and work. This is a hard term to articulate, as it is something inherent in the work, it is a sense of ‘object’ that the ‘subjects’ interact with.

  3. The presence of the audience. Linked to the presence of the work, this is the importance of the audience in the creation of the work. An anonymous mass that exists in potential, but potentially never there.


Presence is an awareness.


I've linked presence to process through the reality of the two in my practice. For most the two might not be related, although arguably any process requires a presence, and any presence is going through a process.

Here the term process is used to describe the type of art that my work comes under (among many others). It is process-based, process-led and process-fed. Process is an undeniably important term.

Process is also a subject. The investigation of process itself, and the implications of understanding why we do the things we do. It is a philosophical process.


Materiality, although intrinsically linked, is vastly different from process. The two go hand-in-hand and yet one is something we do and the other is something that is.

An interest in materials, and the qualities of things, is something I bring to the work. I certainly wouldn't be passionate enough to nominate dust as art without it.

It is not only an interest in the contextual reality of the validity of nomination as an art form that drives my work, but also an interest in the material world of art. The material reality of paint. The more interesting material reality of objects nominated as useless or rubbish.

I am a materialist. I enjoy the physical presence of materials. I enjoy working with them, manipulating them and turning them into something else.

Materiality is fascinating. It can be shown, implied or experienced, and the boundaries can be merged.


The objectification of presence.

What I mean by this, specifically, is the record of time that the objects and materials I work with invoke. These are materials, and actions (in the case of captured actions i.e. On canvas) used in the creation of art, they embody the time they have been used and functional through the marks of use.

They can be seen as objectifications of time, and presence. They imply another person. They are not simply objects but objects with a personal history, an implied narrative that has been interrupted and reformed.

Objectification is in itself an important term. The objectification of art, of artists, artworks, ideas, contexts, personality, philosophy…..

Arguably, referencing semiotics, when there is an object and someone to perceive it, there is objectification. When an object is observed it is objectified.

All art is objectified. From the moment it is conceived.

Challenging that objectification, through the use of materials and incident, brings it's very nature into question.



I've said here that process is an undeniably important word, which should imply it is a focus. It is one, but I'm realising that it is found in the studio. It is a subject in my work however, I'm unsure whether it remains too vague, and potentially covered by one of the other, more focussed, terms.

Each of the other terms could be argued to be important. But I believe ‘objectification’ really might be very important.