TERRY ATKINSON
The analogy which I elected to use in conceiving of the Grease Works was the hardware/software distinction
of computer science.[1]  I wished to make a series of works which had a software component such that the
works would continue to produce themselves (or at least aspects of themselves) after they had left my (the
artist’s) relations of production. An early group of Grease Works was the Warhol Chair works, where the
hardboard/paint/trough construction is treated as the hardware tableau upon which the software programme
(grease) is implemented and runs. Grease, being the relatively volatile material it is, continues to shift and
seep according to such factors as variation in temperature, how vigorously the works may be moved one site
to another, etc. Accordingly I conceived of the use of grease as the deployment of a continuing to run software
programme.

Since I was assuming, for this project at least, that the given model of the artistic subject (learned and
inculcated, let us say, in art school) as running (implemented) in the body of the artist (a truism in one strong
sense), then, accordingly, the works of the late eighties and those made throughout the nineties, can be
viewed as an attempt to increasingly focus upon making works which model, in one way or another, the
artistic subject her or himself. It is clearer now (2002) that the Grease Works (the first two small Grease
Works were made toward the end of 1986) were sustained attempt to make works, a component (grease) of
which was a kind of automata. Grease as a kind of continuous ongoing -past-the-hand-of-the-artist moving
agent of the relations of production of these works. With more than ten years of clear hindsight this now
seems obvious. In the later eighties and early nineties other series of works also preoccupied me alongside
and sometimes interleaved with the Grease Works. These were the series (1) Mayor of  Leipzig/Jacques
Louis David Works, (2) Mute Works and (3) Enola Gay Works. All four series of works had a number of works
which crossed into one or another, or a number of, the other series. In short, the boundaries between the
series of works are porous. The software programmes (either grease, or in the work of the nineties,
automated projected image technology and/or conventional computer software programmes) cross series,
are often intra-series.

The grease was the initial software programme. The second programme introduced was automated
projected image technology projected on to the hardware (tableaux surfaces of various kind  -  hardboard,
canvas, etc.). Some later Grease Works  use both kinds of software (grease and automated projected image
technology). Mainly these works have remained in the form of the initial drawings.[2] Throughout the nineties
the largest body of work was constituted of these kinds of materiel. The first work of the nineties which
realized the work past the drawing stage is Work by a Split-Brain Artist, shown at the IMMAGlen Dimplex Prize
exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1994.  This particular realization is a variation on an initial plan
which remains in the form of a series of plans/drawings and notes, which was a characteristic way of working
with this body of work. And many of these plans/drawings remain in this form, although should a suitable
opportunity arise I would still like to realize them (see note 2).  Some of the later works  (from around 1995)
would, ideally, incorporate a software which continuously develops.[3]

Thus these software entrants (implemented by whatever technology) are attempts to model an artistic agent,
an artistic subject. Thus I guess these works may be seen as representations of representers (artists). So, in
one way at least, I viewed these works as agents/subjects rather than as objects, keeping in mind the
limitations outlined in note 1. Throughout the nineties and early 2000s I maintained a strong preoccupation
with such areas as genetic algorithms, automata theory, which I thought, at that time, would entail more direct
involvement in computer science/artificial intelligence/cognitive science areas than hitherto. Whilst an interest
in cognitive science remains central to my ongoing work, I am now more critical of computer science and
artificial intelligence as resources for modelling the mind. I remain though, for example, intrigued with
studying some areas of mathematics, although not necessarily to as direct feeds into my practice. Such
study, as I have found to my cost, can be very time consuming.

Some points of continuity seem to stay with the practice. A characteristic twinning of painting/software text
remains and has been steadfast in the work since 1996. This kind of twinning seems to act as a kind of
bridge, in the sense that it is securely tied into a traditional technology (painting), the ontology of which
safeguardedly chaperones the work as art. The idea of making work that both hangs in and out of art has
interested me a long time. It seems a kind of space where some productive questions might be raised.

Be this as it may, qua painting and drawing, it seems that both slide-projection software and computer
software offer some purchase upon the notion of a work-agent which reflects and comments upon itself,
including the history of any given genre, technology, set of cognitive resources, etc. These reflexive and
iterative possibilities have stayed as preoccupations of my practice.  Not the least of the historical aspects
which the work may continue to reflect upon, is the status and condition of the avant-garde model of the
artistic subject (AGMOAS). The Grease Works mark something of a step along the way of this still ongoing
concern in my practice.


Notes.

1. I studied a lot of material from the artificial intelligence (hereafter AI) area in the first five or six years of the
nineties. Minsky, the Churchlands, Dennett, for example, as well as some of the foundational texts from the
likes of Turing and McCarthy. But I have never been able to do anything but heed  the reservations concerning
many of the claims coming from the AI constituencies expressed by Noam Chomsky, many aspects of whose
work, in respect of my practice, has remained a foundational and persistent influence from the late sixties to
the present.

2.  There are many of these drawings I would like to realize as objects should the opportunity of space or
commission arise (e.g. a suitable exhibition space with appropriate funds/resources to realize them). The
reason  I  have  not  made  them otherwise in my own  time and  on   my own  funds is largely a question of
storage since I have not for more than ten years worked with a  particular dealer on any permanent basis.

3.  This notion is one in which I remain interested. I guess it goes back a long way, to at least the permanent
preoccupation with text started, at the very latest, in Art & Language in the sixties.