Abbie Cairns

Post Graduate Research Student

My artistic practice explores the use of text and site, examining how the context of a site can change the reading of any given text and provides the cultural framework for the artwork to exist within. The work produced is usually temporary, drawing on notions of time and place, duration and mutability. This is echoed in the use of language, as that too is affected by these factors. Language changes depending on when and where it is exists, and the meaning of words is edited and changed as time passes. Nothing is fixed and my practice focuses very much on nowness.

One of the main processes which takes place within my practice is the playing with language, I will often use synonyms and antonyms. I enjoy breaking language and pushing it to its limits; whether this means the use of repetition or removal of text until the language no longer makes sense. The text used within my work varies: some works use found text, others are created by automatic means – the silliness of Dadaism draws me in. However, in both instances they depend on our shared public language and social facts. The everyday nature of language and its accessibility to audiences appeals to me.

The notion of audience/audiencing and community/communication are important to my practice, as the work exists outside of an art gallery context. Therefore, the viewers of the work may not necessarily be looking at it intentionally. To engage this everyman audience, I strive to make text choices which comment on life, rather than art. One of the main reasons I use text within my practice is because we have temporal relations with it and thus, even if the viewer does not reach the same interpretation as my intention, they are still engaging with it on some level. Time and place come into play here too, as the same text will be read differently by the same person if the text is placed in a new site. The text used within my practice is often vague and embraced the audience’s interpretations of the text and the loss of control over it, echoing Barthes feelings on the Death of the Author.

My practice lends itself to installation work, the usual criteria for sites used within my practice are the Duchampian unchoice. These territories appeal to me due to their usually overlooked presence.

My process swings between two opposing pillars; choosing text specifically fitting to sites and putting text into sites and allowing it to resonate. These are varying processes, however I find the process of both compelling, as either way a dialogical relationship will take place between the art and the site [and the audience]. Working within different sites appeals to me as each has their own specific limitation and these limits help to establish and frame the text.

My practice takes a DIY approach, again infused with Dadaism, as such I use materials which are often inexpensive and processes that are easily accessible. Simplicity can rule and as such the text is curated into the site carefully.

Creative Practitioner Support Programme (CPSP) – [ SPACE ] (

Abbie Cairns | Colchester Art Society

Abbie Cairns – Norwich University of the Arts (

Abbie Cairns – ALDinHE

Abbie Cairns (

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