Jen Martin on Sarah Forrest’s 'The Unit'

Part of ONE WORK

A video still shows a dark room, we are close to a wooden table on which are placed two glass objects. We can see the lines of where the table could fold down, and the curve of the table edge across the centre of the image. A bottle, and next to it sits a thin vase with green shoots in it. On top of the objects sits text, large white san serif font that reads ‘ONE’.
Sarah Forrest, The Unit, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.

ONE WORK is a series of online discussion events to think more deeply about how an artwork came into being. Focusing closely on a single work, these generous discussions provide space for an artist to present a recent work and talk through the work’s creation. The events are accompanied by a month-long online screening and specially commissioned written response published on the LUX Scotland website.

Sarah Forrest took part in a ONE WORK event with us in July 2021, presenting and discussing her work, The Unit (2021), which through the act of enquiry explores how our senses become heightened as every object encountered could be laced with apparent or hidden meanings. The Unit was commissioned for Glasgow International 2021. Supported by Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and Maryhill Burgh Halls.

We commissioned writer Jen Martin to respond to The Unit. We are delighted to publish Jen’s response below.

Jen Martin is an artist from Wester Ross, based in Glasgow. Jen works in film, writing and sound. She exhibited video work at the Centre for Contemporary Art Glasgow in 2019, for the Some things want to run programme. Jen collaborates in film with artists, dancers, musicians, writers and performers. She studied the M(Litt) Art Writing, at Glasgow School of Art.

It is the case that it is raining and it is not raining

A van hits a deer, the deer dies. The man texts to say that he has hit a deer while driving at night, and that the headlamp and wing are gone.

The overrepresentation of a given subject, leads me to believe that there is something more in perception, in capture, that is sought-after. An expectation of there to be more, something that we are missing, residing in periphery, perhaps the search for a blind spot, the backside or behind of perception. Tiny asteroids in the eye gather and clump, producing a darkened area of blur. These calcium stars look like a smudge of unfocus for the beholder, drifting in a tensioned current of aqueous fluid. Each eye movement sends the asteroids on unspecific routes across vision, and yet they always return to the same position eventually. A random orbit.

We had been speaking of these asteroids and how they sometimes fogged his vision, weeks — maybe months — before the deer.

I have a suggestion to the order of my thoughts, and to our thoughts on this situation of our dad. In speaking to my sister about why we no longer see eye-to-eye, I propose to her that we figure out why. I have been looking to a sort of Venn diagram concerning our experience and history, in search of a shared space of intersection. Our commons. A place for us both to be together in something more than agreement, sisterhood maybe, though we never use that term. Tracing how we diverged, our age, our words, what we remember of each other’s childhoods. How we both lost our accents, then came back to them — why we did this.

Our’ parents, became my parents’. Our eight years apart meaning that we had split our childhoods at some point. Severed shares in upbringing. She asks me, Why are you laughing? I am asking you to tell me what you saw, what you smelt when you opened his fridge? There wasn’t a tablecloth when I was there, but you said there was.

Calculative reasoning is also at work on additions of hurt — it can be an empirical problem. The subtraction of good deeds, good memories, divided by time, multiplied by inabilities to apologise, or reconcile. These experiences equate to a morally bankrupt situation. A process of inductive reasoning would look at the empirical facts of repetition — observations, clues of experience and history. What seems to be habit, then no longer particular to a situation, is now, universally, this person’s way’. It has become objectively reasoned, agreed, that he is in the wrong, on the wrong side of favour.

On the road together, he would teach me to keep my eyes peeled for deer. Counter to instinct, to logic, he said to look to where the deer has come fromin case there are more following.

But, if the known rule here were counter to common sense, a known rule could be that it is raining and it is not raining. If common sense is shared and produced together, its reproduction relies on the outcomes of decisions, be they rational or not. Taking up the available, vacant space of common sense, specific senses have grown. An ear is tuned to patience. Hearing others’ stories. What would it mean to amount to doubt and dither? The imperative to make up your own mind about matter is a hot topic.

I have tried to suggest that it is reason that we falter over. She listens. She feels, she says, that that is how she makes sense of the world, she just feels. I have hunches about people, things…futures.

In a process of probabilistic abduction, I analyse the line of text, I hit a deer on the way home last night – headlamp and wing gone’. A straightforward situation, were it not for the asteroids. A black night turned grey, fog to his vision to the lower right corner of his eye. Where did the deer jump from? It wasn’t just that it was raining but that it was also not raining. Asteroids but not the asteroids. More corruption to the line. A guess is never as straightforward as plucked from the sky. Rolling his eyes, he sets the asteroids off again.

To fail at a description of us, of him, of how we make sense, is the likely outcome. In this breakdown, it is a laughing matter once more — we expect rationality from each other.

Audio Version

Jen Martin's response to Sarah Forrest's 'The Unit' (2021).

Part of ONE WORK

ONE WORK is a series of online events that focus closely on a single work. These generous discussions provide an opportunity for an artist to present a recent work and talk through how the work came into being. Each work is available as a month-long online screening, followed by a specially commissioned written response that serves as documentation of both the work and the discussion.

Learn more