© The Artist


Kenny Macleod (1967 – )


17 minutes
Accession number


'Robbie Fraser' was the result of my interest in looking at how structure may determine how we interpret ourselves and others. I wanted to make a work backwards, in the sense that I would decide on the structure of the biography first and place the details second. In addition I would make it seem to be concerned with the details and minutiae of an individual's personal narrative but, by means of contradiction and confusion in that narrative, would bring attention to how such a narrative is created or is expected to be fulfilled. I hoped that the viewer would be drawn in by their nosiness and desire for some personal revelation, perhaps empathizing or investing a degree of sympathy in what they could hear. However this would be misplaced. In fact rather than being the direct recipient of the personal details of this character's Iifestory, it turns out that these details are of no significance and hold no meaning as such. But the work is not empty, it is just that the meaning is elsewhere - in the structure, or in the

viewer's awareness of his or her interpretation. The work started quite abstractly - I decided on a sequence of exactly 100-word narrative texts, each beginning with the same sentence - 'Hello, my name is Robbie Fraser' - and then I filled in the details. If the details of the stories did not fit 100 words, they were pruned or padded rigorously so they fitted exactly. It didn't matter whether what was being discarded or added was of emotional, psychological or eventful significance or insignificance, or whether this would cause disruptions in the sequence of narratives. In fact contradictions were important because these would prevent the viewer from being drawn in and avoiding the significance of the structure. By being unable to build a coherent narrative, or empathizing, or rejecting the character outright, they

would be continually back-footed and forced to consider how the piece had been constructed. The viewer thus cannot remain passive in front of the work. By creating this moment which is not coherent and cannot be grasped as a discrete whole the viewer is either encouraged to reassemble the work, during which process new questions may occur, or may look again at

his or her own desire to create a coherent and comfortable meaning, narrative or explanation of and for himlherself or others. In many ways this work reflects my scepticism of the interpretation of an artwork through the ascription of an essential meaning or depth which can be determined by reference to, amongst many other things, the artist, semiotic readings, or to questions of differing cultural 'sensibilities'. My hope is that things are a lot more uncomfortably confused.


Letter from the Artist 2001