Monochrome Till Receipt (White) is a till print-out of a list of goods purchased by Floyer at Morrisons, a UK supermarket chain. Despite its title, the paper is in fact yellowish-white in tone and the information is printed in blue ink. The list itself comprises ordinary objects that are all white or have the word ‘white’ in their name, including flour, hand cream, mozzarella cheese, toothpaste, tissues, white chocolate, milk, salt, sugar and cotton wool pads among many other items, amounting to forty-nine purchases in total. When exhibited, the work is attached to a bare wall in a vertical orientation, without any framing device.
The work is part of Floyer’s series of till receipts, begun in 1999, that each feature a new iteration produced at a shop local to or in the same country as the gallery or museum where it is exhibited or in whose collection it is to be held. Tate’s version was created in London on 9 June 2009. Speaking of the series’ context-specificity, the artist has remarked:
Monochrome needs to be produced locally in order to avoid reading it as an exotic curiosity. It counts on its unremarkable outward appearance for its subsequent conceptual transformation.
(Floyer in Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina 2008, p.55.)
As well as the place in which a given work is shown or collected, titles are also an essential constituent of Floyer’s series. Monochrome Till Receipt (White) tells the viewer what the work is literally but also conceptually, indicating that it is a list and that it suggests a single colour (as evoked by its itemised list of white products). As the curator Iwona Blazwick has noted, the work is also akin to ‘concrete poetry’, suggesting ‘a still life made entirely of white objects ... a readymade, the document of an action, and in its use of text, a conceptual art work’ (Blazwick in Kunsthalle Bern 1999, unpaginated).
Floyer has compared the ongoing versions of Monochrome Till Receipt and its art historical associations to her works such as Nail Biting Performance 2001, where the artist bit her fingernails for five minutes on stage in front of a live audience at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, and Wish You Were Here 2008, a found, empty postcard display unit. She stated in 2008 that she regards such performances and readymades as ‘model[s] to play with’ (Floyer in Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina 2008, p.55). The enduring nature of the work suggests its translatability across cultures and languages since it was first made as a performance, document, picture and sculpture. It also calls into question the value of an artwork as compared with the cost of making it, which, in the case of Tate’s iteration, was £70.30.
Ceal Floyer, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle Bern, Bern 1999, unpaginated.
Ceal Floyer, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel 2008.
Ceal Floyer, exhibition catalogue, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples 2008, p.55.
Supported by Christie’s.