Yesterday we took a trip to the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham to view and discuss the work of artist Alice Cattaneo. I hadn't seen any leaflets or previews of this show so didn't really know what to expect. Added to that, she is a relatively young artist and this was her first show in Britain.
Entering the first room of the show you are presented with a large floor based sculpture made from wood and some sort of white plastic board. On closer inspection, one can see that it is infact foam mounting board which has been cut into various shapes, both regualr and geometric. Some almost look like sails, an Armarda sailing across the gallery floor. The thin wooden batons that go to make up the structure of the piece, are joined with nothing more than strips of gaffa tape (tm). There are bumps, scratches and other marks across the surface of the board. These, in our opinion were in no way deliberate and sort of took quite alot away from the piece. Not good.
Connected to the first room is a darkened space, on the far wall is projected a piece entitled The Singer 2004. A harshly edited piece involving a small blue paper figure who bends, folds and ultimately collapses overlain with a broken soundtrack of opera singing. It isn't a million miles away from being used on an Ice Cream advert. This piece made me laugh in it's almost slapstick combination of movement and sound.
The next room contained 1 more video projection and a Television looping 5 short video works. These pieces in my opinion didn't work as well as The Singer 2004 A group of seemingly white paper cubes are dragged and pushed around by a hand across a tabletop, arranging themselves into orderly rows and then exploding into disarray. It is quite obvious that part of the footage is reversed to achieve some of the effects, but still I hadn't taken anything from it. The other video of note involved a series of household objects being passed from one detached hand to another and after a pause were handed back. I really couldn't see what I was supposed to be taking form these works as they didn't seem to share anything apart for the crude way they had been edited.
Walking into the next and largest room of the show, you aren't some much presented as eventually notice a arrangement of mainly wooden sculptures. The first thng I noticed was a small piece of 2 x 4 about ten feet from the floor sticking out of the wall. It had been cut at an angle and appeared to have been forced through the plasterboard, almost like the Caddilac at the Hard Rock Cafe. In my opinion that was the best part of the show, although reading the literature and the small title panel on the wall, it wasn't a piece on its own - a missed oppoutunity. The other pieces were again tied and fixed with whatever the artist could find, gaffa tape, sandwich ties and bits of string and white tack. One piece hung from the iron bar that supports the ceiling and had the look of an explosion, another wall based sculpture made of curved wooden sticks intersected with straight rods sat alongside a plinth like piece made of wood with a stack of paper skewered with a metal rod. With all these pieces, there was a definite relationship to Constructivism, Futurism and Modernism. Whether that was deliberate or not I couldn't say but as we discussed, there was no possible way you couldn't bring that Art historical baggage with you when viewing this work.
The piece that really let the show down ws the corner floor sculture, which was again , a mixture of wooden batons, engineering bricks, gaffa tape and fishing line. The gaffa tape was the thing that really let the work down in my opinion, not so much the stuff that joins the batons together, but that which secured the fishing line to the wall. It looked a mess and wasn't adding anything to the work. Attached to the fishing line were small tabs of gaffa tape whose function was not clear. Were they defining that space? Would they create a shape as you move round the sculpture? No. They were added to the sculpture on the orders of the IKONs Health and Safety officer. I had lost all interest in this show by now. There were a series of video works in the tower room, although I have seen them, I don't want to take any more of your time by writing about them.
Like the old adage... There's a whole lot of nothing going on.
On Tuesday at 4:00pm I had a tutorial with my course director. It was great, really informal. We talked about my work, what I had planned, anything and everything! He's a really nice bloke and one of the easiest people to talk to I've ever met. I showed him the proposals I had sent to the New Generation Arts people and he thought they were really really good! He said that he could tell that I had found my Language, both Artistic and visual, already. Something he said, takes some artists a long time to get to. I agree, I am very comfortable with the visual and artistic language that I use. Its not like I had to really search for it, it kind of just happens!
Through talking to him, It turns out that an ex-MA student from Margaret Street is now the creative director and events manager at Jodrell Bank Observatory, I am going to get in touch and see what happens! As always I will let you know how that goes!
I always come away from a tutorial with my tutors feeling positive and inspired and eager to get on with making work. Some students, if they get landed with the wrong tutor don't/can't develop their work to the extent they could because the tutor doesn't suit their practice. I am rather lucky in that respect.
Monday rolls around again and I find myself sat in the comfy chair zone at Uni again. You may remember that about 2 weeks ago I saw what I thought was a Rat scurry across the canteen floor along the heating pipes... Well, It turns out (after earwigging a conversation) that I'm not the only one to have seen him/her. Apparently the canteen lady had seen it this morning and ever since has refused to go down to that end of the canteen!
Anyway, today was the last CPA lecture that I have to attend, although the tutor is running another series of Philosophy lectures next semester which I may attend. This weeks lecture was partly about Animality in Art, interesting as it may be it was kind of a departure from what we had been learning about in the preceeding weeks. I have to say that I didn't find it as interesting and found myself zoning out from time to time imagining the portion of Cod and Chips that would be waiting for me on the journey home. Some of it was really interesting though, we returned to the discussion of the Lascaux Caves and the paintings therein - It didn't seem to make sense to start virtually a whole new topic in the last lecture, but then he mentioned he would be doing another set of lectures so this was a taster of things to come.
14 years ago I started art college and visited my first Turner Prize. Since then I have visited each and every year and of course, I have scrawled, doodled and drawn a cartoon in a note pad or sketchbook..
To mark the European Capital of Culture, Liverpool welcomes the Turner Prize. The short-listed artists are Zarina Bhimji, Nathan Coley, Mike Nelson and Mark Wallinger, the exhibition opened at the Tate Liverpool on the 19th October 2007 and runs until the 13th January with the winner being announced on the 3rd December.
Each year the Turner throws up some controversy, some years attract more column inches than others but in general this show polarizes us as artists and art lovers. Regardless, it never fails to stimulate debate with the ‘pro’ camp proclaiming it as one of the most important and prestigious awards for the visual arts in Europe, and the ‘anti’ camp; the Stuckists, the K Foundation and as the tabloid press would have it, the general public, all queue up to berate it as a waste of time and money.
So what’s topical this year? How about ‘Sleeper’, an epic (4 hours of footage) film of the artist Mark Wall¬inger dressed in a bear suit walking around the Neue Nationalgalerie at night. He walks, runs and stumbles like a sketch from Dom Joly’s Trigger Happy TV. This art act / performance is, and is intended to be, humorous however Wallinger’s work is always carefully considered in terms of answering national identity, social and political lines of enquiry. We think about Berlin, the Cold War hub of surveillance and espionage and a hot bed of political nationalism. We think about spies, sleepers in disguise and the bear, a national heraldic impe¬rialist symbol, running around lost and forlorn.
Mike Nelson re-visits a fictional narrative called ‘Amnesiac shrine’ in this installation piece, which isn’t what we have come to expect of Nelson. He usually makes space and fills it with found objects and clut¬ter, dust, chipboard and awkward spaces have made up previous environments. In this space we are sent in circles around a number of corridors and chambers that are minimalistic, identical and opposite - a white walled maze. Under-lying this is the fictional narrative dreamt up by the artist, a story of a Gulf War band of bikers. As you walk around the corridors you are invited to peer in through punched out holes in the walls, you see sand and lights like the desert environment of either the Gulf or a bikers Mid-Western American dream.
Zarina Bhimji’s exhibit consists of a series of photographs and a film. Zarina was born in Uganda, her work is deeply connected with East Africa, Zanzibar and India. The artist immersed herself in two years research into political policy, social economics and colonialism. She traveled the length and breadth of the Uganda railway, stopping at each station to record testimony of the locals and a sound track that features here in the mesmerizing film ‘Waiting.’ The film looks at a factory manufacturing rope from a natural material called sisal. The film uses soft focus and slow panning shots of the process. The photos that accompany the film are of walls and architecture, they feature as recurring themes and reflect a more violent nature in the societies depicted in the work.
Nathan Coley’s installation or sculpture, ‘there will be no miracles here’ is the only time a single piece has been nominated for the prize. It is a large fairground style illuminated sign on scaffolding, a French Royal decree made in the 17th century. Cole uses it to divide the room, here we cannot have miracles, over there it is fine. Cole’s exhibit is about boundaries and designation. As you enter and leave the room you are forced to crossover an artwork (threshold sculpture) and gallery staff tell the public to ‘mind the artwork.’. Nathan employs other pieces to strengthen these ideas, a model of a generic English house is emblazoned with the words Hope & Glory and photographs of confessional boxes are framed and then covered by a rect¬angle of black spray paint which denies the image underneath.
So there it is, two installations, photographs and two films, not a painting or bronze in sight, no plinths and no canvas. A brainy Turner Prize, concerned less with aesthetics, more with social existences - again this show will divide us as artists. I’d like to offer this, the 15th ‘Liverpool’ edition cartoon. Visit the exhibition, if not for the Turner Prize then for Tate Liverpool and if not for that, then for Liverpool 2008 European City of Culture.
Wandering to Uni through New Street you can't help but be drawn along to the German Christmas Market, I was a bit early so I decided to have a mooch around. The smell of Bratwurst and Stale Beer was overwhelming as you push your way through the completely undersized alleyways, getting in people's way and they treading on your heels. It's the same old fodder, mugs with your name on, paper theatres, bags and scarves made from Alpacca fur, as the great man said, I've never seen so much stuff I didn't want. Having said that though, I cant deny it's Christmas appeal, I am starting to feel a lot more festive because of it.
Anyway, last nights lecture... I've been reading Giles Deleuze's Francis Bacon and the Logic of Sensation as part of my Contemporary Philosophical Aesthetics lectures. I have to say that I find reading the text a lot more enlightening than listening to the lecturers interpretation of it, I don't know why that is. So my tip is to always read what's on the reading list aswell as attend the lectures!
We were dealing with Bacon's use of couples and triptychs in his paintings. The key to understanding (or at least attempting to understand) Bacon's works is that they don't contain any narrative elements, the figures in them have no relationships to speak of and that a series of paintings are to be read in no particular order, they are not cells from a comic book, the three panels are 1 painting. My way of looking at them is to view them as one moment captured in 3 simultaneous photographs arranged around the figure.
The figures within the paintings act in three ways: active elements, passive elements and witnesses. Any figure however can act in either role and as such the sensation caused by the paintings changes according to the role the viewer assigns to each figure. If you didnt know that this rubric existed or had to be applied to the works, then how on earth are they meant to function in the prescribed way? What happens if two figures are assigned the same functions? Does the painting malfunction? Explode? I am finding this really interesting though, guess I should go and read a bit more...
We all met at Euston and went on another of our tutors wonderful 'walks' - no underground - no buses - Unadulterated foot power - 1st stop Walter Keoroning bookshop - Haywood Gallery for the love of painting - Tate Modern for the 'crack' and Louise Bourgoise. Excuse the spelling it's late. Will add more details later.
Whilst I was sat enjoying a cup of Machine coffee (from the machine that has only just been repaired after being out of order for over a month!), in the corner of my eye I could see something black moving around to my right, at first I thought it was a fly but as I turned round I saw that it was infact a rodent. It moved too fast for me to see whether it was a Mouse or a Rat, all I can say is that its body looked almost 14cms long and its tail was the around the same length - was it a rat? It dissapeared behind the plaster copy of the Venus Di Milo and that was the last I saw of it.
Last nights Contemporary Philosophical Aesthetics lecture was a continuation of our discussion of Francis Bacon and Deleuze's philosophies on the 'Logic of Sensation.' As with most of these lectures, I am slowly but surely getting to grips with some of the ideas dealt with, I couldn't say I understand it enough to explain it coherently though. - I must go and read more!
I recieved an e-mail yesterday telling me that I will definitely be a part of the New Generation Arts Festival in Birmingham next year, my initial proposal is being considered but I have to formulate a back-up proposal just in case it doesn't get through! How cool is that?!
Had a great tutorial yesterday which really helped get me focused and in a position to get some work done. We discussed my ideas and my tutor was seemingly impressed with what I'd done so far. Oh yeah... and as part of my practice, I've bought a plot of land on the Moon - watch this space! (#Cringe#)
As I got to the space where the tutorial was going to be held I knew something quite different was going on. Walking along the corridor I could hear what can only be described as Musack - elevator music. As I got to the door I was greeted by a woman in a black trouser suit who greeted me warmly, if perhaps a bit awkwardly who asked me; "Have you travelled far?" "No not very far" I replied in a semi-confused state, 'Only from downstairs', I thought.
She then proceeded to offer me a drink, I chose a beer, and as I crossed the threshold and into the room, and as my eyes got used to the low lit setting I could see a Coffin lying on a table atop a purple cloth.
She then asked me if I knew anyone else present and I didnt as they were a mixture of second year Part-time students. I was introduced to a couple more people and wandered over to inspect the coffin.
On top of it was a bunch completely withered and crumbling roses, the brass name plaque was devoid of any indication of to 'who' this was but was covered in a sticky residue, like when you peel off the label from a beer bottle. Had there been a name?Scattered over the floor were a mixture of dead and recently live petals.
The room slowly started to fill up, each greeted in the same way I had been until the group was assembled. I was at a loss as to what was happening or what I was supposed to be taking form this work.
Then it became even more confusing, on the screen behind the coffin was projected a group of nine naked women apparently sleeping on a wooden bunk-bed structure which reminded me very much of the kinds of conditions people had to live in at Auschwitz, was that the connection? Concentration camps - death? Then why were we supposedly at a wake of an unknown, un-named person? I was still incredibly confused and nothing that was being dicussed was helping. I just couldnt make sense of this work at all.
The session was drawing to a close and it came out whilst talking to the artist that she was not actually sure what the work was about - well then what on earth are we supposed to be able to take from it? No wonder I couldnt understand it, there was nothing to understand.
I arrived at Uni at 9:30am and went and sat in the canteen. After resting my legs for about half an hour I decided I'd wander around the 1st and 2nd year BA studios to see what (if anything) was going on. There were a handful of students in and as I made my way through the plasterboard labyrinth I spotted a few pieces of exceptional work - to be honest, something I wasnt expecting to see so early in their time here, took me quite by surprise!
At 11:00 it was time for our first Group tutorial of the course... one problem though... the students whose work we were supposed to be looking at hadn't turned up. Our tutor suggested that we go and sit in the canteen and see what happened - he'd come and get us if and when they arrived. 12:00 rolled around... still no sign... 1:00pm... still no sign... by now our tutors we're getting slightly annoyed (perhaps an understatement) as no word of their whereabouts had been recieved. How long does it take to send a quick email to let us know that they weren't coming? Our course director went off and made a couple of phone calls, and came back with the news that the first student was on Jury duty at some courthouse and the second had put their back out lifting heavy rocks and would be laid up for another week?! What a waste of our time. There was another tutorial scheduled for 4:00pm.. it deserves its own post...
Read the blog entries of two MA fine art students. Nathaniel Pitt and Chris Hodson are studying at Wolverhampton and Birmingham respectivly. This blog is a recording of their experiences in these two seats of learning