Friday, 18 October 2013

With:


With is an exhibition that has been honed from a long-term project, whereby methods of co-participation are utilised and tested, probing the limits of collaboration, often in ways particular to a technologically infused way of life. The six exhibiting artists - three collaborating pairs - each have an individual practice that deals in some way with history and knowledge, and in being brought together here, seem to exist on the outer layer of sediment, upon sediment, of memory and shared history; with the ways in which these are preserved and shared, or abandoned, being examined in the work on show.
Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, who introduced communities of practice in 1991, emphasise the social impulses and needs of humans. In line with these considerations, how social interactions are mediated by technology, and what this might change about them is explored by Sarah Sanders and Jacqueline Wylie, as the two artists co-participated at a physical remove. Wylie is currently undertaking research towards a PhD into how social media and other emergent technologies have affected artistic practice, and in previous work both Sanders and Wylie have expressed ideas and concepts by spatially and materially enacting them; here, making use of Skype to co-participate and converse.
The extent to which we are able to access, let go of, or get rid of our memories, and objects or images from our pasts, is almost reversed on-line, where it can be as difficult to destroy, as it is to preserve in the physical world. It is the destruction, or more gentle letting-go of objects and memories that concerns Julie Del Hopital and Nicola Dale. Referring to a scene in Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (1979) where objects are shown sunk and abandoned underwater, Del Hopital and Dale are presenting footage of the two of them abandoning mementos to the River Mersey. Here, flowing water could be symbolic for time, and holds a deeper personal significance for the artists, as they both grew up close to rivers.
Waterways feature again in the collaboration between Annie Harrison and Jenny Steele, also taking the form of a film, and focussing on the Piccadilly Canal Basin that their studios overlook. Both artists are interested in the urban environment, with buildings and cities as influential receptacles of human memory, desire and fear. Within this collaboration, unlike the rivers Mersey and Mauldre, that are pivotal to Del Hopital and Dale's activity, another kind of water, this time man made, and much stiller, is the focus of a shared concern in the mapping of place and history.

 Growing out of a series of crits held during 2011 and 2012, a larger community of practice has been divided, cell-like, first into 6, then into pairs. The common interest around which that group initially formed has been clarified, or fermented by this process; of splitting and concentrating activity and belonging. What has emerged is a testing of communication, and a watery focus on what is important to the the participants day-to-day, and what has been influential in the past, reflecting the processes and principles outline by Lave and Wenger, in that the artists have revealed what they seek in common to understand.

Lauren Velvick - 10/2013

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Creative Manchester for Fred Aldous LTD



Over the past few week Elle Brotherhood and I have been flaneus-ing about the twin cities to interview and photograph lots of different creative practitioners for the Fred Aldous Blog. Fred Aldous is an arts and crafts supplies shop where I work as a sales/everything assistant and Elle works as a studio technician and photographer. We wanted to uncover and explore the links between the shop, and what is happening creatively around Manchester and Salford, and we've been really impressed and inspired by what we've found. I've enjoyed the project especially because it's an excuse to ask questions of people I might've met in in passing that would be rude in any other context! Below are links to all the posts so far:

1. The Penthouse

2. Lionel Dobie Project

3. Now Then Magazine

4. 2022NQ

5. Savwo and Textbook Studio

6. James Darby

7. Three Minute Theatre

8. Ahmed and Carpenter

9. PAPER Gallery

10. Ultimate Holding Company

11. Dr. ME and Steve Hockett

12. Some Recent Examples

13. OWT Creative

14. Young Explorer

If you happen to read this and would like to be featured you can email Elle at studio@fredaldous.net




Friday, 24 May 2013

CJH

In February I initiated the process of cataloguing my late Uncle Chris Holme's many artworks, most of which are currently stored at my aunty and uncle - his brother and sister's - house in Preston, my hometown. He had been a prolific painter, but never exhibited the vast majority of his work, and suffered from health problems which meant he was never able to complete an art degree. Luckily my mother, Bernie Velvick and my step-father Dave Curry have volunteered to help, and we have been photographing, documenting, numbering, wrapping and labelling the works whenever I can make it to Preston for a day. Dave takes responsibility for cleaning; wiping each painting with a soft brush, and hoovering the back, whilst Bernie and I wrap, measure and label the works.



For the first couple of days in February I had been photographing the works, and uploading them to a Tumblr straight away; it seemed imperative to have them seen as soon as possible, when they had been hidden away for so long. The pictures were uploaded in a completely arbitrary order, which was perhaps foolish, but hopefully worth the trouble it caused later for them to have been accessible on line. Now we have begun to number and document each painting and drawing in a spreadsheet, with details of size, material and a thumbnail image, it makes sense for the tumblr to correspond. Thus, where once there were 90 images, there are now only 48, because that's how many we've managed to wrap and label so far, but with more detailed descriptions - the project is slowly starting to take shape and make sense.

At an Islington Mill Art Academy 'crit' on the 5th of April I presented the project, via the Tumblr blog, and three works brought from Preston, receiving some good feedback and inspiration for how to progress. It was really helpful to get perspectives and opinions from people outside of my family, and who didn't know Chris personally - I think it would be disingenuous to pretend that my opinions of, and interactions with the works aren't affected by, and interlinked with my particular relationship with the artist. It has been an incredible experience to spend time sorting through and interacting with such a huge body of work, and it can't help but feel like an investigation; examining each work from every angle to find signatures and dates, discovering pictures on the back of other pictures, and what appear to be acrylic paintings over older oil ones. Fellow I.M.A.A member, Rachel Newsome, who's writing evokes contemporary mythologies and fables, expressed an interest in writing an essay about Chris's work, particularly his many and varied self portraits.

In-keeping with the spirit of investigation, I'm hoping to compile a biography of Chris J Holme through interviews conducted with his Mother - my Grandmother - along with his brothers and sisters, and any friends that we can contact. I had been debating how to go about producing a biography, which I feel is necessary if the works are to be exhibited, and would make an on-line archive comprehensible, but which could easily be misinterpreted. I am hoping that by conducting interviews, and perhaps presenting them as interviews, rather than prose, I can avoid fictionalising Chris's life, whilst still providing a context for the works. Some information about the artists' life will, I think, be necessary to understand why the paint has a dark patina of dust - although we have attempted cleaning - and why so many works are painted on corrugated cardboard, and the boards that back sketchbooks.







Monday, 6 May 2013

Objects for a Studio: an essay on three aspects



Introduction

Objects for a Studio is an on-going project by Manchester based artist Jessica Longmore, the traces of which are documented and displayed in a series of intriguing pictures. As part of her process, Longmore constructs temporary and often precarious sculptures, capturing each of them with a single photograph. As with so many aspects of this project, the sculptures exhibit a contradiction in that they appear to be almost homogenous with their environment, formed and built as they are from found objects and materials mined by Longmore from the active studios within which she works. Yet whilst these sculptures have been assembled from the ephemera of one artist's practice, they are the work of another artist altogether; it is for this unstable intermingling of artistic identity that they verge on the uncanny. Appearing out of place only for a brief moment, their precarious nature signals that these leant and balanced assemblages could at any point be absorbed into the debris from which they have been wrought.
In the course of Objects for a Studio Longmore spends an entire single day within an Other Artist's studio, producing one piece of work as a stranger within the space. Describing the time she spends in these studios as residencies, Longmore keeps within a rigid timeframe and structure - one day, one photograph, purposefully fabricating a specialized situation within which she can react to her surroundings and create work with a necessary intensity. The studio itself is defined as a dedicated space, thereby sidestepping historical and canonically ingrained stereotypes about what it should look like, and what it contains. For Longmore, a studio is simply a space that has been purposed for making art, and as such they can take many forms, existing as legitimately in large airy warehouses as in the corners of rooms within homes.
As Longmore states unequivocally, "The project is not intended to survey the hidden studio practice of artists, but rather to stimulate the production of [her] own work within an unfamiliar environment" 1, and it is vital to recognise the intention here, even whilst the figure of the Other Artist and the mystifying space of the studio loom large. She is not inviting the audience in to a studio in order to make artistic practice transparent and accessible, or to glorify the eccentric practices of artists at work. It is inevitable, however, that the studios which she works within are in some way shown and represented, whether simply through her pictures (which can’t help but reveal a fragment of the site) or in the imagination of the viewer, who is aware of the existence of an unknowable ‘other’ studio via knowledge of the process.
The work that Longmore has produced and documented as part of Objects for a Studio is necessarily site specific, and verges on the collaborative, albeit without acknowledgement. Residencies, site specific artworks, and any project where some form of contact, or negotiation is prerequisite, are bound to be cooperative to some extent, but not necessarily collaborative. Here, due to the intimate and personal nature of Longmore's particular form of residency, it can be argued that a strange type of collaboration is present. These collaborative traces are compelling and enigmatic; simultaneously subverting and enacting traditional notions, whilst exemplifying the ponderous ubiquity of collaboration within contemporary art practice.



Intentional constraints as a catalyst

Whilst Objects for a Studio is a self-contained project, Longmore utilises techniques that not only allude to her wider practice, but can also be seen to communicate a working ideology, referring to particular movements in art history, as well as commenting on conventions in contemporary art. At base, the project is a generative technique formulated by Longmore to act as a catalyst within her practice, by way of devising a set of constraints and rules to work within and against. This is referred to by the artist in her statement of intent, describing the project as a way "to stimulate the production of [her] own work within an unfamiliar environment"2. It may seem counter intuitive, to try and inspire new work by developing boundaries, instead of aiming for complete freedom, However, rules and constraints are an inevitable part of art-making. The idea that admitting, probing and exploring boundaries can generate ideas and new works is not a new one, and one can trace this methodology to specific groups and movements in art history, such as Fluxus (specifically in terms of event scores produced during the 1960's) and Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or Workshop of Potential Literature), a still-in-existence group founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais, who produce works of literature using constrained writing techniques.
Within the aforementioned historical groups, such procedures were usually specified in directives and manifestos, with written rules being a requirement of generative techniques. Similarly, in Objects for a Studio, the rules are outlined as part of Longmore's publicly available statement, paying particular attention to the emotional impact of the studio as a site of production. The rules and constraints that Longmore has chosen are not arbitrary, and Objects for a Studio is not an exercise in automatic creation, or mechanical production. These rules have been carefully chosen and developed, in order to amplify the intimacy and intensity of the Artists’ chosen site, and to necessitate the production of work, expounding a belief that by following pre-determined maxims, we can unlock new and experimental forms of creativity.
As well as the constraints of time, space and material, which Longmore has chosen, Objects for a Studio is also subject to obligatory practical constraints, which can be seen to refer to the generality of making. There is a slippage here between artistic intention and the influence of physical and temporal context, in that, to some extent, all artists are working within constraints that will have an effect on how their work develops. However, Longmore takes this inevitability and deliberately utilises it, rendering recognisable contemporary logistical pressures, such as the necessity for forward planning and careful organisation of time, fruitful rather than frustrating, whilst simultaneously operating within the same systems that make this way of working unavoidable.
Objects for a Studio is not the first of Longmore's projects to incorporate intentional generative constraints. Her interest is initially apparent in the 2009 group show IV, whereby Longmore and three other artists; Tom Baskeyfield, Julie Del’Hopital, and Sarah Sanders wrote and adhered to four maxims, in order to produce four works - one each - which would be shown at Manchester's Rogue Project Space, in an exhibition with the tagline “4 maxims, 4 artists, 4 works” . Each maxim, referred to one of four "basic elements in the production of work"3, defined by the artists as time, material, scale and thought or systems of belief. Longmore describes how such constraints provided the work with a context, and aided her ability to focus during the making process, indicating that, for Longmore, the use of generative techniques and the methods described above is definitively practical, as well as ideological.
Returning to the discussion of Objects for a Studio specifically, Longmore carefully manages her working environment, which in turn becomes an intrinsic part of the temporary sculptures which she produces and photographs. Within these parameters, the artist also leaves room to manoeuvre creatively, and it is clear that her intention is not to invite other artists to follow her rules, and to produce their own Objects for a Studio. Longmore describes herself as having been inspired by Sol Lewitt's 'sentences on conceptual art'4 in her use of rules and structures, however she does not go so far as to fabricate systems whereby the actual work can be created by anybody other than the herself. In his 'Paragraphs on Conceptual Art', which was published simultaneously with 'Sentences...' Lewitt declares that in the case of conceptual art "the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art"5. To some extent Objects for a Studio conforms to Lewitt's definition of conceptual art, the process and technique of seeking out willing artists, travelling to studios and spending exactly one day working within them can be seen as the machine which makes the art. Yet, there is a remaining contingency and subjectivity inherent in this project, ensuring that each expression of the process cannot be repeated, and this is a symptom of Longmore's chosen site.



Access to Other Artists' Studios

Referring once again Longmore's own statement of intent, the artist describes the studio as a site of intensity and feeling, declaring she "[hopes] to provoke the extremes of emotion that the studio creates" 6. By remarking upon the abstract and subjectively experienced properties of the site, Longmore insinuates that by conducting these residencies within studios, she will be able to produce spontaneity and unknown outcomes, regardless of the predictability of repeated actions generated by constraints. Thus, although Longmore uses a wide definition of the studio, she still indicates that there is something peculiar to these spaces, a quality which enables and inspires the production of artwork. As well as defining the studio as a dedicated space, Longmore also refers to studios as containers, playing a part in forming the work which is produced within them, further emphasizing the way that these sites have been selected, according to a belief in their power to influence the formation of objects.
For the non-artist viewer, there is also a level of mystery associated with the studio, a place of privacy and genesis, which is only to be viewed by invite or at well organised open studio events, and only then when the artist chooses to take part. Paraphrased by Brian O'Doherty, in his preface to the Salon of 1846, Baudelaire explains how the bourgeoisie might "[consign] it's alienated imagination not only to the artist, but to the magical space where art is pondered and brought into being", expressing the concept of an arcane, and necessarily confounded voyeurism around the public desire to see inside artists' studios. The treatment of the studio in the process, and documentation of Objects for a Studio, admits this mystical voyeurism, whilst also managing to approach the site with sensitivity and understanding, somewhat maintaining its' concealment from public view. Thus, whilst expounding that studios are not public spaces, Objects for a Studio offers a tantalising glimpse of the many studios within which Longmore has worked, but makes no pretence to be showing them in completeness. Instead, these other studios are presented through a lens of artistic production, as a piece of Longmore's own work in the form of a photograph.
The photograph as a mode of representation presents only a snapshot, one angle of a wider, and more nuanced situation. Therefore, the photograph is an appropriate form for Objects for a Studio, as the audience is aware of unknowns lurking beyond the frame. In this way, within Longmore's photographs, studios are pictured as honestly as they can be, and are represented as changing spaces of fluidity and temporality, by virtue of the medium through which they are shown, and the nature of the sculptures which have been photographed. This shifting form of representation, which attempts to confound voyeurism through gestures appropriate to the space, belies a deep and firsthand understanding of the nature of studios, and is in clear contrast to other contemporary methods of studio display. For instance, at The Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, artist Francis Bacon's studio has been catalogued and relocated from London, to be displayed in what appears to be its' original state, but is in fact "a carefully constructed artifice"7.
Bacon's Studio in Dublin is not the only example of the studio being recreated in the gallery, whether by curator or artist. In 1964 Lucas Samaris installed Room, a recreation of his studio/bedroom at The Green Gallery in New York, presented for public consumption as an artwork in itself. His reconstruction of a studio, his treating every splatter and mote of dust as a vital part of an artists' oeuvre, wilfully overlooks the fundamental privacy and mutability of the studio that Longmore consciously attempts to preserve in her representations: Brian O'Doherty refers to the nature of artworks, whilst they remain within the studio, as aesthetically unstable, a description which is applicable to Longmore's temporary sculptures in a literal sense. Her works illustrate the instability of time within the studio, with their very obvious physical frailty and precarity.
Longmore's determined preservation of the Other Artists' privacy emphasises the importance of studios as confidential spaces, where artists' can experiment away from the critical gaze. Given that Longmore is clearly interested in respecting this requirement, it is interesting to consider her process in gaining access to so many of these non-public spaces. In practical terms, Longmore has found that gaining access to multiple studios is much easier with the help and backing of an institution. For instance, at present she is working as resident artist at Salford University, which has allowed her to utilise the institution's influence and networks in order to make contact with groups of studios, and therefore to gain access to individual studios. This detail once again raises the issue of how a high level of administration and vigilant planning are often necessary for contemporary artists: in this way, the structures which Longmore must work within in order to accomplish her objectives affect in macro the structures which she has consciously designed.
As discussed above, when Longmore arranges to work for a day in an Other Artists' studio, she is not proposing to present that studio to the public, or to invite the audience inside. Instead she could be said to be proposing a collaboration of sorts, whereby she treats the studio as she would her own, using the space only as it has already been dedicated; as a space in which to make work. Then, working within the knowledge that this dedicated space, this studio, actually belongs to somebody else, Longmore utilises paraphernalia of the Other Artists' practice both as a point of inspiration, and as her medium. By her treatment of studios within Objects for a Studio, Longmore is enacting a complex form of cooperation and portrayal with the Other Artist and their workspace which, as previously outlined, utilises a form of representation which is appropriate to subject, thereby avoiding a problematic fictionalisation of the site.



Collaboration

When Longmore goes to work for a day in the Other Artist's studio, they are only sometimes there during the process, and as such, it is not necessary for Objects for a Studio that the two artists must work together in a literal, tangible way. However, regardless of whether they are physically present or not, the work which Longmore has produced and documented during Objects for a Studio, could not have existed without the Other Artist's practice. In this way, Longmore's practice in Objects for a Studio is dependent on the Other Artists', and therefore a somewhat skewed form of collaboration is implicit in the project. This peculiar collaborative aspect is not directly addressed by Longmore, which could be taken to indicate that it is not - at least not intentionally - an integral part of the project. Yet, the spectral figure of the Other Artist haunts Objects for a Studio, their semi-anonymity in the process, confounding traditional conceptions of collaboration.
In his discussion of contemporary collaboration, The Third Hand, Charles Green posits the groupings of the late 1960's as the beginnings of the sorts of self-consciously, ideologically complex collaborations that we are familiar with today. He also traces a trajectory for these practices, whereby collaborations, and the collaborative theories which were abandoned in favour of postmodernism in the 1980's, enjoyed a resurgence in the late 1990's, indicating a belief that the current ubiquity of collaborative practices, is part of a sweeping historical trend. Green frames collaboration as an attempt to rethink artistic identity, to either erase, or to somehow fundamentally alter the signature of the artist. The process and results of Objects for a Studio certainly approach the concept artistic identity in usual ways, but there does not seem to be any ideologically inspired erasure of the artists's signature. Instead of substituting the identity of two or more artists for a separate, purely collaborative 'third hand' identity, Objects for a Studio is presented as a part of Longmore's practice alone. Yet, the Other Artist is sometimes named, or remains anonymous only by choice, and their existence is always presented as being of central importance to the project. In this way, the identities of two artists, Longmore and the Other Artist, are simultaneously, but distinctly represented, and combined only partially, and momentarily. This temporary synthesis being what Longmore documents in her photographs.
Whilst both Longmore and the Other Artists' actuality and identity are unquestionably represented here, by working exclusively with the ephemera of the Other Artist's practice, Longmore is generating an unequal relationship. It seems that only one member of the team, Longmore, is conscious in the production of work, and the other artist is acting as a found-archive, opening up their practice to be used as the raw material for somebody else's. Longmore's Objects for a Studio effectively raises questions of artistic authorship, in how far the Other Artist, the archive, is acknowledged, bringing to mind the artistic use of found objects, where the original maker, or designer will often go uncredited. Although, despite the apparently unequal relationship between artist and archive, within Objects for a Studio, consent is sought from participants, who can be assumed to understand what it is that they're involving themselves with. This issue of consent is crucial in seeking to understand the relationships which are formed in the course of Objects for a Studio, indicating that rather than exploitative and one-sided, they are multi-faceted and consensual, which de-problematises the issue of attribution.
Objects for a Studio can be seen to exist in two experientially distinct parts. For the Other Artist, and anybody else involved with administration of the project, it would happen as a kind of participatory performance, whereas, for the viewer, Objects for a Studio exists as a series of documentary photographs, and some copy explaining the process. This dual ontology is typical of temporary and performative artworks, especially those that cannot be repeated. Considering this experiential rupture, it becomes clear that when we take the experience of the Other Artists and other actors into account, Objects for a Studio can be perceived as a form of temporal, interventionist, performance art. By presenting the project via a website, a standing document of copy and pictures, Longmore is communicating the importance of the process, of what happens outside of and around the pictures, that capture just a moment of the entire performance which goes to make up the work. The extent to which Longmore explains Objects for a Studio to the audience can be taken as intentional, and as an example of how much we are supposed to know about the project. Longmore gives us a general sense, and a broad description of the process, but few details. Details and interest are saved to be expressed in the photographs, the only opportunity for the viewer's curiosity to be visually sated, which infuses the pictures with possibilities and projected meanings, appropriately expressing the aforementioned intensity of the site.
It has already been established that the collaborative aspects of Objects for a Studio are not calculated, they appear intrusive, or to have been unavoidable, and this apparently inadvertent form of collaboration raises the issue of whether collaboration has become somehow embedded within contemporary art practice. The structures and habits which are now noticeably pervasive within contemporary art making - residencies, networking, collectives, and a striving for diversity of voices - are clearly appropriate to the practice of collaboration. Perhaps collaboration is now synonymous with so many of the common practices within contemporary art that its manifestation within Objects for a Studio is inevitable. Administration necessitates communication and cooperation with others as an integral part of the artwork, which can perhaps be considered as a form of collaboration, within which these other helpers and performers have become part of a transient collective with Longmore.
As Andrea Thal explains, when two or more artists work together there is a level of discussion and planning that takes place prior to the actual production of any art work, which can be seen as a work in itself, and is in fact typical of collectives, which are then typical within contemporary art practice; "this communication, the exchange leading to the production of something, is a collective's very first, and probably most typical work"8. In the case of Objects for a Studio the communication, discussion, planning and admin that takes place prior to the actual studio day is of a particular pre-determined type, wrought out through trial and error over the four years that the project has run. Longmore has taken Objects for a Studio to a number of different geographical locations, working in over sixty studios, inferring a significant amount of discussion, planning, and indeed work, before anything recognisable as art-work can take place. However, in terms of Thal's analysis of collaborative practice, this arrangement, which has become typical of the project, could be taken as a form of art work.




Conclusion

The temporality that is inherent in Objects for a Studio resists straightforward analysis, and the ways in which Longmore attempts to play with the conventions of contemporary art from within art-world structures, creates a fluid and shifting aesthetic, which hints, but does not pronounce. The photographs form a coherent body of work, communicating the particular qualities of the studio as a site in which time and space behave unusually, by virtue of the kind of work that is conducted within. These photographs form a document of the project, and refer to it in the same way as a sign, signifying the amorphous and fluctuating whole, which exemplifies and enacts common practices, and necessities associated with working as an artist.
Longmore does not seem to be offering an argument or manifesto, or even a judgement on the structures which this work traverses, and yet the project raises a plethora of questions including but not limited to; what constitutes artistic collaboration in a situation where working together is often essential, although not necessarily an intentional device? In the context of Objects for a Studio this gentle, non-judgemental exposure is sufficient. Were aspects of the project, such as behind-the-scenes administration, to be documented along with Longmore's assemblages, their ontology would be altered, losing their status as real and turning the whole process into pure performance.
Longmore avoids this, explaining only what she considers to be necessary for the audience to appreciate the work, and refusing to offer an analysis of the situation. There is a sense of rightful privacy expounded by Longmore - whilst her photographs depict beautiful but unsettling moments in which objects bristle with the energy of things being other than they should, of rearrangement, of experimentation. The studio is, perhaps, the only dedicated space where such incidental experimentation is allowed, but any site could be a studio, and it only takes a dedication. Thereby the assignation of function to spaces becomes like a mystical spell, just as ground can be consecrated, so a space can be dedicated. It is with these hints pertaining to abstract concepts and magic that Longmore counteracts what could be an otherwise unequivocal experience for the viewer, of repeated actions resulting in pictures.




Bibliography

Crawford, Holly. Artistic Bedfellows: Histories, Theories and Conversations in Collaborative Art Practices. University Press of America (2008)

Grabner, Michelle & Jacob, Mary Jane Eds. The Studio Reader: On the space of artist. University of chicago Press (2010)

Green, Charles. The Third Hand: Collaboration in Art from Conceptualism to Postmodernism. UNSW Press (2001)

LeWitt, Sol, "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art," in: Artforum (1967), 79–83; A. Legg (ed.)

Longmore, Jessica. Jessica Longmore: artist. URL: http://seabrookhost.com/jessica/?page_id=83 [2012 - 2013]

O'Doherty, Brian. Studio and Cube. A FORuM Project Publication (2007)





1http://seabrookhost.com/jessica/?page_id=83
2http://seabrookhost.com/jessica/?page_id=83
3http://seabrookhost.com/jessica/?page_id=88
4Lewitt, Sol 'Sentences on Conceptual Art', Art Forum 1967
5Lewitt, Sol 'Paragraphs on Conceptual Art', Art Forum 1967
6http://seabrookhost.com/jessica/?page_id=83
7David J. Getsy, “The Reconstruction of the Francis Bacon Studio in Dublin”, The Studio Reader: On the space of artists p.102
8Thal, Andrea, "Complicity", Artistic Bedfellows: Histories, Theories and Conversations in Collaborative Art Practices, ed: Crawford, Holly (2008)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Hoist by Our Own Petard - introductory essay


To be hoist by your own petard means to be blown up by your own bomb, and that's a risk that we are willing to take. HbOOP is an experiment with 'art' as the subject, and with 'money' and 'every day life' as variables, but there are no guarantees that 'art' as we know it will survive the process. HbOOP firstly takes the form of an exhibition, where objects and pictures of stunning complexity and gross candour invite you to consider the nature of skill, effort and creativity. Of the individual artworks which go to form HbOOP(the exhibition), the majority were constructed within the creators home, and the concept of 'home' is a concern within much of the work on show. This is made evident with familiar and perhaps comforting shapes, textures, and colours; to some extent the gallery is made domestic. However the home is as much a site of disgust as it is of comfort, and if there is a boundary between the two, it is impossible to define.
In the work of Darren Adcock, cancerous cellular patterns coalesce into dystopian cityscapes, which appear at once distant and magnified. Adcocks pictures are meticulously hand drawn, with patterns that seem to have germinated instinctively. Similarly, in the work of Pascal Nichols, bulbous and irregularly limbed sculptural forms purposefully emphasize the base-ness of clay, whilst sitting snugly on household shelves, displayed (or stored) in their intended situation as part of a room. Suspended centrally, Susan Fitzpatrick's mutant, overdeveloped creature-garments confound with their sinister, cute, woolliness. Knitting is a richly connotative technique, and is
employed by Fitzpatrick without strict patterns or traditional 'grandma' skill, yet cheerfully bright
'hats' seem as though they would protect the wearer from more than just the cold. Meanwhile, Kerry Hindmarch paints with oils, making pictures which seek to expose the perversities which underly social conditioning. Hindmarch's interests lie in the abject and maternal, expressed via violent daubings of colour, which congeal into raging figures, and non sequential narratives. Joincey's is the largest body of work on show, whereby a superabundance of incidental photographic images give a baffling, but honest, account of a life. Hunker down in a curtained grotto to view the world through pictures taken on a whim, created in a moment, which are now archived, arranged and projected for your pleasure.
Hboop takes place as part of Free For Arts Festival, a week long series of exhibitions and events which seeks toprovide inventive and unique experiences for the public “on the house”, and it is within this context that we will question the 'Free-ness' of art. The five artists who's work features do not consider themselves to be 'professional artists', as is evidenced in their first hand accounts. Here, art happens in between and as part of 'work' and 'leisure', it does not have it's own distinct space set aside, with equal status. This means that time spent doing art can't help but be perceived as time lost from 'work' and 'leisure'. Art is the co-opted, and becomes part of both; which is discussed in more depth by Susan Fitzpatrick in; Art and uneven development's cause is one: reflections on art and 'regeneration'.
For art to flourish, and to be a way of experimenting, is it necessary to carve out a third space of “action” as defined by Hannah Arendt1, whereby thinking, making and experimenting 'for the sake of it' would be vital? In order to explore this question, and others, you are invited on Sunday the 21st of October 2012, to take part in a microcosmic badge-making economy, where you must put a price on your own creativity. Meanwhile, in conjunction with the 'Free for Arts Publishing Fair', musicians will peddle their songs for whatever you are willing to pay. Songs being an extreme example of how ubiquitous it has become to acquire commodities, for prices which do not reflect the labour that created them, and how it is essential that we examine our spending habits to work out how, and if, art can be 'free'. We will also be holding a 'Sumi Ink Club Meeting'2, whereby you, and everybody else, are invited to contribute to a collaborative ink drawing. 'Sumi Ink Club' was founded in 2005 by artists' Sarah Rara and Luke Fischbeck, as a kind of accessible social therapy, and will form a much needed counterpoint to the individualistic, and speculative nature of badge-making-business and human jukeboxes.




1Arendt, Hannah the Human Condition (1958) The University of Chicago
2http://sumiinkclub.com/

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Hoist by Our Own Petard - a group exhibition and interactive workshop experiment, as part of Free For Arts Festival 2012



This is my personal response to a curatorial project that I've been working on:


A few months ago Pascal Nicholls approached me to ask if I would be interested in helping him to organise an exhibition of a few of his friends' work; a diverse group, some of whom are ostensibly Artists, whereas others make art, but are ambivalent about situating themselves within any kind of 'art world'. Originally pitched as a straightforward group exhibition, with the opportunity for the Artists' to sell multiples of their work if they wish, Hoist by Our Own Petard has developed into something quite different, so much so that sometimes I'm not sure what it is, or who and what will be on show between the 19th and 26th of October. I've taken on the role of a project manager/curator/performance artist, in that I listen to other people's ideas, and then with my own in-put try to bring them to fruition.

During mine and Pascal's discussions around the sale of multiples, we were forced to approach something which is a particular fascination of mine; spending habits. I feel that responsibility is inherent in the privilege of even meagre disposable income, responsibility both to yourself in that you must buy what you need, and can buy what you want, but also responsibility to the workers who's labour has gone towards the products that you buy. These obligations often contradict one another, and when applied to the making and selling of art seem to almost break down and lose all meaning. In that nobody needs art in order to feed, clothe and wash themselves, but art is not a luxury in the same way as a massive new telly or a shiny new car would be. Whilst researching this complication I came across Hannah Arendt's tripartite division of work, labour and action. Her definition of action is the most appropriate way to define art in contemporary, western, capitalist society that I have encountered, in that it doesn't really fit within contemporary, western, capitalist society. That's not to say that I agree with everything she says, and I'm still working my way through The Human Condition, but I feel that a tripartite division with room for something other than 'work' and 'leisure' is really useful in the context of contemporary art.

Our frustration and confusion at how to market and price art inspired the 'interactive experiment' which will happen alongside the group exhibition for one day during its' week long run. The 'interactive experiment' is not directly related to what is expressed through the work on show, the best way to describe it would probably be as 'parallel'. This feels wrong, somehow, and may well be seen as arrogant curators trying to upstage the art work which it is their job to proffer, but I would like to describe it as a playful attempt to approach a white elephant. There will be three workshops which examine the relationship of art to commerce, each of which incorporates an inevitable absurdity. We are still ironing out the details, and so I won't attempt to coherently describe them yet.


Hoist by Our Own Petard will take place at Islington Mill as part of Free For Arts Festival 2012, between the 19th and 26th of October, with the 'interactive experiment' taking place on the 21st of October.


Exhibiting Artists


Pascal Nicholls: http://wretchumbra.blogspot.co.uk/p/lando-lansard.html

Darren Adcock: http://wretchumbra.blogspot.co.uk/p/suk-ninmyo.html

Susan Fitzpatrick: http://piggysilks.blogspot.co.uk/

Kerry Hindmarch: http://www.saatchionline.com/kerryfrancesa

Joincey: http://joincey.tumblr.com/




Official Copy


Islington Mill will host an exhibition entitled Hoist By Our Own Petard co-curated by Pascal Nicholls and Lauren Velvick. They are currently developing a project which will take the form of a group exhibition and an interactive experiement. There is a dual intention to this project; they want to arrange a fairly straightforward exhibition of the selected artists' work, but will also use the opportunity to interrogate issues surrounding art and labour, inspired by Hannah Arendt's differention of work, labor and action.


Each of the exhibiting artists; Sue Fitzpatrick, Joincey, Kerry Hindmarch, Darren Adcock and Pascal Nicholls, work in a different traditionally recognisable medium, enabling the exhibition to function as a microcosm, within which we can explore issues which bear upon all art-making. They will also produce an accompanying publication, containing the responses of each artist to a questionnaire which they have written, providing data on how art-making fits into everyday life, work and leisure.


In this way Hoist by Our Own Petard will function as an experiment. Finally, they would like to construct an interactive, participatory experiement whereby vistors are invited to 'make something' within one of the mediums exemplified by the work present, eventually providing another set of data which can go towards further research and publications.


http://www.freeforartsfestival.co.uk/


Wednesday, 1 August 2012


This was written as a kind of challenge to myself, I'd heard that a new Ladies' Zine 'Queen of the Track' were looking for contributors, and wracking my brain for something appropriate to write about, I realised that what bothers be most about being a Lady, and indeed a human, is the whole idea of Vanity.  There wasn't time to do loads and loads of research, like I usually would do, so hopefully this comes across as charmingly simple, rather than woefully ill-informed. I guess it's something I'd like to discuss, rather than make pronouncements about, so I hope there are responses of some sort, somehow. The piece below will be published in the first issue of Queen of The Track...Out soon! https://twitter.com/queentrackzine




Vanity; you're pointless!

When you want to explore an old, loaded, gendered and vicious word, the best place to start is often a dictionary, or in this case dictionary.com. As of today, the definition attached to the word Vanity in an every-day sense has to do, firstly, with physical appearance. Specifically arrogance in, or obsession with one's own physical appearance, or beauty. This is not an innocent word, it can be used as an insult, and as such we can infer that caring too much, or at all, about your appearance is a bad thing to do. In condemning attention given to physicality, vanity can be a preoccupation, and a curse from the moment we learn to recognise ourselves in the mirror, and then to feel guilty. Guilt is a terrible thing to feel when you're not sure why you're feeling it, and especially when it has to do with a strange, smug, concept like vanity. Everyone has a physical presence, which can't be ignored either from the inside or the outside, but the idea of vanity makes owning, and actually liking your appearance ethically dubious; is there moralizing, where moralizing is not relevant? Or does 'vanity' have a point?
Whilst the above is true of all humans, any judgemental doctrine which has to do with physical appearance is inevitably going to be gendered, and usually distorted towards women. In The Beauty Myth Naomi Wolf argues that beauty is foisted on women as our primary goal, so that we won't bother utilising our talents elsewhere, specifically in the guise of “virtuous beauty”1, something you work for, rather than are born with. It's still comically obvious how much of a disparity there is between societies' expectations of women and men as regards beauty, not inherited attractiveness, but the actual effort that goes into looking how you want to. Furthermore, while the modern concept of vanity frames beauty as tied up with immorality and general 'bad-ness', we also have the 'halo effect' at work, whereby attractive, or 'well turned out' people are generally assumed to have other positive traits just because they look good. This lose-lose situation is bound to have a disproportionate affect on women, due to the aforementioned double standard.
When the word vanity and variations thereon were used in the bible, it referred to emptiness, unimportance and how everything is pointless in the face of death, and god, with time and effort spent on physical appearance included in this. In this way, vanity could be an important, powerful and positive word, even if you don't believe in god or an afterlife, thinking about the infinity of the universe and geological time is a great way to put seemingly insurmountable, stressful problems in perspective. This relatively non-toxic vanity was illustrated during the 'golden age' of Dutch painting, in the seventeenth century, with allegorical still life paintings. Within these Vanitas allegories, objects of fashion and wealth were depicted alongside skulls and other symbols of death and transience, an example of which is this; Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life painted by Harmen Steenwycke in 1640.
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Steenwycke contrasts examples of material wealth with a skull to represent the allegory, perpetuating the uncorrupted, universal definition of vanity, rather than using a young women to represent vanity as the sin of pride, as in this later Nineteenth Century painting, also entitled Vanitas, by Leon Jean Basile Perrault.
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The young woman, usually either gazing at herself in a mirror or teamed with a skull, is a much more targeted and insulting version of the Vanitas painting, than the earlier Dutch still lifes. Vanity and decadence go hand in hand, and life has not lost its transiency since the bible was written, or since the seventeenth century when those Flemish painters created their intense, morbid allegories. We're all still going to die, thus the message of the Vanitas painting is still fundamentally true, and important to remember; you can't take 'it' with you. Norbert Schneider in his chapter on 'Vanitas Still Lifes' notices a correlation with the rise of early capitalism, and anxiety about individualism and the fetishisation of worldly goods; “being 'cast back', as it were, to ones own ego, the individual person now tended to become detached from the social structures of the community and protection which it offered”4. Thus, the discourse initiated by Steenwycke above, and Boel below, is universal, philosophical and somewhat political. Whereas Perrault's young woman, though still showing luxury, is focussed on the personal vanity, and thus failings of the young woman depicted, rather than the viewer via the depiction of desirable, but 'pointless' objects. Although, of course, the young woman is supposed to be desirable and pointless too, vanity within vanity.
Lamentably, our every-day definition of vanity now correlates much more with Perrault's illustration, and as such we need to ask; if it's pointless and bad to spend time on, and put care into your appearance, is there a good reason for this attitude, other than it's association with young women? I'm not trying to argue that it's good to have a lot of expensive objects, over a supportive community, but our bodies and physical selves aren't objects and shouldn't be included within Boel's pyramid of all the vanities in the world.

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There is also a level of skill and creativity which goes into the formation of an outward appearance, which is done a disservice by being passed off as 'mere' vanity. Which is especially poignant in the context of contemporary, largely urban, largely western spaces whereby you can dress however you want. The type of beauty which you create for yourself serves important, vital functions; it allows you to identify with, and recognise other people who might share your values, but also to become familiar with, and tolerant of other ways of being, as different people choose different ways to look. It is also worth adding that there is a jolt of carnivalesque joy to be had from passing somebody unapolagetically eccentric on the street.
This is not to ignore the problematic side of expounding the virtues of self expression through the physical and the visual; it can seem to exclude anybody who isn't that interested in peacocking with their appearance, or who doesn't have enough money for 'nice things', and creates competition as to who can look like the best version of whatever the popular criteria is. Indeed, becoming detached from, and pitting ourselves against one another is an oft commented upon problem. However, I would argue that it is definitely possible to have genuine joy, and to take pride in the effortful beauty of others, if we can recognise a shared sense of creativity in it, rather than comparing to the silly, self-loathing standard of airbrushed celebrity. Perhaps I have internalised the beauty myth so deeply that I can't see any way out, but it also seems ridiculous to feel guilty for something enjoyable, creative and in some ways necessary6. Vanity has become skewed to focus on self-idolitry, which is in turn is skewed to place a disproportionate amount of blame on women.

Bibliography and related links


Schneider, Norbert Still Life Taschen (2003)

Wolf, Naomi The Beauty Myth: how images of beauty are used against women W. Morrow (1991)
http://jezebel.com/5823408/why-creative-people-are-so-vain









1Klein, Naomi The Beauty Myth (1991) p.18
2 Harmen Steenwyck (1612 – 1656) Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life (1640) the National Gallery, London
3 Perrault, Leon Jean Basile (1832–1908) Vanitas (1886)

4Schneider, Norbert Still Life “Vanitas Still Lifes” p.78
5Boel, Pieter (1626–1674) Allegory of the Vanities in the World (1663)
6Everyone has to look like something!