Friday, 29 March 2019

Making Art with Frances Morris: Sophie Calle

I recognise that I like to be in control. I often find it easier to respond to instructions or a set of restrictions than I do to be given complete free-reign. Within my art practice (as well as in life), I often devise my own set of rules to follow. For instance, only use the colour white, fill the entire frame with pattern, only use materials that are edible.

It is these tendencies that initially introduced me to the work of Sophie Calle, an artist who is famously controlling and who devises and implements "rules of the game". 'Sophie works with real life experiences we can all relate to – the death of a parent, the end of a relationship. Her work resonates with her preoccupations - death, absence, the mourning of the passing of life. "Growth is a series of mournings."

Calle recently produced an album of songs by 40 international musicians, in memory of her dead cat Souris. There’s Jarvis Cocker, Juliette Armanet, Bono, Michael Stipe to name a few. She’s made work out of her mother dying or her boyfriend ditching her. She’s had a job as a stripper, made a crazy road movie called No Sex Last Night. She's contacted everyone in a lost address book she found on the street. She’s asked people to describe their most exquisite pain, invited strangers to attend the funeral of their secrets. She’s asked museum staff to remember stolen paintings, blind people to describe the most beautiful thing they’ve seen. And although the work seems apparently dry - images and texts, books - it's deeply personal for those involved, and for us - the viewer.

In this BBC Radio 4 programme, Frances Morris, Director of Tate Modern, meets French artist Sophie Calle in her studio in south west Paris.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Grayson Perry: En Garde

In this episode of Archive on Four (BBC Radio 4) Grayson Perry goes backwards in the archive in search of the moment the avant-garde died.

'It's a century since Marcel Duchamp submitted his artwork called Fountain to an exhibition staged by the Society of Independent Artists in New York. Fountain was a urinal -- not a painting of a urinal or a sculpture, just a urinal, bought from a Manhattan hardware store and signed R.Mutt.
(c) Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017 / Photo (c) Tate

The Society of Independent Artists rejected Duchamp's provocation and the original object was lost. Nowadays Duchamp's urinal is canonised as the fountainhead of conceptual art and the high water (closet) mark of the avant garde. Replicas of the Fountain grace museums around the world - emblems of the avant-garde spirit of experimentation and confrontation. Somewhere in the intervening years though, something changed - contemporary art lost its ability to shock and critique. We're still hopelessly drawn to the idea of art that's 'cutting edge', 'ground-breaking', 'revolutionary'. But is that possible at this point -- haven't we seen it all before?

Maybe the death knell was sounded when the Saatchi Gallery opened on the South Bank? Or with the advent of protest and radical chic in the 1960s? Maybe it was when the CIA funded the abstract expressionists? Or when the post-war art market began to reign supreme? Or when the Museum of Modern Art opened its doors in 1927? Or maybe it was all a matter of style the very moment Duchamp's Fountain was conceived?'

Perry questions whether the avant garde over emphasises the importance of the individual at the expense of valuing the collective.

Can people be accidentally avant garde? One tends to think that people have somehow made a set of conscious decisions to 'break the mould' and do something groundbreaking, but quite often they have simply done something that they find interesting and have not considered the notion of the avant garde. 

This episode features Brian Eno, Kenneth Goldsmith, Nnenna Okore, Cornelia Parker, and Sarah Thornton.

Producer: Martin Williams.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Another wunderful evening with team Wunderbar (and Caitlin Merrett-King)

Glasgow-based artist Caitlin Merritt-King is currently doing a residency at the Newbridge Project in which she is wanting to record a new podcast exploring:

- methods of collaboration

- the political nature of working with friends

- friendship as emotional and feminised labour

- how we exercise care and love within art practice.

The podcast is going to serve as an informal archive that will aim to be a useful tool for experimenting for Newbridge now and in the future.

When I saw the 'Call for Ideas' I thought it could be an opportunity for us to share some of the Great & Tiny War experience. I was not necessarily thinking of it as a podcast just about Great & Tiny War, but more about the experience of all of us working together.

So, I arranged for us to meet (well, as many of us as were available), and we spent the evening talk about collaboration, working together, being friends, being women, caring for each other, caring in the art world, the nature of feminine work, Great and Tiny War, Bobby Baker and so on. Caitlin is going to edit the footage and the podcast will be available online in the near future.

Friday, 22 March 2019

The Occasion Collective - SLOW at Durham Castle

Last Saturday evening I had the pleasure of experiencing SLOW, an immersive live sound performance and promenade held in the majestic grandeur of Durham Castle, hosted by The Occasion Collective (TOC).

"TOC is a curatorial and practice-based artist-led collective which provides artists with the opportunity to exhibit, develop and collaborate.with a focus on engaging new audiences with spectacular and speculative creative practice. TOC champions transdisciplinary collaboration, and creates a much-needed platform for artists of varied disciplines for mutual benefit."

SLOW by Jamie Cook, looks to explore the possibilities of acoustic/electronic collaboration through large-scale, immersive, meditative, promenade performance and installation. Cook’s work often utilises mixed media collaboration, exploring the relationships between art/music/dance/film and how the lines between these practises can be blurred to create new and interesting possibilities.

In response to Cook's work, the history and heritage of Durham Castle and it's surrounding research, TOC artists Bex Harvey, James Pickering and Adam Goodwin displayed a number of audio-visual installations. 

As the musicians played in the Castle's Great Hall, the complex, poly-rhythmic, surround-sound textures created were channelled throughout the winding stairs and underground chapel and a number of other hidden locations within the Castle grounds. The Castle came alive and there was a really special vibe as people bustled round trying to find all that was to be seen. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was not expecting for it to be as extensive as it was. The only slight downsides were that it was very difficult to hear the audio from the videos as the audio from the Great Hall was so well circulated throughout the entire Castle. 

My other mildly critical comment would be that it would have been useful to know how many video works or other artworks there were to find. A map would have guided us round, but I appreciate that the artists may have wanted for things to be less obvious and add to the sense of discovery as one wanders around.

SLOW - Composed by Jamie Cook

Performed by

Jamie Cook (electronics)

Will Hammond (vibraphone)

Merle Harbron (fiddle)

Ceitidh Macleod (cello)

Adam Sams (bass clarinet)

Monday, 18 March 2019

Mark Bradford - Los Moscos

Mark Bradford
Los Moscos 2004
Mixed media on canvas

I am blown away by the intensity of this work, and am attracted to the complexity of the surface. There is so much depth and detail, and I could look at it for hours. I am paying particular attention to the composition and the colours, and am considering such things in relation to the experiments that marginendeavour have been doing with our collage work.

This large-scale collage includes materials found by the artist on the streets around his studio in Los Angeles, USA. Visually suggestive of aerial maps of sprawling, urban areas, the collage is constructed entirely from paper fragments which, the artist believes, 'act as memory of things pasted and things past. You can peel away the layers of paper and it's like reading the the streets through the signs'. The work takes its title from a derogatory slang term for migrant day labourers in the San Francisco Bay Area, reflecting the artist's long-standing interest in the sub-cultures of the inner city.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Art of listening

Listening is central to projects such as Great and Tiny War and My quest to find a shaddock, and it is a skill that I have been made aware of more recently. It seems that it is a difficult skill to develop and one that perhaps is becoming less so as we become more reliant on technology.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Boustrophedon style writing

Just came across an article about boustrophedon style writing, and think it will be interesting in relation to the work I am doing for an exhibition in a barn on the outskirts of Hexham.  

'Boustrophedon means something like "as the ox turns."  Today we write in stoichedon style, in which all the letters face the same direction, like soldiers standing in formation.  Boustrophedon is based on an agricultural, not a military ideal:the writer writes as a farmer plows.  Write to the end of the line, and then, rather than returning to the left side of the page, turn the letters to face the opposite direction and write from right to left.  When you read boustrophedon, your eye follows a zig-zag across the page -- or the stone.

Have a look at this close-up of the engraving at Gortys and look at the way letters like "E," "K," and "S" face in adjacent lines:

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Penelope by Anthony Howell

I have been listening to the Heroine episode of Words and Music on BBC Radio 3, 

and the following poem grabbed my attention

To do what you undid
The night before
To undo what you did
The day before
To undo what you undid
Again the next night
To do what you did
As you do the next day
Only to undo it again
Just as you did
The night before
In order to do it again
Just as you did
The day before
The day before
Just as you did
In order to do it again
The night before
Just as you did
Only to undo it again
As you do the next day
To do what you did
Again the next night
To undo what you undid

Anthony Howell

It will take me some time to get my head around this poem, but it is reminding me of the act of compensation; how one may do something one day in order to compensate for the day before. For instance, "I needed to have a lie in this morning because yesterday I did not get a good night's sleep." This act of compensation could then lead to other compensatory behaviour being necessary. And so the cycle continues in a perpetual manner.

Ongoing studio experiments

Saturday, 2 March 2019

marginendeavour work in progress

The background of this artwork is made up of a collage of different samples of white that have been cut out from magazines. It is when the samples are displayed close together in such a manner that one recognises the variations in tones.