Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Stranded in Canton

Morrissey foretelling the death of Diana...

When Listening to The Smiths, Lady Diana is not my first thought but it seemed to dominate all of Lars Laumann's. Laumann has three video pieces in the Open Eye Gallery but only one of them held my attention, 'Morrissey foretelling the death of Diana'. It's a intricately spun web of six degrees of separation, linking The Smith's wordsmith and singer to the foretelling of Princes Diana's death in 1997. Through an extensive montage of found footage, video clips and sounds bite’s the deconstruction of song's on the 'The Queen Is Dead" album unfolds before you. He believes that cryptic clues lye in the lyrics, record covers and music videos. "I want to catch something that I might be ashamed off" is a lyric from the song "Frankly Mr. Shankly" which he says explains Diana's secret love with Mohamed Al-Fayed. Since hearing all these connections I've listen to The Smiths seminal album and If you want to make links then links can be made but I don't feel that because you can do this it justifies these theories of his. Allegedly the song's true meaning is about the Rough Trade boss Geoff Travis' feeling of equality with Morrissey and his poetic ability and his ability to be the voice of a generation. "I feel more fulfilled making Christmas cards with the mentally ill" is another great line within the song and can easily be linked with Diana and her many charitable ventures.

He has tried to rethink story structures, mixing narratives with images to create new and challenging narratives. Video collages, used material, found images, and narrative structure all play an important part in my project at the moment but he's taken it in a very different direction to me. It's a more intense exercise in Detourement but it's also an exploration into the cosmic and the impossible. If Laumann is taking this entire concept seriously and that he truly believes that the singer of a popular indie group from the 1980's can prophesied the death of a monarchical figure then I'm overwhelmed by his delusions. On the other hand if it's an extremely well thought out and structured joke then it's slightly better but ultimately feels like a joke that has fallen flat. His big mouth shouldn't strike again as it doesn't get him anywhere particularly interesting or funny.

Three short works in time

Three short works in time is a series of performance pieces by English Artist Andy Holden who has created in collaboration a performance piece that investigates the relationship between sculptural objects and sound. The work incorporates a 16mm film, a live camera feed, spoken word and a string quartet performing music by 'The Grubby Mitts (Holden's band) and Johnny Parry. I watched these pieces at The Victoria Gallery and Museum where the sweeping strings and the atmosphere of the surrounding walls worked perfectly in partnership. It was an interesting way to both tackle sculpture and sound, this pairing is something that I haven't come across often but Holden is a unique Artist who can use many different avenues of his creative mind to join together to create interesting and diverse junctions.

One of the pieces had a small child's play toy which was made of differently coloured columns which had a marble drop from layer to layer. This was fed live and projected onto the wall behind the performance; it was also amplified so there was a continuous circling and gentle dropping sound throughout the track. That piece was particularly hard to separate the sculpture from the sound but I felt like it worked really well and was something me and Andy had spoken about last year when I had a one to one tutorial. I was doing sound and light projections which were more of a type of sound and light sculpture so I found his input very valid.

The sounds which backed up the visuals maybe for me were at points weaker or became stale due to the sounds of violins and cello can grate on me over time. I feel that the overall ideas, sculpture's and spoken words brought it through to a great set of pieces and their entirety was something that I found really interesting and rich.

One short work in time

Camera Lucida

In a recent talk with artist Andy Holden he turned me onto the book 'Camera Lucida' by Roland Barthes. This turned out to be a perfect recommendation on his part as not only does it inform my work but it also informs my essay. It's given a lot of my stray thoughts and feelings about photography a gravity point and beginning. It's helped me to understand my relationship with found images which has become a recurring theme throughout my work recently.

The book examines the themes of presence and absence, the relationship between photography and theatre, history and death; these 'reflections on photography' begin as an investigation into the nature of photographs. Then as Barthes contemplates a photograph of his mother as a child, the book becomes an exposition of his own mind.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


Nicholas Hlobo's elaborate, colourful labyrinthine of ribbons has been one of the best experiences of this 'Touched' Biennial. It has been one of the most tactile and surprising pieces of I experienced so far. I walked up the stairs to Hlobo's center piece at the Bluecoat and found a maze of coloured ribbons which was thick and deep. As I explored every detail that hung before me I realised that this piece seemed to be the one of the first if not the most impressive of sensory art works within the 'Touched' Biennial. A lot of works that are in the Biennial have been some what loosely based on the theme of 'Touched' which is great as it's a very open word and therefore gives a diverse range of outcomes but it's also nice to see something embrace the word full on and give you something that touches the senses. This piece reminds me of Martin Creed's 'Work No. 200 (Half the air in a given space)', Mainly because of the tactile nature of the works and the use of colour and simple everyday materials but then elevated and used on mass to create these overwhelming pieces.
The surprise with this piece is its centre, A couple of manikins dressed in gimp type outfits. This piece reminds me of a Humbug sweet, you think you've got it sussed and then there lye's a surprise in the centre. With the Humbug though you remember the delightful surprise that awaits you where as with Hlobo's piece I feel I will over time, forget about the pair of gimps and only remember the ribbons. I don't fully understand the use of gimps and felt that If the piece hadn't have had them in I wouldn't have be in it thinking "I'm really enjoying this but you know what I think it needs...a pair of manikins in gimp dresses".

I would like to work on this scale and with this bold use of colour as I've had a fascination with colour for many years now. I've wanted to do a interactive/performance piece for many years now, I would like to work balloons but I fear Martin creed has beaten me to the punch but maybe something will come of it someday.


The first piece from the Fact Biennial I saw was darkened room with a video playing against the back wall. It was almost like a video severance tape from a military plane. It was in heat sensing colours such as intense reds, oranges and yellows, it had information bars on the vertical and horizontal axis' with details of height and depth. Within the room itself there were people sat on the bench at the back, I was left standing at the side peering in. This may have been a reason for my unwillingness to hang around, that mixed with my first impressions. It was the type of video that I have seen many times in the past and is something that turns me off with regards to video art. It's the way in which the artist chooses to tackle his idea which feels cold of any human touch and uninterested visual subject matter. An interesting reflection on this piece is that I made a video piece towards the end of the first year which had somewhat similar imagery and colours. It was a piece of film I had taken whilst on a train journey. I had manipulated the colours so they morphed and bleed into each other over time. The abstract premise of this idea was to try to recreate the colours I see within my eyelids on these journeys to and from home. In hindsight I feel I tackled this warm, human sensation in a detached way and maybe the idea could have best been tackled differently.

One of the stand out piece's for me in this biennial, this being my first, was the Tehching Hsieh 'One Year Performance (1980-1981)-(Time Clock Piece)'. The piece involved Hsieh clocking in on the hour every hour for an entire year. I think the reason why I was so struck by it was the shear scale of the idea and the realisation of the project. I've caught myself thinking about it many times since seeing it and it's warranted repeated views by myself and with others. I also found myself telling friends from home about it and showing them on their recent visit to see me. I think the reason for this level of interest is the fact that I know I could never imagine or tackle a project of this scale. I don't have the discipline or the determination to go through such a high level of monotony or routine. The presentation of the idea was something that I was really taken with as well as it all had an order and schedule, which is something I like. I did realise that as I was walking around and inspecting his time keeping skills I was noticing that he had missed a few of his self imposed deadlines. My first thoughts were "Lazy" which then made me laugh as I realised the level of commitment attached to this idea and for him to miss a few clock In's was only human.


'Embryology' Magdalena Abakanowicz is the first piece that you come across when entering the Tate Liverpool. It's not a piece I expected but it's one that I felt that I could identify other ideas with. Such as the title 'Embryology' instantly made me think of the newest Flaming Lips record, 'Embryonic' which has been one of my favourite records of the year. The idea behind it made me think of a series of photograph's I worked on a few years ago where I was using a powerful micro-lens and documenting the human figure. I was making the abstract landscapes with the use of skin, eyes, ears, hair, teeth and everything between. That's something I think I share with Abakanowicz in terms of taking something so natural,organic and fundamental to everyone and making you look at it in a new way. Aesthetically though, I feel that she created more of a desolate beech scene rather than abstract human organisms.

Artists Alrredo and Isabel Aquilizan are from the Philippines and often use the community and the audience with their joint projects and this year's biennial piece is no different. They recruited lots of different schools from the surrounding area's of Merseyside and had the children make small boats. Then then created their own small world within a room on the top floor of the Tate. It's the type of piece that I would love to make myself but always feel that it would be too forced but by them getting children to open their imaginations they are free to use this naive and low-fi technique. This piece of work makes me think about a lot my own childhood and making dens all summer and the sense of exploration and adventure that can never really be replaced. It also makes me think about my young cousin and little sister as I would encourage them to draw and make things and I would often keep these mini masterpieces. The book and film 'Where the wild things are' has had a big impact on me over the last year and my early childhood. It's one of a few books I remember loving as a small child. This project seems to have echo's of the same themes and deal's with childhood imagination with a lot of resecpt and that's something I try to do.

A Foundation.2

The New Contemories Exhibition is an event which happens every year and it consists of third year art students, master's students or recently graduated students. It is a platform for young artists to show their work and is picked by a board of judges who change annually. This was my first time being exposed to this event and I was instantly aware that these artist's are roughly my age. On my first visit I was disappointed and didn't see much that I found too outstanding or above anything I haven't seen of some of the other student's I'm in contact with other than the general production value of the work was of a higher standard. After three or four visits I started to look closer at a few I had initially Ignored, Emma Hart's 'Dice', video is a perfect example of this.

The video is shot in a very basic D.I.Y fashion and it shows Emma playing a game with the sea. She has a large red dice which she rolls for herself and reads aloud what number it lands on. The she wait for the tide to roll in and takes the turn of the sea and the power of the tide pushes the dice over until it lands on it's own number. She reads the sea's number out too and announces the winner. It's a simple and funny idea which forced me to keep watching as I found it funny when she seemed genuinely disappointed when the sea 'won'. There were undertones of humour throughout the exhibition with pieces like Nick Mobbs 'Red Leather Sofa' 2009, and Kristian De La Riva 'Cut' 2009, and . These piece's are the ones that have stuck out in my mind

At the end of last year I employed humour in my work for the first time. It came about through laziness in all honesty but I think at the end of it I had learnt something new and possibly more from that then just plodding along with an idea. I had gone through the group crit's with half idea's and entire fictions, until it reached the point where I had nothing to show and we had a show coming up at the Novas Centre. The brief of this project was 'Wasting Time', so in a ironic fashion I deemed my entire project a 'waste' of time and then followed through with the idea of wasting other people's time, similar to what I had been doing with the tutors for several weeks. I came up with a comments box that was really a shredder, so when people filled in what they thought was a comment's sheet it would be placed into a shredder to their surprise. I also handed out 'Free Drinks' voucher's which ment that the public would walk up two flights of stairs only to get to the bar where they knew nothing of this arraignment.

A Foundation.1

My experience with the A Foundations furnace space has been that of two sides of the same coin. The A foundations ability to bring the such diverse exhibitions is probably what gives it such charm within it's derelict surroundings. The first side I experienced was the busy, live experience of it's one night only exhibition called 'Wrong Love', an alternative night for Valentines day. The second being the more recent, a subtle and introverted exhibition featuring Japanese Artist and ex Self Defensive Forces recruit Sachiko Abe. These two events couldn't be further apart on the performance spectrum. One being a short sharp bursts of several performance piece's the other being a repetitive, endurance sculpture, lasting over several months.

I use the word 'Sculpture' loosely as she states this piece isn't a performance but more of live sculpture. I sort of understand where she is coming from in this statement as the sculpture is constantly being added to and growing but at the same time I feel like she is performing. As she props herself high above the viewer creating a Rapunzel type figure, the performance aspects are magnified by the amplifying of her sharp scissors snipping away at her sculpture. I do feel that within this large industrial space she has created an overwhelming sense of calm and you pick that up upon entering her space. This ties in well with her original urge to do this routine. These urges spilled over onto the paper as well with the creations of her complex and very detailed drawings. This complex web of lines serve as another relaxation and organisation period for the artist. I found that these were the B-sides to her paper cutting but added another intricate detail of this exhibition. Over the summer I did a series of drawing with pattern making and this reminded me of them but these far surpass my attempts in terms of detail and intricacies.

I had a chat recently with an artist about my work and she used the words "Narrative pattern making" which made me think of these early drawings and my rough narratives I've been constructing. I'm interested to explore if there is any common ground in these two aspects and have wondered if they could share any space within my project I'm working on at the moment.

Shooting The Breeze

'Shooting The Breeze' was a four day long exhibition consisting of a series of anti-craft and lo-fi works created by several artists including Michael Aitken, Fiona McKillop and Richard Proffitt. I was only made aware of this exhibition's existence by walking past it on the day of it's opening. I wondered in not knowing anything about it and was instantly struck by a familiar style. That style being Richard Proffitt's series of photocopies of Americana, which includes his love for Spaghetti Westerns and Elvis Presley. This piece was entitled 'Paracurricular Activity' Photocopies 2007.

I was first conscious of Proffitt's work when I attended one of his talks at the Blue Coat and on first impressions I was lost and had no connection. I was left cold and confused about his reference points as they were about mythologies and Sci Fi. I then volunteered at A Foundation's 'Wrong Love' one night only exhibition and was converted. He had created this massive American Idian tipi which diminated the large warehouse space that is the A Foundation. It was created out of cardboard and was ment to be a place of interacting and discovery of the work. It's been one of my personal favourite works I've seen this year.

Due to 'Shooting The Breeze's' space though it forced Proffitt to return to more modest sized pieces. Whilst looking at his 'Paracurricular Activity' it made me think of my own work and how I could possibly integrate popular iconography and create personal reference points with the characters and stories I'm srtarting to build. My work too depicts Americana but it's the mundane and pedestrian America rahter than the mid 20th century modern gods of Elvis and Cowboys.

The other Richard Proffitt work that struck me was his 'Louisiana Blues, Anywhere'. My immediate reference was the film 'Mad Max' as it looked like an abandoned mothercycle lost to the ghost desserts. The whole exhition had a nostalgic dessert punk feel, which was carried on by Michael Aitkin's works. 'Ideas' was a perfect back drop to Proffitt's 'Louisiana Blues, Anywhere' piece as the materials shared a similar feel of aftermath. They both shared the imfluences and uninspired false-idolscapes, TV, and teen dreams, examining the rituals of the bedroom.