Katrina Palmer (2015) End Matter

This a recommendation from tutorial 4, in relation to the Hornet Tree; we discuss it in tutorial 5 (and it is included in the tutor report).

Here an interview with the artist:

I really enjoy the form and presentation; I think the project is great to see as level of ambition and what is possible with my fiction/narratives, how these can be developed.

The theme of loss and adjusting for loss on Portland as quarry, hollowed out island is fascinating. I see how my own stories are very different to hers which are historical stories, almost ghost tales; I like the irreverence with which she breaks conventions and introduces contemporary concerns but also a whole range of meta-physical questions (via Hegel) to her invented site of the Loss Adjusters’ Office. That this office features a number of photocopiers, the sensuality (a constant hum, some warmth) of these as one way of coping with the task of adjusting loss, is quite ingenious and intrigues me no end; similar: her way of writing herself into these unstable stories and timelines.

Some of audio production is less interesting to me: it seems too polished with echo effects, I take issue with the actual voices; but these are smaller concerns.

That the project is available at a distance is great. I order End Matter, the small book publication and read it quickly. Again: some of the production choices are a little forced but also kind of work well for me in terms of her ambition and what she tries to achieve as a fictional, almost metaphysical narrative that is strongly conceptual and at once sensorial, sensual even.

The site which hosts the overall project and the audio files is here.

The bookworks publication page, here.

— I will return to this, no doubt

Geerz/Shalev-Geerz (1996/ unrealised) The Geese of Feliferhof

I saw this earlier in the summer, a colleague seeking someone to write an essay on this piece of work. I have kept returning to it:

Four flagpoles, four flags, to be raised and lowered daily on the grounds of an Austrian army barracks. The proposal one a prize and was chosen to be realised, yet never did become realised.

— I think that latency in this proposal makes is so relevant as to what is at the heart of the proposal itself: a gauge, a yard stick as to the state of the military: whether it would enact the routine, make the piece of art exist. Or not.

The initial phrases on the flags were chosen by the artist, they were to change annually, the later ones selected by the army personnel themselves.

In English they translate as:

  • Courage is punishible by death
  • Treason will be decorated
  • Barbarism is the soldier’s bride
  • Soldiers we are called, too

 

https://www.jochengerz.eu/works/die-gaense-vom-feliferhof

Irina Nakhova (1984/2018) Room 2

Russian artist Nakhova recreates within the Tate Modern one of her ‘total installations’ that she set up during the 1980s in the Soviet Union, where she was not an ‘official artist’ but an unofficial one: she describes this as her art having been free inside her apartment; she and her circle of friends were free to do what they wanted but would never be shown or seen ‘in public’, officially.

The installations existed for about a fortnight each, then they were dismantled to allow for the other things that need to take place in her home to take place.

She describes the sense of disorientation when ‘visiting’ her flat as she recreated it in the gallery. It feels claustrophobic to her.  She also talks about feminism and macho art critics who would show people, men, around her apartment. The original footage is really interesting.

Interests for me:

  • duration: both of when it existed but the distance/memory enacted in its re-creation.
  • it is clearly not true that there was no audience/ no public for it: friends visited, artists visited, it is documented and now gets a Tate installation
  • the blurring of space by covering it over and crawling inside.

 

— this was discussed on the OCA discuss forum, thank you, Stefan for bringing it to my attention

research point: Emily Kame Kngwarreye

[this is reposted from a FB post, which also included a bit more of a discussion of those who were there, those who settled, unsettled.]

I kind of didn’t expect to find what I found. I was looking through the course notes to see what needs adding before submission.
I had glanced through the research point but kind of found a whole set of landscape sketches in a sketchbook underneath and glanced some notion about passion and place and kind of read on, didn’t stop.
now i looked and recognise her work, if not her name: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, who died in the mid-1990s, who designated for her proper name to be used for her work after and for it to be known by her name.
She painted her dreaming, the dreaming of Yam, of Kame, it is part of her name as much as she was the guardian for the women’s dreaming in her Country Alhalkere, next to the settlement of Utopia, a couple hundred kilometres away from Alice Springs.
It is such a weird way that First Nation art that was hugely successful (and exploited) through Western art markets appears in the course: it is not named. It starts with a quote by her which names her dreamings (and as such can be contextualised). And yet: it wants to own it as pastoralist longing to a place. (I am thinking of Jarman’s Journey to Avebury, but I am often thinking of that, so this is neither here nor there).
I am not quite sure what else I can say: the work is stunning, it almost lifts off the screen, the canvas, the ground. Of course it does: so much transmits through this work, it is replete with place, with dreaming, with belonging, with a life lived (she was 80 when she started painting, produced about a painting a day for the next 8 years).

The link to the exhibition site is here. Yam, 1989 is one of her dot paintings.

A rather poor copy of Jarman’s Journey to Avebury is here on youtube:

The discussion on FB makes me also recall John Wolseley’s drawing practice in the outback. Trying to trace his work I come across this Drawing as Performance article in Fusion Journal.

Art and Environment workshop (28-29 July 2018): Day 1 Phytology

I went to the two-day workshop organised by the OCA tutors Melissa Thompson and Dan Harrison. Day one was outside at Phytology in Bethnal Green, day two indoors at the South London Botanical Institute in West Norwood. This post is about the first day.

The group composition for each day was different, except for three of us who attended both days. The first day was focussed on ideas, the second on process. Each day had a brief talk introduction to the site/ project by someone from their.

Phytology is a stunning site and project. A high metal fences on the outside and the greenery inside hide it from view, the site is open on Saturdays over the summer, has a number of paid staff and volunteers. Its heart is a raised bed of medicinal plants that grow in East London. It is a former bomb site and has existed for six years.

Both days we did an introduction round, on Day 1 this was extensive and really good as a way to see people coming to the workshop, most of us on the Creative Arts pathway and some way into the degree.

We then on day 1 were given a series of short instruction for 5 minutes exercises went off to do these and reconvened for a discussion of these, a shared lunch and talk from the writer-in-residence and then repeated with more exercises and a final closing discussion.

I loved the format of the exercises: they were brief, time limited and I realised that I work really well with time as external limitation. They were fairly similar and so I could continue with a theme throughout, drawing in a range of different responses. I won’t reproduce all of them but a good few:

The exercise instructions (left for morning, right for afternoon):

  1. observe growth: a series of video clips seeking buds that haven’t died off on a bush in this dry weather
  2. observe and document a non-human being and find your relationship between it and you: I turn round a snail and draw its underneath. I feel slightly intrusive doing so, also want to make sure it isn’t drying out. I carefully turn it back round once I have finished; later someone else stands in the spot and I want to call out to her not to step on the snail (but I don’t)
    img_4283
  3. Five minutes in the life of…. the sun (how humble of me):
    I look up and start finding it everywhere above me, sometimes hidden behind a cloud though
    img_4284
  4. Make a series of interventions into the site… alter, interrupt, cut, help, assist, edit, underline
    – the edit and underline intrigue me. I start with underlining some leaves on the trees in still photography:

    I then, on the fourth, find a blue band on a twig and it sways strongly in the heavy winds. I make a video clip of it:

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intervention: underline #weareoca

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For the afternoon, I did these, in a similar part of the site (I never got back to explore the medicinal plant section

  1. Spend five minutes recording movement and flow:
    I stand and wait
    nothing moves
    in five minutes
    I look up from the screen
    img_4063
  2. Find and use an alternative tool: the parallel striations in a mark as base for a rubbing (front and back)
    img_4286
  3. img_4287Start an intense relationship with a plant. What questions will you ask: I continue from the first exercise in the morning to investigate the state of plants in this drought. I take a video clip.
    (audio!)

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#audio

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The discussions were really useful, I liked the interest and methodology, what the two tutors brought to this and all participants as well as discussions over how this can be continued. I will write some more about my own working methods and what it brought up for me at the end of the second post on day 2 of the workshop.

 

Joan Jonas (1976) I want to live in the country (and other romances)

This is the book I bought after seeing the Joan Jonas exhibition at the Tate Modern: it was easy to fit in my hand luggage but also, the 28min video work – the single subject of the book – , while not in the Tate exhibition seems highly relevant to my own interests and pursuits.

[this post is strictly non-linear; it also attends to series of different white balance when photographing sections of the book for reference]

The publisher (Afterall) gives its summary as:

In Joan Jonas’s 1976 video work I Want to Live in the Country (And Other Romances) the artist investigates a geography of displacement and irrefutable desires. The work veers constantly between two locations, the coastal landscape of rural Nova Scotia and a windowless New York City studio. Describing Jonas’s approach to video as a drawing tool, an endless mirror and a framing device, Susan Morgan takes us through the exterior and interior scenes that comprise this work and considers how Jonas has used performance and video since 1968 to explore ways of seeing, the inherent rhythms of ritual and the archetypal authority of objects and gestures.

> relevant are the intercutting of indoor/outdoor scenes, the combination of Super8 film (outdoor) with video (indoor), the staging of the indoor setting and the role of performance; the function of drawing tools and how video works as a drawing tool (which is something that arose in the last tutorial discussion).

The book structure is interesting: the middle section contains a set of colour stills (32 in total) of the video; the text is written as a long-form essay, interspersed with short sections which describe a number of interior and exterior scenes. I have another book in this series, One Work, which takes a single piece of work as basis for the whole book (it’s Jeff Wall’s Picture for Women), and really like the series proposition. The book covers a fair bit of ground: Jonas’s coming to video and performance, her early influences, notably her motivations, methodology and repeating and evolving interests. The cutting, the repeating, the mirroring, the use of voice, the doubling of herself in the frame as image and performer. Also, the wider field of video art as it develops as an accessible means to work with the temporality of film (and here, a closer reading of the relevant sections in Kittler will be useful to compare).

It discusses the importance of transitions between cuts, the role of fragments (how scene,  viewpoint, audio, sequencing relate directly or obliquely to each other in her films):

img_4276
p.88
  • she continues how the video is constructed in relation to the set, the moving frame, the video frame , the frame of the glass table (within the scene), the space (ibid) — I think it is such careful attention to the fragment within and across that interests me (and also then: what does it produce, create, as after all: it leads to a single continuous role of film, screened in chronology, so a very definite unified object and piece of work).

It continuous (in the closing pages of the book) to talk about the role of audio, notably: music as drifting in and out in fragments and then the voiceover.

A quote by Yvonne Rainer (whom I know too little about) interrogates the desire of the audience of a narrative frame, a story – which in Jonas’s case is not linear.

Can an audience learn to abandon its narrative expectation once that expectation has been aroused by narrative elements in the work? What kinds of clues tell us, the audience, when to read an image – or a series of images – narratively, when to them parataxically and when to read them iconographically? What constitutes continuity in the movies and what kind of clue tells us to ‘begin again’? Why his urgency in our acculturated and suppurating brain that propels us to find connections between what we simultaneously see and hear, between what we have just seen and what we are about to see? What constitutes unity in film? Can the narrative and the other-than-narrative exist simultaneously in the same shot, creating a kind of strobe effect with regard to meaning? (p. 90f)

Morgan continues ‘Jonas delivers that strobe effect in I Want to Live in the Country (And Other Romances).

Drawing in John Cage, Jorge Luis Borges and Anna Halprin, Morgan closes with a final exterior scene (possibly the last scene of I want to:

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p. 93

Short note by Jonas plus a series of film stills (Jonas 2007, 80ff)img_4248img_4250img_4251

More sections from Morgan 2006:

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p. 13

> importance of video as accessible medium to work with the temporality of film; also: how TV became key in reworking and exploring the relationship between performer and audience.

> video as producing a sense of double reality: Jonas as image and as performer (and she explores this effect of doubling, mirroring, often through the use of a live video feed, the monitor in numerous of her earlier works)

> shyness and interest in performing.

Then, below:

The role of friendship circles as audience (similar to Nan Goldin’s Ballad): it was friends that were performed to and who critiqued the work. The art world as a workshop: to work for each other. I have the sense that some of the DiY education stuff and the current focus on friendship, sociability and care in contemporary artist-run spaces tries to recover some of that.

img_4263
p. 59

 

The readings and interests of my father filter into the artwork too: a translation of a number of books by the Nearing’s were a frequent source of (re-)reading and discussion for alternative modes of living in my childhood.

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p. 63

This and others as interrogation into the role video as medium/ methodology; also: how drawing enters the performance.

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p. 72

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Joan Jonas 2007 Timelines. Museu d’Art Contemporani Barcelona, Barcelona.

Susan Morgan 2006 Joan Jonas: I want to live in the country (and other romances). Afterall: New York.

Contextual Focus Point: Rauschenberg’s (1953) Erased de Kooning

A good reproduction of the artwork and the context is here; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art also investigate with digitally enhanced infrared imaging techniques the original drawing at the heart of Rauschenberg’s work, here.

Thoughts at first sight, then reading and some more notes.

I have known of this work and what it involved for several years. I think I may have walked past it even once in 2005. I always felt it was enough to know that this was art but not needing to see it. I kept wondering how de Kooning felt about it and it’s interesting to read that Rauschenberg admired de Kooning and the latter agreed to this. It sits for me in the context of much conceptual and minimalist art that followed, but of course that art followed considerably later, this is early, more alike to Newman and Motherwell.

I use erasure a lot for my drawings, but of course this is creating ART out of someone else’s art being erased. This is different: there no more building up.

Some of my photography peers work with memory and found images, family albums, old negatives, there is removal, cutting away, re-arranging. John Stezaker’s work also comes to mind: but these are generally about removing parts, not removing the whole. In some sense, Rauschenberg also removed only parts: the paper remained and he devised a rather referential way of mounting and framing the art work: it was definitely about creating something new through the process, and then erasure, the eraser, is merely another creative tool to produce, to create.

I watch a short clip on Rauschenberg narrating the time he went to de Kooning and remember how much I liked Rauschenberg’s humour in the work in Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin which I would see quite frequently; I google Twombly & Rauschenberg and get various stories about great men among friends until I find a piece that questions the narrative of masculinity in this group of post-war male artists, arguing instead for sexual fluidity and queerness and asking why this is not acknowledged in the great narration of post-war abstract expressionism. Instead: we get stories of young men wanting to kill their idols, of competition and the question whether Rauschenberg would not have done better becoming the greatest Abstract Expressionist rather than destroying them.

I like the de Kooning piece: its emptiness is full of traces. It is conventional as art work in may ways: the framing, gilding, titling. I also like the trickster and humour in it.

 

 

John Gerrard’s (2017) Western Flag

i saw John Gerrard’s Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) yesterday for the first time and really liked it on so many levels but didn’t quite know yet what to do with it… it works as commentary on both nationalism and environmental destruction.

last night i thought alongside it and came back to James Turrell’s environmental works with light—i think it was a question of scale for me (i took Western Flag as site specific, hadn’t realised that it is a complex digital interface that animates the environment as feed around Gerrard’s smoke billowing flag pole); it was also a question of creation/annihilation too (it is something that returns as question more and more).
— as often with Land Art it is also one about grandiosity (of self, other, nature, cosmos), i have a good sense where my own stuff sits amidst this, it is more Swamp than Spiral Jetty or Roden Crater, and still: socialising Turrell’s works for rich dudes post-revolution would be high on my list.

 

We are having a little flirt at Pump House Gallery

The exhibition announcement:

“Wandsworth Council’s Pump House Gallery presents We are having a little flirt, a group exhibition offering perspectives on the uncertainty of attraction and desire. Through playful interaction, the exhibition examines the theatre of small everyday exchanges whilst also considering the shifting politics of human interaction in a digital age. Works ranging from installation, video and performance test the boundaries of the artists’ relationships with friends, future and past lovers, and even their audiences.

Adam Christensen presents a textile work hung across a steel frame depicting a shirt designed by an ex-boyfriend. Its biographical content and delicate construction invite the viewer to bear witness to the fragile remnants of a break-up.

Drawing on her personal chat archive, Erica Scourti presents a responsive installation that invites the audience to encounter the anxiety and paranoia – but also the thrill and pleasure – of socializing and bonding online.

A ladder and a bucket filled with water forms Secretos, a sculptural installation by Monica Espinosa. The bucket contains a speaker playing recordings of the artists’ secrets, but, as the liquid absorbs and muffles the sound, the viewer must move closer to try and hear them. This playful proposition teases the audience, inviting them to test the limits of their curiosity.

Anneke Kampman presents a video work that can be viewed from the balcony above. The piece plays with the idea of the music video, focusing on the construction, audio-visual landscape and unwritten rules of these digitally produced worlds.

Together these works produce a set of connections that lead to new ways of seeing and experiencing what flirting is, and can be: flirtation as the potential of an exchange, a love encounter or a future attachment, which might or might not occur.”

We arrive a bit late but catch the last fifteen minutes of Erica Scourti’s performance work. The doors are open, people have gathered in the doorway while the performers, most of the time, most of them, move around the ground floor of the gallery. On occasion, though, they venture outside. Each has a script on a phone or small ipad. They sometimes chant, there seems to be a loop pedal at play too.

From what I catch of the performance I remain undecided: I think it is the choir thing that works less for me, while I am interested in the material. Or: am I distracted by figuring out the role of performance and audience. What is our role in this? I think as I watch my friend hiding behind the big external door as the performers venture to the outside. I like that spontaneous gesture of her and find myself in it too: either about not wanting to be involved in the flirting, the content, or of wanting to remain ambivalent, outside of a piece of work that I am not sure that it is working for me right now.

IMG_3144.JPG

Two pieces stand out for me: Scourti’s Slip Tongue, installed throughout the four floors of the staircase, it seems triggered by movement: different voices, put through a text to voice vocoder (as my musician friend tells me, along with the teaser line: we can do this at home later on – oh, yes! please). Throughout the narrow staircase that connects the four floors, people would stop and listen, I think there are at least three speakers installed, which speak differently to any one passing by.

The other piece is Monica Espinosa’s Secretos: an installation which I first read as out of order, a ladder, an MP3 player, a black plastic bucket and a submerged speaker. Nothing moves, nothing is heard while I linger in the room. My friend has already gone on, further upstairs, and then I just catch the water surface rippling, suddenly, rhythmically. I catch the last second of it, then it is still again. I wonder:

  • is there a constant audio fed through the speakers?
  • is it looped? triggered?
  • what are the secrets?
  • what happens to all those who see it but never notice the ripples? – Does that then mean that there are no secrets told, that there is no audience, that the work isn’t performing?

I tell my friend, we go back and watch, and watch, and watch. At one point I seem to notice the slightest surface movement, but that is all. There are no more secrets bubbling up to the surface. Before we leave I go back three more times to check if I can catch a secret.

The transformation of secret to recording to water ripple is so effective. Perhaps they are not secrets at all?

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Monica Espinosa Secretos

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I see that Espinosa also did a performance, Discrete Piece, a couple of weeks ago and left a book of the memories, which I didn’t see, and now wished I had.

 

— this possibly has been the first group show that sits squarely in some of the themes that interest me – around digital/analog, desire/anxiety around it as well as the looping, the making visible, the confessional of a performative form – and use a methodology not dissimilar to mine. It was really good to see it, also to catch the performance, and it is interesting to see which pieces caught my interest: the audio pieces, while the still objects and the written pieces were of less interest. Espinosa also showed a a very small scale, blown out video, was it called Copulation?, which showed lights going on and off on a view, from a beach, I guess, on to a series of palm trees at low light. — it is 2005 Copula (Coitus), video, 1 inch (2.54cm). I find very little of the video, and realise that I didn’t take an installation shot which I of course now regret. This link provides two installations shots, in the current show it sits in a very bright room and is shown as overexposed.