Friday, 30 April 2010

a glimpse at the opening preview

Monoprint, Freire, 25x50 cm on Tosa Shi paper

it's all framed and soon ready for the opening tomorrow:

Eldon Group Summer Exhibition 2010

Opening Preview
Saturday 1 May 2010
11am - 1pm

1-12 May, St Andrew's Gallery, University of Glasgow
Level 5, St Andrew's Building, 11 Eldon Street

Gallery open Monday - Friday 10am - 5pm
Saturdays 10am - 1pm
Closed Monday 3 May

Paintings in acrylics,
oil, mixed media,
works on paper

Thomas Bush
Emma Ceresa
Geraldine Crossan
Gesa Helms
Sarah-Jane Sharp
Pascale Steenkiste
Chris Turpie

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

something's cooking

well... there's usually some thing (or: more accurately: many things) bubbling away in the background.

but this one is taking a more shape (in the pot), bit by bit. it'll need some more time, but my recent obsession of watching wild life programmes (that previously just yielded an intent and intense yawn) is some indication of it.

it is also a direction onwards from my previous 3 observations on landscape. it'll be after the summer for it to be in full shape (leaving the pot on the boil metaphor).

tonight's fix was this one here (it's part 3 of 5 on youtube, so you can watch the whole episode).

it starts proper at 8:00mins

and don't miss 4:00mins onwards on part 4 ;)

i almost forgot some geographical details: it's here: the okavango delta in botswana.

Monday, 26 April 2010

sand birds

i went to the sea and saw this. how lucky am i?

unfortunately, there were a lot more images, but they got swallowed when my mac chose to die last week. how could it do that? so glad that the sand birds were safely on my phone though.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Doodley-doo? Doodley don't!

Doodley-doo? Doodley don’t!
Life and Sabotage

Gesa Helms

"There are two lines of enquiry for this review (of an admittedly rather unimportant book, Claire Faÿ’s The Doodle Notebook. How to Waste Time in the Office, that has already received far more than its fair share of coverage):
a. what kind of practices are proposed “to take on the daily grind”?
b. who can propose such practices and who can engage in them?
Following these two lines, I want to critically engage doodling in a debate over work-place agency, resistance and sabotage; to draw out the limitations constructed for creative office workers; and provide a couple of openings to raise implications for a politics on work, autonomy, subversion if we were to arm ourselves with a bit of stationery."

... Some of the writing for which I now seem to have time. Published in Variant 37, April 2010
The PDF is available on the Variant website

Monday, 12 April 2010

3 observations on landscape (iii)

observation (iii) is putting into words the experience that was so eagerly anticipated:

3. bethan huws's il est comme un saint dans sa niche, il ne bouge pas, kestner gesellschaft.

the first piece of her i saw - or rather: read about - was the lake writing or lake piece (1991). [with a review and an installation shot here]

it was shown to me by someone who had fallen in love with text, words and the discursive possibilities of art. and it was shown to me at a time when i was glad to revel in the immediacy of artistic practice after turning away from word-laden or -leaden (?) academia.

and nonetheless: i think i pretty well caught the same falling movement (happiness drip, drapping downwards as rilke wondered and twombly installed here) and wanted to see, read, know and understand more.

singing to the sea was the first actual experience of huws's work.

and now a show that was enframed by huws statement that she 'does Duchamp like she does crosswords'; and the exhibition spaces itself announcing at its start: 'why do we keep creating more artworks if we don't understand the ones we've got'. the show gives insight (as well as positing so many more questions) into huws's approach towards duchamp's work, the search for meaning-making in art and language. the ambiguity of translation processes from her native welsh, english and french figure throughout - in various ready-mades, the films 'fountain' and 'the chocolate bar'.

the most expansive (if only in terms of physical space) of her works in the hanover show is the marriage (marier quc a quc: also, to unite two separate objects) of her installation space the forest (made up of many, many bottle driers, another ready-made of Duchamp) with the wedding video she screened originally inside a woodland (a marriage in the king's forrest).

much of her art seems pared down, stripped back to some key questions of meaning-making and the relation this quest establishes between subjects and objects (though agent and receptor isn't clear-cut here). there is something in her work that seems to me very dateable: it reflects a pre-occupation with text and discursiveness i know from my own academic work.  there is something in this that, in an academic context, i would refute: notably her attempt to make everything transparent by ever more circles of reflective practice. it's a practice which is necessary but remains, in my mind, futile: not everything of who i is can be rendered discursive and transparent.

there are many openings towards academic work practice and artistic possibilities in this. textual art works is something of an unknown to me. almost deliberately i stayed away from text because it was too closely tagged to academic work. i think that division can no longer be upheld.

but this is really about an observation on landscape. it's a tentative one and takes us back to nature and the opening of different media required. it is glimpsed at in the forest marriage of bottle driers and a rather ordinary wedding video: of how meaning-making takes mundane forms and combines diverse media. and the attentiveness and searching nature of huws artistic practice provides inspiration.

so, that's the observation (iii) on landscape.

her lake piece may prove a good walking companion for this.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

3 observations in landscape (ii)

bums... i made the mistake of writing post iii before post ii and inbetween the two i fell into the night stars, morning mist and a chestnut bud and thus disappeared momentarily.

but stars, mist and buds were all on queue for short and sweet observation on landscape (ii).

it concerns james turrell's minimalism of light and perception (as discussed in more length in an earlier post). two quotes stick in my mind from my web trawl even if the source didn't (sorry!).

quote 1 paraphrases as james turrell is one of the great romantics in his search for light in the (american) landscape.

quote 2 paraphrases as james turrell with his skyscapes and installations does want to take us back to the stone age.

out of this my observation (ii) arises:

a minimalism of form is required. only with this, the limitations of landscape can be transcended. such minimalism - if it works with light (and shade) and our perception of this - will be contemporary, as in the here and now (as indeed Turrell's work is). nature and our experience of this is one of presence not tradition.

is this romantic? is working with light and perception romantic? i wonder....

Sunday, 4 April 2010

3 observations on landscape (i)

with all the work on portfolios it seems ages that i spent some time in landscape. assembling the material for the portfolios, demonstrating and providing a statement around these was very useful in surveying my 'fieldwork' as i indeed called the statement [reminder to self: rewrite and post this].

it however also made obvious that i am moving along something less painterly and more conceptual and 'other materially' than paint. some of my reservation about the genre of landscapism remain, remain and remain and need addressing in other means.

the three exhibitions i saw over the past week will serve as initial markers.

1. the return of landscape. akademie der kuenste, hanseatenweg, berlin

it draws knowingly on the romantics' constructions of landscape and the rich and varied and problematic nature (!) of germany's cultural history and its basis for geopolitics (be it it with prussia's colonisation of the east; or ns blood and soil politics and economics).

however, the main part of the exhibition is a juxtaposition of two cities (venice and las vegas) and their dependence on nature - water. so: landscape becomes the domain of landscape planners to struggle with issues over sustainability amongst capitalist thirst for land and expansion. the imagery that dominates are those of aerial photography of landscape patterns - nature/cultivation/destruction, the main slide show made up of images by alex s maclean. a third part of the exhibition shows various landscape projects, their master plans and details to manage sustainability.

in this, the exhibition is limited: it's limited to the act of planning for sustainability and the belief that a plan will solve a problem. though my own professional background has always been situated in close proximity to the 'belief in a plan', i find this increasingly tiresome and mis-placed. mis-placed also if we consider the power of aerial photography without social practice, without people. to assume that patterns from high above reveal the groundwork. - the photography of bernd and hilla becher marks the precendent of a rich tradition of photography of human activity and the outcome of these with the agents being absent. rich by absence and stillness. photography always freezes activity in stillness. and nonetheless, it's probably one of its biggest problems.

the piece that really caught me, was - possibly unsurprisingly - a video by the canadian documentary film maker peter mettler. his documentary on the destruction by open pit oil production, petropolis (canada, 2009, 43min), visit the site for the film here.

again: it's aerial imagery. yet, this destruction through the tar sands is narrated by mettler. he tells the viewer how his requests to visit the fields was refused again and again so that flying over the fields was the only way of getting access and of being able to document; he talks about the first experiments of flying and much more. thus he makes an imagery thoroughly part of this world and the relations that make petropolis possible.

mettler's film is one of three shown on the side of a large field of illuminated boxes which show quotes concerned with landscape from throughout (German-speaking) history.

landscape text panels, illuminated, wiederkehr der landschaft, adk, berlin

two I noted down.

ich hatte einst ein schönes vaterland
so sang der flüchtling heine,
das seine stand am rheine,
das meine auf dem märkischen sand.
wir alle hatten einst ein (siehe oben).
das fraß die pest, das ist im sturz zerstoben.
o rößlein auf der heide
dich brach die kraftdurchfreude. (mascha kaleko, 1907-1975)

i once had a beautiful fatherland
so sung the refugee heine
his stood next to the rhine
mine on the markian sands.
we all once had one (see above).
it got devoured by pestulence, it broke apart in its fall.
oh little rose on the heath
you were broken by strengththroughjoy.

allmählich entdeckte sie neue linien im gesicht der landschaft. ackerflächen, deren grenzen in einem anderen winkel zum horizont verliefen als die uralten grabenrunzeln der erde früherer zeit. so schnell prägten die neuen züge sich nicht in die gesichter der erde. (christa wolf, *1929)

slowly she discovered new lines in the face of the landscape. fields whose boundaries were running in different angles to the horizon than the ancient furrow marks of the earth of previous times. it wouldn't be that quick for the new contours to settle in the faces of the earth.

thus, my first observation:
while nature is never outside from what people experience and engage with (i.e., nature cannot be external to people... unspoilt or otherwise), considering nature outside of landscape is a necessary opening to get beyond the landscape genre and its conventions.

this is likely to require radically different means to the framed picture plane and conventions of landscape compositions in painting.

it's probably not by chance that these reconsiderations of nature hit me as i'm about to engulf myself in a week of facilitation training inspired by deep ecology and sustainability. it's a reconsideration that i avoided for a decade or more. so, i think it's high time. hello dartmoor, hello permaculture.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

in light

there is (no) matter.

this one - like bethan huws - was in my diary since december. and with attempt number three, i not only saw the matter that light makes, but so did my parents.

before we arrived, we laughed at the arrogant marketing that the City of Wolfsburg - Hitler's car city where the Beetle was first mass-produced - was of course with the Turrell's Wolfsburg Project the site of Turrell's largest installation in an exhibition space:

the main installation, Bridget's Bardo is a ganzfeld piece of two spaces that merge from one into the other: the viewing and the sensing space, separated by a sensor, you must not step into the viewing space. light changes and all the while you sense the view and wonder what that space is in front of you, a wall, a cube or simply nothing in colours that change as the light changes.

and you wonder and wonder. the separating between viewing and sensing space are sharp corners in space. but behind or in front of the planes become depths and you see nothing but colour. all around you and in so doing colour becomes you.

at the back of the installations are two rectangles, one at the top where the bridge lead down, one at the bottom where steps lead down to the floor below. of distinct and separate colour they appear as planes again, not as openings.

small groups of people spend ten minutes as light and are encouraged to go again, as many do. second time round i begin to see some shadows, not on the walls nor ceiling, but on the floor, looking back into the piece.

how crucial shadows are in helping you orientate yourself and to grasp dimensions, forward and backward and upright.

how do you mark light in the absence of shadows and spatial demarcations with any thing other than that pure light?

what form has fog and nothing than the absence of form?

the exhibition continues with some smaller installations, one (milk run iii, a spectral wedgework, 2002) operating in darkness with dark orange light and your perception as it plays a myriad of tricks on you; and plenty of illustrations of the roden crater project and some large scale aquatints Turrell made with experiments of light deprivation and selective openings of panels in the mendota hotel in california. here, the light modelled geometric objects which he captures on the aquatints. i found a link with images of this aquatint series, First Light (1989-90) at this site here.

and i thought i'd add this video here too: about another skyspace and roden crater. enjoy!

Friday, 2 April 2010

she giggles

no, actually, she is gasping. in disbelief.

'no life choices?!' - how do they dare! no, i reply: no live choices. there is no choice that can be made at the moment. what was a choice (live or life) is now merely looking back at me with an 'unsuccessful'.

i grin and giggle at her 'no life choices'. bureaucratic software that blinks back to you with 'no life choices'.

there is so much more to be explored about technology, transmission of success and failure in the contemporary person- and career-making bubble.

one door opened, it now closed. let's look at the other life choices and spend more time on plans b-d. bye bye glasgow school of art.