Monthly Archives: April 2014

Acts Re-Acts: A Reflection

Acts Re-Acts, a month long festival of performance held at Wimbledon Space,  brought together practitioners from across UAL through a series of residencies, performances, talks and screenings. Participants included Eleanor Bowen & Laura Gonzalez, Stella Capes, Edward Dimsdale, Katie Elliott, Rossella Emanuele, Richard Layzell, Douglas O’Connell, Camilla Palestra & Hanae Utamura, Annette Robinson & Belinda Wild, Jane Collins, Finlay Forbes-Gower, Katie Lerman, Italia Rossi & Trish Scott, Michael Spencer, Tansy Spinks & Iris Garrelfs, Mette Sterre, Jennet Thomas, Paul Tarrago and Charlotte Turton. The festival was initiated by Simon Betts, Peter Farley, Clare Mitten, Lois Rowe and Jane Collins in response to the fact that theatre and fine art practitioners often work in parallel rather than in dialogue, with the aim of bringing these different practices into the same discursive realm.

Scott, a CCW PhD student, whose research project Socialising the Archive examines the relationship between performance, documentation and the archive, reflected on the festival for the Graduate School. She is interested in the translation between events and documents and in amalgamating art and archival encounters.

Michael Fried’s ideas in Art and Objecthood (1967) (as conveyed by Ken Wilder) were used to position the festival in critical terms, specifically via a closing debate. In this text Fried compares modernist painting with minimalism, attacking the latter as being “theatrical”, setting up a divide between art and theatre proposing that “art degenerates as it approaches the condition of theatre”. He argues that once a work starts to exist for an audience in a particular time and space it fails to transcend its own objecthood, and approaches the condition of non art. The success of art, Fried argues, relies on its ability to defeat theatre, to surpass its own objecthood, becoming autonomous from the beholder. In later writing, Fried contrasts theatricality with absorption (anti-theatricality); the difference between an artwork engaging with an audience (e.g figures in a painting staring out of the picture plane, looking directly at the viewer) and an artwork making no concession to an audience (i.e. figures in a painting being absorbed in a world of their own). Acts Re-Acts sought to test the relevance of these ideas in relation to contemporary performance practice.

This idea of a boundary between fine art and theatre, absorption and theatricality was addressed head on by Richard Layzell who noted that in the 1970s, as a fine art performer, there was pressure not to cross the line/break the fourth wall (as demonstrated through his re-enactment of Twitch). Now, for Layzell, the dividing line has gone (as demonstrated in his screening of Art Work – Work Art, a performance in which he is both waiter and performer in a cafe).

This sense of openness and fluidity characterised most of the work in Acts Re-Acts. Instead of being easily identifiable as either fine art or theatre, work tended to be experimental, interdisciplinary and collaborative. Rather than there being a division between works (in terms of performances being either fine art or theatre), tensions existed within individual works. One of these tensions was between the live and the recorded, most performances being predicated on a dialogue between live and unlive media, akin to what performance theorist Rebecca Schneider terms interanimation. This is where live media (e.g. performance) and capture media, or media-resulting documents (i.e. video, photography) cross constitute and improvise each other. At Acts Re-Acts this meant that many of the works occupied complex temporalities, and afforded different modes of beholding and types of engagement within a single work.

In Jennet Thomas’s I am your error message, a performance critiquing institutional ideology and capitalist reward structures, what appeared to be a fictive world was portrayed on screen alluding to an ominous, spreading error that needed to be eliminated. But rather than this projection existing in a separate world, immune from theatricality, with no concession being given to the audience, Thomas entered into a live dialogue with the work, bringing it firmly back to the here and now, the space and time of the video bleeding into the space and time of the gallery.

Edward Dimsdale’s work Model Love Re-Kindled, a durational installation and performance involved the artist subjecting a sequence of photographs purporting “to capture a series of instances of love at first site” (Simon Jones) to forensic scrutiny, then playing with the representation of these actions using a visualiser and other devices. Dimsdale’s performance questioned not only the narrative inferred by the photographs but also the very nature and status of the photographic act itself. From observing the photographs, to becoming the observed to turning his phone camera on the audience, Dimsdale experimented with subject/object relations, delving into the various meta levels of the work, playing with the invisible fourth wall. The focus of the work and relationship with the audience constantly shifted, theatricality and absorption operating in symbiosis.

Having more critical debate (beyond one panel session) would have been good. But if Acts Re-Acts is just the start of a growing forum and a way of providing space for considering interdisciplinary performance that will continue to develop, the creative team behind Acts Re-Acts played this well. If Acts Re-Acts had been more about words and discourse, and less about the work, I suspect what might have been reinforced were differences and boundaries, rather than areas of communality. Letting the work lead the dialogue, rather than conversation being at the level of textual extrapolation, established a baseline for what constitutes performance within UAL. It’s now time to build on this, and the momentum generated by the festival, through further discussions and events.

The Means of Performance in a Digital Age

CCW staff (Jane Collins, Simon Betts and Douglas O’Connell) and PhD students (Jenny Wright and Vanessa Saraceno) travelled to India for the second seminar, called The Means of Performance in a Digital Age, of the UKIERI Thematic Partnership between CCW and University of Hyderabad (the first seminar was held in September 2013). Once there, teams discussed the ‘materiality’ of production in digital age. The seminar considered the way new technologies are impacting on the ‘physical’ processes of making work and replacing the tangible materiality of wood, paint and metal. Wright and Saraceno led workshops at the seminar and have reflected on their experiences.

Wright said, ‘This work has links with part of my research into the development and use of drawing as a primal recording and learning skill. I am interested in the haptic, physical nature of drawing and how movement and the physical interaction with tools onto a surface is used both to record and to develop deeper cognition. My role as facilitator on the Fine Art drawing part of the UKIERI work helped me gather more evidence on the performative nature of drawing and its key role in communicating and developing abstract thought. Working alongside the excellent Fine Art team in Hyderabad  has led to discussions on supporting drawing within the art school curriculum across different fields. Our particular remit was developing work with digital theatre design. The MFA students I was working with in Hyderabad were really enthusiastic and open to extend and broaden their work into the digital realm, whilst also being true to the primal nature of drawing, in terms of gesture and mark making. I am certainly hoping to develop a long standing dialogue with the teaching staff at Hyderabad in terms of evolving drawing practice with students. I can also see many links being made with students at Wimbledon and Hyderabad, with a mutually enrichment of performative work in theatre and fine art drawing.’

Sarceno said,  ‘In my role as facilitator, I discussed with the students of the Theatre Department the case study of the artistic duo Claire Fontaine, formed by artists James Thornhill and Fulvia Carnevale. Claire Fontaine’s practice offers a perfect example of how to play with new media in order to further develop the potentialities of the performative gesture. Assisting the students in the development of their projects for the final exhibition, I have encouraged them to always consider the problematics of the specific context in which their performance take place, and to embody these problematics interweaving all the knowledge they have with the potentialities of a new artistic territory. The uniqueness of this project lies in its offering evident and incontestable results since its very beginning. Thanks to their rich cultural legacy, and a textured theatrical tradition, students at Sarojini Naidu School of Arts in Hyderabad have fully understood the potentialities of new media and were also keen to explore them further in relation to the political and cultural situation in India. Indeed, the titles of their projects -City of Trash; The Savage; Natural Disaster, to cite a few- refer to the status of life today in India. In their call for a different, more sustainable relation with the environment, the students have been able to employ new technologies not merely as a tool through which to look at the world, but as a path for a new sensorial dimension where to practice an alternative way of experiencing the world through the body.’

Ishu Kumar, a student from Sarojini Naidu School of Arts, also responded to the seminar, saying, ‘This workshop helped me break away from my notions of mainstream theatre and helped to view theatre and its methods in a different light. It allowed me to look at how different elements such as the projector, the body, as well as acting, can be combined together, as well as used alone to provide meaning to a performance. It also allowed to me understand a new language being developed in the field of theatre primarily due the advancements of postmodern world. This workshop helped me push the envelope in terms of my understanding of theatre. It helped me gain new view in terms of how a theatre production can be designed. It gave me a perspective which broadened my viewing and understanding of theatre.

‘The entire experience would help me in my future works. I am also keen on using the experience I gained in my future ventures and always keep in mind the possibilities of the digital media. I now have a clear understanding of how theatre and the digital media can work hand in hand with each other. I would also like to take the experimentation of theatre in new context further through my own future projects.’

Douglas O’Connell made a short film of the seminar.

Damaging Objects

Damaging Objects is the first in a series of solo exhibitions by emerging contemporary artists at Schwartz Gallery, and Lana Locke’s first gallery solo show.

Damaging Objects has two implications for the art objects in the exhibition: objects that have damage done to them, and objects that are enacting damage (or planning to). Building on the themes of Locke’s practice-based PhD focused on the agonistic struggle of the art object against the space in which it is installed, the objects and the gallery space become adversaries in a power struggle. Setting up a precarious environment in the gallery, the twin strands of damage seep from the objects as they engage with the space: the one strand aggressive, picking a fight with the space; the other melancholic, fragile, and licking their wounds.

Questions are raised as to what the fight is about, how the objects and space might cause each other damage, and what the result of their conflict will be.

Damaging Objects follows Locke’s appearance in two Schwartz Gallery group shows in 2013, Punk Salon and ex-ca-vate-site-one, and her selection in the same year for Bloomberg New Contemporaries and Creekside Open (Paul Noble Selector’s Prize). She is a current PhD student at CCW, supported by Chelsea Arts Club Trust.

The private view is Wednesday 23rd April 2014, 6-9 pm, and the exhibition is open 23rd April – 18th May 2014. Further information can be found at Schwartz Gallery.

A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora

 A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora is curated by Mother Tongue, a research-led curatorial project formed by CCW PhD student, Jessica Carden, and Birkbeck PhD student, Tiffany Boyle, in response to individual periods of investigation in northern Scandinavia and West Africa. The project participated on the 2011/12 CuratorLab programme at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design [Stockholm]. Carden’s PhD investigates the Arctic as a region which can be viewed as literally and symbolically ‘white,’ it is essential to realise, as Henry Morley states, that the Arctic was as much ideological as physical terrain, one on which Britons could stage debates about domestic and imperial identities, far from British and colonial shores. The exhibition is showing at Stills, Scotland’s Centre for Photography, in Edinburgh

The exhibition journeys through themes of storytelling and biography to examine how individuals relate to their diasporic status and its daily realities. Through the work of six international artists – three showing in Scotland for the first time – stories and links are told and travelled from Luanda to Tel Aviv, Togo to Helsinki. Each work differently reflects the history of diaspora as a concept, and the simultaneous utility and redundancy of it as a term describing a shared experience away from the homeland. The confrontation and resistance, dejection and upheaval, affirmation and attachments made visibly on show, urge us to (re)think and define ideas of belonging and citizenship in the present and for the future. Artists in the exhibition are Edgar Arceneaux, Yael Bartana, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Bouchra Khalili, Maud Sulter and Milja Viita.

The accompanying publication – produced in collaboration with TrAIN: Research Centre for Transnational Art Identity and Nation at University of Arts London – will be released mid-show, including contributions from John Akomfrah, Sezgin Boynik, David Dibosa, Lubaina Himid and Cinthya Lana and featuring the poetry of the Scottish-Ghanaian artist and poet Maud Sulter.

The Private View is on Friday 18 April, 6 – 8pm, and the exhibition is open Saturday 19 April – Sunday 20 July 2014. Stills: Scotland’s Centre for Photography is free and is open every day 11am – 6pm.

A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora is kindly supported by Creative Scotland; FRAME Finnish Fund for Art Exchange; The Craignish Trust; The Tannahill Fund at the University of Glasgow; TrAIN: Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation; Middle Eastern Film Festival Edinburgh; French Institute London and The Devil’s Advocate Bar & Kitchen in collaboration with Hendricks Gin, Monkey Shoulder and Reyka Vodka.

Practising (in) Uncertainty

The geographer Kathryn Yusoff has posed a timely question. ‘What knowledge becomes useful to us in a time of abrupt climate change? How can we creatively practice towards such uncertainty?’*

If artists are meant to ‘make sense of radically ambiguous situations and move forward in the face of uncertainty’** then this implies an acceptance of being lost as both methodology and practice. The colloquium explores what happens when practice  (as in a habitual action or repeated exercise) and practise (as in being experienced in, or currently active and engaged with) collide with the unknown. What happens when habitual practices becomes challenged by uncertainty and risk?

Practising (in) Uncertainty is a colloquium which focuses on the uncertain processes of making, the unpredictable contexts that this work is presented in, and the uncertainties about how audiences might engage with projects which engage with our (mis)understandings of biodiversity, landscape or site. It involves prominent national and international artists who have adopted strategies to Practise (in) Uncertainty, including Justin Carter, David Cross (Cornford and Cross),  Heather Ackroyd (Ackroyd & Harvey), Edwina fitzPatrick and Tania Kovats. They share their insights in both Glasgow and London, as the event will take place through live links at both venues.

The colloquium, convened by Edwina fitzPatrick, is open to everyone.

To attend at Chelsea, click here.

To attend at Glasgow, click here.

 

* Yusoff, K., ed. (2008). Bipolar. London: The Arts Catalyst. p. 6

** Oakley, K., Sperry, B. & Pratt. A.C. (2008). The art of innovation: How fine arts graduates contribute to innovation. London, NESTA. p.14

 

St Leonards Foundary

The St Leonards Foundary by Colin Priest, Course Leader for BA(Hons) Interior and Spatial Design, was commissioned by Central St Leonards Forum & Community Development Foundation with funding from The National Lottery through Arts Council England’s grants for the arts programme; Hastings and St Leonards Foreshore Charitable Trust, Community First through Central St Leonards Forum and the Community Development Foundation and Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts, London.

The place-specific installation is a new public work inviting the general public to search out and find local ‘lost heritage’ architectural landmarks in and around St Leonards, with The SPACE open to the public for the duration of the installation from Thursday 14th March – Sunday 13th April 2014 on St Johns Road, St Leonards-on-Sea. The publication, St Leonards Foundary has been distributed across the southeast at various galleries and museums encouraging a walking tour legacy beyond the installation period.

The work itself is a composition of encounters to ‘bring communities together’ and ‘enhance the environment’, with a temporary sculpture found at The SPACE, a newspaper publication containing an illustrated essay, including a walking map and ink prints and a public conversation held at St Leonards Parish Church on Saturday 22nd March 2014 with Christine Francis from Burtons’ St Leonards Society.

Priest found ‘one of the many rewarding parts of the work has been the production of a publication with Camberwell Press‘, (with Chris Lacy and Grace Helmer). Funded through the CCW Graduate School Staff Fund, the newspaper contextualises the value of heritage and the role of landmarks in the built environment in the production of places. Designed to resonate with the found local history guides and vintage postcards of St Leonards, the modest scale of the publication graphically waves to a civilized seaside realm.

Through revealing the inter-connectivity of the urban and coastal environment by seeking destroyed, under-threat or hidden architectures in the town, a stronger sense of place has emerged through active social engagement, public participation and conversation. The St Leonards Foundary as a composite experience has become an agent for observing and strengthening the identities of this southeast seaside town.

A digital version of the publication can be found here.

Printed Matter

Printed Matter is an exhibition which features the work of Paul Coldwell, presenting printed works selected from a number recent projects. The postcards and screenprints are from a recent exhibition at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge in which Coldwell reflected on Scott’s ill-fated last journey to the South Pole. The postcards image polar landscapes and in addition a number were posted from various ports of call of the Terra Nova, thereby retracing the journey home. The set of six screenprints focus on the sponsorship of the expedition and the manner in which the enterprise engaged with popular support and interest. Kafka’s doll is collaboration with the poet Anthony Rudolf and the bookwork is present alongside the digital images that reflect and interpret the text. Finally, With the Melting of the Snows is bookwork made in response to Martin Bell’s final BBC Broadcast as war Correspondent in Bosnia. The bookwork re-imagines the siege of Sarajevo through a series of lithographs.

Mark Graver, curator of the exhibition and alumnus of MA Printmaking at Camberwell, runs Art at Wharepuke, a workshop and gallery in New Zealand. He invited Coldwell to show some of the work related to the Scott project and from this they began to shape an exhibition that includes earlier works and projects. They wanted to focus on work that was portable and included bookworks and postcards, as well as prints. Overall the exhibition is about the use of print as a means for getting ideas out.

Art at Wharepuke is in Kerikeri, New Zealand. It is a purpose built art gallery specialising in international printmaking and exchange projects. The show is open from 20 March – 13 April. More information about the exhibition can be found here.

CCW Research Student Programme- Finishers Group

The CCW Graduate School Research Student Programme is open to all research students within CCW Graduate School. The programme is operated in addition to the RNUAL programme of lectures and seminars run centrally across the University. It provides a context for discussing all aspects of the MPhil/PhD, with an emphasis on the integration of practice within that process. Students are divided into groups of first year research students (led by Dr Mo Throp), confirmation students (led by David Cross) and the finishers group (led by Professor Stephen Scrivener).

PhD student, Deniz Acka, of the finishers group, reported on their meeting in January 2014. ‘The session covered the important points that we should consider before viva, such as arranging a mock viva and getting someone from outside to read the text. We also focused on what we have to tell to the examiner both in our thesis and during viva.

‘Stephen Scrivener reminded us of some important questions that we must answer in the introduction of the thesis: What is it that I want people to take away from what I do? What is the most important thing I want to say? What is it that I am claiming?

‘We also talked about how we use the literature review and how to demonstrate that our thesis has original knowledge! I had a couple of questions about examiners and the final form of submission in practice-led research. We talked about various ways of submitting and choosing external and internal examiners.’

The road to completion that each research student takes is an individual reflection of the research into their practice or theory.  Scrivener described his account of leading seminars for the finishers. ‘Søren Kierkegaard claimed that we live our lives forward and understand backwards. In my view, unpalatable as it may be to many who would like to think that research is a matter of formulating hypotheses of fact in advance of the fact, this idea expresses exactly the experience of “writing up” research for submission. To research is to be in a mess and if we were not required to sort it out we might never attempt to do so, being quite content in the knowledge that it will keep us occupied for as long as we keep going.

‘However, if you want a PhD, you have to present something for examination, so you must, in my opinion, consider not what you set out to achieve or the real, messy world that that ambition led you into, but what you have actually achieved, the that that in all of the mess stands out as new. The rest of “writing up”, as I see it, is a matter of connecting this something back to prior knowledge, perhaps changing it in the process, such that the new registers as new understanding that holds up to critical inspection.

‘However, everyone’s mess is different, so everyone’s route to submission is unique and not reducible to a simple formula. With the above in mind, my approach to the finisher’s sessions is principally one of allowing each participant to speak about how the “writing up” process is going for them and offering reassurance that the post hoc nature of the order that emerges in each case is typical of all cases, at least in my experience.’