Monthly Archives: December 2015

Life Cycle, Continuous

Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre (PSC) was delighted to host Life Cycle, Continuous on 3 December 2015. This evening of talks and discussion considered the life cycles of artworks, alongside the legacy of their artists, exploring in particular how these things transform, evolve and transition across platforms, people, places and time.

The evening began with a few words from the organisation’s co-directors, Dr Marsha Bradfield, Visiting Scholar at CCW, and Lucy Tomlins. The life cycle of artworks, especially sculpture, is something that has preoccupied PSC since the summer of 2013, when the organisation hosted an artist talk by sculptor Richard Wilson at his Slice of Reality on the Greenwich Peninsula. Here Wilson spoke candidly about the challenges of maintaining the public artwork, a chunk of ship, after the millennial project was decommissioned. Who takes decisions about an artwork’s care after it leaves its artist’s orbit? What responsibility do artists have to how their artworks are stored, shown, conserved or disposed of? Where does the work reside? Does it reside in the work that we look at? Does it reside in the idea of the work?

Jo Melvin presenting at Life Cycle, Continuous. Photo credit: Sinead Bligh

Jo Melvin presenting at Life Cycle, Continuous. Photo credit: Sinead Bligh

These were questions that CCW Reader Dr Jo Melvin engaged in her talk, The conundrums of remaking sculptural practices and their legacies. Melvin has been investigating the interconnections between the archives of artists’, critics, museums, galleries and magazines from the 1960s to the present day since the early 90s. For Life Cycle, Continuous, she considered specific conundrums in connection with re-presenting the work of Naum Gabo, Barry Flanagan and Christine Kozlov. For instance, she referenced the exhibition of Gabo’s Kinetic Construction (Standing Wave) at MOMA in 1968. When the artwork, owned by Tate, proved too fragile to travel, the possibility of whether it might be remade in the US came to the fore. Gabo agreed on the grounds that like Kinetic’s previous iteration, the artwork should be made from materials that were ‘ready to hand’. Crucial here is the artist’s specification. For as Melvin observed, without clear instructions about what conditions must be fulfilled for an artwork to be remade or represented, ambiguity pervades. She went on to discuss the challenges of identifying what and where the artwork is with reference to Barry Flanagan’s practice and his sense that his sculptures were not based on experience of the world but rather, each work is an experience of its making. Further, discussion of Christine Kozlov’s 271 BLANK SHEETS OF PAPER CORRESPONDING TO 271 DAYS OF CONCEPTS REJECTED touched on the thorny of issue of what traces slip away, either because they are perceived as unworthy for posterity or undesirable in some way. And in the case of this particular work by Kozlov, what is most important: concept or materials? Should only the 271 blank sheets the artist selected be shown, however yellow they become with age? Would would any ‘bank sheets’ serve to gesture towards the absence of presence that her artwork explores?

The other two speakers for Life Cycle, Continuous grappled with very different concerns in their talks. Artist Anne Hardy discussed the challenges of re-presenting site specific works like those recently featured in her acclaimed exhibition FIELD at Modern Art Oxford. Artist and senior lecturer Jenny Dunseath Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University discussed her ongoing research into the transmission of knowledge from artists to their assistants, based on her personal experience working in Anthony Caro’s studio.

Life Cycle, Continuous was part of the public programme that accompanied PSC’s 2015 artists-in-residence programme, with the talks talking place culminating exhibition, Which one of these is the non-smoking lifeboat?  This approach to hosting the talks tracks with PSC’s ongoing commitment to making the making of sculpture more visible so as to better appreciate the process of an outcomes production.

Audio documentation of Life Cycle, Continuous will be available on PSC’s website in early 2016.

Top image: Jo Melvin installing heap 3 ’67/68, 1967/68 at Cullinan Richards, London, January 2015

Looking at Past Habitats Through a Modern Lens

A collection of more than 1,400 photographic plates, rediscovered in the Natural History Museum collections, has led to an innovative artistic collaboration with Museum scientists funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK.

Photographed by ecologist and botanist Sir Edward James Salisbury, former director of Kew Gardens, the plates document British plants and habitats between 1910 and 1935. They are a potentially unique resource for investigating environmental change over the past century.

The Museum invited visual artist Chrystel Lebas, CCW Foundation, Time-Based Media, to collaborate with Kath Castillo, a field biologist at the Museum, to research the collection. Together they tracked down and photographed the same habitats and plant communities that Salisbury recorded almost a century ago. The project engages with environmental change, particularly in the Scottish landscape and Norfolk, creating new understandings of the artistic and scientific gaze onto the natural environment and its representation. The film documenting the research was made by Sally Weale, and was produced by the Natural History Museum. The film was released to coincide with COP21.

The research was presented at the Royal Geographical Society-International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015 in Field experiments: collaborative practices in art and environment, titled ‘The Salisbury Archive Re-Viewed: observing environmental change in British Landscape’ with Dr. Mark Spencer (Senior Curator, British and Irish Herbarium, Natural History Museum, UK).

Lebas’s conference attendance was supported by the CCW Graduate School Staff Fund.

Top image: Still, courtesy of the Natural History Museum in London

On the Matter of Books and Records

CCW PhD student Anna Gialdini recently organised a workshop entitled On the Matter of Books and Records: Forms, Substance, Forgeries, and Meanings Beyond the Lines, which took place on 23 November at the Victoria & Albert Museum. ‘I am happy to say that it was a success. The result of intense work on the part of three co-organisers (myself alongside Alessandro Silvestri, AR.C.H.I.ves Project, Birkbeck University of London, and Maria Alessandra Chessa, Royal College of Art / Victoria & Albert Museum), it brought together international speakers from diverse theoretical frameworks and professional backgrounds. Over one hundred people registered for the event, many of them students and early career researchers, and gathered in the beautiful Victoria & Albert Museum Lecture Hall to hear about recent research, discuss methodologies, and take part in a trans-disciplinary debate about the materiality of written sources and supports across time.

Danae Bafa (UCL) opened the workshop with a presentation of how papyrus was produced and consumed in ancient times, opening our eyes on the real extent of its use other then as a writing support. Jessica Berenbeim (University of Oxford) followed with an engaging discussion of how the materiality of parchment was perceived by its users in the Middle Ages: they never forgot, she argues, that parchment came from animal skins, and this aspect was in fact effectively used to communicate meaning. To conclude the session on supports, Maria Alessandra Chessa (Royal College of Art / Victoria & Albert Museum) introduced us to early modern perceptions of paper and its role in human society; its distinctive traits gave it a place in some cabinets or curiosities.

After a break, it was time for a new session entirely dedicated to bindings, both in libraries and in archives. For my paper, I collaborated with Alessandro Silvestri (AR.C.H.I.ves Project, Birkbeck University of London), and spent a few days in Sicily earlier this year to analyse archival bindings in the State Archive of Palermo. While not closely related to my PhD topic, this project is particularly important to me, as it shows the transdisciplinarity of the history of bookbinding as a field: in this case, Alessandro and I were able to show how medieval and early modern authorities and archivists interacted with the production of documents (and ultimately, history itself) continuously over time. Carlo Federici’s (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice) paper traced a story of the discipline over the last 30 years by drawing a fascinating picture of his own research and career, showing how what was once known as “archaeology of the book” has transformed from purely technical training for conservators into a discipline in its own right.

Our final session focused on forgeries. Emily Taylor (British Museum) presented an object from the British Museum she has been able to study both in its physical characteristics and its wider meanings: an intriguing “book” produced to be sold as Coptic on the 19th-century European market, by using both modern and genuine ancient objects. Alfred Hiatt (Queen Mary University of London) talked to us about the material forms that forgeries of documents took as their creators used them for their own purposes, and how the phenomenon influenced 15th century critical methods.

Ian Sansom’s (University of Warwick) final remarks offered a fascinating and inspiring overview of how he (and other writers) engaged with the materiality of paper in carrying out their work.

Each session was followed by a lively discussion with the audience, led by our chairs Nicholas Pickwoad (Ligatus, UAL), Filippo De Vivo (AR.C.H.I.ves Project, Birkbeck University of London) and Ian Sansom (University of Warwick).’ Social media documentation of the day was gathered on Storify.

Anna Gialdini is a UAL Studentship funded student with Ligatus Research Centre. She is researching Greek-style bookbindings in Renaissance Venice.

Top image: Ian Sansom presenting his final remarks (‘The Paper Museum’), photo by Anna Gialdini

Feminist Practices in Dialogue

Practice in Dialogue is a research group of feminist artists dedicated to examining the formal structures and strategies of historical feminist art alongside their own art practices. Founded in May 2014 by AHRC supported CCW PhD researcher Catherine Long in collaboration with Rose Gibbs, Practice in Dialogue evolved out of a need to create a space in which to think critically about feminist art practices. Participating artists are: Miriam Austin, Alison Ballance and Abigail Smith, Ingrid Berthon-Moine, Cécile Emmanuelle Borra, Rose Gibbs, Lora Hristova, Catherine Long, Ope Lori, Lauren Schnieder and Nicola Thomas.

Practice in Dialogue will be launching their first publication on 18 December 2015 at the ICA alongside their event Feminist Practices in Dialogue: an afternoon showing of work including video installations, performances, sound pieces and sculpture followed by We Are Anti-Capiphallism, a discussion on the challenges facing contemporary feminism chaired by Helena Rickett. Supported by the CCW Graduate School Student Initiative Fund, the publication will feature contributions by the participating artists as well as essays by Catherine Long and Rose Gibbs.

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Feminist Practices in Dialogue cover. Image credit: Alison Ballance, 2015

The group aims to create a space where artists can talk and think critically about the current challenges to feminism in a climate where the backlash against it combines with neoliberalism to reduce the political agenda of feminism to a set of fragmented rights and personal choices that neatly dovetail with capitalism. In this environment, behaviours are divorced from the gendered circumstances within which they have been generated and are recast as feminist. Here feminism becomes about infiltration of the very structures that are responsible for women’s subordination in the first place, rather than a practice that seeks to circumnavigate them and create alternatives.

The exhibition and discussion at the ICA will foreground the importance of art and feminism as lived practices that have the potential to unsettle hegemonic patriarchal structures. Avoiding the pitfalls of dominant heteronormative culture is not easy and, as such, the emphasis of the event will be on feminist art practices as an ongoing work-in-progress that calls for continual self-reflection and critical analysis. The day will explore the methods by which feminist artworks contest the status quo and resist recuperation by the dominant patriarchal system. The artworks and discussion are an invitation to gauge how the artists involved with Practice in Dialogue have responded to contemporary issues while offering the possibility for a thorough and interrogative conversation, which is essential if feminism is to retain its potency.

Catherine Long’s own doctoral research focuses on video art practice and its potential as a radical tool for deconstructing mainstream images of femininity as well as reconstructing and developing progressive representations of female subjectivities. Through re-examining critical feminist video artworks of the 1970s and 1980s, Long has been investigating the ways in which women artists have historically challenged the dominant economy of representation. The camera apparatus allowed women to control the production of their own image, articulate their subjective experiences and directly address the spectator. Underpinned by the radical principle that ‘the personal is political’, feminist art practice utilised consciousness-raising as both a formal strategy and a means of generating content in order to speak to other women and inspire political activism.

Amidst a resurgence of feminism, Long’s video practice explores how artistic strategies used in the second wave feminist era can still provoke and undermine the status quo of gender representations, proposing new possibilities of female identities. Drawing upon strategies of performance to camera, direct address and narrative, her practice explores the dialectics of representation and criticality in relation to themes of internalisation, anxiety and body image.

The publication will be on sale in the ICA’s bookshop from 18 December 2015.

Top image: Untitled Leytonstone 2005, Rose Gibbs

Somewhere In Macedonia

A screening of the film Somewhere In Macedonia, directed by CCW PhD student Alice Evans will take place on 17 December in the Banqueting Hall at Chelsea College of Arts from 5.30pm. During the event there will be two opportunities to view the film at both 6 and 7pm.

The narrative film is based on a series of letters sent home to Wales 100 years ago from Macedonia during the First World War. Each letter was headed ‘Somewhere In Macedonia’ to pass censor.

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The story introduces us to Idris, a young Welsh war poet and stretcher-bearer as he receives a letter from home. In the events that follow, we see how Idris, surviving under extreme pressure, confined to the trenches of war and repressed by the laws that forbid his sexuality, reacts to news that is to change the course of his life. Based on an archive of real letters, the film aims to show a side of history that would not have been given voice at the time.

For further details or to RSVP to attend please email: [email protected]

Director Alice Evans is pursuing a PhD, researching notions of unreliable narration alongside epistolary modes within filmmaking.

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Cast: 

  • Julian Firth – as Captain Grant
  • Iddon Jones (BAFTA Cymru) – as Idris
  • Gethin Alderman – as Bob
  • Harrison Rose – as Hywel
  • Alun Elidyr – as The Colonel

The Film:

The film was shot in the basement of a Camden housing co-op where for a week in May- the kitchen was transformed into a WWI trench. Thanks to a talented and generous team, this film could be realized on a low budget. This film is part of a larger feature project now seeking funding for development.

Screening location:

Chelsea College of Arts is a screening venue because the Royal Army Medical Corps, of which Idris would have been a member, was based at Chelsea’s Millbank site at the time when the film is set. We are using the Banqueting Hall, as this was the officer’s mess in 1916.

Some of the letters that inspired this story were sent from the RAMC at Millbank in 1916 before their author went out to Macedonia. It is appropriate then to screen the film 100 years later on this site.