Monthly Archives: April 2015

Wilding the Edges

Wilding the Edges, a CCW Graduate School Event conceived by Edwina fitzPatrick and Geraint Evans, was an interactive walking tour on 25 March of Wimbledon's unexamined places: a journey through spaces which straddle both city and countryside and where ‘wild’ and ‘cultivated’ environments overlap. Participants were invited to reflect upon the social and political implications of these hybridized spaces and to explore how we might respond to them as artists. The tour concluded with a BarCamp discussion in a local pub.

The participants encountered a range of surprisingly diverse landscapes as they walked between Wimbledon College of Arts and Wimbledon Common, led by artist Nick Edwards (Cape Farewell), writer Paul Kingsnorth (Dark Mountain), Lucy Orta (Chair of Art in the Environment, UAL) and David Toop (Chair of Audio Culture and Improvisation, UAL).

The BarCamp held at the Dog and Fox pub immediately after the walk debated the groups' observations made in response to the urban edgelands that flank the railway tracks, the recently contested space of a recreation ground, the narrow pedestrian lanes that link suburban streets and the open space of the Common with its inevitable historical associations. Sightings of foxes and parakeets along the way reminded the groups of a more culturally familiar notion of wild nature.

barcamp tweet

The urban-based perception of wilderness was one of the propositions for discussion in the BarCamp with the suggestion that it is an urge that resides within us as much as a place. The ways in which evolving technologies shape our relationship with place, the impulse to transcend the physical and social boundaries of the city and the ways in which our perception of the natural world can be radically altered by choosing to inhabit a semi-wild or feral environment were all raised as topics for debate. Toop's walk was conducted entirely in silence leading to a discussion about how much we understand an environment through listening.

The Wilding the Edges walking tour and BarCamp was bookended by projects led by Toop and Orta. In addition to leading two of the walking tours, they ran preparatory workshops and presented lectures about their research to the Wimbledon MFA students. They returned after the walk to support the students in taking their experiences forward for an exhibition in mid-May at Wimbledon.

The students working with Toop are focusing on how we experience and generate sound. The students working with Orta are working on her Genius Loci project, exploring the metaphorical inhabitants of urban and natural environments.

The day was documented with tweets, photographs and audio recordings.

A Feminist Dialogue with the Camera: an Exhibition of Work by Catherine Long

A feminist Dialogue with the Camera, a one day exhibition of works by Catherine Long, was held in the Cookhouse gallery at Chelsea College of Arts on the 1st April 2015. Featuring video and installation works from Long's practice-based PhD research, the exhibition was concerned with the conditions of female representation on screen in a contemporary Western context. As part of the exhibition Long, with artist and activist Rose Gibbs, held a discussion on feminist art practices for an invited audience.

Long's research focuses on video art practice and its potential as a radical tool for deconstructing dominant 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.

Feminist Dialogue on the day

Image credit: Jude Long, 2015

Top image: Meat Abstracted, Catherine Long, single channel video, 2014-15

The Sound of their Deaths in Australia

During 2015 the plinth at Chelsea College of Arts, which normally houses the Henry Moore work, Two Piece Reclining Figure (on loan to Yorkshire Sculpture Park), will host a series of sculptural works by alumni. The first in this series is by Aaron McPeake who was awarded his PhD in 2012. The work titled, The Sound of their Deaths in Australia, is an interactive bell-bronze work which alludes to the histories of the Millbank site. A bollard, which stands just behind the Henry Moore plinth, commemorates the transportation of sentenced prisoners to Australia until 1867.

The work is essentially a bell, with a large marine rope attached to a timber clapper. The shape of the bell also bears reference to animal husbandry, to the bells often worn by cattle and goats to maintain control. Being interactive, the work provides an aural and haptic experience and those that encounter it can consider the past experiences of the site.

As McPeake is acutely visually impaired (registered blind) his sculptural work often has a sonic element. However, this is not to say that he considers that the sound is somehow a replacement for the experiences surrounding visual acuity but rather that it is an additional element for viewers to consider and reflect upon. Furthermore, much of his work has an interactive and haptic element, something that confounds the museum standard of not touching even the most robust of sculptural works. He believes that wherever practicable, sculptural works should have the capacity to be experienced in many different ways and be accessible to the widest of possible audiences. McPeake also works in many other media including film, photography and printmaking.

McPeake's PhD thesis, Nibbling at Clouds – the visual artist encounters aventitious blindness, is an holistic study of the impacts vision loss has on the visual artist. The thesis draws on the experiences of a panel of artists (who lost eyesight in later life) and includes his own experience as well as how he has developed his own practice. The resulting artworks are a consequence of engaging with subjective themes and making processes, which have been mutually informative.

There will be a Private View for the work in the courtyard at Millbank on May 5th 6-8pm.

The work can also be viewed and heard at McPeake’s website.

Top image: The Sound of their Deaths in Australia; medium: bell-bronze, bell with wooden clapper (leather covered), marine rope and stainless steel fixings. 45kg

Surprise and Serendipity

Surprise and Serendipity, this Thursday evening at Apiary Studios, brings together a diverse group of UAL PhD students to explore practice as research. The uncurated evening showcases a set of works in progress and includes sound art, performance, expanded cinema, life narrative and video. The works are presented in an alternating programme dedicated to the possibility of finding new meaning through an experimental dialogue.

CCW PhD student Manoela dos Anjos Afonso is one of the participants and told the Graduate School about her contribution. ‘During this event, I will be transmitting a diary entry by using a fax machine. This work is called I am [not] here, and consists of a reflexive and private piece of writing about what it means to be an immigrant woman living between here/there, space/place, presence/absence, silence/language, visibility/invisibility.

This fax piece connects to my practice-based PhD research entitled “Language and place in the life of Brazilian women living in London: an artistic approach to life writing”, developed at Chelsea College of Arts. In this investigation, I take four life writing genres as the platform for my art practice and research, which are focused on the perception of place from the English language perspective by a group of Brazilian women living in London. Life writing addresses different forms of life narrative, such as autobiography, biography, testimony, diary, memoir, autoethnography, and letters, for example.

In Surprise and Serendipity I chose to use the diary because it is chronological and privately records life events with different purposes throughout history: conserving memory, addressing the future, surviving, unburdening, knowing yourself, deliberating, resisting and thinking. Each recording in a diary is called an entry or register and can be more or less imprecise and interspaced. Despite the fragmentation and privacy of this kind of writing, diaristic writing is a repetitive and regular act that produces a set of important vestiges of a life. These traces might be superficial, descriptive, but also deep and inspiring, becoming more and more meaningful, powerful and revealing throughout the time.

I will be writing and transmitting my piece from another space, far from where the event will be happening. Not to be there is also a choice, and it reflects my concerns about what it means to be an artist: is it possible to exist as an artist without exhibiting? Even not being there, I will count with Serendipity during my writing process, hopefully provoking any sort of Surprise there, where my words rather than my body will be.”

Surprise and Serendipity is on Thursday 23rd April, 7-10 pm at Apiary Studios, 458 Hackney Road, E2 9EG. Admission is free, all are welcome.

Charlotte Webb on Digital Labour and The Work We Want

CCW PhD student Charlotte Webb is a co-founder of Glasshouse Collective, a group that creates projects exploring social, political and economic problems and possibilities brought about by the web. Their current focus is The Work We Want, a project about digital labour funded by The Space. Webb has recently been interviewed by Ruth Catlow of Furtherfield Gallery about this research. In an excerpt of the interview, Webb discusses digital labour and how Glasshouse has evolved since its inception at last year’s hackathon at Tate Modern.

Ruth: I am wondering how best to approach the interview.

Especially for the people on the Netbehaviour list, I think that the way the project moves between art and entrepreneurial strategies will be very provocative (I find it very provocative).

btw Do you know A Crowded Apocalypse by IOCOSE – an artist group who out-sourced/crowdsourced conspiracy theories and global protests.

Charlotte: Hmm – yes, it’s really tricky because questions about digital labour in relation to art practice, the knowledge economy, crowdsourcing cultural production, affective labour etc are related but distinct from questions about digital labour relating to more general ‘work’.

What I think this reveals is that questions of exploitation need to be understood as culturally relative. Obviously we don’t want cultural producers to be exploited, but at the same time you just can’t say that ‘working for free’ by, say, contributing to a mailing list discussion or creating a Tumblr is exploitative in the same way that competition-based freelance platforms encourage.

We talked to the founders of a Nigerian freelancing platform last week, and I asked them about this. I said that Western discourses tend to focus on precarity, lack of unions, lack of sick/holiday pay etc and asked whether this was an issue for Nigerian workers. They said it might be in the future, but for now, workers are just desperate for money and will take whatever work they can get as a matter of necessity.

Also, precarity is much more of an ‘issue’ for rich countries because we’re used to stability, but people in poor countries are used to needing multiple revenue streams and being self-employed.

Thanks for Crowded Apocalypse….looks great.

Charlotte: Reading through the IOCOSE interview has made me think about how our project has shifted – at the Tate hack it was very much about outsourcing the creative process (our group motto has become ‘let it go’!), and challenging the idea of the author, as IOCOSE touch on.

This was a fascinating and knotty approach, but as the project has progressed, we’ve taken more control over the production process. It was partly because we really wanted to understand the system of digital labour, and to hear from specific voices about it so we could raise awareness about a potential future of work coming to all of us. That required us to run a pretty tight logistical ship and to take a bit more control, so we moved away from the focus on outsourcing creativity for quite pragmatic reasons.

I think I’m struggling with the ‘but where’s the art?’ question in our project, and can’t quite decide ‘what’ it is, and whether this matters. I’d love to know how you’d categorise the project?

Ruth: I ask about the art, because you describe yourself as an artist. I think it’s true that you describe Glasshouse as an arts collective, that came together at the launch event for The Space which is a digital arts commissioning agency.

If I were to come straight to your Digital Labour project I might describe it as a social research project that employs some engagement techniques that are informed by participatory art.

What I’m interested to hear from you is about why it was important to describe Glasshouse as an arts collective.

Charlotte: We described ourselves as an art collective early on (we formed in June 2014) as that was loosely how we conceived of ourselves. Partly that was a result of meeting at Hack the Space, and the focus of our work on outsourcing creative activities.

Since then, the membership of the group has changed, and we’ve avoided calling ourselves an art collective on, because we (or at least I) see the project in a way that is similar to your description. Although the importance of the category ‘art’ has fallen away as we’ve been led by our ‘findings’ (to use a researchy term), the engagement techniques you mention do come out of a knowledge of participatory (and other) art practices, and it would be unusual to find them in a straightforward social research project. The work will take a physical form at the Web We Want festival, as well as taking an online form on the Space website. In that respect, I’d say the work belongs to a broad field of networked cultural production.

For the full interview, visit Furtherfield.

The Jocelyn Herbert Archive

On Monday 16th February 2015 the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation hosted a reception to celebrate the move of the Jocelyn Herbert Archive to the National Theatre Archive in the NT Studio on The Cut. Speeches were by Sir Nicholas Hytner, Sir John Sorrell, Sandra Lousada and Professor Eileen Hogan- Director of the Jocelyn Herbert Archive. The Rootstein Hopkins Foundation which has supported the Jocelyn Herbert Archive during its time at Wimbledon College of Arts will continue to fund research relating to the collection now that her archive is housed at the National Theatre.

Jocelyn Herbert (1917 ' 2003) was a seminal figure in postwar twentieth-century British theatre. Her approach altered the way directors and audiences came to view stage design and contributed to a fundamental shift in the relationship between writer, director and designer. The Jocelyn Herbert Archive is one of the most complete and extensive of the period, covering many world premieres of plays which have since come to be seen as twentieth century classics. She wanted her archive to be used in a practical way by students and other researchers and made as accessible to them as possible. She had a long connection with the theatre department at Wimbledon College of Arts, was often called in as an external examiner or otherwise to advise the students, and in 2000 she received an honorary doctorate. In 2008 the archive moved to Wimbledon College of Art and was installed in a newly built, environmentally controlled room. This, together with the digitisation of all the drawings and the cataloguing of the archive was made possible by a substantial grant from the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation.

The archive consists of over 6,000 of Herbert's drawings for set and costume designs spanning student work made at the London Theatre Studio in the late 1930s, to the notebook she was using on the day she died. It includes production photographs, notebooks relating to film and theatre and to personal life, sketchbooks, diaries and contact books, three-dimensional stage models, ground plans, research material, budgets invoices and Minutes relating to meetings, posters and programmes, scripts, moulds for masks, masks and puppet figures. Herbert's career was characterised by long collaborative relationships with directors, writers and actors, and her archive embraces a significant body of material and correspondence with figures such as Lindsay Anderson, Samuel Beckett, Tony Harrison, John Osborne, Tony Richardson, David Storey and Arnold Wesker. As well as her vital connection with the English Stage Company at the Royal Court theatre, she had an influential role at the National Theatre, designing many plays there and as a member of Lawrence Olivier's Building Committee for Denys Lasdun's National Theatre South Bank design. Olivier's letter asking Jocelyn to become the company's resident designer (a role she declined) is among the correspondence relating to her relationship with the National.

From 2008 to 2014 the archive has been used by students and staff from Wimbledon College of Arts as an inspiration for re-enacting historical designs and as a catalyst for new work and exhibitions. It has also been the subject for graduate and doctoral research both within the UAL and externally. Collaborative relationships have been established with the University of Stirling, where Lindsay Anderson's archive is held, University of Reading in relation to Samuel Beckett's archive, the V & A, which holds the archive of the English Stage Company, the Archive of Performance in Greek and Roman Drama at the University of Oxford and, most importantly, the National Theatre, host for the Jocelyn Herbert Lectures, first given in 2010 by Richard Eyre and funded by the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation for ten years. This lecture series is designed to increase public awareness of a largely invisible discipline within an otherwise closely monitored activity. Other lecturers so far have been the designer ULTZ and the playwright Christopher Hampton.

In 2014 an exciting collaboration was established between UAL and the National Theatre, whereby the National Theatre has become the new home for the archive. This coincides with far-reaching developments at the National which put design and education at the heart of the theatre. The move provides improved access for all students, and annual internships for CCW's (Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Art) MA Theatre Design and Curating and Collections courses. New PhD and post-doctoral work will be funded by the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation. A CCW research project to create new work inspired by Herbert's archive will start in 2015. Wimbledon Space is currently exhibiting Work From the Collections #3: Jocelyn Herbert and Samuel Beckett, curated by students from Chelsea’s MA Curating & Collections course.

Top image: Erin Lee talking to colleagues about the Jocelyn Herbert Archive in the National Theatre Context. Photo by Karen DiFranco.