Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Seminar 1: The Museum of Loss and Renewal: Object Becomes Subject

Today’s seminar in The Museum of Loss and Renewal: Object Becomes Subject touched upon many interesting topics such as the durational in public art and the relationship between art and anthropology. Loads to think about and digest, but here are some quick notes and links I’ve found since this evening.

Social Anthropologist, Prof Arnd Schneider mentioned Alfred Gell’s Art and Agency (1998) and the concept that art can be understood as the agency for creating a social nexus. In the first instance, it seems like some researching will help me to consider how the concept functions, though sounds relevant so I will endeavour! 

“Gell defined art objects in performative terms as systems of actions, intended to change the world rather than encode symbolic propositions about it. Art works thus considered are the equivalents of persons, more particularly social agents.” And goes on to describe, “Agency is achieved through technical virtuosity. It can enchant the viewer: ‘The technology of enchantment is founded on the enchantment of technology’. But there are many varieties of this technique.”

Paul O‘Neill discussed a range of public art projects in terms of their durational aspects and his understanding of them as a researcher/viewer/participant. The time that was invested in these projects by the artists/communities was of significance, however O’Neill did not seem to mourn their individual ends. The communities themselves could potentially continue the projects, or more likely, the projects would disperse in different ways with their influence shown in other ways. O’Neill understands that this type of durational, (potentially dispersive) work counteracts the spectacle that is common in contemporary global culture. So, projects such as Jeanne Van Heeswijk’s The Blue House Project would counteract some of the large Bienalles.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Museum of Loss and Renewal: Object Becomes Subject

The Museum of Loss and Renewal an ongoing project by Tracy Mackenna and Edwin Janssen is currently in stage 2 with Object Becomes Subject in Centrespace at the VRC. 

Above, is an image of the display cases in which Tracy and Edwin have curated objects bought from The Highland Hospice Charity Shops alongside two painted reproductions of historical masters' works, commissioned in China.

Van Gogh imagery dominates one case, with a jigsaw puzzle featuring one of his paintings placed with a vase, fruits and one of the commissioned paintings. This reminds us that works such as these have filtered through society becoming consumer goods; the question of value arises - how does the image translate through such merchandising? We are invited to consider the value of the selected objects, once donated to charity shops, then sold on again now placed in the different gallery context.

The notions of recycling, memory or history and life and death connect the cases, with fresh flowers slowly decaying and clothes that lie empty amongst objects donated to The Highland Hospice Shops. 

A slideshow on the other side of the space gradually moves through photographs of Tracy’s writing/drawing that has been annotated by her and Edwin with images from their postcard collection. This takes us through some of the poignant aspects of discussions that have happened during the project, since it’s launch at The Highland Institute of Contemporary Art (HICA) in September. Simple but descriptive comments on arts relationship to language (to paraphrase) “artworks are like words, they can be rearranged to make different paragraphs”, or the “web of interconnectedness” that applies to relationships, art and exhibition processes, or notes on loss, grief and personal relationships help to make sense of the title of this stage of The Museum: “Object Becomes Subject”.

Tracy and Edwin’s curatorial approach enables an access point into the research and production methods, as well as the ideas they explore, that make up the project. For instance, two of the display cases have pin board backings that display postcards of artworks by artists such as Van Gogh, Louise Bourgeois, Lucio Fontana and Ai Wei Wei, through this a formal mind mapping of ideas and connections is produced. 

The space is not static but a space for research, education and making; some of Tracy’s writing/recording of the discussions that are taking part within the project is materialising into a blanket. After the felting process, the blanket will be given to the Hospice members whose words helped shape it, providing it with another life/use/value. 

A library area, housed by recycled plinths that are painted yellow, allows the visitor to read Mark Dion’s Marvelous Museum, books on museum culture and curatorial practice, a book documenting Walker Evan’s Postcard collection, Grayson Perry's The Tomb Of The Unknown Craftsman or Tracy and Edwin’s previous publications. This area acts like the pin board and the slide show to give us, as visitor, a way in to their research and an opportunity to take part in it ourselves. 

The space is, like I hope ATELIER PUBLIC in GoMA's Gallery 3 will become, highly productive, explorative and allows for consideration of methods of display and individual approaches to art.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Get ON IT!

I used to talk about my studio work as structured play. Unfortunately now I’ve graduated there doesn't seem to be much studio work going on, my life isn’t structured and I don’t do enough in the way of playing with materials... Need to get ON IT! 

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Having visited ATELIER PUBLIC on Saturday I realise one visit will never be enough to interpret the situation. Although the aspects that are easy to appreciate such as the study area at the back of the gallery, photographed above, and the decision to place unpainted plinths and shelves around the presentation space are helpful ways to frame the experience for the viewer: this felt like a place for ideas, with potential. 
The print-outs and wall vinyls highlight the questions being explored - what art is or can be and its value, authorship, social inclusion and encouraging children to be involved in art, the role of the curator, documentation... A multitude of questions, which are each valid, but they caused me some difficulty when combined with other curatorial decisions which on first impression don't quite fit with the outlined intentions of the exhibition. 
Firstly, to offer as art supplies multi-coloured tapes, papers, plastics, lollipop sticks and plasticine is something I struggled to understand. On the one hand, this may make the workshop space more accessible to children, but on the other hand it develops a very strong aesthetic, and scale, which makes it difficult for any maker/player/artist to express themselves freely. The exhibition space has a cartoon feel with people attaching faces, animals and seascapes to the wall, or writing slogans. These act as distinct pieces of work that don't act together. I think the materials are too limiting.
Secondly, there is a slight tension in the decision to invite artist contributors - if you are suggesting that children's play potentially creates art, and you are asking viewers to appreciate it/join in etc. then does it undermine the non-artist artists to invite these artist contributors? What is their value? What is their purpose/role? 
Perhaps as time goes on, and as the contributing artists appear, the space will take on different guises. Given further time to evolve, and to create a space to fully consider the outlined questions (rather than simply a workshop place to play) ATELIER PUBLIC may get somewhere very interesting. I hope it is given the freedom to do this.

ATELIER PUBLIC is open until Jan 15th 2012.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


"ATELIER PUBLIC is an exhibition that takes the form of a working artists’ studio. We’re interested in what happens in this space, and we invite you to make artworks that become part of the installation. This is a space for looking, thinking, touching, exploring and making.

It has a curator, a person who manages the space. They have also asked some artists, thinkers and makers with a particular interest in play, creativity and the imagination to come and engage with the space during the exhibition. These mini residencies will help to shape the space and record what happens.
Through ATELIER PUBLIC we aim to witness, document and share the work created and installed in the space, online as well as here in the gallery." Playable Spaces Wordpress
ATELIER PUBLIC, THE PUBLIC STUDIO, GoMA, 10th Nov - 15th Jan 2011.

As I'm off to Glasgow this weekend I've been having a look online to see what's happening and came across ATELIER PUBLIC! It sounds like an exciting project, and one which would create quite a few difficult balances for the curator involved who is said to "manage" the space. For example, will they intervene or direct the public's play? What level of decision making will there be by the "manager" to keep in the space and what to change/remove after the maker has gone? How many makers can contribute to the space before we start to loose/hide what has already been made? Is this a good thing - will the exhibition gain momentum from constantly changing? Will the "manager" feel productivity slow or judge quality as the weeks continue? 

We already see certain shots of the space and first experimentations on flickr, ATELIER PUBLIC which enables public access to your images. I wonder, who is taking these photographs and who determines what photographs get uploaded to the site? The documentation of this project will slice the project into fragments and frame each slice - in doing so placing a significance on individual sections of the installation out with the whole. This is not different to many other documentary shots of exhibitions, but in this instance could it potentially create a hierarchy within the installation -  where only what is deemed a success finds the wider public flickr platform, thus judging what is art or what has value and ignoring what is not?

I am intrigued to see the curator's interaction with the project as these relevant challenges are explored and look forward to becoming part of the ATELIER PUBLIC while in Glasgow this weekend. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

PKN Volume 1

Last night the worldwide fast-talking, speed slide showing, energising phenomenon made it to Dundee: PechaKucha night Dundee!

We are now one of over 400 cities across the world to encourage creative individuals to share their respective practices/interests/lives following the simple format - 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide.
We saw/heard about the V&A project, Vanilla Ink, the soon to be released Superman game designed by Tiger Games in Dundee, Dundee based textile designer Hilary Grant and much more.

Amongst the presenters and organisers there was certainly an appreciation of the creative potential of Dundee, and the 200 strong audience gathered from around the city and farther afield would suggest this positivity is shared.

The night ran smoothly and presenter after presenter gave us an interesting/insightful/informative 6mins 40sec. Frequently presenters drew on their personal history: Kirsty Maguire's family routes in architecture; how practicing meditation has highlighted to Rohan Gunatillake the importance that our attention be focussed on more meaningful and valuable things than the daily distractions of contemporary life, and Ross Fraser McLean's photographs and description of a recent experience in India during which he spent some time detained by snake charmers of the Sapera caste in North India.

The presentations were concluded with Sink, an Edinburgh based band who improvised along to 20 slides of photographs they had never seen before. The jazz/Balkan classical sounds brought the images to life and the audience watched intently as the band interacted with one another to create a mesmerising performance.

The next PKN Dundee should be early next year.