I wanted someone to bounce ideas off when thinking about how best to display my work so had a conversation in the studio which forced me to consider how I wanted the piece to be read/ understood. It made me consider what it would be like for someone with no prior knowledge fo my work to view it. They need to have some foundational information to appreciate what I want them to understand- or do they?
We spoke about how the work could be a personal discovery which I’ve worked out myself, these cutting and shredding sessions almost becoming ritualistic, performing a memorial to those who are currently working under forced conditions. I think those periods of time where I’ve been alone and cutting up the documentation, I’ve been able to really connect with some small part of what they experience, however, this won’t be a shared experience with my audience.
It was suggested I could make the work performance based and physically continue to shredding the information in front of the viewer, this might enable them to physically understand the labour in the shredding which is ‘the work’ and also have a connection emotionally with the process. Some of the other ideas put forward included :
Displaying a table which had the process shown. Papers which were whole, shredded into strips, cubed and put into a pile. Making sure I showed the ruler, scalpel knife and scissors as a part of the work.
If I wanted to pursue this, I should also consider how the hight of the table could alter the viewers perception of who the ‘ worker’ could be. If it was a particular short table, it could be in reference to child labour.
I could display images which have been shredded, pasting them back together? – I explored this in my sketchbook however, It could be interesting if were to have pasted back the wrong pieces so the images made no sense.
I’ve concluded that it would be beneficial for me to include a list of the articles which I’ve shredding and explain to the viewer that this has all been done by hand, none of it happening outside of human capacity (eg. a machine shredder). I also think I want to pursue a more fluid and subtle piece, where the shredded material is the main part of the piece. I think this will also be reflective of how forced labour is invisible and dispersed around the world and our environments. I also believe that as the shredding becomes slowly kicked around the space it will have a haunting quality to it as it follows the viewer around the space when looking at other works.
I recently visited Idris Khan’s Exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery, initially interested in the minimalist influence of his work (which felt related to my practise). I later found out when researching before my visit that his work explored the physiological influence of being detained on an individual.
Much of Khan’s work deals with metaphysical and aesthetic questions, using layering and repetition. He has employed the use of both sculpture and painting/ layered 2D work to explore how we recall mass, space and volume when placed in situations where our senses are limited/ fragmented. I have been similarly interested in the concealment of imagery, focusing more on the obvious removal of information.
However, when moving around the exhibition space, it wasnt until closer inspection that I realised the inclusion of text within his large black wall painting work. The language of prisoners had be concealed to the extent that only singular words could be made out. I found that this build up of information concealing the very information included was an idea which I haven’t explored yet in my own practise. I think its conceptually very interesting to present a viewer with the information they need/ should know but the quantity is what holds them back from being able to digest it. I am exploring this through the shredding of numerous documents and images which will no longer be digestible on the scale their presented.
Khan’s large scale black sculpture which towers over the space, appears to be a solid rectangular form, however as the viewer orientated themselves around the object, shards of light reveal themselves. The experience of walking around the object opens up the environment behind but our view is entierly restricted by our relationship to the object. It towers over us in height and is too wide for us to look around when standing near it. I personally started to relate to this work by feeling somewhat overpowered and contained, as if the piece was in control of my situation – which I personally felt reflected the experience of a prisoner.
“In fact, both painting and sculpture allude to spaces of imprisonment and the experiences of those whose perception has been compromised. Deeply moved by testimonies from Saydnaya, Syria’s most notorious and brutal prison, Khan has researched the ways in which inmates encounter and remember their surroundings. While first-hand accounts of Saydnaya, where cells intended for solitary confinement are inhabited by up to fifteen detainees, are the only available source of information about the prison, the testimonies of those few inmates who are released are severely hampered by the conditions in which they are kept: in darkness, blindfolded, or forced to cover their eyes. Their sense of the place, therefore, can only be ascertained by other means – through sound, smell, or by mental exercises such as counting the tiles on a floor, the bars of a cell, the number of fellow prisoners, or the number of days detained. Darkness unites the works – both physical darkness and the metaphorical and emotional darkness of Khan’s source material.” – Victoria Miro Gallery
On the 46 blocks placed centrally on the floor in the exhibition are works impressed into the cast bronze. Interesting it wasnt until I had discovered the text on the hanging wall work when i decided to relook at the blocks to see if they included words. Khan had chosen to take the words form testimonies from the prison, randomly assembled and stamped onto the blocks. Khans starts to open up a question of his relationship to minimalism with this work. Although the blocks seem mathematical predictable in configuration, which would be common in minimalist practice, the inclusion of words from a personal and ‘immeasurable subjective experience’ which changes the viewers reading of the work.
Interestingly, when walking around the exhibition space with one of my peers, we both experienced a huge sense of relaxation during the viewing. Although contradictory with the subject matter, and possibly the intended experience for the viewer (there were intentions of creating anxiousy for the large sculpture), the simplified form and curation of the space formed a peaceful atmosphere. I think there was something spiritually quite healing about the presentation of the subject matter – the stories of these individuals were being told/ heard.
I think that this idea of allowing the art works presence to be a voice for those who are suffering is something which is very powerful. I would like to pursue the creation of work which is able to impact the viewer in a way which goes beyond the explainable, speaking to their spirit about the need for break through over situations of forced labour and detainment which goes beyond the human understanding of justice.
A recent conversation with one of my peers in the studio made me question how I could solve the issue of time containst in the run up to my exhibition.
I had been worrying about how much time I had left to create the sack fulls of manually shredded images which I wanted to create. It was suggested that to try to make th work happen faster, I could see how many people i could persuade to work for me in a sweat shop environment.
I found this idea really interested however, may not be feasible at the present time as the work I would be asking people to participate in would be very time consuming and their own project deadlines are fast approaching. However, I do think this is an interesting concept i could pursue later on in my practise. I could be interesting to employ different age demographics such as 60 year olds, students and children to analyse how they react in the labourer environment. I do feel that I could never replicate, nor would i want to, the conditions which people are facing in forced labour camps.
My practise isn’t around the re-creatino of these conditions, even when pressing myself to create a piece which is time consumptive, I am more interested in highlighting the problem through the process of creation.
‘Soul of a Nation’ and ‘The place is Here’ have looked at the Black Arts Movements. They discuss contemporary politics but the context that these exhibitions were conceived in were very different to the time there displayed in. Issues around rights and equality are so current now, theses exhibitions were thought of discussing things of the past but now (considering Trump administration) they are very current.
‘Post’ doesn’t mean simply after, but states something in the conditions of colonisation have changed. They haven’t disappeared but have simply moved forward. The 1960’s had a lot of decolonisation and the context for this was the civil rights movement, sexual equality, rise of feminism which made it a very active period of time. This coincided with American Black Arts moment, however, this happened over a decade later in England.
disperse – dia ‘across’+ speirein ‘scatter’ – the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland
Many people came into England after the second world war as needed workers. The first group of artist from post colonies were interested in modernist movements. There was an idea that modernism was an international movement. There was an idea that abstract language was universal. So the early migrant artists came to the UK to join the modernist movement in England as abstract sculptures and painters but their reception was that they were alien – theses artists (such as Frank Bowling) were disillusioned.
1989 ‘Magicians de la terre’ and ‘the other story’ were two Exhibitions which were concerned with the lack of non-white and western practises at that time. They devided between 50 western artists and 50 from ‘non’ west.
Jean Fisher’s essay ‘the other story and the passing perfect’ discsusses the differeneces and simialirites between the two exibitions. She says the curation of the ‘Magicians de la terre’ directed the exhibition into two fragments; western modern artists and the non-western ‘traditional’ artists. The curation told a story of modernist art being contaminated when non-western artists were creating work – they weren’t seen as being authentically from the culture, which was being criticised by Fisher. The show featured western artists such as Jeff Wall and Claes Oldenburg / Coosje Van Bruggen, next to the traditions which separated the ‘other’ in art works such as Jangarh Singh Shya’s traditionalist Indian painting.
Fisher argued that artists such as Ali Wei Wei wouldn’t be shown as wasn’t seen as purely traditional – he’s a modernist. Contemporary artists were being categorised negatively as not being ‘truelyl authentic’ to their country. But Fisher says the ‘other story’ was discussing modernist artists who weren’t from west and placing their experimentation alongside wester artists. He said in his book ‘The Other Story and the Past Imperfect’ that:
“Contact between Europe and its ‘others’ produced transformations in both directions, leading to a plurality of modernities and modernisms, each with its local inflections… Cross-cultural encounters are perceived as central to the formation of modernism, not supplementary… both in the formal break with pictorial conventions and in the development of the ‘expressionist’ strand of modernism that began with ‘primitivism“- Jean Fisher ‘The Other Story and the Past Imperfect’, p. 2-3
If we want to have a global understanding of art history we have to look outside of western understanding. The west doesn’t automatically operate as the centrt against which everything else gets measured. There is so much depth to the resources which artists have used to create these movements.
An example of this is when Van Gogh literally copied Hiroshige’s ‘Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake’ when creating his work ‘Bridge in the Rain’. His work later became vital to post impressionist specifically exploring the flattening of images. However, the influence from this moment was originated in Japanese art. However, these movements are seen as ‘European’ so when artists outside of the west start playing with these themes their work and them as individuals/ artist have been condemned by critiques and the wider market.
Second Wave Black Arts Movements
In the 1980’s in England, the use of name ‘black’ was used to bring together diverse groups who wouldn’t usually unify but being brought against the white culture. They were being treated as ‘other’ or alienated. It was strategic but also dangerous as it emphasises difference. The significance of a difference was being brought into question politically as separating them.
We see the recent acceptance of non-wester artists working in contemporary mediums through these four Artists:
Rasheed Araeen– Frist generation artist from Pakistan started making minimalist scuptural as she first moved to England. Through time work becomes more political and is active as an individual working as a curator, writer, editior, set up magazine.
Mona Hatoum From Lebanon performance piece. The doc martins as national from skin heads and polic were using docs as shoes so had important significace. They acted as a shadow or a lurking presense. They disturb her capacity to walk naturally so she cannot walk innosently and purely.
Black Audio Film Collective John Akomfrah makde film, gernally known now as ‘film essay’ moving between documentary and also contemporary. During there work together they organised film screening through out London in order to produces exposure of topics which aren’t gernally discussed. Archival footage becomes a fragment of the time the film was made. So they used factual and poet work by looking at documentation along with voice overs and sound to changed the time and interpretation.
Sonia Boyce looks at the tension of generational difficulties as her parents were involved in chritistianity but her second generation are more associated with the Rastafarian religion, which starts to go against her parental ties. It deals with complexities of who and what one identifies with. Iconography – images are a language of signs which carry a series of meanings outside of the painting itself. She looks at self portraiture and looks at how to present her self when the image she’s dealing with has socially negative connotations.
Of the back of Boyce’s exploration of self through portraiture allows us to explore the different between ‘Identity Politics’ and the ‘Politics of identity’. Whilst the former implies that one knows who one is, the latter looks at when identity is thrown into question. They start to discuss: what am I? This topic of subjectivity is started to be discussed as a problem by boyce.
Identity might be what we are pre-given but Identification might be things through which we choose. If the identification Boyce has placed on her and reflected back to her is negative, how do you deal with this? Culture is placing images onto her which are hard to deal with such as expectations on the topics within the art felid which she ‘should’ be dealing with.
When researching into the work of Gordon Matta-Clarke, I became particularly interested in Wilsons work when I first looked at his piece ‘Turning the place over’, which featured a circular segment of a wall rotating and detaching itself from the building. The work is obviously very structurally challenging to achieve but I think there is a playfulness which we don’t encounter in our everyday situations which I really enjoy about the work. Theres coming very humorous about cutting sections from buildings, when It seems so natural to cut sculpture and paper and canvas, when their subject is architecture and they treat it in the same way as something more malleable, we have to deconstruct our understanding of a building as a functioning space when viewing the work.
I later realised I had seen his work in situ when around Holborn. His piece ‘Square the block’ I had discussed with my friend, unaware at the time weather it was art or an accident. We looked at the structure and experienced the piece as interaction with art in an unexpected format and location. Taking this from a context where we expect to see interventions into the everyday was really interesting to me. The forced destruction of the building wasn’t as impressive as I feel the photo displays. They joinery showed that the ‘falling’ bricks were mounted onto the surface of the wall rather than a part of the construction which I felt was a shame as it made it more obvious that this was Art and not a structure which at any moment could fall down.
Wilson’s work always referenced the existing architectural context and said: “Whenever I start a piece of work I start the process by trying to understand the particular nature of the site and the reason for making the work. For me that’s the springboard that starts me towards an idea.”
I also have become interested in his work collaboratively with the RA ‘Hang on a minute lads… I’ve got a great idea’. The work, based on ‘the Italian Job’ movie, consider of a replicated bus canter-levering over one of Hong Kong’s most iconic Grade 1 Listed Facades to a Hotel. This work really brings into question were the sculpture ends and architecture starts, blurring the lines between the two. Although this has moved away from my initial interest in his work for the destructive construction of buildings as sculpture – which I aimed to translate into photographical manipulation- I have found that his work creates an interesting conversation between boundaries of art. Encountering his work in the everyday forces us to consider its creation but question its origin.
I started to research into the work of Gordon Matta-Clarke as my practise has become more destructive in nature. His exhibition ‘Anarchitect’ at the Bronx museum Looks at the manipulation of urban architecture through the means of physically meticulous removal of shapes and sections, sculpting the building. He has been known to cut out wholes through buildings which are soon to be demolished.
Having lived in New York, Paris and Chilli as well as studying Architecture, Matta-Clarke became a voice in rejecting the commodification of art, with his sculptures coming in the form of ‘large scale interventions into exciting architecture’. These temporary works which consider of sections of buildings being completely removed were documented through film and photography.
Matta-Clarke also ended up displaying the corners of the house roof which he saw away form the house in New Jersey which he saw in two. These roof corners where then displayed in John Gibson Gallery in New York, which to be is an interesting relationship between the rumour of the work becoming the piece and its memory, vs the sculptural element. The reclaimed corners which now sit in a gallery are a bridge to the event which occurred but also sit as objects in their own right.
Matta-Clarke echoed his enjoyment of manipulation through cutting photographical work. He made a point to destruct the negatives of his films before development. This reflects the practise I’ve developed of photographic manipulation and the concealment of information in a two dimensional form rather than sculpturally as done in the Anarchitect works.
For the Biennale de Paris 1975 Matta-Clarke created ‘Conical Intersect’ by cutting a large cone-shaped hole through two seventeenth-century townhouses due for demolition. This created a shift in the controversy of the time as the Centre Georges Pompidou was being propositioned for the site so he decided to create a completely different event which had its own public interest rather than participating in the running commentary on the Pompidou centre. I think its an interesting approach to art, moving towards the way in which Francis Alÿs works, where the piece revolves around the participation through conversation of the public. It shifts the focus form the action to the reception.
I found that displaying my work on the walls of the studio helped me to understand how my pieces ‘exposure’ and ‘white tiles’ could work in an exhibition environment. I had struggled to visualise how my work would sit in space and context when creating this tiled piece as when creating the work it was merely squares which id stacked up, unable to see them all in conjunction with eath-other. Luckily the space I’ve been working in has allowed me to use floor space in front of the wall to display and lay out my work.
Currently the desk is placed off the wall but in-front of the space, so as i’m working, reflecting and researching I have been able t visually reference the work I’ve displayed on the wall and subconsciously been analysing it. I found this particularly helpful when I was looking at how my work can be influenced by the changing light of the location.
The studio space I have currently gets direct sunlight onto the walls in the morning, which I found could play a direct part in my work when looking at the minimalist movement through ‘White White White‘. The light was able to inform the reading of the ‘painting in white’- looking more holistically at the piece in relation to the body and environment.
I have found that my work is situated between that of two painters. The work I am currently creating is very white and pure aesthetically therefore I sometimes become paranoid about the cleanliness of my situation and tend to tidy away all of my work to make sure it doesn’t become damaged. This isn’t an ideal way for me to be working in the space as I find having my work around me and out already encourages me to get started, where as the constant preparation which is involved in working in the space can sometimes be off putting.
‘The iconography of an artwork is the imagery within it’ – Tate
After my Unit 3 Recorded Tutorial, It was suggest to me to research into the iconography of artwork. I quickly discovered that this is the semiotic reading of symbols within an images, most of which are religious or mythological. These meanings are completely dependant on their context so where a dove is representative of the holy spirit within the Christian faith, it is representative of a goddess in mythology.
‘An iconography is a particular range or system of types of image used by an artist or artists to convey particular meanings’
When reading an article of Russian Artists displaying their work in a Church Cathedral setting was particularly fascinated by how this manipulates the reading of symbols in their work. It reminded me of visiting Peter Liversidge’s work in the abandoned cathedral exhibition space. The location completely manipulated how I understood his LED work, viewing it more as a shrine than a piece of contemporary art. The Exhibition ‘Soul Seekers’ was curated by both journalist and artist. Darren Jones (artist) commented on the exhibition saying, ‘“We thought: let’s expand the notion of what an icon is and how iconography relates to secular culture generally. An icon today can be anything; a sports brand, fast food restaurant; body is an icon for many people. The most interesting part is, how people attach themselves to such ‘icons.’”
I think this is interesting to consider within the context of my work. when searching for the iconographic meaning of windows I was confronted with information on stained glass windows religious paintings which didn’t answer the question I intended. However, I found a blog review of ‘a Room with a view’ which discusses some of the symbolic meaning of windows:
“What is a window metaphorically? A window is a spiritual entrance through which your soul can travel. If you choose to let it go, your soul can break the glass boundaries created by the window and travel into the greater world; soaking in the sounds, the smells, the sights. A window is a portal; allowing your thoughts to roam around freely. However, a window creates boundaries, as your soul can only travel as far as your eyes can see. You cannot move right, or left; you move in an unwavering straight line. As you gaze out the window, you watch life go by, failing to contribute any involvement. Windows aren’t for proactive people; they are for those who watch rather than do. Those who sit outside of a window usually have a narrow point of view, and aren’t open to anything new or different.”
I think its interesting to view a window as a boundary which contains how far your soul can travel. When considering this within the context of a prison or dente ion camp when the windows are small and contained, deliberately restricting views, it makes us consider the spiritual impact of this as well as the emotional.
When explaining to a peer about my plans for looking into the manual shredding of images to be representational of forced labour in dente ion camps, we started to discuss how travellers can also end up in these forced working conditions.
I was told about how two girls who my peer had met on holiday in Thailand had been put on a working contract which claimed they would be working in an animal sanctuary which looked after animals who otherwise would be killed and exploited. However, when the girls arrived, contract signed, their sleeping conditions hosted a number of infected animals and they were unable to go out after working hours to socialise, shop or use their free time. The animals they were supposedly looking after were kept in awful conditions and the girls weren’t allowed to leave their jobs because of the contracts they’d signed.
I think its interesting to head through conversation the idea of forced labour being even closer to home than we might think or experience. Even though these situations might not be as extreme as those of labour camps, I think it could be interesting to research these experiences more.
I might include this information in the format of printed documents and imagery within my own shredded information for my final display.