one two three swing!

Hyundai Commision
Photograph of the Turbine Hall taken by Ruth Linnell

SUPERFLEX in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.

The Turbine hall was completely encompassed by a sea of swings – a childlike fantasy – enabling grown adults to return to their playful youth all in the name of Art. I have found that the commission blurred the lines between Gallery and everyday public space, providing a location to relax, switch off and be freed from the fast pace of the city.

Superflex asks if we all swing at the same times, can we change the way the earth spins?…. Superflex think of this as a space to contemplate the forces at work in our everyday lives. They imagine people might want to gather here to think about whether it is the weight of gravity of the economy that pulls us down’– Tate Modern

Although the exhibition was asking the public to contemplate the forces which are at play in our every day lives, I felt that this became a more subconscious consequence of observing a hypnotic sphere dangle from the ceiling rather than the goal of the excersize itself. The curation of the space, using soft carpets and placing the ball on a sloping floor, encouraged people to spend time in the space. Many were lying down in the space and where they usually might be concerned with taking a photo or film and quickly moving on, they relaxed into an extended stay. I felt that this encouragement for a lengthy interaction with the work is what brought into question the forces of life and deeper reflections into their own purpose/ situation. The work formed as an escape from their monotonous régimes.

Hyundai Commision
Photograph of the Turbine Hall taken by Ruth Linnell

The Commission asks us to answer a series of questions:

  • Feel free to lie down  on the carpet below the pendulum. Watch, rest and reflect – will you stay or go?
  • Imagine the swing as a human -powered pendulum. How can we empower each other through movement?
  • SUPERFLEXX began with three artists who now collaborate globally. How does a movement of three became a movement of many?
  • Follow the orange swing line as it weaves out of the Turbine Hall. Does the line make any surprising connections?
  • The swings are designed and produced to be used all over the world. In what way does economic productions tie the world together?
  • The Turbine Hall is a unique place. How does it invite us to imagine and engage in public spaces?
  • Meet new people as you move through the gallery and outside. How does chance meetings turn into meaningful connections?

Interestingly most people who were participating with the work didn’t even read the jargon written by the Tate. I found this interesting because the interest of the work became less about concept and more about the enjoyment of interaction. Many didn’t need to be told how to interact with the work (as they might have done if viewing a piece of minimalistic painting). It was instinctual.

The relationships which formed around the space were also incredibly insightful. People wanted to que around swings to have their turn to participate with the art. It isn’t that they hadn’t experience what it was like to sit on a swing before, but there was a new excitement surrounding the environment and curation of the space. I found create enjoyment in observing the expression of adults waiting for children to get off the swings, clearly hoping they would finish their turn soon! Likewise I noticed the guilt of adults as they sat on the swings whilst children were eagerly waiting their turn- these  sessions were significantly shorter. There was almost a frustration that somehow the responsibilities of being an adult were still in play. They almost seemed inescapable.

Restraining Light

I started to experiment which how photography of my work could be used as a platform to further develop my intention to create a feeling of containment. I used shadows to create a bared projection onto my work. I feel this has dramatically improved the previous drawing I had created. Now the work is able to engulf the viewer in an experience of looking through a barred windows, engaging them with the emotional consequences of this. I would be interested to experiment with how the image is manipulated when placed in front of different windows, possibly exploring car parks and railings.

‘Restraining light’ 2017 by Ruth Linnell
Experimental photography 2017 by Ruth Linnell
Experimental photography 2017 by Ruth Linnell

I began to experiment with how this aesthetic could be shifted away from the drawing itself to focus more on the form and shape. By photographing my work from behind (when only the silhouette of the piece could be seen) shifted the focus onto the shadows and manipulation of light. This has now become a more participatory piece which focuses on the involvement of the audience. The work is no longer just to be enjoyed from a distance, but aims to absorb the viewer in an experience. The aesthetically quality of this work in many ways reminds me on Mondrian’s work, looking at geometric lines and colour and it’s main components.

Sketchbook work 2017
by Ruth Linnell
Sketchbook work 2017 2017 by Ruth Linnell

Entering into a more sculptural realm, I started to explore how the physical manipulation of paper could alter viewing photography as an illusion which is represented two dimensionally. I have been able to experiment with how this changes the position of the work in space. Looking at using broken up photographs, I found placing these over windows was far more impactful than when I later placed the work in my book. I think it would be interesting to explore creating work which hands on windows, therefore expanding the work beyond the creation of the artists. The work would begin to revolve around location and site-spesifity. Its very presence would restrict the view that the audience would receive of their surrounding, and in the act of looking at the work an interest in would be created of what’s beyond the work (the view to the outside). This would more directly discuss our innate desire to look out of windows and bring a reality to the emotional impact of a restricted view behind bars.  I think I need to focus more on how the location of where the work is displayed effects how it is read.

‘Cut up’ 2017 by Ruth Linnell
‘Cut up’
Experimental photography
by Ruth Linnell
‘Cut up’
Experimental photography
by Ruth Linnell


Continent of Bars


‘Continent of Bars’ 2017 by Ruth Linnell

I wanted to continue to explore the visual representation of bared windows through drawing. There is a completely different mood surrounding this work even through it has been directly influenced by my previous collages. I wanted to use black to create an illusion of theses windows leading to darkened rooms as I felt the extreme use of shadow had worked well in my previous photography.  (please see ‘Light and Shadows’)

The inclusion of foliage which surrounded the windows similarly to the appealing aesthetic of my collages, might nod to the ability to view any situation, however dire, with positivity. Whilst this piece might reference a tropical landscape with an appealing community, these windows are very much behind bars.

I do feel that this work is less successful than my my collages (please see ‘A Window.’), however, I want to experiment with this piece by manipulating the visual information showed. What would the work look like if I were to remove the detail of the windows and replace these with blocks of colour?

Please see: A window.

Form and Formalism

From a Lecture on Greenberg….

Form – content/meaning, this might be material or immaterial (online) and these all impact on the way meaning is set up. Relationship between form and content is always spoken about as separate but form and meaning have to be together.

Formalism –  study of art based solely on its form (eg how it’s made and it’s aesthetic)

Clement Greenberg’s position is ‘formalism’. To him, form IS the content and the meaning. Form is always involved because between the artist intention and the reception of the viewer. But he was controversial! A reaction against Greenberg would be John Latham ‘Study for Art and Culture’. Latham (a tutor at CSM) invited his students to a dinner party and then got everyone to eat pages of the book, the pulp he then gave back to the library which he took it from. Latham disagreed with Greenberg’s emphasis on formalism and struggled with criticism that British art was too aesthetic.

John Latham ‘Study for Art and Culture’ 1966-69

The Modernism movement in the early 20th Century attempted to reject historical styles of working and experiment with form and material to better reflect early 20th century:

  • Constructivism (Russia)
  •  de Stijl (Holland)
  • Bauhaus (Germany)
  • Cubism (France)
  • South American modernism
  • Latin American modernism

In euro schools like Bauhaus, there is an interconnection between art and more functional disciplines becomes blurred.— eg paul klee. These are different ways of thinking about formalism as these works ask what art does to contribute to society. However, Greenberg were purely concerned with fine art in terms of its visual contribution.

Avant-Garde and Kitsch  1939 is a heavily criticised  ESSAY. Greenberg started to discuss the concept of art being categorised into high art and low/ folk art (based around popular culture). The context to his essay is the rise of the Nazi party in 1937. During that time the ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition 1939 was displaying all the art censored by the Nazis.  Works by contemporary artists such as Matisse, Paul Klee and Mondrian were labelled as ‘degenerate’. The Nazis were concerned with displaying art which reflected the values/ ideas they wanted for their own society. Adolf Wisse; ‘farming family in the third Reich’ 1939 was displayed as a work which reflected this desire. This is a conservatives on two levels; as the subject and also as a realistic painting. This is what Goldberg is thinking about in his essay.

Adolf Wissel ‘Farming family in the Third Reich’ 1939

At the same time in history- there is a constructivism movement but also a growth of socalist realism. Goldberg is also concerned about the rise of consumerism culture and becomes worried about how capitalism is impacting us. Goldberg says that ‘Kitch’ (popular culture and consumerism culture) is described as ‘vampiric’,  by taking the realities of life during a period of time, which have a genuine meaning, to a system of avertisment etc. The word ‘Vampiric’ is used to describe the process of ‘sucking the blood/life out of things’. Greenberg is worried about lifting things such as punk culture which was a form of self expression and art and using it as a fashion trend whereby all the meaning is lost.

Greenberg futures his opinions on formalism by comparing the Ilya Repin’s ‘Procession in the region’ and Picasso’s ‘Guernica’. He is concerned by the realism of Repin’s painting as he fears there is no separation between life and the art and therefore can be dangerous in showing us the truth of the world. He’s discussing how some work is pre-digested for the viewer and therefore doesnt make us thing twice that what were presented with might have a political agenda. We view the work as a reflection of how we should be within society and therefore we can become trapped in the thoughts of a political group. Repins work is compared with Picasso’s, which required more effort to take information from. Greenberg wants art to be more difficult because he wants us the think about what were looking at and to reflect. If we think that what were presented with an image which reflects reality, we start to accept it as truth. It being painting realistically makes us think its transparent.

Ilya Repin ‘Easter Procession in the Region of Kursk’ 1880
Picasso ‘Guernica’ (detail) 1937

Medium specificity: “Toward a new Laocoon’

“It is by virtue of its medium that each art is unique and strictly itself.  To restore the identity of an art, the opacity of its medium must be emphasized.”

(Greenberg, ‘Towards a new Laocoon’)

Greenberg starts to discuss that through time the medium matters more. Eg through time the medium declares itself as the point of painting. Were not trying to present that something is what its not. Something shouldn’t be illusionistic but there should be ‘Integrity of the picture plane’. The medium is no longer a vehicle  for stories or illusions but can only be used as a medium. Goldberg thinks THE FORM IS THE CONTENT. It is no longer a mediator.

Form= Content

So for him, if the work isn’t about the medium then it isn’t pure enough. We can see sense in this thinking but Goldberg starts to dictate what art should be. Looking at a painting… he will ask what belongs to painting alone? What is art for? It looses it representational role because of photography and film. Therefore Greenberg justified the need for painting to be around medium.

‘Modernist Painting”

Goldberg is arguing that painting should be about visual experience only! Eg Jackson Pollock’s ‘Lavender Mist’. Is a good example for what painting should be because you can only get what’s communicated through painting. There should be nothing to do with imaging ourselves in a space but should only be able to see it optically. Therefore he believes that painting should be completely AUTONOMOUS. It should be SELF SUFFICIENT. This idea was around 1913 as Abstraction doesn’t need any prior knowledge. It could be cross cultural and anyone could experience it in the same way because it has an international language.

Notion of Reflexivity

The Avant-Garde modernist artists reflects on the medium itself. The from is the content for Greenberg. Reflection on the means of expression is celebrated by James Joyce ‘Finnegans Wake 1939′ where the words and language itself become the art work. Likewise On Kawara plays with language’s character of delay in his piece  ‘I am still alive 1973” because as soon as he writes ‘im still alive’ we don’t know if thats still the case when we receive the letter/ the moment after it is written.

Despite Greenberg having a promotional attitude toward the Avant-Garde,  towards the end of his career he was very against Dada and Pop Art movements which conflicted with many of his theories. His work seems to contradict itself and therefore I struggle with Greenberg’s restriction to the limit/ role of art aswell as his inability to have continuity through his arguments.


A window.

I started to collage together all the imagery I had gathered of windows with bars/cages which restricted views. I wanted to create a piece which dominated through repetition in order to start a conversation around how controlled certain lives can be – dictated by location/ country.  I found that this imagery became influenced by the work I saw in the Tate Tanks by Nkanga. A continent of windows was created, with each photo taking the role of a person. Whilst Nkanga’s work looked at social networks, these images talk about the restrictions to social networkings through the presence of barred windows. These images were taken from the border between two conflicting authorities and discuss the effect of living in an area of conflict (having barred windows) has restricted social interaction.

‘A Window I’ 2017 by Ruth Linnell

Whilst I thought the collage was successful and played on the repetition of a restricted lifestyle. I wanted to play with the imagery itself and manipulate it to see how this changed the works function. Was the piece simply aesthetic or could it still communicate a message (about the conditions of detention camps) when I remove areas of visual information. I actually started to question if the work BEING aesthetic could comment on the grateful attitude of Libyan refugees who are being held in detention camps. Whilst they are in dire condition they are thankful to be ‘safe’. By using images which appear beautiful, I can discuss how our context effects our perspective. Because we live in a western world we see no hope in their condition but the reality of living in a war zone has completely changed the viewpoint Libyans have of their situation.

‘A Window II’ 2017 by Ruth Linnell

I think my most successful image has come from the removal of information. There is a questioning over the nature of these blank forms. What are they saying? There is a provision of space for the mind of the viewer to ponder a deeper question – who is being detained? I’m really interested in exploring how the ‘absent’ can sometimes speak louder than the ‘present’. Sometimes we are more interested in what ‘could be’/’should be’. I think this work is far more provocative and the presence of one singular caged window draws more attention and holds more authority. The flow of the painting and cut paper allows our eyes to follow the contour of what could be a country/ land. Despite these images being lifted from a country in affliction, there is a hope in them, once again discussing the aesthetic in relation to how we view situations depending on our context.

‘A Window III’ 2017 by Ruth Linnell

Please see: ‘Wetin You Go Do?’

‘Wetin You Go Do?’

I recently visited Otobong Nkanga’s piece ‘Wetin You Go Do?’ in the Tanks at Tate Modern. The piece consisted of a number of concrete balls which were placed carefully in clusters around the tanks and had large heavy ropes connecting them all. The work had 3 speaker embedded in 3 spheres which discussed the difficulties of life along side more abstracted streams of consciousness.

‘Wetin You Go Do?’
Otobong Nkanga
Photograph of Tate Tank Exhibition by Ruth Linnell
‘Wetin You Go Do?’ Otobong Nkanga Photograph of Tate Tank Exhibition by Ruth Linnell

I found walking around the work my eyes were constantly traveling between different clusters of spheres. The curation of the piece took full advantage of the space and integrated itself within the setting as if the concrete were a part of the location. The work really reminded me of boys which are found in the ocean, with the whole location having a rather aquatic feel. Being contained within a space which echos with a tinny sound and surrounded by ropes, I viewed the piece as a life line. The boys were collections of objects which a safe.

I was interested by why Nkanga had chosen simple spheres to be representational of people. He clustered the spheres in social groups- reflecting how people network within society. Whilst this work had a specific meaning behind it and I could see that the spheres could be representational of a life, I read the work as a plea for a more proactive attempt to rescue refugees lives. Perhaps this was because of my practise being based around this subject or that the audio wasn’t playing at the precise time I viewed the work. If I had experienced the vocal contribution to the work I might have found it harder to draw the conclusions I did.

‘Wetin You Go Do?’ Otobong Nkanga Photograph of Tate Tank Exhibition by Ruth Linnell

It was interesting to obverse how visitors mannered around the space. Many leaned towards the spheres in an attempt to hear the audio which had been mentioned in the Tate’s description of the work, whilst others circulated the whole room. I think that a new dimension would have been brought to the piece if the public were encouraged to walk in amongst the instillation. This might have imparted a sense of being interconnected in self, following physically the network of ropes which reflect our social patterns.

Light and the Shadows

I had previously been experimenting with RED imagery and observing how this would manipulate the reading of the work. I decided the neutralise the palette in order to experiment with texture as a focus.

Material exploration by Ruth Linnell

In many ways I find these images more successful that my previous experimentation with colour. Although the desperation and danger which was being created by the red colour cast has now been removed, I find that this has made the work more sophisticated. It embeds within the viewer a sense of being trapped and caged. The photographs open up a window into a situation as if viewing the images from inside a dark room. However, the only view available to the participant is to another set of caged windows.

‘Light and the shadows’ by Ruth Linnell
‘Light and the shadows’ by Ruth Linnell

The use of such a stark shadow was captured by photographing my imagery when my velux window was casting direct sunlight onto my work. I think this has made the work far more powerful and if these images were to be printed, I would imaged them on a large scale to forces the viewer to be immersed in the limitations of the view from this window. I think the work visually represents the cycle of depression which might be formed if our only view of the world was one of an equally desperate situations. In this case, we are contained within a black room and the only thing to observe is a series of windows which themselves will see this same perspective. I feel this work is representative of the monogamous cycle of a prisoner moving from cell to cell.

‘Light and the shadows’ series by Ruth Linnell
‘Light and the shadows’ series by Ruth Linnell

When photographing the work with a reaching hand, I was able to transform the mood of the work. There seems to be a provision of hope. I find it interesting to view these two series of photographs in conjunction with each other. Whilst one seems lost and hopeless, the other provides something to hold onto – an escape.

Both by symbolism and content, this work reminds me of Michelangelo’s painting of ‘God creates Adam’ from the Sistine Chapel. Within the photo God’s hand is reaching out to touch Adam.  “The overt subject matter of the ceiling is the doctrine of humanity’s need for Salvation as offered by God through Jesus. It is a visual metaphor of Humankind’s need for a covenant with God.” I feel this could be a dialogue which runs through this body of work and especially these images. There is something which provides hope in the most hopeless situations. Without even thinking I have referenced a fundamental belief of my own- that the only way to life is through Jesus.

Hands of God and Adam

Please see: RED


By playing with the manipulation of colour I started to explore how this effects our mood. Photographing my images next to a red plastic box, a red/pink colour cast came over my photography. Despite this being completely accidental, I decided to pursue it. I found that this started to express alarm when viewing caged windows and perspectives. These images were influenced by my visit to  Antony Gormley’s curated show ‘Inside’. I felt that the use of Red started to communicate a desperation and anger which can be felt when trapped within a space.

RED’ series by Ruth Linnell

Layering my imagery with an abstracted relief work, representational of a landform, added another dimension to the piece. I wanted to contextualise my work within a broader setting. The textural painting visually referenced bodily fluids which I think evokes more emotion. The work started to remind me of when I visited Atlit Detention camp in Israel. Many holocaust survivors had just fled from Europe and the Nazi’s, looking for safety they were met by the British Army. The process of being held in this mention camp meant that on arrival they were stripped, their clothes taken for washing and they were ushered into showers for cleaning. These actions were traumatic for the survivors, not only bringing back memories of the Holocaust but forcing them to question is repetition.

‘RED’ series by Ruth Linnell
‘RED’ series by Ruth Linnell
‘RED’ series by Ruth Linnell

I want to pursue this avenue in my work, discussing the experience of detainees. Maybe more spesifically drawing upon the experience of holocaust survivors and using art as a platform for reconciliation.

‘RED’ series by Ruth Linnell

I think this last piece is the most successful of all the Red series. It is more balanced and provides limited access to the information in the imagery. Having two similarly composed photographs next to each other allows the reader to see repetition which is something i’m keen to explore when looking at the monotonous and regulation of environment such as prisons or detention camps. I want to explore how to removal of colour will alter the understanding/ reading of the image. Although all these images have been abstracted- the inclusion of red seems to lend itself to a more literal understanding of a caged, dangerous environment. What would it be like if I focused on a neutral palette?

Please see: ‘Inside’

Looking out

Unknown Work
Unknown Artist

One piece from the ‘Inside’ Exhibition has capture some of my personal discussion around the topic of views being contained/restricted. Windows act as barriers as well as havens. This specific piece shows the view that a detainee has from his cell. I found this work very evocative. The use of a monochromatic palette was not merely to record the surroundings but also shows us the emotional impact this view was having on the artist.

I found that the way the piece was displayed (in a frame with a white boarder surrounding the painting) emphasised this contained perspective. It started my thinking on how we might restrict our own perspectives on things. Here, the use of a physical border surrounding the image as affected what we see of it. I would like to explore this concept more in my own work. How can the artist manipulate what you see/ how you read the ‘topic’ of their work?


When exploring the theme of detention camps and how prisons used windows as a strategic object in controlling the experience of a prisoner, making it as uncomfortable as possible, I heard about an Exhibition at the South Bank Centre which had been curated by Antony Gormley. This work was a collection of art form offenders, secure patients and detainees from the 2017 Koestler Awards.

“Over 3,500 people entered the 2017 annual Koestler Awards for Artwork produced in the Uk’s Prisons, screed hospitals and immigration removal centres and by ex-offenders in the community. Each of these 7,105 artworks is testament to a desire for change.”- Koestler Trust.

The aim of the exhibition was to display was an opening into the minds and experiences of detainees. I found the whole experience very moving, sometimes really uncomfortable. I felt helpless when witnessing the emotions of those who are in prisons across the country. Looking at their work didn’t change anything aside from my understanding and insight. At the time I was walking around the exhibition, a jazz band was practising in another room nearby. This completely dictated how I read the work. The music was quite interrupted and added a dramatic layer to the work. A desperation – as if time was running out.

Unknown Work
Unknown Artist

I found that the curation of the exhibition worked well, allowing the work to speak for itself. To me it mimicked the monotonous routine of the lives lead by detainees when in prisons. The 2D works ran along the walls, forcing the viewer to move from one to another in what seemed to bee a helpless, endless flow of human emotion. I didn’t actually get to view all of the art work as each had such a weight behind it and after 40 mins of walking around, I had to leave. I needed to escape the uncomfortable but also found that walking back from Southbank, getting on a bus and returning to my everyday life seemed wrong. I couldn’t ignore the different of experience between the lives of a prisoner and the life I lead.

There two pieces which impacted me the most:

Unknown Work 2017 Unknown Artist
Unknown Work 2017 Unknown Artist
Unknown Work 2017 Unknown Artist

The piece comprised of selection of meticulously stacked line drawings of different scenes. The extensive time commitment for this work couldn’t be fully appreciated and many just walked straight past this towering stack of paper. I found that there was something very powerful in the realisation of sometime taking the time to draw hundreds of everyday senes. I started to think maybe these were scenes drawn from memory, which focused on monotonous acts but had somehow become sacred moments held as relic memories.

Unknown Work 2017 Unknown Artist
Unknown Work 2017 Unknown Artist

‘the voices’r telling me- kill the guy next door!’

The second piece read as a diary with personal thoughts, lines of consciousness, poetry and drawings which expressed the trials of getting through the day in a prison. It opened up a new depth of understand into the battle within the mind of this detainee. The work opened up a discussion around the mental health support for the detainees.