Study Visit: Mark Dion, Whitechapel – April 15th

  • Study Visit: Mark Dion, Whitechapel – April 15th

On my second day in London I joined my tutor Clare Wilson with some other fellow students for a study visit of Mark Dion (b. 1961) – Theatre of the Natural World  I went there with some ambivalent sensations as I’ve heard and read before from others that this would be quite a different exhibition. Anyway, I was curious to experience it myself. 

According to the Whitechapel site, Mark Dion’s ‘drawings, sculptures and installations draw on the techniques of scientific enquiry and museum display; and on the telling of natural histories.’ (Whitechapel, 2018)

 

The Library for the Birds of London, 2018:

The Library for the Birds of London, 2018

Fig. 1: The Library for the Birds of London, 2018

To have a library for birds seem silly, but could be considered to two ways: Either as a reflection on human desire to explain and understand everything around, or as an anthropocentric viewpoint to feel superior over birds who nonetheless ‘remain indifferent to these human artefacts’ , as the exhibition booklet describes. Whether the really remain indifferent is an assumption, somehow juxtaposed by a sensibility for animal welfare (wall image  ‘Commonly Asked Questions about the Birds’ ) and the instruction that not more than four people are allowed to be inside the cave the same time. 

The tree inside the cave is bolted visibly together showing itself as an object of an artificial habitat.

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London Group Study Day – April 14th

  • London Group Study Day – April 14th
  • London Group Study Day – April 14th
  • London Group Study Day – April 14th

This Study Day was one of the main reasons why I decided to fly from Switzerland to London to immerse myself into art and to meet finally really fellow students. I was so excited my exhibition visit to Tate Britain ‘All Too Human’ the day before was just a beginning of what would become a stunning and excellent weekend for me in London. A visit that will most certainly be not the last one. I was really looking forward to this day.

We’ve met at: The Tabernacle, Notting Hill W11 , a group of 11 fellow students at different pathways and different levels and Caroline Wright, tutor and program leader for OCA Fine Art degree pathway. The event was initiated an organised by Arlene Sharp with support from Joanne. A sketchbook study day that developed from bringing with us a small item fitting in our hand and some drawing media and sketchbooks or paper sheets towards an iterative interrogation of visual thinking and creative development of ideas that I found very beneficial to take on in my further practice. The Study Day was split into two parts:

  1. One hour introduction by Caroline on four of her projects 
  2. Around five hours sketchbook and creative ideation session

Fig. 1 – 3: Study Day impressions. Image credit: Caroline Wright, 2018

 


 

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Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain

  • Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain
  • Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain
  • Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain

I started my exciting London weekend with a visit to Tate Britain and the exhibition of ‘All Too Human‘, a retrospective of British figure painting, mainly focusing on post-war painters.

My first impression after entering the building was ‘What an art temple’ – a majestic building, flooded with visitors and guards, with spacious architecture. A place that illustrated to me the conception of art space as a sanctuary for contemplation of art, alienated from the surrounding social and cultural situation.

One has to know the way to move, as various exhibitions and spaces are located in the building. Not to talk about the human ‘needs’ for food (several restaurants) and acquiring (stores).

The paintings on display were quite a show of the British painting stars: Walter Sickert, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerback, R.B. Kitaj etc. The exhibition was structured chronologically, starting with Sickert from beginning of the 20th century and finishing with the female painters: Paula Rego, Jenny Saville, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. The last made me aware how male driven human figure painting was. Are the three women showing a shift in appreciation and a new reality? Or was this a conscious intention of the curator, kind of ‘making a statement’? 

Sketchbook pages

Fig. 1: Sketchbook pages

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Exhibition: Abraham Curzvillegas ‘Autorreconstrucción: Social Tissue’, Zurich

I went to the exhibition of Abraham Cruzvillegas (b. 1968), an Mexican artist, at the Kunsthaus in Zurich (16 February – 25 March 2018) not knowing what I would expect and see there . It was the second last day of the exhibition and from my experience museum exhibitions have a certain life-cyle change, as most visitors seem to come either at the very beginning or at the very end. 

The exhibition text mentioned that the artist ‘investigates architecture as the expression of social conditions’. Relating to his origin in a rural area south of Mexico city, as ‘a centre of makeshift, self-built housing constructed from materials found nearby, without foundations or construction plans. The entire community of family members and neighbours was involved in building them.’

“sculptural form a process of transformation, action and solidarity… a constant becoming.” – Kunsthaus Zurich text

The scope or purpose of the exhibition was to use the opened museum space as a workshop for a continuous and dynamic process of creation of objects in interaction with or response to the artist, his assistant and some co-workers from the museum staff and in a wider context of sequences of events (film screenings, workshops, concerts, discussions, and skateboarding days as well as kids’ club). Thus, to use the space as a space for interaction as well as for education and dialogue. Overall, showing progress as a laboratory or workshop of actions.

I went to the exhibition outside of the event program, kind of experiencing the snapshot moment of in-between, a stasis in time, as well as the image of the final days. 

 

Sketchbook on site - exploring space

Fig. 1: Sketchbook on site – exploring space – observing other visitor’s movements and interactions. Exhibition space as social space? What is my role?

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Peer feedback ‘Box Objects’

At the wide open hangout event on March 11th, I posted the video of me unpacking the box in a hotel room for peer feedback (link), a performative interrogation with my table / box / objects – in transportation and on the go

Some aspects discussed:

  • take away box, lunch box (triggered by the fork)
  • gloves => magician
  • technology outside – creativity inside
  • noise -> rodents (triggering childhood nightmares)
  • Expectation: “Something is going to happen.”
  • Unboxing: fetish objects, contrast of beauty
  • Unboxing: consumer experience (e.g. Apple and many other supplier of gadgets following the same route)

It reminded me then of the OCA parcel that comes with new course-material, Opening the box I can see the red sheet wrapped around the binder. 

Some further references provided by others related to other students works:

  • Blas Gonzalez related to found objects in a drawer, unmodified arrangements (part of his Context and Narrative photography course). At: https://blascontextnarrative.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/what-do-you-keep-in-that-drawer/
    => Blas made in his blog post a reference to Nigel Shafran’s work Washing Up, 2000.  A series of photographs documenting the end result of the daily chore of manual dish washing, an indexical evidence of the work done at the kitchen sink. Shafran combined the images with a list of food prepared that day. The series make subtle variations of light, surrounding objects visible. The often overlooked gradations in arrangement of mundane objects (utensils) become the dominant subject matter.
  • Mini Arora’s found objects related to memories, emotion in art, environment, and waste (aprt of her assignment work at level 3). At: https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/critique-needed-please/4361?
  • Some relation to a Wood Cantilever Sewing Storage Box, as an imagination of opening up the collection of art curios.

 

Conclusion:

I posted my performative unboxing as a separate and perhaps stand-alone work where I felt strong connection with Duchamp, Aran or Baldi’s work (as mentioned in my previous post). It is only a beginning and not knowing where this will all lead to, I was curious to see whether there might be some other aspects for the audience. The connotation with lunchboxes  has some connection with my actual objects while travelling as well as some of my own thoughts when looking at Bianca Baldi Zero Latitude. The  connotation with the unboxing experience intrigues me, as it allows a certain engagement by the audience, an open curiosity, and excitement. OCA is doing this with the red wrapping sheet around the course binder. I can see that this relates to Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise  at least as intended by him, but restricted in current museum conservation practices.

The reference found in Blas’ blog post on Nigel Shafran made me aware of how mundane objects and its spatial re-arrangements over time become a dominant subject matter. A sense of repetition though difference, resonating with my previous interrogations and the way I unpack and arrange my box objects each time differently. The packed box again still be the same, without visible variations.

I’ll keep my notes visible and will continue with the coursework exercises, to see how it all develop.

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Part Two – Ex 2.0: Collect / Make / Arrange

At the beginning of this part, I was struggling whether just to throw some items onto a table where I felt they have some commonalities? Or to take this further and makes this somehow meaningful for me? To take this rather as technical exercise or rather as a step towards a body of work guided by some ideas mentioned in the coursework? I eventually decided to follow my own sense and to let it be part of a longer journey exploring my body relationship with the space around me, with objects that can add something to it, and see how it all goes.

As mentioned in my conclusion on the research of ‘work-table / object-table‘  I can sense a personal dimension of my ‘work table’ and objects and how my travelling, the transportation of objects, and the temporal installation of ‘tables’ aka workplaces are not only a reflection of an unsteady life but also could be seen as a kind of portrait, identity. This idea is what I want to bring further with the first step in this part. Not-knowing where it will lead me towards, and possibly I will follow my unsteady movement and jump on another idea. At least: a start

I am travelling to other places and staying at times in hotels. The most mobile items do come with me, packed in bags or suitcases, transporting, unpacking – or better unloading – onto the nearest table – and repeat. Packed and transported as Declan Long described the wooden crates of Uri Aran for the Liverpool Biennial. If a visitor will visit my temporary table spaces, as Gabriel Orozco likes to do so, I wouldn’t know what the response would be. And I feel that not-knowing this makes it even more fascinating – or frustrating – for me to explore and to investigate my temporary place in transition. One sideline of this thought: whether I would explore a space or a place (relating to some discussions with fellow students) 

I am wondering how much my objects would tell about my identity, ‘my history and my preoccupations’ (Georges Perec). At times it reminds me what I can do with the objects, sketching, writing, like those imaginations described by Elizabeth Bishop in her landscapes.

Collect

I started with my idea of exploring my travelling as spatial and temporal movement alongside a sense of evidences of my presence as well of absence. It relates to art, drawing and painting tools, bags and what else I found relating to it. 

My table top – Evidence of spatial and temporal movement?

In my Swiss studio (part of the living room where the studio is taking over the ‘living’) I have an easel that I can rotate from vertical to fully horizontal position. I like to work on this ‘table’, standing, in front of the window. It is close to my art stuff. The only drawback, I can’t walk around easily, thus I need to displace it more to the center and clean up the area around. Already with some items thrown onto it: evidence of my travels (plastic bag, newspapers, cleaned plastic salad cup from take-away (perhaps better to keep it dirty for possible following paintings?). The other space of my working is the kitchen table with my writing, drawing, learning log (computer – absent in this image, but the mouse of present) and pebbles, found objects from the Aare river, I take always one with me. But there are also the other options, e.g. working on the floor, quite a habit as I like to work on the floor, in the middle of my art stuff, proximity and enclosure. And the fourth option I reflected on as part of my frequent travelling is the evidence of that: the suitcase or just a bagpack (see Fig. 1).

Stefan513593 - Ex.2.0 - Worktables - sketches

Fig. 1: Worktables – sketches – a) kitchen table with found pebbles, computer mouse index of blog; b) floor; c) horizontal easel, with thrown items as evidence of my travel; d) Suitcase: another evidence, but rather staged, what fits as well in a bagpack

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Exhibition: Die Zelle (The White Cube), Bern

Today, I went to the local exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern titled ‘Die Zelle’

The exhibition text relates the exhibition to the architectural space of the museum, with its ornamental ceiling demonstrating elegance, and a notion of in between White Cube as a temple for contemplation and an idea of 19th century exhibition space when rugs, tables and upholstered furniture offered the viewer a comfortable place to remain for a while. The text relates it also back to the argumentation by Brian O’Doherty (I looked into this during my UVC studies, see also O’Doherty, 1999) of the White Cube as a detached and alienated, timeless place, away from the society outside

The curating concept is that of ‘furnishing’ (Kunsthalle Bern, 2018). Furnitures not in a common sense, as objects with a purpose and use. The shown objects are functionless, the mere existence in space and the demanded relationship with the viewer makes them to ‘function’. The only function of these objects are their being as art objects in a museum or gallery. 

They cultivate a playful approach between function and lack of function and sometimes combine with constructivist concepts. – Kunsthalle Bern

Many questions are popping up, what is art, why are these objects considered as art, what is the role of the museum space as art space. It brings back my former UVC studies, how the space turns objects into art. Arthur C Danto wrote about this ontological question (2006) and Bourriaud explored in his Relational Aesthetics the question of creation of art through social interaction (2002).

Objects in space seeking attention, mere presence, at times obstacles in space, at times guides for further exploration and interrogation. How do I related to them in space and through my bodily presence? Between being painting and minimalist sculptures the objects are playing with me, as I can play with them. A relationship is established, I can talk to them as much as they talk to me. 

Artists organize an exhibition and fit it out. Fitting out may mean adjusting and aligning things such as a chair. Or it may mean creating furnishings that refuse to fit. – Kunsthalle Bern

 

Questions that came up during my walking around and my shortly afterwards reflections:

  • What are those objects in space? No use of function (Fig. 1)
  • Some triggering more or less associations with real life experience (e.g. chair is a chair, or not?)
  • Some are just objects, 3D in space, nothing more and nothing less
  • I can walk around, look at it, look down at it, look up at it, look through it (Fig. 2)
  • Some are sturdy, heavy – some others more ephemeral, translucent, as if they would invite me to look beyond or something else 
  • All objects are in the museum – therefore art? And what about the objects that belong to the real ‘furniture’ of the museum (Fig. 3)
  • Question to me: How do I take notice around me in real life? 
  • How is this furnishing of the White Cube transforming the space? I get reminded of Michael Asher and his gallery works (see my assignment 4 for UVC)
  • Are the objects mere objects to function? What if I embrace them as interior furniture and use them? => I tried this with Nicole Wermer’s Untitled Chair, 2015 (Fig. 4)
  • Questions of mere objects, aesthetic objects, art objects, functioning objects. 
  • The dysfunction of an object, e.g. Beat Feller’s Lots in one, 2016 – stacked tables, glued together, not useable, adds another function of the object, the function of an object as an art object challenging me the viewer to question its function and my relationship to it.
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Exhibition: ‘Material Matters’ – Georg Baselitz, Basel

  • Exhibition: ‘Material Matters’ – Georg Baselitz, Basel

Material Matters

I was excited to meet yesterday finally one OCA student in ‘real life’. I went together with Sibylle, who was visiting her home country Switzerland, the exhibition Material Matters‘ at the Foundation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland. (February 6 – April 8, 2018), a collection of paintings and sculptures that would address materiality, and the body as human body as well as material body. This collection was attached to the major retrospective of Georg Baselitz, one of the German post-was artists and mostly known for his figurative paintings top-down.

We are a bit unsure about the motivation and curation of the exhibition. Why these works? For me it seemed that this exhibition was more of an attachment to the bigger Baselitz show, a selection from the museum’s collection with special focus on post-war painting.

Entering ‘Material Matters’ started with works by Cézanne, and Picasso. Modernist painter who explored the pictorial space in its internal relationship and considering the painting in itself as an object beyond external representations. Sculptures of Giacometti complemented the paintings throughs their spatial presence as material and physical bodies. Some paintings of Dubuffet were shown that I already explored during the Dubuffet retrospective in that same museum in 2016. 

What added a different twist to the exhibition was a rectangular ‘carpet’ on the floor made from colorful candies. After asking the guard about this, he couldn’t say anything about the motivation or intention, just that one can take a candy. They would have a good stock in the basement to fill back with new candies. And that the ‘carpet’ moves from day to day in space. Paint or color in a bodily form, ready to consume. The outer shape made from small candies, reminded me of the shapes of birds flying in the sky, when thousands of birds are establishing an outer form, a constellation, dynamic and temporal.

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My Diary – non-visual thinking (Part 2)

  • My Diary – non-visual thinking (Part 2)

My continuation of my so-far-not-so-daily-diary. A transcription of my auditory notes – starting to annotate visually – a journey I don’t know what to do with that or where it will lead to.

 

…this document is a rolling document and will be updated regularly (click here for doc)

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Duchamp: The Readymade and the process of questioning

Herbert Molderings explores in his article ‘Marcel Duchamp’s Studio as a Laboratory of Perception’ (Hoffman, 2012:72-76) the Readymades as ‘epistemic objects’, the way Duchamp looked at them.  Visual Art as a process in generating knowledge, not to illustrate or to demonstrate knowledge. for Duchamp looked at the process of questioning itself mediated by his studio experiments with all sort of objects. His readymades were not mere objects that demonstrated something but rather an aesthetic experimental object for a ‘speculatively imaginative thought process’. Not the objects per se as important, but the studio space as such, establishing a ‘creative atmosphere’. 

The article relates Duchamp’s work to the work of the mathematician Henri Poincaré who articulated space in four dimension, influencing Einstein and Picasso, and leading Duchamp to dislocate his coat-rack from the wall to the floor to overcome conventional spatial perception, to challenge conventional perspective and theoretical assumptions. Objects become the focus of a new spatial perception in relationship to the viewer’s body and the surrounding space.

Duchamp was trying to question prevailing assumptions about what visual art is (Cincinnati Art Museum). His work Boîte-en-valise shows a transportable mini-museum, a collection of take-away objects in a box. Besides the notion of objects, the work also embraces the tactile sense of exploration. One need to put the hands onto the work in order to obtain a full spatial experience. Certainly not so much in favor of museums and their intention to preserve art work versus to use artwork.

Fig. 1: ‘Box in a Valise’ from or by Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy (Boîte-en-valise de ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy), conceived 1935–41, edition E assembled in Paris in 1963. At: http://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/art/exhibitions/exhibition-archive/2018-exhibtions/duchamp/

 

 

I can sense here a close link to Uri Aran‘s experimental table works. The objects mediating a new aesthetic experience beyond representational frameworks. What makes me wonder whether I am not too self-conscious at the start of my interrogation to get my temporal work places by regular travels would not restrict and reject a more playful interrogation with space and object relationships. It is perhaps much more pre-abstract, as the experiments are pre-epistemic. They would generate knowledge and perception, and would not be built on that.

With that reflection I think I just need to be more embedded in my surrounding space and see what the objects do to me – or to each other, a performance 


Reference:

  • Hoffman, J. (2012) The Studio, Documents of Contemporary Art. Edited by Blazwick, I. London: Whitechapel Gallery and the MIT Press.

 

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