“One Place After Another” - Miwon Kwon
The first chapter of Miwon Kwon’s text includes a multitude of perspectives that orientate a way of involving and considering site specificity in art. The idea that “If modernist sculpture absorbed its pedestal/base to sever its connection to or express its indifference to the site, rendering itself more autonomous and self-referential, thus transportable, placeless, and nomadic, then site-specific works” challenges the idea of the standardised plinth. I find the use of the word 'nomadic' interesting here, toying with the concept of a piece not truly belonging anywhere if it is not built with a site in mind. This point of view is important to consider when figuring out how exactly your piece will be received, as locations often result in a target audience or demographic of some sort (obviously), meaning that "institutional critique insisted on the social matrix of the class, race, gender, and sexuality of the viewing subject."
This links to the thought that “If you have to change a sculpture for a site there is something wrong with the sculpture”, offering two interpretations - one, that a sculpture should be built around the site and 'not altered to fit', or two, that true sculpture should be subservient and unchanging, instead changing the location around it by its presence. I understand that the second interpretation was probably not the intention of the writer, but I think it similarly fits the ethos of the statement. My personal belief on this is that it is more specific to the intentions and thought process of the artist and to categorise all art like this would be wrong. However I would also state that to avoid considering site specificity at all, as a critic, curator or artist regardless, would be similarly unjust, especially when accounting the words of artist Richard Serra, for example, who when writing about his 120-foot, Cor-Ten steel sculpture: "Tilted Arc" made the claim that "To remove the work [from its specific site] is to destroy the work.”
Describing “an inextricable, indivisible relationship between the work and its site" and how a piece "demanded the physical presence of the viewer for the work’s completion”, the question of demographic interactivity is raised. This immediately reminds me of Ryoji Ikeda’s "Test Pattern [N°12]" (which I visited recently), in that it compelled viewers to actively engage with the work and step into the projections. Upon doing so, you become a part of the piece, your slight shadow altering the patterns and the lights projecting similarly onto you; This feeling is what I would be inclined to describe as “an inextricable, indivisible relationship between the work and its site".
I found that this idea of literal, physical engagement links to the later point by Kwon when discussing the work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles: “The “work” no longer seeks to be a noun/object but a verb/process, provoking the viewers’ critical (not just physical) acuity regarding the ideological conditions of their viewing.” By involving the fourth dimension to your work, the potential for documentation of the response of viewers being the focus of your piece can be ultimately powerful/useful for conveying larger meanings or themes, especially when comparing an expected reaction of a specific social matrix with the actual reaction. Hence, Miwon Kwon's writing has provoked a cavalcade of alternative directions to take my current and future projects further.
All quotes from Miwon Kwon's "One Place After Another".
"Ruin" - Virgil Abloh & Ben Kelly
Virgil Abloh & Ben Kelly's "Ruin" puts the importance of total immersion first. Even going as far to open the installation with an 'airlock' tunnel of sorts, the basement of 180 The Strand works perfectly as a tangible environment severed and separate from reality. Its sprawling room of corners, mirrors and flickering Televisions demands exploration by its viewers/participants, seemingly encouraging visitors to find some secret door or reference - the work's very location as around the side of the main building even can be said to make one feel as though they've discovered something just by finding the place.
The design as some kind of dystopian nightclub emulates feelings of anarchic melancholia, with the just-recognisable clangs of distorted dance music and flickering dance lights offering the notion of 'dancing through the destruction', perhaps a take on the appreciation of art in our quickly deteriorating world.
I find the use of movie-set installation similar to the work of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, especially of "Labyrinth" and "Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future", where similarly, immersion is vital. The way that people can engage with these respective pieces has inspired me to consider a life-size set-like piece i the future, but this idea will have to be subject to logistical and financial parameters, at least for now,
"Love is the Message, the Message is Death" - Arthur Jafa
Sound-tracked to Kanye West's "Ultralight Beam", the emotive combination of mood, tone and drama in Jafa's piece is absolutely spot-on in addressing the political themes of racial oppression. Jafa disperses imagery of the sun throughout the video to invoke the impression of some kind of monumental higher power or plan, linking to the way that religion is also a prominent aspect of the piece; Whilst it is not something that I personally practice, I can absolutely appreciate it, and its wider meanings, in the way it has been implemented through the video and music. Moreover, I found the choice of music crucial to it being as effective as it was. I was similarly struck by the video of a small child being taught the reality of police brutality, which confronts the reality of our flawed system.
The way that Jafa has managed to instil the attitudes and unity involved with the resistance to racial oppression makes for an incredibly emotional piece of work, engaging with an audience very profoundly, regardless of their background, reminding me of the importance of art and why I create it. If at some point I can create a piece that is as captivating as this one, I will know conclusively that I have, to some extent, already succeeded.
Photos and Quotes from: http://180thestrand.com/
"Test Pattern [N°12]" - Ryoji Ikeda
The principle feature of Ikeda's piece is the way that people interact with it.
It quite literally attracts you into standing and walking along its surface, yourself becoming part of the work in a state of total immersion. The piece, for me, reiterates the point that when something is interactive, it is much easier to engage with, which is a relevant thought to consider when discussing the way it is influenced by its location; As a highly public artwork and exhibition, it is the perfect kind of piece to be a 'gateway' for people to become interested in art, showing self-awareness of its purpose and/or potential. Visually stunning, it shows the outer reaches of what 4D art can be, interpreting the already interesting concept of processing, translating and expressing external data. I also liked the exploration of how music, sound and video can be ultimately reduced to binary code as such, visualising an accessible thought process and theme that becomes ever more important as we delve deeper into technology as a society.
Photos and quotes from: http://180thestrand.com/
"Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future", Ilya and Emilia Kabakov - Tate Modern
Having not heard of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov before this exhibition, I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity and significance of their collective work. The way they were able to distil the suffering and pain of their lives and translate that over a huge range of installations, sculptures and painting is breathtaking, opening for me a new way to approach conceptual, mixed media installation pieces.
"The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment" is the obvious start point, being perhaps their most famous work, I was genuinely interested in the idea of having a room to 'look into' for an art piece, mirroring the qualities of a painting in many ways, but with the third dimension allowing the message to be more easily accessed and engaged with. This is similar in "How to Meet an Angel", with the childlike concept of basically building a ladder to heaven providing an intimate look into the most traumatic and faith-questioning moments of a person's life. The standout piece for me personally, however, was "Labyrinth (My Mother's Album)". The instillation created a completely original way to present a narrative, supposedly written by Ilya's mother, it features the trademark fictional characters that the Kabakovs entwined within her tragic life story, pasted into in a selection of collages, displayed in a maze of dimly lit, soviet era corridors and sound-tracked by faint Russian singing. By creating this interactive environment for the audience, an entirely new level of immersion is created, perfectly encapsulating the "endless anticipation" of Kabakov's youth.
I particularly admired the seamlessly overlapping forms of media and material with little regard to convention or tradition, and the way this can create something deeply personal and original. I have also had a long standing interest in the playing and manipulation of the way a narrative can be expressed; I find stories and the telling of events a crucial way of sharing aspects of one's human experience. I fully intend to integrate these approaches into my future work.
Photos and quotes from: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/ilya-and-emilia-kabakov
Rachel Whiteread - Tate Britain
Simply, much of Rachel Whiteread's work can be described as a study into the negative space around the objects we use and the spaces we occupy, as well as our impact on these things. This raises the question of whether the material things we surround ourselves with can actually be an accurate reflection, even description, of us as people. I find this concept intriguing, so I was very interested in Whiteread's response to this.
I find that her "Untitled (One Hundred Spaces)" piece, which in practice introduces the exhibition, is an effective expression of this question. The wear and tear that many of the hundred chairs she used showed was indicative of a real human presence. Similarly, "Untitled (Stairs)" is powerful in the way it represents the community of the building she lived in. Made upon her leaving the building, I found the sensitivity and regard held to the various scuffs, marks and scratches of the stairs a surprisingly heartfelt way to "commemorate" the members of the building, an emotionality I did not expect before having looked deeper into her work. These themes are similarly involved in Whiteread's other large scale work, one example being "Chicken Shed" which interested me for the way the negative space of a small shed can so effectively exude the loneliness and isolation of its occupant. The attention to detail she takes in selecting her materials is also an ever present feature, with the texture, dexterity and opacity always complimenting the mood of the piece.
I feel that the main thing that struck me about Whiteread's work, its crucial sensitivity, is something I will bare into my own work, keeping in mind that it is its subtlety that makes her work so crushingly powerful.
Quotes and pictures from: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/rachel-whiteread
Mark Rothko - Tate Modern
"Mark Rothko saw these paintings as objects of contemplation, demanding the viewer’s complete absorption."
The 'Rothko Room' at the Tate is absolutely important to me. Being perhaps a traditionalist when approaching my own work in the past, I found that an appreciation of Rothko's work has been a gateway, per se, to a greater appreciation of a broader range of abstract and contemporary art. The use of space and negative space in the room by Rothko is obvious, with the pieces displayed "...in reduced light and in a compact space...", the work feels overpowering and somewhat omnipotent, commanding the 'complete absorption' Rothko intended.
I find that the foreboding use of texture and colour is comparable to the work of Francis Bacon, as in the way he idiosyncratically creates backgrounds. I do, however, realise that this is to a much lesser extent, as to consider Rothko's work merely a 'background' would be a crime. That in mind, the pieces were originally commissioned in the 50s as a "series of murals for the fashionable Four Seasons restaurant" of which Rothko later realised that "the worldly setting of a restaurant would not be the ideal location for such a work", leading him to withdraw the work and display as art in its own right. This information influences the way I perceive the room, for I find it less to be about each individual painting, but the way that the accumulative effect, displayed as intended, propagates its own emotional environment.
For art to be quite so emotive is something that I believe all artists, to some extent, aim to achieve, or at least I certainly do. To reiterate, when a viewer, whether artistically minded or not, is made to be emotionally involved in a work, they become engaged, and it is under these conditions when discussion, progression, and/or enrichment can take place.
If you don't want someone (or even yourself) to feel something in response to your art, then why are you creating?
Quotes and pictures from: http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/display/in-the-studio/mark-rothko
"The Labour Party" - Bob and Roberta Smith
In response to the feedback I received from my final outcome for the "Material News" project, I was directed towards the work and typography of Bob and Roberta Smith. In this piece, I like the way that multiple different uses of font and colour has created a jarring but almost childlike message to convey something darker and more political. Also, the small images that break up the words create an interesting effect that simulates themes of internet age over-stimulation and intentional bad editing similar to the aesthetic of vaporwave.
I feel that if I were to return to the piece, pursuing a typographic direction as such would leave me more content with my outcome, which is certainly something to bare in mind.
"Shibboleth" - Doris Salcedo
I am inspired by the way that Salcedo uses her installation to manipulate, play with and influence space. Obviously this a scale of sculpture that i cannot achieve at the moment, but I feel it is important to at least consider and develop ideas as such, regardless of how intangible they may be.
"Basin CDCR" - Sterling Ruby
Ruby's 'CDCR' piece strikes me strongly. I am interesting in the evocative and visceral way the subject is expressed and is an example of very serious, emotional art. This genre of sculpture is an indication of where I would eventually like to be, but not where I will try to go in the parameters of just a week.
"Literature Wurst" - Dieter Roth
As sausages filled with processed newspaper, the concept of Roth's "Literature Wurst" is for me an example of the satirical, political and art aspects of a piece being absolutely perfect. With such an easy, accessible and humorous idea, the message can be easily digested and is loaded with alternative, all valid interpretations. This is the kind of statement art I aim to recreate this week.
The Pottery of Grayson Perry
After comparison to Perry's pottery with my outcome for "Alternative Spaces", I felt it important to look into it considering I was previously aware. Having never honestly never though much of pottery, I was impressed with the way that Perry manipulates the art form, seeing it as appropriation of the Ancient Greek method of telling and recording stories. I also like the style of art Perry utilises, seeing the connection with my work but with a prominent narrative. This would be an interesting direction to take my project if I am to return to it.
"Mirror" - Frank Bowling
I am interested in the way that Bowling crafts an abstract but tangible environment in his work, with the use of distorted, almost Francis Bacon-esque figures provided a bleak alternative to the jarring use of colour in the room. The inclusion of a gold overlay is very effective and is something I want to try in the future. I feel studying this has informed the way I will approach the "Alternative Spaces" project.
"Portrait of David Hockney in a Hollywood Spanish Interior" - Peter Blake
I like the way in which Blake has painted Hockney's face, making the icon instantly recognisable, especially with his glasses. This piece isn't particularly alike to much of Blake's other work (of which I'm not all that fond of), but his signature use of bold colours with sharp, clean edges in the balloons at the top works well in the composition of the painting. As I feel the painting capture's Hockney's likeness so accurately, I aim to incorporate part of this painting into my "Altered Spaces" project.
“Where Does One Thing End and the Next Begin?” - Ian Monroe
The comparison of this to collage and the statement that “...collage is analogous to the world around us but, importantly, it also allows for interactions that the world around us has not yet performed...” in my eyes gives me perhaps more respect for the art of collage, something I have never really considered particularly thoughtful or special. This therefore informs the way I will approach my current project of altered spaces, forcing me to consider with greater weight the edges and boundaries within the space I am creating.
One example of this is the blending of David Hockney’s painting of his mother and family (in what seems to be a room in his home) with the Francis Bacon portrait of a man in an armchair. These are similar as they both question and toy with the idea of a ‘home setting’, but are different in style and tone, with much harsher red and black marks in Bacon’s work contrasting the pastel Hockney piece. This blending of a literal edge but contrasting of a less solid, stylistic edge is a conscious choice resultant from the some of the thought provoking points of Monroe’s essay. I find this links to his later point of a fear of the “... ‘normal’ rules of differentiation, in an unauthorised mixing of catagories...”, or a ‘Chimera’.
Another point that I found interesting was the thought that “In ergonomics, the edge is deployed to comfort and reassure, to suggest that the interface between human and machine can be productive and placid; a utopian release from hard toil.” This provoked me to consider the viewpoint that ergonomics are just humanity’s effort to make the edge between us and ‘the machine’ more seamless, and more comfortable for us weak, soft, fleshy humans. Similarly, thinking about the occasional artistic tendency to show an “...affirmation of and desire for the altered and expanded body...” may make comment about the human condition, yet however perhaps isn’t necessarily relevant for my current project. That being said, I hope to in the future of my art explore the “...blurring of internal and external, male and female, straight or gay, and ideological or technological...” and the idea that “...edges remain powerfully embedded in the human psyche.”
Ultimately, I was interested by the majority of the essay and I feel it has made an impact on the way I will approach the rest of this project, “Altered Spaces”.
"Perspective" - Michael Raedecker
Raedecker's style of painting in itself is very simple and clean. I find it is his use and combination of colour and negative space that creates the unnerving feeling so signature to his work. Similarly, my personal favourite part of the way that Raedecker creates art is the way that he ever so slightly breaks up the surface of the canvas with thread, never cluttering the piece or making it feel crowded, but adding a sense of depth and tactility.
"Self-portrait as Charles Darwin" - Adrian Ghenie
In Adrian Ghenie's "Self-portrait as Charles Darwin", I am interested in the way the artist adopts a persona and uses that to instruct the way he creates a painting. The use of material is incredibly loose and expressionist, complemented by the use of bright colour on various tones of grey, creating a tangible yet surreal and atmospheric space. This huge amount of attention paid to the surroundings and background is in itself interesting when considering the nature of the piece as a portrait, and is something I must consider in my own work; The area surrounding the subject informs the way we perceive the subject.
"It Is Here" - Justin Mortimer
Justin Mortimer's use of shadow and darkness and the way it informs the starkly more vibrant use of colour is for me the most interesting aspect of his work. Similarly, the way he paints bodies with eerie realism in form but slightly 'off' colours is also effective. In this piece, the greens he mixes into the subject's skin tones dictate the mood and themes of the painting and make for a genuinely uncomfortable - even disturbing - composition. This is something I aim to try in my own work soon.
In some of Mortimer's other work of a similar vein, he often incorporates people wearing hazmat suits, an obvious implication of some kind of dystopian, post-apocalyptic landscape. Whilst occasionally I find this effective, I do find that the inclusion of such a cliched piece of imagery slightly gimmicky at times, leading me to vastly prefer his more conceptual work.
"We Two Boys Together Clinging" - David Hockney
From the Queer British Art exhibition and part of Hockney's Royal Academy of Art work, I find this piece overwhelmingly tender. Very expressionist and abstract in its nature, I am moved by the emotionalism of the work, finding the incorporation of specific 'street art' themes prominent and important to the way it is received. Whilst it is quite simple and two dimensional, a viewer will still be drawn to the abstract plane Hockney has crafted in the world of solitary painting.
I have since incorporated parts of this painting into my "Altered Spaces" collage piece.
Queer British Art - The Tate Britain
I visited the Queer British Art exhibition on Friday and joyed the collection thoroughly. Firstly I was impressed by the mark making of Henry Scott Tuke, particularly in "July Sun", where I felt there was a Freudian quality to the brush strokes, especially on the back of the subject. As did I appreciate the use of colour by Glyn Warren Philpot's "Glen Byam Shaw as 'Laertes', in which the taut whiteness of the model's made up face exudes exactly the intimidating and encapturing expression that was originally intended by Shaw.
Duncan Grant's "Paul Roche reclining" also resounded with me, combining mark making almost similar to Henry Scott Tuke's with a saturated, saccharine pallete. I was also interested in the far larger "Bathing" piece by Grant, where I found the use of bold lines to convey solely the surface of the water to not refract or blur the bodies beneath an interesting concept. I didn't like the way the bodies were contorted, however, with the variation in style across the painting jarring for me. A particular high point was the work of Gluck, the 'cover star' for the exhibition, of whom I found the precision and ability to capture expression in their self-portrait portrait uncanny. Saying that, Gluck's painting of the "Lilac and Guelder Rose" was my personal favorite, with the thickness of the paint on each petal particularly effective.
Lastly, it was the final room that was of notable favour for me, with the combination of Francis Bacon and David Hockney's work seemingly tailor-made for me, considering my long-lasting appreciation for the two artists. Bacon's "Two Figures in a Landscape" captures both primal frustration and tender homoeroticism in both the savagery of the violent, upward brushstrokes and careful attention to detail on the muscles of the subject's back. Hockney's "Life Painting for a Diploma", his final piece at the royal academy of art, is perhaps my favorite Hockney piece of all time, with the cynical satire unconventional and unapologetic under the clear skill of the artist and his technique.
The Editor - Stefano Basilico
Upon reading the essay, "The Editor", what first struck me was the point of how often the director is credited with the majority of films, when in fact a movie can be considered a great, group produced piece of art. This is interesting when considering the way I have previously regarded art as something very individual and personal. This mentality may, in fact, pave the way to "group produced art", or at least in bad movies, shows the problems and shortcomings of it.
I was also interested by Omar Fast's "CNN Concatenated", with the words spoken already on their own considerable to be of artistic merit, but the choice to animate them with the spliced and reordered words of CNN news reporters highlighting the importance of delivery and the ways in which the same message can be received. This duality of the audio and visual aspects, the separate, individual merits of each and the way they coincide are important power dynamics to remember when creating work in this medium.
Lastly, the other piece that inspired me was "Horror Chase" by Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, with the idea of looped videos and challenging the parameters of a clip, abandoning the idea of a start and a finish. Off of the back of my own video project going forward, this is a theme I would aim to tackle next.