So, the New Years Resolution then…

On my days, I have just checked my little archive and seen exactly how long it is since I last posted on here. I know I’ve been busy with Postgrad applications, but still! I could do a quick whizz round the latter part of 2012 and try to cover the various exhibitions and arty goings-on, but really I think time would be better served just keeping on top of the present! So the next few weeks are going to include Nick Evans at Tramway, Easy Does It at David Dale, and a little jaunt to Edinburgh, to name but a few. To round off on a good vibe, here’s a snap from the Niki de Saint Phalle opening at GoMA in November. The theme was headgear, which coming straight from work meant a fedora for me, not madly exciting! Image

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Collecting Ghosts? Part One

Social Media Week 2012, Psychic Dérive, and GoMA forum

Renowned artist and Glasgow School of Art alumni David Sherry raised a number of interesting issues when speaking at the GoMA forum, ‘The Relevance of Museums Within Contemporary Art’. For those unfamiliar with his work, Sherry is an internationally exhibiting artist who has represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale and was shortlisted for the Beck’s Futures prize in 2003. He discussed the problematic nature of collection and display of performance art, such as his piece ‘Just Popped Out’ (see below) which he later performed.

Sherry discussed the extent to which the artist, as being an inherent part of a piece of performance art, becomes part of the collected and displayed work once a gallery has acquired it. He raised the possibility of being replaced by actors, which would seem to be an inevitable situation as the work will outlive the artist. This raises the dilemma of originality, however in the narrowest understanding of the term would the work not cease to be original after its initial performance? Perhaps performance art is destined to be ‘original’ only once. Galleries can, and do, display the props that accompany a performance: Sherry’s post-it note from the performance pictured above is framed on the wall of Gallery Two in GoMA. These props are not the art work, however they lend themselves more to the conventions of archiving and display than a performance does. How institutions deal with contemporary art that is of an impermanent and fleeting nature leads on to GoMA’s photo-sharing project for Social Media Week…

Social Media Week 2012

In contrast to performance, it would seem that photographs are permanent works of art. The scenes that they capture, of course, are not. GoMA’s ‘Your Public Art’ project ran for Social Media Week, and invited the public to have their images included in an installation. Inspired by the popularity of Tumblr and Instagram the aim of the project was to examine the idea of what public art really was. Real time photo streams on sites like Instagram’s ‘This Is Now’ project aim to capture the ordinary to the sublime and everything in between: the point is IMMEDIACY. On this feed, for example, photos from the twelve cities that make up the project stream through live, so what can be seen updates in real-time and is therefore constantly changing. The focus seems to be in the inclusion of the remote viewer in the action as it unfolds, albeit virtually. In this case, the impermanence of the medium is the appeal, rather than the creation of an archive of photographs. Of course technically such an archive exists, since nothing which has been put online can ever really be removed. This is incomparable to the way in which photographs as a ‘fine art’ form are used, appreciated, exhibited, or archived, in a gallery or museum situation. In the world of social media, it seems, the photograph is only of interest for a second. Not much longer than the lifespan of the blink of the eye of the photographer who viewed the original scene, the value of the image lies in the substitution of the real life experience of the original viewer which it represents. Yet is this really new? Has photography not always been about the viewer one step removed from the original action…?

Silent Bells

Jannis Kounellis at Tramway

It’s been an incredibly busy six months, filled with more art exhibitions than I have had time to write about in any depth. Now suddenly I find myself in September, with the daunting task of documenting a rapidly expanding and slightly erratic collection of notes and photographs! Relevance is king, and with that in mind I am going to start with an exhibition which is currently running: Jannis Kounellis at Tramway.

Artist Rooms

The large solo exhibition includes work created especially for Tramway, together with pieces from the Artist Rooms collection. A joint collaboration between the Art Fund, Tate, and National Galleries of Scotland; Artist Rooms has a broad scope, enabling smaller galleries to exhibit works by internationally renowned artists. There is nothing small about gallery 2, which is where Kounellis has been installed: Tramway’s previous life as a southside tram depot is visible from the tracks which still cover the floor, to the steel rafters of the roof high above. This vast, industrial space suits Kounellis’s aesthetic well.

A grid of steel beams, stacked on the diagonal and self-supporting, echo the rafters above, and seem to indicate the triangular skeleton of the roof of a building. However, rather than the neck-craning ceiling of the gallery, the structure is brought down to our level, rising from the ground. This foundation is covered with fine rugs: a sharp contrast of texture, material, and function. It invites further exploration, although situated in the corner of the gallery it is not possible to circumnavigate.

The same cannot be said for the piece which occupies the central space of the gallery. Steel beams are laid out at regular intervals along the floor, wrapped in dark toned coats and jackets, a contrast in texture of soft wool and hard metal, but also of human warmth and industrial cold. In the foreground, a selection of bells lie on a metal panel. Above, huge cloth sacks hang in their place, suspended from the rafters, like giant laundry bags yet the jagged outline of their hidden contents would imply otherwise. Their unexpected proportion plays with our perceptions of weight. Again, there is this contrast of soft and hard edges, and unexpected juxtaposition of homely comforts with unyielding man-made objects and machinery.

Trace

Around the walls are smaller works, arranged in a linear display and somewhat dwarfed by the two larger works which necessarily dominate the space. Once again these include bells, this time secured tightly to wooden beams against the wall so that, again, they are rendered silent. I wonder what this restraint of bells means? Traditionally the ringing of bells conveys a message of celebration, time, or warning. Perhaps the significance here is of the autonomy, or lack of it. In the industrial man-made landscape people are increasingly replaced by machines. Here the traces of mankind are like ghosts in the empty clothes that seemingly float across the fourth wall, and are arranged on and around the metal works in various ways…

A bed frame hangs from a hook against an area of wall rendered yellow, a row of filled burlap sacks containing coffee beans and grains stand on a metal base, and a pile of coal lays in front of two sheets of metal leaning against the wall. In this context of trace, the bed frame hints at domesticity while the commodities of grain and coal represent human endeavour, perhaps of earlier times and now discarded in the name of technological progress exemplified in the larger metal works. Alternatively perhaps the opposite is true: they are so elemental and essential that they are taken for granted and do not need to take centre stage. This spotlight is reserved for examples of technological progress and engineering prowess, which are fleeting and always temporary.

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