Tag Archives: Landscape

Alan Smith – Visiting Lecturer 24/10/13

Alan Smith is the Creative Director of ACA (Allenheads Contemporary Arts) an old school hall in the Northeast of England.  The organisation is an epicenter of arts and cultural activities and exhibitions in the village and surrounding area and welcomes creatives practicing in all medias to become involved in the project including students, writers, established artists and musicians (ACA, 2013).  Smith believes it is crucial to have other artists and people around to “feed” (Smith, 2013)  into their work to produce an all-inclusive, innovative environment.

Allenhead with a population of approximately 200 residents is quite a different and difficult place to work compared to New York where Smith was based for several years.  When Smith arrived in Allenheads approximately twenty years ago, he felt that there was nothing happening there initially.  He started to paint landscapes without reason but felt like he had to do something and thought that’s what he should be doing.  However, he disliked the paintings and in frustration threw them outside.  Over a period of time the paintings started to deteriorate – breaking down and covered inn mould and dirt.  This process seemed to be an epiphany to Smith as to demonstrated that there were things going on around him and it opened his eyes.  He started to consider the landscape of Allenhead with a new outlook – exploring and considering the environment around him.  In comparison to New York City the landscape was quite empty and open – almost “frightening” to a point (Smith, 2013).  This and changeable weather – particularly the extreme winters changed Smith’s perspective.

Allenhead, Image taken from: http://www.acart.org.uk/page5.html
Allenhead, Image taken from: http://www.acart.org.uk/page5.html

With this in mind, through ACA (developed 18yrs ago) Smith uses Allenhead’s environment as a source of education.  He organises “silent trips” for students whereby he asks them to leave behind any recording devices such as notepads, mobile phones and cameras and use only themselves as the “recording system” while walking around Allenhead’s countryside (Smith, 2013).  Following these trips, the group discusses what each of them has taken from it and an open and varied discussion takes place.

Another opportunity ACA gives to students is the possibility of gaining a placement at the ACAshop.  The site used to be the village shop and post office 5yrs previously.  As a well-established building that was already a central hub for the community, it created a new arts environment which encouraged residents to get involved with projects, attend exhibitions/workshops and join in creative discussions.

To further involve the community with ACA, artist Andrew Wilson asked residents to bring an item of importance to them to be displayed in the ACAshop as a way of making the community feel a sense of ownership in the project.  He also asked everyone for their top 10 songs which was also played during the exhibition.

Although ACA didn’t initially have a sufficient catchment for Arts Council funding, Smith and his peers grew the organisation by firstly inviting people they knew to exhibit.  Through word of mouth, more people got involved, audience numbers grew and people began to “sit up and notice” (Smith, 2013).

The organisation has become part of the community by building mutual respect and assisting wherever possible (i.e. the school hall was used for the village show when the village hall was unsuitable due to damaged flooring).

During Smith’s lecture it is clear he is interested in the future and the idea of not fully knowing or understanding everything he sees.  However, he is also interested in the past and notes that “things may change but we’re still doing the same thing…it’s just evolved technology” (Smith, 2013).  With this in mind one of ACA’s projects This is the Future focuses on these ideas.  During this project artists including David Lisser were invited to produce work that demonstrated their ideas about what the future held.  Lisser considered whether the village of Allenhead would be seen as the “remote” village it once was, cut off from technology and self-reliant (ACA, 2013).  In terms of being self-reliant, Lisser produced a food-type with what some may think of as an unusual ingredient – namely midges.  Midges are quite prevalent in the wild open environment of Allenhead and by using them as an ingredient to produce burgers, Lisser was utilizing them as a food-group – even developing a “Midgecatcher’s House” which was also on display.

David Lisser, Midge Burger, image available from: http://www.acart.org.uk/davidlisser.html
David Lisser, Midge Burger, image available from: http://www.acart.org.uk/davidlisser.html
David Lisser, Midgecatcher's House. Image available from: http://www.acart.org.uk/davidlisser.html
David Lisser, Midgecatcher’s House. Image available from: http://www.acart.org.uk/davidlisser.html

Another artist involved with ACA was Arturas Raila in 2007.  The work which included inviting Lithuanian pagans to Allenhead to carry out a pagan ritual of mapping out “geo-energy flows” (Hodnett, 2007) caused some controversy with the residents.  However, Smith was interested in the spirituality and positive and negative energies the pagans believed in.

With regard to spirituality, Smith is also interested in the beliefs of the Zen Buddhist monks.  Whereas scientists continually look to the future, the monks consider everything around them and believe that “it is equally important to look both ways” (Smith, 2013).

Smith also took part in the Migrating Arts Academy where he and artist Rosalind McLachlan explored the theme “5% as far as the eye can see” in 2013 (Migaa.eu, 2013). This is based on the theory that the human is only capable of seeing 5%, whereas 27% is dark matter and 68% is dark energy (Smith, 2013).  Smith notes that he “enjoys” not understanding everything that he is seeing, however just because he can’t see something, does not mean it does not exist.

On this note Smith ended with the question:

Can creativity and imagination help us make sense of the inexplicable?

 

References:

Acart.org.uk, (2014). Lisser. [online] Available at: http://www.acart.org.uk/davidlisser.html [Accessed 30 Apr. 2014]

Hodnett, M. (2007). News & Star | Pagan ceremony launches art show. [online] Newsandstar.co.uk. Available at: http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/pagan-ceremony-launches-art-show-1.184124?referrerPath=home/2.1962 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2014].

Migaa.eu, (2013). Migrating Art Academies » Blog Archive » Review: 5% as far as the eye can see. [online] Available at: http://www.migaa.eu/review-5-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see/ [Accessed 30 Apr. 2014].

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Open Call Artist Research: Ula Dajerling

In 2013, I visited Poland born, London based artist Ula Dajerling‘s exhibition Dark Materialism at Plymouth Arts Centre.  I was intrigued with her pieces which included ideas of space,  time and our connection to the environment whether it’s man-made or natural.

The first piece I came across was two objects which looked like pieces of coal like structures called Dark Materialism, 2012 presented on a white plinth.  The plinth gave the objects a prominence, alluding to ideas of a relic of some importance.  The larger of the two objects was a piece of copper slag which had been thrown back into the landscape  after smelting metal from the earth.  Although Dajerling initially thought the object was a natural material, it was actually a by-product of the “engineered landscape”.  The smaller object was made by pouring melted wax into the larger object to create a piece which represented the void.  These pieces suggest ideas of how society connects with, effects and fills it’s environment (Plymouth Arts Centre, 2013)

Ula Dajerling, 2012, Dark Materialism, Image available at: http://www.plymouthartscentre.org/gallery/2013/ula-dajerling-dark-materialism.html?galItem=386&galAlbum=Dark+Materialism%3B+Ula+Dajerling&galTag=
Ula Dajerling, 2012, Dark Materialism, Image available at: http://www.plymouthartscentre.org/gallery/2013/ula-dajerling-dark-materialism.html?galItem=386&galAlbum=Dark+Materialism%3B+Ula+Dajerling&galTag=

The second work I am interested in is Victory Over the Sun, 2012.  The piece is a swinging rock pendulum with a light directly beneath.  The rotation of the rock and shadow created on the ceiling is reminder of time passing by.  I particularly like this piece because there is something very hypnotizing and historical about the circular movement.  In terms of a historical nature, it suggested to me the fact of the continuous earth rotation for millions of years and life’s necessity for this movement – which is something that could be deemed as sacred (Ibid).

Ula Dajerling, 2012, Victory over the sun, Image available at: http://www.plymouthartscentre.org/gallery/2013/ula-dajerling-dark-materialism.html?galItem=402&galAlbum=Dark+Materialism%3B+Ula+Dajerling&galTag=
Ula Dajerling, 2012, Victory over the sun, Image available at: http://www.plymouthartscentre.org/gallery/2013/ula-dajerling-dark-materialism.html?galItem=402&galAlbum=Dark+Materialism%3B+Ula+Dajerling&galTag=

References:

Plymouth Arts Centre (2013) Ula Dajerling, Dark Materialism. Plymouth: Plymouth Arts Centre. Available at: http://www.plymouthartscentre.org/art/archive1/2013/ula-dajerling,-dark-materialism.html (accessed on 22/02/2014)

Open Call Artist Research: Naoko Ito

During my artist research into landscape, preservation and nostalgia I came across Tokyo born, New York based artist Naoko Ito and her pieces which were included in an exhibition at CAM Raleigh, New York in 2011 called Urban Nature.  In this work Ito explored the themes of how nature is presented in urban areas, how a society with limited access to the wild view nature and how they find ways of preserving or containing it within an urban environment.

In some of the works Ito has stacked up glass jars which contain and “preserve (…) segmented tree branches” on a concrete floor – juxtaposing manmade and natural objects.

Naoko Ito, 2009, Ubiquitous, Image available at: http://camraleigh.org/exhibitions/2011ito/itoubiquitous_w2-2/
Naoko Ito, 2009, Ubiquitous, Image available at: http://camraleigh.org/exhibitions/2011ito/itoubiquitous_w2-2/

In KV265, 2009 a video of green imagery and the sound of Ito playing Mozart’s twelve variations of Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman on the piano, is projected behind the stacked glass jarred piece Plight.

Naoko Ito, Plight, 2011 & KV265, 2009, Image available at: http://camraleigh.org/exhibitions/2011ito/itoplight_w2/
Naoko Ito, Plight, 2011 &
KV265, 2009, Image available at: http://camraleigh.org/exhibitions/2011ito/itoplight_w2/

The melody could perhaps seem familiar to the viewer as it sounds like childhood nursery rhymes and heightens a sense of “nostalgia” (CAM Raleigh, 2011).  The Gallery states that:

Ito considers this work to be a “treatment for winter depression;” filled with lovely scenes of green projected through jars, their final images distorted and dreamlike (…)  the dialogue between [both] works speak of summer and winter, growth and decline, joy and sadness (Ibid).

I felt really drawn to these pieces, particularly as the Hayward Curatorial Open Call Exhibition is touring to quite urban environments including Newcastle and Liverpool.  The idea of the viewer re-considering their landscape and presenting a sense of nostalgia as well as preservation appealed to me and my concept.  Similarly to Abigail Reynolds, the pieces create a sense of importance to society’s environment – something that one may take for granted.

Reference:

CAM Raleigh (2011) Naoko Ito: Urban Nature (online) New York: CAM Raleigh. Available at: http://camraleigh.org/exhibitions/2011ito/ (accessed on 21/02/2014)

Open Call Artist Research: Abigail Reynolds

During our second year studies, artist Abigail Reynolds was a visiting lecturer in 2013.  Reynolds is a London based artist who uses old books and images in her collage and sculptural pieces.  Many of the images that she re-uses to create new work, are of the British landscape at different periods in history.  By re-presenting these images she seems to create a dialogue and reconnect the audience to how they perceive their visual culture (Artsy, 2014).

In this respect, I feel that her work would be fitting with my idea with regard to sacred places following the archeologist and historian Neil Oliver’s comments (in the BBC series Sacred Wonders of Britain, 2013) of how our ancestors were concerned with how they could connect with the landscape around them.

I am particularly interested with her work for The British Countryside in Britain, 2011 exhibition at Seventeen Gallery, London.   In the exhibition Reynolds uses glass, books and images of historical moments and cultural landscapes of Britain including nature and urban environments to create assemblages.  The gallery notes that the books format and printing also hold a “cultural meaning and belonging” (Seventeen Gallery, 2011).  Furthermore, the pieces also focus on  “idealized or nostalgic notions of Britain” which I feel would be relevant to the idea of what society views as sacred or of value (Ibid).

The two pieces from this exhibition which I am interested in for the open call would be Magic Mountain, 2011 and Black Rock, 2011.  I feel that the composition of the glass over parts of the images and wall space draw attention to the pictures and seems to elevate their importance to the viewer.  There is also something of a shrine-like quality to the work.

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Abigail Reynolds 2011, Magic Mountain. Image available at: http://www.seventeengallery.com/exhibitions/abigail-reynolds-the-british-countryside-in-pictures/
Abigail Reynolds, 2011, Black Rock, Image available at: http://www.seventeengallery.com/exhibitions/abigail-reynolds-the-british-countryside-in-pictures/
Abigail Reynolds, 2011, Black Rock, Image available at: http://www.seventeengallery.com/exhibitions/abigail-reynolds-the-british-countryside-in-pictures/

References:

Artsy (2014) About Abigail Reynolds (online) Available at: https://artsy.net/artist/abigail-reynolds (accessed on 18/02/2014)

BBC2 (30/12/13) Sacred Wonders of Britain, Episode 1.

Seventeen Gallery (2011) Abigail Reynolds, The British Countryside in Pictures (online) London: Seventeen Gallery. Available at: http://www.seventeengallery.com/exhibitions/abigail-reynolds-the-british-countryside-in-pictures/ (accessed on 18/02/2014)

Open Call Ideas: Sacred Spaces

Following a class discussion led my tutor regarding our initial search for suitable curatorial open calls, I decided that I would respond to the Hayward Touring Curatorial Open Call 2014.  Although the deadline for submissions had already closed, I felt this would be a good example to develop an idea, with a view to submitting proposals in future years.

This call is open to anyone who has an interesting and imaginative idea to propose for an exhibition and therefore not limited to just professional curators.  However, it does state on the guidelines that “Applicants must be at least one year out of college or equivalent”.  After consulting with my tutor Edith Doove, it was confirmed that I could go ahead with this proposal for my assignment because it was a “dead call” and therefore I would not be officially applying during my final year of studies anyway.

The Hayward Touring Curatorial Open takes place across the UK, touring to Liverpool’s Bluecoat Gallery, Newcastle’s BALTIC, Norwich University of Arts Gallery and another yet to be disclosed venue.

I feel this is an excellent opportunity for artists to showcase their work in several gallery spaces and cities around the country.  Furthermore, the touring element of the exhibition allows for a wider audience to view the work.

Following my decision to create a proposal for the Hayward Touring Curatorial Open, I considered what my concept could be as the open call specified no set theme.

During my CURA302 project when I had looked into ritual and spirituality, I had watched the BBC series Sacred Wonders of Britain, 2013 presented by Archeologist and historian Neil Oliver.

In the first episode looked at Paleolithic  and Neolithic sacred grounds in Britain.

Oliver discusses how the rituals and beliefs of our ancestors suggest that they were concerned with how the world worked around them and how they discovered their place within it, by connecting to the landscape around them.  Throughout the program Oliver gives several examples of sacred grounds including:

  • Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire – where engravings of animals have been etched into the rock by paleolithic hunter gatherers, suggesting magical, spiritual or religious activities;
  • Ancient Neolithic burial tombs in the south of England and Scottish Borders show how the people began to landscape Britain with monuments – the large upturned stones may suggest the dead spirits bodies or act as reminders of the founding generations of the area – elevating them to the position of deities;
  • Flint mines of Grimes Graves, Norfolk – suggesting that the neolithic people may have carried out rites of passage and rebirth initiations;
  • The stone circle and henge of Avebury, Wiltshire – seemingly ceremonial areas;
  • Orkney’s monuments.

Part of the stone circle at Avebury.  Image available from: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/avebury/history-and-research/

Part of the stone circle at Avebury. Image available from: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/avebury/history-and-research/

Oliver highlights how these areas have become pilgrimages – even for people today who travel for many reasons to see the sacred places across Britain.

While walking through the upturned parallel sarsen stones of Avebury ,Oliver questions Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archeologist as to what present day man can gain from  these places.  Snashall responds by highlighting that any form of architecture was very new in neolithic times.  The modern day visitor can sense how the physicality of the stones affects how they see, hear and feel about how the ancient people would have felt while putting these stones up – the effort involved and the journey paved out by the stones (BBC2 (30/12/13) Sacred Wonders of Britain, Episode 1)

 With this in mind, I started to think about proposing an exhibition based around the idea of sacred grounds or objects.  As mentioned above, people from across the world can travel miles to visit sacred places for many reasons including spiritual, religious or meditative experiences.
I decided that as the open call was for a touring exhibition, it would be an interesting prospect to create a touring “sacred” experience i.e. instead of people traveling to a sacred place, the sacred place would come to the people.
I do not wish to create a religious experience and base the exhibition on religious iconography etc.  Rather, I would wish to include objects which I would describe as contemporary art “relics”.  These would be artworks which suggest spiritual or awe-inspiring thoughts and feelings within the viewer – or at least pieces that have had some resonance or profundity for myself.
References:
BBC2 (30/12/13) Sacred Wonders of Britain, Episode 1.