Tag Archives: Sacred

Open Call Artist Research: Kader Attia

I was reminded of Kader Attia’s work during the Liverpool Biennial 2012 (http://liverpoolbiennial.co.uk/download/LB2012_guide.pdf).  Attia grew up in France and Algeria finding himself between the religions of Christianity and Islam.  This upbringing led Attia to question ideas surrounding identity and the relationship between the East and West within his artistic practice (Edge of Arabia, 2010).

Following online research into his work, I came across the recognizable image of Ghost, 2007.  The installation is made from foil moulded into empty shells of praying Muslim women.  

Kader Attia, 2007, Ghosts, Image available from: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/kader_attia_ghosts_2.htm
Kader Attia, 2007, Ghosts, Image available from: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/kader_attia_ghosts_2.htm

Although the Hayward Open Call is a UK exhibition, I felt this would be a relevant piece because of the multi-cultural society the UK is becoming.  The piece instantly presents ideas surrounding religion and worship but also gives an eery and peaceful atmosphere.  Although the empty foil shells may give an impersonal feeling, the viewer could perhaps consider themselves within this piece – their mortality, vulnerability spirituality and place in society (The Saatchi Gallery, 2007).  I feel this piece would work well with my concept regarding hierotopic spaces as it gives a sense of contemplation and devotion, as well as reflecting on what one holds as sacred within a consumerist, ‘throwaway’ (with its use of foil) society.


Edge of Arabia (2010) Kader Attia (online) Available at: http://edgeofarabia.com/artists/kader-attia (accessed on 23/02/2014)

Saatchi Gallery (2007) Ghost(online) Available at: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/kader_attia_ghosts_2.htm (accessed on 23/02/2014)

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=


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: 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.

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/


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)

Art/Artist Ideas for Open Call

I started to think about the type of artwork I would like to see in my exhibition proposal for Hayward Touring.

As mentioned in my previous post, I wish to base my concept on the idea of the sacred and a contemporary take on hierotopy – the creation of sacred places and the importance of the object in making places sacred.

I decided to research into art that could be considered to have transcendent or sublime qualities.  I am also interested in finding pieces which refer to preservation – to correspond to the idea of the preservation of ancient relics and what one values as significant.  Furthermore, I would also like to include work which could evoke a subconscious or conscious recognition and familiarity within the audience – pieces akin to the profundity of ancient iconography.

My initial thoughts led me to Abstract Expressionism’s concerns with the sublime and spiritual.  I also thought about Kazimir Malevich’s, Black Square, 1915 and its display at 0.10: The Last Futurist Exhibition, where its placement in the corner gave a sense of the all seeing eye.

Kazimir Malevich’s, Black Square, 1915 and its display at 0.10: The Last Futurist Exhibition. Image available at Elders, Z. (2013) 0,10 Exhibition [online]. Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum. Available at: http://journal.stedelijk.nl/en
However, I feel that these movements and pieces would be too obvious with regard to the sacred or transcendence and would not present an original exhibition concept.

Therefore, I decided to research into more contemporary artists’ work who have been active over the last 10-20yrs.  Also, as I am a student at the start of my curatorial journey, it would be difficult to successfully gain access to these high-profile pieces.  Having said this, I feel that a curator is in a position where they can bring new, lesser known but more innovative art to an audience and in doing so, also show their support for emerging artists.


Elders, Z. (2013) 0,10 Exhibition [online]. Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum. Available at: http://journal.stedelijk.nl/en

Concept: Hierotopy

During my research online into sacred places, I came across the word “Hierotopy”.

Hierotopy is a concept relating to the creation of sacred spaces and concerns human creative activity, particularly in historical terms.  The term and concept was invented in 2001 by Alexei Lidov, a Russian art historian and Director of Research at the Institute for World Culture at the Lomonosov Moscow State University.

In Lidov’s 2006 paper Hierotopy: The Creation of Sacred Spaces as a form of Creativity and Subject of Cultural HistoryLidov explains the definition:

The term ‘hierotopy’ (ierotopia) consists of two Greek roots: hieros (sacred) and topos (place, space, notion) (Lidov, 2006, online)

He goes on to explain how hierotopy differs from hierophany:

hierophany [is the] direct manifestation of the sacred and hierotopy [is the] creation of the sacred space by human hands to commemorate a specific hierophany (Lidov, 2006, online)

Lidov discusses how man-made objects i.e. relics, idols and/or iconography, as well as rituals and prayer play an important role in the creation of a sacred place.

Although Lidov’s concept is in a historical and religious context, I decided this would be a perfect starting point for my proposal.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I liked the idea of having a touring sacred place which a wider audience could visit, as opposed to people traveling to a distance, unmovable sacred wonder.

I would not be focusing on religious ideas, as I feel people are perhaps becoming a little apathetic to religion and looking for something more.  This has come across during my dissertation research whilst looking into spirituality.  In the book Refiguring the Spiritual, Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy, 2012 author Mark Taylor a philosopher of religion highlights the change of attitude toward religion in today’s society, writing:

There has been a global resurgence of conservative religion throughout the world that all too often has resulted in growing intolerance and even violence.  This unexpected turn of events has led to an understandable reaction against religion in all of its manifestations.

But something else is also going on as well.  Although traditional forms of religious belief and practice have been subjected to trenchant criticisms, alternative forms of spirituality are thriving.  Many people who are committed to no organized religion willingly identify themselves as spiritual (Taylor, 2012, p13).

Therefore, I will be looking at contemporary art that has a spiritual resonance as well as blurring the lines between the ideas of the historical sacred place, man’s need to create and what one defines as sacred.


Lidov, A. (2006) Hierotopy: The Creation of Sacred Spaces as a form of Creativity and Subject of Cultural History [online]. San Francisco: Academia.edu 2014. Available from: https://www.academia.edu/2759215/Hierotopy._The_creation_of_sacred_spaces_as_a_form_of_creativity_and_subject_of_cultural_history

Taylor, M. (2012) Refiguring the Spiritual – Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy. New York: Columbia University Press


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

Experimentation/Contextualization: “lest [she] reach out [her] hand and take of the tree of life and live forever” – Genesis 3:22

After my last experimentation, I decided there were a few things I wished to change and incorporate in my next performance.

In the previous piece, there was a lack of ‘beginning’ and therefore felt that I could use the Yoni gesture I had developed in my next performance – to indicate the start and end of the ritual.  The use of this ‘symbolic’ gesture would mark a sense of respect for what I was about to do and had done and also demonstrate a reverence for the feminine and to show that I was blessing myself in the ritual and therefore wishing to embody the tree’s life-force.  Again, there is a sense of narcissism and elevating oneself, in taking something that does not belong to me – similar to the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden.  However, I am suggesting that I am taking back the immortality that was lost by taking from the tree – in a sense, it is a ‘profane (as opposed to divine) retribution’ of Eve.

I mentioned previously that I would be fully clothed in my performances because I felt it was unnecessary and perhaps too obvious to be naked.  Again, in line with the story of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve saw their nakedness after eating from the tree, became ashamed and covered themselves.  Therefore, I do not feel it necessary to my concept to be naked, as I not only have freedom of choice but do not wish to present my body as an object to be judged.

However, I did decide to be barefoot in my performance, not only because I felt my footwear was distracting but because I wanted to have a physical connection to nature as this is an important factor in the performance.

I wore black in my performance, simply because it is the colour of ‘mourning’ in the Western world and I was suggesting the loss of the tree’s immortality.

The result was as follows:

Click image to view film

After taking photographs and watching the footage back, I did feel a sense of guilt at damaging the tree for my own selfish desires.  Furthermore, this was emphasized more, when looking at the photographs of the damaged bark, that looked like barbaric wounds – similar to flesh wounds.  From this I could sense the life of the tree and a sense of pain.

039049056This further highlighted the religious and spiritual feeling that the performance had evoked within me.  After experiencing the guilt of taking something that was not mine to take, I decided that I would not carry out the performance again.

These feelings emphasized to me how damaging the empty quest for youth can be on one’s inner self and well being.  The aging process is inevitable and is impossible to reverse no matter how many products or how much surgery one has – these things are unimportant and only superficial.