Week 6: Sensory Objects Heritage Commission

In the University of Reading, as part of Week 6, we do not have lectures, but instead have events that we sign up, and turn up to throughout the week. These events vary from learning new techniques such as casting concrete or using Photoshop, to taking part in events such as London museums trips and commission work.

Today was the first of my events for Week 6 (you shall see the rest appear later on the main page of the blog and also on the ‘Week 6’ page!) and I worked with several other students and Access All Areas to come up with ideas for a Sensory Objects Heritage Commission.

But why did I do this? Well a very close family member of mine is severely autistic, and there have been talks of creating a sensory room for him to spend some ‘me’ time in away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. There have also been a couple of other close family members who were disabled, and so this project, and the past history of how people like this affected me emotionally quite a bit. I wanted to help spread the awareness of this treatment, how we have changed and how we have not, from 30 years ago.

At the beginning of the session we had a few bits of information as well as watch some videos (links are though out the post). Our brief was;

Sensory Artist Brief

Access All Areas is a theatre company working with people with learning disabilities. Our Performance Company is currently working on Madhouse Re:Exit; an immersive reclaiming of old long stay hospitals. 5 artists will curate one room each, supported by Barbican and Shoreditch Town Hall residencies. The message: we are not going back.

See more about the project here:

http://www.accessallareastheatre.org/

Madhouse My House? is the extensive creative learning and engagement component of the larger Madhouse project. It seeks to ask, what was institutionalisation like in 20th century long stay hospitals? It aims to provoke participants to assess what confinement and institutionalisation looks like currently.

We have partnered with RIX Research and Media to receive training in multimedia advocacy and developed our own project wiki website.

We have partnered with the Open University and received training from Social Sophistry of Learning Disability (SHLD) academics in oral history technique and been on site visits to Harperbury Hospital and London Metropolitan Archives.

Performative, digital responses have been created working with different artists. These film and sound pieces will be seen uploaded onto our wiki.

Hackney Museum Exhibition:

From February to April 2017 we will exhibit on a small but prominent space in Hackney Museum. Expected visitor numbers are 8,000.

We will use the stories of former patients Mabel Cooper and Harvey Waterman and capture their experience of inside St Lawrence’s hospital.

We aim to create an accessible exhibition drawing together the digital creative responses, historical information and sensory exploration of items.

Further useful information:
http://www.accessallareastheatre.org/madhouse/

Finding Mabel Cooper’s Voice – film made by Access All Areas
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZAgOs4Ngn4

Rix wiki pages
https://www.rixwiki.org/

Artist brief:

Sensory artist required to create 4 or 5 sensory objects to enhance the learning of life inside St Lawrence’s hospital from 1950’s. We are very open to objects taking on any form.

Artists may wish to incorporate existing digital footage created throughout the project, use trigger technology, or create sensory boxes. We would require some of the objects to be installed within the exhibition and can live without supervision.

Themes include:

Overcrowding/no privacy
Labelling and language
Punishment
Medication
Leisure
Work
Relationships

The above list is a guide and we do not expect all themes to be covered.

Our core group of researchers have been working on the project for a year. We can schedule 2 – 3 consultation meetings with the group to feed into the picking of themes and the generation of ideas.

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Source: handout received

Learning about the stories of those such as Mabel and Harvey was quite shocking. What made it even more so was that this wasn’t that far back in history. Mabel did not know her story because she was taken away from her mother at a young age (her mother was a beggar on the streets and it was not acceptable to have a baby this way). She went through several institutions until one day she had a test to determine how bad her disability was. This test changed her life. Mabel was sent to St. Lawrence’s hospital just as a girl. She spent most of her life in this place where you would be sharing clothes, sharing toothbrushes, and gaining no personal or private moments to yourself. Luckily, St. Lawrence’s closed down and Mabel was sent into the ‘Caring in the Community’ program. She had to learn how to live again. There was no knowing how money worked, no clue about how to use a bus or a train. She literally had to start again. Mabel also campaigned for all institutions such as St Lawrence’s to be shut down (as many human rights were (as I very strongly believe) violated). She helped those who came out of the institutions to know their basic rights as a human, and helped people to begin their lives again.

Mabel’s medical record can show you just how ‘stereotypical’ the comments were about the patients. This is also reflected in the Mental Deficiency Act 1913:

MENTAL DEFICIENCY ACT 1913 (Section 1) as amended by Section 1 of the MENTAL DEFICIENCY ACT 1927, and Section 11 of the EDUCATION (Miscellaneous Provisions) ACT, 1948.

1.-(1) The following sections shall be substituted for section one of the Metal Deficiency Act, 1913 (in this Act referred to as “the principle Act”)-

“1-(1) The following classes of persons who are mentally defective shall be
deemed to be defectives within the meaning of this Act:-

“(a) Idiots, that is to say, persons in whose care there exists mental
defectiveness of such a degree that they are unable to guard themselves
against common physical dangers;

“(b) Imbeciles, that is to say, persons in whose case there exists mental
defectiveness which, though not amounting to idiocy, is yet so pronounced
that they are incapable of managing themselves or their affairs or, in the
case of children, of being taught to do so;

“(c) Feeble-minded persons, that is to say, persons in whose case there exists
mental defectiveness which, though not amounting to imbecility, is yet so
pronounced that they require care, supervision and control for their own
protection or for the protection of others or, in the case of children, involves
disability of mind of such a nature and extent as to make them for the
purposes of section fifty-seven of the Education Act, 1944, incapable of
receiving education at school.

“(d) Moral defectives, that is to say, persons in whose case there exists mental
defectiveness coupled with strongly vicious or criminal propensities and
who require care, supervision and control for the protection of others.

“(2) For the purposes of this section, ‘mental defectiveness’ means a condition f arrested or incomplete development of mind existing before the age of eighteen years, whether arising from inherent causes or induced by disease or injury.”

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Source: handout received

This rather horrible discovery lead us onto other stories such as that of Henry Waterman’s, and the gentleman who could wheel himself around in a wheelchair, but was not authorised to do so, taking away his freedom.

Silent Minority 1981 is a documentary we partially watched (as the first part is set in St. Lawrence’s hospital). From this documentary, I found out that in the 80’s, the village idiot was part of village life and was very much accepted, but the cities could not cope. This is why places like St. Lawrence’s Hospital were built, and also why they filled up very quickly with the ‘mentally handicapped’. There was also a routine in the hospital but each day is the same as the last and life often just drifts by for the patients. Rob Saunders, for example, was admitted when he was just fie years old, and in 1981, he had spent 36 years in the hospital. The patients just watch each other get old. They are also separated from each other as there was a fear that there would be babies made if males and females were allowed to mix. The beds were also crammed together in order to get as many beds into a small space as possible. From a simple video, I personally felt that their basic human rights were breached.

The people who we were working with were able to meet a group of young disabled people who are part of My House, Mad House. They, themselves, curated a performance showing the conditions of St Lawrence’s hospital. This included picking out the same clothes that someone else previously had worn, sharing toothbrushes, and eventually collapsing (and perhaps even dying) in the confines of the hospital itself. The young people also came up with a list of what they think could be included in the exhibition or the exhibition space;

My House, Mad House – exhibition planning

Personal objects:
Paul’s power ranger light
Lee’s notebook
Zara’s poems
Lee’s bandana
Harvey’s snow globe
Xxx blue badge
Terry’s mum

History and Information
Harvey’s notes about St Lawrences
History, dates and timeline
Harvey’s photos of St Lawrences

Films and audio
Harvey’s interview
Music video
Paul’s film

Sensory objects
LIGHT
Noises: rattling keys, alarm bells, soundscape, footsteps
Smells: clinical, cleaning products, food

Suitcase Stories:
Support groups and networks
Representing wider and shared experiences
Achievements
Significant people and events
Overcoming barriers
Objects that express a universal truth or experience

Harvey’s Suitcase:
Food – tapioca, cocoa
Clothes (not your own, you wear what you’re given)
Medicine ‘I remember the round, brown tablets’
Ward pass
Mabel’s medical notes

Aim of the exhibition:

  • To challenge people, but to be sensitive
  • To educate young people in mainstream schools about people with disabilities so they learn, know and respect us
  • For carers/teachers/doctors/dentists to see the exhibition and learn about us and improve their practice
  • For mainstream people to learn

What do we want visitors to see/do/learn?

  • History of people with disabilities
  • How people have been treated
  • Knowing your roots
  • Language and labelling
  • Bullying
  • Punishment, torture, medicine and treatment
  • Leisure – then and now
  • Gender separation in hospitals
  • Relationships – staff and patient, personal/loving/family/private
  • Schools

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Source: handouts given

All of the information gathered, allowed us to begin planning our ideas for the exhibition in a rather small space.

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Source: handout given

This space is admittedly tiny, however after a discussion with the people around me, I quickly began to jot down ideas on a mind-map of all the things I could think that we could do using the space. I do have to say that it is a bit of a jumbled mess, but my main idea was that of a sensory room. This is not only because it is a major part of some lives of those who are disabled, for example my autistic family member, but it will also get general members of the public to be involved in the piece, and to actively learn information about what it has like at institutions such as St Lawrence’s.

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I hope to help the organisers of this event to complete the task that has been given to them in the most appropriate way for the members of the public to understand the situation of disabled people now and 30 years ago.

 

Janette Parris

And we are back again with the Wednesday artist talks. This week, I have to admit, was quite relaxing, as I didn’t have to speed walk half way across campus in order to get in the room! Today we had a talk from Janette Parris, who was described to us in our emails as;

a contemporary artist who uses the everyday as the basis for much of her work. She works across different media including: drawing, animation, and performance (musical and theatre). She creates strongly narrative work, often in the form of comic strips to capture the humorous essence of life, while reflecting a dry and self-effacing look at the world.

Source: weekly art emails, quoted from artreview.com

She was also described as;

‘The London-born, Goldsmiths-trained ex-painter has been transforming galleries into comfortable interiors where visitors can relax and watch her fun-sized soap operas. Each of these 5 to 10 minute episodes pairs an actor with a doll in a one-way conversation taken from their secret affair, divorce or first date. Both funny and ridiculous they also imply a ‘me’ society where self-indulgence has spoiled communication. ‘Bite Yer Tongue’ is a hand-written record of incidents in which the artist’s polite, tactful replies to disappointments and humiliations contrast with the cutting remarks she thinks but doesn’t say. Each tale of bottled-up anger ends with junk food eaten to make up for missed satisfaction. Parris also draws cartoons of ‘Plank’, a piece of wood in search of a personality. ‘Plank’ turns up as a misfit in various everyday scenes and could describe the feeling of being an outsider.This timely storyteller with her family of dysfunctional characters will amuse and provoke wherever she shows’.

Source: weekly art emails, quoted from peckhamplatform.com

Janette described herself to us as a multidisciplinary visual artists who works in multiple medium including cartoon, film and comics. She described some of her themes as those of learning, and the perception of success and failure. As we saw throughout the talk, her artwork often took the form of narrative in the form of comic strips. Plank was one of these. She uses a drawing tablet (one of those that plugs into the computer) and uses Illustrator and other software in order to create her animations.

Bite Yer Tongue is not a form of comic strip, and yet is still a form of Janette’s narrative. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any examples online of these really quite funny texts, but if I do find any in the future, I will be sure to let you know! The series of pieces that make up Bite Yer Tongue also looked at topics that aren’t often talked about.These not only were interesting to read, but also took the reader on a meaningful journey, before bringing them back down to earth by mentioning food, like a tub of Häagen-Dazs (admittedly making it even more comical).

Janette looked at even more mediums and adventured her way into sitcom. She mentioned that she wanted to make something longer and with more depth and detail to it. This led to the invention of Fred’s – a very simplistic animation with muffled speech and plenty of background noise to mimic the café. Some of the things that the characters talked about in the small clip that we were able to see included;

  • ‘… made gatecrashing an art form…’
  • ‘… art on display is rubbish…’
  • Talks about art like it is the weather – very casually and without much thought. It is just a conversation starter and a space filler.
  • The stereotypical art collector art art dealer looks and mistaking artists for interior designers (move the furniture so it is messy in order to make art).

These made me think about what people outside the art community thought about art and how also they viewed it, especially art movements such as confessional art and contemporary art. However, before I could think too deeply into this, we were whisked into the world of musicals.

Janette decided to create a musical. If You Love Me. (As soon as I heard this title, I have to admit that I immediately thought of Beyoncé’s song ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’.) This is more of a simple piecing together of a musical as she only wrote the narrative, but used popular songs to break it up. The story-line is about six graduates with a love triangle in the middle. Janette, I am happy to say, did go on to write her own songs for her later musicals.

What came next was Arch Comic. This was developed at the end of a Cocheme Fellowship based in Byam Shaw School of Art. Janette had this as the beginning of ‘socially engaged’ comics involving interviewing the local people. The inspiration was drawn from Harvey Peaker in American Splinter who wrote comics and got famous American artists to do the drawing for him. Janette also mentioned that for her it is a cross between Hello magazine and the Daily Mash (online).

‘1940’s high birth rate due to nothing on TV’

She deliberately used simplified drawing, for reasons that I cannot remember. For me, the simplified drawings allows the readers attention to drift towards the heading and not to get distracted from the information at hand. The headlines were also often one-liners with minimal text used on the rest of the page. This again, would help attention and decrease distraction.

Based on the Arch Comics, Janette started an online comic in which she asked all her arty friends to help. It was £50 to sponsor an edition, for a portrait and you would be on the front cover (please don’t quote me on that as the information is from memory. Please see the website for details). These, like the physical copies, were often comical but raise very important points. I managed to get a hard copy of an online edition (see photos at the end of the post) which is always very exciting, especially as it is the 2014 exclusive edition.

After this, Janette returned to animated sitcom while specifically looking at the reference of failure, aptly named Talent. Within this, there is the direct references to comedy, sitcom and stand-up comedy. This was shown in Rude Britannia in the Tate.

As a small side note, video ringtones were made by Janette herself. She mentioned that rather than continually use songs, she decided to learn to play the guitar, to allow to make up more of her own songs. The very first one was a rendition of Wonderwall by Oasis, however this project allowed her to lead on to the next one.

Songs In The Key Of Real Life. These were live performance as part of The Art Party Conference 2013 in Scarborough. Here, the guitar was played and she wrote original protest songs and performed live herself. These songs as well were very site specific, with one that was written about location of Deptford X Festival 2014. Many people, rather funnily, thought that the band were religious and so clearly did not listen to the lyrics.

Janette was also using site specific artworks and songs in the Museums at Night exhibition 2014. This was a live performance musical using artefacts in the museum for the songs content. It was interesting in the way that they did the exhibition because instead of the artefacts, you were faced with an artists interpretation of the artefact.

Lastly, Broadway Stories is another site specific artwork, this time in the form of an animation. Janette curated the show but also made this animation about the thoughts (of the exhibition) from the local people on the nearly high street.

Overall, Janette Parris is a very interesting character with lots to say and many mediums of artwork to say it in.

Source: a printed version  of the exclusive edition September 2014 (which is now mine)

Additional sources: Vimeotrucearts.org

Canvas Making!

So today, I got the joys of making my very own canvas stretcher with the dimensions of 50 x 70 cm! This was actually easier than I thought it would be, but at the same time, don’t mess it up! Or you could cost yourself a piece of wood… We had to cut one piece by hand so then we had the experience, but luckily we moved on to the electric table wood saw (I wasn’t sure which name to give it if I am honest). This made the process much quicker, until the staple gun failed on us several times. But we made it! Two canvases ready to go.


Source: own photo of the canvases Jasmine (smaller in front) and I (bigger at back) made on Tuesday!

Joseph Kosuth

Conceptual

Please prepare yourself…

So for every piece of conceptual artwork (for every idea), the artist basically can go and make that, or they don’t have to. it is literally as simple as that.

What isn’t simple is the question; What is a chair? This would make more sense if you look at the work of Joseph Kosuth in 1965.

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Source: Joseph Kosuth, Chair, 1965

This can lead to a whole essay from me about which one is the chair, but don’t worry, if I do that not only will I warn you, but I will save it for another post, just so you can skip through it if you wish! But seriously, which chair is the real chair or the most accurate description for a chair? The physical one, the photo or the definition. A lot of people do not choose the photograph as it is very static and never changes. You cannot use it either, however chairs are not supposed to change and warp, just like a photograph. On the other hand, you have the real chair. This can be used, walked around and physically touched. For both the photo and the physical chair, this is one type of chair. Think about all the different types of chairs you’ve seen, used, had in your lifetime. Not all chairs look like this do they? And then lastly there’s the definition. And yet again, do all chairs fit into this definition? I’m sat on one of those office chairs as I type this and I’m pretty sure that is not under the standard definition of the chair. So my question to you is the same question that Kosuth asks his viewers; which is the chair?

 

Conceptual Artwork: Writing an Artwork

I’ll just throw you straight into the deep end; What does conceptual art mean? I know it as an artwork with an idea, or a deeper meaning behind the painting. This is clearly not a traditional category as the idea is the finished piece. Anything created from this idea, such as a sculpture or a painting, is classified as a piece of documentation or an artifact.

An incredibly well known conceptual artist that I have looked at recently is Tracey Emin.

Language and words is the main medium. I don’t think I could make that more clear even if I wanted to.

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Source: Joseph Beuys, Capri Battery, 1985

Another famous artist and artwork is that of Marcel Duchamp and his Fountain. This was quite the revelation in 1917, when Duchamp turned up to an Independent Artists show with a urinal (nowadays, this is probably one of the most famous urinals). All of this fuss, as he was rejected first time round, was all to showcase the idea that anything can be art. This is especially true when artwork is in galleries, as even the smallest thing will be looked at as if it is a piece of artwork when it is placed into a gallery. The piece was also put under a fake name of R.Mutt, and when you translate this into French, you get the rather comical meaning of ‘ready made’.

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Source: Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917

Duchamp sort of started this revelation in the fact that anything could be art. This challenged a lot of work, and a lot of artists themselves in the sense of would they still be classified as the professionals? The revelation, however, started off artists such as Robert Rauschenberg to make their conceptual artwork.

Rauschenberg was asked to create a portrait of Iris Clert, the owner of the Iris Clert Gallery in France. The reply for this, was to simply send a telegram telling the viewer of the telegram that this was a portrait of Iris Clert.

This I find a little frustrating as when you go to a gallery, you do not wish to see words, but rather a painting as you wish to see the artists interpretation of the person of whom they are painting. And yet, at the same time, this is the interpretation of Rauschenberg. This conceptual artwork also interacts the viewer in the sense of that they have to imagine the piece, much like all conceptual artwork gets you to do.

WARMENHOVEN & VENDERBOS Blog article

Source: Robert Rauschenberg, Iris Clert

Sol Lewitt made a very valid point in that:

The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.

Sol Lewitt himself made instructions which he would send off to galleries and they would create his artworks for him. This for me, raises the question of who is the artist if one person had the idea but another made it. And although some of Lewitt’s pieces are understandably ‘easy’ to reproduce from instructions (as long as the instructions were written in a clear and coherent manner), this question about who is the artist still sits at the back of my mind. One of the better known reproductions of his instructions is the Untitled from Squares With a Different Line Direction In Each Half Square, 1971. 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Source: Sol Lewitt, Untitled from Squares With a Different Line Direction in Each Half Square, 1971

He also wrote Paragraphs on Conceptual Art in Artforum 1967. These are several mechanical, philosophical and also contradictory sentences that make up almost the rules of how he thinks conceptual art should be made;

  • Conceptual art is only as good as the idea it is conveying.
  • Ideas in art are not illustrations of philosophical concepts.
  • If this art uses math or philosophy, it is only very simple arithmetic or ideas. The simpler the better. Words and numbers can be materials just like 2D and 3D ones.
  • The idea is like a machine that makes art, which doesn’t rely on skill.
  • The art should be mentally interesting, and to do so needs to get rid of extraneous emotion.. This does not make it boring unless you are in the habit of expecting an emotional kick.
  • Since the idea is the important thing, so you need to get rid of distracting features and irregularities. Make the units as simple as possible, make intervals regular so that the irregularities stand out.
  • Avoid subjective judgments as these will only introduce arbitrary considerations of taste that have nothing to do with the artwork.
  • New materials are risky, because they might distract you from the lazy thinking in the work: they are not new ideas.
  • This art is not rational, but it follows irrational concepts to their logical conclusion, not interfering with the changes of heart midway through execution.
  • Conceptual art is the opposite of perceptual art, because it is totally planned, not made and then perceived, this way it doesn’t have to look well: it just needs to be made with commitment and not compromised by decisions and judgments of taste.

Conceptual art has lead on to many more art movements, such as that of land art and body art that Robert Smithson, Richard Long and Ana Mendieta create.

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Source: Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970

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Source: Richard Long Land Art

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Source: Ana Mendieta Body and Land Art

In the 1960’s, due to the conceptual artwork helping other movements, people started to reject the traditional methods of art. These included painting and drawing. Lucy Lippard said it was;

The dematerialization of the art object.

This is seen in a lot of Giuseppe Penone and Tony Cragg’s work where they use materials that are often overlooked, the materials that you find in and around homes and the materials that are not often engaged with by more ‘traditional’ artists.

Ursula Meyer challenged the concept of conceptual art. She says that artists are becoming anti-capitalist and art is no longer a commodity (1915 – 2003);

The shift from the object to concept denotes disdain for the notion of commodities – the sacred cow of this culture. Conceptual artists propose a professional commitment that restores art to artists, rather than to the “money vendors”.

Starting a little fight between artists and critics, Lippard fought back at this statement by saying that even though they are attempting to defy that they are commodities, the artworks that they create are still susceptible to becoming commodities (1973);

Art and artist in capitalist society remain luxuries, and conceptual art has proved susceptible to commercial exploitation just like other forms of art, with dealers selling the documentation of conceptual works to collectors and museums.

Robert Barry quickly diverted from this and instead of continuing this fight, just created his own conceptual artwork. He created his Telepathic Piece in 1969 in which he communicated his artwork the viewers in a rather unique way.

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Source: Robert Barry, Telepathic Piece, 1969

This does raise the rather large question of how to experience things without language or image. I considered through sensation, as you often do not need language or image to convey this, but anything else requires some part. Please tell me if you think of any more ways to convey something without the use of language or image!

This leads me onto the use of words and Lawrence Weiner, A rubber ball thrown on the sea, 1969. I have to admit, this sentence annoys me because normally someone would say that they thrown a ball into the sea, or into water, but not on. Moving away from grammar, this piece allows each person to thin of a different image. This means that if each individual person walked away from that text and created a piece of artwork, no two would be the same due to the way in which we have interpreted it.

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Source: Lawrence Weiner, Rubber Ball, 1969

Weiner also wrote the “Deceleration of Intent” in 1968 as three little rules that conceptual artists can follow;

  1. The artist may construct the piece
  2. The piece may be fabricated
  3. The piece may need not be built

So for every piece of conceptual artwork (for every idea), the artist basically can go and make that, or they don’t have to. it is literally as simple as that.

What isn’t simple is the question; What is a chair? This would make more sense if you look at the work of Joseph Kosuth in 1965.

kosuth_oneandthreechairs

Source: Joseph Kosuth, Chair, 1965

This can lead to a whole essay from me about which one is the chair, but don’t worry, if I do that not only will I warn you, but I will save it for another post, just so you can skip through it if you wish! But seriously, which chair is the real chair or the most accurate description for a chair? The physical one, the photo or the definition. A lot of people do not choose the photograph as it is very static and never changes. You cannot use it either, however chairs are not supposed to change and warp, just like a photograph. On the other hand, you have the real chair. This can be used, walked around and physically touched. For both the photo and the physical chair, this is one type of chair. Think about all the different types of chairs you’ve seen, used, had in your lifetime. Not all chairs look like this do they? And then lastly there’s the definition. And yet again, do all chairs fit into this definition? I’m sat on one of those office chairs as I type this and I’m pretty sure that is not under the standard definition of the chair. So my question to you is the same question that Kosuth asks his viewers; which is the chair?

I’ll give you a bit of a break now with some ‘pretty’ conceptual artworks;

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Source: Luis Camnitzer, Landscape as an Attitude, 1979

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Source: Cildo Meireles

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Sources: Maker’s MealScottish Sculpture Workshop

The last two images have depicted an artwork by Nuno Sacramento and the Maker’s Meal with the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. Part of this workshop was that the idea, the experience, the participatory and the social aspect were all the artwork. They had to make everything from scratch from the table to the chair to the cutlery to the food, and all on a minimal budget. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind having a sit round that table to enjoy the food.

Moving on to something slightly different is the use of Conceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation in 2007. This was another movement that conceptual art has inspired.

Conceptual art in Latin America tried to move art from its normally expected place. Art was meant to be a way to allow the audience to participate in a decision-making process that it was hoped would lead to social and economic liberation.

Another movement occurred across the oceans in Japan – the Mono-ha movement, which when translated means the ‘school of things’. This links in very well to their artwork of mixed natural and industrial materials in order to make sculptures. For example, the Kishio Suga Soft Concrete sculpture made in 1970 and 2012 out of concrete, oil and steel plates.

Photo- Joshua White 2012-7568

Source: Mono-ha, Kishio Suga Soft Concrete, 1970/2012

Back to Robert Barry and 1969, where he makes an incredibly valid point about conceptual art and its place;

We are not really destroying the object, but just expanding the definition.

Keith Vaughan, 1970, contrasted to this by saying that it has thrown and descaled artists and considered them conservative because they want to make emotional artworks. The term is a contradiction in itself. For the first time abstract painters and sculptors, find themselves cast as conservatives because of their attachment to purely visual qualities.

Conceptual artwork reached its peak in the 1970’s, and from here, it began its slow descent, to where it is today.

A very worth while video to watch is a letter that Sol Lewitt wrote to Eva Hesse about how she should just stop agonizing over her work, and how she should just make it. This is a message that every artist needs at some point in their lives, and if I were you, I would save it and watch it again in a few months time.

Sol Le Witt to Eva Hesse – YouTube – Read by Benedict Cumberbatch

The last artist that I will mention in this post is the most recent one of Gabriel Orozoco and his work Atomist: Making Strides, 1996, Gouache and ink on newspaper clippings. 20.9 x 20.9 cm. Just as Sol Lewitt did with his work, Gabriel Orozoco sends over instructions in a chat to his French studio, where they produce the works that he describes.

So I shall raise this question again: what is contemporary art?

Assignment;

Imagine a work of art that does not yet exist and describe it in 150 – 300 words. This could be a potential image, an object or time-based piece in any dimensions, made in any medium and about any subject matter. Try to include as much (or as little) detail as possible.

Grand Opening of The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL)

A grand re-opening of the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), Reading, was held today, to showcase the refurbishments and never displayed artefacts held in the museum walls.

During the re-opening MERL, I gave a helping hand in the print room. This is where families and friends who were visiting for the day could print, and take home, a unique piece of artwork. The original drawing was completed by Martin Andrews, a previous lecturer and student from the University of Reading. My role throughout the day was to ensure that each piece had a name, and was hung up to dry in order to be collected at a later time. Each person who created a print had a sense of awe, as they worked the 100+ year old printing press to create their piece. Over 70 prints were made throughout the day, and more paper had to be sourced before we ran out.

I ensured that Martin had enough ink throughout the day and help him with tasks such as setting up the print in the press and ensuring ink did not go anywhere other than the intended surface. I also had a role to protect the ink from prying hands as this would have permanently stained clothes.

This role has helped broaden my perspective of art within charities and the impact that it can have. I also now understand the processes behind the drawing, creating the ‘stamp’ for the press and the process of handling the printing press with the public, including adults and young children.


Source: my print, a failed prints, of the day

Katrina Palmer

First note: the artwork of Katrina Palmer is very different, especially when compare to the other two artists talks by Liv Wynter and Dawn Mellor. I like it. Because of this difference. Because it is different.

As per usual, a little ‘briefing’ that we received of the artist;

Katrina Palmer’s art is sculpture, though not as we usually encounter it.

Her stories unfold physical, psychological and sexual encounters with materiality, so that things and thoughts collide, ideas become as sensual as external reality, and banal, vulgar or obscene objects are formed in writing, as imagined sculpture.

The objects from which Palmer’s stories begin – pages, books, desks and chairs – recall the scenario of writing, and the object repertoire of conceptual art, a witty reminder of dematerialisation’s overlooked materialisations. But art-historical allusions merely provide the setting for the real action. The subordinate or enfolded spaces of these objects, the cavities under or within them, become the refuge for vivid fantasies.

Source: Art email, sourced from artreview.com

Katrina Palmer’s work is of words.

She read a piece to us at the beginning of her talk, and if I am honest, I cannot recall as to which piece she read to us. However, in this work she read, items that were being described became very constructional and chemistry-like. They then moved on to become very technology based and then dramatically changed the subject to toxic waste being transported to Africa. This was all to do with describing a piece of rock.

This piece, Katrina later revealed, was to do with a fictional character of a grave digger. She is now developing this work further as she wants more work to come out of his character. There was also an emphasis on the developing as the work that Katrina makes is constantly evolving and changing. From the story and the book that she has written, Katrina created a visual representation by writing out a certain passage, and then rewriting several times, but moving the lines closer and closer, compressing the lines, until the lines of the passage are one on top of the other, on top of the other.

The End Matter Project

Portland was described to us like a sculpture, carved out like an inverted monument. Katrina visited the island in order to gain first hand experience through walking,  photography and other mediums. Throughout her time here, Portland stone was found, which is often seen as paler, refined stone and is typically used for buildings. This was found in the quarries where the further down they dug, the further into the past you could go. This was an idea that Katrina felt like she wanted to explore in her work. The removal of ground was an interesting concept, especially when looking at the layers of ground and the layers of different time periods. Katrina wrote about this in one of her works.

Katrina was actually trained as a sculptor, and so this is the way in which she looks at images, places and other artwork. At the same quarry that she visited often while in Portland, on one side there was a ‘hole’ from where the quarry was, and the other side of a thin pathway was a graveyard where all the stone were made from the Portland stone. This links into her exploitation of the land in the books that she has written. There is a paradox in which the ground is literally taken away from the people, and yet they survive on this very thing. Unfortunately, the people of Portland could quarry no more, and so they moved on to mining. They wanted to mine under this very cemetery.

I found that the images of Portland that were taken while Katrina was there, were often in black and white. This for me allowed me to envisage the place when the quarrying was happening, when black and white photos was all there was. There was also a sense of melancholy, for a reason that I am unsure of. Overall, the effect of the photographs being black and white was very powerful. I do not know whether this was intentional.

Another publication of Katrina’s was in 2014:

The Fabricator’s Tale

The Fabricator’s Tale was described and shown to us as a dark, long corridor with a 3mm gap within one wall, in which you could view a scene. There was an earlier version of this in London, where the corridor was lighter than compared to the corridor in Void, Derry. This 2016 exhibition was darker in order for the scene to become more vivid. Within both versions of the Tale, it depended on where you sat, on what part of the scene you could see and depict.

The Tale itself is almost entirely made up of a list of objects. These objects can be seen, revealed or completely absent from the entire scene. For me, hearing that the story is of how a landlord rents out a room to a girl and then tries to control her, up to the point where she is a threat to anyone whom enters her space, it is hard to come away and envision that it was made mostly out of a list of objects. The music behind the piece, however, shows the romance of opening a book.

Reality Flickers

This is another piece that Katrina made which considered of a music stand, the book of reality flickers and metal chairs. This was developed upon and in a version of the work for Void, Derry, 2016, the text on the music stand is reformulated onto the wall. This tells the visual story, and the story of words, how reality has confessed to the murder of her partner, and how she screws it up and puts it in a locker, where reality itself can be distorted, and reality can distort the story.

Another version of Reality Flickers in 2015, it was a mixed media installation audio recording with a duration of 14:14 minutes. Accompanying this, was Adam Williams on the keyboard.

Overall, the story is of meeting a man who exploits her. He has sex with her, or in other words fucks and rapes her, and she, in return, fantasises about eating his eyeballs and adding him to her collection.

Katrina started doing her BA in Art and was a maker. She found that she wanted to explore what sculpture was, but then writing became more important. Her material now, is her voice. Used found and everyday objects, yet words were her material. The themes that are explored in Katrina’s work are those of violence and sexualisation, what is revealed and concealed, who can be heard and who cannot. She often found she was concentrating on bodies, especially in her BA Art where she looked at squished body sculptures. Katrina also described how for her, risk taking was a sense of freedom.

The Neropolitan Line

The series of pieces that were based around the Necropolitan Line were held in the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 2016. This was a series of installations, including a platform that look at the history of the line. There were pieces that were spoken on the talloy system. There were also ‘normal’ announcements that were linked to the general running of the line, for example, late trains and disturbance warnings. For this as well, she created her own tone that announced these announcements.

There was also a free newspaper that was included as part of the exhibition and Katrina wrote all the articles to this herself. Some of these, she admitted, were based off of facts, and some were pure rambling.

Through the gallery, you would get an extended tune and story which would guide you through all the installations. The platform, chairs etc where there to allow people to interact with the work, rather than stand back and stare at it. This as well guided people through the gallery.

Katrina also incorporated the goods lift into the exhibition. Once an hour, there would be an announcement that the lift would leave. The lift was also part of the gallery as a mashed up version of the song ‘Is That All There Is’ could be heard in the background, just like ‘cheesy’ lift music. However, once you packed into the lift and were out at the bottom, you were not allowed to re-enter the building or the exhibition space. This is a point Katrina made clear, so then people could enjoy the exhibition once, and gain those memories and those thoughts about it, instead of re-visiting pieces multiple times and altering our perspectives on it.

Overall, Katrina said that she wanted to push ideas as far as she could. Sculpture. Character. Book. A space in which the book inhabits. She also mentioned a new rule that she has recently made herself; no text on the walls. This is because this isn’t what she wanted more of in galleries – you would want to be off on your own to read and enjoy it.

Her books are accessible as stories, but parts are accessible as parts of artworks. Different aspects of different stories come out in different forms.

end_matter_katrina_palmer_2015-_an_artangel_and_bbc_radio_4_commission-_installation_photograph_by_brendan_buesnel_47_2__largethedarkobjectspread_0katrina-palmermg_0203_1450086702_crop_550x825tallkatrina20palmer

Sources: PortlandThe Dark Object, 2010Reality FlickersThe Cross BonesThe Fabricator’s TaleKatrina Palmer

Sophie Calle

Confessional

Sophie Calle produced two pieces of confessional artwork, the first of which I an unsure of the name of it. This piece is about how she asked 100 women to translate and interpret a ‘love letter’ (I’ve put this in inverted commas and you will understand if you read the English translation). There were psychologists and those who looked at grammar, and just women who interpreted it in their own individual way. This allowed a connection to other women that were experiencing the same situation, or have felt those emotions described in the letter. Interesting. Expressive. Emotional.

ae2287dce9c085e8d19740020b282fc39abff3f8d243688439c12722bc60c19dsophie-calle-letter4653287385dc0500e9222caddb6a33fb4

Sources: Sophie CalleSophie Calle (1)Sophie Calle (2)Sophie Calle (3)Sophie Calle (4)

Sophie Calle also did another piece which I find a little strange, and really quite personal. She shows a video of the last moments of her mothers life, or as some may interpret it, the first moments of her mothers death. I am unsure as to why it, so say, freaks me out. To me, it’s just a bit weird to show the public this very private moment of not only your own life, but your own mothers life – presumably a woman of whom Sophie was very close to. It also, for me, raises questions of whether her mother would have wanted this. (Unfortunately I cannot find a copy of this video online.) This piece also raised questions for what Sophie Calle is trying to confess. Is it something to do with her relationship with her mother? Or perhaps it is about life and death?

http://www.artnet.com/WebServices/images/ll216644llgpGfDrCWvaHBOAD/sophie-calle-exquisite-pain-(count-down—52).jpg

Source: Exquisite Pain Countdown

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/7c/74/1c/7c741c2678ea99056796e08c3d3359de.jpg

Source: Sophie Calle

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2012/06/13/arts/13iht-rartcalle13A/13iht-rartcalle13A-popup.jpg

Source: Sophie Calle

http://art-sheep.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Sophie-Calle-The-Sleepers.png

Source: Sophie Calle – The Sleepers

 

Frida Kahlo

Confessional

Frida Kahlo is incredibly well known for her confessional work. Frida was ill and bedridden for the majority of her life, and used artwork, specifically painting, to confess how she felt about all of this. One of these paintings is the ‘Broken Column’, which is a 1944 oil on board painting, 39.8cm x 30.6cm. For this piece she shows her spinal surgery, and the way in which she is trying to self heal herself, even though the wounds will always be open and there.

thebrokencolumn1944

Source: The Broken Column

My Birth, another piece by Frida, shows her giving birth to herself. Above the scene on the bed, a painting of her grandmother, or the Virgin Mary, hangs on the wall, overlooking. This scene is not pretty either, Frida paints what childbirth is like with all the blood and other juices. Before this painting, her mother had recently died and she had a miscarriage. Both of these themes can be seen in this confessional art piece.

kahlo_my_birth-300x264

Source: My Birth

A piece that is connected to this is The Arrival by Louise Bourgeois, made out of glass, wood and stainless steel. Compared to Frida’s work, the dimensions of this work is 142.2 x 61 x 50.8cm. Sadly, Louise only became well known for her work when she was 75 years old, but still continued her profession into her 90’s.

cri_277578

Source: MOMA – The Arrival

Other pieces by Frida Kahlo

roots

Source: Roots

the_wounded_deer_1946

Source: The Wounded Deer

without-hope

Source: Without Hope

Confessional Art

[Walks into lecture and rocks out to some Beyoncé]

Confessional art is something we actually all know about – especially if you’ve heard any pert of Beyoncé’s new album, Lemonade, which describes her confession about how Jay-Z cheated on her. (And also, it is a pretty damned good album.) Beyoncé – Hold Up – YouTube

*If I’m totally honest, I’m just going to throw some artists that I learnt about out there and some of them you many have no clue about how they are connected to confessional art. But that is okay, everyone feels confused about art at some point in their lives.*

The definition that is ‘commonly’ used is;

Confessional art is a form of contemporary art that focuses on an intentional revelation of the private self. Confessional art encourages an intimate analysis of the artist’s, artist’s subjects’, or spectators confidential, and often controversial, experiences and emotions. Confessional art emerged in the late 20th century, especially in Great Britain, and is closely associated with autobiographical visual arts and literature.

Source: Confessional Art Definition

I hope to bend this definition, and the definition that which you may personally hold, just as our Monday presentation did with my perception of confessional art.

Confessional art is normally about violence against women, pregnancy and miscarriage. But why? We spoke as a group and decided that; it makes you feel like a part of a bigger group, to make yourself vulnerable, drawing attention, getting things off of your chest, and connection. I have highlighted three particular definitions that the group came up with, as these are some things that I haven’t previously thought of, and these caught my ear the most. If I were you, I would keep them in the back of your mind, just as I did, when reading through the rest of this post.

Sophie Calle produced two pieces of confessional artwork, the first of which I an unsure of the name of it. This piece is about how she asked 100 women to translate and interpret a ‘love letter’ (I’ve put this in inverted commas and you will understand if you read the English translation). There were psychologists and those who looked at grammar, and just women who interpreted it in their own individual way. This allowed a connection to other women that were experiencing the same situation, or have felt those emotions described in the letter. Interesting. Expressive. Emotional.

ae2287dce9c085e8d19740020b282fc39abff3f8d243688439c12722bc60c19dsophie-calle-letter4653287385dc0500e9222caddb6a33fb4

Sources: Sophie CalleSophie Calle (1)Sophie Calle (2)Sophie Calle (3)Sophie Calle (4)

Sophie Calle also did another piece which I find a little strange, and really quite personal. She shows a video of the last moments of her mothers life, or as some may interpret it, the first moments of her mothers death. I am unsure as to why it, so say, freaks me out. To me, it’s just a bit weird to show the public this very private moment of not only your own life, but your own mothers life – presumably a woman of whom Sophie was very close to. It also, for me, raises questions of whether her mother would have wanted this. (Unfortunately I cannot find a copy of this video online.) This piece also raised questions for what Sophie Calle is trying to confess. Is it something to do with her relationship with her mother? Or perhaps it is about life and death?

Contemporary art has been described as ‘other art’ before, because some don’t take it seriously. However, more descriptive, more appreciative words can also be used (which are words that I like);

Cathartic

Emotional

Embodied

Visceral

Difficult

This leads on to the discussion within confessional art of ‘the person is the political’. This came around in 1970’s feminism when personal lives started to become politics. Caroline Hamish (and other women were also involved) were criticised for just having a conversation about their lives in meetings because many people didn’t believe what they did; that the personal is political. This is also all different depending on what race, gender, and sexuality we are, because people view us differently according to these things. Making confessional artwork in the first person can counteract this and make the piece more powerful.

Carolee Schneeman made her powerful statement with her 1975 performance of Interior Scroll. [I do not advise watching the performance if you look for it because even the photos are pretty shocking, even if you do have a lot of curiosity.] This piece is incredibly confrontational and

the text was taken from a super 8 film Schneeman had begun in 1973 entitled Kitch’s Last Meal. It recounts a conversation with ‘a structuralist film-maker’ in which the artist sets intuition and bodily processes, traditionally associated with ‘woman’, against traditionally ‘male’ notions of order and rationality. Critics originally identified the male figure as the filmmaker Anthony McCall (born 1946), who was Schneemann’s lover between 1971 and 1976.

Source: Tate – Schneeman

carolee_schneeman_interior_scrolltumblr_lkdsa37smf1qj02z5o1_1280

Source: Caroline SchneemanCaroline Schneeman (1)

Tracey Emin also went for the controversial with her 1995 piece of ‘Why I Never Became a Dancer’. In this, she described that she hated as school and so at 13, she left and hung around cafes. All summer she had nothing to do but dream and have sex. There were no morals or rules or judgements. She was able to do what she wanted to do. She was being used as an escape, so she used dance as hers. This did backfire on her when at a dance competition she was singled out in her performance when most of the ‘lads’ she’d had sex with, were shouting out ‘slut’. She therefore could never escape the place that she wanted to escape from. This piece also shows revenge elements as she names some of those people she slept with in the video in order to name and shame those elders who had sex with a minor, a 13 year old. Tracey Emin is also known for her pieces named ‘My Bed’ and ‘The Tent’. Interestingly, My Bed did include a noose, however when Saatchi bought the piece, this part was taken away. Did this take away some of the confession of Emin’s confessional artwork?

Both of the pieces, Interior Scroll and Why I Never Became a Dancer both have double standards of being a woman. For example, Emin was a ‘slut’ but those who slept with her slept with a 13-year-old. Let’s think about that for a minute…

Confessional art has also been made as part of Hannah Black’s MA in the form of the 2014 video, ‘The Neek’. Within this piece there are discussions of family, patriarchy and mixed race. There are also elements of talk of communism. It has be said, which is very clear if you watch this particular piece, is that you would have a different relationship to the work depending on your personal relationship with the artist. So for example, I had no idea who this artist was, and so I interpreted this piece differently to those who had heard of this artist, and who had seen her works previously. Along with the audio, there were images of different parts of the neck, and ovals which would often be layered, and also appear on different parts of the neck. As a group, we came up to several thoughts as to why this was; venn diagrams / representation / what if it is a painting, the ovals are completely separate from the neck and would be more distinct in the painting / representation of the drawing talked about / draws attention about the neck / when talking about things, that’s where her neck gets warm.

Caspar Heinemann takes a slightly different approach to confessional art. Their piece (that IS intentional – you will see in a second) is a 2015 video of ‘Angry Contingent Gender Poem’ (Caspar’s Tumblr Blog: http://angstravaganza.tumblr.com/). This raises the question for the viewer, before even watching the video, of what is gender? In 2016 we don’t really know the true answer to that but we would relate it to the male and the female. The social construct. However, some people don’t feel like they belong in these categories, and there is a lot of prejudgements with these categories that are made.

As I used, Caspar uses ‘they’ pronouns. This is because she isn’t male nor female. Do you have to be? The video also looks like a very personal thing for something but they couldn’t say it publicly, which makes it a very relatable piece. It is also filmed in what looks like a bedroom – again, making it very relatable. Their words that are spoken are full of emotion and passion, but they are spoken in a monotone. Is the monotone the way that they find people talk to them about gender? Does the monotone represent their judgement of gender; they don’t care? There is also no eye contact with the camera or the viewer, which contradictory makes it more personal and impersonal at the same time.

Moving onto Derek Jarman and his piece ‘Blue’, created in 1993. This is a piece made from a 35mm film which has been transferred to a digital file, to add colour and sound. The duration is 75 minutes. A few months after making this, he died of AIDs, in a time where a lot of people in the art community were dying. However, at the point that he made this piece, he was loosing his eyesight. The piece, although it is about the course of the illness for Derek Jarman, is very anonymous, as he uses no images and actors were speaking. This was not image heavy, unlike all the previous confessional artworks that have been looked at in this post. This allows it to link to the subject matter of going blind. The audio, or the video, also described the lives and deaths of friends that he had who also died of the disease. Sometimes within the piece, it is almost as if he is talking out loud rather than specifically talking to someone else. This piece confesses the struggle and the life that you live with AIDs, very much to the last few moments.

Nan Goldin also did a very emotional and powerful piece of ‘Nan One Month After Being Battered’, a 1984 photography piece. This is also part of a slide show and book in The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.

Nan one month after being battered 1984 by Nan Goldin born 1953

Source: Tate – Nan

This piece has been within the conversation of queer – a queer being defined as differentiated people who are bisexual, gay, transsexual, lesbian, those who like someone like this, and those who are not of the social norm. An insult. Within this piece, she does not hide the fact that she is bruised. In fact, she looks like she is just about to go out with lipstick and jewellery on, but no make up to cover the marks. This piece is very confrontational, strong, striving, explicit and visceral. She is staring straight at the camera, as if to say she is not afraid. This piece, like the Caspar Heinemann piece, is very relatable due to the low tech and low budget production.

Frida Kahlo is incredibly well known for her confessional work. Frida was ill and bedridden for the majority of her life, and used artwork, specifically painting, to confess how she felt about all of this. One of these paintings is the ‘Broken Column’, which is a 1944 oil on board painting, 39.8cm x 30.6cm. For this piece she shows her spinal surgery, and the way in which she is trying to self heal herself, even though the wounds will always be open and there.

thebrokencolumn1944

Source: The Broken Column

My Birth, another piece by Frida, shows her giving birth to herself. Above the scene on the bed, a painting of her grandmother, or the Virgin Mary, hangs on the wall, overlooking. This scene is not pretty either, Frida paints what childbirth is like with all the blood and other juices. Before this painting, her mother had recently died and she had a miscarriage. Both of these themes can be seen in this confessional art piece.

kahlo_my_birth-300x264

Source: My Birth

A piece that is connected to this is The Arrival by Louise Bourgeois, made out of glass, wood and stainless steel. Compared to Frida’s work, the dimensions of this work is 142.2 x 61 x 50.8cm. Sadly, Louise only became well known for her work when she was 75 years old, but still continued her profession into her 90’s.

cri_277578

Source: MOMA – The Arrival

Another couple of confessional pieces that are inspirations are;

Mary Kelly, Post Partum Document, 1975, where she documents her child’s first 6 years in detail, from nappy analysis, to how she felt about childcare that day.

Chris Klaus, I Love Dick, 1997, New York: semictexte

Travis Alabanza and Live Wynter at Late at Tate 2016 — Late at Tate – YouTube

Tracey Emin’s artworks are often provocative, raw and emotional, drawing on experiences from her personal life, from her sexual history, abuse and abortion to gender and relationships.  Performance artists Travis Alabanza and Liv Wynter have collaborated on a poetic response to Emin’s My Bed exploring some of these themes.

Travis Alabanza is a Black, queer, non binary performance artist who uses live poetry, visuals and sound to create art centred around race, gender and class.  Liv Wynter is a queer female artist who uses an anarchic and punk exploration of language, rap and poetry performance to bring attention to issues such as trauma, recovery, abuse, sexual violence and identity to challenge the idea of intimacy and without compromise.

Source: Late at Tate – What’s on

PLEASE NOTE that all of the artists that have been talked about in this post, all but two were female. Is this because there are more things women can confess about? Or are men not taken seriously in confessional art? Or are there simply more women making confessional art?

Just something for you to think about.