London Week 6

As I have a few more hours off than usual in Week 6 of term, I end up in a gallery in London with other art students, because we simply want to know what is going on [and this is not university led].
This term, we ended up at Tate Modern Gallery, London, and explored all the free exhibitions that the Tate had to offer, from Salvador Dali to Jack Whitten (American artist), across the four floors that held the free exhibition spaces.
My favourite part about going to a gallery such as Tate modern is the diversity of not only the artwork, but also the artists that they show. One work that captivated my eye was that of Sergio de Camargo and Large Split Relief No. 34/4/74. This piece is completely one shade of white, however the positioning of each ‘cork’ and slit creates a wide range of blacks, whites and greys, without having to mix a single colour. The entanglement of each of these ‘corks’ as they layer up, without necessarily getting in the way of each other is also quite calming in some respects.
Another work that caught my eye is the work of Gilbert and George, which was part of a ‘pop up’ interactive section of one of the exhibitions. It allowed you to step into the light to find out more about an aspect of performance and sculpture. I had a look at the human body, and the way in which Gilbert and George decided that you didn’t need the objects in order to be the sculpture. Hearing this from someone who wasn’t a lecturer allowed me to take a step back and really think about that statement, perhaps changing my view of what sculpture is for a while to come.
One other work that struck me was the photographs of Kaveh Golestan, and the personal factors behind each  of the photographs. These were of prostitutes, in their ‘work space’ and in their homes, waiting for the next customers. I found this particularly striking because through each photograph, you were getting a small window into something that many find grotesque, many others put up with, some others go to, and a surprising number live through. It is this window that reveals so much, but leaves many questions unanswered, and lets you into the life of a prostitute. It is this personal factor that I found to enticing, and something I want to welcome gladly into my own work.
I hope to look further and complete separate posts for those artists who have peaked my interest in the Tate Modern today.

John Smith

John Smith took a video of an everyday street, with unsuspected people, in 1976. Smith then did a voice over, directing each person, each vehicle and each camera shot within the video piece. This, all layered together, creates an effective and comedic art piece. Every detail has been covered, which makes you laugh, when someone has been told to walk on shot while picking their nose.
The comedic aspect of this piece was highly unexpected, but also very welcome. At some points, I found that this did get somewhat repetitive, however it was still a welcome aspect.

Martin Parr

Teddy Gray’s Sweet Factory
This is an art film and a documentary rolled into one. Parr follows the path that the sweets take from ingredients to being sold, talking to those who make it, roll it and buy it along the way. Each person has their own view on the sweets, the business and the people in it – many exclaim that they will probably be there for life, working at Teddy Gray’s, because not only is it such a great company to work for, but also no one ever sees a reason to leave.
I enjoyed watching this for the factual and emotional commentary that ran throughout. I also found that I was entranced by the methodology of the sweet making – especially the team process of making rock.

Marc Isaacs

LIFT is a short film by Marc Isaacs, that follows him almost ‘becoming part of the lift’, while interacting with those in, and outside the doors of the lift. Within the 25 minute film, we start to learn information about characters who use this lift on a daily basis including names, life stories, and also which people are more interactive than others. This is revealed as a London tower block and “residents come to trust him and reveal the things that matter to them creating a humorous and moving portrait of a vertical community.”
This short film was slow in places, however watching this vertical community grow over a short period of time was fascinating. I was curious to see the types of personalities that would enter the lift, and the way they interacted with Isaacs, and I was not disappointed. As an onlooker, this strange sense of community was also somewhat comforting.

Bauhaus [Performance] – The Turn of the 20th Century

The Bauhaus Theatre were there to seek ‘union of the artistic-ideal with the craftsmanlike-practical by thoroughly investigating the creative elements’, to understand the essence of der Bau and to have a ‘valid application to the field of theatre. The instinct of the Bauhaus Theatre is to call the source of man’s real creative values and to shape and produce without having or needing to ask questions about use or uselessness, sense or nonsense and the good or the bad. This was expressed through exuberant parties, improvisations and imaginative masks and costumes that were made for each performance.
Bauhaus Theatre is often known purely for it’s use of costumes and masks. The grotesque flourished from the legacy of Dadaists to ‘ridicule automatically everything that smacked of solemnity or ethical precepts’, and mocking the antique forms of traditional theatre.
The dance is also a very prominent feature of Bauhaus Theatre, as it was something that very much stayed alive during this period. During the time of Bauhaus Theatre, dance transformed from ‘crude’ country dancing to full-dress foxtrot, which is a similar pattern to the music occurring during this time. Music had a transformation from concertina into jazz band. “Group dancing found its image reflected on the stage in the dance of the individual. And from this developed our formalized use of color. Experimentation with colored light and shadows became the ‘Reflectory Light Play’. A marionette theatre was begun.”
I am particularly captured by the intricacies of each costume Bauhaus created and performed with. Each one portrays a personality and is highly unique, but when they perform together, it is almost as though there has been an explosion of vibrancy and intricacy. The lack of personalities with some of the costumes is also a little creepy, and I am not sure how to feel about them. The range of dance that Bauhaus Theatre uses is also very fascinating, as they could quite easily incorporate any dance that they wished to their performances.

Deirdre O'Mahony

As a prelude, O’Mahony describes her younger self growing up in Ireland and her transfer to London and back again. Her art practice is completely different to that when she was at art school – once upon a time, she used to paint and draw, but would want to come away from the stereotypical Irish artist painting the landscape. Ireland, for O’Mahony, was shifting, and thus her change of scenery to London.
In St Martins, London, O’Mahony completed art school, however she came into an unsuspected time of punk. This was more of a culture shock than what was expected, however this was the culture shock that she felt like she needed, in order to find her identity again. Spending a lot of time down the pub, she managed to bump into several other Irish artists, musicians and writers, including the leader of Nipple Erect (who she later married, and further later divorced). Unfortunately, these Irish men and women came to London at a time that you were judged for having an accent, even if they just wanted to be accepted for who they are – authentically Irish. This has largely influenced her artwork.
Two decades later, O’Mahony returned to Ireland determined to live in a beautiful, rural and tranquil part, where she didn’t want to just paint landscapes. The different desires of the people destroyed the ideal place that it was when a building was proposed, and it tore the community apart. For O’Mahony, she found that some people were perhaps meeting their psychological limits in this place, simply because they wanted to preserve the beauty. The locals, on the other hand, wanted to keep their town. This was very much a social aesthetic conversation of landscape. O’Mahony incorporated and worked through some of these complications and desires of landscape in her work.
Farmers were always seen as wrecking the landscape until around ten years ago. O’Mahony was asked to make a work about this landscape that the farmers worked on, and she wanted to concentrate this on the feral goats (2003). This time, there was a different controversy going on about the goats, that were being culled by the farmers. The original idea was to make a ‘No Entry’ sign out of the edelweiss that would grow. This quickly moved onto the idea of a giant cross in the land, because the area was known as the cross land – the cattle would return thinner than they set out as.
As part of this project, O’Mahony set up her office in a local pub, which allowed her to view the change of social structures and the social fabric in Ireland. Here, she got chatting with the only two people that would seem to visit; farmers. It was from these farmers that O’Mahony learnt why the sheep were getting culled; a few years ago, an artist let some domesticated sheep free and these sheep bred with the feral sheep. The feral sheep would jump over the walls that the farmers had, but this new breed would barge at it. The farmers would then get heavily fined for having damaged dry stone walls on his land, and thus would cull the sheep that did this. At this time, hazel was also spreading, and O’Mahony thought it was due to the lack of the goats. After talking to scientists and farmers, it was found that this was because of a change in the weather and the farmers moving to work part time. Thus, it was more complicated than originally thought. The cross arms of this piece were 50m each in length and photographed with a kite and a cradle.
Moving onto her next project, O’Mahony made the former post office building into X-PO; an area for public art projects. As many of the former post masters belongings were still there, a temporary archive was made for those visiting to view what he used in his day-to-day life. O’Mahony were also approached by another group of people to wanted to display how rural Irish communities came from old to new. In the past, two anthropologists wrote about the day-to-day lives, but in the town that it was written about, a veil of silence still remains there today because of the hurt these books caused. In conversation with this, another anthropology has recently been written in conjunction with some of the diaries of these family members, and the relatives, to write a more detailed and accurate account from the Irish perspective. These people came to X-PO in order to get ‘family and community’ in a curatorial way.
Another group that X-PO helped was the mapping group. This group comes together to write down the occupants of each house to before the great famine and to when history was oral. Many of the older generation are part of this, as they are the last to know this information orally. In one ‘house number A1: Sean O’Conchuil died during the famine. Snails, shells & bits of turnip were found in his house afterwards…’
Through the continual conversation between herself and the community and the farmers, O’Mahony went on to study potatoes. There is not only the specific knowledge about growing potatoes, but also the global knowledge of their use. The project of SPUD was founded through this in order to prove and protect this crop. It is being used as a cash crop to breach the hunger gap in places such as Asia and India with the use of the lazy bed.
O’Mahony worked with Nadege Marieu, who videoed potatoes growing through holes in the ground. O’Mahony also tried to work and engage with Irish people in London in order to grow more potatoes. This is where the MOPE (most oppressed people ever) potato cakes came from, so that we might digest the history. Literally. She also made an animation throughout this in order for people to gain the knowledge of how to make a potato lazy bed. A temporary memorial on the front lawn of a grand house was made as part of this to create an open process of growing potatoes. This was a giant cross made in the shape of an X out of potato ridges. Instead of setting up office in a pub, this work was advertised through the framing of punk posters.
O’Mahony feels that she uses potatoes and grows them like she advertises them in both her day-to-day life and her artwork. This has largely been influenced by A Parmentier in France who revolutionised potatoes in France. In the Irish Museum of Modern Art, this had a large influence, whereupon she creates a zigzag pattern of potato ridges from an Irish arts and crafts text. This displays that potatoes have other meanings other than their use of food. O’Mahony is now looking into the sustainability of other foods and that of rural places.

Ann Hamilton

Ann Hamilton has always had a strong connection between the thread of sewing and the line and the line of writing. Hamilton is fascinated by the material and sewing as you are able to see each individual thread of the material, which is a beautiful metaphor. Hamilton is most well known for her work of the toothpick suit.
For Hamilton, the line is like how we make things with language, and this concept has been bought through her work. She works with words and space as a material, as you would any other material. Within a fabric factory that recently shut down, she worked on an installation of space. Her trick is to make herself blank in order to determine what you feel, smell, see etc, which is another large influence on her practice. One of the rooms that she created in the space is for the writer, and the other is for the reader. These rooms were identical in size and shape, and both had a long wooden table with a spinning projector. People have to break out what they expect to see, for example a pencil eating a line.
For a Venice Bienniale, she wanted to do a piece on how to talk about our own social history. The spoken piece was in the phonetic alphabet, played from each corner of the room and was also translated letter by letter into braille. Fuchsia powder was then puffed down the walls, revealing the braille. Hamilton wants to give the voice but not necessarily using hers, and thus finding that she becomes the eye.
By using a pinhole camera from her mouth, opening her mouth and exposing the film, she found that she was in a vulnerable and relaxed position. The shape of the mouth is also very much the same shape as the eye, and so the image becomes the pupil. Hamilton also looked at sheets of bubbles and found it had to same fluidity as the cloth that she is so used to using. You are able to bring your hand through it and see the reflection of different colours.
I found the intimacy between artist and material very detailed, and the way in which the words were the influence as well as the material. The use of the lines, and specifically the braille, turns the pieces from something that someone would walk by into something that someone needs to wait to understand. The juxtaposition of the colours in the braille piece was also shocking, highlighting the depth of the piece, and I enjoyed watching the puff of fuchsia down the wall.
For a detailed video on Ann Hamilton’s work, head to Art21.

Sally Mann

Sally Mann is a photographer, but not in the full conventional sense. Her work is that of spontaneous, photographing what was there in front of her, with the old 8×6 camera. The subjects were namely her children, with few of her photographs being staged. She wanted those holiday snapshots – photographs that allow you to remember the moments forever.
There is an intensity throughout these photographs, and with the photography process. Mann believes that this comes from her father, who was an art collector, and was the one who gave Mann her first cameras.
Mann has a very juxtaposed family in which her mother is very Northern, and yet his father is from Texas. When Mann was born, her family somewhat gave up with looking after their children, so she grew up without wearing clothes. Mann bought her own children up in this way, because she believed that this was the norm. Therefore, her children were photographed naked, which has caused a lot of controversy within the art world, with many of her shows closing due to the viewers it attracted.
Though her photography had progressed as her children grew up, Mann found that her photographs were looking like fashion shoots. This is not the intended story behind them, and thus she moved onto work with the landscape. The landscape, now that her children have grown up, are like her expression of god and spirituality and allows her to maintain the beauty of what is around her.
Initially, I was captivated by the intensity of some of the photographs Mann has taken – the stare straight into the camera of the naked, pale child against the harsh darkness of the water. Thinking into this more, the fascinating part is the social norms in their family of growing up mostly naked, and how this has been finely documented through day-to-day activities and playfulness.

Untitled [Singing Film]

My final edit of the film Untitled [Singing Film] was uploaded on YouTube, in order for not only easy access, but also as this is a useful platform to use for the artwork, and for the message of mine to come across. The piece was displayed by projector in a bit of a mess of wires – this was not the intended effect, as I would wish to have the projector and wires behind the wall, out of sight to the viewers of the piece. I also did not have the chance to warn people that they must take part in the film by singing along to at least one song, also making a different atmosphere to the piece altogether. I did, however, enjoy the uncomfortable atmosphere that was created when the piece was shown to the studio group, as this was unexpected. It is an aspect that I wish to continue through my work as this is an aspect I did not know that I could control with my art practice.


Performance to Film

From the performance, I wanted to recreate the moment that was made in the performance when the audience and myself were singing along to Someone Like You. This was a somewhat surreal moment as this is not something naturally done in the middle of the art department.
For this, I asked friends and family to sing and mouth along to their favourite and most meaningful songs in strange, or personal places. This included the songs of; Earthquake (Tiny Tempah and Labriynth), Someone Like You (Adele) and Changed the Way You Kissed Me (Example), and the locations of my mothers’ car, RUSU and down by the lake on campus. My mother also partook in this, and this generational gap, especially as she knew the words, was very motivational for me to partake in the video piece. This generational gap also allowed sentimentality within the piece, which makes it very much more personal for me, such as some of the songs within the piece to others. I also wanted to capture the singing as though I am a spectator in their lives, much like the artists Martin ParrMarc Isaacs and John Smith.

My plan is to mash these together into a five minute film, which when displayed, will be an interactive piece. There is no particular order that which I would like the clips to be placed, however I will have to listen to the songs to determine matching beats and lyrics. When people enter the room, they will do so knowing that they have to sing along to at least one of the songs that are played. If I had more time, I would like to be able to narrate a story of someone’s life, perhaps my own, influenced by John Akomfrah and his works.

While editing the film, I had to use several layers – more than I am used to. This made the process more complicated than originally thought as I accidentally kept deleting parts when adding new clips and audio in. This made editing tricky, however I utilised the maximum space available to edit in Adobe Premiere Pro. I was happy with the overall edit, even though I would have preferred to create something more along the lines of a 20 minute feature film.