(screen grab from Schütte’s website)
The lecture featured three different reviews for Model for a Hotel, one from the Guardian’s Adrian Searle, one from Time Out’s Ossian Ward and a third from Richard Dorment from the Telegraph. Searle’s review is an audio piece (that can be found on the Guardian’s website here), he speaks in hushed but excited tones, he’s clearly a fan but does not seem to fall into obscure prosaic ramblings about the work, his is a descriptive style, interspersed with exclamations of what I can only think of as being delight: “groovy!” he says. He goes further than simply Model for a Hotel though, also describing the other pieces in the Bonn show – the plywood and scrim Ferienhaus für Terroristen for example, and some silver angels that look like “brand new kitchen instruments”. He’s full of little pieces of back story, and it wasn’t really a huge surprise to see he has co-authored a book on Schütte’s work.
The other two reviewers only spoke of Model for a Hotel within the context of the 4th plinth installation, so there is no relationship to be had with Schütte’s other works, only with the surroundings. Ward was clearly unimpressed in his review (here) – “a similar shrug went round those assembled at the unveiling of Thomas Schütte’s new sculpture for Trafalgar Square’s empty fourth plinth.” and that it mocked monumental art. It’s merely a model and not the finished article. Dorment is, as the Telegraph review states, “blown away by Thomas Schütte’s delicate sculpture on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square”. He’s clearly impressed by the juxtaposition of the lightness brought by the colourful glass structure and the heavy and inert monumental monochromatic surroundings. Searle also referred to the piece in its Trafalgar Square location, but found the installation within a building to be “glorious”. What would the others have thought of it in Bonn I wonder?
(Thomas Schütte: Model for a Hotel, 2007, glass, aluminium, steel, installation view, Bundeskunsthalle 2010, Photo: David Ertl)
Moving on from Schütte, the next artist to be discussed was Kiki Smith, another artist I’d never heard of (this is becoming quite shameful!). Again, three different reviewers of her oeuvre and three different views, this time it’s Elizabeth Brown, the Mary Ryan Gallery and Christine Kuan. Elizabeth Brown’s review dated from 1994 and spoke about sculpture and the body, the unusual effects that she achieved such as “evoking solid bodies in fragile silk tissue” or “transitory visual effects in bronze”. Brown is another who has gone on to write a book about the artist in question, so clearly has a level of interest in her. The Mary Ryan Gallery commentary was from a biography on their website circa 2001 where the work was described as feminist and that it was “BODY ART imbued with political significance” and “undermined traditional erotic representation”; an agenda has been identified that was not apparent 7 or so years earlier (the website currently states that “Her work addresses feminist, philosophical, social, sexual, and political aspects of human nature, employing non-traditional materials. Her early work, transgressive in nature, dealt with mortality and decay, while her more recent work explores the natural world, portraiture, fairy tales, and myths.” so may well have changed again). Kuan’s piece on Oxford Art Online provides a much more balanced view, talking about the craft, the processes, her influences. It’s an interview rather than a direct critique.
Whilst some of this might be contradictory, it is more likely representing a shift in ideas and ideals, it probably also has something to do with how we bring something of ourselves to the work, so we interpret things as we see fit. A feminist will draw more upon the feminist elements of the work, bringing them to the fore, making them the dominant aspect of the review or biography, whereas someone without such feminist ideals would probably play them down a little. There’s also a certain amount of writing for the audience, and the nature of the intent of the writing (interview, promotional biography, critical review for an exhibition, etc.).
The next artist, I did know. Louise Bourgeois’ spider sculpture (Maman) was present in the Louvre gardens a number of years ago (in 2008) – the photograph below isn’t a particularly successful one, but it’s the only one I’ve been able to locate from the day.
Bourgeois’ work has been described as biographical, as the journal of her life although I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not sure what the giant spider has to do with that; I don’t know anything about her life, certainly not enough to make an informed reading of it and certainly not without reading someone else’s thoughts on the matter*. In looking at the three sources of writing on her, the first was an obituary (she died in 2010) and Angela described it as “nice”, as you might expect in that type of writing but without any thoughtful critique or commentary. In it, the one thing that seemed significant enough to be written down was “culture is the body, my body is my sculpture”. What has this to do with a giant spider?
Dorment has also written about Bourgeois, and he has said that once you know the symbolism of the work it makes sense, and is nothing without it (tapestries represent the family business, cages to imprisonment, houses to security of her childhood and guillotines to the end of that security). With this knowledge, it all become subject to obvious indexical symbolism and that this has fed the academic “feeding frenzy” that came relatively late to her work. As such, the work is more famous for this academic interest rather than for any particular aesthetic qualities and may not stand the test of time…
Siri Hustvedt has a slightly counter argument in her piece for the Guardian (here), she argues that “The story of Louise Bourgeois’s early life has become so enmeshed with her work that many critics have been seduced into biographical or psychoanalytic readings of the art, punctuated with pithy pronouncements from the artist”. From this is can be deduced that there are other ways to read the work, but we’ve been conditioned to read the biographical and psychoanalytical signifiers that repeatedly appear. Does this then mean that Dorment’s view is not his own? That it’s lazy? Well, of course there’s the fact that he might not like the work and therefore feels less inclined to come to his own interpretation and is indeed swept up with what has been already said about it, particularly by Bourgeois herself (he virtually says this in his article anyway – “Bourgeois’s work often fails because she gives us too much information”). I’m not implying this is the truth of the matter, Dorment is clearly more switched on that I am. I guess I’m just asking the question because I know it’s what would happen to me…
* Bourgeois has said, “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother. “ (from here)
The final artist was the performance artist Bobby Baker who deals with subjects motherhood and cooking,routines, daily lives and such. She uses comedy and food, drawings and stuff and is influenced by world affairs… Rather than a particular critique on the work, this was used as a way of introducing online collections as a resource, with Baker’s Diary Drawings featured on the Wellcome Collection site.
There was also the Turner Prize and the Stuckists, perhaps here as a means to illustrate that we should look at different views as there might be something of interest hidden within the rants or the negativity.
(from From Archive to Interview, video lecture 2)
The Stuckists (and others) will be against “an empty gallery with a three-part recording”, they were also against Tomma Abts receiving the prize – a German winning a prize for a British visual artist under the age of 50? How does that work? But they seemed to be a bit more concerned with the abstract nature of the work, which is counter to their figurative painting manifesto, as is the giving of prizes in for art… or galleries in general for that matter.
The final part of the video is about online reference sources, such as the UCA website, or major galleries such as MoMA and Tate. I’ll not bother repeating these resources here, but below there are the ones used in this entry. All references used are also repeated in the Resources section of the site (although only the parent URL in the case of web pages). And from this we are then presented with three questions:
(from From Archive to Interview, video lecture 2)
I’ll answer this in a later post.
Web references – all accessed 29/10/2014
(I guess the copyright rests with Negativeland, but possibly a bit contentious)
The cover could cause confusion and financial loss as it could lead to people buying that instead of the new U2 album that was due for release around the same time. In a story filled with amusing turns, the band took advantage that the news machine does exactly as they did and re-reported a bogus press release (without checking any facts) that the band were somehow connected to an axe murder that occurred, supposedly, following a row over one of their records. This went from fanzine to music press to mainstream news to the point the story had to be retracted. A story that was appropriated without question – as one of the members of Negativeland mentioned – reprinting, cannibalising and copying is so routine, it’s frightening!
Much of the discussion centred around the nature of the arts and a history of appropriation and copying, be it a tune that is reused for something else, or how paintings inform painters, how something will sbde incorporated in the art of another and presented to the viewing public as something new: “In the visual arts there is a long-standing tradition of found image collage, from [Kurt] Schwitters and [Bazon? Not sure who is being referred to here] Brock, and [Robert] Rauschenberg and [Andy] Warhol. In modern terms, appropriation is often about culture jamming, capturing the corporately controlled subjects of the one way media barrage, reorganising them to be a comment upon themselves and spitting them back into the barrage for cultural consideration.” (circa 35min into the film)
All this ties in with the idea of visual culture, of these representations (TV, music/muzak, high art, speech, dreams and ultimately society) and how it structures the way people behave (loosely from Visual Methodologies). At the start of that book, there is also an introduction to occularcentrism, and the centrality of the visual to Western society – something the postmodernists, SI, Debord and Baudrillard spoke of, and something I will inevitably come back to later during the MA.
Another ironic turn of events was with the ZooTV tour when U2 appropriated TV images and redistributed them as part of the show. Surely this is exactly the same as what they sued Negativeland for, although as they are “bigger” they got away with it, with many of the media providers probably happy to be appropriated by U2 in this way…
There was also some discussion on the copyright laws (of America) and fair use in terms of parody. Now, I’d always considered a more traditional use of the word:
1. An imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect:
the film is a parody of the horror genre (from oxforddictionaries.com)
however, there is another definition too:
Although a parody can be considered a derivative work under United States Copyright Law, it can be protected from claims by the copyright owner of the original work under the fair use doctrine, which is codified in 17 U.S.C. § 107. The Supreme Court of the United States stated that parody “is the use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works”. That commentary function provides some justification for use of the older work. See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. (from wikipedia.com)
The UK laws are different but changing, so will see on that one.
Lots to think about and something of small level of reassurance that Some Unholy War / Victory are not going to get me into too much trouble…
Rose, G (2014)Visual Methodologies. 3rd Edition. London. Sage Publications Ltd
Looking at his website, again the work isn’t really large enough to get a really good look, although the impression is clear enough. Whilst this is sculpture, there’s an obvious relationship with some of the work I’ve been pulling together for Some Unholy War with the blurring effect. Is this something to look into more? Adding more blur? It would be difficult as the background also blurs and everything becomes too “unclear”. Perhaps some could work, and thinking about it, some are already more in this vein. I suppose it’s time to put something of SUW on here, rather than the brief glimpses that there has been so far.
The prints are ready now, packaged up ready for posting before the deadline, so that’s a done deal.
The work will be exhibited in November for 10 days prior to distribution at the St John’s Centre in Blackburn, I’ll try and get in to see what’s on show, but there’s no guarantee with that.
(images used for educational purposes)
I’ll add some thoughts on the crit later.
The interview with Barbara Kruger takes up the first 50% or so of the broadcast, together with Laurie Penny. There much said about feminism, they both work with this so it would be expected. From a point of view of Kruger’s work, it’s interesting that she denounces the claim that her work is subversive, but rather that she likes to work with doubt, asking questions and resistance. In terms of the doubt, it was also interesting but maybe not really surprising that she was very cognisant of the fact that others will their own meanings to her work, that some will be successful and others won’t, depending on the person looking at the image and reading the text. Of course, there is something of herself in there too, it would be an impossible claim to say that there isn’t - nobody can be that objective.
Free Thinking. 2014 [Radio Broadcast] Georgia Catt. British Broadcasting Corporation
located at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b047bs61 (accessed 04/10/2014 )
(images used for educational purposes)
So, with the diptych discarded for the time being, a second round of activity started, playing with the order of the images, pulling more options from the library of images made when viewing the film Battle of Britain (by Guy Hamilton) and the Ubisoft game Blazing Angels, organising them in a longer sequence, a narrative of five instead of two. Adding more images allows for different options (obviously), so things were definitely changing - back to the drawing board and around the buoy... not reworking the images but what they mean and how they interact with each other.
The “influences” for this piece originally came from appropriation and mixing text and photography in a way that goes beyond mere captioning (the text is part of the work). Barbara Kruger is one source of inspiration, although she is very recognisable by her graphic delivery (I still haven’t listened to the radio programme mentioned by Angela - on my list of things to do over the weekend). I like it, it’s a throwback to my own short-lived graphic design training. Maybe it can be argued that this is a third influence, but I would prefer to think it’s a continuation of the text and art form, whilst also feeding the realms of the appropriation and the position that could have in the postmodern arena, I’m thinking Roy Lichtenstein and positioning low culture as high culture - I have mentioned these might be developed as large scale artworks for the gallery wall, not small images on a computer screen or pages in an A5 booklet, although this could actually be an alternative resolution of the piece - back to being similar to the war stories, referential to its roots.
With this idea of a more narrative driven piece, still mixing video film and video game source material, the mood perhaps changes a little. Does this continue a theme of glorification of war driven by the media, is it romanticising a period of our history? Or does it actually question what we see, what we do with that media? This is where I want to be coming from, questioning the raison d’être of the source material, that conditions us to be more accepting of conflict, maybe even more aggressive in our outlook - certainly as a male anyway. Perhaps this questioning stance would have to be supported by the statement that accompanies the work, otherwise people will simply take what they see and not be nudged into thinking about things (it’s the same with pretty much anything I’ve produced).
The work submitted for the crit is not truly “finished”, not by a long way; it’s been bound by the constraints placed in terms of time and the number of images. I’m not even truly sure if it’s actually worth pursuing further, but I’m sure the feedback due on Monday will give some guidance with regards to this. Maybe it will be worth playing a little more with styles of text, or working with the underlying DLP mesh that is a feature of this way of working to square everything up in order that it is suitable for printing large...
I’ll post the image sequence and some further notes on the outcome of the critique session later next week.
(images used for educational purposes)