Monday, 12 October 2015

MAS-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 5 Muscle Sore-Ness, Stan Laurel, BAS8 Launch Party, Book Symposium, Light Night, Reading, Note Writing and not a lot of photo taking....

this weeks post it notes - as you can see lots of notes in different places - partly because head a bit all over the place and partly because physically been a bit all over the place - hence writing on whatever to hand...
Standing next to work which is part of the Out Of The Shadows exhibition (at St Johns Church until 21st October 2015) which is part of the Love Arts Festival - an official British Art Show 8 fringe event don't ya know

It's been a really busy week - though I haven't done much creating - not even done any knitting. Instead I have been very busy looking, reading, listening and watching. And going ouch a lot as I overdid it at the gym and pulled a muscle in my right arse cheek so in amongst the looking, reading, listening and watching there has been a lot of sharp intakes of breath and applications of hot water bottles. It isn't quite so twingy today so hopefully it is on the mend and I will soon stop such sharp inhalations and mutterings of ouchness and be back to normal.

So in amongst the ouchiness I have been listening to a lot of radio - I usually have R4 on in the background. It's a habit I picked up when I first left home and the sound of the voices made me feel less lonely. Lots of it can be smug (Quote Unquote) and inaccessible (bits of In Our Time)  and arseboring (You and Yours, Moneybox Live) but bits of it are sheer joy - I adore the verbal jousting of Just A Minute and the silliness and filth of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue and R4 was also the first place where I encountered Count Arthur Strong who never fails to make me smile. And I learn lots of stuff from it too - this week there were two programmes which stood out for me.

 A programme about natural history which focused on anemones and talked about the work done by Philip Henry Gosse who was a 19th century naturalist who studied marine biology. He spearheaded the victorian craze for aquaria in the 1850's when he set up the first aquarium at London Zoo. He also wrote the wonderfully titled book The Aquarium - An Unveiling Of The Wonders Of The Deep Sea in 1854. He was building on the work of a lady called Anne Thynne who in 1846 managed to create a marine aquarium and keep alive for more than 3 years out of their natural habitat such creatures as corals and sponges. No mean feat given pumps for use in aquaria weren't invented til a long time later. This led me to a bit of tinternet research and to looking at lovely drawings of victorian ladies looking at things in tanks - like these and the cast iron design of some of these tanks looks like it was an influence on one of my favourite film versions of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea - namely the 1954 version which stars two of my all time favourite actors namely Peter Lorre and James Mason. The rest of the programme was a bit too sciency for me and so I zoned out after the words victorian made me prick up my ears but you can listen to it again if you like here.

The other programme which made me stop what was I doing and really listen was the episode of Home Front (the BBC's serial which is a fictional account of life at home in Britain during the First World War told through various characters) bits of it are really gripping and this episode was especially so. It featured Dorothea Winwood wife of the vicar writing a letter to her husband to tell him their baby had died. Harrowing and moving in places but also very interesting for me as it also describes the process of getting the local photographer in (a Mrs Lillian Frost) to take a photograph of the child in his Sunday best - she brings lights and tripods and a lock of his hair is also taken as a keepsake. The rational being given by the woman helping her organise such things as 'you'll be glad of a memory'.

It is always interesting to me when a fictional piece echoes or affirms the historical cultural assertions about the practices and beliefs of the time. I am interested in post mortem photography and hope to try and recreate some of the style of the victorian ones I've seen. It can be hard to find examples of them though. I appreciate that Home Front is a drama and written in the 21st century so not in itself a viable historical source but it is based upon historical research. And it would appear that for some at least the practice most commonly associated with the victorian period mourning customs ie photographing the dead relative and taking a lock of their hair continued into the edwardian period. In some circumstances photographing the dead continues - it's often done in the cases of still born babies or those who die shortly after birth for instance. Having a photograph is believed to help with the grieving process.  

The other instance of fiction matching assertions of historical custom and practice is in the final chapters of Lady Audley's Secret by ME Braddon (am still obsessed with this book and if you haven't read it - you must - for it is wonderful) when Robert Audley is frightened his friend will haunt him as he has not been laid to rest in hallowed ground. I appreciate this is a common fear/feeling/superstition but it was good to read it in a novel which was written in the victorian period when death and burial practices and customs were seemingly so much more uppermost in the every day. There are also wonderful mentions of the child Georgy being popular at funerals and a subtle dig at the way these occasions were held:

'he had attended several infant funerals in the neighbourhood , and was considered valuable as a mourner on account of his interesting appearance. He had come therefore to look upon the ceremony of interment as a solemn festivity; in which cake and wine and a carriage drive were the leading features’.

Also when the author talks of the ways in which women can alter their appearances : 'when the glossy plaits are relics of the dead , rather than the property of the living' - I had heard of women selling their hair when to avoid destitution but not hair being sold from the dead - but then prior to the 1832 Anatomy Act dead bodies were prized for their use as anatomical specimens so it should come as no surprise that hold was sold too. 

Seriously - it is a wonderful, wonderful book so please read it if you can.

Whilst at the launch party for British Art Show 8 (we got an invite thanks to a friend of mine being the sister whose dayjob is assistant curator at Haywards Gallery) I was chatting with a chum about keepsakes and he said that he doesn't like being given things that had been owned by dead relatives - he'd far rather have the relative still alive and the object he's been given as a result of their death feels an encumbrance rather than an useful remembrance of them.

I think I'm the opposite of that (other than being in total agreement with rather having the person still around rather than just bits of their stuff) though as some of my most treasured objects were given to me either by the person or were owned by the person, and for me it is a way of remaining in touch with them somehow - as looking at the object evokes memories of them and the occasions it was used or where it lived in their house.

But I am also getting ahead of myself somewhat as prior to the BSA8 launch I went to see a one man show at the Carriageworks about Stan Laurel. Written as a monologue where Stan is talking to a non verbally responsive Ollie who is lying in bed recovering from a stroke. It was wonderfully acted by Jeffrey Holland and it was very moving. It was also nice to catch up with someone I used to work in the big bad world of corporate-ness and whilst sometimes I miss office camaraderie his descriptions of what it was like to work there now just confirmed the correctness of my decision to leave - some 6 years ago now.

So British Art Show 8 or BAS8 for short - currently on at Leeds Art Gallery  until 10 January 2016 was launched with great fanfare and lots of free prosecco on Thursday evening.

According to their brochure it is:
'a national touring exhibition that provides a vital overview of some of the most exciting contemporary art produced in the UK.'    It features the work of 42 artists 'who have made a significant contribution to art in this country over the last five years'.

It features works that are sculptural, painted, photographs, video, installations and performance.

Thanks to being busy chugging free booze and catching up with chums and spotting familiar faces in the crowds (it was heaving, I've never seen Leeds Art Gallery so busy) I didn't get chance to see that much of the art itself - plus it was both very busy and noisy so it was difficult to see and hear stuff. I heard the start of the speeches by Art Council bods but then they got drowned out by the chatter of those around me so we carried on our own conversations and just clapped when everyone else did.

But I was intrigued by some of the bits I did see (and very relieved that two of my favourite paintings in the victorian room - The Village Funeral by Frank Holl painted in 1872 and The Convent Garden by Francis S Walker painted in 1878 are still there for the time being)  and I am very much looking forward to going back and having a proper considered look at it all  - both as individual pieces and in relationship to each other as part of the group.

But in the meantime I especially liked the seating made from granite gravestones by Alan Kane and I also want to watch the video pieces in their entirety as opposed to tantalising glimpses above somebody's head.  And I also want to look more closely at the work by Linder as on first viewing the carpet piece looks very sumptuous and on first glance I loved the collection of images by Andrea Buttner which is her response to Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgement.

I'm not sure though whether to just look at the work and then look it up in the guide and find out the inspiration/ideas behind it or to read the guide first and then look at the work. Sometimes the way work is written about puts me right off looking at it - if it appears too pretentious or impenetrable or calls upon some arcane knowledge only known or available to the few. But also sometimes it is a way in to make sense of the work or opens up another avenue to investigate....the use of language around art is what I'm hoping to do my dissertation on...and whilst I have made a start - it feels a very little start and it is beginning to prey on my mind that I have not made more progress as yet. But I have to concentrate on the paper I'm doing at the What Lies Beneath Conference first - and that's less than 2 weeks away now. EEK!! But at least for that I have done most of the image resizing ready for them to go into the presentation - a boring mundane job that takes ages.....but enough of the stuff that's on my mind for this week and back to what I was up to last week....

I was quite sensible and grown up though the night of the BSA8 launch as I didn't avail myself of the invite to the aftershow launch party at the Tetley as well as I had a tutorial the following morning at 9am and I wanted to be as bright eyed and bushy tailed as possible for that, plus after my tutorial I was attending a symposium on Small Press Printing and Printing At Leeds in the glorious and gorgeous surroundings of the Special Collections Unit at the Brotherton University Library in Leeds.

I did however have a quick peek before I went home at the latest photographic exhibition at the White Cloth Gallery  which featured all sorts of wonderful pictures taken in Leeds - some were of its people and some were of its places or a specific place - the images of Meanwood Road were particularly interesting. Must go back and have another look...

The symposium at Leeds Uni was very interesting plus the free lunch provided was delicious and streets ahead of any of the free lunches I've had at the Art College. It was lovely to catch up with two of my mentors from the Place and Memory Project too - as well as to hear interesting and thought provoking presentations on the relationships between Ken Smith (who if I can read my notes properly called the Arts Council - the Arse Council) and Jon Silkin - northern poets who set up things like Stand Magazine, it was not always harmonious and one letter written in 1975 began with 'can I have £5?' - a not inconsiderate amount to  ask for then.

There was discussion of the relationship between the machines used to make the publications and how that altered the way they could be distributed, whether they were printed or copied, is there such a things as a definitive text?, and that with small press editions there isn't just the labour of writing the contents but also the editing, the setting of typeface, sewing it together, posting it out, selling it, distributing it, as well as sorting out the storage of the unsold copies.

There was also discussion of the materiality of print, its sacramental nature, can a book be imbued with essence of a place if it it left there, or can you make it of a place ie in effect setting up a small library in a corner of a field as that is the only place you can go to read a particular piece of work, when we ask the question 'what's the best book you'ever read?' what we usually mean is 'what's the best reading of a book you've had?' or 'what's the best text you've read?' and how you can widen the definition of a book to include pages in an envelope or play with way you can show poetry - little poems on card slipped into little plastic bags, or folded concertina like into printed matchboxes or printed (unwittingly) with the help of corporate sponsors who left paper and printer stocks unguarded so they could be pressed into the service of poetry.

It was fascinating thought provoking stuff - (and nobody read out their slides) plus there were lots of physical books to look at - both in the library and brought along by the speakers, some of which had seemingly magical price tags on like 2 and 1/2 p or 2/6 and which were delicate, ephemeral and tactile - unlike digital versions of things. 

And then it was Light Night....and thankfully assuaging the fear that my crap kids digital camera was broken by realising it was the batteries that had somehow run out - in spite of not being fresh and it showing 3 full bars early in the morning. I'm hoping it was because they were a duff batch and not a problem with the camera itself - I know it's rubbish but I am having so much fun using it. I'll be heartbroken if anything happens to it - which I'm sure it will as it is so badly made it cannot last forever or even for very long at all. Unlike the very wonderful Zeis Ikon Cocarette I got last week which is almost a hundred years old and still in good physical shape.....

Anyway Light Night - didn't see that much of it to be honest as there were big queues for the stuff we would have liked to have seen and I wasn't that desperate to  see it to stand in a queue for ages. There was one thing at Leeds Uni where there was a queue but it was for something medieval in inspiration and I decided that I could have been bothered if it had been victorian in inspiration but not if it was medieval (apologies to my medievalist chums). I would have made a very poor pre-raphaelite with that kind of attitude but by then I'd been out of the house since 8am and I wanted to keep moving and not stand still..unless it was for something amazing.

We did go and see Out Of The Shadows - not just because my work is in it but also because I wanted to see the other artists work in situ too - as I had left before the other artists had finished putting theirs up. Disappointingly I think the cold has affected the paper I've printed on as it was absolutely flush to the material when I put it up but it has gaped a little bit in places now. I look forward to being able to frame some of this work in not so easily weather influenced frames and hang it somewhere else too.

But we did get to see the rather hypnotic projection and live drawing on the side of the Art College, the rather wonderful exhibition work by Arts and Minds Members in the Light with such varied and arresting subject matter, we also bought a light sabre thing that flashes different colours which hopefully is going to be really effective for writing words in long exposure photographs, battled against the crowds to pick up a Film Festival Brochure from the Town Hall which we've been pouring over this weekend deciding which films are must -sees, and we also had delicious pulled pork sandwiches at the Arch Cafe next door to St Johns Church and have an impromptu catch up with some lovely chums.

But the crowds and the queues were too much for me - and even though I had relatively high heels on, I couldn't see a lot of what was on show as my view on the Headrow was blocked by so many people. If it's going to be that popular that year and I hope it is as in spite of my dislike of crowds it was fab to see so many people out and about seeing stuff - especially home grown work in non traditional gallery settings, I hope they introduce some kind of better way to move people round. Getting up and down the Town Hall steps was perilous as part of it was cordoned off as a viewing platform and there was no formal up/down system on the other steps making it a bit of a scrum and free for all which was a bit scarey at times as I couldn't see where I was going. So we called it a night and came home to wine and part 2 of a documentary on BBC4 about Indie Music.

It was very interesting in places and wonderful to see footage of Morrissey in his prime as opposed to the petulant whining bore he has become (my 18 year old self could never have imagined me writing a sentence like that as I worshipped him then) as well as interviews with folks like Bill Drummond who invariably makes me chuckle. But I think it was Alexis Petridis who said that 'nostalgia is a form of curation, you cut out the bits that you don't like'. And it also struck me that you simplify the past to make a good story too.

I think that's about it for this weeks review of last week....really must crack on with to do list for this week now - starting with paper for gothic conference..I did wake up with introductory words in my head though yesterday and as I keep a pencil and paper by the bed at least I was able to scribble them down (see top pic though doubt you'll be able to read my writing) before they disappeared again amidst my busy but sleepy synapses....




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