Re-Launch Exhibition; UCL Art Museum& Slade School of Art

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Ian Giles Jonathan Kipps Katja Larsson Nadine Mahoney Julia McKinlay Milou van der Maaden Janne Malmros Kate Keara Pelen Cyrus Shroff Printers’ Symphony

Published on the event of Re-Launch at UCL Art Museum (limited to 200 copies) ISBN 978-1-904800-11-8 edited by Keef Winter All photographs courtesy of the artists unless otherwise stated. Cover: Katja Larsson, Cat© Compact, jesmonite, 75cm x 40cm x 66cm, 2015 Back Page: Cyrus Shroff, A More Extended Sleight of Hand, Charcoal on IKEA MALA paper, plaster 3d print, museum labels, display case, Dimensions Variable, 2013, (artist wishes to acknowledge the support of the V&A)

UCL Art Museum South Cloisters, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT Open Monday - Friday 1-5pm T: 02076792540 E:


A Quiet Affair Dr Nina Pearlman The growth of art museums has significantly increased in the past fifteen years. As living and breathing repositories of cultural production, museum collections have expanded, global franchises have emerged and sector leaders continue to expand their existing footprints. The grand architectural gestures that brand these revamps and re-launches are often brash and noisy affairs. As audiences flock to consume novel and stimulating experiences, museums can’t help but mimic the conditions of spaces such as airports or shopping malls, insofar as crowd control and management emerge as characteristics now integral to a museum’s institutional genome. Such spaces are challenged with balancing the visitor’s physical access to more art with maintaining suitable conditions for a meaningful experience. In stark contrast to this narrative, UCL Art Museum’s HQ sits on a footprint that is just short of that of half a tennis court. For close to thirty years, it has occupied the same prime spot in UCL’s neoclassical building, designed by and named after the celebrated Victorian architect William Wilkins, of National Gallery fame. While an inaugural public exhibition of a selection of works from the University’s art collections took place in the space as early as 1930, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the Collections were able to claim the space as a permanent home. With the University’s largest holdings being works on paper, the space was designed at this time on the model of a traditional Print Room. Conceived as a repository and archive, access to and use of the Collections, which comprised of works dating as far back as the 15th century, were limited to the scholarly few. If not outwardly discouraged, use by general visitors and even by students was not seen as the Collections’ prime purpose. A reversal of the ‘restricted use’ approach to UCL’s art collections began in the 1990s. When the Flaxman Gallery – a prime site of the University’s artistic heritage, situated beneath UCL’s iconic Dome – was restored to its Victorian grandeur, the Print Room also received its first makeover. An open display of wall-mounted plaster models from the studio of the acclaimed neoclassical artist John Flaxman became the prime feature of this makeover and the two sites became visually and conceptually linked for the first time. Some of these plasters were studies for full-scale models that could be

found embedded in the walls of the Flaxman Gallery; they were also connected to Flaxman’s signature line drawings stored in the Print Room cabinets. When the Collections were then awarded museum status at this similar juncture the relationship between a range of diverse yet interrelated sites that host art across the university campus was firmly set. The Museum emerged at this time not so much in the form of a noticeable spatial transformation but in the form of a conceptual turn. This shift signaled a new administrative entity that was charged with responsibility and care for the art works in the Collections, the administration and regulation of their visibility and use, as well as their continued development and growth. Under this single umbrella, the entire contents of Flaxman’s studio joined works such as Marmor Homericum – a sculptural relief by Romantic sculptor Henri de Triqueti. These examples comprise the University’s first bequest in the mid nineteenth-century, as well as UCL’s first contemporary public sculpture commission. Equally, other site-specific installations by Slade artists such as Henry Tonks’ The Four Founders (1922), and the salvaged Rex Whistler murals later installed in what became the Whistler Room, combined with works by past masters and award-winning Slade artists that were stored in the Print Room and painting stores. Together they came to form the Museum’s holdings, now comprising over 10,000 objects, organised around a singular administrative core. The 2015 refurbishment and re-launch of UCL Art Museum is a quiet affair. The permanent structural improvements to the Print Room footprint, the first since the 1990s, are in fact largely invisible – under the floor boards and inside the walls. The grand architectural gestures of 21st-century museum makeovers are limited to an intervention, as part of a temporary exhibition, in the form of a full-size column that stretches from floor to ceiling, prominently situated at the centre of the space. Interrupting Wilkins’ ordered neoclassical system of column and beam, this addition is the work of artist Jonathan Kipps. As a makeshift plaster-board verticality, it exists in the space as a performative conceptual intervention rather than a structural one. Kipps’ column is complemented by Katja Larrson’s Cat© Compact, a jesmonite cast of a digger bucket that sits in a large bay window between two of Wilkins’ columns; a decontextualised and destabilised replica. Larrson’s digger bucket is a still and pristine ‘relic’, evocative of that which is left onsite, usually underground when diggers are

inanimate on a building site at the point at which a commerciallydriven architectural scheme draws to a close. As the Collections continued to grow over the past decade and encompass new forms of creative practice and engagement with the art objects, a new model that would be adaptive, responsive and reflective needed to emerge from the traditional idea of the Print Room. Experimentation with methods suited to the exploration of the Collections’ contemporary relevance and the key narratives that they impart with respect to collecting and learning have been at the core of the Museum’s transformation. The fact that works in the Museum’s collections were either explicitly collected for the purpose of instruction, or were the product of a process of instruction or research by artists early on in their career, makes the Collections particularly rich for such investigations. Significantly, the Print Room transformation has also been a driving force in the development of research-based education across disciplines through direct engagement with art objects. Use of the Collections has transcended the disciplinary threshold of art to encompass those from anatomy to zoology, geography and history, through to science and technology. It is therefore, at this re-launch juncture, that a wider and diverse range of activities are overlaid on a single footprint: different formats of teaching and research as well as experimentation with different forms of artistic practices as modes of engagement. In its 2015 configuration, a conceptual drive is cemented into the existing administrative framework of the Museum. While its prime footprint remains unchanged, focus is drawn to how the Museum’s vision and functions are developed with its audiences and partners, as well as the Museum’s role within the specific urban locality it inhabits. Narratives within and about the Collections and the Museum are continuously being deconstructed and rebuilt with creative, academic, curatorial and institutional collaborators. These collaborations bring with them new insight and ideas from across a wide array of contemporary agendas – from the sociopolitical, through to the personal and technological. The Print Room has become a project space in which it is possible to catch a glimpse of how the concept of a museum is being reshaped in real time. Conversations ensue in an environment of bespoke furnishings and digital platforms that serve to unify distinct sites and highlight works from the Collections ensconced in boxes, cabinets and vitrines. At once operative and intellectual, didactic

and creative, a space where the focus is on the conditions of access to and encounter with the art object, the traditional Print Room has now morphed into a critical device that explores the multi-faceted aspects of what constitutes a museum. As such it provides the freedom and fluidity to play with the components that make up a museum – reshuffle them, pull them apart and put them back together in new configurations. Our model is that of a working art museum, which interrogates not only where is the Art, but when is the Art.









A Cloud to the Back Daniel C. Blight In the sky a mixture of things float around. Without gravity they are able to drift and bump into one another. Here, motion is something lethargic, calm and soundless. On the ground things move faster and snow covers almost everything in sight. A glove sticks out from the earth, a small totem for the related ideas of death and burial, but also for the safe building of things – the sense of ingenuity and ability the people here possessed. As the land is white, the glove is visible from hundreds of metres away. In this sense distance offers it a perspective and its own landscape too. Running northwards through the middle of a shallow valley is a shimmering line. Metal – silver and black in colour – runs the length of this ground. If you walk from one end to another as the sun sets over the top of the valley, you can watch the last remaining shards of light bounce off the snow and reflect about the place. The metal was used for domestic objects before everything moved upwards. Plates, cups, knives and forks were cut directly from the ground and distributed evenly and adequately amongst the population. Now that everyone has gone we can study this place without fuss. I’m introducing you for the first time because, as you will be aware from that brief conversation we had on the phone, we’d like to invite you to take over; manage this place, as it were. Something strange happened and we doubt those things will return from the sky, but for now we can still see them clearly and we wish you to learn about their meanings and use them as a point of departure for your own investigations here. It would be good if you could make new things and create an environment that people want to return to. This is a good space where you will be happy I’m sure, at least for a few days and then we can move you on to a new project. The important thing here is culture. You have to make sure that as one culture transforms into another, or one grows larger and another next to it shrinks as a result, that no object is underprivileged. Things will inevitably be different in size,

you cannot chop and prune to avoid this, but you must make sure that there is balance and understanding. Everything is of fundamentally equal importance. The older things have a relationship to their own time and are no more or less principal than what will be made now. The relative value and quality of materials is no longer what ties them to that form of historical presence or legitimacy – the one you have heard and no doubt read about – as we are now considering the ideas and the interactions of things as more crucial. We must see this as an opportunity to build something worthwhile. Soon the land will thaw. Until then my colleagues and I recommend you study the sky until about eight o’clock each day, when the sun sets, and then make notes to ensure you don’t forget anything. Something pithy sits there. It sits because it is conscious enough to be upright, to adopt the pose of a human. But it is sinew, like the stuff I pull from an orange and toss to one side. Some white material in the shape of a human body. I went walking away from that thing in the hope a more general familiarity with the landscape might ease me into it. There was a desperate atmosphere to the objects scattered about, a sense that they could be forgiven for being functionless at first glance, but that they would make you run through all their backstory before they’d stop whatever it was they were doing to intrigue me. It was my job, and by extension when the place was populated, everybody’s responsibility to understand these things. Old black branches lay out at my feet in the form of veins. Unrestrained by anything that might contain them they tunnelled through snow and emerged in clumps on the surface. Black, but also purple, they were what gave the ground a life, uneasy as it was. My employer had convinced me that this place could be turned into something more promising and despite my first impressions I was willing to believe him. This was a job after all. My colleagues had prepared a few things for me. Some greentinted glasses that dulled the sunlight exacerbated by the reflective qualities of snow; coffee in a bag, mostly consumed with its top rolled down and a bulldog clip sealing the packet

half-fresh; a towel too small to wash a child with and a tub of Priorat red paprika in a box of mixed veg. I waited until the sun set, removed the glasses and turned in. In the morning I drank the coffee and left the glasses on the table. My eyes hurt from how they turned everything I looked at lime green. I couldn’t study the objects in the sky at all properly while wearing them. Two things struck me as I pissed in the snow behind the house: I didn’t have any loo roll and my back ached from all the looking up. The man Nathaniel, a tired bureaucrat from Somerset had mentioned an old piano in the air at the end of the valley, so I walked for thirty minutes or so until I saw something above me. Tilted on its side, it droned-out a series of minor sevenths. If you can’t recall the sound of this chord, think mellow, the most obnoxiously laid-back timbre imaginable; what you might hear repeatedly as it moves up and down in scale while you wait for your main course at an overpriced jazz restaurant with your relative. It’s a fucking horrific intonation. And she was your mother’s dull sister anyway. Families function in the same way minor chords do. They complement and drag out the sad procession of life. You’ve got to love them because they offer you candour – a feeling of complete honesty – but there is absolutely no guarantee their advice is right. Give them a chance and they’ll put you right because they have to, ignore them and you’ll wish you listened more carefully in the first place. Take it or leave it, case-bycase, like the complication and absolute necessity of the cultural landscape. I don’t envy those people who see things obscured by a cloudy head. You’ve got to push away what doesn’t stay relevant, with the familiar an unfortunate exception. I left the children with my ex-wife to come here. I couldn’t live in the same city as her, despite the feeling of sadness that came with the thought to move away. When Claire left she took only those possessions she owned before we met; as if to state that our relationship was some kind of hiccup and her life could return to the way it was before us. I put the remainder of her things in a plastic box on top of the wardrobe in the bathroom. The box was transparent. I enjoyed, with some conceited sense of humour, looking at our life all collapsed together in a

container, visible but without space or order; a failed history of the idea of family. I could see the thing reflected in the mirror when I brushed my teeth in the morning and at night. I’d laugh out loud and splutter toothpaste all over the sink. Living alone brought with it a series of new and previously unimaginable pleasures. I looked down to rest my neck and spotted the mess I’d made on my shirt earlier. The faded green squares in rows specked with yellowy white. Toothbrushing was my mental complex made physical. This habit will follow me forever. Working and living alone helps no end. All those banal secrets we have; the ones you shouldn’t be embarrassed about because other people wouldn’t find them interesting. The secrets that make you as dull as you expected to be from childhood. The sneaking suspicion you would never live up to your own expectations. I thought I wouldn’t write this down or mention it to Nathaniel. Several days passed and my list of objects grew longer. I had formed relationships between things I thought meaningful before the snow started to melt and the clouds came and obscured everything in sight. The piano was the only visible object, because it was static and sounded out. Listening became a device for remembering the location of objects in relation to the ground. As the contents of the sky changed position gradually I could no longer locate myself, but it really wasn’t a problem.







Extracts from a Conversation between Susan Collins, Slade Professor, Director, Slade School of Fine Art (SC) and Andrea Fredericksen, Curator, UCL Art Museum (AF). AF: Back in 2009 the Slade and UCL Art Museum collaboration was conceived as an invitation to Slade students to revisit the past masters at UCL Art Museum and create new work in response. The purpose was for them to excavate, explore, and/ or explode the archive; to continue to develop their own practices using contemporary media and contemporary modes of thinking. Over the seven years it’s produced some amazing results. SC: We were approached by Simon Gould (Contemporary Projects Curator) and Wynn Abbott (Web Projects) because the collaboration was originally conceived as a web-based exhibition. Jon Thomson and I were both teaching in undergraduate Fine Art Media at the time, with particular responsibility for the electronic media area, so we initially became involved as the academic staff at the school with the most online expertise. We were very aware of the importance of the relationship between online space and real space, for both of us address that in our work, so we knew that the exhibition needed some physical presence. I was also aware at this point that we would be less likely to get Slade students on board if it was a purely online thing. Therefore together we came up with the idea that they would be able to intervene in the museum space itself. Was it just for one afternoon? AF: Yes, the first exhibition in 2009 was one afternoon, as a pop-up for the students, usually with the art work that inspired them by their side. Then the next year it was an entire weekend, and the year after it was a week. It was always situated in and around the exhibition and they would infiltrate, taking over the space. Then in 2012 we made it the summer exhibition, and then last year it was done in collaboration with One Day in the City: A Celebration of London and Literature, a festival coming from the UCL English Department. There was the exhibition but the Slade artists were also part of the programming. Over the years, it’s developed from something very small and it keeps getting bigger. I wondered what you thought is drawing the students in? SC: I think there’s so much in the collection, there’s so much for them to draw on. I think for them it’s a privileged access to a collection. It’s one of the things that makes this university quite special; that they

actually can have such direct access. They can walk just across the Quadrangle; it’s just on their doorstep. This treasure trove is accessible and in some ways inaccessible. It’s accessible in terms of proximity, in terms of your accessibility in opening up the collection to them, but so much of it is hidden in drawers and to be found, and so there’s that sense of discovery, and of individual discovery. There’s so much there that they’re not really going to run out of new things to find. If you’re exploring one particular thing in your work in any one given year you will notice things that you might not notice in the next. SC: I’d like to ask how much has this influenced the way you look at the collection? AF: Well, every time a student comes in they have a different idea of what they want to see. They say, for instance, ‘I’m interested in doppelgangers’ or ‘I’m interested in the colour yellow’ or ‘I love …’. It ranges from something really simple to the complex. Then together we’ll go through the boxes, and usually there’s a team of other people helping out as well. It’s first an hour but then they often come back and do some more. It’s really digging deep into the material. They may start with one idea and leave with another. There was a student, for example, doing really interesting video work, who started with mezzotints because she was really interested in black and white but then her interest morphed into anything to do with the Madonna and Child, then anything to do with children and mothers. It was just within one hour that the whole idea changed so I had to keep thinking about what it is she might want to look at. It was a real exchange between the two of us. It’s interesting to see what they start off with, what they leave the room wanting to do, and then, eventually, what it is that they create. I find the process really rewarding and I think they do as well. SC: There are occasions that do come up for artists when you’re invited to do something in response to a particular situation so in terms of giving them the experience of actually working with you, of researching content, researching an archive and collection and then actually working out how to respond to that in a tangible, interesting way; that’s really an invaluable opportunity for them. ….. SC: It’s also a challenge working in your space because you’re not a white cube gallery space. You are a museum space, or rather a cross between a museum and an archive - it’s a collection. The

students are intervening in a very particular kind of space and you’re usually showing their intervention alongside the source of the inspiration so one’s always seeing the collection through their eyes or through new eyes, and it’s drawing different things out. And I think that’s the strength of it actually. AF: I like the idea that it’s a collection, it’s a resource, it’s an archive - that it’s living and there for them – and they can do whatever they want with it. They can also think of it as a venue, and just explore the idea too of what you can do with an archive – an archive of the Slade’s past - something that they can actually contribute to, that they can change. …. SC: I wondered if you’d witnessed particular shifts in flavour in terms of the kind of proposals made from one year to the next. Or are they always quite diverse? AF: They’re always diverse but there are certain themes that people gravitate towards. There’s always the archivist in the group; someone who is really interested in systems, the process underpinning movement sheets, the things that we do on an everyday basis, that a library does or an archive does. People are intrigued by paperwork. Or someone who’s usually interested in the anonymous, or seeing what they can find out about the collection or UCL Art Museum without ever entering into the space, or what you can do with the unknown. Or, John Flaxman is always a pull, as are the Japanese woodcuts. … AF: We had fifty students make research appointments last year; though not all of them submitted proposals. We managed to whittle the number down from about forty proposals to a final seventeen participating students. So, it’s quite a process. SC: And the process is important because our students might already be very interesting as artists but they have no experience of making those proposals. It’s not just about them actually accessing your resources, and understanding, and having those doors open, and how that affects the development of their work and whether or not they end up in the show, and how successful the show is. The additional benefit is the really important professional experience for them in terms of developing proposals because it’s in-house, they’re

doing it before they’re out in the world, and they’re getting really good feedback from staff about the merits of their proposals or how they might improve them. I think that’s a very good learning experience. … SC: I think it’s also led to us collaborating, or groups from the Slade collaborating with other collections from UCL as well; the Sculpture collaborations with the Grant Museum of Zoology and the Rock Room for instance. I don’t think that the doors were ever closed; I think that it’s about people making the effort. Individuals will always go and find what they need, but because we tend to be so busy, so fully occupied, there hasn’t always been the kind of traffic between us that there should have been. Maybe that’s exactly why UCL brought in people for periods to actually catalyse interdisciplinary activity. I think that we at the Slade have been more proactive in engaging over the past few years, and it’s brought back so many riches. I think it’s been hugely enriching for us and hopefully we’ve been useful and interesting to the people we’ve engaged with as well, not just within UCL but beyond. …. SC: So with this year’s show you’re already doing a rethink? AF: This year - because UCL Art Museum has been closed for refurbishment - we have invited some of our former student collaborators back to celebrate the opening with an exhibition Re-Launch. We’ve been hoping to do more of this because we now have these worthwhile relationships with Slade alumni, and they’re doing such interesting things. Over the past few years, as part of our push to promote access to and research of the collections, we’ve been keen to nurture new and more interesting relationships with these emerging artists. Whether through the development of more performance-based work, artist residencies, or collaborative projects such as the recent Flaxman Exchange with Slade alumnus Marcia Farquhar - now also organised by Martine (Learning & Access Officer, UCL Art Museum), it’s been our ongoing collaboration with the Slade that has driven these new artistic relationships and successes.





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Julia McKinlay, Looking Moss, steel, paint, varnish, 50cm x 50cm x 30cm 2014, 2014 Ian Giles, Leap of Faith, video installation, 3 mins 48 secs, 2012 Ian Giles, Leap of Faith, video still, 3 mins 48 secs, 2012 Kate Keara Pelen, Soft Gauntlet (detail), needlework, 40 x 15 x 12cm, 2008 Kate Keara Pelen, Soft Helmet, needlework, 40 x 15 x 12cm, 2008 Janne Malmros, The Hunt, print on paper, 210cm x 154cm, 2015 Janne Malmros, The Hunt (detail), print on paper, 2015 Janne Malmros, The Hunt (detail), print on paper, 2015 Cyrus Shroff, Dish, EMap screen-shot, variable dimensions, 2015 (artist wishes to acknowledge the support of the V&A)

Milou van der Maaden, Sacred Life, video still, 2015 Milou van der Maaden, Sacred Life, video still, 2015 Printers’ Symphony, A Generic Tree, Selection of prints (20 x 24cm each), Various techniques, 2014 Printers’ Symphony, A Generic Tree, Documentation, 2014 Jonathan Kipps, Columns, plasterboard, drywall screws, wood, steel, each 60 x 60 x 477cm, 2014 Jonathan Kipps, Untitled (Fake Bronze Series), paper, graphite, emulsion, masking tape, 25 x 20 x 20cm, 2014 Nadine Mahoney, Journey Man, oil & acrylic on aluminium, 2013 (photo: Tom Carter)

Nadine Mahoney, Once more with feeling, oil on aluminium, 104cm x 124cm, 2015 (photo: Tom Carter) Katja Larsson, Hullmandel, stone, 15cm x 8cm x 7cm, 2014

Acknowledgements: Ghada Habib for transcription work

UCL Art Museum ISBN 978-1-904800-11-8

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