R E LAY
CAMBERWELL CHELSEA WIMBLEDON
R E LAY CIRCU LATING IDEAS M ARCH – MAY 2011
CONTENTS 07 Foreword 09 Introduction 15 Chapter 1 Identity Formation 35 Chapter 2 Spaces and Spectators 53 Chapter 3 Art and Society 69 Chapter 4 Recreating Histories 91 Conclusion 95 Contributors
FOREWORD Professor Chris Wainwright, Head of Colleges Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon (CCW ) I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the publication of Relay, the fifth book to appear in the Bright series. Relay attests to the ways in which the CCW Graduate School is developing research practice at Masters level through innovative approaches to teaching and learning. The publi cation brings together students on three of our taught postgraduate courses: MA Art Theory, MA Curating and MRes Arts Practice. By showing how research is carried out in project practice at Masters level, Relay brings the relationship between creative practice, research activity and teaching to life. We took the initiative to launch Bright to platform the work undertaken by staff and students at every level within the colleges of the Graduate School at CCW . The sheer diversity of activity taking place across the Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon colleges makes what we do often difficult to capture. The depth of our thinking and the breadth of our approaches cannot be merely summed up in a strapline or a soundbite. Instead, Bright has become a way of displaying the full spectrum of creative practice in art and design taking place in the CCW Graduate School. The Graduate School is home to our research degrees and our taught postgraduate students. It provides a supportive environment to nurture innovation in practice, furthering the development of challenging ideas. Our professors, readers, fellows and tutors generate a thought-provoking atmosphere, contributing their research to ongoing debates. Bright enables many of those discussions to be communicated across the Graduate School, engaging research supervisors, as well as established research centres and research networks throughout the University of the Arts London, includ ing our gallery spaces, such as Wimbledon Space, Chelsea Space and Peckham Space, with whom we continue to work closely on the public dissemination of ideas. Two aspects of the Graduate School define its distinctiveness: first, its commitment to create, as well as to maintain a direct relation ship between research-focused activity and teaching; secondly, its aim to provide a series of overarching thematic reference points to help sustain cross-disciplinary exchange and collaboration. Our current themes embrace four key issues: environment; technologies; social engage ment; and identities. The contributors to Relay touch on each of these issues, demonstrating the way in which our approach in the Graduate School helps to foster a community of practice in which practitioners share ideas across courses and colleges.
DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: AN INTRODUCTION TO RELAY David Dibosa, Course Director, MA Art Theory On your marks, get set, go: we start our relay from the point of view that if we want to end up with any useful forms of knowledge, then we must begin with what we know now. From that point, we can pursue lines of thought that show us how we have reached a certain understanding, follow ing the means and circumstances of communication, and tracing the networks of exchanges, so that we can grasp what we are doing when we claim to examine the work of knowledge, art and experience. The relay, in such regard, enacts a passing on of thoughts, activating lines of communication sustained by a relay of messages that are passed from hand to hand. It is not just a metaphor. Our relay has been a fact, a series of actions, sometimes mediated by hands scrolling across touchscreens and keyboards, sometimes handled by the exchange of ideas between staff and students, sometimes presented in teaching spaces and art spaces, making evident the work of sharing what we know, partaking in the transmission of ideas, from person to person, through a time-honoured means of passing something on. The passages that follow in this brief introduction outline the intellectual premise that stands behind this particular relay. They also detail how the work that forms the chapters of this book was laid out. As a relay, the emphasis is on the flow of ideas and the development of thought rather than on a tight delineation of closely worked-out positions. Indeed, no positions are taken here. Instead, the tone is suggestive and inviting: ‘what do you think of this?’ is a recurring refrain, alongside another inviting remark, ‘I’d be interested to hear your thoughts’. Such relay work allows those who participate, both as readers and writers, to pick up on any train of thought; discussions can be closely trailed then abandoned, wires can be crossed. Our aim has been to reflect a thought process or rather a set of thought processes that allow one to get lost and to find oneself again. Although our relay is linear, it leads off in many directions. If any message is to be delivered, it is the suggestion that knowing becomes knowledge only by passing through several hands. Working with Masters students from three courses (MA Art Theory, MA Curating and MRes Arts Practice), we set up a series of relay teams,
with each instructed to pass on a message – an image, an object, a citation, a viewpoint – between team members, one-to-one-to-one. Each team focused on one of four themes chosen by the group as a whole: Identity Formation; Spaces and Spectators; Art and Society; Recreating Histories. The themes engaged with current preoccupations in contemporary critical practice in the visual arts. Identity Formation relates to questions of subjectification, which have held centre stage courtesy of the French post-structuralist schools – those of Foucault and Derrida, in particular, as well as of their German predecessors, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.
Our relay team returns us to this lineage, releasing the potential of
when the recipient opens the letter from its sender and begins to attach
the image as both catalyst and interruption. In Spaces and Spectators, the
meaning to its contents. In our work, we have literalized and specta
message gets spectacularized. The move is less along the trajectory
cularized such a moment, rendering it as a continual unfolding of meaning
of Baudrillard and Virilio, with their emphasis on the technology of the
through the continuous assemblage of ideas.
screen. Rather, with their attention to the materiality of paper, the
We could have chosen a motif other than the letter as a way
action of turning pages and the spatiality of folds, Spaces and Spectators
of actualizing the passage of knowledge. Chinese whispers, for instance,
brings us back to the scene of reading and the technology of the book. Art
instantiates the pleasures and the folly of trying to pass on what
and Society opens the text out into the specificities of our contemporary
we receive: a hand cupped around one’s ear; a forced breath followed by
geopolitical context. West Asia, North Africa, Southern Europe and
a decisive whisper; a sound, often over-aspirated; words spoken
the global natural environment become the centre for an email relay that
too closely to be understood. Chinese whispers, though, is not a game of
demonstrates the way that intelligence-gathering is based on the
meaning. Chinese whispers is a game of desire. A rushing breath, a
topography of messages sent. Art and Society reminds us that the question
tongue in an ear, a wanting to tell and a wanting to know. Desire destroys
of ‘who is sending messages to whom?’ remains the basis of intelligence-
meaning. It seeks closeness, intimacy, proximity. Meaning needs
gathering. It provides us with the space to adjust our perspectives based
distance, both in space and in time. Letters deliver meaning better than
on the information that we receive. Recreating Histories brings us
do a tongue in an ear. That is why we learn so much from Gilles Deleuze
back to the letter – the text of history and the words of memorialization.
and Felix Guattari’s notion that a love-letter is a substitute for love.1
The way that place and memory sit alongside one another brings the series
It is the letter instead of the loved one that meets the beloved.
of relayed messages to an end.
In place of love, then, come a set of meanings, which are measured in pace
To begin with, each team chose a member to start their relay.
and tone. Letters cross a measurable distance, whereas intimacy
Opening with a message to provoke a series of productive engagements, the
remains immeasurable. We therefore chose a relay of letters instead of
starting position was designed to set off a chain reaction. The aim was
Chinese whispers, preferring a search for meaning that remainders desire.
to see how we could assemble ideas, using our particularized ways of know
By making evident this passage of meaning, we took the
ing, rather than our generalized forms of knowledge. Such an approach
work of Deleuze and Guattari as a touchstone or, in keeping with our motif,
relies on a setting aside of formalized notions of knowledge, observed de
a starting block. Their moves away from structures of knowledge,
rigueur in the natural sciences and also widely across the humanities, in
particularly in their text, Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature (1972),
subjects such as history, art history and museology. Knowledge as objecti
worked as a form of inspiration for us: ‘Above all,’ they wrote, ‘we are
fied, verifiable, falsifiable and ultimately externalized – somewhere out
searching less for a structure with formal oppositions and complete
there in the world to be put to use (for good or for ill) – is one way of
meaning’.2 The refusal of any notion of ‘complete meaning’ gets enacted in
characterizing formalized approaches. Our work has been concerned to move
the inevitable slippage that occurs when matters are passed from hand
away from such a position – not to disregard it, but to unbecome it – by
to hand. Proclamations stating that we can provide complete meaning
moving instead towards the subjectified, the unverifiable, the unfalsifiable
sometimes issue from our centres of learning when, in their uncertainty,
and, eventually, the internalized.
they act like castles of knowledge protected by ivory towers. Such
We literally set out the move between internal and external
proclamations soon get turned into soundbites, wrapped into straplines,
in the form of a letter. The term ‘literally’ is used advisedly here – one
suggesting that we can commodify knowledge, parcel it up into neat,
could say we did it ‘to the letter’ or ‘by the book’. For the passage of
edible packages and distribute it among the people, at a price. Such an
messages, relayed in the form of a note or a letter from one person to
approach remains a point of contestation for us. Rather, the prize at stake
another, draws on the immense literary tradition of epistolary writings –
in our relay is more what we take from the incomplete, particularized,
most notably, Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa (1747–8) and, of course,
specific and idiosyncratic messages that we receive. ‘I just got a letter
Choderlos de Laclos’s Dangerous Liaisons (1782). Open to dramatization,
from …’ Starting from what we know, we use our know-how to prise out
the epistolary form conjures up the scene, par excellence, in which a
what will be productive, useful, generative and even catalytic in the
letter is written, sealed and despatched via a (faithful) go-between, who
knowledge that we seek to transmit.
relays the message to its (legitimate) recipient. ‘Faith’ and ‘legiti
In passing the baton, we remain aware of the instability of
macy’ remain parenthetical (in brackets) because what happens within the
the terrain across which we move, sensitive to the ever-changing texture
bracket represents the space of the drama. Our work has not been dramatic,
of the earth beneath our feet. As we pass our texts from hand to hand, we
though – or at least, that was not its intention. Rather, we borrowed
remark on the varying conditions – seasonable and unseasonable – that frame
a motif from the epistolary form, ‘the moment of disclosure’, the point
our movement. From hand to hand becomes more from hand to mouth. We become
less sure, sometimes, of our handle on what we know. Doubtful, often, of our grasp of what we are passing on. ‘How will my letter be received?’ Such phrases, which occur often in our relay, reveal both our vulnerability in our overtures to others and our consequent attempt to close-off the passages that we have opened. We end our passages. We want our passages to end with certainty. At the end of a closing passage, we call for certainty and we want a reply: ‘I’d be interested to hear what you think’. An exchange of letters – a correspondence – can pretend to offer that certainty, but a relay turns its back on the duality of correspondences – one takes the baton, one turns, one runs. In coursing ahead, we do not turn back for acknowledgement. Again, we refuse the offer of complete or certain knowledge. The partiality of knowing that we have partaken, that we have played our part, must suffice. Endnotes 1
Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. Kafka: Pour une Literature Mineure (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972), 53 [personal translation].
IDENTITY FORMATION —–––
IDENTITY FORMATIO N
Hackney, London, 14 March 2011 Self-portraits
 Amy Sherlock, MA Art Theory Born in England, 1987. Lives in London.
with selfportraits 1, Elina Brotherus,
Amy Sherlock’s current focus is on the ambivalent relationality of con
temporary performance practice. Her research addresses ontological questions of identity and the self, with a particular focus on the social
80 × 99 cm, 1998. Courtesy of the artist
or ethical dimensions of subjectivity. Since graduating from King’s College London in 2009, she has curated film programmes in Buenos Aires and at the Roundhouse, London.  Anna-Lena Wener, MA Art Theory Born in Germany, 1985. Lives and works in Berlin and London. email@example.com | www.artfridge.de Anna-Lena Wener’s research focuses on issues of the representation of
trauma in contemporary art. She graduated in theatre studies and art history at the Freie Universität Berlin and currently works as a freelance
Where to begin? I have never been much good with beginnings, nor with
writer and blogger.
endings for that matter, tending instead towards digressions and poten tially infinite tangents. Although it could be that this image demands
 Wei Guo, MA Curating
just such a reading: a Self-portrait of a Self-portrait, a box within
a box, which stages a vertiginous doubling or mirroring in which we can
Born in China, 1984. Lives and works in London and Beijing.
easily lose ourselves.
Wei Guo’s practice-based research looks at the relationship between
Self-portrait with self-portraits I: the title confirms what we
materiality and process of the artwork. She questions the ascertainment
thought we already knew. Confirms, because there is discrepancy enough be
of ‘finality’ in art. Having graduated in advertising at Beijing Union
tween the painting – is it a painting? – of the seated girl and of the woman
University, she is currently studying for an MA in Curating at Chelsea
stood alongside it to leave their identity framed with a question mark,
College of Art and Design, London. Wei Guo previously worked as a producer
creating/maintaining the fundamental ambivalence which is the force of
for an advertising company in Beijing, China.
the work. (We can for the moment set aside the number I, which suggests that the work is part of a series, that there are more self-portraits and
 Ana Reis, MA Art Theory
more self-portraits of self-portraits. Already, then, it is a question
Born in Portugal, 1988. Lives and works in Lisbon and London.
of the fascination that I hope to outline.) The poses mirror each other:
one on white, one on black. My self: my obverse. What is the artist asking
Ana Reis’s research explores questions relating to the self. She looks
us to see here? Or rather, where is she asking us to see? Where is Elina
at considerations surrounding the multiplicity of the self, particularly
Brotherus? I am everywhere and nowhere, this portrait seems to say. The
in regards to games of fictional (self) portraits. Having graduated from
levels of representation conflate in the flatness of the photographic
the University of Oporto (in Fine Art), she was involved in the organiza
space: a double fiction. An uncanny doubling which regresses ad infinitum.
tion of the international conference, ‘Unneeded Conversations’, with
It is a case here, certainly, of disappearing into one’s own
Fernando José Pereira and Miguel Leal. She exhibited her video, Sem titulo
image. Maurice Blanchot says somewhere that whenever we are fascinated by
(Untitled) 2010, as part of the 4th Portuguese Documentary Festival:
an object, whenever it arrests our gaze and we abandon ourselves to what
Panorama. Ana Reis currently writes short stories.
we see, it is because the object in front of us ‘has sunk into its image’. We do not, or we no longer, see the object present before our eyes, but rather that idealized (which is to say imaginary) resemblance, which is in fact the present thing in its absence. Mute and passive (and, for me, this is always a question of immobility), it is the image that arrests us, both in the sense that it halts us in our tracks, and that, in so doing, it
exercises a certain sovereignty over us and ‘makes us submit to it even when we are summoning it’.1 Mute, passive, present only as absence: would the question of fascination not, therefore, be haunted by the power of ghosts, or of shadows? This question of passivity and power, of power and the image, would doubtless have something to do with posing. Mute and passive: it is as if Blanchot were describing Brotherus’s self-portrait. Look at the face: the eyes staring at a point beyond us. They do not look at us, they do not even acknowledge us, they are blind eyes (which, Derrida tells us, can be stared at ‘right up to the point of indecency’2). Look at the hands folded in casual solemnity (might they not be pious hands? And would the black dress not have something to do with mourning?). They are not hands of action, quite the opposite. It is more a question of dissimulation, of going unnoticed, of staying out of the picture. Mute passivity. Wouldn’t that be a definition of every pose? The transfiguration of the lived body into its frozen, idealized form, uncomplaining and infinitely repeatable. Every pose entails an uncanny doubling: ‘the entire body detaches itself from itself, becomes a picture, a semblance’.3 A picture, a presentation – this splitting of self from self, which is the condition of the self’s visibility, would be a movement of both exposure and withdrawal (or of vacating, of evacuation) simultaneously. Think again of the hands, care fully positioned in full view so as to escape notice. But that which escapes the image can never be captured, will never be there. It is perhaps not proper (and this is, after all, a question of what is self-identical, what is irreplaceable, what is proper to) even to think of it within the horizon of being at all. Impossibility escapes the image. The impos sibility of capture, which we might think of in terms of an absence. Absence at the heart of presence: or, perhaps, the very condition of being. As should be clear by now, that which fascinates us must also elude us: fascination would be a kind of blindness caused by an excess of visibility. The absolute passivity and excessive visibility of the image cause this blinding fascination. And I think that at its heart, the selfportrait, every self-portrait, might well be a question of fascination – in some cases, I think we can call it obsession – with the self’s visi bility, a visibility which is almost always excessive. It is a case, far from finding oneself, of losing oneself in oneself, over and over again. One cannot help but think of Narcissus bent down over the lake, pining away, blinded by the excess of his own beautiful image, blinded because he is unable to tear his eyes away (or tear them out, which would amount to the same thing). Could it be a coincidence that last night I dreamt of daffodils? ‘Once I was half flower, half self, that invisible self whose absence inhabits mirrors …’ Anyway, I have already said more than enough. I will leave you with an image which has fascinated me since the very first time I saw it. It can continue our theme of self-portraits, and maybe even of myth, since
it is not clear whether it is a question of Narcissus, or Medusa or even of Perseus that we are dealing with. As with Elina Brotherus’s selfportrait, the image’s power stems from what we might call its fundamental ambivalence – an ambivalence of simultaneous withdrawal and exposure. Without hoping to dispel the enigmatic quality that first attracted me to it, I would very much like to know what you make of it. All the best, Amy Self-deceit 4, Francesca Woodman, vintage gelatine and silver print, 98 × 98 mm, Roma, 1977–78. © George and Betty Woodman
p.s. Here is the full poem from which that last quotation was taken. I saw this week that the narcissi are just out in Victoria Park. They smell beautiful. Narcissus Once I was half flower, half self, That invisible self whose absence inhabits mirrors, That invisible flower that is always inwardly, Groping up through us, a kind of outswelling weakness Yes once I was half frail, half glittering, Continually emerging from the store of the self itself, Always staring at rivers, always Nodding and leaning to one side, I came gloating up, And for a while I was half skin half breath, For a while I was neither one thing nor another, A waterflame, a variable man-woman of the verges, Wearing the last self-image I was left with Before my strength went down down into the darkness For the best of the year and lies crumpled In a clot of sleep at the root of nothings all — Alice Oswald
22|23 Endnotes 1
Blanchot, M. ‘Two versions of the imaginary’ in The Space of Literature, trans. Ann Smock
Derrida, J. Memoirs of the Blind: the Self-Portrait and Other Ruins, trans. Pascale-Anne
(Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1982), 255. Brault and Michael Naas (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 106. 3
Owens, C. ‘Posing’ in Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power and Culture (Berkeley CA: University of California Press), 212.
Islington, London, 14 March 2011 Dear Wei, My thoughts are currently circling around a photograph that Amy has sent me – I am trying to understand it, to get a hold of it, but it seems to slip out of my focus all the time. The photo shows a self-portrait by Francesca Woodman called Self-deceit 4. It plays with the extreme opposites of absence and presence, power and weakness, exposure and confident selfmanifestation. I guess this is what drags me into the image. Is it fear? Is it silent trauma or nothingness? Is it self-expression? Why does she offer – and simultaneously withdraw herself? Which position does she take – the one of director, or of the directed? Susan Sontag highlights the ambiguous objectivity implied in photographic images when she remarks: ‘their credentials of objectivity [are] inbuilt. Yet they always had, necessarily, a point of view’.4 To photograph is to frame – to exclude and to include – and therefore it is a choice. Woodman seems to be aware of the extremes when nakedly framing herself with her face covered by a mirror in front of the dusty wall. The image is simulated and staged. It doesn’t manage to reflect her reality but, instead, it manifests itself as a fiction. A fiction that holds up the mirror against the voyeuristic viewer. A fiction that, when looking at her defenceless body, creates a feeling of shame … Due to her posture, her body is reminiscent of an old and proud Greek statue but, similarly, the feminine and petite form seems so vulnerable. I had the impression that the dust and dirt covering her skin transform her body into an object – she seems to become one with the concrete wall – camouflaging, hiding, becoming one with the space that surrounds her. She stages her own disappearance – almost celebrates it – slowly abandoning her identity, fleeing into the ‘Nothing’. On the other hand, by documenting herself – by capturing her presence – she retains herself and makes herself immortal. These juxtapositions increase my curiosity, because they are so ambiguous. As Amy wrote in her previous letter to me: ‘that which fascinates us must also elude us.’ It is curi osity triggered by secrecy – by a hidden identity and a blurred narrative. The artistic representation of a secret – something uncanny – or perhaps the ‘aura’, or the ‘magic visible’5 as Walter Benjamin would put it – is something that always occupied and interested me. Benjamin writes: ‘We define [the aura] as a unique manifestation of a remoteness, however close it may be.’6 Leaving this as my last comment on Francesca Woodman’s mysterious self-portrait, Benjamin’s definition of the aura similarly
marks the entry to two paintings that I would like to introduce to you, Wei. The first image is by Lars Elling and is called Mother’s Day and the other one is by Lars Bjerre, and is named Disambiguation. (Yes, I know it’s ridiculous: two Scandinavian artists – both called Lars.) Anyway, I chose these two large-scale paintings because they seem to stage secrecy, exposition and withdrawal in a wholly different – a very narrative – context. Yet, employing coverage to blur, hide or obscure the protagonist’s faces (and therefore their identities) is Woodman’s, as well as Elling’s and Bjerre’s, method to create fictional characters – a distancing manoeuvre, so to speak. Mother’s Day shows three characters with wiped—out faces in the foreground of the painting and one strangled woman at the back. The whole scene is so paradoxical and somewhat unethical that I constantly try to figure out a reason for the composition. The four identities are fictional and yet they seem to share some sort of secret truth, which we never seem to be able to find out. Disambiguation shows one man tripled – as in a long exposure effect – covering his face with a paper bag. Only the eyes, which peer out of cut-out holes, suggest some intimacy – or is that gaze rather frightening? I’d be very excited to read what you feel and think about the works! Well, I guess that’s the (open) end of this letter, which I will conclude with a little poem. I believe it fits quite well with Elling’s and Bjerre’s paintings. The Secret Sits We dance round in a ring and suppose, But the Secret sits in the middle and knows. — Robert Frost (1874–1963) All the best to you, Anna-Lena Mother’s Day, Lars Elling, oil and egg tempera on canvas, 170 × 170 cm, 2011. Courtesy of the artist
26|27 Disambiguation, Lars Bjerre, oil on canvas, 136 × 185.5 cm, 2008. Courtesy of the artist
Sontag, S. Regarding the Pain of others (London: Penguin Books, 2003), 23.
Benjamin, W. ‘A Small History of Photography’ in Philosophers on Art from Kant to the Postmodernists (Christopher Kul-Want, ed., Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2010), 107.
Benjamin, W. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (London: Penguin Books, 2008), 9.
Shoreditch, London, 16 March 2011 Dear Ana, I have just written to Anna-Lena to thank her for her recent letter, which I really enjoyed. She told me about a painting by Lars Elling that I had not seen before. The most intriguing part of the work for me is its dramatic char acter. You see, this artwork contains many diverse themes, which are opened out because the image cannot be immediately recognised. This is due to the effect of blending egg tempera with pure pigment and linseed oil. The painting blurs into a set of layered images that can be separated and differentiated from each other, from the viewers, as well as from the artist himself. There are a number of imagined possibilities and, as a result, the image can seem to lead to disorientation and abstraction. In the artwork, Mother’s Day, it seems like a whole family is celebrating Mother’s Day, but each of the family members has their own personality: it gives the viewers an enormous imaginary space. What is the family like? What about the relationships within the family? Where is the father? This is just what I think about the story behind it. And I am sure it’s an unfinished story. The artist can become a storyteller, as Walter Benjamin said: To present someone like Leskov as a storyteller does not mean bringing him closer to us but, rather, increasing our distance from him. Viewed from a certain distance, the great, simple outlines, which deﬁne the storyteller, stand out in him, or rather, they become visible in him, just as, in a rock, a human head or an animal’s body may appear to an observer at the proper distance and angle of vision.7
Although it is a crossover from literature to painting, what’s behind both is the idea of the distance between the artist and the viewer, which acts like a borderland that can keep the terrain of aesthetics as a mysterious one. As an artist, sometimes I wonder: who am I? A viewer can be curious about the identity of the artist when they see artworks. Sometimes the works themselves can be considered a part of an artist’s identity, allowing the viewer to recognize them. But can artists identify themselves in their own works? That was a question that came to me as I saw the image Disambiguation by Lars Bjerre. The same three figures came from the artist himself. I know this because I saw an original photo of the artist, with the same structure, on his website. When I compare the painting with the photo, the painting seems as if the artist is hiding himself, like a stranger. Also, he divided himself into three different people: for me, in a way, it’s as if the three figures are talking to each other, as though there are three different egos with three different personalities. At the same time, the faces are covered. As a result, there is no difference in appearance between each: the artist made the images totally the same, without any differences, but we can still feel the differences and distinguish between them, through the eyes, the positions and the body language. I think that is the most amazing part of the painting. Somehow, there is a feeling that the artist is entangled with himself. He wants to explore a way by which the three egos can speak to each other equally by wearing the same clothes and having covered faces without any facial expressions visible. On the other hand, the artist is reproducing himself. (I think this is another way that the artist is seeking himself, even though it might seem paradoxical. Why? In terms of identification, we are always looking at what makes us unique – like Walter Benjamin’s idea about the ‘aura’ of the unique artwork in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. If you want to identify a person, you identify what is unique about them, what makes them them, but Lars seems to do this in a dif ferent way – he looks for himself by multiplying himself. His uniqueness is his reproducibility. So there is a kind of contradiction here – we can only talk of being unique in terms of being multiple. In terms of these questions about identification, these paintings evoke for me the work of another artist, Yuko Nasu, who is also a painter. The artwork that I have chosen is called Madam and the artist has a series called Imaginary Portraits. I imagine, my dear Ana, that you will have much to say about it. All the best, Wei Guo
30|31 Madam, Yuko Nasu, oil on canvas, 101 × 127 cm, 2010. Courtesy of the artist
Benjamin, W. The Storyteller: Reﬂections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov (Chicago Review, 1963).
Camberwell, London, 16 March 2011 Dear Amy, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to see how your first thoughts on Elina Brotherus’s photography have been growing and gaining shape through this chain that we have created. Indeed, Wei just sent me a letter, in which she also introduced me to a work I didn’t know: Madam by Yuko Nasu. Its point is to illustrate her belief in art as a reflection of the artist’s mind, especially since this painting is part of a series entitled ‘Imaginary Portraits’. Indeed, we tend to think of portraits as a representation of someone and, therefore, we assume that the image is referring to something real underneath that description. However, by introducing the word ‘imaginary’ one can assume that there’s no real face to whom this portrait belongs. Yet there is a reference: the one in the artist’s mind. Who is the figure on the canvas? We can deduce it’s a woman, by the title. The sinuosity of the lines is very feminine and seems to orchestrate a continuous, centrifugal gesture. It’s almost as if the artist is working out a way to find the characteristics of that face. She is moulding that shape, as a sculptor, and transforming that flat canvas into a three—dimensional fantasy. Nevertheless, those small details, which really define any face (like the eyes), weren’t made with small precise brushes. Instead, large brushstrokes glide into those areas without ever describing them with exactitude. Like us, the artist too is questioning: who is the figure on the canvas? ‘The portrait,the canvas, […] oscillate before my eyes and are shifting, fleeing, and it is I who turns away, my look defeated, and not the
painting that reveals itself, understood.’8 I think, in a way, Nasu shares this same grasping attempt: she too is trying to reveal someone that she doesn’t know to the fullest, even when the painting is finished. Still, the ‘madam’ of this imaginary portrait is emerging and becoming real. I’m very interested in this strangeness of something imaginary becoming reality. I believe that art (and also literature) permits us to put such different worlds on the same level. It allows the artist to play with his own imaginary as if it were reality. He’s a pretentious fool but secretly the master of his own solitude. He can even take advantage and not be a mere spectator: he can be a part of the game, making imaginary marks that he doesn’t control or totally realize. Indeed for me it’s more appealing when the artist is not inter ested in sharing meanings gratuitously – don’t you agree? I think art pieces can be fascinating even when you can’t perceive them to the fullest. When referring to human culture, Leslie White 9 claimed that man is the only animal capable of distinguishing between water and holy water. I quite like this idea and I think that the contemporary artist understands that sometimes it’s more powerful if he doesn’t reduce the holiness to just plain water. I’m led to believe he is more interested in generating pieces that he doesn’t totally understand – as a matter of fact he doesn’t want to – and this vagueness allows him to escape from the responsibility of having meanings and therefore answers for the piece (and yet, surprisingly, he is its producer!). ‘I always think of myself not so much as a painter but as a medium for accident and chance […] I don’t think I’m gifted. I just think I’m receptive.’10 Without conscientiousness but with awareness, the artist can then surprise himself, maybe with new distinct meanings he can’t com pletely comprehend and explain. I wonder if that’s why some artists like to work with themselves? They know they would never master their own image because they cannot place themselves as the other and grasp how they really are (physically and emotionally). Thus by playing with the self, they are refusing that the truth can ever be known – even by themselves – and conceiving a game that can be played continuously. I’m curious: what are your thoughts on this? I wish you a sunny warm weekend (fingers crossed!). Hope to hear from you soon. Sincerely, Ana Endnotes 8
Saramago, J. Manual de Pintura e Caligrafia (Lisbon: Editorial Caminho, 1983), 45 [personal
White, L. Ethnological Essays (University of New Mexico Press, 1987), 300.
translation]. 10 Low, A. (dir.) Bacon’s Arena, dir. (Diffusion Pictures Ltd., 2008) [video: DVD].
SPACES AND SPECTATORS —–––
SPACES AND SPECTATO RS  Amanda de Pablo, MA Curating Born in Barcelona, 1982. Lives and works in Barcelona and London. firstname.lastname@example.org Amanda de Pablo’s research centres on the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona (MACBA ), focusing on its influence among Barcelona’s arts communities. A graduate of Humanities from University Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona, Amanda de Pablo has also worked in a range of art galleries in New York and Berlin. She currently works as an independent Curator.  Emma Moore, MA Curating Born in Ireland, 1986. Lives and works in London. email@example.com Emma Moore’s research interests focus on alternative exhibition spaces and the connotations of labels such as ‘alternative’. Emma graduated in Visual Arts Practice from IADT (Institute of Art and Design), Dublin in 2008. Her interest in curatorial practice was sparked by her role as one of the founding members of Bombhouse Gallery/Studios in Dublin.  Milia Xin Bi, MA Curating Born in China, 1987. Lives and works in London and Beijing. firstname.lastname@example.org Milia Xin Bi’s research looks at different methodologies for using space within visual arts practice. Addressing the theme of ‘The Audience of ONE ’, Milia Xin Bi’s recent work explores the effects of exhibitions
displayed for just one person to view at a time. By treating each indivi dual as an audience in themselves, ‘The Audience of ONE ’ lets viewers understand the special interaction between art piece, space and audience. Following her graduation in Art History at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Milia Xin Bi worked as an assistant to Chinese contemporary artist Wenda Gu and as a directorial assistant to art project director Ying Zhou.  Chloé Hipeau, MA Curating Born in France, 1986. Lives and works in Paris and London. email@example.com Chloé Hipeau’s research engages with art, audience and perceptions of space. Having graduated in French Literature from University Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, Chloé Hipeau worked as an art critic for the French cultural website lintermede.com and for the French cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles.
Hackney, London, 11 March 2011 Dear Emma, I am writing this letter in the hope that it will help me map thoughts about my research project. I remember that the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk once said that books were like huge letters to friends. With this in mind, I am approaching this publication as a compilation of interests, concerns, problems and discoveries, those that we will each be explaining in a letter to a friend. The interest in my research topic came about one morning when I read an article in the newspaper called ‘Los hijos del MACBA ’ (‘The sons of MACBA ’). The article referred to a new generation of artists that exists in Barcelona now. I was glad to read it because some of the artists mentioned are friends of mine, and also because Barcelona is my hometown. Suddenly I realized that – apart from my friendship with some of the artists – apparently I did not know that much about the situation in the city. For this reason, I decided to research the reason for the title of the article. Besides, I must confess that I am also a daughter of MACBA , the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona. I started reviewing all the past press releases from exhibitions there, which I visited when I was living in Barcelona, and I realized that I have been influenced by all of them. I found, for example: the body artist from Vienna, Günter Brus; the multidisciplinary performer Robert Whitman; one of the most relevant Fluxus artists, George Brecht; ‘Archive of a Disease’ by Jo Spence; and the installation of 24 hours of CCTV footage by Ignasi Aballí. If you look carefully at all these artists, you will notice that they have one common characteristic – they have a strong critical attitude, and this attitude started during the 70s. At some point in my life I was completely fascinated by these artists, who tried to collapse the old traditional values and bring a dynamic and critical side to art. However, I am not sure that today this kind of practice still makes any sense. Let me explain this statement a little bit further, quoting the French philosopher Jacques Rancière, who pointed out that: Critical art is an art that aims to produce a new perception of the world, and therefore to create a commitment to its trans formation. This schema, very simple in appearance, is actually the conjunction of three processes: first, the production of a sensory form of ‘strangeness’; second, the development of an awareness of the reason for the strangeness and third, a mobili zation of individuals as a result of that awareness.1 This strangeness and awareness can be easily identified in the works of Günter Brus; with his ‘Body Performance’, the audience can be conscious of her or his own body and realize the potential of it – besides the fact that it explores the boundaries of art itself. Another example would be the surveillance camera as presented by Ignasi Aballí, where the
spectator can realize how surveillance methods are affecting our everyday life. In some ways, I totally agree with this modus, but it might not be effective enough today. As Rancière says, ‘there is no reason why the production of a shock produced by two heterogeneous forms of the sensible ought to yield an understanding of the state of the world, and none why understanding the latter produces a decision to change it.’2 The different capacities of response that human beings possess means that critical art is not effective enough, whereas art practice might fall into empti ness of content. In my research, I am always afraid that artists are not producing art itself, but are instead copying old, already developed models; one can see this in mimetic approaches encouraged by institutions that promote a particular art practice. This phenomenon has been mentioned by the German art critic Boris Groys, who argues, with regard to the relationship between institution and society, that: […] the museum is not secondary to ‘real’ history, nor is it merely a reflection and documentation of what ‘really’ happened outside its walls according to the autonomous laws of historical development. The contrary is true: ‘reality’ itself is [in] secondary relation to the museum – the real can be defined only in [a] comparison with the museum collection. This means that any change in the museum collection brings about a change in our perception of reality itself – after all, reality can be defined in this context as the sum of all things not being collected. So history cannot be understood as a fully autonomous process that takes place outside the museum’s walls. Our image of reality is dependent on our knowledge of the museum.3 The museum as a reality producer is a subject that interests me. If you read the newspaper article that I mentioned before, you would note that one of the artists defined himself as a ‘product of MACBA ’. This statement clearly relates to Groys’s understanding of the binomial of reality and museum, and how some aspect of society is constructed by the appearance of the museum. Furthermore, Groys appeals to artists’ necessity to become part of the museum: Artists […] know that they may be eventually represented in [a] museum of art history. […] their future representation in the modern museum, the behaviour of the modern artist is affected by the knowledge of such a possibility, and in a very substantial way. It is obvious that the museum accepts only things that it takes from real life, from outside of its collection, and this explains why the artist wants to make his or her art look real and alive. What is already presented in the museum is automatically regarded as belonging to the past, as already dead. […] that he or she (the artist) wants to break out of the museum, to go into life itself, to be real, to make a truly living art, this can only mean
that the artists want to be collected […] Again: only the new can be recognized by the museum-trained gaze as real, present, and alive. If you repeated already collected art, your art is qualified by the museum as mere kitsch and rejected […] the repetition of the old and traditional becomes (unnecessary) a socially forbidden […] ‘Now I am free to do something new’. Rather, it is that it is impossible to do the old anymore.4 This endless search for newness makes me fear emptiness of content, the problem I mentioned before. I would not want art to get into fashionable trends rather than being reality in itself. The times are changing; what was valid before might not be valid anymore. However artists should keep searching for methods to express themselves and the reality that surrounds them, without falling into topics that would mean a miserable art life. What do you think? I am not sure if it might interest someone else, but I hope that you enjoyed reading my concerns about the situation of art today, and I would love to have your feedback about other things that I should consider. All the best, Amanda Outside view of MACBA . Photograph
by Amanda de Pablo
Rancière, J. Dissensus, on Politics and Aesthetics (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010), 142.
Groys, B. Art Power (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2008), 23.
West Kensington, April 2011 Dear Milia, I’m so sorry for the slight delay in sending this letter. I received a letter from Amanda a couple of days ago but things have been so hectic in finalizing the latest exhibition we’ve been working on (as you well know!). I’ve been trying to write a short synopsis to accompany ‘The Drawing’ show and it’s nearly impossible to condense four months of acquired infor mation into a neat, tidy and understandable text. I find the greatest challenge is to pluck, from our vast and seemingly endless vocabulary,
the right words that will adequately describe what we have achieved. Also, there is an expectation of what those words should be and failure to select the right ones in the right order could lead to disastrous results! I seem to be, of late, quite fascinated with artspeak or the language of art. In my own research, I’m looking at two particular models of gallery, the alternative space and the established institution, in an effort to satisfy my curiosity on what the relationship between the two might be: a symbiotic relationship, each benefiting from the other? Or perhaps, a parasitic relationship, one feeding from the other, discreetly and under the guise of disinterest? In developing my research, I began to get frustrated with the term ‘alternative’ and, instead, turned my focus on to where that frustration came from. Perhaps my romanticized notions of 60s New York or the alternative scene of 80s London has put in mind the idea of radical action; artists and curators disillusioned with the art world creating an alternative that truly challenged the established and mainstream organizations. Now, I find, as soon as I hear the word ‘alternative’, it builds a certain expectation which inevitably leads to disappointment. Perhaps it has lost its edge and instead become a flattened, more rounded shadow of its former self. Aspects of alternative or counter-culture have been assimilated into mainstream mass culture and have been fed back to us in a watery trickle. Last week, I bought a present of a baby’s T-shirt with the Ramones emblazoned on the front, and frowned at Iggy Pop’s garish car insurance ads on the way home. But in art terms, what are these spaces alternative to? The ‘institution’, in its earliest uses, had the strong sense of ‘an act of origin’, (I came across that in Raymond Williams’s Keywords). I was looking at it I guess because I like the idea of developing a dictionary, or handbook of useful phrases to guide you through the maze that is con temporary art and art language. Amanda referenced an interesting point raised by critic Boris Groys about ‘reality’ and whether it is the museum that shapes reality or reality that shapes the museum. In reading it, I found myself again looking at the words on a very basic level. I’ve always wanted to write that dictionary, perhaps to simplify most of what goes on around us in the art world (even this, the ‘artworld’, is it a separate world to the ‘real world’ or ‘reality’?). I’m trying to figure out if those who have ‘mastered’ art language have the advantage? Do those who can pluck, from their even larger vocab ulary, the right words in most definitely the right order, have more power or intellectual capital? I found a talk and I’m so sorry I missed it: ‘A guide to useless and ridiculous art appendages’. I fear for falling too far down a tangled and messy road of jargon, language games and artspeak. Perhaps it’s too late though! Anyway, it was Amanda’s discussion of the museum and the way it affects society as a whole that made me immediately think of your con trasting idea of the ‘Audience of ONE’. I’ve made a gallery for you, an ‘alternative’ space that is for you to manipulate. I have selected
a number of works. Perhaps you can curate your own show, which you can carry with you. ‘Audience’ would imply, for me anyway, a group. I remember us talking about the idea of singling out one person in a large group through different means. With this portable and intimate gallery space, perhaps you can retreat into your own private exhibition. I think this may not have been a very straighforward explanation. I should probably take my own advice and write more simply (you’ll have to excuse my handwriting as well!). I can’t wait to hear about what you’ve been up to! Speak soon, Emma
Dear Chloé, I think this is the best way to let you know what I have been doing recently: to create a special space (Paris!) designed to be viewed by only one person at a time (you!) by using different ways of seeing (with a mirror), to set up a relationship with the viewer (the thing we are doing now!). Perhaps it is too emotional to say I’m considering that the exhibition space has its own character which should be known by the audience. And we curators are the romantic makers who find out/shape the personality of the space. Love, Milia
Dear Amanda, The image included with this letter is part of a reflection on my research. If you want more information, please write me back!! I received a letter from Milia and I really enjoyed the way she explained her research to me, I think she can make a very good show, working with artists in this field. Her letter reminded me of a few people. I’m not sure whether they are relevant to her work but they are just some random ideas I had. I hope they will be useful for her. I’m thinking particularly of Carsten Höller and his ‘Upside Down Glasses’; when you wear these glasses, your vision is upside down. I’m also thinking of the project that Jonas Mekas did in New York. It was a cinema where all the spectators were in isolation. Thus, they could have their own relation ship with the film that they were looking at. I like the relationship that she wants to create between the audience, the artwork and the space. In a way, I also want to foster a relationship between the audience and the
space. My research is focused on artists who use the space and its architecture in order to transform it. The best example is the work of Renata Lucas. I chose this image to explain what my work is based on because I was also questioning the concept of space in a letter. I thought using an image by an artist, such as Lucas, would be perfect because she herself is questioning space – in this image the space of a street. It’s a street in Berlin called Auguststrasse where the KW , a museum of contemporary art, can be found. The fact that she changed the pavement, in modifying a part of it, offers the possibility for the audience to see the space differently. The effect of this is to heighten your awareness of the street because it is a familiar element of everyday life that you are used to seeing but never really take notice of. This kind of project allows the spectator to experience the space differently and form a new relationship with it. That’s why I transformed the space of the letter into a reflection about a letter in itself. The letter is not only letters, words and sentences on paper, it is also a place in which to express yourself. This is also what I liked about Milia’s letter. She really changed the convention of a letter to create her own space; in turn, the letter has a new relationship with me. All the best, Chloé THINK THE IMAGINE
AS SPACE ‘NOTHING _______ ____ ________________ ____________________
WILL HAVE TAKEN PLACE __________________________________ BUT THE PLACE’
50|51 Kunst-Werke, Renata Lucas, installation view, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 2010 (Cabeรงa e cauda de cavalo). Photo: Uwe Walter. Courtesy the artist
ART AND SOCIETY —–––
ART AND S OCIETY
From: Carlos <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Michele <email@example.com>
 Carlos Noronha Feio, MRes Art Practice
Date: 25 March 2011
Born in 1981. Lives and works in London.
Subject: Dear Michele – quotes, war rugs and more …
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.carlosnoronhafeio.co.uk Carlos Noronha Feio’s research focuses on reportage of conflicts as part
of transnational arts practice. He is a contemporary artist represented by IMT Gallery and Galeria Nuno Centeno. Carlos Noronha Feio’s latest
I’m finally sitting down and writing to you. Here is the quote from Boris
work includes shows/screenings/talks in spaces as diverse as Milton
Groys I was telling you about:
Keynes Gallery, Centro Cultural Helio Oiticica, Gulbenkian Foudation
The typical modern artist is a reporter, an observer of the
and Carpe diem Arte e Pesquisa. His work is collected in the book, The Art
modern world who informs others about his or her observations.1
of not Making – The New Artist Artisan relationship by Michael Petry, published by Thames & Hudson.
This quote is one of my research angles/tools. I am applying it, as I told you, to the Afghan war rugs. They do fascinate me. I’m sending a photo attached, sorry about the quality, I took it with my phone less
 Michele Drascek, MA Curating Born in Italy, 1974. Lives and works in London and Slovenia.
than 5 seconds ago. I just have to love the way that, without consciously creating
narratives, these weavers document the surrounding environment.
Michele Drascek’s research explores artwork concerning creation processes
Can you imagine what it is to live in a place that has been, and still is,
within the natural environment. In particular, he looks at artworks
an ideological playground? Thirty years passed since the Soviet, de
that embody natural phenomena. His current interests include camera-less
facto, invasion of Afghanistan – thirty years of war rug creations and
photography. Michele is also a freelance curator. A graduate from the
trade. What started as a form of expression developed into a collector’s
University of Trieste, he has worked with Contemporary Art Centre Villa
dream. During the Soviet invasion, Americans bought rugs to support
Manin, Cittadelarte Fondazione Pistoletto and with Kino Šiška Center for
the Mujahedins, Russians bought rugs as mementos, Italians and Germans,
well, not sure why they bought them. After the war, several political shifts occurred but the rugs continued to document in the same manner.
 Azadeh Fatehrad, MRes Art Practice Born in 1981. Lives and works in Tehran and London.
Through the rugs, you can read if the weaver was specialized or not. You can tell if he was working in a refugee camp or not. Both the
email@example.com | www.azadehfatehrad.com
refugee camp rugs and the non-refugee camps rugs are created with trade
Azadeh Fatehrad’s practice-based research focuses on photography and
in mind. Interestingly, the target public for the war rugs is the Other,
video installation, in the context of gender identity. Azadeh graduated
from an Afghan point of view. Afghans, in general, prefer the organic
with a Masters of Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design. She has
motifs to the war ones. That translates into the price tag of these rugs,
exhibited her work internationally in London, Tehran and Paris. Shows
as Enrico Mascelloni says in his book.2 It is an interesting read.
in which she has participated include: The Selected of Iranian Emerging
After 9/11, praying rugs with the twin towers started to appear.
Photographers (Vancouver, 2010); World Art Vision Exchange (London, 2010);
They were not celebrations. They are simply documentation. Do research
Politics and Power (London, 2011).
them. They are, in themselves, fascinating, although a bit more dis turbing, as they are about an event with which we have been so bombarded
 Daria Kirsanova, MA Art Theory
by the international news agencies. Rugsofwar.wordpress.com is a good
Born in St Petersburg. Lives and works in London.
source. I find amazing the transition some weavers made from creating floral
motifs to the war ones.
Daria Kirsanova’s research topic is the relationship between political
There is always a possibility that this transition related to
messages and artistic practice in contemporary Iranian art. Daria holds a
knowledge of the value that the work by Boetti achieved in the western
specialist degree in Cultural Studies from the State University of Culture
markets. Although, that might be stretching it a bit. Boetti did live in
and Arts in St Petersburg and is currently reading MA Art Theory at Chelsea
Kabul, where he produced his map and letter rugs, in the 70s. Is it possible
College of Art and Design. Since 2007, she has worked in contemporary art
that the weavers who produced Boetti’s rugs were aware of the value that
galleries including the Serpentine Gallery and Victoria Miro Gallery.
his rugs were reaching and opportunistically kick-started an aesthetic revolution in their own production? I know that, after I saw the Afghan
ones, I felt like starting my own series of rugs, a series that can
I could start now writing here about other series of works that
connect my own cultural background with that of Afghanistan. I thought
I am really interested in developing further. This war issue, this
about creating a series where I engaged with a traditional product,
worry about the human qualities vs. the technologically possible is some
the Arraiolos rugs, which are a heritage from the Meso—Arabic culture in
thing that I am interested in. Have you seen my new series called
the geographical territory now called Portugal. I transposed this idea
‘Plant life in the Pacific world’? You can see an image on this website –
of reportage onto them. In my case, I was reporting on the act of cross-
cultural trade itself, as well as politics.
I really would like to know your opinion.
You saw some of my rugs, right? I’m attaching an image of the last
In this current time, where everything is fast—paced, I believe
I produced, it is called ‘3, 2, 1, A A and away 1, 2 … ’
we are both interested in researching ways of returning our attention
If, for some reason, I have not shown them to you before or
to more traditional situations, reflecting on the connections that can be
you just want to chat a bit in person again about the work, do email me to
made between the natural and us.
the email address above. Did I tell you about the metaphor I use in my
What do you think?
rugs? ‘If we found a new world, what would we export there that would represent us as a whole?’
The question is a reflection on trade as a means of exploring
local identities, questioning their role in a global society. I just have
3, 2, 1, A A and
to admire these traded products: they are the places where local
Away 1, 2 …,
artists/artisans project their views of their own environments, instead of depending on an outsider’s view of that said reality. It just feels purer this projection, more sincere, more real. It shows the reality of the day-to-day, as felt by normal people, without
Carlos Noronha Feio, wool, Arraiolos technique rug, 5 x 6 m, 2011. Edition of 2+1 Ap
overlaying the issue of ideological war. A long time ago a British art critic wrote the following quote: All art worthy the name is the energy – neither of the human body alone, nor of the human soul alone, but of both united, one guiding the other: good craftsmanship and work of the fingers joined with good emotion and work of the heart.3 I think the idea of emotion and craftsmanship fit really well with the kind of reportage that is used in the war rugs. They are figurative but at the same time so abstract. The narrative is so broken that you end
War Rug in My Living Room © The Artist.
up reading the environment through the poetics of the image. Several
tanks rolling, a pattern of planes, cars in a line. It is as if the natural
of the artist
motifs, traditionally used, were now, in times of war, replaced by war imagery. The patterns are the same in several war rugs, just as you would find in a plant motif rug. It is actually quite fascinating. I find it might be interesting to you, this transition. How come ideas that were imprinted in this tradition for millennia, ideas that were manifested in a trans position of the natural world into an organized man—controlled but still organic motif. Where does the natural stay, what is its place in relation to the creator’s reality? How does the natural fit in now that its importance seems to fade in favour of the man—made? The craft element is also something I am really interested in. It is such a thing of beauty, the idea of something being handmade, small production, with dedication, while at the same time carrying such a strong message simply by documenting.
58|59 Endnotes 1
I feel emotionally involved in this theme, Azadeh. The environ
Groys, B. 2008. Boris Groys writes about the typical modern artist in an essay about Hitler. Although the subject matter of the essay is not relevant to this research project, Groys’s
ment and ecology are social issues, as I/we are part of what Debord
description of the modern artist is made to show the mainstream view of what the modern
described as: ‘a society that has not yet achieved homogeneity, and that is
artist stands for, in comparison to Hitler’s vision of art. One is an observer, the other
not yet self-determined, but instead ever more determined by a part
wants to be observed.
of itself positioned above itself, external to itself, has set in train a
Mascelloni, E. War Rugs: The nightmare of Modernism (Milan: Skira, 2009).
Ruskin, J. On Art and Life (London: Penguin Books, 2004), 69.
process of domination of Nature that has not yet established domination over itself’.4
From: Michele <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The desire for regaining homogeneity is a desire for unity and
To: Azadeh <email@example.com>
psychological wholeness between the natural environment and the man-
Date: 28 March 2011
made environment. Some artists represent the effort to fulfil this desire
Subject: Thus I sang the care of fields
in their practice.
the photogram process 5 to ‘embody’ in the artwork elements of Nature
This is also the challenging task for Susan Derges. She masters (e.g. the flow of water in a river). The effects that nature gives are I received an email from Carlos. The email is full of zest for his
recorded on a light—sensitive surface, creating ‘a poetic insight into
the awesome presence of an implicit order’.6 Derges moved to the country
I am trying to understand better his fascination for Afghanistan
side of Devon in 1992; a fundamental change allowing her to combine her
and the particular craft production of the Afghan war rugs. But before
experiments in artistic production and ecology. She responds, in practice,
I give any comment on his peculiar artistic interest and practice, I would
to the need for unity and wholeness, about which I have just written.
like to refer to the sentence that he quotes at the start of the email:
Feelings and motivation are directed to the phenomena, objects and fluid
The typical modern artist is a reporter, an observer of the modern world who informs others about his or her observations. It is interesting that he quotes that line, since it is, in a way,
structures that nature provides. Sometimes Derges’s artworks are described as archetypes, in the literal meaning of ‘original models’. I particularly like the expres
connected with my own research interest in camera-less photography
sion ‘pantheistic altarpieces’ (Barnes, 2010), as it gives a spiritual
and the artistic work of Susan Derges (London, 1955). To observe the modern
connotation to the experience of seeing the artwork. A perfect example is
world means to be aware of the inherent historical elements and contempo
Arch Autumn (2009). It is one of my favourite works of Derges and I have
rary cultural aspects that are presented to the artist. What the artist
enclosed the image for you in this email. I hope you will enjoy it.
wants to report to the public depends on what interests or what concerns
But now, let me write my impressions about Carlos’s interest in
the artist: it is a mindful choice. The choice of Susan Derges is to observe
war rugs. As artists and so as observers of the modern world – recalling
and produce artwork in direct engagement with the natural environment.
Groys – you and Carlos concentrate your practice on the contemporary
I think that, in general, those who read the quote by Groys think of the
sociopolitical condition of particular regions: Iran and Afghanistan.
‘modern world’ without relating it to the ‘natural world’ (our thoughts go
I find the craft that interests Carlos, the war rugs, totally fascinating.
to the metropolis, the technological development, the digital communi
With the rugs’ materiality, the representation of the theme that he
cation, etc.). This subconscious way of thinking is the ineluctable out
develops – abstract documentation of the sociopolitical environment –
come of the process that started with the Enlightenment. It is part of
acquires thickness. The approach that he chooses acquires the symbolism
a cultural legacy. The progressive expectations of science and technology
of a language (images) and a medium (rug) that can be readily understood
at that time led to the idea of a possible absolute mastery of nature.
by different audiences. If we also add the fact that the rug, as he points
This is a key point in my research. I hope you will follow me in
out, is a domestic object used worldwide, naturally the notion of trade
the next point, in short: from the standpoint of the Enlightment, the
emerges. This has connections with the prominence of the theme of trade in
refusal of reason means the refusal of science; the refusal implies fear –
fear of what is not scientifically proven. Fear of the unknown is therefore replaced by alienation: the alienation of the subject from the natural world. I think that now you are asking yourself: ‘what is the point?
When Carlos explains how the rugs, despite the subject repre sented, are products for commercial exchange, maybe we can question the ethics of such an exchange. Again, I fear that the answer will be simple
Why such interest in Susan Derges’s work?’ Well, as simple as it could
and straightforward: consumerism and consumption. There is, in this, a
be, Susan Derges tries to recover a loss: the loss of homogeneity; loss
common point of critique in my research and our artistic practice, I think.
as a consequence of alienation.
In the rugs, we could say that the alienation of the war is turned in to an
aesthetic delight. And, as such, is part of the trade. The rug becomes the subject of a global performance. The market culture is global!7 There is another interesting aspect to Carlos’s research. He in
Arch Autumn, Susan Derges, unique ilfochrome print,
corporates, in his artistic production, a traditional craft of the Afghan
238.8 × 177.88 cm,
region. This is a transparent demonstration of a typical characteristic
2009. © Susan
of the contemporary: the juxtaposition. ‘We are in an epoch of juxtaposi tions, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed’.8
Derges Image courtesy Purdy Hicks Gallery
Coming from that, a narrative aspect arises: the rugs represent – if only in a metaphorical way – the material representation of a story. And every story is a travel story.9 This aspect is more clear if we face the complex process lying behind the entire activity: from the incorpora tion of a craft from a Middle-Eastern region (Afghan rugs, a territory and a socialpolitical situation that attract his attention), to the ‘export’ of an idea and of artworks to places elsewhere (to Portugal, his country of origin, historically related to ‘another’ culture); and, finally, to the exhibition of the result in other different countries (e.g. the UK). Carlos’s narrative is a narrative of a spatial practice. Finally Carlos sent me a further question: ‘If we find a new world, what we would export there that would represent us as a whole?’ I return, again, to my own research. I think that already our presence in such a new world would be the answer; as we represent ourselves as the process and product of mankind’s development: ‘Humanity is no doubt the only species to have invented a specific mode of disappearance that has nothing to do with the law of nature. Perhaps even an art of disappearance.’10 I think that my research, as well as that of Carlos, could find a common ground of discussion with you, Azadeh. You are interested in the
living conditions of the women in Iran, another sociopolitical condition
under consideration. As an Iranian woman yourself, the geographical,
I was recently reading a book, I took note of a line of a poem that hit me because of its coherence, in a particular way, with my research. I am
A photogram is produced by placing an object in contact or at a short distance from a photosensitive surface and, in the dark, exposing both to the light. The shadow is recorded
historical and social environment that you consider is Iran after 1979. I know that your last project was generated from a poem. When
Debord, G. A Sick Planet (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2008), 81.
on the paper. 6
Derges, S. Liquid Form 1985–99: with an Essay by Martin Kemp (London: Michael Hue-Williams Fine Art London, 1999), 28.
Baudrillard, J. ‘On consumerism and consumption’ in Carnival and Cannibal (London, New York, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2010).
reading through that note now and I find that it might resonate also with
Foucault, M. ‘Of other Spaces’ in HAD Documente Zur Architectur, n.10, 23.
your work. I quote:
According to Michel de Certeau: see Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life
Thus I sang of the care of fields, of cattle, and of trees, while
Baudrillard, J. Carnival and Cannibal (London, New York, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2010), 43–4.
great Caesar thundered in war by deep Euphrates.11
Virgil Georgics, 4.559–61.
(University of California Press, 1997), 115.
The environmental and the political discourses in which both of us are interested are represented here in a great synthesis. I feel that
From: Azadeh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
this synthesis could represent a connection between your research and mine.
To: Daria <email@example.com>
I would like to know what you think about this quote. Do you think that it could be related to the different aesthetics in which we are
Date: 30 March 2011 Subject: Image and Reality
interested? Or that it could give input with its aesthetics to a discussion about our research and practice?
I have just received a letter from Michele, in which he included a short
snippet of Virgil’s Georgics, and it goes like this:
Thus I sang of the care of fields, of cattle, and of trees,
ful; from that day, the police were tasked with forcibly unveiling women
While great Caesar thundered in war by deep Euphrates.
in the street, if necessary.16 This is, of course, in stark contrast to
I found the poem extremely interesting, thinking that, although
40 years later when, following the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini
it conveys the notion of peaceful rural scenery, it is far from it. It seems
reversed this decision and ordered that women have to, in fact, cover
to carry tension in both theme and purpose.12 Thinking of Caesar and his
attempt to conquer Iran puts this poem in a different perspective. These
Followed by the enforcement of a dress code in 1979, the comp
words could be from a soldier sitting at the edge of a battlefield far away
ulsory hijab impacts significantly on the conditions of female life.
from his home, Italy, with its beautiful fields, cattle and trees, words
Through my photography, I attempt to demonstrate the resistance as well as
that remain in stark contrast to his reality being in the middle of a bat
desires of women, in response to the social conditions of 1979 to the
tle, a fight for Caesar, a fight to conquer land, while the Euphrates flows,
present; society (public) and self (private) play a significant part. The
taking his thoughts away to the Persian Gulf. The symbolic tension remains
two major concepts of ‘Image’ and ‘Reality’ are featured permanently
between home and distance, war and peace, being caught up within and liber
throughout the process.
ated without. I found this analogy strangely close to my own expressions. Poetry has a magical ability to create imaginary imagery;
As an extension, I am interested in other forms of expression within my project. I have, particularly, been looking at the body as
metaphors that speak for reality. It makes me wonder if photography has
a medium, body as metaphor. Perhaps, for Iranian women, this is a way of
the same ability? References to Jacques Rancière spring to mind:
expressing their common resistance (dress code) – a body has to be dressed
Photography carried out a new form of representation framed by
in a certain way but can still be accessorised with insignificant details
literature itself, capturing the aesthetic of the prose poem.13
such as shoes and bags, expressing individuality. This small detail
Poem, meaning, purpose, imagination! Rancière also noted in his
is a fascinating aspect, which I would like to explore further in my work.
book Future of the Image that: ‘while Baudelaire is famous for denouncing
It also reminds me of the interventions happening during the
photography, his prose poems appear to anticipate its eventual function
1980s art scene: ‘body as a site of protest’. Since the Feminist Movement
in their early verbal version of the snapshot. Photography leaves the look
of the 1970s, the use of the body as a medium to express desire and
mute and allows space for a multiplicity of meaning.’
sexuality, as well as resistance to social conditions, has been developed
Being mute but still allowing space for multiple meaning
through various art forms. Tracey Warr noted: ‘The artist’s body has func
refers me back to my own country. I was amazed when I found out that your
tioned as a kind of “resistance to power” in relation to the body itself
research interest is Iran and its contemporary art scene; Iran’s actions
through its performance as socially determined and determining’.17
have typically provoked fervent debates amongst a myriad of different
But going back to the literary format of poetry, the idea it made
people, including activists, lawyers, journalists and academics, to name
me think about is the power of poem and imagination in the reader’s
a few. The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, discussed a range
deliberations. The power of imagination is, perhaps, something that could
of human rights issues in Iran, during a sold—out presentation at the
encourage emancipation for women in Iran. My recent project, which
University of San Diego in 2006. She highlighted, in particular, the dis
was produced during my residency in France (March 2011), was inspired by
crimination and injustice suffered by women in Iran on a daily basis,
a feminist poem from Forough Farrokhzad. You probably know her as an
describing the state of women’s rights as ‘the discriminatory law against
Iranian feminist poet.18 Forough Farrokhzad’s poem addresses phenomena
women’.15 Such verbal images obviously convey a very strong idea of post-
that express a relation with nature. In her poem she says:
revolutionary Iran. That is what my work focuses on, identifying how
I will greet the sun again,
visual images might communicate in a clear and powerful way, depicting
I will greet the flocks of cows
reality. Overall, I see my project as a contribution to the ‘reading’
which brought me, as presents,
of Iran’s history, through practice-based research within the context of
the sweet smells of the field at night[…]19
contemporary art production. Using photography and video installation, I investigate the
The reminiscence, ‘I will greet the sun’, drew my attention – will – referring to something in the future. Although the poem seems to invoke
struggle of women in Iran, in relation to tradition and modernity. The
the power of liberty and emancipation, the actual act seems to happen in
hijab has been a remarkable element in the history of Iran. Interestingly,
the future. It made me think of how to change it, make it more suitable for
the compulsory veiling or otherwise of women in Iran has happened many
the present moment so that I could incorporate it into my photography.
times throughout the country’s history, ever since Reza Shah first took the
Subsequently, ‘greeting the sun’ in the present tense manifested itself in
scarf off women’s heads in 1936. He announced a law, according to which
a series of my photography and performances in Paris, as you can see in the
wearing the hijab or any form of Islamic head covering was rendered unlaw
In memory of Forough,
I understood as interconnected, or better, one following the other.
I suppose that her main concern is emancipation, in its broad complexity,
Greeting the sun
from the acceptance of the sexuality of the female body as a part of
greater Nature, to political emancipation, as suggested by her discussion
Greeting the sun; women
of Western feminist art. Knowing her background – she is Iranian and in
I thought it would be interesting to have your ideas about it
Iran the female is seen and perceived of as inferior – a figure to be
as your work is mainly related to contemporary Iranian art and, I presume,
covered, removed and ignored; I understand her attempt to reclaim back the
that you have a a diverse range of information regarding Iranian life,
right to be present through addressing the work of Forough Farrokhzad.
specifically female life after the revolution in 1979. According to
It is very poetic and gentle feminism. However, I see Farrokhzad and
the debate about ‘image and reality’, which is one of the key points in con
Western tradition as two opposite poles in feminist thinking and find it
temporary discussions, how do you think that art pieces are involved
very intriguing that she is bringing them together as the inspirational
with reality in Iran? And how far they are an ‘image’? That is part of the
sources for her work.
question that I’m attempting to figure out through my research; what
My own research, as you know, is about Iranian contemporary
is the image of the female after the revolution in 1979 in Iran and, in com
art, which means I have been reading a lot about history, philosophy and
parison, what is reality in the same context?
art in Iran. Even though the focus of my work is very different, I could not escape the matter of female identity and the restrictions that women
have been facing since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. I experienced
such restrictions myself during my visits to Iran. Despite the repres
sions, women’s participation in social life and their social roles are
Greeting the Sun,
remarkable. Even while wearing the veil, they find ways to manifest their
sexuality and freedom. I see Azadeh’s investigation into Western femi-
nism as a formal one, put forward in order to find the most appropriate right
artistic language of expression to get her message across. Her reference
Emancipation Series, digital
to Rancière and his The Future of the Image made me think about her work
as a fiction creation process where, through the medium of photography,
she is constructing a narrative of aspirations. It is interesting that she
841 × 1189 mm. Endnotes
is using herself as a model, in most of her works; as if she was reinvent
McCarty, N. Rome: The Greatest Empire of the Ancient World (London: Carlton Publishing
ing her own self. A picture, an image, is always a fiction detached from
reality; it is a deception. However, I feel Azadeh’s work is about deceiv
Rancière, J. The Future of the Image (London: Verso, 2010).
14 Ibid. 15
Ebadi, S. Iran Awakening (London: Random House, 2006). http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=AmW_lyDvaIE&feature=related
Hoodfar, H. ‘The Veil in Their Minds and on Our Heads: The Persistence of Colonial Images of
ing reality in order to ultimately alter it. Interestingly, our work has a lot in common, and it is not only geographical – we both look at Iran but also there are conceptual
Muslim Women’ in Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital (David Lloyd & Lisa Lowe, eds,
common grounds. We are both investigating the outcomes of major political
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), 9–14.
events: in her case, the Islamic Revolution of 1979; whereas I am more
Warr, T. The Artist’s Body (London: Phaidon, 2000).
Farrokhzad, F. A Rebirth: Poems (Callifornia: Mazda Publication, 2002).
interested in the more recent phenomena of the Green Movement and how a
unique political situation affects artistic practice.
From: Daria <firstname.lastname@example.org>
questions come to bother me. As you know already, I am extremely interested
To: Carlos <email@example.com>
in Iran. I am fascinated by its recent political history as well as the
Date: 2 April 2011
strong connection and interchanges between the artistic and social in
Subject: Personal as political
the art produced in the country. At one point, I decided to take it further
I think I should start by explaining to you why and how these
and focus my research around this topic. Being a foreigner researching Dear Carlos,
non-Western culture, I was determined to avoid the common post-colonial take on the question and try to place myself within that culture. I wanted
Azadeh wrote to me about her research and the questions that she is
to address Iranian philosophers and thinkers and get their perspective.
exploring in her work. I could identify three main narratives, which
One of the most interesting discoveries in this research was the concept of
the ‘epistemological displacement’ faced by the majority of non-Western
intimate effects that the works might have on the viewer’s perspective
societies, where the development of philosophical thought hasn’t followed
or line of thought. The artists I am looking at all live and work in
the same Western line of critical investigation. This concept was formed
Iran and are strongly committed to what we would call ‘political acti
by Iranian philosopher and writer Daryush Shayegan, in his publication
vism’; however, in the situation of Iranian society, it is about personal
called Cultural Schizophrenia: Islamic Societies Confronting the West.
experience, as the line between the social and the personal is very
According to Shayegan, the core reason underpinning the
thin, almost not existent. Here are some names: Mahmoud Bakhshi, Mehraneh
intercultural incompatibility between East and West lies in what he calls
Atashi, Shahab Foutuhi, Neda Razavipour, Amir Mobed. This list is con
Islam’s backwardness and benighted indifference towards scientific pro
stantly changing as the research goes further and as I keep coming back
gress flourishing in the West. This initial disengagement with the achieve
ments of Western thought led to a major epistemological displacement. Subsequently, the vacuum that formed, instead of being filled by a dialogue between the Islamic world and the West, has been occupied by radical religious politics and, in the case of Iran, gave rise to the
Daria x top left Tulips Rise from the Blood of the
Islamic Revolution in 1979, which came along as an attempt to prevent
wild Westernization and the spread of Capitalism in the country. However,
the religious state described by Foucault as an ‘attempt to open a spiri
tual dimension in politics’20 soon, after the Revolution, turned towards
the most banal totalitarian regime. The complex geopolitical situation
has been beneficial for creativity in the country – somehow, artistic
practice became the language of protest and one of the most effective ways
Mother of Nation,
to attract wide international attention. Art became a major vehicle of
communication. The generation of artists currently most active in Iran are pre dominantly young people mainly in their late 20s and early 30s. They grew up in a situation of radicalized cultural distortion and alienation
Moakhar, Industrial Revolution Series, 2008–09. © Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar
from the ideals of the Islamic revolution, not to mention the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. Their sociopolitical condition shaped a distinctive and fierce feeling of discontent, translated into groundbreaking artistic
bottom Come Caress Me, Amir Mobed,
language. I can here quote Jacques Rancière and his essay ‘The paradoxes
of political art’ in which he gives a definition of the engaged artist and
his role and what outcome should be expected:
Tehran, 2010. Photography
Critical art is an art that aims to produce a new perception of
the world, and therefore to create a commitment to its trans
formation. This schema, very simple in appearance, is actually
the conjunction of three processes: first, the production
of sensory form of ‘strangeness’; second, the development of an
awareness of the reason for that strangeness and third, a mobilization of individuals as a result of that awareness.21 What I find very interesting is that, in order to augment the effect of ‘strangeness’, and therefore generate engagement, artists turn towards practices very unusual for the Iranian tradition. I suppose here the questions of the political in art and notions of national/traditional come together. The moving away from what is usual, ‘normal’ and traditional by this group of artists is the way to produce work that might inspire political change. I am not talking here about large-scale political actions such as revolutions or coups d’état but, rather, more personal
Afary, J., Anderson, K. B. Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, Gender and the Seduction of Islamism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005), 208.
Rancière, J. Dissensus, on Politics and Aesthetics (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010), 142.
RECREATING HISTORIES —–––
RECREATIN G HIS TO RIES
Enola Gay bombardier
 Anja Ziegler, MRes
Thomas Ferebee on Tinian island
Born in Germany, 1974. Lives and works in London.
with the Norden
Anja Ziegler’s research looks at the study of exhibitions and the history
the dropping of Little Boy. Photo
of curatorial practice, analyzing its effects and influences on contempo
taken by Ted H.
rary art practice. She is currently completing a Masters of Research in
Art Practice at the Graduate School of the University of the Arts London.
served in the USAAF (20th AF )
Anja Ziegler is a professionally trained librarian and has been working
on Tinian during
within the arts for more than 10 years.
 Lucía Gómez-Mejía, MRes Born in Santá Fé de Bogotá, Colombia. Lives and works in the UK. firstname.lastname@example.org | www.wix.com/luciagomezmejia/lucia Lucía Gómez-Mejía’s practice-based research focuses on the inability of rationality to portray the discontinuity of human thought. She works mainly on video installations, audio and writing. Lucía holds a degree in
Philosophy, Literature and Music. She is also a graduate in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design and is currently undertaking the Masters
Not long ago, I went to a talk at Chelsea College where Professor
in Research (MRes) at University of the Arts London. She has worked
Julian Stallabrass was in conversation with Iain Boal. They talked about
as a university lecturer, a performing musician and publishing editor.
war, images and intense spectacle, especially in regard to Iain Boal’s co-authored book, Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of
 Manca Bajec, MA Curating
War. In his presentation, Boal talked about the image apparatus, and
Born in Slovenia, 1982. Lives and works in Slovenia and London.
the censoring and revealing of images that are controlled by the media.
He mentioned the incident ‘Fat Man and Little Boy’, which refers to the
Manca Bajec’s research focuses on memory-based sculptural works, as
two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
poetic manipulations of space, time and light. She is a graduate of the
By coincidence, Liz had shown me an image belonging to exactly
Accademia di Belle Arti Venezia and will be completing her Masters
this context, just a few days earlier, when we were talking about her
in Sculpture from the Academy of Fine Art and Design in Ljubljana. She has
research. And there I was, being presented with two different contexts,
worked mainly as a stage designer, collaborating with different theatre
which so obviously belonged to the same history but which gave rise to
and film directors, as well as exhibiting her own art, most recently at
so many questions in my head. How do we represent history and the different
the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana.
narratives that are entailed within it? Or do we keep stumbling around the fractures, trying to find something that combines them? Or would
 Liz Evans, MA Art Theory
constructing alternative narratives allow us to give all fractures an
Born in UK, 1984. Lives and works in London.
equally meaningful stand without needing to combine them?
I decided to investigate the issue of representing history
Liz Evans’s research is focused on the construction of narratives,
a little deeper and found out that the image that Liz had shown me depicts
through various art, text and institutionally based practices. She is
Thomas Ferebee, in front of the aircraft Enola Gay,1 on the island of
particularly interested in the potential of fictional discourses within
Tinian, after the bombing of Hiroshima on the 6 August 1945. His face is
such practices. Liz Evans’s work also deals with perceptions of roles
strangely turned away from the gaze of the camera; it looks as though
within art contexts. Therefore, her work outside of the academic setting
his attention is on the device in front of him, which is placed on a little
box almost like on a pillar. Further research revealed that this is actually a Norden Bombsight apparatus developed to be able to drop bombs accurately. On closer inspection, I realized that Ferebee himself was the bombardier for this special mission during the bombing of Hiroshima.
Perhaps that is why the focus is turned away from him onto the technical devices? I found other photographs portraying pilot and crew looking much more proudly into the camera and displaying a certain heroism. The name displayed on the aircraft was chosen by the pilot, Paul W. Tibbets, a few months earlier, taken from his mother’s name. The aircraft itself was especially built to carry atomic weapons. It was the first to carry out its deadly mission by destroying 90 per cent of the city and ending many lives in Hiroshima, but also subsequently ending the Second World War, as a result of the bombing. The discrepancy between this kind of imagery and the imagery of the destruction struck me most. I was not sure how to deal with it. The devastation and the sheer number of people that had died; the consequence this incident had, not only for our environment and planet but also for the future of world politics and atomic warfare, was difficult to comprehend. In the early 1990s, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum wanted to include the aircraft Enola Gay in an exhibition. A major controversy arose. The debate around the exhibit spread in many different directions. Many articles were published and an account of all the arguments I read to help me understand the situation would blow this letter out of all proportion. Perhaps the sheer size of the object proved to be difficult to integrate in the exhibition without overpowering all the other exhibits. But it seems to me more likely that the different narratives surrounding the object could not simply be included into the one exhibition concept. The exhibition, The Last Act: the Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II, addressed from its outset different facets of this particular moment in history. The controversy ended when the exhibition was finally opened in 1995, incorporating just the fuselage of the aircraft in the display. After that, the restored aircraft went on display again in 2003 and has remained there ever since, in the company of 200 other aircrafts featured within the aviation history of the United States.2 Within my own research, while reading Walter Benjamin’s take on history, the issue of representation occurred again. In his theory on historical materialism, Benjamin foregrounds the present experience of the past and its representation in constructed forms of narrative. This, he argues, creates a constellation between past, present and future, thereby generating ‘dialectical images’ of historical memory. He notes that: ‘Historical materialism sees the work of the past as still uncom pleted. It perceives no epoch in which that work could, even in part, drop conveniently, thing-like, into mankind’s lap’.3 Benjamin developed a very fascinating analogy of the representa tion of history, placing Paul Klee’s ink—wash drawing ‘Angelus Novus’ in the centre, which: […] shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures
the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.4 Linking the material and physical world with symbolic and imagi nary dimensions of history and art, Benjamin demonstrates that things both give and are given meaning through interactions and movements between the concrete and the abstract. I am very interested to hear what you have to say and look forward to hearing from you. Until then, my best wishes, Anja Angelus Novus, Paul Klee, Collection: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
‘Enola Gay’ is the name of an aircraft that has come to be known as the first bomber aircraft to drop the atomic bomb ‘Little Boy’, targeting the city of Hiroshima, Japan on the 6 August 1945 causing extensive destruction. The name stems from the pilot’s mother’s name, Enola Gay Tibbets. It was personally selected by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., pilot of the aircraft and commander of the 509th Composite Group, on 9 May 1945 for one of fifteen B-29s aircrafts with ‘Silverplate’ modifications necessary to carry atomic weapons.
2 http://hnn.us/articles/1807.html 3
Benjamin, W. (1937–40) Konvolut N: Erkenntnistheoretisches: Theorie des Fortschritts. In: Passagenwerk. Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 1. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 467–8.
Benjamin, W. ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ in Illuminations (London: Fontana, 1992), 249.
Mainz, 12 March 2011 Writing and rewriting to you from many places along many days … Thinking of Chagall’s stained glass Type-writer by Lucía GómezMejía
Dear Manca, I keep thinking about a letter I received the other day. It is fascinating how sometimes one keeps some words or images that end up shaping how one thinks about reality. Among many other things, the letter I received alluded to Benjamin’s notions of the ‘present experience of the past’ and ‘dialectical images of historical memories’. Here in Mainz, when visiting Chagall’s stained glass windows at St Stephan, I couldn’t stop thinking about this. I have always been fascinated by these windows, not only by their beauty but also because they have always represented for me the way that history is built on fragments. Chagall was Jewish-Russian. Before the Second World War, he discovered a deep interest in the Bible, as a text that represents history alongside a cosmological understanding of the world. It was almost a mystical, historical and mythical approach. His interest was born when Vollard commissioned him to provide illustrations for the Old Testament (1931). Most of them were just finished by the beginning of the war in 1939, although the publication was launched in 1956. It is interesting how this iconic modernist painter suddenly turned his attention to ancient themes. Later on, Chagall painted the windows in St Stephan. Although the themes remained the same, the meaning and representation became completely different. Chagall continued to touch on Old Testament tales but began highlighting the connections between Christian and Jewish traditions. The windows were commissioned very specifically as a symbol of reconciliation. Chagall himself had to leave France during the war, after the Nazi occupation. His wife died in the US and, somehow, he always blamed
her death on having to abandon Europe. Finding the windows in Germany, in no other city than Mainz – which at some point in history was a centrepoint of European Jewry – is a fascinating example of rebuilding history. My fascination comes from the perplexity I’ve always felt by anything in life that evidences fragmentation. These windows provide a beautiful metaphor for fragmentation: stained glass as an entity built on fragments, telling a story that has been transformed – a story composed of history, experience, context and temporality; a story that has its limitations in its fragmentary character. In its limitations, though, we find its voice. As in Enola Gay’s photograph, which is also interpreted differently by different ‘voices’, I can still hear Benjamin’s echoes. I keep thinking about the dialogue between the past and present in these windows. You should come and see them, they make you feel drunk in blue light … London, 29 March 2011 Just drawing bubbles on your letter with the illusion of dialogue I am now in London, thinking about history, and still writing to you … Human thought and experience are fragmentary. However, the rigid structures of language make difficult, if not impossible, the representation of broken narratives.5 I am with Benjamin on a dialectical approach. The univocality of academic discourses destroys the possibility of historical polyphony.6 Within this context, I think that any discourse is constraining. Only a dialogical approach would be able to reconcile or, at least, give voice to all that is lost, due to its lack of rational structure. History has been built by language all along, and it would be naive to deny that fact. But if its main tool does not allow space for re presenting the nature of human thought, a challenge is proposed to us. Perhaps one way would be to displace meaning, allowing multiplicity. Or a sudden change of direction that gives space to the permeation of dis courses and meaning. And here, I am thinking again about polyphony and the idea of permeation because polyphony implies various melodic lines but, at the same time, inevitably creates harmonic sequences. It allows permeation, both linear and substantial. I also think it suggests temporality as a crucial factor for the concept of Art, and also for the concept of history. It might sound quite obvious but, although history refers to time, it rarely represents temporality as a concept which is alive. It normally refers to the past as a revered entity that has to be archived and interpreted. In a way, traditional History relies on the reputation of particular historians; it craves validation based on academic and rational parameters. The statements of traditional history can indeed be challenged but only by those who also exercise history as a discipline that pursues univocal, ‘accurate’ interpretations based on the unchallengeable authority of objective facts.
London, 3 April 2011
Suggesting the notion of a city, which apparently is named univocally, Calvino also brings to light the fact that the city is not a singularity,
Writing to you and someone else, building bridges in my mind.
because there is no such thing, in reality. Oneness and universality are concepts, abstractions that emerge from such experience is made from
Thinking again about temporality, I keep asking myself: what do ‘memories’
discontinuous facts, thoughts, interpretations and feelings. Calvino
represent for history? Where do memories come from? I think they are
is not taking the road of silence as such, but he is proposing that language
choices of the mind (either conscious or unconscious). While choosing
implies incompleteness; naming something just throws light on one aspect,
a memory, everything is filtered by our own thought structures; we can
leaving in obscurity and silence the actual thing as a whole. Language
either be fixated on meanings or leave them free to transform. A memory
is fixation in contraposition to reality, which is in continuous movement.
cannot be pure, pristine and untouched; it has been tainted from the
History is also in continuous movement and yet it is fossilized by
beginning with our own will: the act of choice. When it comes to history
and its pretension of universality, it seems quite inconsistent. History
Rationality imposes structures, both on thought and on language,
is built on memories (even in this contemporary time when everything
which demands knowledge, while knowledge implies objectivity. However,
can be documented, you will always have the ‘eye’ behind the camera and the
the univocal discourse of History usually confuses objectivity with
points of view). An honest recollection of a fact does not necessarily
singularity; in order to achieve objectivity, we are normally prompted to
achieve objectivity or truth. That is why the element of choice is impor
achieve singular, homogeneous statements and meanings. I’ve been re-reading Borges lately … Very poetic and yet
tant. Memories are filtered by our own identities, by other memories, by forgetfulness and time. History is, therefore, filtered by its own tem
immensely philosophical. I am finishing my long—lasting letter, written
porality and its own limitations.
across different times and different cities, with a Borges quote. What London, 4 April 2011
is your take on all this Manca? Sometimes I feel lost. Perhaps it is just a reflection of my own thoughts: fragmented, though not always coherent
A final attempt, realizing that after all, what I’ve been doing is
ways of trying to achieve a voice, even if it is ephemeral. Borges writes:
retelling histories and stories …
Really, what I want to do is impossible, for any listing of an endless series is doomed to be infinitesimal. In that single
It is quite breathtaking how architecture refers also to history. Being
gigantic instant I saw millions of acts both delightful and
in London is a constant reminder of this. The notion of space and inhabited
awful; not one of them occupied the same point in space, without
space brings back, once again, the issue of temporality and narrative.
overlapping or transparency. What my eyes beheld was simulta
There is a beautiful text from Italo Calvino that refers to the notion of
neous, but what I shall now write down will be successive, because
building cities through language over and over again. In the book, one
language is successive. Nonetheless, I’ll try to recollect
sees how imaginary space is constructed.The book also touches on the his
what I can …8
tory of such spaces. Language, as a fragmented tool, is used to build
Hope to see you soon, Manca. Hope these fragments can arrange
fragmented spaces in a conceptual way. Language builds fragmented concepts
themselves in your mind. And then, somehow, we will have also rebuilt
(spaces) out of structured things (cities); this is a way of fragmenting
our own thoughts into a story or, perhaps, history.
not only a structure as such, but the possibility of its existence. Calvino says: For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing; it
A big hug, Lucía
is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave. There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves
Language does not acknowledge human thinking as fragmented, limited or changeable. It is like a blind mirror that cannot see what is being reflected. As a structure based on
a different name; perhaps I have already spoken of Irene under
coherence, logic, efficiency etc, language simply imposes on the reality addressed.
a different name; perhaps I have spoken only of Irene.7
The inadequacy of language is not based on absence of tools but on the refusal to concede
The beauty of Calvino’s text is that it reveals the inadequacy of
legitimacy to anything, which is not within the rational / accepted structure. 6
Here it is worth having consciousness of the virtues and dangers of polyphony. A musical
language not as an accusation but almost as a poetical feature of language
form that can give a recognizable voice to different themes, but can also become a solid,
itself. The fact that language is not sufficient to contain the world is
inflexible structure in order to do it. In this context, polyphony itself is not infallible
not at all a failure; it is simply a fact that leaves us with an open door to interpretation as well as intellectual and poetical constructions.
and requires an ongoing process to monitor its own self-awareness. 7
Calvino, I. Le città invisibili (Milan: Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1972), trans. William Weaver, The Invisible Cities, (New York/London: HBJ, 1974), 43.
Borges, J. L. El Aleph (Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, 1945 and 1949), trans. Norman Thomas di Giovanni in collaboration with the author, The Aleph and Other Stories, (New York, E.P. Dutton, 1970).
Written while 5 April became 6 April Dear Liz, Lately, more than ever it seems, the world is in complete turmoil. Following events from different parts of the world, I wonder how people are able to cope with so much pain and sadness and situations that seem to have no resolution. It is quite terrible feeling somewhat like being a witness, almost like being given a fake memory. This idea of becoming a fake witness makes me think of memorials that are usually built by people that have not experienced the traumas that they are eternalizing through the materializing of the past. Proust questions whether a work of art can recapture the lost and save it from destruction.9 It is a romantic idea that contemplates art as a saviour but also deems art to be an object that will never allow us to forget. I just received a letter from Lucía the other day, in which she discusses two segments from El Aleph. After several readings, I feel that the ideas that have been going through my mind are so difficult to put into words. My difficulties remind me of the way in which the author of El Aleph describes the troubles of his protagonist. I realize that lan guage, when used as a medium for thoughts that we have to communicate, often brings many limitations, as the protagonist outlines. To borrow the words of someone that elaborated much on the subject: the limits of my language mean the limits of my world.10 It makes one wonder about the actual value of language and the value of the ability to manipulate it. For this reason, I am drawn to believe that language, while being a way of communicating, is much more than the words that we speak and write. The descriptions we use to encompass things often tend to, as Borges says, ‘be successive’. They are only able to describe. They hardly ever come close to recreating. In the light of such limitations, I think that it is only through the help of another medium of communication that a certain something can be recreated more justly. In fact, in the second citation of El Aleph in Lucía’s letter, where the protagonist ponders the state of forgetfulness in a tone of slight self-pity, he seems to question his own mortality and his ability to create immortality. It is somewhat like the pathetic idea that besets the role of art: does the recreation of a moment, into a form that becomes a thing of permanence, really save it from destruction? I am myself questioning now whether an actual objective lost can ever really be recaptured or, in any way, contained to remain in an untouched state. Is this idea of being able to objectively represent a moment, whether through a work of art or the art of language, quite irre levant? This brings me to think that it is not language, thought, that
brings limitations to our world but rather the fear of not being able to represent this thought in a way that justifies it. Subjectivity is unavoidable in the attempts to recreate narrative around an event. However, there is the objective memory of an undeniable fact that an event did occur: ‘If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?’11 This question has been raised in so many different ways and on so many dif ferent occasions. In many ways, we could then also speculate that an event occurred only if there is some memory or something left behind that documents it or a trace of it. Recreating a past moment is a constant task reoccurring in a diverse range of forms and through many different attempts. It is a difficult and often a painful ordeal to recreate a past moment from fragments of narratives, when a more objective documentation is not available, other than the recollections of those that lived through that moment. Although these are almost certainly tainted with emotional weight, they are frequently the traces without which the moment could possibly never have existed. It would be great to have a chat about these issues sometime, I am sure you could help me reach some conclusions in the puddle of ques tions that I have created. Hope you are well and that your work is going well. Write again soon, Manca Endnotes 9
See also: Proust, M. In Search of Lost Time (London: Everyman’s Library, 2001. Orig., Paris: Editions Grasset and, later, Editions Gallimard, 1913-1927).
Wittgenstein, L. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. C.K. Ogden (London: Routledge and
This issue was raised in June 1883, in The Chautauquan magazine, Volume 3, Issue 9, T. Flood,
Kegan Paul, 1922.). ed., (M. Bailey: Jamestown, N.Y. , 1883), p. 543. The question had earlier been discussed by the philosopher George Berkeley in A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710).
12 April 2011 Somewhere on the approach to London on the 21.32 train to Paddington Dear Anja, I hope you found the image I sent you engaging and that it possibly moved your thinking into a new area. I’ve just received a letter from Manca, in which she makes the point that language is more than the words we speak and write. This is a view I, too, share. I feel that this is the trouble we face, particularly when trying to record/document something whose contents may extend beyond
linguistics, relying instead on context, subtexts, and meta—narratives to give a fuller account. Our problem then lies with events that carry more weight than can be expressed within text; events that bear emotional scars. In her letter, Manca also posed a question that is embedded within this discussion of documentation: ‘Can a work of art recapture the lost and save it from destruction, as Proust expressed in A Search for Lost Time?’ Before I begin answering any question, I like to open it out as much as I can first. Usually this is a private process but, I think, as we’re discussing such documentation, I’m going to share this with you; maybe, it’ll make my answers appear more justified, although it does often pose the problem of creating more questions than answers. My initial point of inquiry here is into the problem of ‘recapturing the lost’. To recapture implies that the item was never truly lost; perhaps it was forgotten but it remains possible to bring it back from some past land, whether in its entirety, or just as a faint trace. What interests me most here is the following question: what brings about this act of evocation? Is it recalled by the realization of its loss, the sudden gut-wrenching churn of realization that you misplaced something that once meant so much to you, yet which you cast aside and allowed to leave your consciousness until this moment? Is an action, quite unrelated, the instigator for your recollec tion, such as the submersion of a petite madeleine into tea, which brings forward a host of your history? Or is it the knowledge that something you once held could now change your existence, and its recapture could contain innumerable possibilities? Also, is what is now recalled what was lost originally, or has it been reclaimed through the rose-tint of memory, where only a fragment of honesty remains, allowing its remainder to be embellished and shaped to fit your desired narrative? But, of course, it is not just an affection for nostalgia that can taint such recollections; some objects of our intended ‘remembrance of things past’ are simply too painful to be fully regained. We may unconsciously choose to ‘forget’ that which cannot be brought back – those instances of pain, regret or sorrow which, while they can never be truly forgotten, can neither be entirely remembered. My next question is: what is the destruction of which Manca spoke when she wrote to me about El Aleph, asking: does the recreation of a moment, into a form that becomes a thing of permanence, really save it from destruction? Is such destruction an apocalyptic event that will change the course of history and shake humanity to its core? Or is it a banal destruction caused through neglect or disregard? If what is lost is worth saving, why was it cast off with such abandon, only to be sought with relish and recaptured later? And so, to art objects: can their creators be granted the power to deem something worthy of protection? Are they able to imply that the art object is passive, holding for posterity something of worth, thereby denying its provocative and productive power? Can the
art object’s action instead be situated within the potential for reawakening the lost within its viewer? Can art, therefore, be the teasoaked madeleine, rather than the ‘recaptured’ lost? If I filter this discussion through the body of my own research I come to a new point of debate: can art allow its viewer to recapture what is lost, and save it from its destruction? My research so far has been based around the art museum, as you know, but where do the implications of this question leave the art insti tution? What effect could this questioning have on its role? If we take the possibility of the art object to reawaken memories within its viewer, is it an entirely individual and subjective response, outside of the collective? And, if so, is this a point of contradiction for the art museum, as a purveyor of culture as a collective phenomenon? If we take a ‘national’ collection, as an embodiment of ‘National’ culture, we are then grouping the individual within the collective, which is, of course, highly problematic when discussing aspects which historically appeared outside of the ‘National’ narrative. Race, gender, sexuality and political allegiance have always had a troubled position within the history set out through cultural institutions and, therefore, the institution has neglected the possibility of the ‘recapturing’ of memories outside of these sterilized collections. Maybe, we could then move to push our question further: can con temporary art allow its viewer to recapture what is lost and redefine its cultural position? While writing this to you, I had at the front of my mind the image I had sent, which initiated this discussion. It reminds me of a passage I came across while thumbing through a text I was going to give to you; it’s Potentialities by Giorgio Agamben, published in 1999. Have you read it? In the introduction, the editor recalls Hofmannsthal’s suggestion that it is at the convergence of the acts of the philologist and the historian where the past is saved – not in being returned to what once was but instead, being transformed into something that never was. To read what was never written. Maybe this is our problem; to tell a history that can never be told. Perhaps our current use of verbal language may not be fully suitable to present history’s engulfing narrative alone. Maybe we can find solace in the inclusion of the language of the image, or the language of the shared human condition, which may go some way to further our experience of history? I think I need to think about these questions some more. Maybe we could meet and discuss them over a coffee soon? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you, Liz
CONCLUSION: RELAY, READ FROM THE BACK … Isobel Whitelegg, 7 May 2011, Rua Itaquera, 55, Pacaembu-Higienópolis, São Paulo … because I always read books from back to front. Reading from the back provides, as any index does, a way of reading across this book’s given chapters and themes. Here, there are two possible indices: an index of doubt and one of speculation – these two because a consistent character in this book is the question mark. Questions cast doubt on the meanings attached to what has been read and open up speculation on what might be meant otherwise. Doubt and speculation, two indices, plus a league table of critics, philosophers and poets cited. These reflect the fact that, as David Dibosa states in the introduction, this is a book with a suggestive and inviting tone, and anything but the tight delineation of closely worked-out positions. My indexical devices also play with certain conventions that beset us (academically, professionally); first, the ‘research question’ (all too infrequently speculative or open to doubt, all too often with an answer already set out in advance) and second, counting citations, the habitual means of attributing value to a text or work. INDEX (DOUBT) · Reality p.22, 33, 40, 43, 44, 56, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 76, 81 · Imaginary p.17, 22n.1, 26, 29, 30, 33, 62, 75, 80 INDEX (SPECULATIONS) · Can art allow its viewer to recapture what is lost, and save it from its destruction? p.86, 89 · Can artists identify themselves in their own works? p.29 · Can the art object’s action be situated within the potential for reawakening the lost within its viewer? p.86–9 · Can contemporary art allow its viewer to recapture what is lost and redefine its cultural position? p.89 · Can you imagine what it is to live in a place that has been, and still is, an ideological playground? p.55 · Could it be a coincidence that last night I dreamt of daffodils? p.18 · Do those who can pluck, from their even larger vocabulary, the right words in, most definitely the right order, have more power or intellectual capital? p.44 · Do we keep stumbling around the fractures, trying to find something that combines them? p.71 · Does the recreation of a moment, into a form that becomes a thing of permanence, really save it from destruction? p.82 · How does the natural fit in now that its importance seems to fade in
favour of the man—made? p.56 · How do we represent history and the different narratives that are entailed within it? p.71 · Is it a painting? p.17
and recaptured later? p.86 · Who am I? p.29 · Who is the figure on the canvas? p.30 · Would constructing alternative narratives allow us to give all
· Is it a banal destruction caused through neglect or disregard? p.86
fractures an equally meaningful stand without needing to combine
· Is it possible that the weavers who produced Boetti’s rugs were
aware of the value that his rugs were reaching and opportunistically kick-started an aesthetic revolution in their own production? p.55
· Would the question of fascination not, therefore, be haunted by the power of ghosts, or of shadows? p.18
· Is it fear? p.22
· Would the black dress not have something to do with mourning? p.18
· Is it silent trauma or nothingness? p.22
· Wouldn’t that be a definition of every pose? p.18
· Is it self-expression? p.22 · Is it the knowledge that something you once held could now change your
LEAGUE TABLE (CRITICAL-PHILOSOPHICAL-POETIC)
existence, and its recapture could contain innumerable possibilities? p.86
· Benjamin, W
p.22, 26, 29, 72, 76, 79
· Is that gaze rather frightening? p.25
· Groys, B
p.40, 43, 44, 55, 58, 59
· Might they not be pious hands? p.18
· Rancière, J
p.39, 40, 62, 65, 66
· Maybe we can find solace in the inclusion of the language of the image,
· Borges, J L
p.81, 82, 86
or the language of the shared human condition, which may go some way to
· Farrokhzad, F
p.63, 64, 65
further our experience of history? p.89
· Foucault, M
· Proust, M
· Virgil, P
· What are these spaces alternative to? p.44
· Agamben, G
· What are your thoughts on this? p.33
· Blanchot, M
· What brings about this act of evocation? p.86
· Boal, I
· What do you think? p.43, 57
· Calvino, I
· What do ‘memories’ represent for history? p.80
· Debord, G
· What effect could this questioning have on its role? p.89
· Deleuze, G & Guattari, F
· What is the artist asking us to see here? p.17
· Frost, R
· What is the family like? p.26
· Hofmannsthal, H
· What is the point? p.58
· Mascelloni, E
· What is the image of the female after the 1979 revolution in Iran? p.64
· Oswald, A
· What is reality in the same context? p.64
· Ruskin, J
· What would we export there that would represent us as a whole? p.56, 60
· Shayegan, D
· Where is she asking us to see? p.17
· Sloterdijk, P
· Where is Elina Brotherus? p.17
· Warr, T
· Where is the father? p.26
· Williams, R
· Where does the natural stay, what is its place in relation to the
· Wittgenstein, L
· Perhaps that is why the focus is turned away from him onto the technical devices? p.72
creator’s reality? p.56 · Where do memories come from? p.80
Lucy Lippard has consistently speculated about ‘ideas in the air’ – the
· Where to begin? p.17
distributed energy of common sources – which she approaches as a means of
· Which position does she take – the one of director, or of the
accounting for the phenomenon of similar works being created at the same
time. I am drawn to this. It is not by chance, however, that Boris Groys
· Why? p.29
came out on top (or rather, drew with Benjamin), as he was in London for the
· Why does she offer – and simultaneously withdraw herself? p.22
duration of this book’s production.
· Why such interest in Susan Derges’s work? p.58 · Why was it cast off with such abandon, only to be sought with relish
CONTRIBUTORS The contributors to Relay are drawn from the following courses: MA Art Theory MA Art Theory emphasizes the importance of theory in the furthering of art
practice. It provides a key for understanding the role that theory plays in the emergence of new ideas. Ways of thinking about art-making, filmmaking, design and a full range of creative practices can be stimulated by an engagement with the conceptual environments that help such practices grow. As such, theory is seen as an engine to drive art practice forward. MA Curating MA Curating approaches curating as a method that cuts across different
practices and spaces – physical, printed, virtual – and is not applied exclusively to the production of gallery or museum exhibitions. Its areas of specialist focus draw on specific areas of expertise represented by staff, research centres, public programmes , special collections and key external partners across the three Graduate School colleges, including the curating of; events and public programmes, archives (including those of artists, exhibitions and institutions), as well as situated and socially engaged practices. Workshops, seminars and guest lectures introduce and explore changing definitions of curating in relation to a dynamic landscape of institutions, social policies and technologies, and address the response and responsibility of curating in relation to both locally situated and transnational contexts. MRes Arts Practice This Masters of Research course offers students the opportunity to develop a major individual research project within the research environ ment of the Graduate School at CCW , directed at further study at MPhil/PhD level. The course is closely integrated with CCW research centres, and is staffed by Professors and Readers who work in the Graduate School, and who have substantial expertise in practical and theoretical research in art and design, and the supervision of research students. This is a taught masters course, providing a structured introduction to research in art and design fields for those wishing to progress to MPhil/PhD studies. It will also suit those working within art and design fields who wish to enhance their research skills or the research element of their practice.
RELAY – CIRCULATING IDEAS MARCH – MAY 2011 Bright Series Editor Editor in Chief: Professor Chris Wainwright
CCW GRADUATE SCHOOL
Relay Editorial Team: Editorial Advice: Dr Eleanor Bowen Production Coordinator: Becky Green Associate Editor: Bruno Ceschel; Dr. Isobel Whitelegg Managing Editor: Dr. David Dibosa Thanks to: Peckham Space Director: Emily Druiff; Assistant Director: Sarah McLean Chelsea College of Art and Design Special Collections Librarian: Gustavo Grandal-Montero Facilities team: Pablo Souto Alvarez; Evelyn Amoah; Paul Ayres; James Dawodu; Elizabeth Duran; Naomi Neary; Ian Lock; Patrick McCann; Barry Northwood; Shola Oluseinde; Jose Pineiro; Angelo Pucello; Keith Thomas; Michael Wisdom C CW Graduate School
Professor Oriana Baddeley; Dr. Malcolm Quinn; Kate Pelling Design: Atelier Dreibholz: Paulus M. Dreibholz (UAL alumnus and Associate Lecturer); Sunny Park (UAL alumnus) Copy Editor: Colette Meacher Published by: CCW Graduate School, 16 John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU
This title was published as part of the Bright series of publications produced by CCW. I S B N 9 78 - 0 - 9 5 5 8 6 2 8 - 6 -1 © 2011, Graduate School, CCW and contributors
ISBN 978-0-9558628-6-1 ISBN 978-0-9558628-6-1
On your marks, get set, go: we start our relay from the point of view that if we want to end up with any useful forms of knowledge, then we...
Published on May 31, 2011
On your marks, get set, go: we start our relay from the point of view that if we want to end up with any useful forms of knowledge, then we...