NOTE FROM THE EDITOR “For reasons that should by now be self-evident, bearing witness does not imply special access to the essential meaning of critical events. Nor does being in a position to see those events with one’s own eyes privilege the testimony of any individual, no matter where they stand in relation to the presumed center of the drama, since so many other eyes are trained on it from so many uniquely revelatory positions. Logically, this observation is elementary, but as soon as discussion moves from the abstract to the concrete, agreement vanishes in the so-called “fog of war”, that atmosphere of crisis and ambiguity in which opposites confront each other only to lose their bearings, that moment of truth in which sharply defined antagonists begin to resemble each other in their confusion and desperation and truth vaporizes and indiscriminate death has the final word.”
Issue of 9 of 12-Pages Edited by Laura Davidson 12-pages.com tbcartistscollective.org
Robert Storr September: A History Painting by Gerhard Richter (2010)
TBC projects often engage the collective with other artists, academics, writers and curators, who are invited to participate based on their individual perspectives on drawing. They engage with these ideas through their online project space; 12-Pages. Always keen to challenge creative identities and generate new ideas, TBC’s 12-Pages Online Project Space enables contributors to regularly produce new work by means of short deadlines and notional themes, often instigating fresh lines of inquiry. 12-Pages Magazine, since 2010, has sought to document each key stage in the development of these and other of the collective’s investigations.
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On September 11th 2001, Gerhard Richter was en route from Cologne to his opening at Maria Goodman Gallery in Manhattan. He was due to arrive at 12.30pm, almost 4 hours after the first plane hit the World Trade Centre. Richter and his wife were diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia and like the rest of the world, became restricted to watching the unedited narrative stream continuously from TV screens. For those who count themselves amongst the most cynical disbelievers in fate, it must be hard not to concede it was Richter’s destiny to be thrust somehow into the sublime horror of one of the defining moments of the early 21st Century. The events of that September day are accompanied by a very specific and saturated imagery. It was a horror of an intensity not witnessed on the American homeland since colonial times. Ironically in the latter half of the 20th Century, it was America that had been responsible for creating the subject of such sublime imagery. The H-bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War 2 are a subject matter not unfamiliar to Richter. Unlike the atrocities committed in Japan in 1945, images of what happened in Lower Manhattan were unveiled in real time and then replayed continuously to a worldwide audience.
The string of words “nine eleven” has a meaning so intense in Western nations that it obliterates all that defined it before. Primarily it marked an increased aggression in US and European foreign policy. Retrospectively it is becoming to represent a turning point in how media captures our memory of an event. What occurred in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on the 11th of September 2001 is etched into the collective memory of North American and Western European culture. When discussing the event, the attempt at grasping a meaning behind it often begins with a personal account, as if ‘we’ were all there. As if we all saw it played out in reality. The relentless media coverage for almost two weeks after the event placed us in a 360-viewing platform. We were fed images that gave us the impression of being in Manhattan above all, when everything unfolded across the ubiquitous clear blue skyline. Over a decade later, we have become more accustomed to taking part in collective events that we are not physically a part of. Nine eleven was a trigger of this phenomenon. The removal of physical self in the Web 2.0 era has somehow come with a natural ease. It seems logical to concede that today there had always been a concealed science fiction desire to be in two places at once. A strong trend has emerged in which major news stories are broken on Twitter by amateurs, often more rapidly than the conventional broadcasters. Major news events are also increasingly made out of something minor. The continual stream of news that is attached to each person through personal computers and smartphones maybe gives us more of a physical sense of being somewhere when we are in fact completely absent. An absence of physical presence is what defines North America’s 9/11 as equally as an inability to articulate the true terror of those who did witness the events unfold in real time, without constant replay. On Gerhard Richter’s painting September, the art historian Robert Storr remarked that he himself finds it difficult to separate his personal account of the day and the images he saw on the television. In fact, a continual question that arises is how to begin the task of the staging the representational on
something already so represented? On something so concrete yet buried in the effervescent nature of the photograph? The occurrences in the aftermath of the event in particular, the whole of Lower Manhattan buried in a Pompeii-esque ash of office papers, seemed in themselves a poetic legacy that no artist could ever create. The political fall out has agitated some artistic response but, the decade of the War on Terror seems eerily quiet in contrast to, for comparisons sake, the Vietnam War. It is curious that an event that was so staged and so visual has barely any visual response to it. This sense of the intangible is what the brief for the Terror issue was based upon. In the years leading up to the Iraq War, the apocalyptic visions of September 11th were pulsing through the veins of the world media when the Invasion of Afghanistan was announced. These representations were continually recycled to justify the War on Terror. The world had become a place saturated with hyperactive illustrations, replayed over and over, filling the citizens of predominately western nations with a fear of this unknown, slippery, indefinable enemy known as Terror. The Invasion of Afghanistan was only the beginning of this stretching decade of conflict. The War on Terror left in its wake a trail of imagery, of spectacle, of war and of the sublime that is so dense in it’s recording (coinciding with the new digital era) that grasping the concept of the conflict: Terror, is still difficult a decade later. Contextualising these events within the realm of art has not been forthcoming –Richter began working on September in 2004 and even he struggled to grasp how to proceed with his initial drawings. In order to allow a basis for response to the Terror brief, 12-Pages directed the respondents to consider wide resources from the imagery of war to the poetic mechanisms of the sublime, to begin to render a dialogue that describes the preceding decade.
CONTRIBUTORS Beverley Bennett
C harle y Pe ters
The five images have taken influence from Gerhard Richter’s 4096 Colours (1974). The original images have been sourced from images distributed by the Metropolitan Police of riot suspects, following the disturbances in London during August 2011. The Metropolitan Police published CCTV images of rioters on a Flickr page in a bid to prosecute those who had allegedly been involved. The resultant images have been arranged into a system that reflects the colour coded terror threat warning levels issued by the UK and US governments. Green is the lowest threat level, with red signifying that an attack is imminent. The London riots signified a shift in societal consciousness; that terror can come from within.
Logical Atomism (2012) Drawings with yarn and fishing wire in the landscape
Beverley Bennett is a member of TBC Artists’ Collective and a regular 12-Pages contributor and editor. More of her work can be viewed at nowthaticanaffordlaughter.blogspot.com
The works in the series Logical Atomism are concerned with the relationship between terror and spatial negotiations in the urban environment. Cities are designed and re-designed in line with shifting notions of the threat of terror, and inhabitants’ flow through urban spaces are marked by indications of counter terror tactics. Areas of cities are acknowledged as high risk and this identity is drawn onto the landscape, such as the ‘ring of steel’ in London, the popular name for the security and surveillance cordon surrounding the City of London installed to deter the IRA and other threats. Similarly, people are subjected to spatial arrangement in the terrorised city. The police technique of Kettling (also known as containment or corralling) is a methodology for controlling large crowds during demonstrations or protests by forming a physically determined containment area for those involved. In Logical Atomism Charley Peters draws spatial demarcations in the landscape in public spaces synonymous with fear or discomfort – urban parks, shared stairwells and overgrown alleys - areas often seen as threatening when populated by Britain’s most recent threat to civil rest, its youth. Lengths of yarn are stretched to make drawings in space that cut through areas and create physical boundaries. The resultant interventions in city spaces are documented in photographs captured on a mobile phone, the chosen visual language of young people in today’s Britain and the medium that has become synonymous with recording first person experiences of recent episodes of terrorism or social unrest. Charley Peters is a member of TBC Artists’ Collective and a regular 12-Pages contributor and editor. More of her work can be viewed at charleypetersprojects.com
Gudrun Filipska Prepared etching plates sit on the desk beside me as I write and are drawn onto in an almost absent manner whilst I consider the composition of the paintings I happen to be writing about. Later the plates are bitten in acid and hand printed using carbon paper, sections are then rubbed out and removed and the image is drawn into and over, the final work often bearing only a passing resemblance to its original reference, becoming abstracted and imbued with spectres of other images and disparate compositions, memories of walks, or fleeting or blurred encounters whilst travelling on trains through similar landscapes. This series of drawings acts as tentative enquiry into the role sites of industry hold within the Romantic imagination. The journey to the ‘North’ became for the English Romantic landscape painters an essential pilgrimage begun with Girtin’s tour of the north in 1796 and Turner’s trip the following year, these were usually coach trips taking in views of key industrial sites as part of a planned itinerary. This body of work considers the composition of the paintings in light of the mobile encounters of these artists with their subjects, and what this transient or itinerant form of looking might have to do with the visual representation of industry within Sublime discourse and the shift within the late 18th centuries conception of mills, mines, forges etc as benign points of intrigue and excitement ( ie in the works of Paul Sandby P.S Munn) to the profane and troubling ‘blot’ as exemplified in John Martin’s later scenes of terror.1 The Great Day of His Wrath 1851-3 is said to have been painted in reaction to a journey he made through the industrial smogs and kiln fires of the black country at night which profoundly moved him (see Klingender’s Art and the Industrial Revolution page 196, Royal publications 1947). This provides an interesting key in psychoanalytic terms to the artists reaction to the site of trauma and the sublimatory mechanisms present in its subsequent re-animation as a fantastical and somewhat ludicrous visual narrative of apocalyptic proportions.
These drawings then, are interested in offering some small counterpoint to the mechanisms of the Sublime which contain the pre-requisite shock and awe, an aesthetic of vastness, or a totalising image, tropes which exist within the works of John Martin and are continued as legacy within discourses surrounding the ‘Post Industrial’ or technological Sublime’2 and the works of visual practitioners such as David Burtynsky. In offering Palimpsestic re workings of 18th and early 19th century paintings and lithographs I hope to open up a kind of Lacunic space within the original reference, which may contain movement and distortion characteristic of the artists original itinerant encounters or furthermore to make comment on the role that ‘transient looking’ may play within the more interesting residues of Sublime theory available to contemporary artists; the notions of ambiguity obscurity and ambivalence. This is Filipska’s first contribution to 12-Pages. Born in Wales in 1982 Gudrun Filipska is an interdisciplinary practitioner working with the mediums of drawing, print and film. She also considers writing to be an integral part of her practice. Her work is concerned with the place sites of industry hold within the western visual canon, as explored specifically through the observations of those occupying mobile or ‘outsider’ positionsthe migrant worker, the fugueur, the itinerant artist- and is interested in the wider discourse concerning the act of walking within arts practice. Gudrun had lived in recent years in Berlin, London and East Anglia, participating in group shows and undertaking a doctoral research project entitled ‘Fin de siècle trajectories and industrial heritage trails; the mine from Poland to England, 1800-2010 an aesthetic and peripatetic history’.
Laura Davidson The images are screenshots taken from the 9/11 10 year anniversary event in New York. The Michael Arad designed memorial was opened for the first time, allowing those who lost a loved one a chance of remembrance. A sporadic urge came over the crowds of people, still united in a quiet grief, to take their hands and touch the names of those they hold closest in memory. What happened next seemed like a surreal, yet touching, Avant Garde happening. Whatever they had to draw or write with they pulled from pockets and bags. The act of retracing a name on to the commemorative program brought them closer to someone whose only physical presence on this earth resides in a carving in Lower Manhattan. It was not contrived, pre planned or political, the mere act of drawing in someway, the technique of frottage, gave a memorial greater than anything designed and commissioned by a central committee wary of politics and planning permissions. Around the world for the first time in almost a decade, a subtle unscripted collective gesture was replayed on our screens. Laura Davidson is a member of TBC Artistsâ€™ Collective and a regular 12-Pages contributor and editor. More of her work can be viewed at lauraelizabethdavidson.com Davidson is the editor of this issue.
L AURA DAVIDSON
Published on Aug 12, 2012
The ninth issue of 12-Pages explores the far reaching context of terror in relation to contemporary drawing practice. Responses to ‘Terror’...