Editor’s note For this, the twentieth issue of the Courtauldian, the editorial team selected the theme of islands. Through our move to Vernon Square, the Courtauld has become an institute of two islands, that of Somerset House, and our new island of life in King’s Cross. As we all well know, Brexit is fast-approaching, the knowledge of which simmers as an underlying theme to many of the following pieces. However, as we hoped, islands has been interpreted in multiple varied and innovative ways. Excitingly, in this publication, alongside the fascinating features, interviews, reviews, and poems, we have a series of paintings and drawings from some wonderful artists. We are so grateful for all of the thoughtful contributions. A huge thank you must be said, not only to the writers and the illustrators, but also to the brilliant editorial team. Their hard work and dedication made this publication what it is. Don’t forget to follow us on social media and read more at our website, www. courtauldian.com! Tessa Carr Editor Deputy Editor Features Editors Reviews Editors Interviews Editor Literary Editor Assistant Literary Editors Head of Illustrations Graphic Designers Copy Editors Head of Digital Digital Assistant
Tessa Carr Rose London Jacqueline Lucente Alisanne Meyers Flora Loughridge Isaac Huxtable Chloe Hyman Lydia Earthy Annabelle Hondier Rosie Fitter Nia Thomas Farah Dianputri Crystal Sagady Sara Quattrocchi Febles Bea Fomin Naomi Jennings - O’Toole Hollie Hilton Thea Voyles
A native-born islander’s relationship with their home can be complicated. If you happen to be an islander, chances are you had a beautiful, albeit concealed childhood, seeing that you grew up far, far away from the hustle and bustle of a metropolis like London. You eventually come to realise that having had the advantage to grow up on an island gives you an outlook on life unlike any other person’s. The ugly side of this is felt once you have moved away from the tiny bubble you were raised in. Upon your occasional return, you are hit with the realisation that sadly, nothing ever changes. Everything remains stagnant, as it was. Is this saddening, or oddly comforting? Change is not a huge feature of the Mediterranean-island lifestyle. Speaking from my own experience, it is no secret that Cypriots avoid change like the plague. In a way, it would not make sense for them to gravitate towards it. My guess on why this lack of change is oddly comforting to Cypriots is this: everything is instantly recognisable. No new faces, names, or places will ever invade your comfort zone. There is a feeling of attachment that goes along with this lifestyle. In my opinion, the slow pace of life is something that is comforting to anyone who comes to experience it. No wonder Cyprus is a favourite tourist destination: in the limited time frame of a holiday, visitors get a taste of this unhurried attitude and are enchanted by it. Though this may sound like a stereotype, as a local, I can attest to this. The big things in life are never big enough and the small things not small enough. Everything can be reconciled one way or another (mainly through food). However, this relaxed outlook on life can lead people, who are aware that “the real world” is nothing like the one condensed in our small island, to isolation. Isolation because being “different” is criticised and shunned. “Fitting in” is a big thing that all members of Cypriot society are constantly after, as there is nowhere to hide your difference, no space to grow. In a big city like London, you can find such spaces: everyone is so busy with their own lives that they barely give you a second glance. But in Cyprus, you probably won’t be fully satisfied if anonymity is what you are after. This is what leads to the state of stagnation that I mentioned previously. The lack of cultural stimuli is possibly the most tragic side effect of this. As a young person interested in art, the only museums available in my hometown were a run-down picture gallery and a beautiful yet severely neglected archaeological museum. This is also where pain comes in: you are constantly torn between
two very conflicting desires. On the one hand, you want to seek new experiences and break free from the shackles of inertia. On the other, you become attached to this strong feeling of familiarity. The film Nicostratos Le Pélican (dir. Olivier Horlait) perfectly encapsulates the essence of living on a Mediterranean island. Despite the French dialogue and the director not being Greek, the film portrays childhood experiences that resemble the real life of those who have grown up on an island like Cyprus. The story revolves around a family of two, father (Emir Kusturica) and son (Thibault Le Guellec), who nurture a baby pelican they find in a crate. The archetypal grumpy yet loving patriarch – a figure that the entirety of the Greek-speaking population has known and loved dearly – struggles to reconcile his relationship with his son following his wife’s death. Though patriarchy and family dynamics is a topic which would require an entire feature of its own, the accuracy of it shows how diligently this film was made. Nicostratos Le Pélican is quite possibly the only film produced by a non-Greek director to justly represent the culture, unlike the kitschy and over-thetop Hollywood productions filled with stereotypes and gibberish Greek dialogue. On the contrary, Horlait’s film is entirely faithful to the truth. It reminds islanders of scents they’ve all smelled before, music they’ve all heard before, tastes they’ve all tasted before, images they’ve all seen before. It achieves all of the above through simplicity, without having to frantically over-compensate for things. The aforementioned idea that no small thing in life is small enough and no big thing
"This is also where pain comes in: you are constantly torn between two very conflicting desires. On the one hand, you want to seek new experiences and break free from the shackles of inertia. On the other, you become attached to this strong feeling of familiarity. "
is big enough is represented by means of Nicostratos, the pelican. Nicostratos is an ancient name and is broken down into the words νίκη, nike (= victory) and στρατός, stratos (= army). Apart from becoming a tourist trap on the island, the pelican also becomes a preoccupation in the lives of its inhabitants. He is the big-small thing that they all obsess over. In a way, this may also be a nod to Mykonos’ famous pelican, Petros (who has not necessarily been the same pelican over the course of the last fifty years). Petros is on postcards that can be found in the island’s souvenir shops and show one of its many claims to fame – that is, apart from the vibrant party scene and nude beaches. However, this film’s locations are the islands of Milos and Sifnos. These islands are lesserknown to the party-going populations, yet they are adored by the Greeks for their atmosphere of nostalgia, characterised by the longing for something that you cannot exactly pinpoint. The astoundingly beautiful beaches and lagoons are again left untouched by editing and one can take in their sheer magnificence, which is something true to all Greek landscape. My own experience growing up in Cyprus was one of joy and immeasurable love, but also alienation. Alienation in the grander scheme of things, not on a personal level. There is a lot to be said about the process of having to explain where Cyprus is geographically; this is something unavoidable ninety-eight percent of the time. The phrases “oh, it’s a small island just off the coast of Greece, just above Africa and below Turkey… well it is in the EU but geographically it’s much closer to the Middle East…” are almost blurted out naturally every time
someone asks me where I’m from. To put it into perspective, it is almost like being a student at The Courtauld, where you sometimes need to clarify that “it’s an institution that specialises in art history… it’s in London… it’s rather small but very prestigious!” There’s this constant need to assert yourself and clarify that you’re not just making up names of places as you go along. Cyprus’ population just reached a million, therefore one can imagine how it may differ from London, home to ten million people. I believe I speak on behalf of most of my nation’s people when I say that the mere one million of us can’t help but feel isolated from the rest of the world, as we can only seek identification amongst ourselves. Another theme that runs through the film which is very true to island lifestyle is tradition. Tradition is something heavily entrenched in the lives of all island inhabitants: every last detail of a person’s daily routine is defined by it, whether these be conscious or subconscious decisions. For instance, even if a family is not particularly religious, chances are you will find them congregating with their neighbours at their local church attending Good Friday Mass during Holy Week at Easter time. Even more trivial, Wednesdays and Fridays are days of fasting, which means that in most households, even the less religious ones, you’ll probably see legumebased dishes served in place of meat. We do all this for the simple reason that it’s what our grandparents did and what their grandparents did before them and so on. Finally, in Cyprus, there is a constant sense of what I like to think of as “perpetual summer”. This perpetual summer can be
described by the sticky feeling of melting ice cream, the unbearable yet familiar heat, the sound of crickets at dusk, and the taste of cold watermelon paired with halloumi. The perpetuity of it is not solely due to its warm climate, although statistics do show that Cyprus has roughly 345 days of sunshine. It is also because most days are tedious, and I mean this in the nicest way possible. Nothing ever really happens on this sunny island. Whether you choose to blame it on the slow pace of life, or the endless sunny days, there is always a feeling of stillness hanging over the island’s sky. Once again, Horlait manages to capture this in his film. Yannis’ and his best friend Angéliki’s ( Jade-Rose Parker) teenage romance is born out of this sweet summer-time languor, which is another thing reminiscent of all summers spent on an island. Every once in a while, you find a “big” event to look forward to. The extremely touching and picturesque scene where the island’s inhabitants gather for the Festival of Saint Demetris (Γιορτή Αγίου Δημητρίου) represents one of these events. The narrator explains: “all dressed in their be ready for songs the band of copper from the monastery atmosphere…”
Sunday best will and dances, and wind instruments creates a relaxing
(“όλοι ντυμένοι στην τρίχα θα είναι έτοιμοι για τραγούδια και χορούς, και η μπάντα χάλκινων πνευστών από το μοναστήρι δημιουργεί μια χαλαρωτική ατμόσφαιρα…”) The festivities are held on the beach with fairy lights and flags. All the little children are dressed in traditional garments, yet are
wearing fake pelican feet as shoes, marking their island’s unique cultural identity while delivering a heartfelt performance of a song. Love is omnipresent in this scene. Though such an event may seem trivial to anyone who hasn’t experienced anything like it, to someone who has, it feels as if it means the world in that particular moment. After all, that’s what living on an island feels like. It means the world to you, even if it’s just a tiny dot on the world map. That’s the beautiful pain that comes with having floating roots. ■
Guadeloupe Anse a La Gourde Beach 12x12", Oil on Canvas, 2016
Esther Chadwick: Castaway
Naomi Jennings - O’Toole
What better way to illuminate the theme of ‘islands’ than by re-enacting Desert Island Discs? Radio 4’s much-loved series has been entertaining the British public since 1945, and today it stands as a treasured tune-in across the country. My castaway is Dr Esther Chadwick, who kindly agreed to share her choice of eight discs, a book and a luxury item, along with some insights into her interests and ambitions. Her song choices, she states, are selected not only because she loves them deeply, but because they say something about her history. Seated in the National Gallery, following our ‘Possibilities of Portraiture’ class, Esther began by describing her specialism: I’m interested in the eighteenth century because of its paradoxes and contradictions. On one hand, it’s seen as a century of freedom, enlightenment and progress, but on the other, it is a century that witnesses, for example, the height of the transatlantic slave trade. It’s this dialectic I’m interested in, and I think nothing better illuminates it than art history. In the past, I’ve worked on the relationship between portraiture and slavery, precisely as a site for negotiating this tension between civility, politeness, wealth, and the dark side of the Enlightenment. “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism,” as Walter Benjamin said. Song 1 - J. S. Bach, St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 (composed 1727) [Recording: John Eliot Gardiner, The Monteverdi Choir, 1989]. My first choice of music, in fact, was composed at the beginning of the eighteenth century by probably my favourite composer: J. S. Bach. This piece is incredibly meaningful to me. As a child I was a chorister – I sang in Leeds Parish Church Choir – and singing has always been with me. This is a piece that I first sang as a member of the so-called ripieno chorus, a children’s chorale that comes in on top of the main orchestral and choral texture. Singing a blazing, trumpet-like chorale over this stormy, very intense sound, I will never forget the experience of being in that ripieno choir for the first time. How old were you when you first started singing? I guess I’d always been singing, but when I joined the girls’ choir I was a founding member (of the course the boys had been going forever!), I must have been about twelve or thirteen.
Song 2 - Bach, Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (published 1741) [Recording: Glenn Gould, 1955]. The second track that I’ve chosen goes to show you how much I love Bach, but I discovered him as a child. I used to rifle through my parents’ collection and listen to these pieces of music over and over again. I always come back to these works as a kind of meditation whenever I’m feeling stressed out. They are oases of calm amidst the storm. That’s great that your first two songs not only remind you of your childhood but also of what piqued your interest in eighteenth-century art. Yes! And it has to be said that part of being attracted to the eighteenth century is that it’s the period these pieces of music came from. Song 3 - Bobby Short, ‘I’m in Love Again’ from Bobbie Short Loves Cole Porter (1971). My third choice takes us into my present, and it’s Bobby Short. It’s a fantastically romantic, schmaltzy but brilliantly executed song. It’s witty and theatrical. And it reminds me of my partner – we love this song together. Song 4 - Gustav Mahler, 5th Symphony, (composed 1901-2), [live recording: Klaus Tennstedt conducting the London Philharmonic in 1988]. This piece of music I remember hearing very vividly at Birmingham Symphony Hall when I was fourteen. I had made the choice to go to boarding school, but I really didn’t like it at all. There was a trip to go to Birmingham to see Simon Rattle conduct the BSO, and it was while listening to the Mahler that I realised I needed to change my course of action and go back to school in Leeds. The music made a connection to something much bigger than my present worries and it spurred me to action. Song 5 - Georg Friedrich Handel, Messiah (composed 1741), bass aria in Part III, ‘Behold I tell you a Mystery’ and ‘The Trumpet Shall Sound’ [Recording: Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and Clare College Cambridge, 2006]. So, my fifth track takes us up to my time studying art history at Cambridge. I always knew I wanted to study art history; I’d loved making art at school but also thinking about its historical context. While I was at university, I was also a choral scholar at Clare College. I was singing in the chapel choir alongside my degree most nights of the week so, for my fifth track, I’d like to choose a recording that I made with Clare Choir. The Messiah is a bit of a cliché – we hear the Hallelujah chorus and think, oh god, not that again! But there are some incredibly magical moments. It reminds me of singing with my fellow students at Cambridge, and we toured with this piece. Where did you go? All around Europe! We went to Athens, Rome, Paris, Brussels. It was intense, very hard to balance university work with that, but it was definitely worth it.
So, after Cambridge, you went to Yale. Moved all the way to America! Was it scary? It was exhilarating, and massively mind-expanding. A friend of mine once described America as “the best and the worst”. America is so wonderful in lots of ways and there are so many possibilities there but, as we know, it has a darker side. But I had a marvellous time at Yale. I made some incredible friends, and experiencing art history there was, as I said, mind-blowing. Having been at Cambridge, where the curriculum was very conservative, I didn’t study anything beyond 1914, nothing except painting, architecture and maybe a bit of sculpture. At Yale, I realised art history could be so much more. I was very lucky to study with Tim Barringer, who allowed me to think about British art in new ways. Carol Armstrong, Chris Wood, David Joselit and Carol Jacobs (in Comp Lit) were influential teachers too. It was a liberating time. Song 6 - Joni Mitchell, ‘Case of You’ from Blue (1971). I’ve chosen for my sixth track a piece of music that takes me back to those years in America. The spirit of American folk rock got under my skin there, so I’d like this song from Mitchell’s classic album Blue. That will remind me of the music I encountered in New Haven, which took me away from Cambridge and the choral music. Song 7 - Benjamin Britten, Peter Grimes, (first performed June 1945), Grimes’ Act I aria ‘Now the Great Bear and Pleiades’. The seventh track takes us back in time. Well, I did hear it in New York at the Metropolitan Opera, but I’d sung already in the chorus while I was at Cambridge. Peter Grimes is the story of an ostracised fisherman and the relationship between him as an ambiguous, ambivalent individual to his small coastal community. Britten seems to have an enormous depth of humanity in his portrayal of this troubling figure, who is caught in the midst of the unclear circumstances of his apprentice’s death. There’s an extraordinary aria that Grimes sings at the end of Act I. This was first performed in June 1945 and I just think, at the end of the of the Second World War, this is a profoundly melancholy and complex piece. I wanted to ask you about The Courtauld – what brought you to work here? I knew I wanted to come back to England after America, so I worked for a while at the British Museum in the Prints and Drawings department. It was really eye-opening, and I gained a wonderful insight into how museums work – how crucial they are. They are the interface between us and the objects we study, and I have a much greater respect for people who work in this sector now. But I also knew that I really wanted to teach – I love teaching – so that’s why I applied to The Courtauld. I hope to keep engaged in the museum world too, though. My ideal would be to follow in the footsteps of my advisor, who has managed to curate exhibitions as well as teach and research. You have curated some exhibitions yourself, haven’t you? Yes, while I was at Yale, I curated a show called Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain with my dear friend and colleague Meredith Gamer.
Also, while at the British Museum, I curated a small show about Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution, which built on my interests in the history of the Black Atlantic and art in the age of revolutions. I love the immediacy of exhibitions, the magic that happens when you put works together in physical space. You can write about works all you like, but when you put them together in the same room you can do very interesting things. Song 8 - Nina Simone, ‘Why? (The King of Love is Dead)’ from ‘Nuff Said (live recording, April 7, 1968). Simone recorded this track live in concert on 7th April 1968, a few days after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. This piece, which she dedicates to King, is full of sadness. And yet, what I find extraordinary about Simone is her utter composure as she sings through the immediate grief of King’s assassination. The energy that’s generated in this concert is palpable from the live recording. I think it gets to the heart of what all the tracks I have chosen point to: connecting us to something beyond the mundane. I’d just like to ask you for: a luxury item and a book to take to your island, and of course, you may carry the traditional Bible and works of Shakespeare. Well, I’m asking a little bit much here, but I’d like the island to be seasonal. I’d like there to be some snow on the ground for at least two weeks of the year. And I’d like to have some cross-country skis. Do you go skiing a lot? Not a lot but I love cross-country. I love journeying, on foot, I love walking, over long distances, under my own steam. So, a pair of cross-country skis for the winter on this island would be marvellous. I found it hard to think about a single book that I would take, but I recently got given a copy of The Living Mountain by the Scottish author and poet Nan Shepherd, who was writing in the 1940s but didn’t publish this until 1977. It’s a book about her life walking in the Cairngorms. Usually, I hate nature writing; I love being in nature myself but dislike often the men who write about it. I think Nan Shepherd avoids that phallic, arrogant feeling. Instead of climbing to the top of mountains, she writes about walking into them. She is so sensorially aware of her body in nature, and would remind me, in my solitude on this island, of a good way to be in nature. Concluding this castaway interview, Esther shared her aspirations at The Courtauld. Despite being a relatively recent addition to The Courtauld community, her drive and enthusiasm are entirely directed at inspiring her students. What I’d like is to facilitate my students’ research in lots of new and imaginative directions, and to think about British art in broader ways. It’s about having students who take the field in new directions – that would be wonderful. ■
Olivia Laing on the Art of Being Alone Melanie Steen
Following a difficult breakup and a transatlantic move to New York City, Olivia Laing finds herself in the midst of a crisis – alone in New York and experiencing poignant isolation. Her remedy? Art. In a sharp non-fiction titled ‘The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone’, Laing gently rips to shreds any of the New York glamour and glitz installed upon us by the likes of Nick Carraway or Carrie Bradshaw. Instead, she offers an exploration into the solitary lives of several of New York’s twentiethcentury artists as a balm for wounds of loneliness – after all, what is relatability if not a great comfort? The book is structured in chapters, each dedicated to the analysis of an artist: Zoe Leonard, Henry Darger, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz, and Valerie Solanas are among those dissected by Laing. Nothing is off the table when it comes to identifying their personal brands of solitudes. Laing delves into childhood traumas, abandonment, AIDS, voyeurism and other factors of isolation. Each passage is an opportunity to frame an artist as an exemplification of a particular aspect of loneliness: Wojnarowicz the solitary outcast, Warhol a misfit, Hopper the bitter painter. The Lonely City’s ability to combine examples of artists with psychological research conducted by leaders in the field is a powerful approach and solidifies many of Laing’s arguments, without drowning out the sensitivity of her writing. Paragraphs, sentences and chapters flow in a continuous and evolving harmony. There is a sense of constant fine-tuning throughout the book as if, whilst acquiring knowledge and deepening her research, Laing is having to shift her perspective. Her use of language is seamless and eloquent as she strikes into the perfect balance of creative and informative writing making for a very enjoyable read. Perhaps most poignant of all her passages is the analysis of Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol (an event that came to tragically overshadow her own achievements as a writer and social activist). Once described by Avital Ronell as ‘a loner’, Solanas had no followers or supporters. As put in the book, she arrived too late or too early on every scene. The passages on her battle for recognition are as gripping as they are painful to read but they encompass well the underlying message:
"The Lonely City’s ability to combine examples of artists with psychological research conducted by leaders in the field is a powerful approach and solidifies many of Laing’s arguments, without drowning out the sensitivity of her writing."
solitude is often a by-product of societal rejection. And it begs the question of our own contribution to this; how often have we personally been implicated as a catalyst to isolation? Laing places us both in the seat of the lonely and that of their excluders – we observe their solitude from the safety of our book without needing to commit to it. We join Wojnarowicz’s struggle against the climate of fear surrounding the AIDS crisis; we empathise with Warhol; we experience the arrival of the internet and Josh Harris’ dauntingly familiar We Live in Public; and, paradoxically, we begin to participate in a collective experience of loneliness. In our often over-commercialised art world, it was refreshing to read about artistic practice as a means of self-recovery rather than societal or financial success. The core of the book really lies not in the exploration of solitude but in art as a means of overcoming it. The repeated imagery of artists Zoe Leonard stitching fruit together, Darger meticulously collecting string, and Warhol’s time capsules, all transition from artistic practices to coping mechanisms in our eyes. In the midst of all the isolation born from society, there is comfort in the notion that solitude is not selective and can be experienced by all. The Lonely City opens us to the suggestion that artistic expression does not result in automatic inclusion, nor is it the definitive cure to isolation, but it’s a good start. ■
Grenada Beach Morne Rouge 12x12", Oil on Canvas, 2017
WHAT DOES YOUR SOUL LIKE? PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE CITY
Mahayana Buddhism teaches of six realms of corporeal existence, all of which hold their own vices. The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, adjacent to Hell, holds those consumed by their desires. They traverse barren landscapes, cold, starving and untouched. The consuming need for substance is an Uroboros tragedy, a snake eating its own tail: one can only be ‘full’ once they accept the wisdom of emptiness. Don’t worry, this isn’t about me trying to convert anyone to Buddhism to fix depression, or preach about my art. Actually, it has a happy ending. Apart from my love of bleak, Eastern philosophical openings, I also love photography. It was one of the first artistic pursuits that I felt an achievement in and quickly became a hobby, then an obsession. In recent years, especially since university, it has become a diary, a letter and a mirror. Through my patron saints (Martin Parr, Daidō Moriyama, Nan Goldin, to name a few), I became obsessed with street photography. The medium achieves such theatrical clarity and reveals how the mundane holds the best stories. I would dream from my West Yorkshire hometown of walking through a brightly lit, yet tragic, city, capturing pedestrian ghosts as they lived their stories for me.
Then exactly that happened. I was accepted into the Courtauld Institute of Art, moved to the very heart of this new and exciting city, and had every chance to begin doing what I thought
would come naturally. Yet depression has a fascinating way of planting seeds of self-doubt, inadequacy and isolation. For years I never saw my work as good, but it took even longer to realise that it doesn’t matter. When I was younger, sleep always helped. I don’t have to think if I’m dreaming. Through being alone and making art, I replaced this. Photography became a dream. Moving to the centre of London gave me more independence than ever before and changed my life drastically. Although life was going well, thanks to amazing friends; this insipid, consuming hollowness was still there, giving me sleepless nights and causing periods of numbness. Over the years I have found ways to tame this ‘black dog’, my favourite being walking at night. You know that feeling when you walk somewhere you know really well, but at something like 4am? It’s the same but upside down, stillness injected into the busy familiar. Just the sounds of birds, the occasional taxi, the wind in the trees. It calms me. My world feels still. London became my subject, such beautiful and characterful models line streets of Holborn, Soho and the Strand. Solitude, once my poison, had become my medicine. Through these walks with oneself, I could regain something lost, I could feel alive in the stillness. A being unto oneself, my camera capturing my new world. These walks became more and
more the regular for me. My solitude, my silence, my secret. Come the morning I would be me again, with my friends, my studies and my postcards from the far way world of 4am. The city can be a lonely place. The loneliness came as an involuntary state, but I found a way to make the black dog man’s best friend. Authenticity came from a lack of performance, no need to force a smile. I was an island unto myself, the strings holding me not severed but loosened. Subjects of my work rarely involve people but tend to create form out of emptiness, presence out of nothingness. Ghost Photography. I was no longer starving; I had found peace in the absent. Really, night photography and voluntary isolation didn’t fix my depression. Hell, it didn’t even make me a better photographer. But it gave me something I needed. Not necessarily control, or talent, or purpose. It gave me something that was mine, not meant for the world. I find that the purposeless can sometimes hold the most purpose. I still go on these walks, still take this picture, but it’s different now. The peace doesn’t leave as I wake up. I take photos all day long. ■
All photographs by Isaac Huxtable (@solo_graph)
h c a e b e t marga
a poem by Rose London
they're dredging up the dirt here. late afternoon, but the light has barely broken. theyâ€™re clawing the dirt from the shallows and it's coming up as mist and wet sand chalk skulls. the haze of memory stretching as far as the eye can see, cusping on the rocks and jetties fading into the deep. I lie in bed so long sometimes my lungs fill with spit and sallow air my palms and fingertips rot veins bare and open let blood stagnate in pools. now we're digging into the tide, trying to pull the salt water from the beach keep the surge at bay. our spades don't cut the waves quick enough and the sludge caves in on our ankles, filling our boots with ice and little crabs. dogs spatter in the blue mud run so far they're lost at sea. seaweed slip the sways of your body sound like the sea pebbles suck empty cells back to repeat expend my mother walked from end to end in gloaming, across shingle and hard sand alone and resisting tide-pull walking till the sways of her body sounded like the sea but why differentiate? spit and sweat and blood all taste the same to me, salt. like cold rain. like lungfuls. coughing so hard you suck the fog from the air. pulling crusted salt and green flesh from your hair. seagulls underwater. the kissing of the shallows in dim gloaming the sun sets into the sea and keeps it lit within everything, the rocks, the shore, the houses, everything, bobbing on the waves, everything.
Fig. 1. Alex Webb, Rich hot chocolate is served at Angelina, Paris, 2002, Digital Photography (Source: www.magnumphotos.com)
Is Cocoa colonialist? A brief history and attempt at criticism Aniko Petri Islands have occupied much of my research interests since taking up Dr Emily Mann’s second-year undergraduate course: ‘Competing Ventures, Contested Visions: Constructing European Empires in the Early Modern World’. A lot of the scholarship on this period is concerned with the study of commodities and luxury items, charting their arrival and integration into European cultures. One of the products that arrived as a novelty to Europe between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries and has since embarked on its own colonising journey of sorts is the cocoa bean. Without this humble and unassuming bean, we would not have the dessert or café scene that has become such an intrinsic part of our dietary and cultural identities.
We must first, however, mention the origins of this plant. Mesoamerican communities, especially the Mayans and the Aztecs, have eaten and traded cocoa beans for almost three thousand years. They revered the plant as the physical manifestation of Quetzalcoatl, God of Wisdom, using it not just for the pleasure of consumption and as a religious aid, but also, as the foundation of their economy. During his fourth colonising voyage to the Caribbean islands of Grenada, St. Vincent, Tobago and Dominica, and countries in South America in 1502, Christopher Columbus brought back silver, gold, and large
shipments of cocoa beans to Spain. In fact, it was King Charles V of Spain who was possibly the first person to drink hot cocoa on European soil. He drank the bean-paste infused with hot water and added sugar – another recent addition to the European palate – thus appropriating the exotic substance into its milder and sweeter form that we still consume to this day. The cocoa-craze soon spread amongst the Spanish aristocracy. With larger quantities of beans arriving into international ports, it was necessary to satisfy the yearning masses’ wish for constant access to the hot beverage, and so molenderos were born. These were men who travelled the country and prepared and sold hot chocolate, as well as tea and coffee, much like a modern-day ice cream van. Therefore, the journey of chocolate is not just marked by its global travels, but by its internal journey within the country, growing from an obscure foreign import into a celebrated food staple. France followed suit soon after Spain, owing greatly to the political connections established through the marriage of Anne of Austria, the daughter of Philip III of Spain, into the House of Bourbon. When she married Louis XIII of France, she brought with her the royal Spanish custom of drinking chocolate at breakfast time. Through this, chocolate became a crucial element of economic and imperial business, showcasing wealth and proclaiming colonial supremacy over the globe. By the nineteenth century, chocolate was a widespread and accessible commodity. Nevertheless, it still carries connotations of luxury acquired from those halcyon days when it was only available in aristocratic circles. The ambience of the luxury café house that serves decadent hot chocolate is preserved in the konditorei and salons de thé of mainland Europe. These establishments do not simply offer artisanal cakes and beverages, but also act as time capsules. Should these places then be understood as mournful sites of the glorious hey-days of European empires? Or are they a way to reconcile the culture of our imperial past with our modern, multicultural cities? I hope that they can be the latter. The café of Hotel Sacher in Vienna, or the Angelina tea house in Paris, are sites that enable a revival of culturally significant practices – such as hot chocolate drinking – and adapt them to modern life. At the same time, they provide a location to confront the legacy of colonial trading practices in the foods and drinks that we consume, in the same way our ancestors did. Whether that confrontation actually takes place is a different question of course. In reality, Angelina’s signature drink is the ‘African Hot Chocolate’, which they describe as being “composed of three carefully selected kinds of African cocoa from Niger, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. The secret recipe for this chocolate mix is specially put together for Angelina. The combination of these different types of chocolate from different lands lends Angelina’s hot chocolate its exceptional taste and distinctive character.” Perhaps the description of this exclusive blend from faraway countries is the true measure of how much critical thought has truly been put into the evaluation of the imperial legacy of such foodstuffs; the answer being close to none.
After all, there is something unsavoury about enjoying an imported cocoa-based drink in an illustrious and highly luxurious setting, surrounded by tapestries based on eighteenth-century prints depicting exotic islands (Fig. 1). As I plan my next visit to a Hungarian cukrĂĄszda (the local version of the konditorei), I am trying to grapple with these questions myself, trying to define how my actions fit into a sequence of an imperial past built on the exploitation and appropriation of native cultures. I would like to share with you my motherâ€™s version of the most famous Austrian cake, the Sacher Torte. The cakeâ€™s existence is also a testament to the questions I have raised in the last paragraph, as it was created by Franz Sacher in 1832 on the request of Prince Wenzel von Metternich. The Sacher Torte was thus first enjoyed by the aristocrat friends of Prince Metternich at balls and dinner parties. I first encountered it in 2006 on a visit to Vienna, after which my mother developed this recipe for the (much less exclusive) dinner parties she hosted for family and friends. I leave it up to you to ponder the ramifications of partaking in potentially colonialist pursuits, such as baking chocolate cakes, but whatever conclusion you come to, this cake will undeniably win you over.
Preparation: approx. 20 minutes Baking time: 30 minutes Ingredients: 150 grams salted butter 100 grams icing sugar 3 tablespoons cocoa powder 4 eggs 200 grams plain flour 15 grams baking powder 1 jar of apricot jam 200 grams dark chocolate
Method: 1) Preheat oven to 170Â°C. 2) Bring a small amount of water to boil in a pan and place a mixing bowl over it, creating a double boiler. Put the icing sugar and the butter in and wait for it to melt together whilst whisking. I recommend salted butter because it makes the flavour profile of the cake much more complex. If you have a sweet tooth, do swap it for the same amount of unsalted butter. Once itâ€™s melted together, mix in the cocoa powder and make sure that there are no lumps.
5) Line a cake tin that is 20 cm in diameter with baking paper and pour the batter into it. 6) Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. 7) Once baked, remove and let cool on a rack. When it has completely cooled, cut in half. Spread the whole jar of apricot jam onto it and then sandwich the halves together. 8) Make a double boiler again (boil water in a pan with mixing bowl over it).
3) Add the eggs one by one whilst whisking the batter continuously. It should have a slightly gel-like consistency. Once all the eggs are incorporated, you can remove the mixing bowl from the pan.
9) Chop the dark chocolate and melt it down. Add a teaspoon of oil to it to achieve a shiny chocolate coating. After it has melted, leave for a minute or so to cool, as the chocolate will spread too much if it has not been left for a while.
4) Add all of the flour and the baking powder and whisk well until small air bubbles start to form in the batter.
10) Pour over the cake and put it in a cool place to let the chocolate harden into a coating. Enjoy!
Open Space 2019: In Conversation with Huma Kabakcı Chloe Hyman Pluto’s Kitchen by Işıl Eğrikavuk, Co-commissioned by Block Universe and Open Space. Photo Credit: Arron Leppard
Huma Kabakcı is the Founding Director of Open Space, a charitable arts organisation that seeks to foster experimental art practices and explore the interconnected nature of politics and art. With physical roots predominantly in London with links to Istanbul, Open Space emerges from two diverse cultures with their own artistic, culinary, literary, and political traditions. Open Space doesn’t belong to a particular national identity – it exists within a new kind of territory, an omnipresent virtual space with the capacity to materialise at will. Rather than engaging sight alone, Open Space invades all five senses, maybe more, challenging the term ‘viewer’. One who encounters Open Space is an ‘experiencer’, and as she consumes the work she may feel more with her fingers than she can see with her eyes. The guiding theme for the Open Space 2019 programme is, fittingly, ‘Space without spaces’. Though it may be divided into four categories, the programme blurs spatial boundaries in its content. Sometimes it rests in the ether, accessible to global readers parsing through the essays commissioned for ‘Writing Space’. At other times, it occupies a physical zone with tangible borders. In March, ‘Forum: Of Hosts & Guests’ will feature a series of artist performances, workshops, interventions, and screenings. From mid-May through June, a roster of international artists will utilise food to engage with viewers’ fingers, taste buds, and odour receptors in the series, ‘Edible Goods: Tender Touches’. And when summer turns to autumn the ‘Open Space Curatorial Residency’ will touch down in Istanbul, providing selected curators the opportunity to curate their own exhibit or discursive event.
I was introduced to Open Space at the organisation’s 2019 programme launch at the Fitzrovia Chapel, which provided a sneak peek of the sights and sounds to come this year. I nibbled on
a tower of sticky-sweet pastries created by Inês Neto dos Santos titled ‘Piling Up’ and was mesmerised by the organised cacophony that was Nora Silver’s militaristic performance titled ‘I Never Went’. And then I heard from Kabakcı herself… The theme of this issue of the Courtauldian is ‘islands’. It seemed quite fitting to me to reach out to you because the Open Space 2019 programme is guided by the concept, ‘Space without spaces’. I detect a lot of parallels between our two themes. Do you see ‘islands’ as a related idea in your curatorial work and in the organization of Open Space? In light of recent political shifts across the world and with tightening geographical borders making us feel more isolated than ever, there is definitely an urgency to talk about ‘spaces’ and investigate what space can really mean. Taking the name of Open Space as a starting point, we themed the 2019 programme ‘Space without spaces’, which playfully references our model: a young arts organisation operating without a fixed exhibition space, choosing instead to explore multiple and unexpected spaces. When examining ‘islands’ in a geographical, etymological and sociological context, we can see some parallels between both themes. If we define an island as a tract of land surrounded by water that is smaller than a continent, we can say that it is an isolated space in a way. ‘Space without spaces’ itself reflects our focus on blurred boundaries – whether artistic, political or personal – through an exploration of the multiple meanings of space. Contemporary topography is increasingly defined by the shrinking of public spaces for gathering and discord which can be directly linked to the theme of ‘islands’. The interdisciplinary nature of your programme is really exciting – it’s what initially drew me to Open Space! How did you come to highlight food-based practice and writing in your roster? After four years of experimentation with Open Space following my master’s at Royal College of Art in Curating Contemporary Art, I decided to relaunch Open Space as a charitable arts organisation dedicated to supporting emerging artists and curators through an itinerant and international programme. When we were developing Open Space’s annual programme, I wanted to make sure that it would challenge and interrogate the curatorial and theoretical concept of ‘space’ through different cross-disciplinary frameworks: discursive (Forum), culinary (Edible Goods), educational (the Open Space Curatorial Residency) and literary (Writing Space). Highlighting food-based art practice isn’t a first for Open Space; in May 2017, we cocommissioned a performative dinner by Işıl Eğrikavuk called Pluto’s Kitchen, which took place at the Ned as a part of the Block Universe performance festival in London. Drawing parallels between Pluto’s demotion from the solar system and the UK’s strategy to exit the European Union, this performative dinner aimed to bring audiences and cultures together through [a shared] conceptual menu.
Ever since then – and even earlier – I have been thinking about ways to work with food as an artistic medium in a socially engaging way. My late father was an art collector and a keen cook, and we frequently hosted dinners with artists, so I grew up with the idea of bringing art and food together. I also own an extensive collection of artist cookbooks, from Dalí to Jackson Pollock! As for the ‘Writing Space’ project, I noticed that there were a lot of platforms for literary commissions, but that most of them don’t really give writers the opportunity to fully experiment in and explore the digital space. With ‘Writing Space’, all of the writings are commissions and the work will be highlighted through our social media, newsletter and marketing, as well as being presented in an online journal on our website.
The interdisciplinary nature of the Open Space programme goes beyond representing a diverse array of artistic practices! I think it’s wonderful that Open Space offers opportunities to curators. Have you often encountered a disconnect between art-making and curation in the art world? What inspired the curatorial residency? I recently completed a curatorial fellowship at an international biennial supported by a prestigious curatorial platform and found that the experience was not as intellectually stimulating or motivational as I had hoped. Until now I have kept my curatorial profession quite separate from the collection that my late father left me to avoid a conflict of interest. However, my team and I came to the realisation that the Huma Kabakcı Collection could be a great resource for research [and] also a means to access and explore Istanbul’s contemporary art scene.
Pluto’s Kitchen by Işıl Eğrikavuk, Co-commissioned by Block Universe and Open Space. Photo: Arron Leppard
The aim of the ‘Open Space Residency’ is to support one emerging curator each year to further their curatorial practice and expertise by facilitating encounters with Istanbul-based institutions, artists, curators and intellectuals, and allowing them to experience and engage with the city at large. During their eightweek residency, the curators, [to be] selected by an international jury following an open call, will develop a site-responsive project that might take the form of an exhibition, publication, or discursive event, which will then be presented in Istanbul and London.
three-day discursive programme. This year Katherine Finerty proposed a forum titled ‘Of Hosts & Guests’ featuring international London-based artists. Taking its title from Albert Camus’s 1957 short story L’Hôte, which translates into both ‘the host’ and ‘the guest’, ‘Of Hosts & Guests’ invites artists and audiences to play with the duality of playing both of these roles. Since the project coincides with the UK’s planned departure from the EU on 29th March, [Finerty] wanted to provoke a dialogue about what hospitality means for contemporary artists living in London.
Curation is also integral to ‘Forum’, the discursive element of your programme. The March Forum seeks to ‘investigate hospitality connected to artistic practice’. What can you tell me about the curator’s vision for this project?
Speaking of Brexit, it would be remiss not to discuss political space. As you mentioned in your opening address at the Fitzrovia Chapel, in March, Brexit will be made definite (or not…) How do you see issues of political space and national borders affecting the art world? Have you noticed artists responding to these highlycharged topics? Or are artists playing it safe –
For each annually-recurring ‘Forum’, we will invite one guest-curator to curate a
Open Space 2019 Programme Launch at Fitzrovia Chapel, London, 5th February 2019. Photo: Ben Peter Catchpole
34 Songsmith (Cradle of Humankind) (2016)
concerned about their livelihoods during this period of turmoil? In the light of recent political shifts across the world, and with increasing borders both geographically and socially, the role and the position of the art institution is contested even more than before. Commercially speaking, due to political and financial uncertainties, collectors and patrons are more reluctant to support emerging artists, preferring to invest in mid-career to established artists. Many artists have been responding to current, highly-charged topics – whether through their work or through social media. For instance, Wolfgang Tillmans produced and posted a series of posters on Instagram and Jeremy Deller is also an artist who is quite socially and politically engaging. I wouldn’t necessarily say that some artists are playing it safe. I think it really depends on the concerns of their practice. Some artists are overtly political, and some aren’t. Having said that, it might be that some commercially-driven galleries or art institutions dependent on private funding are more conservative than before.
with physical space, especially when both are utilized for creative ends? How does Open Space understand the interactions between these spaces? I think that, in the context of the Internet age and in the era of ‘fake news’, the virtual space is extremely vital and should be explored in addition to physical spaces. ‘Writing Space’, which commissions four interdisciplinary writers each year, aims to explore the theme ‘Space without spaces’ through the digital space. The writers are free to experiment with their writing skills by incorporating digital forms such as videos, GIFs, images and sketches into their work. ‘Writing Space’, in a sense, acts as a site for live ideas, a platform for text-based experiments and processing thoughts that cannot necessarily be explored through the physical space. The fact that Open Space splits its time between London and Istanbul also points to a less tangible, more conceptual understanding of space. How do you foresee this dual identity affecting the work Open Space produces?
At Open Space, we generally work with artists who directly or indirectly respond to global issues and current affairs – but when you are a nomadic arts organisation questioning the concept of space it is impossible not to be political.
In the early days of Open Space, there was more of a split between London and Istanbul. Now, I am based in London and this city is where the annual programme will be largely based. For this year at least, the only project that takes part in Istanbul is the curatorial residency, and the city is sure to have a direct impact on the curators’ creative output. Open Space can exist anywhere though and, if it makes sense to do a project in Berlin or Lisbon then I’ll do it. The whole point is that Open Space can exist anywhere.
The way you are challenging traditional notions of space reminds me of an additional space suggested by your programme – virtual space, which will be utilized by the publication of written work online. What do you think about that? How does virtual space interact
‘Forum: Of Hosts & Guests’ will be held 28 March at Mary Ward House, 29 March at UCL Wilkins Building, and 30 March at Pushkin House. For more information on the Open Space 2019 programme visit openspacecontemporary.com. 35 16
How are you positioning Open Space as an outlet for artists to respond during these critical months?
One Line Reviews:
Paul Gauguin, Nevermore
Paul Gauguin, Nevermore, 1897,Oil on Canvas, The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
This is what you said... | ‘Exploitation is never beautiful’ | ‘A melancholic reclining nude yearning for the outside world and the blue sky, which are unreachable for her’ | ‘How was this voted Britain’s most romantic painting in 2010?’ | ‘Sexist AF’ | ‘Dark and disturbing’ | ‘Memories of first year gallery tours’ | ‘Is this a painting to be proud of having in the Courtauld collection?’ | ‘It is a shame we can’t see it’ | ‘Begs the question: can we ever truly separate the art from the artist?’ | ‘Not to be recreated’ | ‘Grooming and sexually abusing underage girls shouldn’t be overlooked, even if it’s in art’ | ‘Nonce’ | ‘Beautiful, until you know the truth’ | | ‘Paradise lost’ | ‘Seems seedy, is seedy’ |
Islands of Escapism
Sara Quattrocchi Febles
London, the city we live in, is found in perpetual movement and chaos. With sometimes too much, and never too little to do, a state of constant stress can arise. Nothing allows time to stop in this city. With the condensation of multiculturalism and through the current political period of uncertainty, it is sometimes a real necessity to detach oneself from this fast-paced society. Fortunately, the city offers islands that provide the sensation of time-stopping naturalist and brutalist spots; small nooks that allow for a drastic disconnection from dehumanized London can be found. I decided to embark on an escapade to two isles of London that are only a few tube rides away: Regent’s Park and the Barbican. You might be thinking that these spaces are already widely popular and do not necessitate any further investigation. Although this might be partially true, I have come to the realization that they have not been explored in regard to the way they might aid one to disembody him or herself from the rest of society. My initial intention was to find people and question them about how they detach from the city. However, I realized that this method would defeat the purpose of my article as I would be breaking their tranquillity by intruding on their solitary ritual. Instead, I decided to document my personal experience in these two juxtaposing areas and find the best location to detach oneself from the city. Regent’s Park was an interesting specimen to investigate due to its duality in character. Arriving at 11:37 on Thursday, 7th of February, I was shocked by the lack of humans at the park. The only surrounding elements were trees, grass and empty benches. The trees seemed almost threatening, with their gangrenous branches which didn’t seem to stop flowing. The only people present were running, walking their dogs, or simply meandering while listening to music. When they weren’t around, the only perceivable movement was the wind, which could not even be seen. This tranquillity away from the city allowed me to realize the stress of it and how I had become so accustomed to that uncomfortable feeling, becoming impartial to it. My last stop in the park was the famous Primrose Hill. Personally, I was never impressed by it, as the number of people in the compressed space, vying to see the view, always overwhelmed me. Fortunately for me, while all of London was bustling and commuting, I was found serenely sitting and separated from the anxiety of the city. I was able to enjoy
the vast space of London in the company of the wind and the sea of green. In fact, I felt as if I “conversed with the spiritual sun”, as stated by the carving of William Blake’s quote at the top of the hill. With this, I realized that the Park is one of the places in London where you must go at the right time. It faces a continuous metamorphosis from being an island of solitude to another
habitual crowded corner of London. While Regentâ€™s Park is an area where you go to seek solitude, the Barbican enhances the loneliness within yourself on its own. Being there on Friday, 8th of February at 14:36, I experienced a different aspect of the complex, which I had never experienced before. In my previous
encounters with the Barbican, the weather was pleasant and I was not alone. This time, the sky was a sombre grey, which obscured the buildings even more prominently. These aspects were most likely the reasons why it seemed more of an abandoned post-apocalyptic location than a residential complex. The only people present were commuters moving between the tube stops of Barbican and St. Paulâ€™s and workers in neon orange vests. My only companion was a pigeon that seemed to be lingering next to me because of the apple that I was eating.
The Barbicanâ€™s brutalist architecture allowed me to remove myself from the overwhelming architecture of Londonâ€™s
grand buildings.There is even a melancholic beauty in its ugliness that buildings such as Somerset House or Westminster Abbey are unable to present. The feature of the Barbican which most compelled me was the singular benches that highlight the ever-growing individualist society we live in. Each individual bench was accompanied by a lamppost, as if these could be realistic replacements for other humans. This sombre element enhances the isolated loneliness that the Barbican imposes on people, especially when the cemented complex is found in the greyness of the city. The goal of my escapade was to find the best place in London for personal
release and purification of the soul. I came to the realization that there is no one singular place that is better as this is purely subjective. While Regentâ€™s Park allowed me to release pressure off of my shoulders, the Barbican provided me with a space to stay within myself in between the compressed cubes of the cemented complex. Even though London is a city in which you are constantly immersed in a sea of people, both day and night, you might not actually be emotionally surrounded by people due to the dehumanized and individualistic society that we live in. Sometimes, being in islands of solitude allow for a growth in these connections and a better understanding of society as a whole. It is necessary to detach oneself
from the continuous state of superficiality and impressions, making it a necessity to find your own little disconnected island in a metropolis of constant movement. â–
All photographs by Sara Quattrocchi Febles (@filmbysaraqf )
a poem by Lightfoot
It would take twelve hours by car, on a good day. Through cities, farmland, along rivers and under mountains, Until that familiar bridge that scaled the sky Materialised like a concrete cloud, And we would cross, a mythical metal chariot Wending its way over choppy seas. The wind was louder in that space between: A quiet of pure noise unrestricted by brick or by blood, Briefly existing on the border of reality before The bridge lowered and we returned to earth, But new earth not connected To another. This was the island we were looking for, Whose skyline was an archipelago of stars. Without traffic, without the hum of technology, The only sirens were the ladies singing in the sea No radio waves frightened the steady crash Of white horses on the beach. A different time In a different place, the land of eagles and fishermen. It was earth, But new earth disconnected.
Don McCullin: Images of Brutality Flora Loughridge The opening statement of the Don McCullin retrospective at Tate Britain is bold and uncompromising: photography is “not looking, it’s feeling”. This is how legendary British photographer McCullin describes the sixty years he spent as a photojournalist, capturing some of the most devastating scenes of suffering the world has seen. McCullin’s reflective comment concisely sums up the response that his powerful and unsparing body of work demands of its viewer in this comprehensive exhibition. Showcasing some 250 photographs of war, starvation, poverty and death, McCullin’s stark retrospective does not shy away from its explicit confrontation of the horrors of violence and atrocity. The exhibition charts McCullin’s career with integrity and clarity. His photographs, thoughtfully curated into zones dedicated to specific events that took place in different parts of the world, become island-like microcosms of global suffering. McCullin witnessed and captured these dramatic images on film, which he subsequently developed in his darkroom. The viewer is forced immediately to adjust to each war zone, crisis or situation – from 1950s London to 1960s Berlin, and the Cyprus Crisis of 1963, as described by wall captions in each room. Six of McCullin’s passports and press passes, their pages densely stamped with dates and visas, are displayed in a central case, a visual testament and stark reminder of McCullin’s extensive experience documenting worldwide events, which unfold before the viewer as the exhibition progresses. Iconic images of the Berlin Wall being built, American troops using Napalm in Vietnam, Kurdish citizens fleeing from Iraq, and Irish youths rebelling during the Troubles sum up the frightening dayto-day reality of life on the front line. The exhibition continues chronologically until the present day.
Curator Simon Baker provides the perfect viewing environment for McCullin’s work, allowing each photograph the space it requires to absorb the viewer in intimate engagement. The audience is forced to confront the darkest side of humanity and to feel each pang of pain, despair, loss and hopelessness. Every image is as brutal, and as deserving of the viewer’s attention as the next. Whilst McCullin insists he was a “totally neutral, passing-through person” during his travels abroad, he acquired new scars with every photo he took. The bullet that was lodged in his Nikon camera during a trip to Cambodia is not only a symbol of his near-misses, but also of the pervasive
Don McCullin Jean, Whitechapel, London, c.1980 photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 36 x 51.5 cm, Eric and Louise Franck (Photo: Tate, London 2019)
mental guilt that troubles McCullin to this day: the feeling of walking away from a man being shot, a helpless starving child, or a woman collapsed over the dead body of her husband. The exhibition carefully juxtaposes the more objective impressions of social crisis and its anonymous victims with remarkably intimate photographs that bring out the unique personality of their named subjects. A series of three portraits entitled ‘Jean, Liverpool Street’ tells the story of homelessness on the streets of 1980s Britain through the eyes of one woman, Jean. A close-up image of her softly clasped hands, dirty with soil, conveys McCullin’s connection to his subjects through the compelling combination of physical hardship and beauty.
Above: Don McCullin The Battle for the City of Hue, South Vietnam, US Marine Inside Civilian House, 1968 photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 49.5 x 32.5 cm Artist Rooms Endowment (Photo: Tate, London 2019) Right: Don McCullin The Battlefields of the Somme, France, 2000 photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 42 x 29 cm Don McCullin Collection (Photo: Tate, London 2019)
The visceral quality of McCullin’s strongly contrasting photographs cements his iconic images in the mind of the viewer and holds them in the collective conscience. Similarly, the British public, when confronted with McCullin’s photographs in The Observer and Sunday Times Magazine during the 1960s and 1970s, was forced to acknowledge the horrors taking place in communities they probably considered distant islands, isolated from their own small world: ‘nothing to do with them’. The empathy evoked by McCullin’s work is timeless – the viewer sees and experiences first-hand what war does to individuals, communities and nations. Our present world becomes connected to communities of the past, as we try to understand and feel their suffering.
A central room in the exhibition shows poignant images of British industrial landscapes and working-class life in 1970s Bradford, Liverpool and County Durham. Photographs of families living in poverty in dilapidated homes are displayed in the same room as upbeat images of knobblyknees contests at Southend-on-Sea, which convey the unwavering sense of pride that pulls the British nation through its enduring battles. Yet this determinedly positive example of the good old ‘British spirit’ becomes overwhelmingly plaintive when seen amidst the surrounding images of suffering. McCullin has clearly pushed the technical capacity of the photographic medium to the limits, working tirelessly in his darkroom to produce the ‘perfect’ image from each negative. Whilst the audience views McCullin’s photographs as ‘works of art’, there is something unsettling about using the word ‘perfect’ to describe his work. For perfection or beauty can
surely not be reconciled with such harrowing images of brutality. McCullin’s work clearly teeters on the edge of some very complex ethical debates. Not even the cathartic images displayed in the final room of the exhibition – taken by McCullin to “sentence himself to peace” – resolve this tension. His Somerset landscapes, frost-filled meadows and stilllife images of plums and apples are as dark and painful as those of the starving child and crying widow. Don McCullin’s photography promises to shock and haunt every viewer. It is nonetheless important that visitors step onto each ‘island’ on their journey through this compelling exhibition, and view in-depth every subject so vividly represented in McCullin’s work. For it is only by engaging with these tangible, painful sites of world history that the viewer can leave with renewed gratitude and a real grasp of life. ■
atlantis a poem by Farah Dianputri
- to j
you taste saline, as sharp as a slit a sip of you surges into an estuary, so i submit and slink away, into a soaking serenade; i’m somewhere off the coast, unable to savor the sunlight and sangria; it’s nearly midnight and i can’t shake off your tides, sticking to me like syrup, all it takes is this smoldering heat to get stuck; legs-locked, in a lagoon, longing for some sweet, sapphic loving--i want you to fill me: i want your kisses rippling over my skin, the swelling gush of your breasts and hips, your torrentuous hands down my back, i want you over and under me, in every cardinal direction, until there’s no longer any surface tension, so i can drown the sinking feeling that you will forget me.
Guadeloupe Anse Bertrand Beach 12x12", Oil on Canvas, 2016
The Migration Museum: Re-evaluating Britain’s ‘Island Story’ with Matthew Plowright Flora Loughridge
Matthew Plowright is Head of Communications at the Migration Museum, an organisation that explores the many ways in which the movement of people to and from Britain across the ages has shaped who we are – as individuals, as communities, and as a nation. The museum stages an acclaimed programme of exhibitions, events and education workshops throughout the UK, as well as in an arts and community space, The Workshop, in South London. The current exhibition at the Migration Museum, ‘Room to Breathe’, is an immersive experience inviting visitors to journey through a series of rooms – from a bedroom to a classroom, a kitchen to a barber’s shop – in which stories from generations of new arrivals to Britain are brought to life through audio, films, photography and personal objects. Matthew Plowright offers insight into the objectives of the Migration Museum, the project’s exhibitions and events, and reflects on the meaning of the term ‘migration’ today.
In what way does the work of the Migration Museum engage with the theme of ‘islands’? As our trustee, historian and author David Olusoga explored in our most recent Annual Lecture at the Migration Museum, there is a pervading image of Britain as an independent island nation, separate from the European continent and somehow ‘free’ or ‘immune’ from ‘foreign’ influence, that has underpinned dominant notions of Britain and Britishness for centuries – and continues to do so today. We have found ways, in our use of language and our writing of history, to minimise our interactions with other peoples and other nations – migrants, allies and subjects of the former empire. This ‘island story’ narrative is both historically inaccurate and overlooks just how global, international and connected Britain has always been – and the constant ebb and flow of people, culture, language, goods and influences to
Call me by my name (Photo: Kajal Nisha Patel and Migration Museum)
and from these islands over thousands of years. The work of the Migration Museum aims to put this ebb and flow at the centre of our national story, where we think it belongs. We believe that there is a need for a Migration Museum in Britain, because migration is such an integral part of our history and something that unites us all – people have been coming and going from these islands for thousands of years and if you peel back the layers of anyone’s family history in Britain, you will find migration stories – whether of immigration, emigration or both. And yet migration is not an integral part of the mainstream ‘national’ historical narrative, nor of mainstream conceptions about what it means to be British, while migration remains a highly divisive and polarising issue. Britain has thousands of museums, many of which explore aspects of migration through their collections,
but none of which is dedicated to this important theme that connects and shapes us all. We believe that this is a major gap in our cultural landscape and contributes to migration being such a divisive and contested issue. How does the Migration Museum Project help to build better relationships within and between communities? Are there any new projects in the pipeline? We aim to be a cultural space in which people can come together to share stories and experiences and to explore, discuss and reflect on themes of migration and identity which go to the heart of who we are today, a museum in which everyone can have a voice and feel represented and find their own place in Britain’s migration story, and an institution that can help to contextualise and humanise in creative, inspiring and accessible ways a topic that is so often discussed in terms of numbers,
policies and economic cost benefit. Migration is a complex issue and there is no single narrative and no simplistic conclusions to be drawn, but, through placing contemporary migration themes in historical context and by enabling people from different communities and backgrounds to see the world through each otherâ€™s eyes, we hope to provide a forum in which important questions about migration and identity can be discussed and explored away from the polarised and often angry debates in politics and the media.
to them. We have recently recruited a Head of Public Engagement to increase our activities in terms of reaching and engaging as wide a range of audiences as possible and bringing individuals and communities from different backgrounds and with different views and experiences on migration together through shared activities such as cooking classes, art workshops and more.
Through our varied programme of exhibitions, events and activities, we aim to engage a wide range of individuals and communities, including those who may have conflicted views about migration and its impacts and those who may not see migration as relevant or of interest
Migration is often framed as a contemporary phenomenon, yet one of our aims is to show that people have been arriving and departing these shores for thousands of years, and that many of the contemporary debates and concerns about migration have historical precedents and parallels.
To what extent has our understanding of migration changed over the years? How should this term be interpreted today?
No Turning Back at the Migration Museum at The Workshop (Photo: Migration Museum Project)
Room to Breathe at the Migration Museum (Photo: Migration Museum and Poppy Williams)
Our previous exhibition, No Turning Back: Seven Migration Moments that Changed Britain, used uncertainty about what Brexit might mean for migration and Britain’s relationship with the rest of the world as starting points from which to explore previous moments in British history that had profound effects on the nation and its people – and which continue to resonate today. The exhibition explored seven turning points to highlight that migration and the mixed feelings it arouses is nothing new: it is a deep, tidal ebb-and-flow commotion that has been shaping Britain for centuries. These included the expulsion of England’s entire Jewish population in 1290, the first East India Company voyage to the Indian subcontinent in 1607, the arrival of tens of thousands of Huguenot refugees in the
1680s, the Aliens Act of 1905, and the first commercial passenger jet flight by British Airways in the 1950s. We also aim to show that even contemporary migration topics and developments, such as the Calais camp, which was officially demolished in October 2016 and which was the subject of our Call Me By My Name: Stories from Calais and Beyond exhibition that we first staged in the summer of 2016, have deep historical roots – there had been a refugee and migrant camp in existence in Calais for more than two decades, Calais was the departure point for tens of thousands of protestants fleeing France for Britain in the late seventeenth century and was for several hundred years ruled directly by the English crown.
Migration as a term today in Britain is often used synonymously with immigration, yet emigration is as much a part of migration as immigration, and contemporary debates around immigration in Britain often tend to overlook the fact that, for much of our history, we have been a nation of net emigration, not immigration. Our next exhibition, Departures, planned for 2020 (to coincide, in part at least, with the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage to North America), will focus on emigration stories across the centuries. How can art be used to convey and investigate the meaning of migration? We regularly use art as a way of exploring migration themes through our exhibitions, many of which have featured newly commissioned artwork by established and emerging artists across a wide range of mediums, including painting, illustrations, installations, sculpture, photography, audio, video and animation. Migration is a complex, multi-faceted topic and we aim to provide multiple ways in for audiences and multiple ways of exploring migration-related stories, themes and emotions in creative and thought-provoking ways. Art is a powerful medium through which to do so. We aim to provide a platform for artists from all backgrounds, including refugee and migrant artists, to present their work to a wide range of audiences. Our Call Me By My Name: Stories from Calais and Beyond exhibition, for example, featured a wide range of artwork produced by refugee and migrant artists, who at the time were either in the Calais camp or who had
passed through the camp. This artistic approach enabled us to highlight the creativity and human stories behind the often sensationalist and depersonalised headlines about the camp, which dominated the British media in particular at the time. We enable artists to speak directly to our audiences in their own words – for example, by inviting all exhibiting artists to write their own captions and descriptions and by hosting regular art workshops and meet-the-artist sessions. In our current Room to Breathe exhibition, we have created an art studio, in which a different migrant artist-in-residence is taking up residence each month, working from the studio within the exhibition and running a series of participatory workshops and meet-the-artist sessions. We hope that staff and students at The Courtauld will come along and participate in our upcoming art workshops and events. ‘Room to Breathe’ is on at the Migration Museum at The Workshop (26 Lambeth High St, London, SE1 7AG) until 28 July 2019. They also stage a varied series of events and pop-up exhibitions. For opening hours, visitor information and what’s on, please visit migrationmuseum.org, or check them out on Twitter (@MigrationUK), Instagram (@MigrationMuseumUK) or Facebook (@ MigrationMuseumUK).
Colours of Kindness, Part of Room to Breathe at the Migration Museum (Photo: Migration Museum)
Visitors browse Humanae by Angelica Dass, part of the Migration Museumâ€™s No Turning Back exhibition (Photo: Migration Museum)
Grenada Beach 12x12", Oil on Canvas, 2017
On the Edge of the Arctic: Landscape in Icelandic Crime Fiction Tabriz Mohsenin
Stranded in the North Atlantic and battered by harsh winds and volcanic eruptions, the bleak shores of Iceland loom large in contemporary crime fiction. Despite its diminutive population, which is settled sparsely over much of the small island nation, Iceland has produced a remarkable number of crime novels, reflecting the larger explosion of Nordic crime fiction across an international market. While the cold and dreary landscapes of many Nordic countries provide a suitably bleak backdrop for plots that always revolve around a murder, the narratives that emerge from Iceland demonstrate an especially close reliance on the landscape as a plot device, rooting the events of the novels firmly in the topography of the island. The key role played by landscape in Icelandic crime fiction can be situated against the historical backdrop of the nineteenth-century nationalist movement, which established an inseparable link between landscape and national identity, facilitated by the medieval Icelandic sagas. Despite the abatement of nationbuilding fervour, contemporary crime fiction has inherited the prominence accorded to landscape present in both the reception of the medieval sagas and the cultural production of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, lending these works a distinctive identity in a largely formulaic genre. The novels of two of Iceland’s most prominent crime writers testify to the importance of landscape within the genre and demonstrate the use of topography as a central catalyst for both plot and character development. In the 2010 novel I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, a far-flung village in the Westfjords region of Iceland provides the setting for much of the story’s events, in which three friends attempt to renovate a dilapidated house only to find their efforts impeded by the lingering ghost of a young boy. As with all the author’s novels, the plot embarks on so many twists and turns that by the final pages, the original conflict is difficult to recall, buried under the revelation of a decades-old crime, its subsequent solution, another attempted crime, and at least two adulterous affairs. In the end, the protagonist becomes a ghost and gives up renovating the house for haunting it. Despite the absurdity of the narrative, I Remember You offers a compelling mystery, in large part due to its setting in a remote fjord accessible only by boat and totally unreachable when the weather turns bad. Predictably, the weather quickly sours,
and the isolation enforced by the desolate, Icelandic landscape traps the three friends at the house, leading them into conflict with the ghost boy and then with one another. A similar use of topography to frame and direct the narrative is apparent in Ragnar Jónasson’s novel Snowblind, published in 2015, which is set in the remote fishing village of Siglufjörður, a town bounded by mountains that block what little sunlight reaches Iceland’s northernmost shore. The setting becomes a driving force in the plot through its function as a barricade that cuts the small village off from the rest of the island. The protagonist of the novel, a young policeman on his first assignment, moves from Reykjavík to sleepy Siglufjörður, only to be faced with two murders and the claustrophobia of small-town life and its attendant gossip, underscored by the imposing mountains which trap and isolate. While no vengeful ghosts wander the docks of the little fishing village, Snowblind boasts a plot thick with unreliable testimony, local politics, and trouble at the community
theatre. With an avalanche closing the one road into the town, the landscape traps the community and exacerbates tensions between characters, pushing forward the plot while also driving character development through the deteriorating mental state of the policeman. The setting initiates the conflict, as the protagonist becomes increasingly confined in the dark Siglufjörður winter and attempts to cope with the pressures of the town, the crimes, and the bleak mountain landscape. In the novels of both Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson, the landscapes that hold so dominant a place in the storylines are the dramatic fjords for which Iceland is famous, with frequent references to the volcanic rocks, the heavy snowfall and the remoteness of the locale to underscore the narratives’ roots in Icelandic topography. The significance accorded to the unique landscape of the island can be traced to the historical relationship between land and literature, evident in the Sagas of Icelanders (Íslendingasögur), and its role in the creation of Icelandic national identity. Consisting of a group of forty narratives written in prose, the Sagas of Icelanders relate the events of tenth-century Iceland and the farmer-chieftains, feuding families, and outlaw-heroes who inhabited it. Originating in an oral tradition, the stories were transcribed in later centuries, with the earliest extant manuscripts dating to the fourteenth century.1 In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Icelandic landscape, as it appeared in the sagas, provided a means of tracing the events recorded in the narratives to their geographical locations on the island. In a 1772 account of Icelandic history commissioned by the king of Denmark, to
whom Iceland was then a vassal territory, the authors Eggert Ólafsson and Bjarni Pálsson relate the sagas to the island’s history by tracing topographic features in their literary references. The landscape thus served to demonstrate the historical veracity of the events recounted in the sagas, by providing visible evidence that the rocky cliffs once walked by a long-dead saga hero were the same that marked the Icelandic landscape of the late eighteenth century.2 The attraction of the landscape as testimony to the events of the sagas soon brought foreign travellers to the island, culminating in works such as W.G. Collingwood and Jón Stefánsson’s A Pilgrimage to the Saga-Steads of Iceland, which offered an illustrated catalogue of Icelandic locations with accompanying texts describing their significance for the events of the sagas. The nineteenth entry in the book, Knafa-Holar, depicts two rocky outcrops in an otherwise flat, sandy vista, where “in A.D. 986, the enemies of Gunnar, the outlawed hero of Njál’s saga, set upon him.” The text goes on to describe the clash between Gunnar and his two brothers against their enemies, resulting in the death of one brother.3 The close relationship between the existing landscape and its literary traces led to the utilisation of the sagas as historical documents, verifying the history of the island and its inhabitants. The acceptance of the sagas as historical fact was eventually questioned by Sigurður Nordal on the basis of topographical inaccuracy when, in 1940, he suggested that the events of a narrative taking place in Hrafnkelsdalur bore no resemblance to the actual landscape of the location.4 Despite the subsequent re-evaluation of the sagas’ reliability, the link between history and
topography was deeply established and had already become a centrepiece of the nineteenth-century nationalist movement that sought independence from Denmark and resulted in the establishment of the republic in 1944. In the nation-building attempts to define Icelandic culture and identity as distinct from that of the Danes, the sagas provided a uniquely Icelandic history, preceding the advent of Danish rule and, as Gísli Sigurðsson writes, “establishing a direct link through the land back into the dark past when the heroic ancestors created the nation.”5 Regardless of the exact accuracy of the landscapes described in the sagas, the resemblance of the lava fields, geysers and glaciers to those inhabited by nineteenth-century Icelanders rooted the stories in the island’s topography, which is markedly different from that of Scandinavia. The uniqueness of the Icelandic landscape, as well as its language, became the foundation of Icelandic national identity, resulting in the so-called trinity of ‘land, nation, language’ that directed nationalist efforts in the production of culture. Icelandic architecture of the twentiethcentury mimicked the land’s natural formations of volcanic rock by using hexagonal columns of basalt, while painters turned to nature for inspiration. Even composers claimed to recreate in music the sound of Iceland’s ocean shores and volcanic eruptions.6 The predominance of landscape as a means of defining Icelandic identity, mediated by the sagas, suffused almost all areas of cultural production into the early-twentieth century and the vestiges of its historical significance appear in the contemporary genre of crime fiction through its key role in the narratives.
Although crime fiction is usually a formulaic category, the crime novels of Iceland are distinct in the genre through their employment of landscapes as catalysts in the narratives. The closely intertwined relationship between plot and setting in the novels of Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson root the narratives in the island’s unique topography, making the stories impossible to imagine outside of Iceland. Although the plots are often typical for the genre and frequently ridiculous, the landscape, whose contours are traceable back through the centuries, grounds the outlandishness of the narratives in the stark realism of the island’s terrain, suspending disbelief for the space of the story. The dramatic role of landscape, inherited from the sagas and their significance in early Icelandic nationalism, has even proven capable of attracting visitors from around the globe. The establishment of the Iceland Noir festival in 2013, with Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson as two of the founders, has drawn crime fiction enthusiasts eager to see the spectacular Icelandic landscapes of the novels, echoing the journeys of earlier travellers who sought the traces of sagas in the rocky outcrops and dreary shorelines of the island. Ian Wyatt, “The Landscape of the Icelandic Sagas: Text, Place, and National Identity,” Landscapes, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2004), p. 55. 2. Ibid., p. 56. 3. W.G. Collingwood and Jón Stefánsson, A Pilgrimage to the Saga-Steads of Iceland (Ulverston: W. Holmes, 1899), p. 22. 4. Wyatt, “The Landscape of the Icelandic Sagas: Text, Place, and National Identity,” p. 60. 5. Gísli Sigurðsson, “Icelandic National Identity: From Romanticism to Tourism,” in Making Europe in Nordic Contexts, ed. Pertti J. Anttonen ( Jyväskylä: Gummerus Oy, 1996), p. 44. 6. Ibid., pp. 46-48. 1.
Illustrations Cover by Pini Stimler
3 Floating Roots
Collage by Ariadne Diogenous
8 Esther Chadwick: Castaway
Illustrations by Naomi Jennings â€“ Oâ€™Toole
12 Olivia Laing on the Art of Being Alone Collage by Nia Thomas
22 margate beach
Illustration by Rose London
28 Illustration by Jemima Hooke
Islands of Escapism Collage by Grace MacKeith
a poem by Lightfoot Illustration by Matthew Page
atlantis Illustration by Charlotte Alderman
On the Edge of the Arctic: Landscape in Icelandic Crime Fiction Illustration by Grace MacKeith
contents 2 Floating Roots
36 One Line Reviews: Paul Gauguin,
8 Esther Chadwick: Castaway
38 Islands of Escapism
12 Olivia Laing on the Art of Being Alone
44 It would take twelve hours by car
16 What Does Your Soul Like?
46 Don McCullin: Images of Brutality
Ariadne Diogenous Naomi Jennings – O’Toole Melanie Steen
Photography and the City Isaac Huxtable
margate beach Rose London
24 Is Cocoa Colonialist? A Brief History and Attempt at Criticism Aniko Petri
30 Open Space 2019: In Conversation with Huma Kabackı Chloe Hyman
Sara Quattrocchi Febles Lightfoot
52 The Migration Museum: Re-evaluating Britain’s ‘Island Story’ with Matthew Plowright Flora Loughridge
60 On the Edge of the Arctic: Landscape in Icelandic Crime Fiction Tabriz Mohsenin
islands was produced by undergraduate and postgraduate students at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. If you are interested in supporting future issues, or would like more information about the publication, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Courtauldian is the editorially independent student publication of the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the individual authors to whom they are attributed and do not necessarily reflect those of the Courtauldian, the Courtauld Institute of Art Students’ Union, or any of their staff or representatives. Every effort has been made to avoid inaccuracies, to reproduce content only as permitted by copyright law, and to appropriately and fully credit the copyright holder(s) of any content reproduced.
In this, the twentieth issue of The Courtauldian, writers and artists explore the theme of ‘ISLANDS’. The publication features interviews, r...
Published on Mar 24, 2019
In this, the twentieth issue of The Courtauldian, writers and artists explore the theme of ‘ISLANDS’. The publication features interviews, r...