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see : two Our second issue comes at a time of tension between university managements and academics across the country. As we are sending this issue to print, the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) strike over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is still underway. Because of this, the second issue of SEE is divided into two parts. The first is a photographic and textual editorial on how the strike has affected Courtauld students. It serves as a visual document, and an opportunity for students to voice their opinions on the strike – a significant moment in the history of higher education in the UK. The second part of the issue follows the thematic structure which we established with SEE : ONE. This time it examines notions of heritage and how it is both constructed and interpreted. Though conceived before the strike, our focus on heritage retains its pertinence at a time when there are significant changes afoot at the Courtauld. The news
that the Institute will be moved to a temporary location in Vernon Square during the ‘Courtauld Connects’ renovations has been met with mixed reactions from students and academic staff. When placed in the context of the pensions dispute between university managements and academics, the Courtauld’s multi-million-pound renovation signifies a possible shift in the composition of both the Institute and universities across the country. And, for certain, it is inauspicious that both of these issues have collided at the same point in time. Nevertheless, the move to Vernon Square and the politicisation of students – both as a negotiation tool and, in some cases, engaged participants – in the UCU’s strike marks a turning point in the contemporary history of the Courtauld. The changes are exciting and will hopefully serve to bolster relationships between the students and academics at the Institute. mp
‘It’s not about you’: Students, Strikes
On Thursday 22 February, lecturers and other academic staff took to picket lines across the country. At the time of print, the strike is still ongoing and is set to run its full proposed course of fourteen days. The decision to strike is a response to planned changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme - one of the largest private pension schemes for universities and higher education institutions in the UK. The changes, according to the Universities and Colleges Union and forecasts by pension modellers, are set to leave academic staff thousands of pounds worse off in retirement compared to the current scheme. The withdrawal of teaching for fourteen days is a significant move by UCU members, and constitutes the largest industrial action in higher education in recent history. In addition to the disruption caused to students through missed contact hours, it has resulted in an awkward placing
of students in the middle of university management and strikers - a situation amplified by the Courtauld’s intimate scale. It is bizarre then, that the phrase ‘it’s not about you’ has become something of a Courtauld management aphorism during the strike. It has been frequently directed at students and is something I took issue with in my recent article ‘Students, Politicised’ for The Courtauldian’s website. In the following pages, we have documented the UCU strike at the Courtauld from the student perspective - current and past. We have selected images and comments which are illustrative of the wider implications of the strike and how students fit into them. Many of the images depict moments of collectivism that the strike has inspired; something, hopefully, that will continue once the disputes have been resolved. mp
By lily evans-hill
We were all angry about the Tuition Fees rise. Some of us were angry about the scrap of the maintenance grant, that ensured students like myself could go to university without putting more financial strain on our families. Some of us were also angry about the illegal pay and contracts young researchers and lecturers were subject to. Like all of these issues before us, we should be really angry that hard working professors are losing their right to a secure retirement they have earned. All of these issues, while seemingly affecting different bodies of academia, all relate to one thing: the governments commercialisation of Higher Education. It is understandable that those who pay so much for their education will want to grasp every hour. They will want to use their facilities, work hard in a library that they, in part, pay for. This strike disrupts the wonderful vibrant working environment of a university. Strikes show the void that is being implemented by making academia a hostile environment to work in. They show the absence of bodies
who make the higher education institutions in the United Kingdom an exemplary place to study and engage in questions of culture we are lucky enough to ask. In having this voice, our duties to our lecturers and university workers in this crucial moment is to support them in this fight to be looked after in their retirement. Respect the picket, observe the strike and direct your energy towards the government cutting our tutors pay. Just like our youth centres, our secondary education, our national health service, our mental health services, our domestic violence services, the government is treating our accessible and fair universities as expendable and replacing them with systems for capital gain. The only way to combat this is to resist and occupy our places as students, teachers and researchers, users of our health services and education system that we all need. The only thing we have in the face of austerity is the ability to occupy everything, and see what happens.
By Patricia manos
current harvard phd)
As a Courtauld Alumna currently pursuing my Ph.D in art history at Harvard University in the States and active in the effort to organize a graduate employeesâ€™ union there, my heart went out to the picketing lecturers whose familiar faces I saw on my Facebook feed this afternoon. The strike is a method of last resort, and would not be implemented if lecturers had any other choice. They are defending themselves against an attack on their pension schemes, and in this way are defending not only themselves but your education-- and mine. The same creeping neoliberalization that demands pension cuts to fuel expansion is also related to student fees being raised with no change to lecturer pay; in the UK and abroad, this has the effect of narrowing the class demographic for whom education is accessible. The class politics of art history as a discipline leave much to be desired in general, so the last thing an institution like the Courtauld, which is unique in its dedication to the field, needs is for the barriers to entry to be stacked even higher.
By alfred Pasternack
It has been heartening to see lecturers striking against the increasing marketisation of our education, and reassuring to know what a struggle it has been for them to continue in the knowledge of the effects the strike has had on our learning. It has therefore been rather disappointing to see students rushing to capitalise on these events, exploiting the struggle over profits in higher education for personal gain – the Students’ Union has suggested it will pursue reimbursement for lost tuition, seemingly without considering or thoroughly consulting on whether this is in students’ interests. For those spending tens of thousands of their own money on study, such financial frustration is completely understandable, even if it distracts from the issues at stake in the strike. Yet for undergraduates with fees funded by SLC loans, any such refunds would be outright wrong. It is here beside the point to mention that students are unlikely to see any benefit from compensation should it be granted, given the typical student leaving the Courtauld with around £60,000 debt, with current (extortionate) interest rates of 6.1%, would be extremely lucky even to get close to paying back the final few hundred which they are hoping to have written off. Instead we should consider that so much as mentioning refunds is accepting the fallacy that our tuition fees have anything to do with our tuition. The arbitrary figure of £9,000 (£9,250 for some) is entirely unrelated to the cost of our study or the sum we will ever pay back. Instead it is deceptive way of transferring state debt to individuals, and thus artificially reducing the deficit in the short term. The Students’ Union should be struggling against the injustices of a so-called graduate tax which disproportionately affects those on lower incomes and those from poorer backgrounds, rather than seeking a hollow victory in refunds, which would give no real help to students while undermining principled opposition to the system of student loans in its entirety. |SEE NO.2
dr klara kemp-welch and dr wenny teo at the ucu march Photographed by professor julian stallabrass
by nadia stern
by rebecca morris president of the courtauld students‘'' union
I have decided to stop working for a year in order to do this course. It costs a lot of money to be a Graduate Diploma student, £11,500 for a nine-month course, but I thought that it was really worth it for the quality of the lectures and the amount of lectures that you get; you get a lot of contact time on the Graduate Diploma course, it is very very intensive, and I’ve enjoyed it hugely so far.
The Courtauld Students’ Union supports the right of our lecturers and other colleagues to strike. We have been working closely with Courtauld UCU and members of the management team at The Courtauld to minimise the impact on students and provide support during the strike. We will be working hard to ensure student’s voices are heard and that their concerns are raised when managing outcomes of the strike. As always, if you have any concerns or questions you are welcome to get in touch with us.
Missing half a term of lectures is a really big deal because it is so concentrated and such a short period of time. Quite a few of us have decided not to work for a year, or some of us have come from overseas and set up home just for the nine months. It is a massive commitment in terms of time and money, which we have all done willingly, and we’ve absolutely loved it so far because of the quality of the lectures. It is heartbreaking that it is being disrupted in this way, and particularly at this stage of our course […] This comment has been abridged from a short video interview at the Courtauld’s picket line on the 23 February
courtauld teach out at the may day rooms photographed by dr jo applin
by tennessee williams former president of the courtauld students‘'' union
I am thrilled the Courtauld’s students and staff are finally showing some political consciousness and standing up to fight one of the many injustices currently raining down on the education system. The creativity and dedication I have seen students and staff put into this strike is truly inspiring. However, as I see students show up in solidarity for staff, passionate about causes that are not their own and willing to set aside their time and warmth to demonstrate on staff ’s behalf, I am forced to wonder where the same solidarity has been when students were the ones fighting to have their voices heard? It is fantastic to hear more and more staff are joining UCU but I would kindly ask the staff to remember what this union stands for and the affiliation it holds with the NUS and students’ unions up and down the country. By becoming a member you are signing up to be a part of something much larger than just pension cuts and I truly hope staff can see this and stand with the same solidarity when the cause does not signal a direct hit on their pockets.
higher fees and increased marketisation, students will have a lot to fight about and I would love it if they could rely on staff to join their demonstrations and assist them by speaking out online and in the meetings students do not have access to. As has been proved by the amazing rallying spirit the staff have mustered for this occasion, lecturers at the Courtauld hold an inordinate amount of sway in our community and I would urge them to use their voices to raise the platforms, not just of students, but of teaching assistants, fixed term teachers, casual workers and non teaching staff members. All of whom are affected by governmental changes and shifts within the Courtauld and could all use assistance in getting their concerns to the table which can make a difference. As has previously been said, these pension cuts are just one symptom of a much larger problem that affects both students and staff alike and we should do everything to maintain this spirit and solidarity.
As the Teaching Excellence Frameworks steamrolls through higher education, a harbinger of further cuts,
Features By hana nihill and fred shan
Heritage is a slippery concept. It comprises the physical substrate of our historic buildings and artefacts, but more importantly, it includes the mutable stories we tell about these objects. The construction of “heritage” is an active and demanding task that requires grappling with murky histories and competing agendas and – as some of our writers explain – the shifting evolution of heritage can be uncomfortable and overwhelming. For this edition, our contributors unpack the concept of heritage. They ask, what happens when the narrative threads of history and heritage become unravelled? Their articles constitute speculations on the personal implications of heritage, as well as the way it continues to shape the physical and broader cultural environment around us. Naomi Polonsky examines how iconoclasm proved for artists a way to keep the flame of creativity alight. Beyond the art world, however, replacing the old with the new is not always justifiable. For Matthew Page, the dismantling of Robin Hood Gardens in London to make space for new housing in London is emblematic of neoliberal gentrification’s erasure of culture. Within the macro-narratives of national or international heritage are countless semi-autonomous micro-narratives accounting for communal and local experiences. From London, we venture north with Ellen Charlesworth, who takes us on a tour of George Stephenson Memorial Hall and reveals the discrepancies between state-taught heritage and the tales she learned at home. Leaving Britain, Marv Recinto challenges the inherent eurocentricity in western scholarship on non-western artists by presenting an interpretation of David Medalla’s work based on their shared Filipino culture. We end with Lukas Hall, whose sheer variety of references, from Antonio Gramsci to The Rreal Hhousewives of Beverley Hills, is demonstrative of the ever-mounting cultural baggage which our post-internet culture must process. Through film, architecture and performance, these pieces examine the means by which artists and architects and governments and individuals continuously work to construct, challenge, and sometimes dismantle heritage. These examinations are a reminder that constant re-evaluations of heritage and historical rememberings are a vital part of how we imagine ourselves and our collective futures.
The Art of Destruction:
Metzger, Matta-Clark and Bonvicini
By naomi polonsky
In February 2001, the artist Michael Landy gathered together all his belongings, catalogued them and destroyed them. All 7,227 of his possessions - from stamps to a Saab 900 - were reduced to their basic materials and methodically shredded. He called this work ‘Break Down’. ‘Break Down’ came into being through a colossal act of destruction.
The drop drop dropping of HH bombs.
Since the 1960s artists have cut, crushed, erased, exploded, burned, shot and even chewed up their material in order to explore the limits of art. There is the famous story about the American artist Robert Rauschenberg erasing a drawing by Willem de Koonig and calling it ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing’, thereby turning an act of destruction into a new act of creation.
Auto-destructive art demonstrates man’s power to accelerate disintegrative processes of nature and to order them.
However, there are other artists who have taken the notion of destruction even further. One of these is Gustav Metzger who in the early 1960s came up with the concept of ‘AutoDestructive Art’. In 1960, he penned the ‘Manifesto of Auto-Destructive Art’, which reads like a kind of prosepoem: Man in Regent Street is auto-destructive. Rockets, nuclear weapons, are auto-destructive. Auto-destructive art.
Not interested in ruins, (the picturesque). Auto-destructive art re-enacts the obsession with destruction, the pummeling to which individuals and masses are subjected.
Auto-destructive art mirrors the compulsive perfectionism of arms manufacture - polishing to destruction point. Auto-destructive art is the transformation of technology into public art. The immense productive capacity, the chaos of capitalism and of Soviet communism, the co-existence of surplus and starvation; the increasing stock-piling of nuclear weapons - more than enough to destroy technological societies; the disintegrative effect of machinery and of life in vast built-up areas on the person... Auto-destructive art is art which contains within itself an agent which automatically leads to its destruction within a period of time not to exceed twenty years. Other forms of auto-destructive art involve manual manipulation. There are forms of autodestructive art where the artist has a tight control over the nature and timing of the disintegrative process, and there are other forms where the artist’s control is slight. SEE NO.2
illustrated by matthew page
the art of destruction
Materials and techniques used in creating auto-destructive art include: Acid, Adhesives, Ballistics, Canvas, Clay, Combustion, Compression, Concrete, Corrosion, Cybernetics, Drop, Elasticity, Electricity, Electrolysis, Feed-Back, Glass, Heat, Human Energy, Ice, Jet, Light, Load, Mass-production, Metal, Motion Picture, Natural Forces, Nuclear Energy, Paint, Paper, Photography, Plaster, Plastics, Pressure, Radiation, Sand, Solar Energy, Sound, Steam, Stress, Terra-cotta, Vibration, Water, Welding, Wire, Wood. The first public demonstration of ‘Auto-Destructive Art’ took place in June 1960 at the Temple Gallery in London. Metzger placed a sheet of canvas on a stand. He then applied acid to it in sweeping brushstrokes. The nylon disintegrated 15 seconds after coming into contact with the acid, so that it appeared to be destroying itself. In this performance, the artist had ‘tight control over the nature and timing of the disintegrative process’. The performance was like a dark and perverse version of Jackson Pollock’s ‘action painting’. All that remained at the end were several ragged strands of canvas. Describing his performance, the artist said: ‘I was very aggressive putting the acid onto that nylon ... it was partly me attacking the system of capitalism, but inevitably also the systems of war, the warmongers, and destroying them in a sense symbolically.’ Metzger’s parents were Polish-German Jews, who were murdered in the Nazi death camps. His selfdestructive art became a metaphor for twentieth-century society’s self-destructiveness. Metzger had initially planned to erect a public monument to ‘auto-destructive art’, made of thin sheets of steel that would degrade when installed outside. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he failed to find a sponsor for the work. However, his 1960 public performance was acquired by Tate and reperformed in 2004 and 2015. Performance, then, became the chosen platform for his self-destructive art. And indeed, ‘performance art’ is the self-destructive art form par excellence. As any performance progresses it moves towards its end. Its ephemerality is an attack against art’s perceived aspirations for eternity. The mantle of performative destruction was taken up by the American artist, Gordon Matta-Clark, who pioneered what he called ‘anarchitecture’, the uncomfortable collision between ‘anarchy’ and ‘architecture’. Architecture, like art, holds ambitions of eternal existence and it was these ambitions that Matta-Clark attempted to question. In the mid-1970s he performed a series of ‘building cuts’ during which he went around abandoned or disused buildings in the South Bronx and carved holes and clefts into them. The photographs of Matta-Clark’s ‘cuts’ are eerily stranded between figuration and abstraction: the suspended shapes
and forms of abstract art invade the realm of reality. He deconstructs the landscape around him. And by so doing, reconstructs it. As he himself stated: ‘Undoing is just as much a democratic right as doing.’ Like Metzger’s ‘auto-destructive art’, Matta-Clark’s ‘anarchitecture’ is highly politically and socially engaged. The abandoned buildings in the South Bronx were the result of economic decline and the exodus of the middle-classes. They were urban ruins. However, unlike Metzger’s works, they captured the ‘picturesque’. The photographs are beautiful despite the aggressiveness of the act which they document. Matta-Clark’s destruction was not disintegrative but static. This is why the destructiveness of his works was only partial: an attack against his physical environment, but not against art itself. An artist whose practice is more in line with Metzger’s is the Italian-born Monica Bonvicini. In 1998 she made a work called ‘Plastered’, which upon first appearance looked like a normal gallery space. This appearance was deceptive. As soon as the visitor started walking in the space, the plaster floor would start to crumble. ‘Plastered’ did not exist as an artwork until the visitor started to destroy it. This was an example of ‘autodestructive art demonstrating man’s power to accelerate disintegrative processes’. ‘Plastered’ lasted only as long as the exhibition lasted. It was as ephemeral as Metzger’s public demonstration of ‘Auto-Destructive Art’. It can only be preserved by being replicated. ‘Plastered’ was an invitation not just to destroy an artwork, but also the very architecture of the gallery space. Bonvicini’s practice merges that of Metzger and Matta-Clark into one single anarchic act of auto-destruction. Bonvicini’s practice is rooted in serious social thought, most notably feminism, power and gender politics. However, her destructive artworks are also comic, as proven by the tonguein-cheek title of ‘Plastered’. Bonvicini noted the enjoyment with which the visitors responded to the task of destruction. Bonvicini’s version of destruction is a rebellion against social norms – a kind of return to childhood. The visitor becomes complicit in Bonvicini’s revolt against the gallery and its tacit power structures. So, what is the function of destructive art? It is a protest against the world, the art world and art. Metzger’s tattered canvases, Matta-Clark’s carved walls and Bonvicini’s crumbled floors are remnants of violent acts. They came into being through the simultaneous acts of destruction and creation. And it’s this ambivalence that makes them so compelling.
the robin hood gardens estate, poplar, january 2018
â€˜An Icon Rebornâ€™ By Matthew page
an icon reborn
The Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, East-London, was a common feature of architecture enthusiasts’ tosee lists. Its name circulated in the company of British architecture that was co-opted by aesthetes, such as the Balfron Tower or the Brunswick Centre, and took-on an iconic status that ran parallel to its original purpose. Designed by the influential British architects Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972, the estate was built during a government-supported housing drive after the Second World War. Intended to improve the country’s housing and push towards a ‘New Britain’, the post-war period saw the demolition of slums and the erection of high-rises and estates. In this climate of mass-produced housing – which commonly used standardised parts and exercised a Fordist rationale – Robin Hood Gardens became a symbol of an alternative approach to providing homes. A bedfellow of projects like the late Neave Brown’s Alexandra Road Estate, the Smithson’s design showcased a mode of building which sought to imbue high-density housing with the neighbourly qualities that were absent in tower blocks. Today, however, if you visit the estate it is for a different reason. After its demolition began late last year, the Smithsons’ innovative spirit is gone and the architecture is fast disappearing with it. When I went there in mid-January, the site was noticeably transformed from the archival photographs that I had seen in the past. I recall one in particular, taken just after the estate’s construction, which featured children playing in the green space enclosed by the estate’s two housing blocks. On my visit, however, there were few people: just a couple of joggers who had also come to look around. At the centre of the estate there is a small hill; when standing on it, you can survey the whole site. What you see is a grim (de)construction site. Bright orange hoarding envelops the western block and diggers shift the rubble from the part which has already been demolished. The acoustic barriers which surround large parts of the estate – part of the noise-reducing design – have taken on the character of an Alcatraz-style concrete wall. Stencilled onto them is the logo of ‘Blackwall Reach’, the name of the new development being constructed in the area. The site of Robin Hood Gardens will be consumed by the development, becoming ‘Parkside East’ and ‘Parkside West’ when the £300 million project is complete. According to the Swan Housing Association website, their new development will comprise 1,500 new homes with 679 of them being classed as affordable. Together, Parkside East and West will provide 621 of the total houses – over double the number contained within the Smithson’s original design. But this increase in housing is likely to be bittersweet for the original residents of the estate. In her book, Big Capital: Who is London For? (2017), the journalist and academic,
Anna Minton, highlights the ambivalence of the ‘affordable housing’ notion in the contemporary housing market. She cites Boris Johnson’s 2013 ‘London Plan’ which redefined ‘affordable rent’ as up to 80 percent of market value, and the 2016 Housing and Planning Act which qualified Starter Homes costing up to £450,000 as affordable housing. Therefore, although ‘affordable housing’ is a promise written into the developer’s plans, these policies undermine its assumed meaning. Certainly, though, it is not a synonym for ‘social housing’ – the original rubric that Robin Hood Gardens was constructed under. When the demolition of the estate was approved on 15 March 2012 by Tower Hamlets council, it marked the end of an acrimonious campaign to save the estate that had begun in 2009. In the years leading up to the decision, the combination of poor maintenance and design flaws in the architecture had resulted in the Smithsons’ intentions of neighbourliness descending into hostility. Although the council used this to justify the regeneration of the estate – a trend which is widely being practised throughout the capital – the residents wanted to remain. In fact, according to an article by Will Hurst in Building Design from June 2009, a resident-initiated survey suggested that nearly 80 percent of the residents of the eastern block wanted the estate to be refurbished rather than demolished. In addition to the residents’ concerns, the plans for demolition – and Historic England’s decision not to list the estate – attracted the attention of conservation groups. The Twentieth Century Society, one of Britain’s premier heritage groups for modern architecture, were instrumental in efforts to preserve the estate. Their campaign attracted the support of leading architectural figures including Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. On their website, the society features a ‘Lost Modern’ list, a kind of honour roll for British architecture that conservation efforts have failed to preserve. The list currently features ten buildings that have been demolished, including a variety of civic buildings, private and social housing and even a Sainsbury’s supermarket. Writing about the buildings, the Twentieth Century Society’s Director, Caroline Croft, says: ‘these buildings are a valuable legacy which add to the richness of the fabric of our architectural heritage and the best examples should be safeguarded for future generations.’ Now that the demolition is underway at Robin Hood Gardens, it occupies the top-spot on the list, a definite symbol of its position in the consciousness of those wanting to maintain Britain’s modernist heritage. But to what extent should the safeguarding of architectural heritage trump the need to bolster Britain’s housing stock? The actions of the Victoria and Albert Museum are an interesting response to the issue. In 2008, Mark Jones, the then director of the museum, declined to participate
the robin hood gardens estate, poplar, january 2018
the robin hood gardens estate, poplar, january 2018
an icon reborn
in the Building Design magazine campaign to save the estate. The news in November 2017, then, the museum had announced plans to salvage a three-storey section from the western block of the estate, comprising the exterior facades and interiors of a maisonette flat, was an unexpected turn. Quoted on the museum’s website, Dr Christopher Turner, the Keeper of the Design, Architecture and Digital Department, echoed Caroline Croft, describing the estate as an ‘important piece of Brutalism, worth preserving for future generations. It is also an object that will stimulate debate around architecture and urbanism today – it raises important questions about the history and future of housing in Britain, and what we want from our cities.’ While Turner is correct in suggesting that the estate raises important questions, the museum’s actions in light of the demolition raise important questions too. A crucial one being: who is architecture being preserved for? In Preservation is Overtaking Us (2014) the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas highlights the shrinking gap between a building’s construction and its attention by preservationists. ‘We are living,’ he writes, ‘in an incredibly exciting and slightly absurd moment, namely that preservation is overtaking us.’ In the case of Robin Hood Gardens, the debates about its preservation as a landmark – if you search it on Google Maps, it is listed as a ‘historical landmark’ – appear to have oftentimes eclipsed its importance as a housing estate (i.e. where people were living, and in the case of the eastern block, still do).
2016) should estate regenerations like Blackwall Reach be encouraged, or is the sacrifice of Britain’s architectural heritage an unfair trade-off ? The consolation for the loss of the estate’s architecture would have been the increased number of homes and new facilities offered at Blackwall Reach. But if the uncertain definition of ‘affordable homes’ that Minton references affect the new dwellings constructed there, the regeneration will be a lose-lose situation for both the residents and conservationists. Not only will the estate have been lost from Britain’s architectural heritage, but many of those who lived there will be dispossessed. The failed campaign to safeguard Robin Hood Gardens and its redevelopment are indicative of a trend which is likely to amplify in future years. As the capital’s population continues to grow, and its density is forced to increase, more conversations about what constitutes Britain’s architectural heritage will arise. At the core of these debates will be the question of which buildings to keep and why to keep them; and they will result in evaluating what is more important: heritage or pragmatism. When you leave the DLR at Blackwall station, you are met with an edifice of orange hoarding. On it, are the words ‘An Icon Reborn’. But for conservationists, the iconic qualities will have left the site when the last piece of rubble of the Smithsons’ estate is carted off. And for the residents, this cycle of re-birth is one that excludes them.
The V&A’s last-minute intervention makes clear their belief that the estate should have been retained for its architectural merit and safeguarded for ‘future generations’. Certainly, by museumizing a small fragment of the architecture, the V&A has succeeded in preserving the Smithsons’ ideas about housing. However, this appears to be merely a souvenir gathering exercise: the museum’s concern is not for the dispossessed individuals and families living on the estate. So where do the residents of modern architectural ‘icons’ fit? A consideration for the residents featured in the Twentieth Century Society’s campaign. At one point – when it seemed possible – they supported the idea of refurbishment, rather than demolition. Sarah Wigglesworth Architects even collaborated on a book published by the Twentieth Century Society in 2010 which featured plans for how a refurbishment could be implemented. This third way would have retained much of the original architecture and sympathetically adapted it to increase the density of the site.
'an icon reborn the words stencilled onto hoarding near blackwall station
But this proposition was ultimately futile due to English Heritage’s decision not to list the estate and Tower Hamlet’s desires for its regeneration. Underlying the division between regeneration and conservation is the pragmatic argument: as Tower Hamlets is the second-most densely populated borough in London (according to the ONS statistics for
Cucumbers, Coal and the Curriculum the oddities of local heritage
By ellen charlesworth
For the better part of my primary education our school trips would, invariably, be to the George Stephenson Memorial Hall. It was ideal. Just a half hour away, we’d spend the morning doing crafts before marching into the only room of the museum. Activities of note included ogling the great man’s baby bonnet and wondering at his less known invention, the cucumber-straightener*. Year after year we’d traipse back to Chesterfield to celebrate George Stephenson’s achievements and engage with our area’s local heritage… all five cabinets worth. In anticipation of our visit, we’d spend classes pouring over pictures of his engines. Teachers would regale us with stories of ‘The Rocket’, which disappointingly was not the first steam locomotive, but was famously the first to work reliably. And, as prolonged as my acquaintance with his work is… that’s pretty much all I can recall. In fact, I seemed to know even less about the man than I thought. It turns out the term ‘local’ had been somewhat generously applied, and Stephenson was born and raised in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, some hundred-and-fifty miles away from where I went to school. It was only in his retirement and the last decade of life that he found himself in South Yorkshire. In fact, the more I read in preparation of this article, the more I
was stunned how little I actually knew about ‘the father of railways’. Stephenson’s life makes an incredibly compelling narrative. Born into poverty, he began working at the age of eight. As a teenager, he paid his way through night school, slowly working his way up the colliery hierarchy, until he became an expert in steam and pumping machinery. It was when he won a competition for steam engine design with ‘The Rocket’ that he shot to fame. The very embodiment of Victorian self-improvement, while his personal life had enough unexpected twists and tragic turns to satisfy the most melodramatic of tastes. That teachers managed to make his biography seem dull is almost impressive. It’s widely acknowledged that narratives are more engaging than dates, and it’s usual for teachers to apply a dramatic structure to famous biographies. By exaggerating obstacles, you can build a narrative tension in the hopes of holding students’ attention. After all, everyone loves an underdog. Yet, in British education, it’s not the struggle but the end result which is given precedence. The struggle is passed over in favour of a positive resolution. George Stephenson’s narrative is limited to his development of a faster, more
cucumbers, coal and the curriculum
Illustrated by anna seibaek torp-pederson
reliable steam engine. John Snow’s entire biography, another classroom staple, limited to the discovery that cholera was waterborne. Perhaps this is justifiable when one considers the end result is the reason these narratives make it onto the curriculum. But, it’s worth stopping to ask why we learn about these inventions and innovations in the first place. Why are some narratives chosen over others, and more importantly, to what end? To explore this further, I will employ Louis Althusser’s theory of Ideological State Apparatuses. Althusser argues that ‘apparatuses’ such as propaganda, religion and education, are designed to help perpetuate current class relations without relying on physical violence. In short, one class can keep another subjugated through ideas and beliefs alone. He argues that our educational system is at its heart, a means of oppression. If one was to apply his thinking to our consideration of narratives, one could argue that the stories we’re taught in schools – the biographies of exceptional innovators – preform two key roles. Firstly, they aim to demonstrate that the current status quo works. No matter what your background, it is possible to make a contribution to society for which you will be well rewarded. The implication is that
you too should work hard and contribute to society. Mr. Stephenson’s ‘rags to riches’ story is the perfect example, in which hard work is rewarded by both personal wealth by posthumous fame. In school, we never discussed the terrible conditions he and his family faced in his early life and the social causes of these conditions, but rather his success and later ‘gentleman gardener’ lifestyle. This pursuit saw his engineering mind turn to the foremost horticultural problems of the day, namely bendy cucumbers. This story of hard work and a subsequently leisurely life emphasises the individual’s role in their own success, overlooking the very real restrictions of poverty and class. Expanding on the Althusserian model, the second function of stories we tell children would be to instil a sense of national pride. Though this is certainly truer of older generations’ education, the idea of a curriculum, divides the world into things that are important to teach young people, and those that are not. The select historical events which we are taught form a canon that dictates what is considered relevant to a student’s identity. Arguably, I have little in common with a nineteenth-century British man, certainly less so than my contemporaries in many countries today. Yet, in my education the relevance of locality and nationality was emphasised over class, gender and race.
Education institutions and methods are slow to adapt to changing public opinion. Any moral stance is complicated if one couches it in with a slightly different discourse. Nationalistic indoctrination has much the same basis as giving children a sense of social responsibility and community; both causes would see Ideological State Apparatuses used in the same way. However, in both cases, it is important for us to be critical of the narratives we tell children, and to understand as much as possible the consequence of the way in which we tell them. Looking back, it appears that my school’s preoccupation with our local heritage and George Stephenson was wholly ineffective. It was not particularly informative, fun, or helpful in building a sense of community. The school encouraged us to access heritage in a way that held no appeal for children. Here one begins to see the disjoint between what I’d been told was my local heritage, and what the people around me considered our shared history. It is this de facto cultural heritage, shared within communities and family units, that appears to have most effectively told stories that shaped my identity. Compare the version of George Stephenson’s life we were taught at school, to stories shared in the home. Robin Hood, always a personal favourite of mine, is an excellent example. Gustav Freytag’s dramatic structure, which consists of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and dénouement, is useful in distinguishing where the two approaches differ. In Robin Hood, while there is an overarching plot, there are lots of short stories and adventures can be inserted within the period designated as rising action and climax. As a child, my friends and I would constantly request retellings and elaboration on the stories that take place in the forest. It is this period that has undoubtedly captured the popular imagination, with the outlaw Robin Hood and his Merry Men trapped in a battle of cunning with the Sherriff of Nottingham. It is difficult to imagine a child being enrapt with the return of King Richard or Robin’s marriage in the same way. This eventual dénouement cuts off the possibility of being the hero. In wrapping up the main storylines, you preclude a child’s involvement in the continuing narrative. Exactly the same model can be applied to other famous folk tales such as King Arthur and the knights of the round table. Both have an overarching structure that can be embellished with shorter stories added by individuals. But, this structure isn’t necessarily constrained to fantastical or legendary events.
form of a series of events, or a family member’s life, which then gather nuance and detail as one grows up. As more and more anecdotes are gradually added, the story never fully. Like the folk tales of past, our collective oral memories have a fluidity lost in formal systems of education. Though there is an ending, the possibility for further elaboration engages the listener and creates a participatory practice. This oral heritage and process of participation seems an important part of how history is co-opted into identity. Certainly, more recent historical events, such as elections and miners’ strikes were learnt about not through school, but through the people who surrounded me. Most strikingly, for the vast majority of my life, they were consciously told as stories; all of them abiding by the same structure found in popular folktales. Consequently, it is in the narrative structure of oral histories that an individual is given greater agency. Myself and my surrounding community were able to decide what was relevant to me, not a nationally dictated syllabus. With this method of storytelling, there remains an element of discovery and potential, something that is absent in schooling until a student reaches higher education. The difference in narratives found in the curriculum and stories shared in the home, are found in their form, rather than their content. Our localities do play a vital part in our identity, but it has more to do with living communities than the achievements of select historical forebears. * I can’t say I’m in the habit of yelling at the TV, but its appearance as a mystery object on QI prompted a notable exception.
Memories are able to be passed down families in much the same way. As a child, ‘a long time ago’, ‘back in my day’, and ‘before you were born’ all took on the same magical tone as ‘once upon a time’. They harked back to some mysterious ‘before’ that was difficult to conceive of when your own life was still in single digits. The arching narrative could take the
cucumbers, coal and the curriculum
Returning to the Philippines: Medalla and I By Marv Recinto
The Filipino diaspora’s problem of heritage arises in the west when Eurocentric interpretations of identity choose to marginalise the significance of national origin, particularly for those of us who have spent the majority of our lives away from said background. As a Filipina-American I feel a stronger connection to my Filipino heritage, having been born there to Filipino parents, spoken Filipino first, and holding citizenship my entire life. I consider myself a hybrid of the two cultures, a fact that has been ignored by peers who see me as an American first and foremost. This marginalisation of my Filipino heritage can also be observed in critiques of the work of David Medalla. The artist’s regular migration complicates any national interpretation of him, making it easier to consider him a ‘citizen of the world’.1But Medalla is not a citizen of the world—he is technically a citizen of the Philippines and has never abandoned his nationality even though Eurocentric scholars have. Medalla’s participatory artwork A Stitch in Time (1968–2017) exemplifies the usefulness of considering national heritage to broaden interpretations beyond the existing Eurocentric canon. The installation attests to Medalla’s continued engagement with the Philippines by referencing the Filipino family. In the Arsenale exhibition hall at the 2017 Venice Biennale, the ends of a long white cloth are fixed to the ceiling so that it hangs in a large, inverted arch which reaches the knees of most viewers. A shorter, narrow ladder made of fibre rope and wooden rungs is similarly affixed to the hall’s vaults so that it hovers above the sheet. Then between each rung, thin fibre cords with spools of coloured thread are tied to the ladder’s side ropes and droop in curves perpendicular to the fabric. Shells, bells, and pieces of wood also dangle from the ladder, while felt pads filled with needles and small sewing scissors rest atop the cotton. These components of Medalla’s A Stitch in Time invite the viewer to borrow a needle, select any coloured thread, and sew something into the cotton fabric. Some visitors embroider designs, while most affix bits of papers or small objects. Nonetheless, the international
visitors leave pieces of themselves and transform A Stitch in Time into a collaborative work of shared memory which transcends borders. Medalla’s project first began in 1967 when two of his lovers left London on the same day. At Heathrow airport, he gave them each a black or white handkerchief, a pack of needles and a spool of thread, encouraging them to stitch whatever they liked. He had already embroidered his own name and small note onto the fabric, adding they could pass it on to others so that the ‘Stitch in Time’ may continue. Nine years later, Medalla encountered an Australian traveller at Schiphol airport with a column of embroidered materials. Attached to it were small objects such as shells, seeds and Chinese coins. The man told Medalla the column was a participatory artwork he received in Bali, and when the artist inspected it, he recognised the black cloth at its base as one of his original handkerchiefs. The artist’s name was still visible, along with his original ‘message of love’.2 The artist returned the column to the traveller without mentioning the project was his, and they parted ways. Medalla’s exact note is unknown, bound as it was to the original handkerchiefs. But some scholars would say that knowing his precise words is less important than understanding A Stitch in Time as a ‘simple message of love’ which takes shape within a transnational context.3 Art critic Guy Brett has focused on the visitor’s reception of Medalla’s message more than the message itself. 4 Others have considered it a message of romance between lovers, as well as platonic affection across borders. Nonetheless, many interpretations of A Stitch in Time occur in a Eurocentric vacuum void of the artist’s national heritage and diasporic circumstances. Doing so has misinterpreted Medalla’s intentions, as well as missed an important, personal dimension of Philippine familial love and home. Eurocentric bias surrounding Western art is not uncommon. Indeed, post-colonial critique surrounding the history of art endeavours to undo such readings. However, even scholars SEE NO.2
Installation view, David Medalla, A Stitch in Time, 1968-2017. Viva Arte Viva, Arsenale, Venice Biennale, 13 Mayâ€“-26 November 2018. Photo:graphed by Beatrijs Sterk via www.textile-forum-blog. org/2017/06/biennale-arte-2017in-venice/
returning to the philippines
Embroidery by the authorâ€™s father, 1994. Photo: Courtesy the author
David Medalla (blue striped shirt) and Sonia Monillas, Rizal Provence, Philippines, 1959. Photographed by: MJ Coulborne.
aware of said discourse commit this error. British, AfroCaribbean artist Sonia Boyce accused Medalla of appropriating embroidery from women in a paper she recently presented, titled ‘Dearly Beloved: Transitory Relations and the Queering of “Women’s Work” in David Medalla’s A Stitch in Time (1967–1972)’. She claimed Medalla falls into the category of men who appropriate women’s work to benefit themselves. But, in doing so, she failed to acknowledge the Filipino tradition of male sewing. After her lecture, I spoke to her about this ethnocentrism. Boyce admitted that Eva Bentcheva, Tate Adjunct Researcher of Filipino art, mentioned the Filipino tradition of male embroidery to her, but had decided to keep the comparison nonetheless. This tradition of male embroidery is one that particularly resonates with my family. When I was born, my father’s first gift to me was an embroidered cloth he made himself. It depicts a light brown, stuffed teddy bear balancing on one leg. The teddy bear carries a blue and white block onto which my father had stitched my nickname, birthday, and weight. My typically stoic father shies away from overt displays of affection, but embroidery was a means of demonstrating his love for his family. His gifts are not idiosyncratic however, as his family comes from Batangas, where men traditionally embroider. Medalla would also be aware of the Batangan practice of male embroidery through his own father. In Taal, Batangas particularly, men embroider to earn money and support their families. This context transforms embroidery into an act of familial love and reflects kagandahang-loob (literally ‘beauty-of-will’), or the Filipino ethic of a willingness to help others. The Philippines’ most meaningful example of practical kagandahang-loob is parental care for children. Embroidery then becomes a message of familial ‘beautyof-will’ for Batangan men. Therefore, to accuse Medalla of appropriating embroidery from women as Boyce has done is fallacious and ethnocentric. She deliberately disregards Medalla’s Filipino heritage and distorts Medalla’s genuine reference to familial kagandahang-loob by projecting a western, feminist approach that caused her to misinterpret A Stitch in Time. The installation still communicates a ‘simple message of love’, but the Batangan dimension ontologically returns the project to the artist’s heritage and expands the work’s sentiment to include family. Furthermore, Medalla’s reference to his Filipino family also makes A Stitch in Time a kind of home. The fact that both Medalla and I have frequently moved complicates our concepts of identity and home. The artist was born in Manila in 1942 and moved to New York where he was specially admitted to Columbia University at the age of twelve. Medalla then made the permanent move to Europe in 1960 when he first settled in London. I was
also born in Manila, but have since made my way through Singapore, San Francisco, New York, and now London. Both of us have spent the majority of our respective lives away from the Philippines, yet neither of us have forfeited our Filipino citizenships. As such, we are both members of a Filipino diaspora with complex relationships to home. Wendy Walters writes ‘The notion of diaspora can represent a multiple, plurilocal, constructed location of home, thus avoiding ideas of fixity, boundedness, and nostalgic exclusivity traditionally implied by the word home’.5 She further clarifies that artists have created homes in their artworks by coaxing meaning out of ambiguity. Medalla has said he feels at home anywhere, but his citizenship and familial ties mean he has never forgotten the Philippines. The family is the Philippine cultures’ strongest bond. Arguably, Medalla uses the embroidery in a A Stitch in Time to create a home for himself based on Filipino familial love. The idea of family and home has always remained in the artwork, as well as in Medalla. A Stitch in Time’s predominant interpretation as a ‘simple message of love’ still applies. However, when considered void of Medalla’s national heritage, the installation loses an added dimension of the artist and familial affection. Thus, leaving one’s heritage in the past is limiting. Medalla certainly does not. He says, ‘All my work is informed by my personal experience’,6 including his Filipino culture. Wherever he goes, he still takes the basic parts of himself, while embracing new cultures and experiences. A Stitch in Time parallels this; its basic elements of coloured thread, needles, and fabric always stay the same despite its different installations across various exhibition spaces. Medalla’s love for his Filipino family and home is always present in the embroidery. Previous ethnocentric interpretations were incapable of uncovering this dimension of the artist’s practice in footnoting his heritage. Transnational approaches to diaspora offer more comprehensive interpretations of their work, and even them as people. Mine and Medalla’s Filipino heritage is not merely part of our past, but something that continues to inform our present.  Guy Brett, Exploding Galaxies: The Art of David Medalla, 1994, p. 33.  Brett, Exploding Galaxies, p. 97.  Ibid.  Ibid., 98.  Wendy W. Walters, At Home in Diaspora: Black International Writing, 2005, p. xvi.  Adam Nankervis, ‘A Stich in Time: David Medalla’, Mousse Magazine, 2011.
returning to the philippines
Historical Traces and the Fiction of Ownership in the work of Sven Augustijen
jan mot presents ' summer thoughts (2014-) by sven augustijnen at hollybush gardens, london photographed by lukas hall, january 2018
By lukas hall
The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself ’ as a product of the historical processes to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory.
face of one’s prior indiscretions, especially for someone with the politics of one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, for instance, whose idea of feminism is generally of the hyper-capitalist, property-accumulating ilk.
How do we remain diligent heirs of the past and what is it, exactly, that we inherit? History and cultural heritage are so often mired in these notions of property and ownership. The famous Churchillian claim that history is written by the victors points to the power dynamics usually undergirding historical narratives, documented to serve a particular nation or maintain a hegemonic elite. Take, for example, the historical accounts of the Spanish Conquest of the Americas, which are characterized by a certain inevitability. The Amerindians were ‘doomed to fail’. This unscripted scriptedness pervades centuries of Western histories. Surely, still, these narratives are mutable and being revised all the time. How, then, might we think beyond history and cultural heritage as something finite that is
Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, 1929
There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History VII, 1940 ‘Own it!’ is a common American colloquialism, the kind of thing a Real Housewife™ would demand of her castmate who has failed to accept responsibility for something unsavoury she has supposedly said or done. Ownership is an apt, if subliminally materialist and decadent (indeed, American) metaphor for holding oneself accountable in the
owned, but rather as an ephemeral reminder, a question to which we must return again and again? One could plausibly summon the aforementioned words of Antonio Gramsci in considering the impetus behind recent historically interventionist work by the Belgian artist Sven Augustijnen (b. 1970), which continually unsettles our notions of historiography and the construction of collective realities, of national record. Through his pseudodocumentary films like Spectres (2011) and installations like the developing ‘Summer Thoughts’ (2014- ) exhibition, most recently shown in London in January and February of this year, Augustijnen has taken it upon himself to try to reconcile certain colonial histories at the interstices of national and personal memory, fact and fiction. It is into the ‘infinity of traces’ that Augustijnen delves in order to reveal cross-currents of evidence and constellations of meaning. Picture a gray-haired Belgian academic retracing his steps through dense foliage in the southern Congo. It’s nighttime and he navigates the space lit by his car’s headlights. The site is that of the brutal assassination of the independent Democratic of the Congo’s first elected prime minister Patrice Lumumba fifty years prior. Spectres follows the former Belgian diplomat Jacques Brassinne de La Buissière’s return to the Katanga province in hopes of self-vindication in light of the fiftieth anniversary of the event, which today is conventionally understood to have been a secret collusion between Belgian and US governments and the United Nations. Brassinne has devoted the last fifty years (and a doctoral dissertation) to disproving Belgian involvement in the murder. Void of any narration (but set to excerpts from Bach’s St. John Passion) the film offers first-hand testimonies and dialogues between former Belgian officials imbricated in the 1961 scandal and surviving members of Lumumba’s family, including his widowed wife Pauline and their adult children. It becomes clear that the elite Belgians have convinced themselves of a version of the story that is much different from everyone else’s idea of what happened. Augustijnen reminds us that ‘historiography is by no means a natural phenomenon’. This exploration of ‘the way we use stories, images and fiction to construct reality and history’
is an ongoing theme throughout his work, and a recurring question of artist-documentarians since the 1980s. The Vietnamese writer and filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha has attempted to critically work through this fraught exercise of the filmed interview, the testimony, which is supposed to be unscripted and ‘authentic’, but which is inevitably coloured by the story that the interviewee wants to be told. ‘Summer Thoughts’ is also concerned with the interviewed steward of history, as well as with national opinions and conflicting historical memories. One wonders how it might have been received differently having been displayed in Brussels, the Hague, Trondheim, at the National Museum of Kosovo and at the tenth Taipei Biennale, before coming to London. At the core of ‘Summer Thoughts’ is a one-sided epistolary journey through space and time initiated through his correspondence with the curator (and now the Dean of Yale School of Art) Marta Kuzma in response to her curatorial endeavour dOCUMENTA (13). Augustijnen’s letters (Kuzma’s are curiously absent), blown up to nearly six feet in height, adorn two and a half walls of the main gallery space like tapestries. This mode of display isn’t incidental, as his writings begin with reflections on the woven tapestries of the Scandinavian artist Hannah Ryggen (1894-1970), which were selected by Kuzma for dOCUMENTA. In the first letter Augustijnen is thinking about Ryggen’s Etiopia (1935)—featuring an image of Mussolini with a knife through his head—which had been displayed previously (although partially concealed) alongside Picasso’s Guernica at the 1937 Paris Expo, and again ‘on a clothes line outside her house in Oslo in full sight of Nazi soldiers’. This leads him to ponder the possibility that one of those Nazi soldiers may have been the infamous, decorated Nazi collaborator cum founder of the Belgian Catholic (neoNazi) Rexist party Léon Degrelle, who had fled to Oslo after being sentenced to death in absentia in Brussels in 1944. From Degrelle and Ryggen in Oslo, the connections proliferate throughout western Europe. Letter after letter offers the casual conversation and quotidian delights of a correspondence between friends, mixed with Augustijnen’s observations and sustained curiosity about post-war Europe and its inextricably interrelated far-right political movements. The artist is presented as scholarly researcher,
sven augustijinen spectres (stills), 2011 courtesy of jan mot, brussels
excerpts from la clave caza de nazi (1983), video projection (still) photographed by lukas hill, january 2018
as detective, as purveyor of a documentary tradition. Near the centre of the room is a table covered in issues of The New York Times and the International Edition from the Summer of 2014, with front page headlines echoing his cathexis on right-wing resurgences and outbursts of violence. One gets a sense of traces being collected and thoughtfully considered, of evidence being compiled in anticipation of a trial. The spectre of Degrelle materializes in a small room adjacent to the main gallery. In a video projected against a blank wall, we see a panel of seven ‘experts’ in post-war European politics and international law assembled in a semicircle of sleek modernist chairs before a screen on a soundstage. The so-called experts represent a sample that could be called contentious but by no means diverse. They are all European men over the age of thirty-five, right-wing, left-wing, and moderate. Some are smoking cigarettes, one, a pipe. It’s 1983. We’ve stumbled upon an episode of the Spanish political talk show La Clave, hosted by José Luís Balbín, seated at centre. Today’s topic: ‘Caza de Nazis’ (‘Nazi Hunting’). Balbín introduces his panel of talking heads, among them Degrelle and the Frenchman Michel Cojot-Goldberg, Holocaust survivor and former Nazi Hunter himself, who at one time stalked the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie all the way to Bolivia before ultimately deciding not to kill him. Questions are alternately posed by Balbín and by another man who appears intermittently on the screen behind the panel from a separate room, reading questions phoned in from the home audience. Of concern is this question of the Nazi Hunt, of extradition laws and the statute of limitations for crimes against humanity under international criminal code, although the ensuing discussion devolves into a debate over semantics, culpability, and historical veracity. The right-wing extremists are of course opposed to the language of ‘the hunt’, and to any sustained pursuit of former Nazis who have found refuge in Spain or in various parts of Latin America, beyond the purview of extradition laws. The more liberal Frenchman and the Soviet, on the other hand, are in favour of ‘the hunt’ as a metaphor for the killing of a creature without granting it the right to a trial, as was the case of the six million Jews
systematically slaughtered in the Holocaust. Degrelle, who, in his introduction exclaims ‘I love to fight!’, is at his most animated while bemoaning the ‘flagrant lies’ perpetuated by the Holocaust films of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. An argument breaks out regarding who suffered the most during the war: was it the Jews in Germany or the Jews in Spain? What about the Jews in Italy? What about the Polish people? Forty years after the fact, the panel of experts still can’t come to a consensus on a single issue raised. What could the Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, Jacques Brassine, and Léon Degrelle possibly have in common? Each one appears before the camera to plead their case, ‘unscripted’, constructing his or her own reality in order to set the record straight, or, indeed, to have the final say. Still, somehow, in each case, the viewer can suture together a constellation of meaning that renders the expert’s testimony obsolete. In both Spectres and the video component of ‘Summer Thoughts’, Augustijnen lets the historical players speak for themselves. What this exercise demonstrates for the viewer is the remarkably wide margin of interpretation upon which these so-called histories rely. To be clear, I am not saying that the assassination of Patrice Lumumba or the Holocaust are simply ‘open to interpretation’. Churchill’s assertion about history written by the victors takes on another layer of meaning. To it, I might add, that the history written by the victors is not ‘history’ at all, but a fictionalization that allows such ‘victors’ to selectively carry with them the stories that they choose. These stories have no bearing on the events of the past. There is no statute of limitations on the past, or on personal or heritable trauma. It doesn’t go away. It can be spun in any number of ways, but its traces will always remain.
The Great Spectacle
By jane simpkiss
If we want to learn about the history and heritage of the British art world, we need look no further than the Royal Academy. Celebrating its 250th anniversary, the RA boasts the longest running exhibition of contemporary art in the world. It is a significant achievement and who better to talk to about it than Sarah Turner, deputy director of research at the Paul Mellon Centre and co-curator of the upcoming exhibition The Great Spectacle at the RA. The Great Spectacle will chart the history of the Summer Exhibition from the first ever exhibition in 1769 to today, displaying a select number of works from Summer Exhibitions over the last two and a half centuries. The visitor will then seamlessly pass from The Great Spectacle into the 2018 Summer Exhibition. It should prove to be an amazing way to explore the history of art display in this country. So, what is so important about the Summer Exhibition? “No other exhibition has had that unbroken history, careers have been made or broken at the Summer Exhibition, it has helped form artistic identities, friendship groups and rivalries such as that between Constable and Turner” says Sarah Turner. It’s a story she is passionate to share. The history of the Summer Exhibition has shaped the art world into what we know and love (or love to hate) today. The modern Summer Exhibition today is just one of hundreds of major art fairs, but “it really was the only
exhibition in town for the 18th and 19th century. There was nothing quite like it in terms of its scale, its regularity, it was a main fixture in the London season.” Whilst today it is one of many contemporary art shows, it is amazing to think that it was the Summer Exhibition that started it all, in Britain at least. “What has become really apparent is that until the mid-twentieth century and the rise of private art dealers, there wasn’t really an art market and a dealer system for members of the public to buy works of art until fairly recently, so the Summer Exhibition, as this annual place to display and sell works of art, was so important for artists to make money and earn their crust.” The contemporary art world can often seem inaccessible, it can be difficult to feel at home in a crowd of millionaire collectors and eccentric artists, that is if you even get an invite. Sarah Turner values the Summer Exhibition because at its core it is not just a great spectacle but also a democratic one. “Sometimes over 300,000 people went to see the Summer Exhibition in its heyday. The audience has always been made up of a cross section of society from servants to the king, it truly is a public event. The way that art meets its audience in the Summer Exhibition provides us with a unique lens to think about the art world over a long span of time.” Amazingly enough the Summer Exhibition has hardly changed over its 250-year history. “At their core the 2018 SEE NO.2
Thomas Rowlandson and augustus charles pugin, 'exhibition room, somerset house' 1808 engraving image, wikimedia commons
show retains the essential ingredients of the 1769 show; it is still an annual exhibition of open submission, selected by a jury and hung by a committee, so in a way it remains fundamentally the same although the growth in scale is phenomenal. 59 artists were featured in the first Summer Exhibition and now over 1000 works are hung, with up to 15,000 works considered by the jury, it’s always had that mix of amateur and professional works.” Whilst the Summer Exhibition may not have changed, the world around it has. For many the RA’s Summer Exhibition is far from the cutting edge of the contemporary art world and it is no longer the place for up and coming artists to make their names. I ask Turner what she thinks about this change: “the Summer Exhibition’s critical reception has had rather a mixed fortune particularly in the 20th century when many key modern artists such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Francis Bacon didn’t want to have anything to do with it, it will always have that connection with the establishment.” However, Turner wouldn’t write off the Summer Exhibition just yet. “Over the last fifty years there has been some very lazy criticism of the RA, critics say the same old thing and some of the criticism is really boring.” She recognises the cyclical nature of the Summer Exhibition and perhaps its inherent eccentricity. “It’s important to remember that the RA is a Private Institution. The Summer Exhibition |SEE NO.2
is run by artists for artists so it has an element of wayward eccentric independence. Recently quite a number of prominent contemporary artists have become RA’s, this often happens as artists get a little bit older, the wild childs of the YBA generation who are now in their fifties and artists like Tracy Emin are now very prominent royal academicians. Grayson Perry is the coordinator for the Summer Exhibition 2018 and artists with huge international reputations like Anselm Kiefer are now also displaying at the RA and this is perhaps encouraging people to look at the Summer Exhibition differently.” Perhaps every artistic movement needs an establishment to rebel against, change and eventually join and in this way the RA has an important role to play in the art world, it’s an institution that “looks back and forward.” In Turner’s mind, the Summer Exhibition undoubtedly still has a place in today’s world; “the art world has become so professionalised, art fairs are often curated now with super star curators, so the Summer Exhibition is an important opportunity for a show to be hung by a group of artists not based on a theme but on a visual response to the work, I think the Summer Exhibition is in rude health.” “The visitor figures are also phenomenal. It is still hugely popular with the public, the art world and the art press can be ferociously snobby about it, but people still want to go, and people buy from it.” the great spectacle
Whether or not the Summer Exhibition is still relevant today, the RA has undergone some major developments in the last year to bring the institution up to date. There will now be spaces for architectural displays and free displays of the Academy’s permanent collection, as well as more space for the RA schools and learning programme. For Turner it’s an extremely welcome development, “The academy has an amazing archive and library which is such a gem, and it’s great that the collection will be more prominent. Most people know the Academy for its exhibitions, but it has its own collection that’s largely made up by works given by artists. When you become an academician, you have to submit what’s called your diploma work. The collection tells a really interesting history across the lifespan of RA’s 250 years, so it will be great if those works will be on display.”
can tell us a lot about how we do art history now. In the past every artist has been contemporary.” The Great Spectacle promises to be a fascinating tour into the history of the RA Summer Exhibition and the history of art world itself, a history that continues to guide and shape our present day. The Great Spectacle is on at the RA from 12th June – 19th August 2018. A book and an open access digital research project called The RA Chronicle, which has digitised the past 250 Summer Exhibitions catalogues, will accompany the exhibition.
The RA has a 999-year lease for which they pay £1 a year so the RA clearly has a long future ahead of it to complement its rich history. To help forge this new history it is important to Sarah Turner that we understand this history that underpins the art world today. It is this sense of history that she wants visitors to take away with them when they visit The Great Spectacle; “in this age of Frieze and numerous other art fairs, we think that these art fairs and exhibitions are something new and contemporary but this exhibition gives us a sense that mass exhibitions of contemporary works of art have been going on in Britain for years and before that in Paris, so there is a really important exhibition history which
the royal academy summer exhibition, a]ugust 2017, image, gareth williams
The Wallace Collection An Interview with the 9th marquess of hertford
By lorna tiller
The beloved Wallace Collection boasts a rich and exhilarating heritage, one that is intrinsically linked to the Hertford family. Surveying the grand galleries and the intimate setting of the first floor Oval Drawing Room, I was honoured to get the opportunity to sit down in the Wallace Collection’s courtyard and probe the exceptional mind of the 9th Marquess of Hertford, a long-running member on the Board of Trustees. The extensive collection, including paintings by Titian, Rubens, Rembrant, Poussin, furniture by André-Charles Boulle, and one of the best collections of Indian, Persian and Turkish, armoire ranging from the 15th to the 19th century, was left by Amélie-Julie-Charlotte Castelnau (1819-1897), commonly known as Lady Wallace, to the nation on her death. Henceforth the Wallace Collection was governed by a Board of Trustees, which are appointed by the Prime Minister. The Trustees represent an independent body who bring a variety of expertise and experience to the governance of the Collection. The creation of the Collection was inspired by Richard Seymour-Conway, the 4th Marquess, and his illegitimate son Richard Wallace who resided in Paris as an avid art collector. The Seymour-Conway left his substantial collection to Richard Wallace upon his death in 1870, and it was Lady Wallace’s loyal devotion to her husband Richard which led her to bequeath the collection to the nation. However, she left the family apartment in the Rue Laffitte and Bagatelle in Paris, the estate in Ireland and the lease of Hertford House, to her secretary John Murray Scott (1847-1912). There has been contention over the legitimacy of Lady Wallace’s will; although authenticated, many believe that John Murray Scott manipulated it for personal gains.
Gossip aside, I got the opportunity to ask Lord Hertford about the Wallace Collection’s relationship with its own heritage, the Collection’s future and its ability to adapt to changing technological advances in curation, and, of course, the appointment of Xavier Bray. Hertford and I both agreed that the intricate history of the Wallace Collection “should be more readily available” to the public. Having devoted his time to the upkeep of Ragley Hall - an estate passed down from the 4th to the 5th Marquess and now Hertford’s beautiful residency Hertford championed art’s relationship with heritage. When considering the Wallace Collection one cannot deny its importance - the collection would not be here today, in all its glory, if it was not for the Richard Wallace’s dedication to share and acculturate the collection to the British public. It supplies the nation with some of the greatest works of art from around the world, giving us an insight into our countries history and the social relations of the growing art market in the 18th and 19th century. Hertford spoke passionately about the importance of “appreciating the background of the Collection” and its vital importance to understanding the works of art’s personal provenance. The accessibility of the collection has been one of the galleries long-standing critiques. Although readily available to London’s residents, the accomplished and monumental collection is unavailable to the rest of the world. In November 2007, the Wallace Collection began the long and challenging task of digitising every work of art in the collection to be held on a new online resource called ‘Wallace Live’. The programme aims to contain a description and image of every work and allow virtual tours around Hertford House, continuing to unite the artworks and their heritage together. This information can be accessed
the wallace collection
illustrated by nia thomas
worldwide and provides a new platform to project the Wallace Collection onto the world stage. Unfortunately this is the only way these works can be seen elsewhere, by the terms of Lady Wallace’s bequeathment, the Wallace collection is a closed collection, meaning no works may be added or taken away from the collection and they must remain displayed together. Hertford and I agreed that the ‘closed’ nature of the Collection was not necessarily beneficial to the Wallace Collection in the twenty-first century. However, Hertford went on to tell me of the gallery’s recent success and soaring visitor rates, reminding me that Hertford House, home of the Wallace Collection, has its physical limitations and that an increase in visitors could potentially be detrimental to the abundance of artworks contained within the tight space. The exciting news that Xavier Bray will take up the directorship of the Wallace was announced in May 2016 and has been taking shape in recent months. Bray is known for his experimental and risky curatorial techniques. Bray was previously the Chief Curator at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the guest curator of the celebrated Goya: The Portraits exhibition at the National Gallery, London. Hertford praised his “unique approach” to curation and spoke of his excitement for what Bray would bring to the table. In his last year at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, under Bray’s direction, contemporary artist Doug Fishbone switched one of the gallery’s Old Master paintings with a cheap Chinese copy, and issued a challenge to the public to spot the imposter. Bray struggled to get the project past the museum’s trustees, who were concerned about possible damage to the collection’s reputation, but the project was in fact a big success and visitor numbers increased over its opening period. With this in mind Hertford and I discussed
possible abstract projects and exhibitions that could take place at the Wallace Collection. Hertford told me how he strongly supported the appointment of Bray and believed that it was possible to be “mindful of the collections rich heritage and Lady Wallace’s stipulations” while still bringing the collection into the 21st century. Bray stated that “The Wallace Collection is one of the most distinguished collections in London, and a place where one can enjoy an intimate relationship with great art. I am tremendously excited and deeply honoured to be taking on the role of Director of such an august institution. I look forward to working with the staff in continuing and expanding its role as a national collection”. I believe we can all agree that the Wallace Collection has very exciting prospects and can commend the trustees for being so forward-thinking in their appointment of Bray and their engagement with what the 21st century brings for Museums and Collections around the globe. Holding one of the most outstanding art collections, in particular its French eighteenth century artworks, I look forward to seeing how the Wallace Collection, under the supervising eye of its sensational trustee board, can, as stated in their Vision Statement: “take people on the journey from the ordinary to the extraordinary. To make the best and most sympathetic use of new technologies to disseminate the understanding and appreciation of the Collection, both in terms of its objects and the full range of its activities. To develop strong and forward-looking managers who can create and motivate each member of staff to contribute to and achieve the Collection’s objectives.” “To see not with, but through the eye.”
the wallace collection
Illustrated by tessa carr
The Buildings of the Courtauld An Interview with Anthony w. Robins
By tessa carr
Walking into Somerset House for each visit to the library, for each lecture or class, I am constantly grateful for the beautiful surroundings in which I get to study. Amid news of our move to Vernon Square next year, and the ongoing changes anticipated through Courtauld Connects, the importance of buildings to the Courtauld experience seems to be evermore significant. But as you will well know, Somerset House has not always been the home of the Courtauld Institute. To try and understand the role of place in the Courtauld’s heritage, I spoke to alumnus Anthony W. Robins (author, lecturer and tour leader - anthonywrobins.com) about his time at the Courtauld; and what role the buildings hold in his memories.
students parading up and down the elegant central double staircase. That staircase led to a warren of rooms on several floors which functioned either as administrative offices, professors’ quarters, or classrooms. The latest technology available to students was a copying machine that made bad copies on oily paper. The library was open only on weekdays, till 7:00 p.m. (at US universities some students spend 24 hours a day in the libraries). I was back in London in 2008 for a general reunion of Courtauld alumni from all years, and one of the events was a guided tour through Home House, courtesy of the fancy private club that had taken over the building. It looked much better as a private club, but it’s scrubbed appearance was difficult to connect to memories of my time there.
ANTHONY: I did my MA degree at the Courtauld from 1973 to 1976 (with a year off in the middle), when the Institute was still in Home House at 20 Portman Square.
You say it was hard to connect your memories from your time at the Courtauld to Home House as it is now (well, in 2008!), why do you think this is? In other words, when you think back to your time at the Courtauld how much prominence does the building itself have in your memories? Is the building of such importance, or is it the surrounding people and resources?
The Courtauld was certainly an odd place in the ‘70s - blocks of metal shelving bumping up against Robert Adam’s delicate plasterwork, elevenses in the basement refectory (past a room full of ancient volumes including a complete set of “History of the Papacy”), nasty graffiti in the bathroom stalls, foosball [sic] in the student common room,
Why? Because Home House in the 1970s reflected its use and, I suppose, the then UK economy. It was not terribly well kept up; shabby carpeting; grumpy administrative staff; basement refectory offering ghastly “scotch eggs”; professors (some, certainly not all) who often gave off an air suggesting that they’d really rather be somewhere else doing their
TESSA: To start, could you tell me when you were at the Courtauld?
the buildings of the courtauld
scholarly work; students combining inflated egos (I’m now a Courtauld product!) with niggling insecurity (will I ever find work?). In short: an underfunded graduate school during a recession. And now (all right, 2008), restored, refurbished, polished, expensive, full of post-Thatcher-privatizationboom well-to-do adults sipping Champagne in the garden. Not really the same place - with, I suppose, one exception: a suffocating sense of exclusivity. Despite all that (1970s conditions), the building exuded a sense of, wait, oh yes, suffocating exclusivity. I still remember a visiting scholar giving a special lecture, and qualifying something or other with the phrase, “of course, the people in this building” (italics in the original, so to speak - accompanied by a knowing look and a furrowed brow), suggesting that 20 Portman Square (which is what it seemed generally to be called - not Home House, not the Courtauld Institute) was a rarified oasis of art-historical knowledge and understanding, sitting uneasily in a rough and ignorant world. And yet, I felt honored [sic] and privileged to be there (oops, there’s that inflated ego). You have to take into consideration that I was (and still am, of course) an American, or more precisely a New Yorker, who had lived in Italy for a couple of years, and imagined that London would be much more like home - just another enormous English-speaking metropolis after all. Uh-uh. Maybe they have more in common today, but back then two more different cities and social climates would be hard to imagine, and I felt quite lost (aha! niggling insecurity!). What was more important, the building or the people? I have a collection of letters I wrote while at the Courtauld, and have been looking through them. There’s very little about the building - it’s mostly about the people. When you visit the Courtauld in Somerset House do you have a nostalgia for your time at the Courtauld, or does it feel foreign? I’m afraid it feels quite foreign. At 20 Portman Square, it felt like a unique collection - of books, of photographs, of professors - squished into a handsome if dilapidated 18thcentury townhouse. It was ethereal, surreal, if also shabby and somewhat depressing. The Strand is an impressive complex, the library (which is pretty much all I remember of my visit) very professional looking (rather than the dozens of bookshelves scattered around 20 Portman Square, and the Witt Library shoved into a couple of odd rooms), and the whole seems more professional, more part of a University, less scattered -- but also less intense, with less personality, less eccentricity. At 20 Portman Square, the Courtauld was an Institute all on its own, even if technically part of the University of London. At the Strand, the Courtauld feels like part of a modern University campus. Add to that the
very existence of a publication like The Courtauldian, an active alumni organization, major fundraising campaigns - none of these existed in the 1970s, and I’m quite sure nobody then could imagine such things. Clearly, I have very mixed feelings about 20 Portman Square. It seems unusual for an entire university to move building, and perhaps could only happen the way it did because of the size and nature of our university; how much importance would you assign to the buildings in which the Courtauld has been housed to the heritage of the Courtauld? That depends on what you mean by “the heritage of the Courtauld.” But also, I’m quite sure nobody spoke of 20 Portman Square as a “university.” Or as a college. It was, strictly, “The Institute.” Not unlike, say, the Kunsthistorisches Institut on Via Giusti in Florence, or the Herziana near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Not so much an institution, part of the surrounding city and country, as an island in an archipelago of similar institutes scattered around the civilized world. Where only people in the know about the intricacies and profound secrets of art history would be welcome - or would want to be there at all - the “people in this building.” Architecture is many things, and buildings have many functions. But a major one is to provide the stage set in which we live our lives. There is no question that the building at 20 Portman Square - an elegant Adam townhouse fallen on hard times, into which an eccentric academic institute had been temporarily squished - reflected the character of the Courtauld at that time. Or vice versa. I’ve spent almost no time at the Institute in its new home, but imagine that it must feel completely different - and therefore it must *be* completely different. But you’d have a better idea of that than I would. *** Many thanks must go to Anthony Robins for his insightful responses. In follow-up to this piece, I will be exploring how Courtauld Connects intends to carry the heritage of the Courtauld forward into the renovations. Find this piece on our website (https://www.courtauldian.com) soon.
Timetable of classes on the 15th CENTURY for spring 1974. courtesy of Anthony robins
the buildings of the courtauld
giorgio vasari, image - courtauld book library
Object No.2 Giorgio Vasari, The lives of the artists, 1568 edition
We look at objects, write about them, talk about them, consume them. They are the centre of our discipline - the focal point and its reason to be. For OBJECT No.2 Elizabeth Craig from the Courtauld Book Library discusses Giorgio Vasari’s entry on Properzia de’Rossi in the 1568 edition of The Lives of the Artists. With elizabeth craig
Regarded as the first of its kind, Le Vite was reportedly begun after Paolo Giovio convinced Giorgio Vasari to publish the notes he had been collecting on famous artists. When it was first circulated in 1550, The Lives of the Artists contained what Vasari considered the most eminent Italian painters, sculptors and architects from the late 1200s to his own time - the 1550s. Beginning with Cimabue, Vasari wrote biographies of the artists that had contributed to the three progressive stages in Italian art which made it ‘even more glorious than that of the ancient world’.
However, famous for her intricately carved fruit stones and for sculpting the bas-reliefs of San Petronio’s façade, Properzia de’ Rossi and her skills were acknowledged and this led to her being featured in The Lives. Granted, she only received four pages but this can be deemed remarkable considering how art, along with many other activities during this period, was male-dominated. However, in Describing the Female Sculptor in Early Modern Italy, Sally Quin has argued that it was beginning to become a trend to briefly feature women in humanist texts.
It has been suggested by such figures as Evelyn Welch that the book has a tripartite structure centred around three artists: Giotto, the initiator of a new, innovative type of artwork that would eventually lead to the Renaissance; the fifteenth century and Donatello; and lastly, the divine Michelangelo. Giotto has been described by Ghiberti as having ‘resurrected’ art, a stance Vasari clearly agreed with.
Rossi’s portrait shows her gazing to her right and draped in what looks to be a velo. She follows the trend of being surrounded by an elaborate classical fictive structure featuring caryatids and a draped woman carving into a sculpture of a male head.
In 1568, the original edition was expanded, corrected and illustrated. It is the latter publication that the Courtauld possesses. The illustrations include portraits of the artists, minutely decorated initials (some depicting men in various activities) and a frontispiece. Surrounded by classical frameworks, the artists are mainly portrayed either directly facing the viewer or standing in profile - a practice common in this period. In a society where female artists were barely recognised, female sculptors were even rarer, and it is even more so surprising to see a woman have a “life” in this publication.
Portrayed here with no family ties, she is shown solely as an artist, just as the other males are. Within his 1568 publication, Vasari expanded Properzia’s biography to include a list of further notable female artists such as: Plautilla Nelli, Lucrezia della Mirandola and Sofonisba Anguissola. However, none are given portraits or their own separate biography. Despite Michelangelo being the only living artist mentioned in this compendium in the 1550s, although he died before the illustrated version, we can still assume that some portraits are of a similar likeness such as Properzia’s. Yet, naturally, this is debatable. However, whether true to likeness or not, they are worth looking into.
Food: Heritage and Evolution By joe brewer
Cuisine is central to the heritage of many people across the world, who draw on national, local and familial traditions whenever they cook and eat. Dishes and delicacies help to define identities and have shaped popular perceptions of countries, from the steadfast sauerkraut of Germany to the classic coq au vin of France. William Hogarth used a side of British beef as a symbol of his nation’s wealth and power in his 1748 painting The Gate of Calais, a less than flattering comment on our closest continental neighbours. Food is undoubtedly one of the most salient and enduring aspects of culture. It is only in recent years, however, that it has been appreciated as a facet of heritage worthy of preservation by our institutions. Occurring alongside an ongoing food revolution in which multitudinous cuisines are on offer, their efforts to protect the traditional raise questions as to the onward trajectory of our culinary journey. Each year since 2010, UNESCO have published a list of Intangible Cultural Heritage phenomena, now including such cultural expressions as the Georgian alphabet, Mongolian calligraphy, Chinese shadow puppetry and Indonesian batik, for conservation alongside its usual World Heritage sites like the Great Barrier Reef and Athenian Acropolis. This has aided the preservation of great food traditions alongside the typical historical and environmental wonders that we all know. Protections that have been put in place include those for the gingerbread craft of northern Croatia, the beer culture of Belgium and dough-making in Naples. Pizza now stands with Pompeii within a more rounded and comprehensive vision of a heritage and culture worth keeping safe for the world.
Although nothing from the United Kingdom made it on to UNESCO’s new list, certain traditional British foods such as Stilton cheese and the Cornish pasty currently enjoy special designated status under the laws of the European Union. These protections are invaluable; they keep imitational and inferior competition at bay and ensure that authentic products remain in production, safeguarding the past for the future. However, far from restricting our diets to those foods that share our origins, we can today experience a huge range of dishes from around the world. London, where a rich multiculturalism proliferates, offers particularly rich pickings for the culinary adventurer hunting for the next revelation on their one-city global tour. Considering how the multicultural foods that we eat today might be judged far in the future provokes questions regarding the nature of heritage and tradition. How long will apparently ‘foreign’ cuisines be consumed before they can be judged alongside older food customs? Can the eclecticism of what we choose to eat today, and the reimagining of traditional foods with an injection of exotic vitality, be the answer to maintaining a culinary heritage and consolidating it for the decades ahead? In a world as globalised as this, is the production of nation-specific heritages for the future even possible, or will notions of heritage itself become obsolete in the world of everincreasing connectivity that is now emerging, in which everything seems available, everywhere?
ILLUSTRATION BY ANNA SEIBAEK TORP-pedersen
: Heritage and evolution
Trap Takes an Unlikely Turn By Violet Conroy
NEW YORK, 2016: It’s a Wednesday evening in midtown Manhattan’s Playstation Theatre, where 19-year-old rapper Lil Yachty is warming up for hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd. Tonight the 2,100-strong crowd is dominated by a throng of sweaty, teenage boys, most of them white, all anxiously guarding their tight spots in anticipation of their flamehaired idol. Wearing a white wife beater and grey overalls tied around the waist, Yachty enters stage left in an unexpectedly minimalist ensemble. Strolling nonchalantly up and down, the teenager raps off hit after hit with little to no energy, nevertheless satisfying the crowd with his unmistakably nasal drawl of YouTube sensation 1Night. “I know you want this for life/ Taking pictures with all my ice/ But I can’t have no wife”. Wobbling through the deliberately shaky sounds of recently released mixtape Lil Boat, Yachty crouches down, patiently taking selfie after selfie on fans’ phones (a mainstay of 21st century concerts). The performance is almost too lax - that is until A$AP Ferg appears, unannounced, to bark and boom over the cutting synths of ‘Work.’ Only then does Yachty become truly animated, rocking his head back and forth, lipstick-red braids appearing momentarily Medusalike against the white of camera flashes.
image courtesy of Violet COnroy
Fast forward two years and Yachty (otherwise known as Miles McCollum) is now 20 years old. Originating from Atlanta, Georgia - a city the New York Times dubbed as ‘the world’s de facto hip-hop capital’ - McCollum is disarmingly young and wealthy. Forbes estimated his worth at a staggering $11 million; a hugely impressive feat considering the short amount of time he’s been in the game. Yachty is what popular culture defines as a trap artist. He is part of a decade-long Southern hip-hop dynasty, borne out of Atlanta’s ghettos. Today’s trap stars paint a very different, sanitised picture to that of the past. The genre’s popularity is immense, fronted by poster boys such as Migos, Future or Lil Uzi Vert.
Their tremendous wealth is outward to the extent of selfcaricature, and one look at Quality Control’s music video ‘Ice Tray’ confirms this. Adorned in furry coats, Quavo and Yachty wear diamond-encrusted grills and thick chains while, in the background, vast bowls of jewellery are so “icy” they literally let off smoke. A combination of outlandish self-presentation and excessive fame has earned trappers the unlikely status of rock stars. They walk like rock stars and talk like rock stars at a time when the traditional rock star is nowhere to be found in the musical mainstream. So why the radical change in trajectory? Trap’s heritage is undoubtedly complicated. All the more so when acknowledging it as a mere sub-genre of a broader school of music: that of hip-hop. Trap enjoys multiple definitions. The most basic explanation asserts trap as the combination of two genres: hip-hop and dance music ensuring optimum playability on the waves of the radio. The music also revolves around the use of the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer; a drum machine known for its snares, cymbals and booming bass drum. Terminology-wise, trap is not strictly limited to music. Having been adopted from subcultural slang into everyday use, it’s now a word in its own right. One can trap (sell drugs), reside in the trap house (a crack house - also the title of Gucci Mane’s first studio album) or text on a trap phone (a pre-paid cellphone used for drug deals). Trap is everywhere and nowhere all at the same time - appearing in Target TV commercials, dominating the Billboard Hot 100, wafting out of your little brother’s bedroom, totally shunned at this year’s Grammy Awards. i-D Magazine’s Spring 2018 cover star Cardi B articulates contemporary hip-hop’s truly insurmountable influence. “We are controlling the music industry. We control the fashion world. We always influence: We run everything.” Lil Yachty is an anomaly of sorts in the genre to which he belongs. Clean and sober, Mr. McCollum abstains from the substance abuse and gangsterism that characterises much
of Atlanta rap. For instance, on ‘Bank Account’ 21 Savage engages in disengaged verse about murder and capital punishment. “Triple homicide/ Put me in a chair.” In real life he has been shot six times. Another not to shy away from controversy, young rapper Kodak Black has been in and out of jail for a number of charges that include armed robbery, rape, marijuana possession and child neglect. Hip-hop’s landscape is therefore not entirely altered, still retaining its signature darkness. Yachty is outwardly different, disbanding the stereotype of the typical rapper with stubborn charm. Always with one eye on the money, the 20-year-old engages in endorsements for the likes of Sprite and Urban Outfitters, rapping that “positivity is what made us famous” on a soulless advert for Target alongside Carly Rae Jepsen. Musical integrity intact or not, this shameless commercialisation of sound for sale is a far cry from Yachty’s slightly shady past: in 2015 he was arrested on credit-card-fraud charges. Of course, trap does not come without its harsh critics. Traditional hip-hop heads criticise Yachty for a lack of lyricism, for not being hood enough, for being a sellout. Unwittingly strung up as the rep for a new generation of rap, Mr. McCollum is the ultimate divider, either signalling an alien wave of optimism or the erosion of hip-hop’s golden rules. But above all, Lil Yachty a meaningful emblem for the young. Charting out new musical terrain, his detached performance style seems to indicate that fame stumbled upon him, not vice versa. He makes success look effortless. He declares you can be different and still make trap. All you need is a mic, a laptop and most importantly, a trademark look - whether it’s a prominent face birthmark, fiery beaded braids or an ice cream tattoo on the cheek - the choice is yours.
trap takes an unlikely turn
The London Deal
Building Centre, 14 Feb - 22 Mar
by Katherine Lloyd-Hughes
The Linden Hall Studio, based in Deal, is the first professional art gallery to exhibit at The Building Centre. Showcasing a selection of Modern British and contemporary artists from across the country; the exhibition is a perfect example of the flourishing art industry outside of London. The cross-country links displayed through this amalgamation of art from around the country were brought together by M. Corley and Colin Tweedy CEO of the Building Centre, who spoke at Business of Art Society last month with Humphrey Ocean RA (one of the exhibiting artists.) The exhibition is a combination of recent shows the Linden Hall Studio has held over the past few years themed around the idea of Abstract Modern British work, such as that of John Copnall’s late 20th Century works, which were recently investigated at Linden Hall last August. The mix of work shown in the exhibition demonstrations the wide variety of British visual production from the 20th century to the present.
The space at the Building Centre, mainly used to house and express contemporary building innovation, has opened its doors to Modern British art allowing for the connection between the two forms of creation to be merged under the same roof. One of the most esteemed artists on show at the gallery is the work of John Hoyland RA, one of the country’s father figures in abstract artwork. The works shown alongside that of contemporary British abstract artworks, such as ‘Rivoli’ by Mali Morris RA, lifts the space and allows for an appreciation of the new alongside the old. The Gallery will be open until the 22nd of March and is free for entry - I would definitely recommend a visit! However, it has also set a precedent for upcoming shows in this space which is likely to continue to showcase and bring lesser known British artists into the London space.
images courtesy of howard corley
Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic Victoria and Albert Museum, 9 Dec - 8 Apr
illustrated by lucy key-stratton
by eva khan
A light-hearted exhibition investigates the enchanted domain of Winnie-the-Pooh – one of the most cherished literary characters throughout time. As you enter the rooms in which the exhibition is situated, you begin to hear both adult and child voices. You see parents, guardians, aunts and nannies, thoughtfully passing on information about their encounter with the beloved character, which over time has grown from a literary craze into a Disney franchise. Curators – Emma Laws and Annemarie Bilcough, have displayed the works of A.A. Milne’s (author) and E.H. Shepherd’s (illustrator) imagination in a playful way through mixing various media including – photography, animation, film, original illustrations, a thematic porcelain tea set, toys of the era, and inspired memorabilia. I believe that the artefacts displayed were carefully curated within the space, without
overpowering each other. However, looking deeper into the content, one makes out a theme of melancholy, due to the tragic story of Christopher Robin Milne, who was the boy that inspired his playwright-pacifist father to begin the journey into a child’s fantasy. C.R. Milne was in fact a child celebrity, which made him frustrated, choosing not to take any profits from Winnie-the-Pooh, after his father’s death. Nevertheless, my attention was drawn to the fact that the curators chose to showcase some alternative renderings of the illustrations, most notably the Soviet-era adaptation of the story, where the shapes are simplified and the animation is more rustic, but still very full and friendly. Overall, it was a great exhibition – it wasn’t overly dense, yet it gave you a warm and fuzzy feeling, which is very much appreciated during the academic year.
Hayward Gallery, 25 Jan – 22 Apr by Lisa Marzahn
The newly refurbished Hayward Gallery presents an exhibition of the German photographer Andreas Gursky. Gursky explores the themes of time, environment, industry and nature through reassembles and edited combinations of photographs. Andreas Gursky explores themes ranging from time, environment and industry to nature.
It thereby leads the viewer from his early works, through the general themes and manipulative techniques in his work.
Andreas Gursky’s photographs are manipulations of the world in order to be a better or more exact representation of reality. He states: “reality can only be shown by constructing it”. Still, he wants the viewer to find their own meaning in his work, where he alludes to the problems of the world without abandoning the beauty and complexity behind it.
The Gallery further allows the different photographs to work by themselves by only occasionally providing additional text on the white walls. The majority of the information is in a little booklet which allows one to put more emphasis on the photographs, rather than the context an exhibition inevitably puts artworks in. The nature of the Hayward Gallery also adds its effect, with no clear order of entering rooms and ascending stairs, detaching the artworks from necessarily being connected to each other, to impact more freely and independently.
Gursky’s photographs are an experience by themselves. Their huge scale, glaring colours and in many cases hypnotic abundance of detail tower in front of the viewer. The Hayward Gallery maintains the photographs as experiences, by only loosely sorting them under a chronological thread.
Andreas Gursky’s photographs are impressive reflections on different aspects of our time, but also on the medium of photography itself. The Hayward Gallery offers a wide view of his work and interests while leaving space to explore and immerse oneself in them and the message they entail.
Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography National Portrait Gallery, 1 Mar - 20 May by Jane Coombs
The Victorians lived in a world flooded with new optical instruments and physiological investigations, provoking anxiety about technological progress and the nature of beauty. Early photographers – like Julia Margaret Cameron, Lewis Carroll, Clementina Harwarden and Oscar Rejlander – faced these issues head-on when experimenting with a fledgling medium. This exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, however, emphasises composition over novelty, pushing its audience to consider these photographers, shown together for the first time, as artists akin to painters. While iconic portraits of celebrities like Tennyson and Rossetti fit the gallery setting, the emotive ‘art photographs’ featuring ordinary figures provoke the freshest ideas. Remarkably, their stylised backdrops and quietened narratives echo the rhythms and motifs of later Aesthetic Movement paintings. Rejlander, for instance, uses the myth of Iphigenia as a mere vehicle for capturing the sensuous beauty of a woman draped in fabric, whilst Hawarden plays with doubling and mirroring in the domestic sphere. Indeed, |SEE NO.2
the most theatrical pictures are scientific: in 1872, Darwin commissioned a series of wildly animated self-portraits from Rejlander for his study of facial expressions. The interactive displays are subtle and effective. Pinned beneath a stereoscopic photograph is a pair of lenses enabling the viewer to see twinned images combine in 3D, while a short video demonstrates the laborious wet-plate collodian process used to create these mid-century images. Stimulating, too, are the rarely exhibited glass negatives of Carroll and Rejlander, illuminated at the press of button. While the final image, a portrait of Robert Browning, is speckled with star-like dust marks, it is Cameron’s photograph of the astronomer John Herschel which feels the most transcendent. His arresting gaze cutting through the soft focus, this pioneer of photographic technology, called ‘High Priest’ by Cameron, seems to reach out across time, as if challenging us to reconsider the possibilities of a medium he helped to create. reviews
‘Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, England, is the Louvre of the pebble’ - Ian Hamilton Finlay illustrated by tessa carr
by rosie ellison-balaam
Kettle’s Yard was created in 1956 by Jim and Helen Ede, it was their home. Jim, a Tate curator and Helen, an art teacher. Their legacy is still contained in the four workman’s cottages that notch together down the side of Castle Hill in Cambridge. It is an example of how we can live with art; art does not have to be confined to the austerity of a gallery, placed on a plinth, or displayed in a gilded frame. Art can be intermixed with natural objects; pebbles and feathers situated alongside Windsor chairs and Alfred Wallis paintings. Jim Ede on inheriting a Rembrandt, gave it away, only keeping its frame. We can see that Kettle’s Yard is not a place for trophy art - it is a place of finding connections; through finding balance and continuity, in both the made and found.
and the Arts Council, among others. The development was undertaken by Jamie Fobert Architects, to create an education wing and a new entrance area, which includes a shop and cafe. The house was not affected during the galleries restoration. However nice the cafe and shop are, the exhibition space is no larger or inviting than it was two years ago. The current exhibition, ‘ACTIONS’, is disappointing as the collection of Bloomsbury and St. Ives artists struggles alongside large, bold pieces of contemporary film and photography. We lose the thoughtful balance of Jim’s vision. He always insisted Kettle’s Yard was not a gallery but a space, but sadly today it looks like all other contemporary galleries.
Kettle’s Yard is a home, connected to a modern gallery space. Both spaces were closed at the end of 2015 for a two-year renovation project; funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund
illustrated by rosie fitter
contents | cover page illustration
Pascale de Graaf ucu strike
2 ‘It’s not about you’ Matthew Page 3 Lily Evans-Hill 4 Patricia Manor 5 Alfred Pasternack 7 Nadia Stern Rebecca Morris 8 Tennessee Williams features
9 Introduction to Features Hana Nihill & Fred Shan 10 The Art of Destruction Naomi Polonsky 13 ‘An Icon Reborn’ Matthew Page 17 Cucumbers, Coal and the Curriculum Ellen Charlesworth 20 Returning to the Philippines Marv Recinto 24 ‘History’, ‘Unscripted’ Lukas Hall
march 2018 interviews
28 The Great Spectacle Jane Simpkiss 31 The Wallace Collection Lorna Tiller 34 The Buildings of the Courtauld Tessa Carr Object
38 Object No.2 Elizabeth Craig Columns
40 Food: Heritage and Evolution Joe Brewer 42 Trap Takes and Unlikely Turn Violet Conroy Reviews
44 The London Deal Katherine Lloyd-Hughes 46 Winnie-the-Pooh Eva Khan 47 Andreas Gursky Lisa Marzahn Victorian Guards Jane Coombs 48 ‘Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, England, is the Louvre of the Pebble’ Rosie Ellison-Balaam
Editor-in-chief Matthew Page
Reviews Editor Tilly Spink
Deputy Editor Anja Quant-Epps
Sub-Editors Imogen Aldridge and Tessa Carr
Head of Illustrations Anna Seibaek Torp-Pedersen
Social Media Thalia Weigel
Features Editors Hana Nihill and Fred Shan
Graphic Designer Julia Craze
Interviews Editors Jane Simpkiss and Lorna Tiller
Assistant Graphic Designer Farah Dianputri
see : two 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.
The second issue of SEE is themed around ideas of heritage and features an editorial on the UCU strike.