Issue 1 | May 2019 | Anchovy | FREE
Beneath the Surface: Art and Visual Culture
ISSUE 1 CONTENTS 03
The Train Track and the Basket: Interpreting Transmigration Within a Site-responsive Practice Claire Barber
Access and the Arts - Kenn Taylor
Editorial - Jill Howitt Criticality - Lauren Velvick
Thought-provoking - Michelle Dee
Artist Statement - Lorraine Cooke
Fish n’ Crits
European Port Cities and Cultural Mega Events Enrico Tommarchi
Moving Moments and Moving Forward Barbara Grabher
A Posthumous Conversation about Black Art Amanda Holiday
The Third Space - Karim Skalli
Art vs Design: A Conversation Worth Having Lydia Caprani & Josh Williams
A Provocation - Inspiring Voices: A Challenge to Young Artists Professor Peter Renshaw
Celebrating Ted Lewis, an Artistic Polymath Monty Martin
On the Fish Trail in Hull - Mary Aherne
HOUSE & CHAIN - Maja Spasova
End-itorial - Lauren Saunders
Reconstructing Duccio - Lesley Kerman Making Things Happen - Simon Carter
‘The Fly-in-the-Soup’: Form, Politics and the Authorial Presence in Sean McAllister’s Documentaries Lee Freeman
Artist in the Middle Processing - Joseph Cox
Issue 1 | Anchovy | May 2019
The Critical Fish is a collaborative project which promotes critical and accessible writing about arts and visual culture.
Welcome to the first, or ‘Anchovy’, issue of The Critical Fish, or Fish for short. The name Fish reflects our intention to look beneath the surface of how things appear as well as referencing Hull’s industrial heritage. More tangibly we are connecting with Gordon Young’s Fish Trail (1992).I This trail, which navigates the viewer around the streets, alleys, watersides, and boardwalks of Hull, consists of representations of 26 species of fish and invertebrates, one for each letter of the alphabet (and one for each of our first 26 issues). Glass, brick, steel, bronze, stone and wooden fish are carved, engraved, set or burnt into different surfaces around the city, often in relation to the sites in which they sit. We also have aspirations to navigate, inform and connect to histories, to take our readers to new places or present the familiar in a new light. Recently we have heard about the controversy surrounding the threat to Alan Boyson’s fish mural inside the old Co-Op/BHS building, Hull, comprising of large carved ceramic tiles. There are currently campaigns afoot to preserve this mural alongside another internal one and the external ‘Ships in the Sky’.II It is helpful to have these examples of public art in the background as we introduce Fish in more detail; as public, shared and inclusive conversation is at the heart of what we are aiming for.
Centered on Hull, The Critical Fish supports creativity and culture in the region but is also outward facing, inviting contributions and ideas from further afield. This journal is a forum for debate; connecting artists, writers, organisations and audiences through cultural conversations. Commissioners: Jill Howitt Lauren Saunders Editors: Michael Barnes-Wynters Jay Drinkall Barnaby Haran Design: Joseph Cox
Fish emerged from the conversations that began in the lead up to and the experiences of 2017 when Hull launched its City of Culture; a whirlwind of events that sparked debate in venues across the city with questions about how art or culture benefits individuals, communities and places: what is art, who takes part and how?III We felt these discussions had barely begun and that a publication to promote conversation and criticality could be a way to continue. Recognising this we proceeded by applying (successfully) to Arts Council England and the Hull City Arts Unit for funding and by establishing a steering group who generously helped us shape the project, write an editorial policy and publish a ‘Call for Articles’.
Contributors: Rebecca Addinell, Mary Aherne, Claire Barber, Lydia Caprani, Simon Carter, Lorraine Cooke, Monty Martin, Michelle Dee, Lee Freeman, Barbara Grabher, Dom Heffer, Jennifer Hewson, Amanda Holiday, Lesly Kerman, Jamie Potter, Patrick Leonard, Peter Renshaw, Karim Skalli, Maja Spasova, Kenn Taylor, Enrico Tommarchi, Lauren Velvick, Josh Williams, Adam Wilson.
Discussions with writers, artists and our steering group helped us articulate our underlying aims. We want to create opportunities for new work, and connect artists/writers with organisations and audiences. We aim to work with artists/writers at different stages in their careers. In this issue we have articles by recent graduates alongside pieces by experienced and published writers. We also want to promote creative practice and critical writing in Hull and the region whilst being outward facing and relevant beyond the city and the east coast. In this we were guided by the 50:50 principle, which I first heard about in a presentation
Say hello: thecriticalfish
Photo credit: OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP)
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We are also keen to feature playful and experimental writing. One of the joys of having Fish as a title is the opportunity for puns. Words have sounds, appearances, shapes, sometimes colours and textures as well as literary meaning, and so we would like to include contributions that play with their multimodality. To this end one of our regular items will be a writer/visual artist collaboration, tasked with exploring this border territory between words and pictures. In this issue we commissioned Josh Williams and Lydia Caprani, who have explored through image and text the relationship between art and design.
Above and right: Detail from ‘The Fish Trail’, Hull Gordon Young and Why Not Associates, 1992
by Deveron Projects in Huntly, Scotland. We thought, as a rough guide, half of the contributions should be local and half from further afield. But it’s worth drawing attention to the principle in full – that socially engaged practice should be a 50:50 balance between:
‘ARTIST / COMMUNITY: IDEALS / REALITY: TENSION / SOLUTION: LOCAL / GLOBAL: HOME / AWAY, but also: HOSPITALITY / CRITICALITY: CONTEMPORARY / TRADITIONAL: YOUNG / OLD: OUT / IN’.IV We also thought carefully about the visuality of Fish. From the outset we have worked closely with designer Joe Cox to create a visual identity, cues and navigation. In this issue there are features that we hope will become part and parcel of future publications; each magazine stands alone but there are also threads and conversations that run between them. In each issue we would like to feature the work of an emerging artist or designer – as a pull out centre insert that we call the ‘Artist in the Middle’. So that each magazine brings with it an art work that can be removed and collected. Joe has produced the first design in the series.
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Again we find inspiration in the Fish Trail. Young is best known for his text pieces, giant cast or carved typographic forms.V The Fish Trail is largely pictorial, but there are words and phrases and Young plays with the sounds, appearances, meanings and building blocks (A-Z) of language: ‘The fish pavement in Hull was the job where image and text appeared… I liked the fact that text had emerged. That’s when the text penny dropped’.VI He uses well-known names for species of fish alongside unfamiliar words like ‘viviparous’, ‘blenny’ and ‘yawling’ which are fun to say out loud. ‘Place’ and ‘plaice’ are homonyms and substituting one for the other is a Duchampian strategy. ‘Blistering Barnacles’ is one of several examples of alliteration.VII In places the viewer follows the letters/words rather than pictures, so that walking left to right coincides with reading.VIII Some of our writers have fun with words – in Amanda Holiday’s imagined interview with the dead artist Donald Rodney he assumes that Vantablack must be a person, rather than a black pigment and Mary Aherne presents us with a tongue twisting, alliterating response to Young in her poem, On the Fish Trail in Hull. So how do we write about art and visual culture? Especially from this no man’s land between the visual and the verbal. Historically art writing or ekphrasis was literary, poetic and descriptive.
Susannah Thompson suggests that recent art writing has ‘tentatively embraced hybrid forms, melding fiction, theory and history’; ‘narrative shifts’ that are a response to ‘dogmatic, prescriptive’ ways of writing that perhaps developed with modernism.IV In this issue we have included creative, critical and experimental writing and intend to pursue these expanded forms in the future. However, we do want to develop collaborative writing and conversations alongside single author pieces. This is one of our ‘things’. Lauren and I wrote a review in the form of a conversation for The Double Negative in response to ‘Place to Place’, an exhibition of art works from the Liverpool Biennial, at Humber Street Gallery.X For this issue we have conducted and transcribed an old style art school ‘crit’ in response to Kamila Ženatá’s exhibition at Beverley Art Gallery. This was facilitated by artist and writer Dom Heffer and transcribed by one of our volunteers. Conversations like this will never produce a focused, structured, resolved argument but there is so much to be gained from sharing experiences and responses. How else can we move on from our own perspective? We intend for this to be a regular aspect of Fish. The conversation that we didn’t initiate but which we were delighted to receive was the imagined one between Holiday and Rodney. I have a very strong memory of seeing Rodney’s In the House of My Father (1997) at Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, as part of a travelling show from the Arts Council Collection. The work is a large photograph of a tiny fragile house cradled in the palm of an outstretched hand. The precarious structure is made from Rodney’s own skin, removed during hospital visits as he underwent treatment for sickle cell anaemia. There is something about the inversion of scale and strength that has stayed with me. This dialogue with the late artist has also grown on me. At first it
seemed a little wacky and eccentric: but isn’t this what we all do when we visit galleries and museums? With Amanda’s permission this could also become a regular feature! Our emphasis on conversation and collaboration draws on Grant Kester’s ‘Dialogical Aesthetics’ which he proposes is ‘an active, generative process that can help us speak and imagine beyond the limits of fixed identities and official discourse’. XI In future we would like to explore interdisciplinary collaborations. For this issue we decided on two feature articles to represent our two key principles. Lauren Velvick, from Humber Street Gallery, Hull, has written about criticality and Kenn
Taylor, a creative director, also from Hull, has written about accessibility. For some these two intentions are incompatible – but we disagree! Lauren highlights the uncertainty of what is meant by criticality, and calls for us to go about the job of being critical ‘with care and rigour’. She reminds us that as artists and writers we are sharing or ‘making public’ ideas, opinions and experiences and describes criticality as a ‘communal project’. This echoes one of my favourite definitions from Arlene Raven: ‘the critical context is part of the concept of community, the
community that consists of artist and audience’.XII Lauren’s practice (writing, curating…) is upbeat and loaded with enquiry. It strikes me that she creates a balance, in keeping with the 50:50 principle outlined earlier; notable between ‘tension and solution’ and ‘hospitality and criticality’; in keeping open a space of possibility and risk taking. Michelle Dee also asks calls for rigour and criticality in her featured poem, Thought-provoking. This sense of culture (and its commentaries) being our shared/ communal property is reiterated in Kenn’s article about accessibility. He reminds us how the art establishment and education at all levels are failing us, in that participation in the arts
is less and less available to all. As we despair at this ‘top down’ failure, I am drawn to the power and potential of the ‘vast ecosystem’ of local and grassroots art, community and activist groups. Hull, in common with other towns and cities, has arts organisations that have worked with local communities for decades. Kenn’s plea for equality of opportunity is echoed in his work in the fields of diversity and disability. In his new book Francois Matarasso discusses community arts: ‘unknown to critics or the media, they are the foundations on which more celebrated
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work stands, the crucible in which new and radical ideas are forged’.XIII In this spirit, The Critical Fish are pleased to highlight and promote Venture Arts’ collaborative work ‘Other Transmissions’ and ‘Conversations Series 11’ (Artlink 29 March - 22 July 2019). In inviting contributions for Fish we created three categories: long and medium length articles, shorter reports, and visual contributions. Lee Freeman interviews and examines Sean McAllister’s work in depth, including A Northern Soul, which was filmed throughout 2017. Lee explores this work alongside other films by McAllister, which give a voice to marginalised people and challenge conventions within documentary making and assumptions about class. Both McAllister and Steve Arnott, the main protagonist in A Northern Soul, are from Hull and are producers of film and music. A spectacle like City of Culture often positions local people as consumers of culture (produced by external artists); whereas perhaps the 50:50 (‘home/ away’) principle is worth considering here. Another application of this principle might be found in Lee’s characterisation of McAllister’s role as an external observer at the same time as being inside and involved with the characters and events that he films. Lee also describes McAllister’s democratic and anti-authoritarian relationship with the viewer by creating a space, ‘for the audience to draw their own political conclusions from the film’. The articles by Claire Barber and Karim Skalli concern the authors’ own practices. Barber unravels The Train Track and the Basket, her public art work for Hull Paragon Station. This commemorates the historical route of transmigration from Eastern Europe to America, and the woven baskets containing personal belongings, carried by migrants as they passed through Hull, often escaping persecution and prejudice. I’ve always liked this work because 6 | EDITORIAL | JILL HOWITT
of its relevance nowadays and for its celebration of history and identity through connection. I’m now able to think about the hurried, uncertain, meandering paths trodden across Paragon Station as part of a larger dance or performance as well as picturing individuality and community in terms of the distinct threads in a piece of woven material. We were really drawn to Karim’s photography. He too examines the relationship between place, culture and identity, and his own mixed heritage, ‘between designations of identity’. He explores the concept of a hybrid third space, which he likens to an intersection between sets in a Venn diagram.XIV In his photo essay The Third Space Karim interrogates complex and pressing issues. The purpose of our short report category is to give researchers an opportunity to share and test work in progress, for artists to discuss an aspect or example of their work and for organisations to promote upcoming events. The City of Culture year provided a focus for academic expertise centred around the ‘Culture, Place and Policy Institute’ at Hull University, headed by Franco Bianchini. This has provided a rich research culture, and conversations about the relationship between culture and place in the city have been enhanced and informed by the methods and perspectives of disciplines such as anthropology, social and cultural policy, and geography. We have reports by researchers involved or associated with the Institute. Enrico Tommarchi outlines his research in to the role of culture in port cities and Barbara Grabher reports on her investigation of cultural events and their potential to create ‘cultures of equality’ as explored in her film Moving Moments. We have included an example of Lorraine Cooke’s landscape painting and an excerpt from her artist statement. Reading this reminds me how acutely visual artists write
about nature (especially those who work from observation) and the complex ways that making marks and working with materials can express and represent things seen and experienced in ‘the real world’. We have also featured the performance HOUSE & CHAIN by Maja Spasova, in which she walks the streets dragging behind her a model of a house, attached to her ankle. This is such a powerful statement that will unfold differently in each viewer’s/participant’s imagination. Walking as art is a potent act that highlights different freedoms and experiences of the city. In Hull during 2017 conversations took place regarding artist interventions in housing issues and the processes of gentrification.XV In this issue I love the connection between Rodney’s precarious skin house and Maja’s heavy burden; where the artists dwarf their house structures and highlight intimate, personal and fragile relationships to home, as well as signposting broader social issues. I am delighted to include a short report on Lesley Kerman’s current exhibition and the publication of her new book Reconstructing Duccio. Lesley was a student in Newcastle, taught by Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton (when he was reconstructing Duchamp’s Large Glass), and my Art History tutor when I was at art college. Fish is co produced with Lauren Saunders, my own ex student. I am fascinated by the threads and influences that connect us through our art school educations. We have a report on another book, Inspiring Voices: A Challenge to Young Artists, by Professor Peter Renshaw, due to be published later this year. Peter’s interview with Lauren is featured in this book, which is packed with interviews, conversations and support for young artists as he navigates the challenges faced by the next generation of creatives and change makers.
Leading up to our ‘Call for Articles’ Lauren and I visited galleries in Hull, Barton, Bridlington, Beverley and Scarborough and met with artists, and writers. Much has been written about the role of culture in a place – but this can be quite city focused. Each place has its own traditions, networks and relationship with culture and we would like Fish to reflect and represent this diversity. Monty Martin, who we met at the Ropewalk in Barton-uponHumber, has presented a report about the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the release of Get Carter, written by Ted Lewis who comes from Barton. We also have an article by Simon Carter about ‘British Contemporary Painting’, which is another kind community or collective of artists working to promote their work and establish dialogue. This is an inspiring story: BCP was a response to a perceived lack of interest in painting, a medium with a kind of second class status, and has largely developed without institutional funding or support. Throughout this editorial I have made reference to future issues, ongoing themes and regular articles. In fact Fish as an ongoing concern is by no means certain. But I will leave it to Lauren to discuss this future in her closing remarks, and to explain how anyone can become more involved. She will also thank and acknowledge all the organisations and individuals who’ve supported us. I’ll just sneak in a special thanks to Gordon Young, our steering group, our editorial team, everyone who spared time to talk to us or provide hospitality at their venues, and especially to Lauren and Joe. I’d like to recognize the moments of friendship and generosity that have underpinned this project, which is indicative of the way that an informal network of creative individuals and organisations often work together to mutual benefit. When I first started writing about art I found the main thing I had to do was spend time with it, look or listen harder, stay longer than I would normally. This extra attention rewards with surprises and insights and a stronger connection to the work under review. The same thing is true of editing: the necessity to read more carefully, to ‘devote conscientious attention’, to inhabit texts, ideas, dreams and opinions for a while.XVI So a final thanks to our writers and artists who have shared and made public their inner and private worlds.
ENDNOTES I The Fish Trail was produced by Gordon Young and Why Not Associates, commissioned by Hull City Council, managed by Humberside Arts and sponsored by Seven Seas ltd. II Artist Esther Johnson in conjunction with ‘Untold Hull’ is heading a project to commemorate the murals and the building, comprising a film, oral histories and an exhibition; see: https://shipsinthesky.weebly.com III The ‘Double Negative’ magazine which features ‘art criticism and cultural commentary’ in Liverpool and the North West emerged from 2008 and Liverpool’s year as European City of Culture. IV Deveron Projects is a socially engaged arts organisation who connect ‘artists, communities and places’ see: https://www.deveron-projects.com/ about/5050-principle V For example The Comedy Carpet (2011), Blackpool. VI See: Siddique, John, ‘I’m playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order! In conversation with Gordon Young’ in Sutcliffe, Mark (ed), The Comedy Carpet Blackpool, Booth Clibborn Editions, 2013 p.24. VII On the trail there is a sandstone plaice in the market place and by the Minerva Hotel there is a haddock carved into black Belgian Carboniferous limestone with the words ‘blistering barnacles’; a reference to the Belgium cartoon Tin Tin and the character Captain Haddock. VIII The words ‘electropus’ and ‘electrocus’ are carved in to large stones that lead the viewer from Ghandi Way on to Alfred Gelder St. IX See Susannah Thompson’s abstract for her paper to be delivered at the Association of Art Historian’s conference 2019 entitled ‘The Uncut Thread: Art history as narrative’, available at: https://forarthistory.org.uk/our-work/ conference/2019-annual-conference/fiction-with-footnotes-writing-arthistory-as-literary-practice/ X The conversation/review is available at: http://www.thedoublenegative. co.uk/2019/02/place-to-placeliverpool-biennial-in-hull/ and on our own website http://www.thecriticalfish.co.uk XI Kester, Grant, ‘Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in SociallyEngaged Art’ in Kucor, Zoya and Leung, Simon (eds), Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985, Blackwell, 2005. Available at: http://www. publicart.usf.edu/CAM/exhibitions/2008_8_Torolab/Readings/Conversation_ PiecesGKester.pdf XII Raven, Arlene, ‘Word of Honour’ in Lacy, Suzanne (ed), Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, Bay Press, 1994. XIII Matarasso, Francois, A Restless Art, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, London. p.25. XIV Venn diagrams were introduced by John Venn from Hull in 1880. XV During 2017 Ground (Hull) hosted conversation events with Louis Schultz from Assemble and Stephen Pritchard, amongst many others. XVI See Lauren Velvick’s essay on criticality.
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Critic One of the generally agreed upon ingredients needed for a potent art scene is criticality. It’s also generally agreed upon that barely anybody is managing to stimulate criticality as well as they should. As a sometimeart critic I’ve been asked a few times to speak on this issue, or to run art criticism workshops and the like. Having thought about it from the perspective of reviewer, curator and artist I’ve decided that before trying to do criticism, or exercise criticality, it’s important to put some effort into taking criticism: to think about what is happening when an artist exhibits their work, and to consider the relationship between artist, object and viewer. Who in this scenario holds power over the others, and what is it reasonable to expect in return when you make your work or your opinion public? With this publication, established in an area with comparatively little provision for making and exhibiting art, we have a rare chance to approach the trouble of criticality with care and rigour. This will mean operating with kindness and empathy, but not valuing niceness above honesty. It will also mean accepting and making an effort to learn from the awkward, difficult and sometimes hurtful things that can happen when you make
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yourself vulnerable and try to reach new understandings. Nonetheless, while we might be relatively isolated from UK art world hubs like London and Glasgow, we aren’t operating in a vacuum, and with this in mind there are decisions to be made.
From the most provincial artist-led posse to the enormous sums of money being laundered through the duty-free art market, there are rules to learn, games to play, and trajectories that can be sought and recreated in order to manufacture
With this publication, established in an area with comparatively little provision for making and exhibiting art, we have a rare chance to approach the trouble of criticality with care and rigour.
L A U R E N V E LV I C K
a certain kind of art world success. If they want to, visual artists can appropriate trends faster than they can be documented, glide on the triumph of good press from a few powerful tastemakers, and if this is the goal then little else matters. However, I don’t think this is what we need to talk about here, not least because the best way to succeed in the above formulation is to start off rich and well connected. Operating in bad faith and valuing accolades above integrity is boring, especially considering what could be achieved by valuing and practicing criticality in pursuit of a better understanding of ourselves, other people and other things. Criticality is a communal project, and no one comment or review can constitute a full stop on an issue. Ever since I became aware of art criticism as a practice there’s been a perpetual discourse taking place at Tate conferences and in expensive academic books about whether it is dead, in crisis, useless or all three. Simultaneously I’ve observed the benefit to artists of having someone devote conscientious attention to their work, and I say benefit because even a fit of defensive anger can cultivate other, better ways of communicating.
There are numerous stereotypes associated with critics, most of them negative, and to get a handle on why this is it’s a good idea to consider when, and why the critic as we imagine them now came into being. The origins of modern art criticism are usually traced to Denis Diderot (1713-84) who was responding to the art being created and displayed in the Salons of Paris, at a time when art’s function and display was shifting from royal and religious commissions to exhibitions as we think of them now. Three hundred years later, speaking about her book How to Write About Contemporary Art, Gilda Williams describes a photograph from the first Salon d’Automne in Paris, 1903, where it appears that a gaggle of critics are having to be held back from the paintings on display, Williams says ‘They are all holding pointy umbrellas, which look like bayonets – they look like they are going to just rip the artworks to shreds. There are no artists, just the handlers, bringing the paintings in like lambs to slaughter’.I This conception of the critic as somebody who arrives once all the work has been done, to place themself above the artist and pass judgement with pomp and nonchalance still prevails with surprising tenacity. Undoubtedly,
at certain times and within certain milieu there have been critics whose opinions held such sway that they could make or break an artist’s career. There are currently a few ‘big-name’ critics whose like or dislike of an exhibition or artwork ripples outwards across programming meetings and art fairs, affecting whether the artist in question is offered further opportunities and lucrative sales. This isn’t the sort of criticism I’m bothered about, though, and if studying art history taught me anything, it’s that canons are written, not discovered, and a well known art-story can be debunked any time. Just look at Duchamp and his invention of the readymade that kicked off modern art as we know it, or was it Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven sharing her wild ideas with ambitious Surrealists? We need sustained and collaborative criticality in order to reckon with the past and to figure out the future.
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Williams cites Fountain (1917), and the readymade more generally as a pivotal moment in art criticism because this work, amongst the many other things it did, made explicit the elitist gatekeeping that surrounded, and still surrounds the visual arts. Williams describes how ‘the artwork became language-dependent. This also created a kind of rite of initiation – learning the magic words that make the art meaningful’.II Although here she’s referring specifically to the readymade in the context of the Society of Independent Artists’ Salon in 1917, I think this concept of rites and magic words can now be expanded to encompass most of what constitutes contemporary art as well as other creative forms. Williams goes on to state that ‘of course there are an infinite number of potential frameworks’ through which we can analyse and discuss art, presenting this flexibility as something positive, and generative, which doesn’t acknowledge the frustratingly outsize role that entitlement plays in someone’s ability to conceive of and apply these critical frameworks. It goes without saying, but here it’s relevant to restate, that the cultural and intellectual life of the UK is tied up with outdated and actively unethical hierarchies that serve to implicitly and explicitly exclude most
people, particularly those without access to capital, whether monetary or cultural. This has created a situation where contemporary art and other experimental forms of creativity are viewed by many as a trick meant to catch them out, a form of emperor’s new clothes, or a puzzle to be solved and then forgotten. The rhetorical devices that tend to be used by artists and art professionals don’t help, and the fact that the majority of art professionals hail from a privileged background exacerbates this. In his essay ‘Why is Art Met With Disbelief? It’s Too Much Like Magic’ Jan Verwoert suggests that art challenges viewers’ conceptions of their own status, whether this be high or low, and in turn all hierarchies of value; ‘Changing someone’s idea of status and value is difficult.III Because they tend to defend this idea as if their
life depended on it. In some sense it actually does. People will have taken existential decisions and given their lives a direction based on standards of status and value that seemed desirable or without alternative at the time. Art then presents a potential threat, as it shows that there are indeed alternatives to the standards on which their existences are built’.IV Verwoert goes on to warn against grasping at whatever current trend bestows instant legitimacy, and becoming a defensive, secondguessing know-it-all; ‘the point is to cast the demon of status out, so that, next time you meet the demon, their voice is not also coming from the back of your own head, but clearly only from the person confronting you, articulating their
beliefs and fears, not yours’.V While Verwoert chooses to use vaguely sillysounding, grandiose language, what he’s calling for is an open-hearted and kind engagement with the criticality of others, an acknowledgement of their complex inner lives and singular histories that need to be approached with curiosity and good faith instead of being dismissed out of hand. In this spirit, of refusing to defend the status-structure of the artworld and instead celebrating it’s volatility, in 2012 online journal Triple Canopy published an essay by Alix Rule and David Levine called ‘International Art English’, attempting to name and quantify a phenomenon in the writing
around art.VI The essay launched a slew of responses and discussions, which is indicative of the role that writing, language, documentation and criticality play in the visual arts, and has since gone on to be published as an e-book by E-Flux. This is a little ironic given that the fuel for Rule and Levine’s argument were the press releases that are published by artists and institutions via the E-Flux newsletter, but art is evercapable of regurgitating complaints as compliments. IAE describes a vocabulary and grammatical form that has been, and still is to some extent pervasive across the international art world, combining sentence structure taken from academic philosophy with recently coined terms that are deployed to flatter and intimidate, whilst being obscure enough that few would have the wherewithal to question them. There’s plenty to pick apart in the original IAE essay, and the
conversations that it sparked are, I think, more interesting and valuable than the piece itself. Significantly, this episode illustrates how naming an issue, even imperfectly, can be the catalyst for a deeper and more rigorous discourse. It is tempting, as Verwoert articulated, to want to disavow contemporary art’s reputation for being pretentious and purposefully indecipherable, but this would be trivial without a consideration of the wider societal context we find ourselves in; where the idea of education for education’s sake has been all but assassinated, and anti-intellectualism is rife. This is to say that in order to foment and maintain a communal practice of criticality we have to simultaneously remain open-hearted and assume good faith, whilst also understanding that we are both subject and party to inequalities and injustices. This is not simple or easy, it requires introspection and care, and it never ends, but the feeling of understanding something new for the first time, or of finally working out why something was annoying you is worth it. Lawrence Alloway, an art critic and member of the ‘Independent Group’ who sought to challenge prevailing (and as they saw it, elitist) modernist aesthetics in the 1950s and 60s acknowledged art criticism as a transitory form. In an interview in 1973, Alloway referred to his approach as ‘short-term art history’, which he described as ‘a provisional, tentative, as-I-see-itat-the-present-moment history’.VII This is a helpful formulation and one that, in my experience, bears out. To finish I want to cite an example of how a little criticality exercised in the form of one short review can echo on through future conversations and cultural encounters. In 2017 I reviewed an exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, for Art Monthly. This exhibition was notable because it had been cancelled; the artist had found insurmountable roadblocks to exhibiting their work
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after having been invited, and decided to present their first institutional UK show as a cancellation, rather than compromise further. This was obviously controversial and played into the stereotype of contemporary artists as dry, arrogant and ungenerous, which is part of why I was so eager to cover it because this wasn’t how the empty gallery had come across to me. For this review I received a written complaint, sent to the magazine, which took issue with how I hadn’t conducted further research into the council-run institution and how this cancellation was allowed to happen. Receiving this complaint was instrumental in pushing me to consider the labour relations inherent in my position as a jobbing reviewer, after all, why hadn’t I conducted an investigation into GoMA’s commissioning policies and governance for my review? Well, because it was an 800 word review that I was being paid £100 for, not nearly enough for the time it would’ve taken to research and chase up leads. In this way, my initial review was incomplete, but that readers found issue with it revealed expectations that did not accurately reflect the material realities of working as an art critic, for example the expectation that I was employed by the magazine I wrote for, and that I did not have other demands on my time and attention. Subsequently the artist who was the subject of this review, Marlie Mul, has commissioned further writing to reflect upon the experience and exhibition, whereby writers Linda Stupart and Georgia Horgan have used responses contemporaneous with the cancelled exhibition to inform their own reflections. In turn, this publication has refreshed and enriched my assessment of the exhibition and its context. A reciprocal criticality like this is the epitome of what I hope for in throwing my work and opinions out into the word, that they will spark an analysis I didn’t consider, and that’s also my hope for this new publication.
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ENDNOTES I The interview with Gilda Williams is available at: http:// tohumagazine.com/article/how-or-not-write-aboutcontemporary-art-interview-gilda-williams Williams refers to her book How to Write about Contemporary Art, Thames and Hudson, 2014. II Ibid. III Verwoert, Jan, ‘Why is Art Met With Disbelief? It’s Too Much Like Magic’ in Rehberg, Vivian Sky and Slater, Marnie (eds) Cookie, Stemberg Press, Berlin, 2014. IV Ibid, p.93. V Ibid, p.95. VI Available at: http://www.canopycanopycanopy.com/contents/ internationalart-english-ebook VII Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/ tate-papers/16/mapping-the-field-lawrence-alloway-artcriticism-asinformation
Thought-provoking Talk about the tone, the texture, the intent behind the paint: the psyche of the artist wielding the knife carving ideas into shape. Refer to brush strokes if you must but never describe this canvas as ‘thought-provoking’ What thought? What provocation? Put it into words, dig deeper, work harder, I must know. A dancer moves with purpose and poise driven to the edge of madness by detail and presentation. Such grace to turn the head of the dullest soul, languishing on the back row. So how could such mystical power, be reduced to thought-provoking? What thought? What provocation? Put it into words, dig deeper, work harder, I must know. A poet gives up their heart, prising perfectly wild verse form inside of themselves. From page to stage the author’s soul stripped, lying naked and quivering before you, and all you can muster is thought-provoking. What thought? What provocation? Put it into words. Please. Dig deeper, work harder, I must know. Cuz right now thought-provoking won’t cut it. MICHELLE DEE
Lorraine Cooke: Artist Statement I explore aspects of our relationship with the environment, developing ideas within the context of ‘inscape’. I have used the banana plantations of the Cypriot villages Lemba and Kissonerga as a vehicle to communicate a psychological response to landscape. The banana plantations of these villages are of interest to me for several reasons, the first being that this agricultural landscape was completely new to me on arrival in Cyprus and as I discovered is a relatively new phenomenon to Cyprus too. My personal discovery of this landscape suggested concepts of the ‘uncanny’ – a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be familiar yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange. My imagery is an amalgamation of forms recorded through studies made directly in the plantation. I investigate positive and negative shapes, organic forms and perspective as defined by the changing light, juxtaposed with amorphous forms which are derivative of microscopic and organic life and used as a metaphor for our existence; evoking both a sense of the real and the surreal. The ambiguous spaces suggest a psychological space as opposed to any view or vista found in the landscape; aesthetically they present a synthesis of natural holistic rhythm, suggesting a meditative state. The images are not just abstract but allude to a higher awareness of reality. There is a visual layering which requires navigation, the eye first takes in the overall dynamism and then focuses on the details and intricacy of line, as well as referencing appropriate symbolism. Many of the paintings undergo a lengthy process of collaging mono
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printed imagery with tissue paper and over painting with acrylic, building the image in a system of layers which serve to present a process which I like to think is unique; engaging the aesthetic and the tactile through surface. There is an interesting tension between the scissor cut line of the collaged shapes and the painted line giving rise to a lyrical fusion of imagery. My process involves developing a language through drawing that can communicate different types of narrative; to create a family of marks and forms that are characteristically my own and which remain open to interpretation. In addition monoprinting allows spontaneous mark making and the opportunity to respond intuitively and directly to the landscape – an intensive reperceiving of the landscape at work – shaped by changing light conditions. Aside from the ideas, thoughts, transformations and experiences of landscape that we collect, we must realise that our interpretation and understanding of ‘landscape’ is conditioned by what we bring to it. This is better described by Simon Schama: If a child’s vision of nature can already be loaded with complicating memories, myths and meanings, how much more elaborately wrought is the frame through which our adult eyes survey the landscape?... Before it can ever be repose for the senses, landscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock.I For more information about Lorraine’s work please see: www.artzine.com/lorraine-cooke www.facebook.com/take2artists https://aa2a.biz/network/user/lorraine
ENDNOTES I S chama, Simon, Landscape and Memory, Harper Collins, London, 1995, pp. 6-7.
‘Emergence II’ - Lorraine Cooke Acrylic and mixed media on paper, 2018
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The Critical Fish organised an art school style crit at Kamila Ženatás exhibition ‘Book of Changes’ at Beverley Art Gallery on Saturday 23 February 2019. Beverley is a historic market town with a strong local art scene, approximately 9 miles to the north of Hull. We invited a small group of visual artists and non-artists to spend time with the work, and asked local artist Dom Heffer to facilitate the conversation. Most of the participants are from outside Beverley and were unfamiliar with both the gallery and the show.
W H AT I S A C R I T ? A crit (or critique) is a discussion or conversation that takes place in front of an art work or exhibition in order to analyse, interpret and contextualise the work. This shared interrogative experience often provides participants with new perspectives and alternative ways of approaching the work.
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION Recognised internationally, Kamila Ženatá is a contemporary multi-media artist from the Czech Republic who draws on her personal experiences of art therapy. In this exhibition at Beverley Art Gallery, which was created collaboratively with Hošek Contemporary Gallery in Berlin and supported by the Czech Centre London, Ženatá acknowledges an ancient Chinese divination manual known as The Book of Changes (otherwise referred to as the I Ching). In
response to this influential classic text, she created eight videos that reflect the natural elements that appear as symbols throughout the book. These videos are played simultaneously to reflect concepts of synchronicity and mutual interaction whilst also creating an immersive experience for the viewer. Book of Changes exhibited at Beverley Art Gallery between 9 February and 30 March 2019 and curated by Helena Cox.I
C R I T PA R T I C I PA N T S DH
Dom Heffer (facilitator): Hull-based artist with an interest in ‘data’ culture. Dom has worked with many arts and research organisations.
Jennifer Hewson Artist from Hull investigating the membranes between microbiology and botany through mixed media drawing.
Rebecca Addinell: A recent Fine Art graduate from Hull School of Art and Design with a love of craft and an interest in its effects on health and wellbeing.
Jamie Potter: Communications manager of Middle Child, an award-winning Hull-based theatre company.
Adam Wilson: Artist from Hull with a drawingbased practice, former RED gallery committee member and occasional gallery technician.
Patrick Leonard: FE and HE Manager and Consultant. Patrick recently worked on the Association of Colleges Scholarship Project and mentored Arts undergraduates in presenting their work on a national stage.
Jill Howitt: Editor of ‘The Critical Fish’
FISH ‘N’ CRITS
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Edited Extracts from the Conversation: These excerpts from the conversation have been edited to enable smoother reading. You can listen to the full audio file or read the full, unedited script on our website. DH
The I Ching…or Book of Changes. Thinking about that, are there any connections you’ve established? Do you feel like that title is important with regards to what you’ve been looking at?
I think it might be a nice idea to just start with the title of the show, did anyone notice what the show is called?
I think as a non-artist myself… what immediately comes to mind is that its like mindfulness in some ways; like what you do when you look out of a window and you think about things but you’re not actually looking – the hypnotic music kind of supports that. There’s just centering just making you feel calm. entering. I think that’s a great term. So, what are C people’s initial responses to this pretty immersive environment? What do you see, think, feel? What did we think about the actual spaces and placing of the screens?
There were elements relating to staying calm – so bits of T’ai Chi, water air and [*loud noise from installation*] ...that noise. I don’t know if that is a way to sort of get you back…. If you’ve watched it all and calmed yourself and then suddenly that goes off, distracts you and you then go back to the place where you need to be calmed again. I think that crunchy noise and the flashing is maybe like a palate cleanser on the brain, being immersed and having that weird flow – it does pull you out of that a bit. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve put up shows before at REDIII, but I found the uneven tilting of the projections distracting too. You also occasionally get a loading screen if you’ve noticed. Yeah I have seen that a couple of times. It’s actually quite nice though? Like waiting. I noticed that if I looked at one image to the left but if there was another image in my peripheral vision, the flashing distracted and unbalanced me. You have to really concentrate at what you’re looking at which is difficult because there’s a lot of images in one space. I actually like just standing in the middle there, looking around and not necessarily focusing on one in particular but just kind of taking it in. The big thing I took from it was about different types of energy; light, chemical energy, physical energy and like... I’m really into music, and I kept finding rhythms. I think there’s a lot of interaction THE CRITICAL FISH | FISH ‘N’ CRITS | 17
between the things, so by having them so close together, I felt like they were interacting together. Like you say you’re looking at one and you get drawn into another. JH
I found myself drawn to a corner. When you stand really close up you start to move with the film and that gets really hypnotic – no matter what was on the screen so you start seeing more, like virtual reality. I’d rather be real up close to it and take it all in at once because otherwise it might be a bit much for the senses; I want to focus and get as much as I can from it.
It’s interesting that it’s the projection in the corner that allows you to do that because we associate corners with little nooks and crannies. Maybe that projection into the corner allowed you to have that intimacy with the film.
When you do get close to it, your shadow comes into them as well. It really makes you realise about the connections between you and nature.
Did you say shared memory?
Shared memory, yeah.
We can all probably think of a time we’ve looked at
But would you start noticing the materiality of video and see pixels, I wonder. I think that is really encouraging that you’ve all sort of picked up on that sense of interconnected-ness. Did anyone know anything about the I Ching? It’s kind of an ancient Chinese divination text which uses a form of divination called ‘cleromancy’.IV Like making sense out of randomness. Interesting. I noticed something about following paths and laws – like how the fireworks follow predetermined paths. It looks random but physics-wise I’m not sure it is. I think you’re right, it’s not necessarily random because you know what to expect when you see water coming in, or fireworks going up. There’s nothing surprising in some ways really as you get what you’re expecting. It looks like random movement but it’s all set up.
nchronicity takes the coincidence
sunrise time or a sunset, events in spacea and asor watched a fire. I think all of
us maybe have some relationship to it. So I think it probably does bring people together. Everyone has eaning something more than got some memories of sitting there watching the sea coming in. ere chance, namely, a peculiar
thing I thought was ‘memories of holidays’ terdependence The of first objective events RA
– I can go through my phone and find pictures thatas lookwell very similar to this [group laughter] of mong themselves as with the sea, water, films of the tide coming in and watching thestates fish. I thinkof viewers e subjective (psychic) thewill also have element of something like that, or a memory of it or a physical photograph. server or observers.”
e I Ching JH
It’s kind of one those things you do by yourself, watching the sea, not when you’re doing stuff with other people. Strange how we have to capture experience isn’t it? We have it in our memory, but we feel the need to capture it to keep it. She is revealing that back to us on these screens.
T’ai Chi is quite particular to China. I kept wondering which lens are you viewing this Asian man through? That seems specific to a location, a culture, where the other things like sun and water are quite universal. Yeah. That’s a good point actually. Did you feel blocked out by that then as that is not something Westerners often do? Meaning T’ai Chi in the middle of a field. Would you feel better if it was a Western thing?
I just think the trope around Eastern culture about mindfulness and well-being can be quite problematic and I wondered if it was encroaching into that territory with this, and that’s the question I asked. I was just aware it was a Western artist depicting an Eastern person. Well I mean one of the texts that corresponds with the show says the main purpose for the exhibition is to highlight the necessity of strength and connection between human kind and nature so it’s kind of definitely along those lines of reconfiguring and reconnecting... which is one of the tropes of life almost, isn’t it?
The text about the work is outside this space – did anyone have thoughts about the visualness of it without words? I like the separation between the words of the artists and the vision of the artist. I think an artist’s lack of confidence makes them want to explain their work to the viewer – which I think is fine, but I like it to be separate. I think that if the work is strong enough on its own, they need to trust the audience to make their own decisions.
I think words are distracting because everything’s moving constantly, it’s like it requires all of your concentration you can’t look away and read it because you’ll miss a bit. Like how a lot of people will watch TV whilst on their phone.
Yeah, so you’re not concentrating on your feelings because nothing has got your full attention for that whole time. Video work can be patiencetesting and potentially requires a longer time with a viewer then a painting does, for example, you see people go to shows and just walk around and leave, but some people will go in and leave after three seconds, maybe not respond to it. With a video piece you have to stay with it, but people aren’t going to sit through it. People just walk away. I put on a show with another artist whose work is figurative and people didn’t look at my work at all – they all responded to the figurative work that they could get immediate stuff from.
There’s a difference between being mesmerised by something and been narratively invested in it. You need to spend time with it and/or find clear narrative structure, a thread to it. I think I’d just wander. These days we have short attention spans because of social media and that I guess thinking about it. We don’t necessarily dwell on things too long. I really value actually writing and talking about art because it makes you stay with it a bit longer and that’s almost always rewarding. I always get more staying with work for two or three hours than I would five minutes.
But with these seven or eight different screens you have the story, don’t you? That screen’s always fireworks, that’s fire, that one is water... you get the story without actually having to be here half an hour because you can get it in about five minutes. I think that raises an interesting cultural issue. Generally, we are more inclined to spend time with a moving image than a still one. Is there a distinction between watching and looking?
THE CRITICAL FISH | FISH ‘N’ CRITS | 19
I find these brackets a big distraction and if it was me I’d be really against them. Have they done them on purpose or just to accommodate? When I first came into the space I remember thinking they were a bit obtrusive but then I started to engage with the work and I found they eventually kind of disappeared as I got absorbed into the work not to the extent that I walked into any of them! [laughter] Do you think in a curatorial sense do you think it would be better without them?
It’s quite rural around here in Beverley so it’s quite exciting to find a contemporary exhibition outside the city.
And so this is a risk and it’s nice to see galleries taking a risk.
I’ve never been here before but from doing this, now I know it’s here. I think they need to shout about it a bit more.
In academia, we sometimes don’t really care about what other people are writing about – I don’t know if that’s the case in art, where all you worry about is what you’re interested in without necessarily caring about what other people, what other artists are currently doing? If you could ask this community, I’d imagine that they’d know all about all these places though. There was absolutely no mention of this in the stuff that comes up in local Facebook groups. There was a City of Culture volunteer that walked in earlier on but there was nothing on their site that relates to this exhibition either. I work at the council here and that’s where I find it all out –
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You don’t seem to notice them when you’re looking at the wall. It does look very much like they have made a point to frame-mount the projectors because there would have been other ways of doing it.
So I have got a bit of insight into this. The curator wasn’t able to hang the projection units from the ceiling because it’s a listed building. It’s very limited in this space regarding technology and installation so they had to get these gantries made especially. But I do think they do dissolve very much into the background once you engage with the work.
they shout about a lot of what’s going on. PL
Is there a difference between Hull and East Yorkshire because the councils are different? Do the communities in Hull not get that message from East Yorkshire?
I don’t think so. I live in Hessle so I see a lot of it from both Hull and East Riding but without this crit I wouldn’t have known this space was here.
There is this assumption that the cutting edge stuff is going to be in Hull, but that’s a good assumption to challenge isn’t it?
Yeah, there’s stuff on but I didn’t know it was on. When I graduated and I was part of RED, I had my artist-led art scene, but those faces have gone – RED’s gone, the Kingston Art Gallery (KAG) space has gone so I don’t have a monthly or bimonthly routine of going to a show or seeing people so I don’t hear much anymore.
What we need is a magazine! [Laughter] What do you think Dom because you’re central to the arts scene; is there a lack of communication between the different factions?
I think it’s always been similar in that you really do have to dig around to find out about stuff. You’ve got the City Arts newsletter which tells you about stuff that’s going on in Hull and that’s pretty much the only thing I tap into – the rest of the things I find out about is by poking around or talking to people. But Adam’s right, there is now a distinctive lack of artist-led initiatives. You’ve got Ground who are pretty active, but other spaces that have been taken away or have dissolved have been replaced by different kinds of things. It’s an interesting point that because KAG was in a low-rent building down Humber Street, a now gentrified area, and the derelict buildings have obviously now gone. I don’t blame the City of Culture for that though – It’s economics! – as we were obviously aware that it was going to be bulldozed over eventually but City of Culture came along and finished it off.V
I think if you look at aspirational cities pretty much most of them have got within their arts ecology a thriving art school that brings in students from all around the country, ensuring there’s new life going into the art scene. They’ve usually got a couple of artistled spaces or studio groups and they’ve got at least one type of contemporary arts space and then little satellite organisations going around it.
I’d argue as well that those places have a media that’s engaged with it, whereas Hull is debilitated by a lack of visible media presence. There isn’t really any independent media like magazines or even blogging. Even the blogging scene is quiet whereas the larger cities will have that.
B E V E R L E Y A RT G A L L E RY P R E S E N T S
When I used to put art shows on through RED, you didn’t know what you’re gonna get. If I was going as a viewer – you might not like every show that’s put on, but every show is worthwhile and you can see that the artist has benefited from putting on that show, or that play. And there’s a lack of that.
Book of Changes by Kamila Ženatá JP
It’s all a learning experience. People don’t go to art things because they feel they don’t have the art history knowledge, so maybe they feel like they can’t access it – contemporary art can be very minimalist so it can be hard to find the ‘plot’ to it. That’s a really good point. Like, people ask me, how do you get into the art? People have no confidence with the art-based stuff, but it’s about going and having an experience and be comfortable in the fact that you have permission to have an opinion. Because art is entirely subjective, I think that may be a barrier. I think people need to experience more art and the ways that they can experience it. That was me coming here today, as a non-artist, thinking ‘Oh my god, everyone else is gonna be art experts!’ But this is very accessible isn’t it?
I had something to say about it just from a normal point of view really and I think that’s the problem for people like myself. We tell ourselves that we don’t know anything about art, and that I shouldn’t really go and look at art because it’s not for you, it’s not for us, we are not going to get anything from it. But by actually going, I’ve found that I can certainly relate to it. I can certainly engage with it. I suppose it’s like a book club – you all say what you thought about it and I think when you come to art like this – I’d normally go around and look at it for 3-5 minutes then I’d think “Right, let’s go get a coffee”. Being forced to think about it and then talk about it with others, you get more from it. It’s like what we had with City of Culture opening ceremony – everybody went into the city centre and watched the light and sound show about history and that kind of thing, but because they were experiencing it together they were talking about it.
I M M E R S I V E V I DE O-A RT I N S TA L L AT ION Saturday, 2 February to Saturday, 30 March 2019 Champney Road, Beverley HU17 8HE
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FURTHER REFLECTIONS Dom Heffer (Facilitator):
Helena Cox (Curator):
The crit was thorough, and well balanced, without forgetting to be ‘critical’ – Kamila’s work provided a rich spring board for our conversations to explore diverse issues, from formal qualities of the work, to its presentation and the philosophical implications of Kamila’s project.
I am excited by projects that bring together local, national and international art. I was therefore thrilled to make Beverley part of this international cooperation between Hosek Contemporary Gallery in Berlin, Germany, the Czech Centre London, UK, and Kamila Ženatá, Czech Rep. Our team came up with some great technical solutions which transformed the gallery into an immersive ‘sanctuary’ of art, where our visitors could fully immerse into the soothing and inspiring flow of the eight video pieces. The conversations I had with our visitors assured me that there is a great demand for contemporary and experimental art in our area, and that people can be incredibly open-minded and creative in their approach to art. I was delighted to see that many visitors picked up on the environmental appeal of the exhibition, and this also reflected in the many conversations we had during the guided tours.
TA K E AWAY S Have courage and give yourself permission to take the time to look at art. Spend time with the work and find something to connect to. You don’t need to understand art history, simply relate it to your own knowledge and experiences. Go see art with other people, and have a discussion about the work. Question your responses, notice your tendencies. Be aware of what’s happening. Connect with your community. Have those conversations.
E ND NOT E S I ‘Book of Changes by Kamila Ženatá’, Available at: http:// london.czechcentres.cz/ programme/travel-events/bookof-changes-by-kamilazenata/ II Wilhelm, Richard, ‘Introduction to the I Ching’, Available at: https:// www.iging.com/intro/introduc.htm III RED Gallery of Contemporary Art, a non-profit making initiative run collectively by a small group of local artists, opened in 1997 and provided Hull with an independent exhibition space and ‘laboratory’ for contemporary art. RED closed in 2016 to make way for a new £36m music and conference venue. See: Artist-Network ‘City of Culture 2017: Hull’s oldest artist-led gallery loses its building’, Available at: https:// www.a-n.co.uk/news/city-ofculture-2017-hullsoldest-artistled-gallery-losesits-building IV ‘Divination by means of casting lots’ Source: Merriam- Webster, ‘Definition of cleromancy’, Available at: https://www. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ cleromancy
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V During 2017 and the run up to the City of Culture year Hull lost some key buildings that housed arts organisations, including RED and the Hull College arts building on Park Street. These were seen as casualties of the rising property prices and opportunities created by City of Culture. There is also controversy in Hull as to whether the developments on Humber Street are typical of gentrification. However closures on the street can be explained by contracts and leases ending. For example KAG’s temporary lease on their gallery and studio spaces came to an end and the live music venue FRUIT closed for a period of refurbishment. KAG were rehoused at the new Park Avenue arts centre. The refurbished FRUIT building will become a new arts complex to include studios and a gallery space. This will add to the culturally significant Humber Street Gallery that opened in 2017 alongside established arts organisations on the street and several local and independent businesses. The images of Zenata’s work within this article have been taken with permission from the exhibition booklet.
EUROPEAN PORT CITIES AND CULTURAL MEGA EVENTS Exploring the role of culture in port-city relationships ENRICO TOMMARCHI Cultural mega events, broadly understood as events of national or international relevance that include cultural content, such as the European Capital of Culture but also Expos, Olympic Games or international festivals, are increasingly a common feature of urban cultural policies in European cities. This is particularly the case for port cities, where these large, exceptional events are understood as a powerful means to pursue a range of goals, including physical and social regeneration, branding and repositioning, and developments of local cultural sectors and offers. Cities as diverse as Glasgow, Barcelona, Genoa and Liverpool have become paradigmatic examples of the potential of cultural mega events in terms of urban regeneration and local development. However, the very link between cultural mega events and what characterises the distinctiveness of these cities that is their maritime nature, is perhaps overlooked. My PhD research is a comparative analysis of cultural mega events in four European port cities. The UK City of Culture 2017 in Hull, the European Capital of Culture 2001 in Rotterdam and 2004 in Genoa, the America’s Cup 2007 and the Formula One European Grand Prix 2008-12 in Valencia are put into conversation with the aim of exploring how cultural mega events influence the relations between ports and cities and how the maritime dimension of cities contributes to shaping such events. The diverse trajectories of port and urban development, together with different experiences of cultural mega events in these four cities portray a complex picture which raises a range of recurrent issues. Port estates, waterfronts and maritime urban districts have been evocative cultural venues and
contributed to connecting – or reconnecting – local communities to the maritime and marine identity of their cities. Mega events were in some cases key opportunities for reconverting largely abandoned and inaccessible urban harbours into public spaces. The festivalisation of such spaces also raises issues of land ownership and of competition between cultural and maritime functions. Cultural mega events were in some cases used to establish a stronger connection with the seafront or to promote policy discourses about the position of contemporary port cities within global networks. Cultural mega events also show how their huge visibility – and thus the impossibility for policy makers and organisers to ‘fail’ – influences cultural content, for instance by promoting or neglecting certain maritime narratives and eventually raising concerns of authenticity. Finally, the legacy of cultural mega events plays a crucial role in the evolution of port-city relationships. For instance, cities like Hull are examples of how these events are embedded into longer-term strategies, through policy discourses depicting dual images of ‘port cities’ and ‘cities of culture’. In these visions the city may benefit from the interconnection between maritime functions – such as shipping, light port industries, cruise tourism – and cultural activity. This is PhD research being undertaken at the Culture, Place and Policy Institute of the University of Hull, involving contributions from port specialists, policy makers, spatial planners, the cultural sector, mega event teams and experts in the field of cultureled regeneration. E.Tommarchi@2016.hull.ac.uk
MOVING MOMENTS AND MOVING FORWARD BARBARA GRABHER
Report on the research developments and artistic translations of ‘Gendering Cities of Culture’.
‘Moving Moments’, Performance, Hull, 2018 Photo credit: Joe Bateman
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The inspiration for this report derives from the first public screening of the short film Moving Moments on the 16 January 2019 at The New Adelphi Club in Hull.
The inspiration for this report derives from the first public screening of the short film Moving Moments on the 16 January 2019 at The New Adelphi Club in Hull. Moving Moments is a filmic interpretation of the research project ‘Gendering Cities of Culture’. ‘Gendering Cities of Culture’ is an investigation of culture-led megaevents within the City/Capital of Culture framework and their potential to produce cultures of gender equality. As part of the GRACE project at the University of Hull and funded by the European Commission, my research focuses on Hull2017 as a case study exploring the negotiations of gender equality in its ‘365 days of transformative culture’.I Alongside analysing the politics and practices of equality in Hull2017 I examined the perceptions of Hull and East Riding residents. Throughout 2017, I collaborated with a team of ten residents, who visited, explored and observed selected ‘equality-themed’ events. Their personal and subjective responses have played a substantial role in shaping my analysis. Whilst I have published my research in a variety of academic conferences and journals and am currently working on my doctoral thesis, the GRACE project’s principle investigator Dr Suzanne Clisby encouraged me to disseminate my research beyond academic horizons. Therefore in 2018, ‘Gendering Cities of Culture’ translated into the event series ‘The Conversation Continues’. In my investigation I conclude that a threeday festival, temporary exhibitions or a yearlong mega-event can potentially intervene in or contribute to communal values through the initiation of conversations. However fostering, producing and embracing a culture of gender equality requires a continuation of these conversations. Thus I collaborated with Hull-based dance artist Tamar Draper, multimedia artist Lou Hazelwood and film-maker Andrew Quinn to create spaces for further discussion of cultures of equality. This series uses the artistic mediums of dance, performance and film.
The community are at the core of each intervention. In the film Moving Moments sonic and visual inputs capture the residents’ perceptions of the values produced, promoted and fostered in their City of Culture. These views are partial, but the perspectives are crucial. The film fuses two forms of expression. Selected interview recordings from research participants align and create an audio commentary vocalising experiences and perceptions of 2017. These commentaries meet the visual expression captured in a community dance project led by Tamar Draper in March 2018. In this performance four movements were developed to represent the four programmed seasons of 2017. These were developed through workshop sessions and performed in key locations in the city centre. These final performances share and make public individual and intimate responses. Moving Moments serves as a commentary on the production of cultures of equality within a City of Culture programme. The event series concluded with the screening of Moving Moments which synthesized the artistic interventions with the underlying research project. Rather than hyping or bashing any institution, event or encounter, Moving Moments serves as a commentary on the production of cultures of equality in a City of Culture. After its premiere in Hull, Moving Moments travelled to the exhibition Footnotes on Equality, which opened on the 8 March 2019 at CASCO Art Institute in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The short film, further details about the event series ‘The Conversation Continues’ and research project ‘Gendering Cities of Culture’ are available online: www.genderingcitiesofculture.wordpress. com/the-conversation-continues/ moving-forward
R E F E R E NC E S IH ull2017 Ltd. (2015). Hull UK City of Culture 2017: Strategic Business Plan 2015-2018.
MOVING MOMENTS | BARBARA GRABHER | 25
Artist Donald Rodney was a leading figure in Britain’s BLK Art group of the 1980s. Here, Donald’s artist friend Amanda Holiday, who set up a black artist student group at that time, imagines a conversation with him about black Turner Prize winners and nominees.
A Posthumous Conversation about Black Art Amanda Holiday: Donald I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. Donald Rodney: [coughs] Well this is an atypical scenario but typical Amanda Holiday but carry on… AH: Ok introductions first: ‘Donald Rodney who died prematurely in 1998 was a key figure in Black British political art in the 1980s.’ DR: Thank you. What year are we in now? AH: 2018. DR: Yo! AH: You may remember a conversation we once had, when you were in hospital once… DR: King’s. AH: King’s yes. It was a lament. You wondered whether we would ever live to see a black Turner Prize winner. DR: I remember that. I did not. AH: There was of course Anish Kapoor in 1991. 26 | A POSTHUMOUS CONVERSATION ABOUT BL ACK ART | AMANDA HOLIDAY
DR: He’s not black. AH: [laughter]. How did I know you would say that? He may not self-define as such – but we’re not going to get bogged down here. DR: Anish Kapoor is a wonderful and brilliant artist but the pigment he’s concerned with is not skin. His art is not into all this ‘hoo haa’ [laughter]. Not black politics. He’s about the market. AH: We’ll come back to that – wait till I tell you about Vantablack.I DR: Who’s she? AH: [laughter] Vantablack – the absolute blackest black pigment ever. Ultra dark. Deepest black and Kapoor bought out the rights to it. DR: [laughter] What? So now Anish Kapoor owns the blackest black known to humankind? Kapoor capitalised on black power pigment. That may well be truly revolutionary. I’m listening. AH: So since your death Donald, there have been 12 black, in inverted commas, artists who have either been nominated or gone on to win the Turner Prize. DR: Yo! Twelve! Who? Keety did he win?II AH: Wait we’ll go through them – chronologically. The year you died... DR: 1998. AH: Chris Ofili won the Turner Prize 1998. DR: Ah Elephant Dung Man.III On the heels of the YBA guys. Those guys sewed it up. Chris was hungry. He used to lie in wait for Charles Saatchi, you know that? Outside his house, lugging his paintings [laughter] Also he is a pretty amazing artist. Those dots, pointillist pop art dream painting. And political in the core. Not overt and not in the militant in your face way we were. We kind of boxed ourselves in. AH: Boxed in? DR: What we did was important. Shall I say significant? [laughter]. But it wasn’t enough. We didn’t force the market or anyone to pay attention. Enough attention. Look at the YBAs and how they shook it up. Remember that first show in the Docklands that Damien, Carl, them put on.IV That was spectacular on a scale. They went in large, they wanted big, they wanted everything. They were hungry – we were angry. They wanted fame – we wanted justice.V
Cards made by Donald Rodney using his X-Rays
But we wanted fame and money too eventually [laughter]. Go on Amanda, I’m intrigued by this list – who’s next? A POSTHUMOUS CONVERSATION ABOUT BL ACK ART | AMANDA HOLIDAY | 27
AH: 1999, Steve McQueen. DR: Stevie the dark horse! No surprise there. Deadpan was brilliant.VI That house falling inspired my skin house piece [laughter] not really.VII Genius. Steve was flying. Next. AH: Isaac Julien. Nominated 2001. DR: Ah Isaac! You know I thought you’d either say him or Johnny Come-FromFar.VIII Someone from Sankofa or Black Audio definitely. Is he still talking all that [mimics] ‘meta-discourse’ nonsense? AH: [laughter] Isaac is making these film installations. Immersive stuff. Exhibiting all over. And is a University Chair. Doing some collages at the moment I think – à la Bearden but with gold leaf.IX DR: No surprises there. So long as he didn’t turn into some state-sponsored, complacent establishment fat cat. That’d be a pity if all these angry black artist types ended up co-opted by the system... with nothing much changed. Visibility-wise. AH: Oh we are more visible. DR: Good. So 2001 that’s three already [claps hands] AH: Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA 2004. Nominated. DR: Yinka the warrior! CBE now? Yo! I have a soft spot for Yinka. Boy come good. Wow is he still doing stuff with Kente cloth? Yinka battled. Yinka was a listener. Very humble artist. Not so political but he wore it. AH: And that is ok in your book? To ‘wear’ your politics? DR: Of course. Our dress code. The canon is ‘corky’s point’.X Black artists need or needed to blow the doors off. AH: Well that didn’t happen. DR: Shame. But Yinka I approve. Next..? AH: 2007 Zarina Bhimji. Nominated. DR: Zarina from Heron House tower block in Peckham? AH: She lives in Bloomsbury now… DR: I loved Zarina’s work. That stuff she did in your doc Amanda – putting things underwater and filming them, the mirrors, light and shade the way she looked at stuff.XI And the big polaroids she did for the V&A.XII Jealous much?
AH: Did the V&A not ask you to try them out? DR: [put out] No one asked me. No one ever asked me to do the nice stuff. But Zarina – she has such an eye. Am also a big fan of SutapaXIII – she must be on your list huh? Nominated? AH: Nope. DR: Sutapa should have been nominated just for her name. Those three syllables. Shu-tapa. Sounds like a rare tropical flower doesn’t it? [laughs] Now I sound like an old white man. Housewives with Steak-knives is an iconic piece of Black Art History and I’m sure Sutapa is making sure everyone knows it. Carry on. AH: As an aside Donald – something that has always annoyed me about black women artists or any visibility we have achieved – and it is much more now btw Donald – is the fact that that this visibility is supposed to somehow represent all of us, automatically, whatever – like I have to support it – opinions don’t count – and if I don’t – it is akin to a betrayal. You know – the nuances of this? White artists don’t feel that way just cos one of their own makes it on to page 8 of the Guardian or breakfast TV or whatever. For us, any non-support is interpreted as bitter twistedness. DR: [laughter] AH: Or old, past-it witchery. You know? DR: Damn I’m almost glad I died young. Just kidding. AH: And don’t get me started on the tropes. Fuck black womanist tropes! DR. Ok [cough] Fuck black womanist tropes! Amandla! AH: OK 2008 Runa Islam. Nominated. DR: Who dat? AH: From Wikipedia: ‘Runa Islam is a Bangladeshiborn British visual artist and filmmaker based in London. She was a nominee for the 2008 Turner Prize. She is principally known for her film works’. DR: Any good?
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AH: It’s your opinions we’re seeking here Donald
AH: 2013 Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Nominated/
DR: No comment. I daresay there’ll be few ‘no comments’ then – some of these artists sound like they just came out of the woodwork. AH: The Otolith Group. 2010. Nominated. DR: The what-o-lith group? Sounds um like I would probably know who they are if I lived long enough? Am I right? AH: [laughs] They were around Donald. This from Wikipedia: ‘In 2002 Kodwo Eshun co-founded The Otolith Group with Anjalika Sagar…’ DR: [interrupts] Kodwo! Anjalika! Black intelligence AH: [continuing] ‘…the name derived from a structure found in the inner ear that establishes our sense of gravity and orientation. Based in London, the group’s work engages with archival materials, with futurity and with the histories of transnationality’. DR: So next…
DR: Never heard of her. AH: Interesting figurative painter. Gets a lot of stick because she finishes her paintings in one day – so people think it’s rushed. Very accomplished though. She shook up a lot of the older black women artists. The old timers. Plus she kind of came in via the mainstream. The door was open. [laughter] Fêted by the galleries before the black art world even heard of her, it seems. DR: The black art world – is there such a thing here? In the US yes. Here you’re either paying attention or you’re not. Lynette sounds interesting. AH: Her prices are sky high. Probably the most expensive black British woman artist at present. Then here comes another black woman Anthea Hamilton – ex-Wimbledon. 2016 nominated. DR: [Blank stare] AH: You’d like her actually Donald I am sure. Performance sculpture intervention stuff on a scale – [shows picture] Take a look.
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DR: What am I looking at? Hands pressing on a big bottom wedged in a wall!XIV That looks like pure utter shite. But also brilliant if by a black woman… [Joint laughter] What else she do? AH: There’s someone dressed as a squash or whatever lying about all over Tate Britain scaring children.XV That’s her. DR: Sounds amazing. I love her already. AH: Now wait for this 2017 [trumpet sounds] Hurvin Andersen nominated. DR: Brum Hurvin. A Wimbledon landscape painter, he gets a fanfare? AH: no but wait for it – also in the same year …Lubaina Himid nominated and won. DR: [drops mic] No! Lubaina Himid won the Turner prize? Lubaina Himid won the Turner Prize? Lubaina Himid won the Turner prize? Elbow Room Lubaina?XVI Lubaina smash-thewhite-patriarchy in mellowed tones Himid? Militant hush puppy Lubaina. I don’t quite know whether to laugh or cry. Damn so some things do change but I can’t quite believe it. But by my reckoning she would be 64 now huh? Wasn’t she too old? AH: They changed the rules. That’s how Hurvin got in too. They lifted the ‘artists under fifty thing’. There’s a lot of women high up in the art world now directors and stuff – they all got behind her nomination… DR: Is her art still...? AH: Yep! DR: [laughter] Damn do you think they will change the rules to allow for posthumous nominations? They must do. Then I’m in with a chance. In fact I’d definitely win. AH: No doubt about it Donald – it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
nish Kapoor on his exclusive rights to the A blackest black: https://www.theguardian.com/ artanddesign/2016/sep/26/anish-kapoorvantablack-art-architecture-exclusive-rights-tothe-blackest-black
II Keety = Keith Piper. III Turner Prize controversies: https://www.telegraph. co.uk/art/what-to-see/turner-prize-controversies/ chris-ofili/ IV ‘Freeze’ Show in Docklands 1988: https:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeze V BLK Art Group: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ BLK_Art_Group VI Deadpan: https://www.moma.org/collection/ works/98724 VII Donald Rodney, In The House of my Father: https:// www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/rodney-in-the-houseof-my-father-p78529 VIII John Akomfrah: https://www.lissongallery.com/ artists/john-akomfrah IX Romare Bearden (artist): https:// beardenfoundation.org/romare-bearden/ X aka Donald Rodney’s term for ‘Charlie’s Point’ in film Apocalypse Now. XI E mploying The Image video information: https:// www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b7c0849ab XII Zarina Bhimji polaroids 1989: https://www. southlondongallery.org/collection/zarina-bhimjiuntitled/ XIII Sutapa Biswas: http://www.art.mmu.ac.uk/profile/ sbiswas XIV Anthea Hamilton, Project for a Door: https://www. wmagazine.com/gallery/anthea-hamilton-artist2016-turner-prize-nominee/all XV Anthea Hamilton, The Squash: https://www.tate. org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/squash XVI The Elbow Room: http://new.diaspora-artists.net/ display_item.php?id=654&table=artefacts
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A Reconstruction by Lesley Kerman of the reverse side of the Maestà by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-1311, 4.00 x 2.26m, Museo dell’Opera, Siena
RECONSTRUCTING DUCCIO LESLEY KERMAN
On Palm Sunday forty years ago the last service was held in Capel Bethel, a tiny Congregational Chapel in a secluded valley near Aberystwyth, Wales. Last Palm Sunday, 14 April 2019, the restored Chapel re-opened as a space for art. Louise Short and Alice Forward, whose memorable project STATION was the art space in the former fireboat station on Bristol Dock, have brought Capel Bethel back to life. Their opening show ‘Reconstructing Duccio’ marks the transition of the building from religion to art. Duccio’s great work – the twenty six scenes of the Passion on the reverse of the Maestá, (1308–11) has been reconstructed by the artist Lesley Kerman. The story begins with the entry into Jerusalem. Kerman was a student at Newcastle University when Richard Hamilton was reconstructing Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass (1915-23).
She saw how much was revealed by that undertaking, and reconstructing Duccio’s painting has proved equally revelatory. Kerman’s account of re-making the work, Reconstructing Duccio published by Peter Foolen Editions and Short&Forward Publications, was launched at the opening. During Holy Week Kerman worked in the Gallery making a full size drawing of her reconstruction, a visual record of her interaction with the work. The show will be open from 14 April to 7 May between 12 noon and 6pm. Closed Mondays, except for Easter Monday. An opportunity to see Duccio in daylight. firstname.lastname@example.org
Making Things Happen SIMON CARTER Contemporary British Painting is a collective of 65 artists that seeks to explore and promote critical context and dialogue in current painting practice through solo and group exhibitions, talks, publications, donations to art museums and an art prize. The group emerged in response to the situation we felt painting to have been in for at least the last decade. While painting was still prevailing across the country it seemed neglected, with little institutional excitement directed towards exploring and celebrating its continuing possibilities.
It seemed that whatever was happening in painting studios across Britain mattered only to a few other painters. We nearly all felt side-lined and a little powerless.
32 | MAKING THINGS HAPPEN | SIMON CARTER
It began in 2013, over a cup of tea in the garden of artist, curator, and good ideas person Robert Priseman. He suggested that we should form a group of like-minded, under-the-radar painters. Over the next few weeks we contacted painters we either knew or admired, and there was an immediate collective sense of excitement that together we could turn an idea into positive action. In seeking out the work of artists on the internet, it soon became evident that our main search terms, ‘contemporary’, ‘British’ and ‘painting’ were, in combination, available as a domain name (which said something about the current disregard for painting). So the name suggested itself, and as a bonus came near the top of any internet search for current British painting. We had no desire for the group to have or promote a house style – rather we sought to reflect what was happening in painters’ studios. Whether it was photo-based realism or painterly abstraction, and whether it was derived from memory, observation, or was process-led, we sought and began to sense a particular 21st century aesthetic, one that had moved beyond 20th century ‘isms’ into a new realm of the individual. Coincidentally, whilst researching exhibition venues for another project and another artist Robert Priseman had visited St Marylebone Parish Church in London. The crypt beneath the church had been renovated in the 1980s but was rather underused.
Although the space was not ideal, being underground with no natural light and having a series of brick pillars supporting the vaulted ceiling, it was in a great location in central London and Reverend Canon Stephen Evans, rector of the church, offered Robert the space to programme exhibitions. So the combination of a good idea and a London exhibition space enabled Contemporary British Painting to become a reality as an organisation. As more painters joined we had to find ways to work together, and so we formed a committee, as typically happens at such moments. This was followed by establishing an external panel of advisors. In the absence of funding (or indeed of very much money at all) we had to rely on what we had, which was the artists’ goodwill. It was important to maintain this evident sense of goodwill in finding a way to work together successfully and agreeably. We begun by staging monthly solo exhibitions at The Crypt. These early shows needed seeking out, requiring
inside knowledge just to find the venue. Robert and I agreed that even if no one came to the exhibitions, the fact that they took place at all meant we still had something real that we could build on. But as it turned out the secret nature of the venue became an asset and artists began to pass the word around. Latterly the exhibitions have become quarterly themed group shows, enabling more artists to be included and easing the burden of organisation. The committee invites exhibition proposals and issue a set of simple guidelines. The proposed exhibitions must have a nominal theme, consist of at least 5 painters including some group members, be self-financing, and supported by a critical text. We looked for exhibition proposals that acknowledged and explored what it was to make paintings in this digital age.
‘Beyond the Surface’ Courtesy of Square Art Projects
A lack of funding could be seen as a serious obstacle, but instead we have begun to see it as a positive, and even as an enabler. We have had to think laterally about what we can achieve with our limited resources, MAKING THINGS HAPPEN | SIMON CARTER | 33
by collaborating and cooperating as a group. External funding would mean being answerable to the funder, whereas we are beholden to no one other than fellow CBP artist members. We can make our own decisions, and we can move and react quickly to situations. This has proved a real asset in our dealings with museums in China, which operate more fleetly than their equivalents in the West and are prone to changing arrangements at short notice. Artists continually produce new work – it is what we do. With this in mind, we tentatively surveyed our artists to see who might be willing to donate some of that work, with the sole aim of furthering their reputations. At the same time, we contacted collections that might be interested in receiving micro-donations of contemporary British painting. In this way, with considerable effort, and furthermore Robert’s thorough research and negotiating, we have placed work with numerous collections in the UK, including Abbot Hall, Rugby Museums and Art Gallery, Falmouth Art Gallery, and Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, as well as in museums in USA and China. Offering to donate to museums does raise contentious questions, as artists should undoubtedly be paid for their work. But payment comes in various ways; our thinking was that the validation gained by being in good public collections is important in establishing an artist’s career and we have shown that it is possible, although not easy, to achieve this outside of the regular systems. In 2016 another part of the CBP project went public. We had for several years talked of launching a national painting prize. There has been much discussion of the wisdom of doing this at all, of the risks, of how it could be underwritten, and of whether another painting prize was really needed. So it was with trepidation that the prize was launched in 2016. CBP members are not eligible to enter but provide the pool of artists from which each year’s exhibition selectors are drawn, with the final prize winner being chosen by an 34 | MAKING THINGS HAPPEN | SIMON CARTER
invited panel of critics, gallery directors and artists. Now in its third year, the prize has proven to be popular, offering peer to peer selection and the opportunity to exhibit a small group of work rather than a single piece. The 2018 Prize Exhibition has been staged in collaboration with Huddersfield Art Gallery and The Menier Gallery, London. In previous years we have also worked with The Riverside Gallery at Richmond Museum, The Stables Gallery at Orleans House, London, and Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. In the art world it is most often the established institutions, art organisations and galleries, municipal or private, that dictate the arts agenda. The artists that fit this agenda are the ones fortunate enough to be funded and exhibited. By gathering painters together, by holding exhibitions, publishing catalogues, donating to collections, promoting debate and discussion and commissioning essays, and by staging a painting prize, CBP has sought to empower the artist, to raise awareness of contemporary trends in painting, and to collectively gain a degree of confidence in our own voices. It is the artists who are the source and originators of art, and as such their voices should be heard and held in higher regard. It is the artists who determine the course of art and not the arts institutions which, although seeking to serve the artist, have to make difficult decisions, often because of a lack of resources, about what is and isn’t going to be officially sanctioned as contemporary art.
us ways of not only seeing but also of understanding and expressing our experience of contemporary life. Painting is embedded in us, it is the medium we first turn to as children to describe the things we love and to tell them to others. Painting will not end. Throughout its long history, painting has continually reinvented itself; just when it looks moribund it takes a sideways step and emerges fresh and reinvigorated. But it is good to know in the low moments that others are engaged in the same practice and encounter the same problems. Acting together we have learnt that making things happen is possible and that if we are not on the institutional radar then we can write our own agenda. There have been set backs and criticisms, and so having a clear direction and rationale and, above all, keeping faith have been vital. But if artists know how to do anything, it is to make something, if not out of nothing, then at least out of very little. www.contemporarybritishpainting.com
Painting is embedded in us, it is the medium we first turn to as children to describe the things we love and to tell them to others. Painting will not end.
To us painting is fundamental. It doesn’t just depict the world – it provides the tools with which we see the world. Standing in metaphoric relationship to things seen, it gives
Top: PaintBritain, Ipswich Art Gallery, 2014. Courtesy of Simon Carter Bottom: CBP Prize Exhibition 2019, The Menier Gallery, London. Courtesy of Matthew Krishanu
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN | SIMON CARTER | 35
The Fly Sheffield Doc Fest, 2018
Form, Politics and the Authorial Presence in Sean McAllister’s Documentaries. LEE FREEMAN Early influences on my filmmaking style would be landmark films like Michael Moore’s Roger & Me (1989) and television documentary films from the late ‘90s. Molly Dineen’s work in British TV influenced me in observational, character-led filmmaking which involved an onscreen relationship between the filmmaker and the characters. The British tradition before then was never to step in – it was always the fly-on-the-wall rather than the fly-in-the-soup.I
The Soup Sean McAllister
Sean McAllister’s latest documentary, A Northern Soul (2018), saw the filmmaker return to his hometown as part of Hull’s 2017 City of Culture celebrations. It was McAllister’s first documentary to be set in Hull since Hull’s Angel, made for Channel 4’s True Stories in 2002. Since Hull’s Angel, McAllister’s films had developed a more international perspective, being set in Iraq (The Liberace of Baghdad, 2004), Japan (Japan: A Story of Love and Hate, 2008), Yemen (The Reluctant Revolutionary, 2012) and Syria (A Syrian Love Story, 2015). Despite the changing backdrop to his documentaries, McAllister’s films share common characteristics and A Northern Soul is the latest to feature what the filmmaker describes as a ‘single-character narrative which attempts to investigate the bigger political issues within an individual character’. This article will examine how the political themes in McAllister’s work are reflected through his methodology. Drawing upon the history and theory of documentary filmmaking, and incorporating unique insights from interviews with the filmmaker, we shall see how McAllister’s films challenge the notion of documentary objectivity. As McAllister explains: ‘I don’t think there is such a thing as objective truth in documentary. Objective truth is the kind of thing that documentary aspired to or news tries to represent. The beauty of being a filmmaker is that you can just go in and be yourself’. 38 | THE FLY IN THE SOUP | LEE FREEMAN
A Northern Soul’s central protagonist is Steve Arnott, a warehouse worker struggling against poverty and circumstance to achieve his ambition of taking hip-hop to the deprived children of the city. In portraying Steve’s story, the film presents an angry broadside to the current political climate of austerity. It paints a depressing picture of the social landscape and the lack of opportunity for working people in cities like Hull. However, the film’s ultimate message is one of hope. It is an inspiring piece of filmmaking that constitutes a defiant plea for the selfempowerment of the working class. It is, according to Sight and Sound’s Trevor Johnston, ‘one of the truly essential recent British films’.II A Northern Soul draws strong parallels between the filmmaker and its central character. Early on in the film, there is an extract from McAllister’s The Season (1990), an early documentary short that became part of the filmmaker’s application to the National Film and Television School. The Season depicts life on the night shift at a canning factory in Hull and, according to Maxine Baker, ‘revealed the empathy and commitment that McAllister always feels for the underprivileged members of our society’.III The inclusion of this sequence underlines how far the filmmaker had travelled since he first picked up a camera in the late 1980s. The Season was actually
‘I don’t think there is such a thing as objective truth in documentary. Objective truth is the kind of thing that documentary aspired to or news tries to represent. The beauty of being a filmmaker is that you can just go in and be yourself’. Sean McAllister
‘A Northern Soul’ - Sean McAllister and 10Ft Films, Film, 2018
McAllister’s fifth film. These early forays into documentary highlighted the political and social concerns that have been a consistent feature throughout his career. Hessle Road (1988) focuses upon a workingclass fishing community’s upheaval, whereas Toxic Waste and Flyingdales (both 1988) are campaign films raising concerns about the environmental threat posed by the dumping of radioactive waste. McAllister’s next short, A Passing Thought (1989), was an ‘experimental film ruminating on life under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’.IV The Season emphasises McAllister’s empathy with the working class, but this is not offered with the usual middle-class detachment as is the case in many film and television documentaries. McAllister’s documentaries eschew didacticism, striding for verisimilitude in portraying the working-class milieu of the filmmaker and his subjects. With McAllister becoming the ‘fly-in-thesoup’, his films increasingly represent an act of solidarity. As Tue Steen Müller asserts, in a review of Japan: A Story of Love and Hate, McAllister has a ‘unique talent for getting close to people...The director is involved, his voice is heard, he arranges and pushes the story…It is a film made with and not about’.V McAllister’s commitment to his characters is clearly apparent in Working for the Enemy (1997), his first major full-length piece. Made by Mosaic Films for BBC2, the documentary was part of the United Kingdom series that commissioned emerging young British filmmakers with the aim of creating a state-ofthe nation exposé of contemporary social issues. The film’s opening introduces the audience to the film’s subject, Kevin, as he walks down a street in Hull with his girlfriend, Robbie. McAllister’s voiceover informs us: ‘When I first met Kevin he told me that he had been on the dole for 18 years. Kev is 35, Robbie is 19. He’s never worked, she’s been working since she left school. Kev sees his life on the dole as his right. But the system doesn’t’. Later in the film, McAllister is granted access to
a ‘jobsearch’ seminar, a week-long compulsory requirement for benefit claimants. In a group introductory session, Kevin informs a baffled course instructor that he just wants to be left alone to live his life according to his own personal beliefs. The mantra, according to Kevin, is that ‘I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to work. It’s like skydiving, I just don’t want to do it’. Working for the Enemy’s depiction of Kevin’s struggle to live life on his own terms creates a palpable sense of affinity with its central character. From this film onwards, McAllister would exhibit a clear rapport with his film subjects, demonstrating empathy for marginalised underdogs struggling to overcome their circumstances. According to Sukhdev Sandhu: [McAllister’s] films portray individuals who are in some ways hostages to geography. They’re strong people, a bit feisty but in different ways have become estranged from their friends or communities…They’re non-conformists too, cussed types whose dissent may not always be couched in ideological or party political terms, but which somehow keeps them alive, and prevents them from sinking under the weight of all the social and personal hardships heaped upon them.VI There is no ambiguity in McAllister’s films as to whose side the filmmaker takes. In her analysis of Working for the Enemy’s opening sequence, Baker argues: ‘It is clear that this is going to be an authored documentary, without the usual constraints of having to strive for objectivity – or that much abused word – balance. The filmmaker is quite clearly on the side of the rebels’.VII McAllister’s authorial presence in his films becomes an integral part of the documentary narrative, enabling the texts to illustrate his commitment to his subjects. Working for the Enemy‘s ‘controversial’ portrayal of a rebellious figure whose non-conformist lifestyle (including the explicit depiction of recreational drug use) was a deliberate act of THE FLY IN THE SOUP | LEE FREEMAN | 39
provocation by a filmmaker intent upon challenging mainstream media representations of the unemployed. Kevin is gradually revealed to be an intelligent and charismatic individual, with an artistic flair for painting. He is articulate and politically astute. By presenting Kevin in a positive light, the film went to the very heart of the contemporary (and still current) debates around the unemployed, which have been crudely reduced to the ‘strivers versus skivers’ discourse by the media.
he labelled ‘poetic, expository, participatory, observational, reflexive and performative’.IX One of the most common forms of documentary address is the expository mode; this addresses the viewer directly, with titles or voices that propose a perspective, advance an argument, or recount history. Expository films adopt either a voice-of-God commentary (the speaker is heard but never seen)…or utilize a voice-ofauthority commentary (the speaker is heard and also seen)’.X
The unorthodox formal and thematic content of the film created a headache for the United Kingdom producers. Initially the BBC asked the filmmakers to provide their film footage for its own professional producers to edit. However, whilst viewing the rushes of Working for the Enemy, the series editor, Colin Luke, realised that he was incapable of working with the material. He invited McAllister into the editing suite to edit the footage himself, which Baker claims had been ‘just what McAllister had planned all along’.VIII Therefore, in making his first commissioned film the young filmmaker had outwitted his producers, demonstrating an intuitive understanding of documentary production and exhibiting a fiercely independent streak and determination to make the kind of films he wanted. In a similar way to Kevin in Working for the Enemy, McAllister had declared his intent to challenge the system.
As John Izod and Richard Kilborn explain, the expository mode’s commentator ‘interprets what we see, in effect telling us what we should think of the visual evidence before our eyes’.XI However, such claims to authority in the expository mode are not without ideological implications, especially in the documentary’s engagement with a working-class subject matter. With the emergence of the British documentary movement in the inter-war years it became imperative, in the words of the movement’s founder, John Grierson, to ‘put the working-man [sic] on the screen’.XII However, for the most part filmmaking was the preserve of a privileged middle-class elite. Therefore, the social egalitarianism of the documentarists could not mitigate against what Ian Aitken describes as ‘the often stereotyped representations of working-class people found in some of the films made by the documentary movement’.XIII
Working for the Enemy established McAllister’s documentary technique, which the filmmaker would develop to create his own individual filmmaking style. To fully appreciate how the political implications of his work are articulated through his formalist practices, it is necessary to both situate McAllister’s work within the framework of the historical development of the documentary tradition and to understand how his films engage and blend established documentary modes of address. The film critic and theorist Bill Nichols identified ‘six modes of representation’ in documentary filmmaking, which 40 | THE FLY IN THE SOUP | LEE FREEMAN
McAllister’s class origins and commitment to giving a voice to the working class serve to distance his films from the majority of class-bound television and film documentaries. His films circumvent what Izod and Kilborn define as the documentary movement’s often ‘patronizing curiosity of the educated middle classes facing an unfamiliar working-class culture’.XIV Furthermore, McAllister’s formalist techniques also manage to subvert accepted documentary modes of practice. Although his films utilise the expository mode of documentary, it is in combination with the observational
(or fly-on-the-wall), performative, and reflexive modes. McAllister’s filmmaking style problematises the authoritative nature of the expository mode. The observational mode of documentary filmmaking provides us with another area of contention in relation to the perceived objectivity of the documentary. According to Izod and Kilborn, the ‘issue which has featured prominently in the critical discourse surrounding documentaries centres on questions of realism. Right from the outset documentary’s special claim on audience’s attention has been its capacity to provide a seemingly objective window on the world’.XV In his extensive writings, Nichols has consistently attempted to demolish such objectivity. He argues, in an article in the seminal journal Screen, that ‘it is only by examining how a series of sounds and images signify that we begin to rescue documentary from the anti-theoretical, ideologically complicit argument that documentary equals reality, and that the screen is a window rather than a reflective surface’.XVI As has already been noted, McAllister also rejects the privileged position of documentary objectivity. His films call into question the notion of ‘documentary purity’, alerting the audience to their own creative processes by their juxtaposition of various modes of address and drawing attention to the filmmaker’s performativity and reflexivity. In order to understand how McAllister achieves this effect, we shall examine the opening sequence of two of his films: The Minders (1998) and Japan: A Story of Love and Hate. The Minders is the first of two films that McAllister made in Iraq and is set during the period of United Nations sanctions against the country. The film opens with a British Army training procedure highlighting the threat of chemical attacks in Iraq and employs a typical expository mode of address with ‘the first shot of the film show[ing] a group of men wearing protective clothing, faces masked, walking down a hill in the English countryside
towards the camera’.XVII McAllister’s narrative voiceover resembles a public service broadcast when listing the possible effects of a poisoned gas attack: ‘Symptoms of nerve gas poisoning: runny nose, increased saliva, tightness of chest, difficulty breathing, headaches, dizziness, urination, defecation, vomiting. To survive you must shut your eyes, drop to the ground, face down, place your hands under your body’. At the end of the sequence, McAllister takes off his helmet and looks nervously towards the camera. ‘I’m not too sure about this,’ he says. By opening with a darkly comic interlude and the interjection of McAllister’s filmmaking persona, the documentary immediately subverts its initial authoritative expository mode of address. Japan: A Story of Love and Hate highlights McAllister’s creative input into the filmmaking process, illustrating his engagement with the performative and reflexive modes of documentary. Nichols asserts that the performative mode’s function is to ‘stress the emotional complexity of experience from the perspective of the filmmaker’, which ‘give added emphasis to the subjective qualities of experience and memory that depart from factual recounting’.XVIII Similarly, the reflexive mode draws attention to the creative filmmaking process and reflects upon its own constructiveness to ‘attend to the filmmaker’s engagement with us [the viewers], speaking not only about the historical world but about the problems and issues of representing it as well’.XIX A classic example of documentary reflexivity is Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line (1988), in which ‘the viewer begins to question whether the images and sounds of the text could possibly represent the world adequately, since they are plainly a construction of the filmmakers’.XX The opening of Japan: A Story of Love and Hate encapsulates these two modes of documentary address. It features an out-of-breath McAllister filming himself whilst jogging in Japan, consciously working out lines
Top: ‘Japan: A Story of Love and Hate’ – Sean McAllister and 10Ft Films, Film, 2008 Middle: ‘A Syrian Love Story’ – Sean McAllister and 10Ft Films, Film, 2015 Bottom: ‘The Minders’ – Sean McAllister and 10Ft Films, Film, 1998
THE FLY IN THE SOUP | LEE FREEMAN | 41
of commentary whilst he exercises. He relays his own problems whilst making the film, and how he needs to ‘stop getting depressed, to stop drinking, to stop taking sleeping pills’. The sequence also informs the viewer that Ray has taken one of his tapes, but nevertheless McAllister has returned to filming Naoki again. The filmmaker concludes that Naoki ‘seems the only person I was filming who didn’t judge me’ and ‘didn’t mind me making my stupid British mistakes’.
Image courtesy of Sean McAllister and 10ft Films
SEAN MCALLISTER FILMOGRAPHY A Northern Soul (2018) A Syrian Love Story (2015) The Reluctant Revolutionary (2012) Japan: A Story of Love and Hate (2008) The Liberace of Baghdad (2005) Settlers (2000) The Minders (1998)
The opening sequences in The Minders and Japan: A Story of Love and Hate might disorientate the viewers who are anticipating a more conventional form of documentary discourse. The inclusion of McAllister’s persona in the films, stitched into the narratives, is not merely for comic effect. Izod and Kilborn describe the reflexive mode as ‘the manner in which the historical world is represented itself becomes the topic of cinematic representation’, which ‘makes not only the film’s subjects but also its own formal qualities, the object of questioning and doubts’.XXI In Japan A Story of Love and Hate, McAllister draws attention to the film’s creative process, foregrounding into the narrative the film he was making (with the character Ray) and the actual film you are about to see (with the character Naoki). By subverting the authoritative nature of documentary address, McAllister democratises the expository mode, creating a space for the audience to draw their own political conclusions from the films. In this manner, his films reject didacticism and an ideologically explicit engagement, yet this methodological process nonetheless has a political aim, which is to create a sense of solidarity through the exploration of the emotions of his protagonists. McAllister says: “Many of the people back in Hull wouldn’t know about the situation in Damascus. But when they see a character they can connect with, their concerns cross international borders. And I think that’s where in a small film (The Reluctant Revolutionary) someone like Kais – a revolutionary in Yemen – who is struggling to pay his bills, becomes tangible and real. When people attach and connect to him they step into the political framework a bit easier. I try to make my films about 70% character and 30% politics so after watching a film in Iraq, or wherever, they might watch the news in a more informed or interested way because they have engaged in the country through my characters.” The critically lauded qualities of intimacy and empathy in McAllister’s documentaries are due to his sustained interaction with the protagonists – he is never content merely to passively observe his characters. His application of the interactive mode of documentary is especially evident in A Syrian Love Story. Filmed over five years, the documentary features Amer and Raghda, a married couple in Damascus who are forced to flee the country with their
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two young sons, first to Lebanon and then to France where they are granted asylum. As tensions arise in their relationship, both Amer and Raghda treat McAllister as a confidant. Consequently, his growing friendship with the couple becomes an adjunct to their faltering love story. As in most of McAllister’s work, the level of intimacy that the filmmaker achieves in A Syrian Love Story can make for uncomfortable viewing, with Mark Kermode suggesting that ‘at times [McAllister’s] presence feels intrusive’.XXII Similarly, Baker finds that McAllister’s approach in Working for the Enemy is occasionally ‘too intimate, too private’ and that ‘the audience is cast in the role of voyeur’.XXIII McAllister rejects accusations of voyeurism and maintains a vigorous defence of his methodology: “Films seem voyeuristic when there is a problem in the relationship between the filmmaker and the characters. It shouldn’t feel voyeuristic when the relationship is good. The filmmaker works to get that level of access and intimacy and voyeurism is when it is unwelcomed. That’s not to say that everybody I film is happy seeing those things reflected but they have committed themselves to a process and it’s a warts-and-all look and some of it is going to be awkward. You have to prepare them for that and get them geared up and ready to take a few punches.” McAllister is equally unapologetic about making his audience feel uneasy watching his films. He relays how ‘people ask: “do you think you can get too close” and the implication is that they felt awkward watching some of those scenes. Well, good! They were meant to. The pain of what really happens to people is felt most strongly in some of those scenes’. McAllister is also aware of how observational and interactive documentary techniques could influence the action, but he is equally forceful in his rejection of accusations of performativity in his
characters. ‘I think performance is a difficult concept. I think people are aware of the camera and aware of the process. They are with me and talking to me and there’s a journey that that we are going on, but they don’t necessarily feel the camera because of me,’ he says. He has claimed that it is his ‘duty as a filmmaker is to get beyond the performance’.XXIV Again, McAllister believes that preparation is the key to achieving verisimilitude: “If you don’t have that relationship with the filmmaker, if you just have a pretend crew pretending they are not really there, then you get to the level of performance because they are pretending you are not there in order to try to be naturalistic. Of course, people try to self-censor etc. but the skills of the filmmakers and the relationship you have with the characters is to disarm and undermine any of that. To catch people out with the questions, to create off-the-cuff answers – these are the moments which reveal things.” Throughout his career to date, McAllister has achieved a remarkable level of documentary authenticity, revealing through his films intimate stories of the marginalised and oppressed, and demonstrating a commitment to providing a voice to the unheard. He is undoubtedly a political filmmaker but one who rejects strident polemics for a more nuanced and distinctly individual approach. Through the utilisation of a variety of documentary modes and rejection of the didactic and authoritative discourse prevalent in the documentary tradition, McAllister places an intuitive trust in his audience, creating a narrative space that allows the ‘sly radicalism’ of his films to emerge. XXV These factors make Sean McAllister, as Michael Moore has acknowledged, ‘one of the most brave and powerful filmmakers around’.XXVI
ENDNOTES I All quotes from Sean McAllister are taken from interviews with the author unless otherwise stated. The interviews took place on 6th October 2018 and 11th January 2019. II Johnston, Trevor, ‘A Northern Soul: Review’, Sight and Sound, October 2018, pp.68–9. III Baker, Maxine, Documentary in the Digital Age, Focal Press: London, 2006, p.233. IV Ibid., p.253. V Steen Müller, Tue, ‘Sean McAllister: Japan: A Story of Love and Hate’, Filmkommentaren.DK, 12 March 2012, www.filmkommentaren.dk/blog/ blogpost/1918 (accessed on 9 January 2019). VI Sandhu, Sukhdev ‘Will the Real Reality Please Stand Up?: Sean McAllister’s Documentary Portraits Energise and Inspire’, Vertigo, vol. 2 no. 5, Summer 2003, p.16. VII Baker, op. cit. p.237. VIII Ibid., p.238. IX Nichols, Bill Introduction to Documentary, Indiana University Press: Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2001, p.99 and p.105. X Ibid. XI Izod, John and Kilborn, Richard, ‘The Documentary’, in John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson (eds.), The Oxford Guide to Film Studies, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1998, p.429. XII Grierson, John, in H. Forsyth Hardy (ed.), Grierson on Documentary, Collins: London, 1946, p.77. XIII Aitken, Ian, ‘The British Documentary Film Movement’, in Robert Murphy (ed.), The British Cinema Book 3rd Edition, BFI Palgrave: London, 2009, p.180. XIV Izod and Kilborn, op. cit. p.428. XV Ibid., p.427. XVI Nichols, Bill, ‘Documentary Theory and Practice’, Screen, vol. 17, no. 4, Winter 1976–77, p.35. XVII Baker, op. cit., p.240. XVIII Nichols, Introduction to Documentary, op. cit., p.131. XIX Ibid., p.125. XX Izod and Kilborn, op. cit., p.430. XXI Ibid. XXII Kermode, Mark, ‘A Syrian Love Story Review: A Microcosm of a Global Crisis’, The Observer, 20 September 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/ film/2015/sep/20/a-syrian-love-story-reviewmicrocosm-of-global-crisis (accessed on 10 January 2019). XXIII Baker, op. cit., p.239. XXIV Sean McAllister Documentary Filmmaker website, www.seanmcallister.com (accessed on 21 January 2019). XXV Sandhu, op. cit., p.17. XXVI Sean McAllister Documentary Filmmaker website, op. cit.
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THE TRAIN TRACK AND THE BASKET CLAIRE BARBER
Interpreting transmigration within a site-responsive practice Between 1836 and 1914 more than 2 million people from mainland Europe arrived by ship into Hull, subsequently leaving by train for the ports of Liverpool and Southampton. There they would take ships to new lives further overseas, particularly in the US. This mass movement of people through and across Hull, many staying in the city only for a few hours, ended abruptly with the outbreak of the First World War. The phenomenon was called ‘transmigration’. During Hull UK City of Culture my artwork The Train Track and the Basket (2017) was installed in the entrance to Hull Paragon Station, inspired by this historic ‘transmigration’ phenomenon. Designs on the arched, exterior windows explored the notion that skills migrated with the workers left: Developmental work by Claire Barber
along transport routes, as well as their hopes and expectations. Many of the migrants used traditional baskets to take their belongings on their journey,I and a number of basket-weaving patterns and skills now present in North America can be traced back to northern Europe. The imagery refers to various elements of this history – the materials with which the baskets were made, the plants and seeds that migrated along the train tracks, and the final destination of those who passed through the station. The site of the artwork is one where the constant movement of people today mirrors the weaving process of creating textiles and baskets: patterns of motion are overlaid with one another each time someone enters or exits the building. In this article I will be looking at the two objects conjoined in my title: whereby multiple photographs taken while walking systematically along train tracks are combined with the tools and skills of basket-making
to become fibres in the story of transmigration. I will also observe a small collection of actual baskets once used by mainland European migrants on their journey to the US, exploring the nature of the engagement with these artefacts through the glass of a display case at Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, New York, US. I will conclude by returning to Hull, to discuss the artwork The Train Track and the Basket.
A Study in Woven Structure 1. Diagrammatic Drawings On my studio table a range of books and articles on weave and basketmaking provide comprehensive chronicles of specialist woven construction techniques. One that I have looked at often is a book from 1965 by Anni Albers called On Weaving, which presents a series of detailed drawings of early netted
techniques. Another is Country Crafts from 1994. Compiled by the Women’s Institute, it includes precisely drawn illustrations of the slew and the rand basket-making methods. These books convey instructions accurately in their use of detailed diagrammatic drawings. I am interested in the drawings’ capacity to symbolise the significance of the internal basket structure as a placeholder for some of the factual and semi-fictional histories of transmigration that a basket embodies. As dissections these diagrammatic drawings contain my own notional fibres, constructed from multiple photographs of train tracks pasted into longitudinal composite images. This process, akin to collage, positions a train track inside the diagrammatic space of a basket so that it becomes part of the journey towards understanding how the basket carries a range of meanings and skills in the movement of its fibres. On first glance a diagrammatic drawing appears to be a simplified representation of a more complex internal structure. By leaping inside the diagrammatic drawing as if it were a place for movement, the basket can be understood both within and beyond the formal language of its own construction. Its internal structure is a journey of interwoven fibres derived from the landscapes from which they grow. Placing my own photographs of train tracks in the UK and mainland Europe into the outline of these fibres, conveys an organisation of specific experiences dispersing around the form that are no longer connected to one location. In some way I am reimagining the structure of the basket and then dramatising its production.
2. Unconscious Expression A historical backdrop to the phenomenon of transmigration through Hull is provided by Nicholas J Evans in ‘Work in progress: Indirect Passage from Europe Transmigration via the UK, 1836-1914’. Evans presents statistical evidence to suggest that up to 20 per cent of the total number of immigrants arriving into the US between 1836 and 1914 passed through the UK, with over sixty per cent of European immigrants doing so via the ports of Hull and Grimsby.II Watching archival film footage of immigrants taking their first steps into their new country at Ellis Island, USA, I know from Evans’s statistical evidence that at least one in ten of these disembarking passengers would have taken passage through Hull. Some clutch their luggage in woven baskets. The solid form of the basket may not give away what lies within, but it carries the identity of the culture and landscape from which it originated. To this extent the basket depicts an unconscious, outward expression and reflection of passenger communities and craft-based traditions that they carry with them.
sourced and the water that gives them life, in an attempt to shed light on the luggage basket beyond its perceivable material structure. I subsequently hear that I may be able to see two baskets once owned by immigrants at the Ellis Island Museum of National Immigration. I visit, led by a conviction of the importance of looking at the baskets in reality and to see how they speak to me within a museum collection.
How to engage with a basket within a museum collection? In his essay ‘On Weaving a Basket’, Tim Ingold points out that: The more objects are removed from the context of life-activity in which they are produced and used – the more they appear as static objects of disinterested contemplation (as in museums and galleries) the more, too, the process disappears or is hidden behind the product, the finished object.III Taking stock of Ingold’s commentary, I make an excursion from my studio to visit a willow and basket-making centre in Somerset to see for myself the people who create them, the reeds from which the fibres are
46 | THE TRAIN TRACK AND THE BASKET | CL AIRE BARBER
Developmental work by Claire Barber
The museum displays artefacts that were once carried into the US by these immigrants. On seeing a wooden plane, I imagine how the carpenter’s tool would have been cushioned in a luggage basket during its journey, the shiny surface of its handle representing the skills honed by years of use. I notice a basket-woven quilt and pillow beater, brought to the US from Poland in 1923 by Nathan Solomon. The interpretation panel states that it was given to Solomon by his mother so that he could beat his linens every Friday morning in preparation for the Sabbath. I wonder whether the owner had mixed feelings about using this object, one that connected him to his old country as he began his new life in the US. In the next room I finally find the two luggage baskets. One had belonged to the donor’s mother, who had emigrated from Poland in 1915. The other had formerly belonging to one Augusto Bronstrom who had emigrated Sweden in 1907. I have brought my large camera and tripod, but it is impossible to capture an image of each basket without reflections bouncing off the shiny surface of the museum’s glass cabinet. This presentation has not intentionally been designed to obstruct the viewer. However it seems inevitable that my photograph will be disrupted by the light in the space and reflections of visitors as they come into the room to observe the display. I crouch down and get in close to catch the scratches and holes pitted into the surface of the baskets, once small vignettes to the belongings inside. Though I persevere with my photography the images are still tinted by a cast of light from the warmly lit room. I now start to appreciate the basket as an open-ended site through which I may join in as an observer and active participant. As I leave Ellis Island I ponder all that has been presented to me, and return to my work in the spirit of a bricoleur: drawings and photographs of train tracks and woven structures are combined and recombined to metamorphose into something new. Developmental work by Claire Barber
THE TRAIN TRACK AND THE BASKET | CL AIRE BARBER | 47
Above and left: The Train Track and the Basket. Photo credit: Patrick Mateer
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The Train Track and the Basket, Hull Paragon Station, 2017 Returning to Hull Paragon railway station, the white-painted walls inside the entrance are interspersed by large, arched windows, their shape reminiscent of an upturned basket. The station’s entrance seems designed for contemplation, the open glass doorways suggesting both beginnings and endings through entry to another space. The First World War memorial plaques installed on the walls reinforce this. At eye height, the names of people from Hull who never returned from war mark a shift in daily perception. With the outbreak of the First World War and the passing of immigration acts in South Africa and the US, the era of mass transmigration from Europe via the UK ended overnight.IV The station also serves as a busy in-between space for those heading towards their destination. Each time somebody crosses the threshold of the open doorways, they are going through a type of transition. The Train Track and the Basket explores the condition of the transparent, open doorways as characterising the clarity and visibility of what lies ahead, taking the exceptional light qualities of the station entrance as visual inspiration. People may not be inclined to stop and look at art in such a location. The artwork may appear to simply change the light levels in the space, depending on the weather or the observer’s mood. However, on looking up the viewer will see that the habitually transparent panes are now filled of shadow, line and colour, an addition causing an optical shift in the building. As individuals weave themselves in and out of the space, they may on closer inspection see the link between what they carry and personal expression, recognising the new influences they themselves add and remove from the locality with their journey.
In the penultimate paragraph of ‘On Weaving a Basket’ Ingold inverts the general understanding of weaving as a form of making, expressing the process instead as a condition in which to create: Mind is not above, nor nature below; rather, if we ask where mind is, it is in the weave of the surface itself. And it is within this weave that our projects of making, whatever they may be, are formulated and come to fruition. Only if we are capable of weaving, only then we can make.V This bold and broad interpretation of weaving assists me in approaching the space of the Hull Paragon Station as a location for understanding woven textile creation. The process could be compared with the action of doubleweaving: composed of independently defined layers as countless patterns are created every time somebody enters and exits the building, moving from one side of the open glass doorways to the other. The continuous rhythm of warp and weft threads as they recede from view and then reappear on the back is inspired by communities navigating the space in similar patterns, while retaining their individualism. In this way visitors to the station are a live, interactive element of the artwork, whether they are aware of it or not. This likeness stimulates further reflection on the migration of actual woven technique. It is more than likely that some on their transmigration through Hull from mainland Europe would have known the technique of weaving well; taking their knowledge of woven materials and artefacts on their journey, passing on the skill as well as absorbing those of others, adapting their own techniques to the materials available to them in a new country. Transmigration is thus carried by the idea of textiles as people go through the arched windowed entrances into Hull railway station, inviting a consideration of
material technological appropriation in the context of their life in transit and offering an alternative reading of European transmigration through Hull beyond the limits of literal understanding. A large part of the artwork may never be noticed, and there will be areas that remain fragmentary from the viewers perspective as commuters go on to make their journey. However, I argue that the viewer’s senses are continuously in play in this transitory location, as they make connections with each other and weave themselves in and out of the station, creating the conditions of possibility for forging a new understanding of woven structure and identity relationships, within and through the centre of Hull.
ENDNOTES I Stephenson, Sue, ‘Basketry of the Appalachian Mountains’, Van Nostrand Renhold Company, New York, 1977, p.13. II Evans, Nicholas J, ‘Work in Progress: Indirect Passage from Europe Transmigration via the UK, 1836-1914’, Journal for Maritime Research 3 (1), 2001, p. 71. III Ingold, Tim, ‘On Weaving a Basket’ in Candlin, Fiona and Guins, Raiford (eds), The Object Reader, Routledge, London, 2009, p.99. IV Evans, Nicholas J, op. cit., p. 75. V Ingold, Tim, op. cit., p.90.
THE TRAIN TRACK AND THE BASKET | CL AIRE BARBER | 49
Access is a fierce concern in the arts in the UK at the moment. As Government cuts have dragged on for years, this has impacted on access on all fronts and undermined what progress had been made in recent decades.
ACCESS AND THE ARTS
K E N N TAY L O R Access is a fierce concern in the arts in the UK. Government cuts have dragged on for years, reducing equitable access to culture on all fronts and undermining the progress that had been made in recent decades. Couple this with a period of intense cultural shifts and the spotlight has been turned on access, not for the first time, and hard questions are rightly being asked. Access to the arts, or lack thereof, has to be considered on different levels. This includes physical and sensory access to art and art venues, financial access to art or the tools to make it, and access to education facilitating the consumption, critique and creation of art. To this we can add access to the platforms that help define the art that is valued, paid for and consumed by large numbers of people, and lastly access to the time and space it takes to even think about art. The challenges vary between access to the consumption of art and access to making and platforming it. In this multimedia age, these have to an
extent blurred. However, a hierarchy remains. A large number of people may be able to put their pictures on Instagram or sell works on Etsy, but it’s not a meritocracy as to who gets their images selected by a major gallery or has their jewellery designs used in a shoot in Vogue. Let’s talk first about who gets to consume. Though not impossible, it’s hard to produce art without having consumed a significant amount of it first. With the Internet there is ostensibly more access to all forms of visual culture than ever. There are also now more contemporary arts centres in the UK than ever before. So, there’s potential abundance. However, if your personal circumstances are such that you may never have been given the opportunity to think about what you’re consuming, to examine it in detail or explore beyond what major organisations want to feed us through powerful communication channels, access is not equal.
Not everyone is given the chance to explore and create art from a young age. For many reasons art is not just in the purview of a lot of families, often after parents have been denied opportunities themselves. With life getting harder for poorer families,I local cultural services and youth support being shut,II and disability support services being axed,III fewer young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have opportunities to develop their interests and talents. So, the first layer of people who have been denied access to the arts falls away. Schools once offered young people at least some chance to engage with different aspects of the arts. Now we see the stripping out and devaluing of arts education at all levels. Except of course, in the elite, private schools, which have heavily invested arts programmes.IV Meanwhile school trips to cultural venues – which for many are the first if not only opportunity to experience such things, my own first visits to a theatre and an art gallery were with school – are being hugely
cut back.V Those who may have interests in creative areas and talents they’re not even aware of yet, are not being given the chance to develop. Instead they are pushed down narrow and often irrelevant paths of learning, and told they’re stupid or a failure if they don’t conform. Any attempt to change access to the arts further upstream are always going to have minimal impact unless things change within the mainstream education system. So, another layer of people denied access to the arts falls away. Some have concerns about imposing art upon people. It is true that ideas of ‘high art’ have historically been used to devalue and undermine popular culture and those ingrained in it. Yet it can’t be ignored that there are always dominant artistic forms linked to power. People from all backgrounds should have the opportunity to get to grips with these and choose whether to adopt them, adapt them or to reject them. Those within the arts who care little about ensuring people’s access to it, who even see it as patronising, are usually those who have always taken it for granted. They have been fed enough art to be able to reject aspects of it even as others are barely getting their first taste.
who now struggle to access enough support even for their basic needs, find it even harder to find support to engage with the arts. More people denied access fall away. We then need to consider who gets to create art. Making art requires no license, materials can be cheap and some people have made a success of this. However, for most people making art does require first having experienced it, as well as having the time, drive and, crucially, confidence to begin. Inevitably those facing the most disadvantages are cut off first. Without early opportunities, the field of those who may pursue art has already been narrowed. That’s before we get to the Governmental and growing societal narrative pushed even on those who do know deep down that they want to create, that studying the arts at a higher level is a bad or irrelevant thing. Thus, another layer of people who may have had a path in the arts falls away. For those who do want to study, the cost of arts higher education in the UK is extortionate, our fees are now the highest in the world,VI while at the same time arts studios and facilities are being ‘value engineered’ out of institutions. The number of tutors and student contact time with them is also being reduced – time which is perhaps most vital for the more disadvantaged students. Some places have seen the de facto end of visual art higher education, leaving local young people with little option but long, expensive distances to travel should they want to pursue study. Yet another layer of people denied access to the arts falls away.
Any attempt to change access to the arts further upstream are always going to have minimal impact unless things change within the mainstream education system.
It’s not just young people who are having opportunities removed. The slashing of Further Education colleges and other routes for lifelong learning has cut people’s chances to develop interest and skills in art in later life. Simultaneously, austerity and its resulting negative impacts on work, family and community life leave less space for other things. Even if you have a keen interest, the costs for visiting many exhibitions have soared as subsidies have been cut. Disabled people, 52 | ACCESS AND THE ARTS | KENN TAYLOR
Then there are those who find it hard to make it through study even once they’ve started. Without significant financial support from their family many arts students have to work long hours outside study as well as having to live at home.VII Often this means having less time to devote to study and to develop practice and less opportunity to build a support network, and the extra independence and confidence this would bring. The dropout rate amongst students from disadvantaged backgrounds is generally higher than for their more comfortable peers. So, the next layer of people denied access to the arts fall away. After study in the arts comes the difficult period when there isn’t a direct, clear or easily accessible path to develop and sustain yourself in the field. The pressure to make a living gets harder as the structural support of being a student disappears. Those with financial backing do not to have to fully support themselves at this stage. Those without disabilities, mental health challenges or caring responsibilities are inherently advantaged: able to focus on developing their creative practice, getting it out there and building further networks. Even if you can avoid some of these challenges, which have been powerfully discussed by Anna Berry on Disability Arts Online,IX what if you find networking hard? I myself have an anxiety condition that can flare up and make that essential networking exhausting, even at this stage in my career. Others face far greater challenges and prejudices. Thus, another layer of people who can’t sustain themselves through this period falls away from the arts. Even for those who do make it onto the first rung of the professional ladder, how does an emerging artist get from a popup show in an empty shop to being exhibited at a major gallery? The path remains remote, distant, unclear. There are more arts centres around the UK than ever,
and some do have programmes supporting emerging artists. Others feel the need to focus on artists already on ‘the circuit’ especially as they’re also dealing with funding cuts, which can make them risk averse and pushed to ensure popularity and critical support. Getting on this circuit is often an arbitrary and unfair process, which requires a lot of time and energy building networks and getting seen. It can also be difficult to apply for grants without some form of track record, not to mention draining and time consuming given the likelihood of rejection. Even for those able to create space in their lives to maintain a creative practice, trying to move beyond local recognition is difficult. Again, in this period of an artist’s development, those who don’t fear destitution and who have been taught how to sell themselves from an early age often win out. For those who struggle, another layer of people falls away from the arts. Who gets to work for those cultural organisations and funders? The arts is a small sector and like all small sectors it can be a deeply interconnected world. People get to know each other and develop close working relationships as they move around organisations, compare themselves and try to impress each other. To an extent this is inevitable. However, it also leads to a narrowness of ‘how things are done’ and a circle of who knows who. While things are improving, diversity in the sector has a long way to go. Those from diverse backgrounds who do enter the sector are often moulded by very similar educational backgrounds, their ideologies dominated by whatever is current in universities at the time. Questions around ‘taste’, ‘quality’ and ‘relevance’ remain decided by a small circle, one that can be very hard to enter. There’s still an unspoken division between cultural organisations that
are ‘taken seriously’ and the rest. As a recent article highlighted, burnout amongst arts leaders is growing.X There’s a constant battle to get enough funding, keep everything running, deal with unstable governments, a slashed public sector, ever more pressure and paperwork. Inevitably the burden of this falls on the smaller arts organisations who are less able to call on powerful friends, and who don’t have a team of fundraisers. Already things are deeply skewed against working in the regions: four of the richest areas of London received more National Lottery cash per person than any other part of the UK over 20 years.XI Even though this is slowly changing, the larger cities with big organisations inevitably benefit the most ahead of often poorer cities and towns. Climbing the ladder in the sector can be hard and slow, requiring difficult choices about moving around. Pay at all levels remains low.XII Many people leave the arts sector as they approach middle age, unable to support families in these situations. Another layer of people is lost from the arts. Which brings us to who is left? This country did very well after the Second World War: allowing more people from different backgrounds into the world of art and culture, helping lead to a revolution in everything from commercial design to visual art and music loved across the world. This has generated immeasurable benefits to the economy. Yet diverse access to the arts is now in decline at all levels. We seem to realise the importance of a rich cultural life to the wellbeing of society more than ever, just as galleries close, local colleges shut arts classes and schools are turned into privatised exam factories. It is certainly not all doom: there has been progress in the increasing acknowledgment of diverse perspectives, more effort towards
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meaningfully engaging the wider public in the arts and a growing number of places to show work. There will also always be a random and arbitrary element to who and what becomes popular or powerful in the arts. Lots of us want to create, not all of us what to consume what others create. Some people are just better artists or curators or whatevers than others. What we can avoid though, what we must work hard against now more than ever, is the compound unfairness at which every layer more people who don’t fit or who are facing disadvantages in life fall away from the arts. Many never even get the opportunity or space to think about art because so many of their other needs
are not being fulfilled. These issues are not confined to the the arts sector. They are fundamental to the multiple challenges the UK faces as a society. This social decay started much further back than 2010, when public sector cuts following the financial crash of 2008 really began to kick in. It’s just grown to cover more areas and affect more people. Much needs to be done, but in small ways we can all do things to create better opportunities for access to the arts, so less people fall away before they have even begun.
ENDNOTES I Hannah, Felicity, ‘Why low-income families won’t ever be able to make ends meet’, The Independent, 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/ money/spend-save/low-incomefamilies-outgoings-personal-financespoverty-a8432991.html II Bulman, May, ‘Spending on children and young people’s services cut by nearly £1bn in six years, figures reveal’, The Independent, 2018, https://www. independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ children-young-people-services-uk-cutsfunding-local-authorities-labour-toriesangela-rayner-a8285191.html III Ryan, Frances, ‘PIP is a disaster for disabled people. At last the full horror is emerging’, The Guardian, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/ commentisfree/2016/jun/07/pipdisaster-disabled-access-report-benefits IV Norris, Rufus, ‘Creativity can be taught to anyone. So why are we leaving it to private schools?’, The Guardian, 2018, https://www.theguardian. com/commentisfree/2018/jan/17/ creativity-private-schools-uk-creativeindustries-state V Kershaw, Alison, ‘Cash-strapped schools axing classes and cutting back on trips, headteachers say’, The Independent, 2017, https://www.independent.co.uk/
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news/education/education-news/ education-schools-struggling-financiallyaxing-gcse-a-level-courses-cuttingclass-trips-headteachers-a7620931.html VI Kentish, Benjamin, ‘University tuition fees in England now the highest in the world, new analysis suggests’, The Independent, 2017, https://www. independent.co.uk/news/education/ university-tuition-fees-england-highestworld-compare-students-student-loancalculator-a7654276.html VII Busby, Eleanor, ‘Poorer students three times more likely to live at home while at university, study says’, The Independent, 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/ news/education/education-news/poorstudents-live-at-home-university-suttontrust-social-mobility-a8229816.html VIII Sellgren, Katherine, ‘Rise in poorer students dropping out of university’, BBC News, 2017, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ education-40429263 IV Berry, Anna, ‘How The Art World Exclused Introverts’ Disability Arts Online, 2018, http://disabilityarts.online/ magazine/opinion/art-world-excludesintroverts
X Romer, Christy, Increasingly high risk of burnout among arts leaders, ArtsProfessional, 2018. https://www. artsprofessional.co.uk/news/increasinglyhigh-risk-burnout-among-arts-leaders XI Evans, Felicity, ‘Lottery good causes: Is UK lotto cash shared fairly?’, BBC News, 2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ukwales-46468787 XII Hill, Liz, ‘Pay crisis builds as arts workers struggle to make ends meet’, ArtsProfessional, 2019, https://www. artsprofessional.co.uk/news/pay-crisisbuilds-arts-workers-struggle-makeends-meet
KARIM SKALLI This project explores my identity and mixed cultural heritage through a series of photographs, archival images and video stills. As the son of an English mother and a Moroccan father, the project attempts to show the coming together of cultures, the conflicts and juxtaposition created through merging English and Moroccan culture and the influence of this on my identity. The work ponders my western outsider gaze, my ‘cast on’ view of my father’s homeland whilst at the same time acknowledging my own sense of never being fully British. The images are an intuitive response to two cities in which we have homes; Hull and Fez, reflected upon through a lens of critical discourse surrounding identity.
To an extent, my parents reflect Homi Bhabha’s theory of hybridity, this third space, through sharing their different cultures (language, food, art) to the point where each feel part of the other’s culture.I This is part and parcel of their everyday lives. To do this they have had to learn and compromise and have changed in the process. For my own investigation, I used this idea to understand where I lie in between this juxtaposition of nationality and culture. I created a Venn diagram with the common shared elements in the middle and the differences and influences from each culture on the outside, this helped me understand my position as a ‘hyphen’ identity (a recognition of two identities or a ‘mixture’ of identities).
I came to realise the importance of understanding my past in order to progress further with the investigation. I found old archival images of my parents and grandparents and contrasted the cultures both were born into. This gave me a basis to go from.
My project looks at identity through an insider/outsider gaze, but applying this idea to my own work was difficult. In many ways I felt an outsider in both countries because of my hybridity but I came to realise that through my inside perspective and this idea of the third space, I am giving the viewer an insight into my personal experience of mixed heritage identity. The photographs of the third space represent a confessional mode in which I allow access to my lived experience through personal and intimate images of my family and home, the places and people which represent the coming together of cultures.
Raised in North England, post 9/11, I became very conscious of a sudden spike in negative attitude towards the Middle East and Arab nations. Although I have never had any racism directed towards me, I was increasingly aware of the perspective people had of places like Morocco and allowed this to have an effect on me. I distanced myself from my heritage in fear of being an outsider, I knew full well what Morocco was like and how it operates but shamefully allowed this negative judgement to challenge my
idea on my identity. I had to reflect and understand that my opinions were that of a subject who has never lived in the culture and only believed what they have heard from a western standpoint.
I quickly came to realise that the more intimate, serene shots of Morocco were more representative and evocative of my relationship with Morocco. The quiet, intuitive moments I’d have with family were the moments that I felt most connected to; I felt a sense of belonging.
The moments like my mum sunbathing on the roof of our flat surrounded by television aerials creating a scene that perfectly describes my relationship between cultures. The soft light that enters from the windows of our flat, creating psychological experience and evoking senses of memory and consciousness. These were the moments that I felt truly connected to and the moments that reflected my identity and Moroccan heritage. Light has always been important to me because of my time spent in Morocco, the light always seemed so much stronger there, shadows were more prominent, shade and colour became more obvious and I became accustomed to spotting things I’d usually miss. ENDNOTES: I Bhabha, H. Location of culture, Routledge, London, 1993
THE THIRD SPACE | KARIM SKALLI | 55
Far left: ‘Where are you really from?’ 2017 Left: ‘Moroccan Shirt. English Garden’ 2017 Above: ‘Homeland’ 2017
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Other page: ‘Identity Obscura’ 2017 Left: ‘The Western Gaze’ 2017 Top: ‘Who?’ 2017
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which words relate to ART and which to DESIGN? EXPRESSES ADVERTISES IS BOUNDLESS ENGAGES CRITICISES QUESTIONS COMMUNICATES SHARES SOLVES CHALLENGES IS RESTRICTED INSPIRES INFORMS which do they share? what words would you add?
QUESTION If you had to create the definitions for artistic practices: what would you like to ask an artist? what would you like to ask a graphic designer? what would you like to ask a graphic artist? what would you like them to ask one another?
ANSWER your answers are ART or DESIGN. think fast. answer quickly. which is more practical? which pays more? which inspires? which do you respect more? which is high culture? which do you relate more to? do you prefer art or design? why?
HAVE YOUR SAY?
what are your answers based on?
We want to hear your thoughts, feel free to tear, cross out, write your opinion anywhere on this page or your own. Photograph your answer and share it online #FISHMAG
LYDIA CAPRANI & JOSH WILLIAMS
How can we galvanise young artists to find the passion, compassion and sense of purpose to make a difference in the world? How can we ensure that the next generation of artists has the artistic strength, vision and motivation to create a world in which engaging in the arts enhances the quality of peopleâ€™s lives? How can we activate our cultural institutions to produce a socially engaged workforce that responds creatively and responsibly to the diverse challenges of a world in constant flux?
Inspiring Voices: A Challenge to Young Artists
P R O F E S S O R P E T E R R E N S H AW
Due to be published in late 2019, Inspiring Voices: A Challenge to Young Artists has been written by Professor Peter Renshaw in conversation with young artists, musicians and poets between the ages of 16 and 40. The assumption underlying this polemic book is that all cultural and higher arts education institutions, together with their decision-makers, should be working collectively to ensure that young and emergent artists have the skills, values and attitudes to meet the challenges confronting society today. ‘Their voices have an energy and urgency that compel us to listen to them. Their perspectives on the things that matter to them invite us to see the world through a different lens. Our conversations have not only been inspiring and challenging, but most importantly they have demonstrated how engaging in the arts and creative projects can transform people’s lives. The approach taken includes testimonies, interviews, group discussions and poems which connect my voice to that of young people.’ – Professor Renshaw. The connecting of conversations lies at the heart of this investigation. People’s ability to communicate with each other is fundamental to the art of conversation – making connections, asking questions, listening, reflecting and engaging in a non-judgmental way are central to a vibrant, meaningful conversation.
criminal justice, creative uses of digital technologies and arts in education… and the motivation and values of the socially engaged artists tackling these issues. Renshaw explores and makes connections between the concepts and challenges brought to him by the next generation of creatives. Key ideas interrogated include the acknowledgment of the knowledge and expertise of inspirational young voices, giving them the space and time to be reflective without judgment and consequence, and that by giving them the space to be listened to and supported, their power can come through their interaction with others, including with older people. The book, which is sure to be a critical piece of work concerning the value of arts within the wider context of people and society, provides a platform for young people’s voices to be heard, and it is hoped that their stories, their points of view, their commitment to the arts and social engagement will serve as an inspiration for other young artists seeking to engage more fully with the challenges confronting the contemporary world. Professor Renshaw, Peter, Inspiring Voices: A Challenge to Young Artists, London, 2019 (anticipated)
A number of pertinent themes have arisen during the testimonies, discussions and poems explored, including (but not limited to) that of identity, sexuality, race, belonging, alienation, mental health, connection and disconnection, migration, class, 63
Celebrating Ted Lewis, an Artistic Polymath MONT Y MARTIN In 2020 there will be local, national and international celebrations on the 50th anniversary of the release of the seminal film Get Carter. In this year the film’s author, Ted Lewis, would have had his 80th birthday if booze and fags had not carried him off aged 42 in 1982. Ted Lewis was born in Barton-upon-Humber and had an instinctive talent for sketching. He loved writing and was a film buff not only in his youth but throughout his life. He saw events and stories in screenplay and had an acute skill in observation. Mentored by the talented and respected critic, poet and novelist Henry Treece, Ted trained in graphic art at Hull College of Art and Design. After achieving a diploma his career, which included the cartoon version of Lone Ranger, peaked as animation clean up supervisor on The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. This production was an innovative triumph by Heinz Edelmann.
Photo: The Ted Lewis Group, courtesy of David Lee Limited
As a student, Lewis played self-taught piano for Unity Jazz Band and entertained throughout his life. An acute observer, he wrote eight novels apart from Get Carter and achieved the accolade of being the father of British Noir. In 2020 there will be a celebration dinner in Barton for Ted’s birthday on 15th January: a prelude to a year of exhibitions throughout the East Riding of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, as well as a reprinted trail of Barton upon Humber, seminars and a commemorative international edition of Get Carter. The book was based in Barton and Scunthorpe, whereas Get Carter was filmed in and around Newcastle where there will be a special commemorative exhibition and presentation in May 2020. Details of the events will be announced on www.tedlewis.co.uk, which regularly provides a wealth of information about our local artistic polymath.
On the Fish Trail in Hull Chromed bronze anchovies, brill in York Stone, an electric eel flickers by the electricity sub-station, dogfish chase catfish in Elland Edge rock, gurnard, John Dory, haddock and hake, starfish and yawling, lobsters dancing in slate, x-ray fish etched over Beverley Gate, garfish and grayling branded in timber, cod cast in bronze, boardwalk ice-fish in Carrara. And what of the oarfish in Hopton Wood Stone that slithers down a ginnel off Bowlalley Lane? Flying fish leap by the old Seaman’s Mission, for sailors a sign of good luck and good fortune. Net herrings and mackerel and eels set in decking, and at Old Scale Lane Staith catch an elegant salmon. Squid in cast iron vie with monkfish in marble all flaunting whiskers, gills, tails, fins and barbels. Viviparous blenny takes a twirl on a terrace, (posh) Cerutti’s is graced with a turbot in granite. Festooned with crinoids, formed in Tilberthwaite Tuff, Black Belgian marble, Jurassic or rough grey-brown sandstone. In brick known as Kettley and Staffordshire Blue, carved in Lazenby Redstone, or cut into slate, these slitherers, ditherers, flounderers, these waifs of the rollers now surge on the pavements, tread water in stone. Molluscs, crustaceans, small fry make their home on the streets of a city once famed for the smell of the silver-pit bounty, the trawlermen’s haul. And now it’s the artist we all have to thank for the pilots’ pub pilot and the Market Place plaice and, basking in Whitefriargate outside a bank, the shark with a menacing grin on its face. MARY AHERNE
For our house is our corner of the world... it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word. Gaston Bachelard
Home is one of the pillars of human existence. Always we are on our way: going from home, returning home, or looking for a new home. The house is an archetype; the primeval concept of home. The house as a shelter, one of the basic existential necessities, is deeply rooted in our unconscious. The house is a protective environment. The house shelters our lives, dreams, memories. But for many today the house also represents living with restricted freedom due to house prices, mortgages and the permanent threat of losing one’s own shelter due to a financial misfortune. The house has become a burden.The house could also be seen as a metaphor for the huge personal luggage we carry through life – all our memories, ideas, prejudices, relationships and so on. In the performance HOUSE & CHAIN (2018) I walk for one hour. During the walk I drag HOUSE & CHAIN attached to my ankle – inspired by the famous ball and chain, the physical restraint typically used on prisoners and slaves preventing effective physical resistance or escape/running away. Thus the House here has the function of leg cuffs. HOUSE & CHAIN is 7 kilograms in weight and measures 24 x 20 x 22 centimetres.It is made of steel and attached to the ankle with the help of a metal chain and a padded leather collar. On the return part of the walk I offer the audience the opportunity to participate in the creative process – this public participation is a crucial part of the performance. The audience is free to decide on the length of their participation and the direction of their movements. Thus the choreography of the performance is unpredictable. HOUSE & CHAIN makes an artistic and existential statement and raises important questions about our society and the role of art. The performance has strong visual as well sound elements. The improvised participations in HOUSE & CHAIN remind us of the shared aspects of human existence across time and place. HOUSE & CHAIN was performed for the very first time in Salzburg in August 2018 with support of Stadt Salzburg, Austria and Virginia Centre for the Creative Arts, USA. This performance was followed by one in Stockholm, Sweden in December 2018. There are more performances to follow in other countries during 2019.
HOUSE & CHAIN, Salzburg 23 Aug 2018 Photo: Cay Bubendorfer
HOUSE & CHAIN M A J A S PA S O VA
HOUSE & CHAIN Stockholm 16 Dec 2018 Still from documentary film Photo: Johan Holtzberg
End-itorial L AUREN SAUNDERS
In the opening Editorial, Jill eloquently navigated the connections between The Critical Fish and our writers, our artists, the city and everything in between. We hope that this flagship issue of The Critical Fish has taught you something new, helped you to consider something you had not considered before whilst inspiring you to go out to see some art and ideally spark cultural conversations amongst people from all backgrounds throughout our shared region. It feels appropriate that Jill and I bookend this issue with our editorials as we are the embodiments of the range of cross-experiential dialogues that The Critical Fish works towards – Jill is an experienced writer whilst I am an emerging visual artist. The Critical Fish is an inclusive platform for people of all backgrounds, perspectives and academic experiences to give critical opinions, to learn from one another and to have our thinking tested by art. Maybe this could help stimulate a strengthened appreciation of the arts, our connectivity with each other and provide a lasting return? I believe that together, we can increase our social empowerment alongside our sense of economic and cultural place within the wider creative landscape.
We all have a voice, a perspective to give and something to contribute to wider discourse. My hope for The Critical Fish’s future surrounds the nurturing of curiosity and the stimulation of critical debate through the cross-pollination of ideas and experiences shared between unexperienced, emerging and established artists, writers, researchers and the wider communities in which they belong.
What do you think? How can you contribute? How can The Critical Fish best support you in making your ideas a reality? We believe in the collaborative power of shared ownership and the cooperative production of a strengthened community from which we can all be nourished and feel benefit. Since day one, we have endeavoured to ensure that The Critical Fish is co-designed, co-produced and co-delivered as collaboratively as possible using the resources available and within the framework that we have built together. I have been inspired by participatory arts as part of my professional development and this very much shapes the way I envisage The Critical Fish growing over the coming years. Jill and I may have set the ball rolling, but as far as I see it, you are just as much of The Critical Fish as we are. The role of The Critical Fish is to facilitate the ideas and voices that already exist out there by holding a shared space in which people can have conversations. In this artist-led way, The Critical Fish will grow towards a more culturally democratic model, involving more and more communities.
What’s a magazine without readers? The Critical Fish is already thinking about alternative ways to connect new and existing audiences through meaningful public engagement projects, seeking to further continue the kind of bigger conversations we set out to inspire, nurture and facilitate. I consider The Critical Fish to be a vehicle that we all have access to that can change things for the better in our shared communities, whatever that ends up looking like. The potential for community and artist-led participation is vast; there is the scope for produced or supported podcasts, workshops, street interventions and a programme of public conversations. I’m curious as to how, together, we can empower one another with the tools, the knowledge and the confidence to approach and contextually consider the arts. We’re surrounded by visual culture and all have a right to ownership over our relationships with it, no matter our backgrounds or perspective. I look forward to working with various groups of people in continuing to build on the
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confidence, ownership and willingness to engage with events demonstrated by local residents during Hull’s UK City of Culture 2017.
Growing from these communitybased assets will ensure a lasting impact and so, to help continue creating paid opportunities for all sorts of creatives within our local economy, The Critical Fish needs your support. We ask that if you have enjoyed reading this publication
and share this vision for the future, to please consider supporting The Critical Fish through the GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign. In no particular order of importance, we would like to take the opportunity to thank the following: To Arts Council England and Hull City Arts — without your belief in our idea, we would not have been able to get this project off the ground, pay our contributors and print this free publication. Big thanks to Creative ENRG, who gave us some excellent support and advice during the bid writing process. We want to thank our awesome designer Joe Cox for your vision, understanding, your stunning graphics, expert navigation and your patience! Many thanks to each individual in our passionate Steering Group, who gave their time, knowledge and resources towards shaping The Critical Fish.
from GF Smith, Lauren Frost from ArtWaves, Marianne Lewsley-Stier at Hull University — thank you all for your ongoing support, opportunities, advice and feedback. Thank you to Dom Heffer for facilitating our crit at the Kamila Ženatá exhibition, to curator Helena Cox for helping us organise it, and to Patrick Leonard, Jamie Potter, Adam John Wilson, Jennifer Hewson and volunteer Rebecca Addinell for sharing their time and thoughts on their experiences. Thank you to the galleries, curators, organisers and venues who have hosted our events and have helped to distribute the printed journal – we would have had a tough time spreading the word without you! Jill and I would also like to say thanks to Phil Hargreaves and Tony Rheinberg.
Like a fisherman without a fish!
We would like to thank all the writers, both published and unpublished, commissioned and open called. To our Guest Editors — Barnaby Haran, Jay Drinkall and Michael Barnes-Wynters, thank you for sharing with us your experience, your focus and your knowledge, and for the time spent nurturing our writers.
Thank you Lauren Velvick for always keeping us in the back of your mind and directing us to some fantastic opportunities. Thank you to Humber Street Gallery for getting us involved with the National Writing Day workshops and the Double Negative writing commission. Thank you to all those at Artlink and the Bridlington Contemporary, Mike Pinnington from The Double Negative, Adrian Friedli from YVAN, Jamie Potter from Middle Child, Mike Sisson
On a personal note, I would like to thank my fellow Codmother, Jill Howitt. Thank you for your ongoing support as both my project partner and friend. I really enjoyed producing this journal with you and I looking forward to see what the next chapter brings. What’s a magazine without readers? Like a fisherman without a fish! Thank you to everyone else who has been involved in the production and enjoyment of The Critical Fish. Which of course includes you for making the effort to pick up this little arts magazine with a funny title and taking the time to read it.
We have set things in motion and hope that you are as excited to get yourself involved in this shared journey. You can do this through GoFundMe donations, sharing this printed/online publication with your friends and family, talking to others about the things you’ve read about and going to see some art. If you want to add to the current conversation, share ideas, photos and comments on social media using #FishMag (and don’t forget to tagand us A Jeffers and G Moriarty, Culture, Democracy using @thecriticalfish). the right to make a mark; A British Community Arts Movement, Bloomsbury, London, 2017
I am already looking forward to saying hello (or in this case, goodbye) to you Adrian Culture in a Time inHarvey, what I Funding hope toArts beand a second edition of Austerity, NLGN, London, 2016 of The Critical Fish. Until then, please get involved, keep being awesome and start thinking about what you’re Borrup, Tom, Creative Placemaking: Arts and going submit in the ‘Brill’ issue! Culture as a to Partner in Community Revitalization
(Fundamentals of Arts Management), University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts, 2016
L Lees and C Melhuish, Arts-led regeneration in the UK: The rhetoric and the evidence on urban social inclusion, European Urban and Regional Studies, Vol. 23 Issue: 3, 2015, pp. 242-260
Paul Gilchrist, Claire Holmes, Amelia Lee, Niamh BIBLIOGRAPHY Moore and Neil Ravenscroft, Co-designing nonhierarchical arts research: theand the Jeffer, A. andcommunity Moriarty, G., Culture, Democracy collaborative stories spiral, Qualitative Research right to make a mark; A British Community Arts Movement, Bloomsbury, London,4,2017. Journal, Vol. 15 Issue: 2015, pp.459-471 Harvey, Adrian, Funding Arts and Culture in a Time of Austerity, NLGN, London, 2016. Borrup, Tom, Creative Placemaking: Arts and Culture as a Partner in Community Revitalization (Fundamentals of Arts Management), University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts, 2016. Lees, L. and Melhuish, C., Arts-led regeneration in the UK: The rhetoric and the evidence on urban social inclusion, European Urban and Regional Studies, Vol. 23 Issue: 3, 2015, pp. 242-260. Gilchrist, P., Holmes, C., Lee, A., Moore, N. and Ravenscroft, N., Co-designing nonhierarchical community arts research: the collaborative stories spiral, Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 15 Issue: 4, 2015, pp.459-471. Matarasso, François, A Restless Art: How participation won, and why it matters, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, London, 2019.
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Our Contributors MARY AHERNE
Mary Aherne writes poetry and short fiction and her work has been published in various anthologies and journals including Hull, City of Poets, South and Grindstone. She has edited and contributed to a number of Humber Writers’ collaborations including Hide, Postcards from Hull, Under Travelling Skies, Slipway and Incoming, commissioned for the Humber Mouth and Beverley Literature Festivals. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Hull. Recent projects include Shards, a collection of poems celebrating Hornsea Pottery, a number of which have been included in a public art trail, and ‘The Beauty of Indifference’ for Fountain17, a response to the work of Marcel Duchamp.
Claire Barber was born in 1970 in Brighton, graduated from the Fine Art department of the Royal College of Art in 1994 and now lives and works in Holmfirth in West Yorkshire. She has pursued a peripatetic career exhibiting widely, completing a range of artistresidencies and commissioning models in the UK and across Eastern Europe, Australia and Japan. Claire has two threads to her current practice – through large, site-responsive installations and by directly involving communities through her work.
Lydia Caprani is a graphic artist inspired by vernacular design and folk art. She is interested in decoration being applied to all; stemming from a personal conviction that societies have always used visual forms to express cultural identity, to communicate and create.
LORRAINE COOKE SIMON CARTER Simon Carter grew up in Essex and returned there on leaving Art School in 1984. He now has a studio in the coastal town of Frinton-on-Sea and is represented by Messums Gallery. His most recent exhibitions were at Messums London, Messums Wiltshire and at the Sino-British Biennale at Yantai Art Museum, China. Simon is the co-founder of Contemporary British Painting and is the current President of the Colchester Art Society. www.simoncarterpaintings.co.uk simoncarter11
LEE FREEMAN Lee Freeman is a freelance film and music writer based in Hull, who regularly contributes to the regional street magazine Tenfootcity. Lee has recently been working with Sean McAllister, writing two other articles on the filmmaker for the National Film and Television School’s Annual Colin Young Lecture and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. In 2012, Lee co-edited Ealing Revisited, which was listed as one of the Independent on Sunday’s film books of the year. Lee’s film and music culture blog is available at: www.theculturalassassin.blogspot.com
Lorraine Cooke is a professional artist and curator. In 2004 she was shortlisted for the Babylon gallery Award, Ely, and was also selected to exhibit at the fringe of East International. In 2006 she was selected by the former Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum to exhibit at Byard Art Gallery, Cambridge. Her talent was acknowledged after completing an artists residency at Norwich University of the Arts, when her work was published in a-n magazine and she was awarded the coveted title- AA2A Artist of the Year 2009. Following this success Cooke took the position of Assistant Director and Art Consultant of Art1821 gallery, where she had the opportunity to curate Rebirth, a major international exhibition in collaboration with the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich. Cooke was presented with the Cyprus Bonarota Award in achievement of a series of paintings made in response to Cyprus during 2010-11. Cooke was featured by Saatchi as an Artist of recognition with work included in the Inspired by Miro Saatchi collection (2014.) She initiated and lead a number of projects in Cyprus for the European Capital of Culture 2017 programme and was recently shortlisted for the international Artzine Art Prize. www.artzine.com/lorraine-cooke
Michelle Dee is a tireless ambassador for the arts, known for her words charting cultural change in Hull. She is 1/6th of the Women of Words collective, a regular Blogger for Humber Mouth literature festival and Heads Up festival. Notable highlights include writing and performing at BBC’s Contains Strong Language in 2017 and 2018 with Dr. Kate Fox and Louise Wallwein MBE with Women of Words. Writing and performing in Gary Clarke’s Into The Light for LGBT50. Michelle enjoys experiential work that challenges her skill set, such as learning to box for performance piece Fighting 4 Queerz during Pride 2018, learning new forms of dance for Gender Moves at Yorkshire Dance. She also loves exploring many different ways not to be herself in ongoing fantastical, costume-led theatre works with artist Bluebeany. www.culturemarathon.co.uk msmichdee
BARBARA GRABHER Barbara Grabher is an anthropologist working on the intersections between gender studies, geography and critical event studies. After her BA in Cultural and Social Anthropology (University of Vienna), she continued her academic path through the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme GEMMA (University of Granada and Utrecht University) acquiring a specialization in Gender and Women Studies. Currently, she is completing her PhD research project ‘Gendering Cities of Culture’ (EC Horizon 2020 Grace – Gender and Cultures of Equality) and works as research assistant in the Culture, Place and Policy Institute at the University of Hull. https://genderingcitiesofculture.wordpress. com/the-conversation-continues/movingforward
Artist and poet Amanda Holiday was born in Sierra Leone and came to live in the UK at the age of 5. She completed a degree in Fine Art before moving into film, – directing shorts for the Arts Council, BFI and Channel 4. Between 2001-10 she lived in Cape Town where she wrote and directed several educational TV series. Her first chapbook The Art Poems was published in April this year. Amanda is currently studying for an MA in Poetry at the University of East Anglia and bringing up her teenage daughter.
Lesley Kerman was a student of Richard Hamilton and Victor Pasmore at the University of Durham. She first exhibited her paintings in the Young Contemporaries exhibitions of 1961 and 1962. She taught art history at Newcastle, Brighton and Exeter Colleges of Art and her teaching materials have been archived by Tate. She has made a series of public sculptures for the Arts Council, Sustrans, Land Securities and the Environment Agency. Her exhibitions include ‘Advice to Women in Management’ a show of etchings and sculpture at Goldsmiths.
Montague Martin is a past Chairman of Barton Arts, facilitator of Barton Muse Poetry Group, convenor of Mill Writers’ Support Group and Chair of Ted Lewis Group.
Karim Skalli is a photographer from Hull, who completed his BA and MA in Photography at Norwich University of the Arts. He has since exhibited in London, Hull, Norwich and Ipswich and has published numerous articles, including one in the British Journal of Photography. Karim explores issues surrounding identity and community, and is interested in how images give a voice to the people and places he photographs. www.karimskalli.com Karimskalli1
KENN TAYLOR Kenn Taylor is a creative director and writer with a particular interest in culture, community and the urban environment. www.kenn-taylor.com kenn_taylor
ENRICO TOMMARCHI Enrico Tommarchi is a research assistant and a PhD student at the Culture, Place and Policy Institute – University of Hull. He graduated in Urban and Regional Planning at IUAV, Venice and has investigated the link among cultural activity, urban regeneration and spatial planning in European cities.
Maja Spasova creates art for the urban public space. The point of departure is an idea where the message has both poetic and existential character. Her desire is to reach people who aren’t part of the professional art system and to eradicate the differences between art and life. With more than 100 solo shows at art museums and galleries in Europe and overseas, Maja Spasova has participated at numerous international exhibitions and festivals such as Venice Biennial, ARTEC Nagoya, Dak’art Senegal etc. She is represented in public and private collections all over the world. Born in Bulgaria, Maja lives and works in London, Berlin and Stockholm. Education: The High School of Fine Art, Sofia 1974 – 78; The Academy of Fine Art, Sofia 1979 – 84; Guest-student at The Royal University College of Fine Arts in Stockholm, 1986 – 87. www.majaspasova.com
PETER RENSHAW Although music has been a constant thread throughout his life, the main thrust of Peter’s professional work has been in different areas of education – schools, teacher education, talented young musicians, professional artists and higher arts education. His initial interest in raising the quality of teacher education soon made him see the important connection between curriculum development and cultural change in organisations. When he moved in 1975 from teaching philosophy of education at the University of Leeds Institute of Education to becoming Principal of the Yehudi Menuhin School, he had two main aims – the first to create a more open supportive environment for the education of musically talented children, and secondly to broaden the social horizons of young artists. In many ways this embryonic experience sowed the seeds for his subsequent developmental work at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama (1984-2001), which later extended to the Barbican and beyond in this country and overseas.
LAUREN VELVICK Lauren Velvick is a writer, artist and curator based in the North of England. She is currently Assistant Curator at Humber Street Gallery, Hull. She is a regular contributor to national and local arts publications and is a Director of contemporary art and writing publication Corridor8. Lauren is custodian of two informal archives and has an ongoing interest in the ethics and labour of archiving and administration. LaurenVelvick
Josh Williams is a graphic designer, specialising in fun, approachable, and digestible design. Yearly, he runs the Hull Print Fair, bringing together artists from around the country, selling their work to the public. www.aminostudio.com
Co-producer of The Critical Fish, freelance artist and arts advocate, Lauren is an award-winning emerging visual artist from London who lives and works in Hull.
Michael’s long-term artist collaborations broadcast at the intersections of immersive experiential film installations and provocative durational actions/ performances which eloquently asks blunt, relevant and meaningful questions that tackle human suffrage, racism, gender exploitation, injustice, control and the hyper normalisation of humanity. He is a longtime radical arts advisor for the Future’s Venture Foundation and amongst many other things, Michael is currently developing a building wide response to the theme of ‘Power’ at The Lowry- Salford in May 2020.
Her work explores big philosophical questions and tackles society’s complex issues by drawing in the expanded field as a starting point, for both critical dialogue and artistic output. She has exhibited work locally and nationally and has worked professionally in healthcare, theatres and community settings. Since graduating in Fine Art from the Hull School of Art and Design in 2018, Lauren has been awarded the Roland Box Prize, The David White Memorial Award, the Emergence Bursary and studentship on the UNION 2019 programme in recognition of her socially-engaged arts practice. www.laurensaundersart.co.uk Jill Howitt Since leaving a long career in arts education Jill has focused on her interest in writing about art by project managing Fish, running workshops and freelance writing. She is also researching into public art in northern coastal cities for her PhD. In the past Jill co produced Fountain17, an arts project for the City of Culture year in Hull, and a film to document the public art works that were commissioned for the Open University ‘University of the Air’ celebrations in 2013.
Barnaby Haran Barnaby is a lecturer at University of Hull in the American Studies department, where he teaches histories of art, visual culture, film, and cultural politics. He is the author of Watching the Red Dawn: the American Avant-Garde and the Soviet Union (Manchester University Press, 2016). He is currently writing on American documentary photography from the 1930s, and has received funding from the British Academy and the Terra Foundation for research for several articles and book chapters. He also co-edited the Fountain17 catalogue with Jill Howitt.
Jay Drinkall Jay Drinkall is a writer and editor interested in the intricacies of language and communication in the age of rapid ecological change, as well as the history and politics of rural public space in the UK. Jay has worked with organisations including Auto Italia South East, Barbican, British Council and Ridinghouse, and their writing has been published by Afterall, Corridor8, Prestel and others. Jay is currently completing an MA in Creative Non-Fiction.
DESIGNER Joseph Cox Joseph Cox is a graphic artist based in Hull with 10 years’ experience in the creative industries. He co-founded Form Shop and Studio, where he creates prints and products for the shop as well as working on commissions for a range of local and national organisations. His work includes the branding and design for Humber Street Sesh urban festival and leading the design on ‘Our City of Culture’ campaign commissioned by Hull City Council for the city’s successful bid for the 2017 City of Culture title – including the design of a map, bid document case, t-shirts, city-wide posters and more. www.heyform.co.uk
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The Critical Fish is an artist led project which promotes critical but accessible research led writing. We are proud to present this collaborative journal as a forum for debate about the arts and visual culture. In this first issue, Anchovy, our feature articles tackle the themes of accessibility and criticality as these are the principles that underpin our project. We also include writing about identity, place and community, and showcase the work of individual artists and researchers. We are interested in creative, critical and hybrid forms of writing. Inside you will find essays, poetry, experimental typography, photography, and real and imagined conversations. Enjoy!
The Critical Fish is a collaborative project which promotes critical and accessible writing about arts and visual culture. Centered on Hull...
Published on May 16, 2019
The Critical Fish is a collaborative project which promotes critical and accessible writing about arts and visual culture. Centered on Hull...