ARCHIVED: WINTER 2011
ABOUT THIS IS WAS (World Art Studies) is the tumblr blog for the School of World Art and Museology at the University of East Anglia. Run by an editorial team of students from various stages of study at the School, the website aims to be a platform for staff and students to share critical thoughts, reflections, and events relating to the study of World Art. This journal represents a selection of eight submitted articles in Autumn 2011, collated here as a Winter archive. To see more please visit: www.thisiswas.tumblr.com www.facebook.com/art.uea @thisisworldart For submissions and more information email: email@example.com Core Editorial Team 2011-2012: Katherine Clough, Karl Constable, and Emily Crane.
All photographs are each authorâ€™s own unless otherwise stated.
CONTENTS NEIL MACGREGOR INTERVIEW
2 4 8 10 13 16
NEIL MACGREGOR INTERVIEW You can listen to the full interview of Neil MacGregor about his views on World Art Studies at UEA and his opinion on why a degree from WAM is so valuable at www.thisiswas.tumblr.com Here are some highlights: Q.What does it mean to study ‘world art’, in your opinion? “…it’s so important to have a place where you can study world art as world art, because what is interesting about studying it as world art is that you end up asking quite different questions about the object. That’s the point...” “...you are obliged to ask of them a much wider range of questions. So an object looked at in that framework takes you into many more disciplines, many more areas of human experience than a conventional art history course. And that’s why what’s happening now at UEA is so important.” Q.What advice do you have for some of the students coming out of the School for their future career? “The only thing worth saying is thinking about the world in the ways that looking at these objects allows you to do is good preparation for almost any kind of job. This is not an academic training that should be particularly aimed at an academic career or an art historical career, it really should allow you to be more effective in every area of activity because what it really is about is that enlightenment idea of making a global citizen. It’s really a very good preparation for working in any field.”
This year’s Frieze Art Fair (11-14 October) included exhibitions of over 170 of the leading contemporary art galleries from around the world. With so much art crammed into one place - a temporary structure built in Regents Park, London - the additional talks, tours, performances and Frieze Foundation commissioned projects, make the student £15 entrance ticket well worth the money. Above all, though, galleries are there to promote themselves and to make money. The cost of contemporary art today at such fair is an issue raised by the two pieces discussed here, Michael Landy’s Credit Card Destroying Machine and Christian Jankowski’s yacht. Michael Landy’s Credit Card Destroying Machine shown by the Thomas Dane Gallery proved a crowd puller with people literally waiting in line to get their plastic destroyed in the pursuit of art. I’m a big Landy fan myself, and have immense respect for someone who was able to systematically destroy all his belongings in the name of art (it takes guts!). Questions of consumption were still being asked with the anti-consumerist note in his piece that stood in the heart of the UK’s art market fair of the year. However, it wasn’t hard to spot that the people handing over their credit cards held wallets full of cards with only one eaten by the machine - others could be used to continuing purchasing habits. Additionally, a quick phone call to the bank would insure that a replacement card for the one destroyed could be arranged within a few days. Therefore the temporary loss of one credit card in exchange for a Michael Landy signature automated drawing means that it was probably one of the shrewdest options for obtaining an artwork at this year’s fair, with non of the
Above images: Michael Landyâ€™s Credit Card Destroying Machine
participatory bravery of Landyâ€™s own sacrificial pursuits in art. But does this matter? Would it have been better if people had to give over their whole wallet causing them at least some further inconvenience to pay for the artwork receipt? Or is the gesture enough?
Above image: Christian Jankowskiâ€™s installation. Christian Jankowskiâ€™s Frieze Foundation commission was one of the most talked about in the media surrounding the fair. Jankowski used his conventional gallery stand to display the run-around boat of a luxury yacht, complete with salespersons from a real yacht company. Their job was to do what they normally do, to sell a luxury boat, but here at the art fair they could also offer to sell the same boat as a Christian Jankowski artwork, for a modest increase in price. With the latter simply denoted by the letters of the artists name appearing on the yacht, this piece raised the familiar controversy of what exactly constitutes a work of art and where the boundaries lie.
However, the multi-million pound cost of the boat raised other controversies, namely its elite price (75 million euros as an art work). If someone did choose to purchase, the money spent could have been distributed across the other gallery stands in different potential purchases. Viewed this way, Jankowski’s piece is also raising the issues of contemporary art consumerism seen in Landy’s Credit Card Destroying Machine despite superficially appearing profit-obbessed. The fact that this was a Frieze Foundation commission, and not a gallery pitch reveals the organisers willingness to draw critical attention to the money-making enterprise of the fair itself. The added shock-value from its contemporary art context also proved a very effective publicity stunt. Not all the artworks were about money and consumerism, of course. Other Frieze Foundations commissions included the playfulness with text in both Laure Prouvust’s abberant signs around the fair and Bik Van der Pol’s huge score board spelling out of quotes, both of which provided a textual narrative for visitors to follow and discover. Also, UEA graduate, Hollie Williams, spotted that the Galerie Peter Kilchmann was exhibiting Francis Alÿs’ Railings (2004) that was once on show at the Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts, during the Subversive Spaces exhibition a few years back (see http://scva. ac.uk/exhibitions/archive/index.php?exhibition=52) If you missed the fair you can see Oliver Laric’s stock video footage created in and around 2011’s fair (see http://friezestockfootage. friezeartfair.com/). Katherine Clough UEA Undergraduate (Art History, Anthropology and Archaeology).
Cornelia Parker speaks with a clever balance of humour and seriousness about her works. Her lecture began with an honest and funny account of how she left art school a â€˜bad sculptorâ€™, yet somehow managed to use this to her gain through the liberating idea that she could use and manipulate found objects. Going through the archive of her works, she notes the funny incidents that happened in the making of the art with the same seriousness as the often political and poetic content of her sculpture; the steam roller flattening silver objects or the army shooting pearls through a dress. Perhaps best known for her large scale sculptural installations, her works have a tendency to focus on the destruction of objects, the residues of processes or the discarded materials. A close up of the wear on the leather of the infamous red budget box, or the rubble collected from eroding cliffs, suddenly have a new urgency and potency through her manipulation into art objects. As an artist she has gained access to the most unlikely of objects and used them to make new subtle statements about so-
ciety, politics and history. Throughout the lecture she spoke of her interest in objects that have a potency, relics such as Queen Victoria’s stockings, Lee Miller’s camera, John Weasley’s Spurs, the pillow from Freud’s couch, all of which she has used and transformed. Enlarging Newton’s handwritten equations through a microscope to produce a new image, or enlarging the pin holes made by the Bronte sisters, Parker is certainly fascinated in the concept of creating something new out of something old, and politics of creating new or different narratives to those normally told through history and art. Her sculptures are certainly striking and there is an interesting cohesion to the body of work, her creative process described by her as a spiral with themes that she comes back to at different times, ever expanding in new ways. Behind the jokes and quips there is a sustained investigation into residues, resistences, tranformations, and the nature of objects both found and fetishised. Emily Crane UEA PhD Candidate (Art History).
Off to a meeting, scurrying about the Arts Building, traipsing down the corridors with increasing frustration. This wasnâ€™t going well, that place is a maze. Imagine my delight then as I inadvertently stumbled upon a display case of unknown artifacts that had somehow eluded me throughout the entirety of the four years I have currently been studying at UEA. A new, and timely discovery if ever there was one, having just started the MA in the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. These were, on closer inspection, objects from the Kalahari in South Africa. I decided I wanted to know more. Various inquiries were made to then find out that these objects had been collected by Margo Russell, a Sociology faculty member at UEA for 18 years, and her husband Martin who conducted research in the area from January to October 1973. Having begun as a collection of personal mementos of the trip they realised that there was on opportunity to establish a collection of artifacts and were duly granted ÂŁ100 by the General Purposes Committee at UEA to do just that.
The collection consists of items produced by the Bushmen of the Kalahari for trading. Having started off as a personal endeavour the early acquisitions were made according to personal tastes but with the money granted for a collection the Russell’s attempted to create a set of domestic artifacts. Among this collection are utensils, toys, weapons and musical instruments. Of particular interest to myself were the wooden toys, particularly ‘Object number Z1’, a toy truck made of wood and wire by a child aged twelve or thirteen. The main source of interest however was the use of a tin of shoe polish for two of the wheels. I am currently researching the domestic and artistic uses of ‘junk’ in Africa and found this to be a fascinating example.
It is an extensive display of objects and the case can be found on level 2 of the Arts Building. Next time youâ€™re in the vicinity, or just happen to be lost as I was, take a trip down the corridor and see for yourself what a wonderful and unexpected collection of artifacts there is. I am still baffled as to how the existence of this collection was unknown to me for so long and maybe you already know about it, but I am glad I found it eventually. Matthew Goodbun SRU student (MA Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas).
The reward for visiting three London museums in one day? Tea and cake at Louis Hungarian Patisserie in Hampstead, a little haven of Mitteleuropa emigrĂŠ chic whose woodpanelled walls and tiny tables are almost unchanged since the 1960s - if you ignore the Tesco Metro across the road.
For the MA module ‘Unwrapping Ancient Egypt’, we – instructor Christina Riggs, and students Sarah Cassell and Rachel Oliver – marched through the hills of Hampstead to visit the Freud Museum. We were looking at Freud’s collection of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities. Freud visited Rome every year, and collected antiquities for much of his life, acquiring them as gifts from friends or buying them from dealers in Vienna. His study in London is stuffed with shabti figures, bronze gods and goddesses, Greek pottery, and mummy masks. They covered his desk and lined the walls and shelves around the famous sofa where his patients reclined for analysis, helping to recreate the study he’d left behind in Vienna when he and his family were forced to flee in 1938. We thought we would have the museum to ourselves for the afternoon - but it turned out that we were sharing it with a crew from BBC’s The One Show, featuring UEA alumnus, the comedian Arthur Smith! (Who is performing at the Norwich Playhouse on December 7th - that’s a free plug, because he was fun and friendly to talk to.)
We’ll be looking out for the episode, because he was spending the night at the house - something we would only do if we could get coffee and croissants at Louis’ the next day. Many of Freud’s antiquities reminded us of the Sainsbury Centre collection, because of the preponderance of human and animal figures. Plaster masks from mummies dated to the 1st or 2nd century AD, when Egypt was part of the Roman empire, exemplify this concern with antiquities that may appear lifelike but are, to use Freud’s expression, uncanny (unheimlich) - familiar and strange at the same time.
Uncanny is also a word that could apply to Sir John Soane’s Museum, still open while work is carried out to restore some of the interiors and create better visitor facilities. It was Rachel’s first time, so she was especially impressed by the astonishing use of light and space - it’s a house, but not as you know it. We had a special look at the sarcophagus of pharaoh Seti I in the basement, which Soane bought in 1824 for £2000 when the British Museum declined it. He threw a three-day long party to celebrate its installation, and a guide told us the champagne bottles from the party were built into the paving of the Monk’s Tomb area of the property. We suspect Soane would have served cakes from Louis’, if they’d been around.
In between Soane and Freud, we just had time to look around the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at UCL, especially a temporary exhibition about late Victorian ideas of race and heredity as they were applied to ancient populations of Egypt - a topic with plenty of resonance today, as a collection of recent news clippings made clear. These are all three fantastic museums to visit, and the Soane and Petrie are free. The visits tied in well with what weâ€™ve been talking about on the module, namely how ancient Egypt exists in the European imagination. Itâ€™s a big topic - and big topics need big slices of cake. London Museum Trip Dr Christina Riggs (UEA Lecturer) with Sarah Cassell and Rachel Oliver (WAM MA students).
A biography is a notorious medium; often precariously teetering between fact and fantasy, the subjects are, at times, a paradigmatic construct of an author’s making. Carolyn Burke’s biography is not one of those, and each page is a testament to an outstanding woman who is only now really being recognised as much for her work as her reputation. The book examines the life and professions of Lee Miller, model, muse, photographer, war reporter and culinary experimenter; taking the reader from her birthplace in Poughkeepsie, New York, to Paris and Surrealism, thirties Egypt, and war-ravaged Europe; eventually settling at Farley Farm in Suffolk with Roland Penrose, co-founder of London’s ICA. Miller’s involvement with the Surrealist movement in Europe and the United States is a dominant narrative in the book pre- 1939. Her continued associations and relationships with artists and collectors throughout her life (Picasso, Julien Levy, Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst, amongst others) manages to not only demonstrate Lee’s own involvement and influence, but also provide the reader with a broader socio-cultural narrative of twentieth-century art.
Carolyn Burke does well to portray a woman very much striving for emancipation. Miller’s relationship to Man Ray, first as assistant, then muse and partner, to collaborator, is indicative of her desire to be regarded in equal measure to those carving careers in photography at the time. However, it is the images Lee takes during her time on the Front Line, that demonstrate her ability as an extraordinary visual narrator, and where Miller and her camera agglutinated as ‘momentary containers’ for the horrific scenes captured across Europe. Like many of Miller’s generation, those displays of debauchery and inhumanity would come to influence how she saw the world thereafter and would draw her away from the worlds of fashion and art that had drawn and nurtured Lee in her earlier years. There is much to be admired of Miller and her accomplishments, using her body, camera, and standing among the artistic elite, to live beyond conformity and expectation, is meticulously and lovingly re-told in this wonderful book. Lee Miller: On Both Sides of the Camera; Carolyn Burke, Bloomsbury: London, 2006 Holly Howarth UEA Graduate (History of Art)
Milton Keynes Gallery 30th September to 27th November Anna Barriball’s first major show at MK Gallery, exhibited the artist’s work from the last 10 years. The artworks were organised throughout three galleries according to differing themes, through the translation of repetitive marks. The Long Gallery exhibits works where Barriball has interacted with everyday objects, prescribing labour intensive, repetitive processes. Bag Drawing, 2000, hanging at the end of the gallery, entices you into the space. Her latest piece, Untitled, 2011, which covers one of the gallery walls, consists of plastic windbreaks with the colours saturated by the repetitive strokes of black marker pen; it is the largest piece in the show but the least successful. The earlier Bag Drawing, a plastic bag at the end of the room transformed with a red marker pen inside and out, leaves the viewer with a sense of satisfaction compared to the overwhelming windbreakers. Money Drawing, 2000, highlights the everyday handling of the object, exchanged from person to person. It encouraged the viewers to slow down and look. The act of looking can be seen throughout Barriball’s practice, as she examines her surroundings closely, moving in, through and around, and intimately exploring every millimetre through her intimate processes. Silver Map, 2003, buried a world map with a silver pen, making the outlines of the continents translucent.
Moving into the other spaces of the gallery, we were greeted by Draw, 2005, a video recording of a sheet of tracing paper over the mouth of a fireplace, being sucked in and out, like the fireplace itself is breathing. The movement of air was also important in other pieces in this space including 36 Breaths, 2002, and Yellow Leaves, 2011. In the piece 36 Breaths, the artist had blown a drop of ink onto 36 different black and white photographs found in a market, while Yellow Leaves consisted of leaves cut out of her childhood curtains, that moved across the floor with the draft created by the viewer. Showing throughout the two spaces were Barriballâ€™s wall, window and doorways drawings. The representations of the objects, familiar to Barriball, became casts of the real objects. Drawing in a linear repetitive fashion over chosen objects, the surface of the paper moulded itself to the object, and transformed the paper from two-dimensional into a threedimensional piece. Barriballâ€™s work captures moments of concentrated intensity along with slight gestures. The simple act of drawing is transformed through the processes implicated and becomes an expression of the accumulation of time. Whether a fleeting or a concrete moment, her work witnesses the passage through time and space. Joshua Lockwood, NUCA undergraduate (Fine Art)
The Venice Biennale is the oldest bi-annual international contemporary art exhibition of its kind, starting in 1895 and only breaking for six years during World War II. Despite my own interest in international contemporary art and the regular occurrence of this event, I am embarrassed to say this was my first time at the Biennale. I had been to Venice twice before, on my school choir tour and the second time with Prof John Onians and the School of World Art Studies as an undergraduate. Both these previous trips had offered unique, in-depth and varied experiences of the art and architecture of this famous city. This autumn once again the city surprised me, revealing a whole new side of its complexity through a vast array of exhibitions in unexpected places; disused buildings, purpose built pavilions, renaissance churches and historic grand palaces.
This international art festival is really remarkable beacuse of the sheer volume of art exhibitions that are open across the city during the five month run. The core exhibition, this year called â€˜ILLUMInationsâ€™, was spread over two sites, the historic shipbuilding quarter of the Arsenale and the purpose built biennale site at the Giardini. The exhibition brought together a commendable breath of media and work, loosely based around
the concept of light and nationhood. I felt this theme was a little under explored in parts and I was not so impressed with focus only on Western contemporary artists (about 80% according the Art Newspaper).
In a contraversial move for an exhibition about contemporary art, the curator Bice Curiger included three large paintings by Veniceâ€™s own Tintoretto in the first room of the Giardini, a wonderful juxtaposition with the contemproary art that followed. This curatorial move serves as a good reminder that outside of the Biennale exhibitions and pavillions, the city has an incredible wealth of Gothic and Renaissance art and architecture that must be seen. Indeed these paintings prompted me to revisit the Scoula San Rocco, an interior literally covered with Tintorettoâ€™s huge impressive canvases. Oscillating amongst the art and architecture of the old and new I found myself thinking differently about both, comparing the different worlds of patrons, conventions, materials, and subject matter.
Within the two main sites, and around the city, different national pavilions also presented exhibitions, often with just one key artist or a few artists with a shared theme. The British pavilion focused on presenting the work of Mike Nelson, transforming the historical purpose built neoclassical building into a set of rooms and parts of buildings imported from disused places found on the scrapheaps and junkyards of Istanbul.
Similarly the nearby French and Japanese buildings transformed their architecture through large installations by the artists Christian Boltanski and Tambaimo respectively. Although these large, and probably hugely expensive, works were interesting and fun to explore and experience, the best works I saw during my all to brief trip were two humble video pieces. The Desire Machine Collective showed ‘Residue’ as part of the Indian Pavillion, a poetic video piece shot in a disused hydropower plant in India, overlaying images of disused machines, overgrowing nature, and forgotten places overlaid with sound recordings of industrial plant noises and deep chats of Tibetan monks. Simple and effective the piece made me pause and contemplate the materiality of power production, the persistence of nature, environment and ecology, and a melancholic beauty of the disused dystopia of the place. The second video piece I found, eventually, tucked away in the small but assertive Zimbabwe pavilion. Again a simple but beautifully conceived concept had me memorized, this time through careful overlays of video footage of a woman washing herself in a bathroom with footage of street scenes in Harare, accompanied by music of a woman singing in Berry Bickle’s ‘Ze’. In my hurry around the many sites,
navigating the vast quantity of art spectacles to see, these two ten minute videos made me stop, sit down, listen, carefully look and consider, in the way only really good art can amongst such a plethora. Venice during the biennale is particularly overwheming because of the sheer quantity of wonderful things to see, both old and new together. This trip made me realise the importance of returning to places or artworks we think we are famililar with. In the looking again, the returning with a new lense, fresh perspective, different juxtapositions or just a different mood, the object or place is allowed to reveal another layer of itself to you. I think this is a perfect excuse to keep going back to Venice. Emily Crane UEA PhD Candidate (Art History)
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A collection of blog posts from students at the School of World Art and Museology (University of East Anglia)