Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art

So our deadline was the 23rd of March. After staying up til 4am the night before, and running into the uni for 8am to position my sketchbooks in my final setup, all I really wanted to do was crash. But there was a bus scheduled at 9 that morning to take us on a day trip to Glasgow. And Rachael doesn’t say ‘no’ to free arting.

Aside from being partially zombified and having to nip away to refuel with coffee every hour and a half, the day was well worth it. We were escorted around Glasgow, hitting all the best art spots. A particular highlight of my day/life was Jeremy Deller’s  ‘Sacrilege’, an inflatable replica of Stonehenge pitched on Glasgow Green for the public to bounce on. Amazing. I haven’t felt so giddy in ages. Ah…Art…how I love thee.

The day just got better from there. At the Modern Institute I discovered Paul Thek, an artist I hadn’t really heard of before and who is now definitely on my list to research. At the Mitchell Library I observed an ‘Art Lending Library’. At Glasgow School of Art I said hello to old Charles and his pals. At GoMA I resisted the urge to jump into Karla Black’s mattress of sawdust (possibly due to sleep deprived state?). I also tried Quorn and rediscovered a love of Mocha Latte.

          

           

A fantastic end to studio practice, I must say. I would advise anyone to take a look at whats going on at the GI Festival. My summary of it is probably a bit lacklustre in comparison to whats really happening there right now.

Dissertation Proposal

I had a good day today. Ive been dreading writing this dissertation proposal all week.

 

Buuuut It had to be done, so I set aside my whole Wednesday to wade through it, and it wasn’t so bad really. I love researching and writing, its often difficult to start but its great when you get into something like that and can start piecing together a line of thought.

My thoughts are on ‘the everyday object as art’.

 

“A natural or man made object found by an artist and kept because of some intrinsic interest the artist sees in it. Found objects may be put on a shelf and treated as works of art in themselves.”

The official website for Tate galleries online offers this definition of the ‘Found Object’ in relation to art. The explanation is given that if an object, any object, is put on a shelf by an artist it is automatically referred to as ‘art’. Is the power then, of transforming an object into an artwork, with the artist, the object or more simply with the gallery space? Can anything be put into a white room and be viewed at with wonder? 

Marcel Duchamp writes in a 1918 edition of an avant-garde magazine, ‘The Blind Man’ that the artists’ physical involvement in an artwork is irrelevant, if he has created the object or not is unnecessary to evaluate. What makes an object art is that it has been chosen by the artist to be viewed as art. By choosing to place an object in front of the viewer as art, the artist gives the object a new identity to be considered, and therefore redefines the purpose of the object. One cannot begin to discuss the object as art without turning attention to Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 work, ‘Fountain’. Presented originally as a humorous jibe at the serious attitude towards modern art in America, ‘Fountain’ presents a perfect example of a common object being completely redefined. This event marks the groundwork for a change in social perception of the definition of art and the object as art. Progressing on from this, artists such as Claus Oldenburg, Joseph Beuys and Robert Rauschenberg must also be considered. These are all examples of artists who use found objects and adapt them within their art. Rauschenberg’s ‘Bed’ defies preconceptions of the everyday object. By simply being hung on a wall with some additional paintwork and scribbles, the viewer is confronted with something new to contemplate, regardless of the fact that they see a bed everyday.

Similarly, Christian Boltanski is able to encourage this change of perception of a common object. With Boltanski, its usually not the object he manipulates, but the surroundings and other components of the installation. In his work ‘Personnes’, the feature piece is a huge room filled with heaps of clothes and a large crane redistributing the clothes into different piles. The average viewer wears clothes everyday, sees rails of clothes in the highstreet and dumps bags of them in charity shops. However, when viewing the piles of clothes in Boltanski’s piece, one thinks of loss, scale, and remnants of the dead. Christian Boltanski manages to provoke fresh thought in objects that we, the viewer, are surrounded by day to day.

In studying the object as art one must consider the artists ability to achieve this change of perception while looking at examples of artists who have done so and how they have done so; whether by changing the object, the setting, or simply placing it within an artistic context, and public perception of the untouched object being called ‘art’.

 

After some hefty note taking, and an encouraging cup of coffee, I threw the above statement together to outline what my line of thought is at the moment. Its going to change, I can tell, so I wasn’t too fussy on the wording.

Right now this is a pretty broad theme. I’m hoping to specify more once I’ve built up my research and identified the key points that interest me. Aside from reading books and researching artists, I’m considering visiting charity shops and recycling centres in Dundee, to interview staff about what percentage of their customers are art students, buying old ‘junk’ to use in their art. I feel this would give my research a fresh insight and provide a modern and relatable side to the argument.

I’d like my dissertation to be centred around a mature understanding of this medium and be able to convey a clear argument. I’d also like for it to be of interest to members of the general public who perhaps feel they don’t understand contemporary art. I’d like for people to be able to read this piece and take some knowledge and appreciation away from it.

‘Things’

Sentimentality in materiality. What am I going on about now?

People are constantly trying to keep hold of the past. We assign memories and significance to objects, allowing them to represent events in our lives. Having a physical reminder of something provides comfort and reassurance that we did something, we saw someplace or we knew someone. Memory is not enough. Its odd really, and sort of a luxury. We accumulate all this unnecessary tac, give it power.

Would you notice if these things were gone? Do you look at them daily? Or is it just a comfort that you still have that old concert ticket stub? The memory itself is fading so the object is used to keep it alive somehow. Perhaps its even vanity. To prove you’re a certain type of person. Your ‘things’ can say a lot about you, and therefore its a selective process in deciding what to surround yourself in.

Personally I’m overly sentimental. I have a good memory for colour and image. This is handy, but can be annoying and provoke a lot of overanalysis. Getting ready in the morning would be a lot less of an ordeal if I didn’t attach memory so freely. I can look at any article of clothing in my wardrobe and instantly recall its triumphs and downfalls. I’ll use this as an excuse for my constant need to buy new clothes. But never throwing away the old ones of course.

This is all just musing really. About the importance placed on often unnecessary material objects. How people tie themselves to their ‘things’ whether the things themselves are valuable or not. Bellow is a photograph of a few of my possessions. I’ve covered some up and even though their appearance is hidden their sentiment is unchanged to me. Its not for aesthetic value that we collect and horde, but for personal comfort. Three of those objects are second hand. Which addresses another habit of mine. Being nostalgic about times I have not even lived through. Talk about clinging onto the past…

 

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Now playing: Sentimental Heart – She and Him – YouTube
via FoxyTunes

Why I like Christian Boltanski


I like French contemporary artist Christian Boltanski. From what I’ve read, our thoughts on art go hand in hand. Boltanksi admits that when you’re an artist, ideas of creation sometimes just don’t come, you can sit for days feeling unproductive with no drive or spark.

“You must wait and hope – there’s nothing else you can do. And when you have an idea, you can do it in 10 minutes.”

A lot of manual work, building and making, is time-consuming, but often the idea itself and the initial sketches can happen in a very short space of time. Sometimes this is reassuring because on those dwindling hours of having nothing to work on, you know that something could inspire you at any minute. Something small. Ideas come from the tiniest things. A lot of time in art school is spent sitting at my desk, idly scribbling nonsense words. Time to ‘do nothing’ is so important in the thought process. Boltanski reiterates,

“Sometimes in two minutes, you realise what you must do for the nest two years. Sometimes its in the studio but other times its walking in the street or reading a magazine. Its a good life, being an artist, because you do what you want.”

I always find comfort when I read interviews with him. The way he openly admits to artist block and even commends it is refreshing. Its easy to feel lazy when theres no ideas.

Aside from his attitude and views on art, I like Boltanski because his work is beautiful. He takes heavy subjects, the fragility of life, memory and loss, and works them with such a subtle flair, often even with humour. The image bellow of No Man’s Land shows a giant pile of used clothes and a large crane scattering the clothes into separate clusters. A good example of Boltanski’s subtle handling, the piece does not scream his intention, but allows the viewer to draw their own conclusion. A child would look in wonder at the giant crane, an old widow might see the clothes and think of remnants left behind by the dead. A young adult like myself might be intimidated by the scale of the piece. When I see this, it hits me how small I am, how many people have come and gone before me, and the traces they leave behind. I’d love to see this piece up close, to let it fully affect me.

So there’s a little bit about why I like Christian Boltanski.

Fresh Air

It’s good to get out. Christmas holidays always tend to drag on a bit towards the end. Having finished my Christmas temp. job and not having a set project for going back, the last couple of days have been a bit bland.

So I took a trip to Loch Lomond today. The weather is still frightful of course, the loch had risen right up to the banks, but that wasn’t gonna’ stop the trek. There were a few other people taking walks, adorned in anoraks and hiking boots. I received a couple of amused looks at my patent leather boots, beret, and faux fur coat. But I bet I was warmer than they were.

It’s nice up there. A nice place to breath. Clean air, inspiring scenery and water on your face always provides a good wake up.

The trees are getting totally drowned in this weather. It was strange to see after having visited the same place in the summer, when the water was flat-calm and plants thriving.

I like taking photos. I always use it as a means of recording, in my artwork. I’ve never given it real time to study what camera I should be using, or what settings are best for what scene. I just like to snap-happy and thats enough for me right now. Maybe it will be something I look into in the future.

Get. Things. Done.

I’m not making resolutions this year. Last year I wanted to learn something. I learned many things actually, basic skills such as how to make a circular box and avoid drilling a hole into your left thumbnail, and then some more abstract lessons, lessons that the natural progression of a year provides.

But this year is just about survival. Get on with it. Keep breathing and don’t complain. Get it bloody done. Perhaps even make some noise while doing it. Take a train if you need to. Ask questions and work on answers.

So, to initiate this, tomorrow I will begin to look for my artists placement. Infact, I might as well look tonight. Get. Things. Done.

I’ll end with this photo taken on my iPhone on a train from Edinburgh arriving into Dundee. Its blurry and unrecognisable as the Tay. But I like it.

Assemblage. What’s that then?

Assemblage is an artistic process. In the visual arts, it consists of making a three-dimensional artistic composition from putting together found objects.

Riiight, so what I was doing all Summer then? Cool beans. Lets do more of that in third year. I’ve been thinking about a lot of different media, all centererd around the incorporation of found objects – assemblage. There’s an endless supply of materials out there. Fascinating objects with rich histories attached to them. I want to take these and adapt them, give them different signifficance and create something new.

A great example of this would be Joseph Cornell. I’ve actually been trying not to look too closely at his work because certain aspects seem very similiar to what I want to do. He makes intricate little worlds and scenarios packed into boxes.

I love his work, but I feel if I look into it too closely I’ll be almost too influenced by him, since I too am looking to ‘make worlds in boxes’, but I want it to be my own and develop naturally. So I’m going to stubbornly return my Cornell books to the library…

This year at DoJ our time is being split in half to allow us to work on two separate projects. The ‘Studio Module’ is time to focus on self-directed work, we’re given complete freedom with this. The ‘Elective Module’ provides a more specific influence, with lectures and studies on a chosen subject. My chosen module is entitled ‘the Undiscovered Landscape’.

At first, I was slightly skeptical about the prospect of simultaneous projects. However, upon voicing this with Arthur Watson I was told, “realistically, as a working artist, you might be working on eight different projects at once, going to eight different countries.”, so that shut me up. And so far I’m on track. I can handle this…

 

Recreation

Is it sad that my break from art is art?

After finishing my project last night I’ve spent most of today painting. For fun I guess. Really I’m just putting off important things like filling in a new passport form and packing up my room for my return to Dundee.

Painting annoys me a lot of the time. But it has its moments. I always saw myself as a painter, then I got sucked into all this installation stuff. Maybe I just don’t have much faith in my paintings. It’s still nice to spend a couple of hours getting lost with it though.

 

 

I was feeling purple.

Possibly I need a hobby. My plans to learn to drive/learn a language/learn an instrument this year haven’t really taken off. I guess hoarding could be my hobby… ‘collecting’ might make it sound less obsessive. Though it’s a bit obsessive. The not being able to bin a chicken carcass kind of proved that.

 

 

Eh?!

I think this must be the first time I’ve ever finished an art piece before the deadline – two weeks before the deadline. Which confuses me. But I really do think I’ve taken it as far as I can for this brief. Hmm.

So I have three of these constructed cases with the inserts I’ve made and collected for them, plus a little sketchbook/photobook showing the process and outcome.  There’s a lot of work put into each case as well. And I feel I was quite resourceful, I’ve spent hours hacking up old wire coathangers, photocopying scraps of books and attaching hinges onto photo frames. Yep, I think that’ll do.

I’m pretty happy. And now I can relax for two weeks and enjoy my return to Dundee and the start of 3rd year. The prospect of 3rd year is frightening. But I’m just gonna dive in and make it work. Because it has to.

I’ll leave with mah bones 🙂 Got some pretty nice close ups of the detail on this project. There is some intricate stuff going on inside each case.

I Like Old Things

It’s often a source of amusement between my friends, “Rachael, why don’t you listen to a song that’s less than 40 years old”, “Rachael, Bob Dylan will never marry you, he’s practically a walking corpse now.” Shut up guys. I like old things. I like old music. I like old fashion. I like old photographs. And in a warped way – yes, if you’re going to count Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan or even Charlie Chaplin, then I suppose I like old men too. Though I’d rather not word it like that.

Perhaps I just enjoy stereotypes too much. Its easy to fall in love with the idea of the 1950’s or 60’s. Things depicted in films, long braided hair, tie-dye,  rebelling without a cause, and a Volkswagon Bus. The whole tarnished image of it. I’d rather cart around an old battered suitcase with a visible story than buy new luggage. I’d rather spin a record than plug into an mp3. And yes if theres a Vintage blazer on the rails I’ll pick that over a label. Once again I’m exploiting myself and all my kitsch cliche glory. It became apparant to me today how much of a geek I am over the age of something.

I bought a typewriter about a year ago for a tenner from the recycling centre. The ribbon ran out after a few hours of typing and so I stored it away and forgot about it. Being home for the summer though means I’m kind of stuck for things to do. So I dug it out today and went on a little Google spree to look into the history of the thing and see what kind of ribbon I needed.

From my research online and the information given from the manual (which is in surprisingly good condition), I’m guessing its a Royal Royalite Portable typewriter, dating back to 1963/64. Which in my opinion, is pretty cool. So now I’m just waiting on my ink ribbon arriving and I’ll have a new toy to play with.

The manual describes it as a great tool for mothers to type up club reports and recipes etc, and in contrast, for husbands to type up important business documents. I guess when I’m prancing around in high-waisted shorts, singing the Beatles and dreaming of vintage typewriters, its easy to fall in love with a stereotype and forget that we live in such a better time now. The sexism that was around back then is clear even in that little instruction manual. Still though, I’d love to go back to that time for just a day. I’d totally do ‘the Twist’.

(And yes I did edit the photo above to give it that old vignette effect.)