Berlin

There is nothing like the freedom of having a week to explore a new city with two of your best friends. Berlin provided the perfect balance for us. A fun holiday with quirky snaps and whirlwind adventures along with the opportunity to see lots of art, learn some history and experience a completely different culture.

We never stopped. Berlin is constantly changing and there is always something happening. Upon our first visit to Brandenburg gate we mistakenly stumbled upon EUFA quarter final crowds and ended up joining in celebrations until we passed out next morning. A very blurry night. A few days later we somehow ended up in the colourful midst of a huge Pride parade. Setting out each day with a vague idea of what we wanted to see and do, Berlin is so unpredictable and spontaneous that we definitely got more than we bargained for.

    

Our visit to the concentration Camp Sachsenhausen was understandably a very poignant day. To say the place ‘makes you think’ is an understatement.  It’s important to keep these places open to the public, allowing people to remember and learn from the past. This remnant of an important part of history is definitely worth seeing. The same can be said for such landmarks as Checkpoint Charlie, The Memorial for Murdered Jews and of course, the Berlin Wall.

    

The city does not hide its ghosts. There are constant reminders of Germany’s troubled past, and yet the place also has such a current vibe, perhaps because it is still in a state of recovery from both war and the separation of the Wall. The city is ever-changing and with a constant buzz that gives the feeling that things are really happening here. Berlin is an art students dream. We got to see some classic works by Beuys, Rauschenberg and Kiefer, art pieces that we’d previously only read about in books. We saw work by contemporary artists we were previously unaware of and definitely felt inspired after our visit to the modern art gallery.

An aspect of art we previously hadn’t experienced much of was street art. But on a rainy day of exploration we stumbled upon Tacheles. An old department store, and one time Nazi prison, taken over by artist squatters. The energy in that place is so creative and chilled out, with its graffiti’d walls and multiple levels, it’s an artwork itself. Unfortunately Tacheles is being constantly threatened with eviction and demolition. I wish them luck.

We saw everything we wanted to see in Berlin and more. Every day we’d clamber into one of Berlin’s famous black and white photo booths and embarrass ourselves with stupid face-pulling. We got to sample finest Berlin Currywurst and found a new favourite drink in Berliner Weisse. We also experienced the most pleasant hangover I think we’ve ever had. After a heavy night on cheap Lidl wine we took a visit to Reichstag Parliament and climbed up to the domed roof. The best way to recover from a rough night is to lie beneath an open ceiling while a light shower of rain comes down. Did not want to leave.

    

It was such a spur of the moment decision to go to Berlin, sitting in the cold art canteen in February and daydreaming about the prospect of an arty trip away. I had an amazing time in Berlin and am very inspired to start my 4th year. The trip has made me hungry to see more of Europe. So its time to save, save, save and we’ll see what happens in a year.

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.

Bed

Whenever I start reading about art history, or discover a new artist to look at, all I want to do is paint. So it’s hard to keep studying these Rauschenberg books, skimming museum websites and watching art documentaries, without just wanting to get the oil paints out and try out new techniques. However theres an essay to be written, and I should really stop painting in my bedroom anyway, its hard to breathe with all the paint fumes sometimes.

I’ve had an interesting wee day though reading up on Robert Rauschenberg in order to write my 1500 critical assessment on  his piece ‘Bed’.

It was painted in 1955 when the artist was low on funds and canvas and so began to work on an old quilt. I really appreciate his opinion on art.

“Painting relates to both art and life.

Neither can be made.

(I try to act between the two)”

By incorporating objects from life into his paintings, they are not simply about aesthetics but about experience and subject. He wanted to involve the viewer and to find personal expression while moving away from the abstract expressionist ideals of Rothko and Pollock, who would use just colour to convey emotion. Rauschenberg wanted to communicate thoughts on life and so he would include life in his pieces.

I really didn’t know much about Rauschenberg before this essay task forced me to look into him, but he really was an important figure in the development of modern art, acting as an important bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. All this makes me want to look further into the art movements, their manifestos and progression into each other.

So yeah, call me an art geek, I get really into this research stuff. Writing an essay really isn’t so bad if its something you’re actually excited about.

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Now playing: Robert Rauschenberg : Making It Big (Part 1/4)
via FoxyTunes

Objects of Desire

Objects of Desire, what we want and why we want it. With cities, maps and language as the source of research. Five weeks. Go.

This project has been fun so far, only a week into it. I’ve been thinking about basic human wants, and my own personal wishes. I’ve been thinking about the idea itself of longing for something, the never ending list of wants and unattainable dreams. I’ve spent a lot of this week thinking actually. Which kind of brings me to my idea.

What I want. I want lots of things. I want things that most people want (health, love, success). I want material objects (a large collection of hats, a VW beetle, Peanut M&Ms). And then theres things I dream about (art, adventure, to see everything). So I ran with the idea of adventure and travelling, thinking I could link this with cities and maps. And then I started thinking quite literally, about transport itself. The Journey.

I love sitting on a train. Its basically time that you’re forced to do nothing but sit and think, some great ideas come out when theres nothing but your own head and the passing landscape for company. It just feels comfortable to me, and safe. The best place to think is on a moving train. This contradicts what I said last week about doing art by impulse rather than thought. But I think theres a balance. And I think the reason I like sitting on a train is that you’re given a little space and an extended period of time where you’re really just waiting to arrive somewhere. I like feeling like I’m going somewhere and being able to enjoy the journey as well as the arrival. It’s difficult to explain. I’ve been having a lot of sketchbook rants and doodles.

I also love the Paris Metro. I find the idea quite romantic, speeding beneath the streets of such an amazing city. And the variety of people, random strangers with nothing in common but the destination. Tourists, businessmen, Parisians. I was too self conscious to sketch these characters or take photos of them for further work, but I would sometimes take a quick picture of their feet. It was the most discreet way I could think of to document the range of people. I did fall out with the Paris Metro one night, over a beret related issue but thats another story.

Getting back to the project. I’m going to focus on the journey, the getting to where you want, or desire, to go. I intend to make an installation, a small space, much like the booth of a train or subway. It will be about comfort and sanctuary as well as journey. All things that people want and crave.

I’ve been looking at Rauschenberg and his ‘Combines’, artwork that is both scuplture and painting, such as his 1954 work Minutiae.

I just love it, with the mixed media of oil, material, mirror and wood. He takes every day objects, sometimes having personal significance to him, and works into them transforming them into great pieces of art. Its really inspired me to do an installation. I feel like I’m going to really enjoy the next few weeks. I went to the recycling centre on Thursday. Its such a treasure trove of crap that noone else wants, but its great for art students. I got this pile of ‘junk’ for a tenner, lets see what I can do.

(On a side note, let me just mention that J.K.Rowling came up with the idea of Harry Potter on a train, worked out pretty well for her…just proving my point that journeys are good for the mind.)

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Now playing: Bob Dylan – Man Of Constant Sorrow
via FoxyTunes