Archives for the month of: February, 2016

I have a new blank slate – a studio with Second Floor Studios at Thames Barrier in the same complex as Thames Barrier Print Studio. 1602 New Studio

I also discovered there are wood and metal workshops here, a gallery and lots of opportunities to take classes so I am very excited to be joining the complex and enjoy the amazing views across the Thames

1602 Thames Barrier

It was great to be back screen printing after quite a break.

1602 Induction Day Prints 1.jpgI had been working on an image I was thinking of using for an idea about the multiverse theory but wasn’t really happy with it so I cropped off a portion to use for my screen printing induction day. I saw these ancient fish in an aquarium in Shanghai, they look so prehistoric and are very alarming, hanging motionless in the water until they are offered a live snack then they move like lightning, leaping from the water to snap the victim in their jaws.

1602 test screen print

The 56th Venice Biennale theme All The World’s Futures was a cue for a lot of artists to excavate the past.

The multi channel video Fire Talks To Me by Almagul Menlibayeva cuts into the past and layers time. 1601 Venice Union of Fire and water (13)Grand Palaces, industrialization and dystopian landscapes give an epic scale to a turbulent narrative. 1601 Venice Union of Fire and water (12)

This work has huge scope. The history of Azerbajan, the Persian Empire and Venice are intermingled.1601 Venice Union of Fire and water (15)

At the centre of the tale is the Mukhtarov couple’s rise in fortune on the riches of oil and their downfall at the soviet takeover. 1601 Venice Union of Fire and water (14)

Their palace, built with oil money and inspired by love has been reassigned from private to public love temple and is now the ‘Palace of Happiness’ in its new guise as Baku’s marriage bureau.

1601 Venice Union of Fire and water (9)

The Union of Fire and Water  continues throughout the 14th C Gothic building with sculptural interventions by Rashad Alakbarov interacting with the environment and our journey through it.1601 Venice Union of Fire and water (10)

The journey can be circuitous.

1601 Venice Union of Fire and Water

Armando Lulaj deals with spectres of history. In his series of films ‘The Albanian Trilogy: A series of devious stratagems’ he looks at how political symbols can appear in one context then reappear in another changing their meaning. over time. He aims to uncover  processes which govern social memory. The research that his films are based on is really interesting so I have included quite a bit of detail here and more can be found on the Albanian Pavilion website.

It Wears As It Grows references a story from the cold war years. In 1959 Khrushchev visited Albania to discuss the Soviet Union’s plans to arm Enver Hoxha’s state with submarines and warships to counter the U.S. threat from missile bases in Italy. Four years later relations between the USSR and Albania had broken down leaving an Albanian navy with a paranoid fear of enemy attacks. When they sighted an object that repeatedly appeared and disappeared at the surface of the sea they shot at it believing it to be a submarine. The unfortunate target turned out to be a Mediterranean sperm whale.

1601 Venice Albania (2)

After being recovered, the whale’s remains were displayed in the Museum of Natural History in Tirana. In 2011, the skeleton of the whale reappears in the streets of Tirana, raised onto the shoulders of a group of people, like a ghost wandering the streets of the city until it found its final resting place inside Enver Hoxha’s mausoleum “Piramida.” This pyramid-shaped structure completed in 1987 was designed by his own daughter and son-in-law to glorify his name and create an eternal monument to him, just like the pyramids of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

1601 Venice Albania (1)

NEVER looks at how the positioning of five letters in rock on a hillside tells a story of political power struggles. When communism was at its zenith in Albania around 1968, the Albanian Labor Party decided to celebrate the magnificence of their leader, Enver Hoxha with a monument to his name. Hundreds of young people were forced to join the Albanian People’s Army to position and paint enormous stones on the side of the Shpirag mountain to spell out the name of the dictator. After the fall of communism in the 90’s the Democratic Party gained power and ordered the army to destroy the rocks with explosives. It wasn’t a complete success; the letters were only damaged and two soldiers were burned alive in the process. The task was abandoned and over time what could still be seen of the letters was covered in vegetation. In 2012, locals decided to return to unearth the letters and rewrite the name. After uncovering, cleaning and painting, what materialized no longer read as ENVER, but something altered. The emblem of a dictator ENVER returned as the English adverb NEVER.

Recapitulation traces diplomatic relations between Albania and the U.S. and the sensitive use of language to affirm or negate friendship. In 1957 a U.S. Air Force plane entered Albanian airspace. Two Albanian fighter jets were scrambled and escorted the U.S. plane into a forced landing at Rinas Airport. The pilot, a high ranking WWII hero, was held and interrogated by Albanian officials but due to US diplomatic pressure was released two weeks later. The airplane, however, was not released and in 1971 was moved to the new  Weapons Museum in the birth town of the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha. This symbol of the Cold War was labelled “American Spy Plane”.  By 2009 relations with the U.S. were no longer hostile and so the Albanian government wanted to remove the plane feeling it was now deemed an affront to the friendly diplomatic relations. However that same year, the former US Ambassador to Albania, stated that history should not be rewritten. Immediately after his speech a question mark appeared at the end of the inscription “American Spy Plane” so that what had been an affirmation turned into a question: “American Spy Plane?”

Meanwhile Russia is rewriting its history and repainting its pavilion.  Irina Nakhova digs into a past tied to the wider context of the artists struggle for cultural acknowledgement.

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In 1993 the Russian Pavilion was emptied of art and painted Red by Ilya Kabakov in a statement of defiance against Moscow’s institutionalism.

1601 Venice Russia (1)

In 2015 Nakhova returns the Pavilion to its original green in the hope of a transformation filling rooms with references to past celebrated artists and archived images interspersed with organic matter, mixing history with inevitable entropy.

1601 Venice Russia (3)

Jiri David  showing at the Biennale for the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic presented Apotheosis an installation where the viewer becomes ‘immersed in the archaeology of knowledge and memories’. Uncertain of what we are approaching across the empty gallery  we walk towards a blank wall to discover a short narrow corridor hidden behind.

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Apotheosis – meaning the elevation to divine status is an appropriation of  Apotheosis of the Slavs: Slavs for Humanity (1926) by the Czech Secessionist artist Alphonse Mucha (1860 – 1939) reworked in greyscale and placed opposite a mirror of the same proportions. It literally brings you face to face with the politics of the region, the national pride and political idealism that inspired Mucha who is better known internationally for his art nouveau style posters. In further analogy it is hard to see the whole picture from this angle and a difficult task to understand ones place within it.

1601 Venice czech slovak (2)

In a world saturated with distorted images and media analysis where the words of politicians are vetted by PR machines applying a slick gloss to avoid accountability it is often hard to hear what is actually being said or read the persona saying it. Rabab Ghazoul’s  It’s a long way back ( Chilcot Project) is a deconstruction of Tony Blair’s 2010 testimonial in the UK government inquiry into the invasion of Iraq. By putting Blairs words into the mouths of ordinary people the words themselves become amplified.  Via a series of small screens we see members of the public listen and repeat words fed to them via headphones – they speak without rehearsal, with concentration, with self consciousness.

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On other screens people describe a man they see on screen before them speaking but with the sound off. Without hearing the content of his speech they must suppose from his body language and expression what emotion he is conveying. We hear their descriptions without seeing the man they describe. It’s a fascinating look at how we read what is fed to us. 0913 Venice Iraq

Tsibi Geva’s ‘Archaeology of the present’, an intervention on the structure of Israel’s Pavilion questions what it is that makes a home.

1601 Venice Israel 2 (1)Using fragments of artefacts, the ugly and the everyday objects he shows us the building blocks that together form the layering of associations that resonate as home.

An everyday item, the key is used to keep things safe but also to prevent access. Chihuru Shiota suspends hundreds of keys in a web of red threads in her installation ‘The Key in the Hand’.1601Venice Japan Chiharu Shiota 2) (2)Caught within the threads are two boats weighted down and unable to move.1601Venice Japan Chiharu Shiota 2) (1)So many memories to unlock or lock away. And so many memories that we have lost the key to.

Qiu Zhijie’s sculptures at the Arsenal reflect the old adage ‘history repeats itself’  in his installation ‘Historical Circular’

Placing us amongst the artefacts of physics, the search for understanding and the dreams that urge us forwards we get a sense of our weight within a world that spins on regardless.

It was good to see Tarkovsky’s film Mirror (Zerkalo) on a big screen at the BFI.

1601 Tarkosky Mirror

The mirror is turned towards Tarvovsky’s own life. His aim was to reconstruct his past from memories and photographs as accurately as possible. He even rebuilt his family home for this purpose. Like memories the film is dreamlike and non linear. We are swept away to quiet places. In excavating the past we are always on the brink of something not quite grasped. Images hover, an uncanny wind surges through the long grass as though some mythological creature is about to appear. 1601 Tarkosky mirror 2

Tarkovsky said that it wasn’t until much later that he realised the film was about his mother and not himself and perhaps it was not a desire to recreate the past but to transform it that inspired him.

Another life explored, also at the BFI, was tackled in a more traditionally linear way. Life on TV; Sir David Attenborough was a narrative interspersed with contemporaneous film footage.  David Attenborough stood on stage and spoke with such animation and without any notes for over two hours. He was able to recount past events with astonishing accuracy.  The audience were captivated and in awe of his energy, enthusiasm and recall at 89. David AttenburghHe took us back to the 1950’s and the first natural history programme broadcasts.   Most evident from these documentaries is how attitudes to wildlife have changed in the last 50 years. Instrumental in taking the cameras out from the studio rather than bringing the wildlife into the studio David Attenborough has brought the natural world in ever increasing detail to our living rooms.

1601 David Attenburgh rhinoHe offers us amazing visual richness and access to the extraordinary diversity of the planet, this does not translate as personal experience yet we now share a collective memory of these hugely popular series.

1602 Capability Now‘Capability Now’ at Orleans House Gallery looks back at the influence of landscape designer Capability Brown. It illustrates  his contribution to the development of the English landscape Garden, characterised by its informal and naturalistic appearance, as opposed to the ordered, symmetrical, and geometric gardens that came before.   Alongside the historical exhibits, contemporary artists present modern interpretations of Brown’s works and ideas. Lizzie Cannon exhibits Mended leaf [Acer rubrum] (2015) and Mended leaf 2 (2010).

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Lizzie Cannon Mended leaf [Acer rubbrum]

In rebuilding the past it is transformed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Things slightly out of control.

Another sharply intelligent play by Caryl Churchill, Escaped Alone bats us back and forth from cosy garden chatter to the heart a dystopian future world of civic anarchy.  The scenarios the character Cassandra paints of a poisoned world run by the media where the obese slice off their own bodies for food and fashion choices revolve around which colour gas mask to choose appear just the other side of a thin membrane. Great review of the play here. As Cassandra stepped from bright sunshine into dark void to deliver her visions of spiralling societal collapse one of which included people trapped in tunnels underground resorting to cannibalism and giving birth to blind children I wondered how I will react to going down the deepest mine in the UK to visit the science labs at Boulby. Our trip is planned for May.

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Linda Bassett as Cassandra in Escaped Alone  by Caryl Churchill

Shivering is usually a temporary condition triggered by cold, fear or excitement. Damir Očko looks at the involuntary actions of our body and the physicality of the flesh in which we must live. His videos show a man shaking with Parkinson’s disease desperately trying to write the word tranquillity; the muscle spasms of young healthy men freezing as they stand near naked in a frozen landscape; flesh scarred through burning to a rough meaty texture.

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Damir Ocko The Third Degree

We walk between fragmented mirrors glimpsing our broken selves.

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Damir Ocko installation at The Croatian Pavilion 2015

Tulipmania swept the world in the 17h Century. The passion for the perfect bloom inflated prices out of control and fortunes  were made and lost in the worlds first recorded financial crash. This was the subject of  Gordon Cheung’s Breaking Tulips  exhibition at  Alan Cristea. The most desired blooms with their striated petals were the result of a virus, unknown at the time which added to the speculative nature of trade in not knowing whether a bulb would go on to produce the requisite flower or not. He sets his tulips against the background of the financial papers and comments; “In the context of the Dutch Golden Age the Tulip Breaking virus is both a biological and mind virus where a distorted sense of economic value has taken hold in a herd mentality.”

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Conflating history in his new work we see Dutch 17th-century still life paintings cascade like sand though our fingers. In frozen apocalyptic moments the solid world disintegrates before our eyes.  The collision of Dutch Master and Kim Asendorf’s open source algorithm computer glitch program has created a new kind of sublime; that mix of fear and beauty seen in entropy. We fear losing our history and also fear the ever changing new world of pixels. We are witness to a transient state.

I thought Filip Markiewicz installation Paradiso Lussemburgo was a bit heavy handed, but then considering his topic – the violence of reality seen through greed and the injustice of world economics maybe it was OK to shout about it.

1602 Venice Luxembourg

Filip Marckiewicz Paradiso Luxemburgo

 

There was no missing his point that the world of finance is corrupt.  Money doesn’t go where it is needed most. The packed boat precariously hangs over a blood bath. Making a political point can be blunt. Mark Fromm’s packed boat of waving lucky cats set in a perpetual cycle of sailing to disaster is titled Lampedusa Good Luck!  Smiling fixedly and clad in shiny gold like the refugees gold survival blankets it is an unsettling analogy but it does open the question of how we see the thousands of migrants who risk their lives to escape terror in their homeland – left to the mercy of so many forces; the war, the sea, our generosity.

Nidhal Chamekh  makes considered connections between contemporary realities and the sprawling nature of human history. The Anti-Clock Project looks at the destruction of an urban monument in Tunis through the use of models of the city and drawings.

Tunis, like any city is a testament to the forces that built it and as Nidhal Chamekh reminds us through the construction and destruction of its architecture is witness to society and the political forces which govern it.

Consider two bullets colliding head on. Art Collective The Propeller Group were intrigued when they came across the remains of a bullet from the American Civil War in a museum which had apparently smashed head on with another bullet on the battlefield. They decided to apply this mythology to the guns used in the cold war era.  The work they made AK47 vs M16 captures the colliding bullets in an FBI clear ballistics gel block accompanied by a video of the collision.

1601 Venice The Propeller Group (1)

The Propeller Group Ak47 vs M16

 

By collapsing/colliding two pasts together they explore possibilities.

Possibilities always lie in the future.

 

In my practice I spend a lot of time thinking about the past rather than the future, researching origins and myths. History changes with the telling and the future is full of probabilities. In Carlo Rovelli’s Seven Brief Lessons on Physics the sixth lesson asks the question ‘what is the present?’ Physicists and philosophers have come to the conclusion that the present is an illusion and time does not flow, but this is not how we experience the world. Compare ‘now’ with ‘here’. ‘Here’ is subjective to where it is spoken. ‘Now’ is subjective to the instant it is spoken. Both terms are indexical. We wouldn’t claim only things that are ‘here’ exist so why do we say only things that are ‘now’ exist? The problem isn’t solved but it is believed to have something to do with thermodynamics (heat does flow) and our limited capacity to comprehend the universe. A supersensible being would experience the universe as a single block of past, present and future.

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The London Lumiere event changed the city temporarily, bouncing some photons around which brought people out onto the streets for a bit of wonderment.

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It was the coldest night to be out but there were some magical moments to be had.

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Litre of Light – use simple technology with recycled plastic bottles and water to provide sustainable solar lighting for communities across the world. Fantastic idea and I liked that these bottle ends look like a myriad of suns.

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Spectra-3 is an interactive light and sound installation by Field who create hi-tech experiences with a human touch. Supposedly tracking the audience it looked like it had latched onto to something more interesting in the cosmos. Liking this other work of theirs –  New Nature

Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho’s video installation  The Ways of Folding Space and Flying is an archaeological quest into human civilization.

1601 Venice Korea Moon Kyungwon Jeon Jooho 4 (2)

In this multiscreen installation we are dwarfed by giant projections. Voyeurs peering through portholes at this lone explorer on her voyage, sleeping, taking exercise, discovering new experiences.

1601 Venice Korea Moon Kyungwon Jeon Jooho 4 (1)

Both futuristic and retrospective the artists are inspired by Taoist practice, supernatural powers and the desire to fly. Their protagonist appears in a state of wonder exploring the unknown.

1601 Venice Korea Moon Kyungwon Jeon Jooho 4 (4)

Giving ground to the meditative and emancipatory effects of  complex human desires it allows us to dream and wonder what an other future might hold.

Lee Lee Nam shows technical wizardry in a series of digital works. Moving gently through the seasons this traditional landscape is in a constant captivating cycle of rebirth.

The characters on a traditional scroll dissolve, falling away pixel by pixel

1601 Venice Lee Lee Nam (3)In the centre of the room a captive dove beats its wings as it is plunged beneath the water.

1601 Venice Lee Lee Nam (8)

I thought Lu Yang’s video work Moving Gods. was really interesting, the imagery playing with desire and attraction, worked on me.

1601 Venice China Lu Yang (1)

An ethnically diverse male group play out some ritual that references video games, mythology and religious iconography.

1601 Venice China Lu Yang (3)

A mash up of superheroes, fashion iconostas and saints that plays on the attraction of power and the use of symbol to establish status.

1601 Venice China Lu Yang (2)

She is out to deconstruct and uses new technologies to question our emotional and bodily relationships to a digital world.

Introduced to Hito Steryl via her e-flux essays on digital culture I was keen to see her new work at the Venice Biennale. Entering the space of her video installation Factory of the Sun was like entering digital space in Tron fashion.

1601 Venice Germany  Hito Steryl (1)

The room, pulsating with dance beats, was transformed into a 3D graphic grid with deckchairs and loungers to lie back in and be transported to the future. 1601 Venice Germany  Hito Steryl (2)

Fast moving and mesmerizing dancers morph and rotate in a game like scenario where a new digital light transfers reality into digital culture. There is an underlying menace in this frenetic world as borders collapse and the gun may or may not be real.

It makes me think of the curse of the red shoes.

 

Time is one thing we can all agree on to call supernatural. It is at least neither energy nor matter, not dimension either, let alone function; and yet it is the beginning and end of the creation of the world.  – Halldór Laxness, Under the Glacier, 1968

I loved the Joan Jonas exhibition They Come To Us Without a Word at the Venice Biennale 2105, it was a space that encouraged wonder and a dialogue with the spiritual aspects of nature and the rhythms of ritual.

Inspired by the writing of Halldór Laxness she interweaves ghost stories from Novia Scotia with images of a fragile landscape and the enactment of ritual by sombre children.

Glasstress is a collateral event of the Venice Biennale, the theme for 2015 was how the gothic and medievalism has crept into modern consciousness.

1601 Venice glassstress Matt Collishaw

Matt Collishaw Jewel Slot Empire

Invited artists made work referring to ideas ranging across mythology, religion, medicine and alchemy. Flamboyant and emotional, the gothic explored by Petah Coyne’s The Feminine and Mirror Mirror installation.

The Gothic style, born in Europe, was the first international language that spoke across  many nations for at least four centuries.

1601 Venice Glasstress Qiu Zhije

Qiu Zhijie Even More Mythical Animals Are Still On There Way

Today contemporary art has taken on that mantle of communication across borders. The interesting thing is we still ask the same questions and are fascinated by the same metaphysics as we were in medieval times.

1601 Glasstress Kate MccGuire Maelstrom

Kate MccGwire Maelstrom

Performing a ritual out of its designated season is jarring to the senses. Making work that only feels appropriate to bring out at Christmas limits its accessibility. Not really made as Christmas decorations my light boxes ‘Bar of Wonder’ and ‘Bearing Gifts’ do tend to perform that function. It was therefore quite nice for them to have an outing at a Winter Show – Giving curated by Trident and Triangle at Gallery 98 Tower Bridge Road.

1601 Giving

‘Bar of wonder’ places characters from the nativity story into a contemporary Christmas setting, infiltrating a prosaic reality with peripheral and ethereal images that are evoked by the traditions that surround this annual ritual. Is this dated by the number of people outside smoking? A declining ritual.

1601 Bar of Wonder

‘Bearing gifts’ introduces the Magi of the nativity story to the burden of the present day seasonal shopping experience.  Queuing for gifts in Fortnum and Mason.1601 Bearing GiftsSeen through the haze of romantic delusion the figures of the wise men appear as elusive as the purchase of the perfect Christmas.

Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa’s mash up of religion, folklore and conspiracy theories in God’s Reptilian Finger at Gasworks was a step into the world of YouTube paranoia and fantasy. Using similarly cheap inauthentic materials as those used to make the videos that inspire him his polystyrene sculptures are unapologetic colourful embodiments of a wry look at how a belief takes hold and spreads.

1602 Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa 1

Gold painted geometric shapes are full of worms, the progeny of an alien race hidden beneath a shiny veneer. David Icke’s theory of a reptilian race dispersed amongst us gains traction from low resolution video footage of celebrities caught off-guard blinking sideways.

1602 Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa 6

Mormons in need of direction to their own land receive guidance from god’s hand pointing the way amongst the glowing rocks.

The seductive nature of myth and the willingness to believe in absurd fantasies is demonstrated when entering the darkened room at Gasworks to find oneself in the midst of a fluorescent meteorite storm and a giant disembodied finger. Pure joy.

 

In the humanist library and archives  at Conway Hall home to the ethical society is a section labelled Humankind. I love that. Are all the answers here?

1601 Conway Actants 3I was taking part in a tour of Conway Actants exhibition led by Jane Millar and Deborah Gardner who have placed site specific work throughout this wonderful building responding to the ethos and history of Conway Hall. 1601 Conway Actants

The bee hives on the roof inspired Deborah’s interventions of hexagonal sculptures morphing from the circular ceiling windows. Translating the activity on the roof and the interconnectedness and clusters of activity within the building.

1601 Conway Actants Deborah Gardner 2

Looking through the lenses of history, travelling through time, preserving and learning from the past. Conway Hall is a place for free thinking.

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The archive is a place of secrets as well as a place of discovery.

 

I made another visit to Conway Hall for the panel discussion – Why Do We Believe? It was a  diverse mix of people who packed the hall to ponder this question.

www.idjphotography.com

On the stage were; Prof. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion “an atheist with huge respect for religion” who regards her work as “a branch of history like any other”; Prof Richard Wiseman, Britain’s only Chair in the Public Understanding of Psychology who has gained an international reputation for research into unusual areas of psychology, including luck, deception, and the science of self-help; Alice Herron a PhD candidate who was brought up a Catholic, married a Muslim, got divorced and spent 27 years in the cult of Indian Guru Sri Chinmoy and is currently researching atheists who claim to have had some sort of mystical-type experience; Bruce Hood a Professor of Developmental Psychology, currently the President of the British Association for Science psychology section who has given the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures “Meet Your Brain” and written books such as; SuperSense: Why We Believe In The Unbelievable and The Self Illusion: Why There is No ‘You’ Inside Your Head; Deborah Hyde the editor in chief of the UK’s only regular magazine to take a critical-thinking and evidence-based approach to pseudo-science and the paranormal and who is fascinated by the supernatural, and probably knows way too many facts about werewolf folklore.

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The opinions expressed can all be heard at the above link. There were different perspectives and lots of interesting facts but on the whole what I found fascinating was the general consensus of disbelief throughout the room considering the percentage of the population cited to hold a belief in ‘something’ supernatural. Maybe the discussion should have been called ‘Why did we believe?’ or ‘Why do other people believe?’ Perhaps it was the authority of the panel who made it sound like a weakness, a fiction to turn to in times of existential crisis, to bring a sense of order and comfort to our lives. I was hoping for someone to pipe up during question time and dispute these claims but none did. And what about belief in a supernatural that brings disorder? It’s a fascinating debate believers or not.

A Leap Of Faith at St. Laurence Church, Catford was presented for one day only by The LivingRoom a nomadic space committed to blurring the boundaries between the display of  work and the work itself. 1601 A leap of Faith 1

The artist’s works were placed among the Church’s artefacts, propped in pews and laid on tables. The boundaries disappeared.

1601 St.Laurences ChurchI entered late in the day, there had been a schedule of performances but I had missed most of these. Coming in from torrential rain outside, the place was immediately a sanctuary. People milled quietly and took their seats along the pews. I sat waiting but not sure what for and in the hushed gloom had the uncanny feeling I had inadvertently joined a cult. After a while, strange resonating sounds from Michael Speers  performance of distorted feedback filled the space. We sat in quasi religious contemplation.1601 A leap of Faith 2A leap of faith considers the universe, civilisation and the individual; questioning our existence in relation to infinite time and space or to a particular moment in history. Based on natural phenomena, scientific observations or constructed narratives, the works ponder on past ideas and beliefs whilst also constructing their contemporary ones. This cycle of renewal, found in religion as well as in other systems, is visible in the artists’ attempts to make sense of and reorganise traces of our existence. 
1601 A leap of Faith 5Among the artists in this show were Mark Ariel Waller projecting SO-LA, video footage from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory above a bronze cast replicating ‘Sit Shamshi’ a 12thC relic of Iran which depicts two figures in a temple setting performing a ritual to the rising sun.

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One of my current objects of interest – an obelisk seen here in Salvatore Arancio’s mash up of Carl Sagan footage from the TV series ‘The Cosmos’. These striking forms also originated from rituals of sun worship.

In a very different space Cerith Wyn Evans exhibition at  White Cube focused on flows of energy, referencing Marcel Duchamp’s work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even.

The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) 1915-23, reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965-6, lower panel remade 1985 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968

Reassigning and charging with gas the circular forms that are known as the Oculist Witnesses in Duchamp’s piece.

1601 Cerith Wyn Evans (2)

These forms now glowing brightly above our heads would have centred the flow of illuminating gas from the Bachelors to the Blossoming of the Bride should Duchamp have allowed this ejaculation to follow its course.

Ghosts of the past brought to life to bear witness once more.

1601 Cerith Wyn Evans (1)

While we circle the gallery a sighing breath intones a melody from glass flutes suspended above us and large potted palms silently rotate though slowed time.

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Also using light as medium Tsang Kin-Wah’s immersive installation ‘The Infinite Nothing‘ contemplates the uncertainty of life.

Beginning with Nietzsche’s pronouncement on the death of God: ‘Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space?’ we are led on a circular journey through four stages of transformation, titled 0, I, and r giving physical shape to Nietzsche’s theory of ‘eternal recurrence’.

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Tsang combines philosophy, mythology, religious symbolisms and popular cultural references.1601 Venice Hong Kong (2)

We face Heraclitus’s river into which ‘one cannot step twice’; Plato’s Cave Allegory; and Nietzsche’s notions of ‘Camel Spirit’, ‘slave morality’ and ‘the Overman’.

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Inspirations also come from Béla Tarr’s film The Turin Horse (2011) and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) along with thoughts on karma and reincarnation as Tsang explores all routes in the human quest for self-betterment.

Taking inspiration from the 12th century quest for the philosopher’s stone The Obsidian Project is an investigation into alchemy by Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn who make up Studio Drift. Exploring relationships between nature, technology and mankind they are working with a contemporary chemist who can abstract gold from chemical waste.

1601 Venice Obsidian Project (1)

Left over from this process of extraction is ‘synthetic obsidian’ a black stony glass with unique reflective qualities. Perhaps in its meditative dark space of reflection it is the Obsidian that offers something more precious than gold.

 

 

 

My interest in what we can and can’t see in our environment led me to think about the substance of matter.

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At the Shadow without Object symposium the idea of a dematerialized world and how we record it was raised in Duncan Wooldridge’s paper Some Notes on a New Realism: Relocating Representation in the Technical Image. Once when we learnt to negotiate our relationship with the world visibility equalled presence. When representing the world it was with graphite, paint, film and emulsions that were all material objects. Now the world has dematerialized. The digital image is not made or transposed in the same way. This opens up other ways of visualising the world. To visualise through transformation.

We can tap into new technologies to see things that previously were obscured from us.

1601 Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen

STSS-1 and Two Unidentified Spacecraft over Carson City (Space Tracking and Surveillance System; USA 205) C-Print

Trevor Paglen’s The Other Night Sky is a project to collect evidence of classified American satellites, space debris, and other obscure objects in orbit around the earth with the help of an international network of amateur satellite observers. The position and timing of overhead transits are calculated, observed and photographed with telescopes and large-format cameras and other imaging devices.

For what we can see we are dependent on photons bouncing off some matter and hitting a receptor, in our eyes or in our equipment. For what we can’t see we rely on recording some disruption in the path of those photons.

Erik Kessels work is a reminder of how dependent we are on the technical abilities of our eyes or equipment. In almost every picture #9 is a collection of found photographs of one family’s endearing attempts to photograph the family pet, a black Alsatian. Their camera’s limitations meant that the dog always appeared as a black featureless shape.

As technology advances we are able to record more accurately. But we still find instabilities, no process is error free.

Matter refuses to be reliable. Giacomo Raffaelli has been researching how weights and measures are standardised across the globe and presented his discoveries in a paper Non-standard Uncertainties: Experiments in Current Visual Conditions of the Kilogram Standards.

1601 Standard kg

In the late 1800’s identical cylinders were manufactured from Platinum Iridium and stored across the world encapsulated under three bell jars. These were to act as standard units of mass. Britain holds model no 18. Periodically these units are tested for mass and compared with those stored in other countries. Some have been found to be gaining mass at different rates to others. This is fascinating to think these sealed solid objects have all this activity going on that can’t be seen but becomes evident when measured. In response to this discovery the National Physical Laboratory is doing research to redefine the kilogram as a standard number of atoms.

Within their laboratories NPL hold a polished silicon crystal sphere – the most perfect sphere on earth.  Raffaelli wanted to relocate this seductive object from the laboratory where it functioned simply as a measure. The only way he would be allowed to achieve this reimagining would be via an image. First he tried green screen, then 3D imaging, then an optical scanner, then a nautical scanner in the dark and finally a laser scanner that detects points of volume but none of these technologies could capture the sphere.

1601 shadow without object

Giacomo Raffaelli With Relative Uncertainty

Hand crafted and hand polished to perfection this crystal ball completely resisted the process of digitization.

Reporters from The Londonist website had a similar problem ;

1601 John Dee at British Museum

John Dee’s mystical artefacts at the British Museum

At the front of the picture above, you can see Dee’s crystal ball. We tried several times to take a close-up shot, but neither of our cameras could get a sharp fix. It is obviously haunted.

The ability to focus is something Marco Maggi encourages in his installation Global Myopia II.  The ability to see from very close allows one to focus on what at a distant glance may be missed. At first the room might look empty.

1601 Uruguay (2)

Marco Maggi

Close up, a world in miniature appears in the form of grids and geometric shapes like paper circuitry which can read as encoded information, routes of transmission, architectural plans or space age archaeological sites.

1601 Uruguay (1)

Marco Maggi

Joseph Cornell was able to poetically record places he never visited. He was a collector of journeys captured in little boxes. I was very inspired by the Wanderlust exhibition at the Royal Academy having always been keen on small worlds to peer into.

1601 Jospeh Cornell A Parrot For Juan Gris

Joseph Cornell
A Parrot for Juan Gris

Constructed with found artefacts, maps and letters these enigmatic worlds are catalysts to the exotic, that which is always just out of reach.

1601 Joseph Cornell The Clockwork Utopia

Joseph Cornell Clockwork Utopia

On opening an atlas or looking at a map you must interpret the information and relate it to the world at large. Through her series Victory Atlas Elena Damiani aids us in those leaps we make in our minds to the tropical shores or glacial rocks which are signified by a few lines and coloured shapes. I found her work really interesting.

The group show COLLABORATORS 4 presented by Roaming Room at their current mews premises was a beautifully curated invitation to ponder materiality and the many ways we record the world and visualise our responses to it. Participating artists can be found here. I was particularly drawn to the small installation of Alexandra Hughes which beamed light through tiny images roughly embedded in clay portals.

1601 Roaming Room Alexandra Hughes

Alexandra Hughes East’s Blue Clayoto

I have always liked Ambrosine Allen’s intricate assemblages  constructed from slicing up national geographic publications.

1601 Ambrosine-Allen Retreating Glacier

Ambrosine Allen Retreating Glacier

The piece by Dunhill and O’Brien made me think of those first measurers that Raymond Williams writes about in his novel People of The Black Mountains who took a rod and every night went out to the hills to watch the rise and set of the moon.

1601 Dunhill-and-OBrien Stone Appreciation

Dunhill and O’Brien Stone Appreciation (Rostrevor)

 

First came the sound and the sign, then came the word – which turned into image and overtook the gaze. The sign, turned into figure, sought ways to become perpetual – quipus, incisions in clay boards, traces left by chisels on rocks, ink on papyrus or paper, then neon signs, LEDs, and many other technologies.  – Oscar Sotillo Meneses writing on the work of Argelia Bravo which celebrates the words, signs, gestures and poetry that interweave the historical evolution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela but can be recognised the world over.

1601 Venice venezuala