Archives for posts with tag: Jane Millar

Visit to UCL’s Astronomical Observatory in Mill Hill.

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Thanks to knowledgeable hosts Mark Fuller and Thomas Schlichter for a wonderful tour of the UCL observatory and to Lumen London for organising.

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Shame it was cloudy but I enjoyed seeing the telescopes and hearing the history of this beautiful site. Looking forward to future collaborations.

We didn’t see the stars outside but an archive image and a loop lens proved fascinating.

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In the studio back after a busy year I have been tidying up, building mezzanine storage shelves and planning new work looking at cosmic planes, thinking about star HD70642 – a possible home from home and what lies beyond the horizon that I can never reach.

 

New Doggerland at Thames-side Gallery presents a future imagining of physical and cultural re-connection between Britain and the European mainland.

Doggerland was an area of land that once connected Britain to continental Europe. At the end of the last ice age a warming climate exposed land for habitation but gradually the lowlands were flooded as temperatures rose further then about 8,200 years ago, a combined melting of a glacial lake and a tsunami submerged Doggerland beneath the southern North Sea. Great work including these from Jane Millar, Oona Grimes and Sarah Sparkes.

It was the place to be on 31/01/2020.

Nam June Paik at Tate Modern. Amazing pioneer of technology in art. Colliding nature, entanglement, connectedness, meditation, transmission.


Trevor Paglin From ‘Apple’ to ‘Anomaly’ (Pictures and Labels) at The Barbican Curve.

The long wall is filled with thousands of pinned photographs taken from ImageNet, a publicly available data set of images, which is also used to train artificial intelligence networks. ImageNet contains more than fourteen-million images grouped into labelled categories which include the unambiguous ‘apple’ along with such terms as ‘debtors’, ‘alcoholics’ and ‘bad persons’. These definitions applied to humans by AI algorithms present an uncomfortable future of machine induced judgement.

 ‘Machine-seeing-for-machines is a ubiquitous phenomenon, encompassing everything from facial-recognition systems conducting automated biometric surveillance at airports to department stores intercepting customers’ mobile phone pings to create intricate maps of movements through the aisles. But all this seeing, all of these images, are essentially invisible to human eyes. These images aren’t meant for us; they’re meant to do things in the world; human eyes aren’t in the loop.’ Trevor Paglen

Interestingly there was no photography allowed in the Trevor Paglen show. So I tried Image net for an image to post. I searched for ‘artist’ but ImageNet is under maintenance so I tried Google and this is the first image I got.

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Another great show from Kathleen Herbert, A Study of Shadows at Danielle Arnaud. Using the cyanotype to interrogate the history and science of Prussian Blue and discover what emerges from the shadows through process and research. We learn – ‘Prussian Blue has a unique chemical structure and was originally created through the cyanotype process. It was the colour used to measure the blueness of the sky and was also used in the UK during the Chernobyl disaster as an antidote to radiation poisoning, preventing Caesium 137 from entering the food chain. Prussian Blue also has the ability to heal itself; if the intensity of its colour is lost through light-induced fading, it can be recovered by being placed in the dark.’

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The sound and video work Everything is Fleeing to its Presence relates a narrative of impressions and scientific facts while the visuals of varying tones of blue appear and disappear in hypnotic succession. Together the effect is of immersion, like the chemically coated paper, in a pool of blue.

Mary Yacoob Schema at Five Years Gallery. Also using cyanotypes, but here exploring the architectural roots of this process through precise silhouettes, detailed drawing, structure and form which is then exposed to the unpredictable chemistry to produce beautiful outcomes.

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Anselm Keifer at White Cube Bermondsey.  Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot all tied together in characteristically monumental paintings thick with stuff in an attempt to connect complex scientific theory with ancient mythology.

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William Blake at Tate Britain. What visions, such torment. So much mortal flesh.

Anne Hardy The Depth of Darkness, the Return of the Light winter commission for Tate Britain, a sort of after party dystopia with an impressive soundscape of rain, thunder, birds and insects inspired by pagan descriptions of the winter solstice – the darkest moment of the year.

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We sit together for a minute at Thames-side Gallery. Alex Simpson and Alice Hartley share a similar sensibility making dynamic and intuitive works. The gallery is alive with gestural forms, captured fragments and movement held momentarily in stasis, both fragile and immediate.

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The Computer Arts Society, The Lumen Prize and Art in Flux join London Group members at The Cello Factory for a second In The Dark curated mash up of light and technology artworks that overlap and collide in Even darker. Curated by clever duo interactive filmmakers Genetic Moo, artists include Carol Wyss and Sumi Perera.

 

Bridget Riley at Hayward Gallery. Messing with perception; undulations and vibrations.

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Mark Leckey O’ Magic Power Of Bleakness at Tate Britain. Sense of bleakness achieved in synthetic bridge recreation which gave gallery awkward angles. Voyeuristic social commentary, old rave footage. Magic found interspersed in otherworldly images contrast to dank underworld.

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Some beautiful artefacts in The Moon exhibition at Royal Maritime Museum Greenwich celebrating 50 years since the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Astronomicum Caesarean 1540 – rotating paper discs are used to track the moon’s position which the physician would then interpret to predict if the patient might improve or relapse.

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Orrery 1823-27 by John Addison includes a special geared section to show the rise and fall of the moon and mimicking the tilt of its orbit.

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Selenographia 1797 by John Russell. It models the slight wobble or libration of the moon meaning that over time a little more than half of the side of the moon is visible from Earth.1912 Moon Exhibition selenographia

Moon rocks, encased.

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A Distant View III by United Visual Artists. A 3D rendering in wood of original NASA data imaging of the moon’s surface from the Orbiter mission 1966/7

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Very lucky to be invited by Rachael Allain for a tour of The Queen’s House at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich led by curator Matilda Pye. We saw the Susan Derges commission Mortal Moon inspired by the Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1 and a celestial globe, dating from 1551.

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The fractal elegance of the Tulip staircase.

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Which is also where the Queen’s House ghosts were inadvertently photographed by retired Canadian Reverend R.W Hardy on his visit in 1966. Recreated in situ by Matty with mobile. Apparently photographic experts examined the original negative and found no signs of tampering.

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Ending the tour with Tacita Dean’s poignant photos of the desolate shell of the Teignmouth Electron, the yacht that bore Donald Crowhurst to his miserable and solitary death. It looks so small.

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Immersive installations inviting a change of consciousness at TRANSFORMER: A Rebirth Of Wonder presented by The Store X The Vinyl Factory. Including Doug Aitken NEW ERA dramatic video-scape looking at the first phone call and future communication highway.

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Mark Bradford’s paintings in Cerberus at Hauser & Wirth London recall the vibrant matter of creation, the splitting of the earth in molten rivulets to expose the dark underbelly.

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I am reading W. G. Sebald’s rambling Rings of Saturn. Revisiting my home county and local haunts through his eyes. He set off in 1992 but it feels like a journey back further in time as there are so many reminiscences and anecdotes from the past. Among the vaguely defined histories is the story of the demise of the estate of Henstead Hall under guardianship of the eccentric Major Wyndham Le Strange who shunned the outside world and took to a literally underground existence.

These images from 2014 when I visited the abandoned walled garden at Henstead became fragments for my work titled Pairi Daêza, an ancient Iranian word meaning ‘around’ and ‘wall’; the origin of ‘paradise’.

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A tenuous link but I discovered Henstead Hall subsequently become home to Douglas Farmiloe a self-described “Mayfair playboy” who had found himself in the scandal pages of the News of the World during the 1930s, after an indiscretion with a hostess from the West End ‘Paradise Club’.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.