Archives for posts with tag: myths

 

More excellent news is that I have been accepted as one of the Open Door Residency Artists for the BEYOND project run by Allenheads Contemporary Arts to take advantage of its new on-site astronomical observatory and to consider the word BEYOND as an open ended starting point for discussion.

The timing is perfect as I am about to begin my Chisenhale Studio4 Residency where I will have a large space to develop ideas from this experience that build on my current research looking at cosmic particles, the shape of the universe and the philosophies and mythologies that first attempted to understand the cosmos and relate its vastness to the human experience.

1802 frozen galaxyI spent a wonderful weekend with 12 artists enjoying perfect moon gazing weather in the dark skies of Northumberland, seeing galaxies in frozen puddles, plunging into the darkness of the forest or the inflatable planetarium and discussing ideas generated as we shared our own interests and observations.

 

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I am thinking about what stories might be told if our ancient eyes had reached beyond those points marked out on the first star charts. Maybe Atlas would have had more daughters. Hopefully with the help of the brilliant open source planetarium Stellarium that we were introduced to I can add another layer of narrative.

From my vantage point on earth, the moon slides quietly, the stars twinkle through the atmosphere, satellites pass serenely by, but I know that just 15km above my head is a very violent place of high energy collisions as protons slam into our atmosphere, break apart and rain down, on and through me.

1802 Cloud chamber lightningThe opening paragraphs of The Power by Naomi Alderman prickle with the power they describe

“The shape of power is always the same; it is the shape of a tree…branching and re-branching…the outline of a living thing …the shape of rivers leading to the ocean…the shape that lightning forms…the shape that electricity wants to take is that of a living thing .. this same shape grows within us …power travels in the same manner between people..”

A brilliant novel. Shifts perspective to reflect the world back at us to shine the light on some uncomfortable truths.

A fascinating book to help understand the activity of matter is The Particle Zoo: The Search for the Fundamental Nature of Reality by Gavin Hesketh. I got this book to learn about the characters of the 12 fundamental particles and the forces that they interact with. It presents an unseen world of spinning, colour changing oppositely charged partners, repelling, attracting, sticking together, passing messages or passing straight through each other; releasing and absorbing energy in constant activity. Out of this melee which appears, once you get to the smallest scale, to be made of nothing but points of energy all things are formed.

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I have been reading this in tandem with Stephen Fry’s reworking of the Greek Myths – Mythos. Just as improbable.

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Captivating performance storyteller Ben Haggarty brought to exquisite and gory life three retextured Greek Myths under the banner The Fate We Bring Ourselves – decisions have consequences at the Crick Crack Club event Myths Retold at the British Museum. He spoke afterwards about the intimate space of the darkened circle that forms around the storyteller where each audience member feels personally addressed.

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Mythological thinking looks at the whole – the micro and the macro and sees commonality.

The New Materialisms reading group that I have been a mostly absent member of is currently reading Donna Haraway Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene

 

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Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival

 

Fabrizio Terranova’s film, screened at the LCC, brought the text to life with her infectious mix of enthusiasm, joy and bewilderment at the world and her passion for new ways of thinking. The director spent a few weeks with her and her aging dog Cayenne in their Southern California home, exploring their personal universe as well as the longer development of her views on kinship and planetary welfare. Animated by green screen projections, archival materials and fabulation he has created an enchanting insight into the mind of Donna Haraway.

 

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Bjorn Hatleskog Perpetual Jellyfish in Liminality at Gallery 46

 

“The tentacular are not disembodied figures; they are cnidarians, spiders, fingery beings like humans and raccoons, squid, jellyfish, neural extravaganzas, fibrous entities, flagellated beings, myofibril braids, matted and felted microbial and fungal tangles, probing creepers, swelling roots, reaching and climbing tendrilled ones. The tentacular are also nets and networks, it critters, in and out of clouds. Tentacularity is about life lived along lines — and such a wealth of lines — not at points, not in spheres.” Donna Haraway

Also ‘Staying with the Trouble’ and hoping for a positive collective future are London duo patten at Tenderpixel asking ‘how do we make it to 3049?’

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I had the pleasure of hearing Mark Dion talk about his work, love of systematics and the usefulness of taxonomies as tools of communication at Whitechapel Gallery on the opening day of his show Theatre of the Natural World.  Like Donna Haraway, he is concerned with extinctions, environmental exploitation and catastrophic interaction with other species and expressed a pessimistic resignation that our future is unlikely to be a positive one unless there are some radical changes.

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Archaeology came with the Anthropocene.

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His recreation of a Wunderkammer is another step in the journey for a collection of objects that were removed from their original environment, placed on display in a cabinet of wonders, then captured as drawings that were turned into engravings and then published in print.

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Manually sculpting the objects using the limited information gleaned from the prints as a guide they are returned to 3D. Ghosts of the past losing clarity with each transformation.

1802 Mark Dion 4Looking at the aura of objects Secular Icons in an Age of Moral Uncertainty at Parafin questions the idea of art as a system of belief based around looking and valuing objects beyond their intrinsic materiality. Lower floor was closed when I visited so didn’t see everything. Though just contemplating the horrors associated with Indrė Šerpytytė’s giant lightbox totem constructed using the first blocks of colour that appear from the google search ‘Isis beheading’ was enough.

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Indrė Šerpytytė 2 Seconds of Colour

Hell on earth continues. Glenn Brown Come To Dust at Gagosian had some genuinely creepy offerings and an obsessive repetitiveness.

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I did find Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above compelling despite its bleak vision. Hung at an angle to appear that the sky is indeed falling and it is not the heaven we wished for that is descending upon us.

 

1605 Mercator World Map 1569When paradise could not be mapped on the known land it was believed it must be on an island over the ocean. Dare to dream.

 

 

on my island none of this would be true  – a dynamic group show at the new Arebyte Gallery space on City Island curated by Chris Rawcliffe took its title from the last line of a poem called Security, written by Tom Chivers for his book Dark Islands (Test Centre, 2015).

1802 Tom Chivers Dark Islands

It was another chance to see Verity Birt’s Venus Anodyomene a spoken text and video work with Holly Graham and Richard Forbes-Hamilton.

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The rhythmic narrative evoking a slippy oozing layered earth world of geology, archaeology, lost time or excavated memories was enhanced by the boardwalk approach to the gallery in torrential rain alongside the exposed mudbed of the River Lea.

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Hannah Regal What Transpires in the Field of a Body That is the Base of Her

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Gery Georgieva Europa Airlines Stand

 

“Again and again
we’re
expelled
from a garden
that never
existed” Ludwig Steinherr from Before the Invention of Paradise

What goes on in nature under our radar beautifully captured in Sam Laughlin’s series A Certain Movement as part of the Jerwood Photoworks Awards. Intimate moments and hidden processes lifted from nature with a quiet sensitivity.

 

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Sam Laughlin from the series A Certain Movement

 

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Visited Mayra Ganzinotti in the chilled and vaulted splendour of Florence Trust Winter Open Studios. Her beautiful work mixes crystal forms in geology with the body; rhythm and structure.

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Mayra Martin Ganzinotti

Other exciting work and use of materials going on was from Amanda Baum and Rose Leahy

Unexpected juxtapositions offer new paths to tread.

A group of artists and writers, selected by Payne Shurvell, were each asked to respond to the same image either with a text or intervention directly over the image. 256 possible diptychs were created. New pairings are hung daily in random combinations pulled out of a hat. The Arca Project lets fate or coincidence decide the outcome the audience will experience depending on when they visit. The concept to present multiple readings of one event draws on the ethos of W. G. Sebald who revelled in mixing things up.

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I only had time for a brief visit to Liminality [The Unknown] at Gallery 46 which was a shame as I think I missed some good things. But I did see the delicate and fluid interpretations of sound technology diagrams by Mary Yacoob

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Mary Yacoob Draft Drawings

also her meticulous ‘Seraphim for Sanctus’ inspired by a choral score for ‘Sanctus’ and the prophet Isaiah’s visionary six-winged angels.

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Mary Yacoob ‘Seraphim for Sanctus’ detail

I have been contemplating the circling angels of the Empyrean that dazzled Dante when he reached the final sphere of heaven. It might be the first time I have really thought about an angel as an other being/species not just a good human with wings.

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Gustave Doré The Divine Comedy’s Empyrean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As part of The Matter of Objects; Medieval and Renaissance Materiality in Contemporary Conversation project initiated by Queen Mary’s University  I have been paired with a research historian who has provided me with an image of an object that I will then respond to by making a piece of work.

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The object I have been given is a 16th century fall-front cabinet probably made in India for a Portuguese merchant. I wanted to participate in this project because  I am interested in the physical matter of our surroundings and objects and also more intangible things such as aura of place and agency of object. I thought the period would also be interesting as a time when science and religion clashed as being the source of truth.

The project aims to bring together humanities researchers, artists and creative practitioners in discussions around these objects, their historical narratives, and their relevance to our world today. There is going to be an exhibition and launch event where artists and researchers will come together to discuss their processes of deconstruction, interpretation and creation.

It feels a bit like trying to discover an identity beginning just via the purely visual information from a digital image. I had no idea what a fall fronted cabinet would be so before I opened the image I had in my mind something much larger with perhaps some kind of carving that would reflect waterfalls or falling folds of fabric. Recent visits to Sutton House influencing me here with the linenfold wood panels perhaps.

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It was a lovely surprise to open the image and see something so intricate, ornate and compact. I am also influenced in my response by recent exposure to the Elizabethan polymath John Dee and his alchemical interests so all the little secret drawers made me think of what someone like him might have kept locked away.

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The patterns are complex with lots of triangles and geometric shapes mixed with other more organic patterns from nature. The stars and almost elliptical shapes seem to relate the heavens with the flower like patterns of earth.

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It is an intriguing object  with its secret drawers hidden behind a front panel – it would involve a small ritual to lock away and then open up and lay out the front ‘carpet’ to retrieve the precious items from within.

I came across what may be considered another fall front cabinet in the form of a shrine containing samples of metal placed in beeswax, its provenance even more mysterious.

1604 Stine Nielsen Ljungdalh Shrine

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Charlotte Bergson: The Hunters of the Invisible

 

 

Losing sense of what or who is real Charlotte Bergson: The Hunters of the Invisible curated by Stine Nielsen Ljungdahl at Stanley Picker Gallery presents a carefully crafted mythology that has such a coherence of intent it is hard to determine fact from fiction.

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Charlotte Bergson: The Hunters of the Invisible

 

The hexagon is a recurrent motif as is the duality of twins.

Photographs and artefacts are presented as documentation accompanied by an in depth publication The Zone – A Journey Towards the Centre which further bolsters the world of  Charlotte Bergson’s research into The Hunting Society. We are drawn into an illusory world where borders  blur and it is not clear whose identity is real, be it artist, archivist, or a society that once held secrets to an alternative origin of the universe, where alchemy and ritual were practised as heady truths.

This is about origins.

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Trying to work out what is real. Sam Burford’s paper Searching for Traces of the Indexical within Synthetically Rendered Imagery presented at the Shadow Without Object symposium considers ways to understand the relationship in a simulated image between its genesis and its being made visible. The rendering equation introduced into computer graphics in 1986 created a breakthrough by enabling illumination in an image to be made by using the Monte Carlo method of geometric probability borrowed from particle physics theory.

Monte Carlo simulation is a statistical approach which is concerned with experiments employing random numbers. The light playing around generated objects in the image could be made to behave more like real light in its random scattering. These images still did not look real enough but everything changed in 2004 with the release of the Maxwell Render product which claims to render the perfect image. This new product could apply randomness in rendering to an image through an algorithm to add some noise and create what looks like in effect a low res image – this actually appeared more real.

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Photo realistic rendered images are almost impossible to identify as simulated and so to claim credit the author will often attach a proof rendering image. A bit like a birth certificate.

Stan Douglas in The Secret Agent at Victoria Miro uses digital rendering to create a series of large scale urban landscapes.

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Stan Douglas The Second Hotel Vancouver

Unsettling in their clarity of detail and targeted lighting they create a confusion, a bit like having a word on the tip of your tongue, they are almost something. Almost a photograph of something almost like a film set; too sharp to be a memory. Borrowing from film noir tropes we are segued into a similarly stereotypical digital underworld. The six screen feature length installation The Secret Agent operates in the same world of noir subterfuge but instead of digital fakery it is the over dramatic acting, simplistic plot line and raw characterisation where we must suspend our disbelief.

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Stan Douglas The Secret Agent (film still)

Graham Fagan explores the constructed nature of history through the stories myths and fictions that build a contemporary identity.

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Graham Fagan

Pulling at threads of cultural difference but tying them together in a personal experience to engage emotion that doesn’t shy away from acknowledging conflict and injustice.

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Graham Fagan

Drawn through the faded splendour of Palazzo Fontana in Venice by the haunting mix of sea shanty and classical string arrangement of The Slaves Lament we are immersed in a melancholic beauty.  The words attributed to Robert Burns convey the debilitating heartache of being wrenched from home for cold cruelty.

Torn from that lovely shore, and must never see it more; And Alas! I am weary, weary O.

Colonialism is also referenced by C.T. Jasper and Joanna Malinowska in their video production ‘Halka/Haiti 18 48’05″N 72 23’01″w’ taking opera to the tropics.

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C.T. Jasper and Joanna Malinowska Halka/Haiti 18 48’05″N 72 23’01″W

Inspired by Werner Herzog’s character Fitzcarraldo in the 1982 film of that name the artists expose the absurdities and examine the agenda of one culture imposing itself on another. In Herzog’s film, after many great struggles to achieve his goal, European Fitzcarraldo manages to drag a ship over the impeding mountains so he can export rubber, make his fortune and build an opera house in the Amazon basin. He only succeeds in this physical challenge with the help of the local natives. His undoing is in ignoring local culture. When his crew falls asleep, the native chief cuts the rope securing the ship and it floats away down the river. The chief’s actions are to appease the river gods who would be angry to see their waters circumnavigated and their power not respected.

Where do we begin to unravel our origins?  The location of the artists film found at the coordinates of the title ‘Halka/Haiti 18 48’05″N 72 23’01″w’ reflects the complexity and amorphous nature of national identity. It is a Haitian village inhabited by the descendants of Polish soldiers who fought for Haitian independence. Originally sent to put down the slave rebellion in 1802 these soldiers found themselves sympathetic to a local culture under oppression much as had happened in their own homeland and so joined forces with the locals in the Haitian revolution and subsequently made their home here.

Ivan Grubanov’s installation in the Serbian Pavilion United Dead Nations provokes questions about how national identity is created and the symbolism of the flag in that process. In scattered piles across the floor are the discarded flags of states that are no longer in existence since 1895 when the Venice Biennale began.

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Ivan Grubanov United Dead Nations

The list is an obituary of creation, rule and disappearance. Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918),the Ottoman Empire (1299- 1922), Gran Columbia (1819-1930), Tibet (1913-1951), the United Arab Republic (1958- 1971), South Vietnam (1955-1975), the German Democratic Republic (1949-1990), the USSR (1922-1991), Czechoslovakia (1918-1992), and Yugoslavia (1918-2003).

Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie paints emotional images exploring notions of survival and the fictions that define nations by questioning the truth of a collective memory.

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Adrian Ghenie

Far And Few [Between] curated by RCA printmaking alumni Lisa Chang Lee at No Format gallery explores identity from the perspective of Chinese expats now living in the UK.

1603 Few and Far BetweenObserving the projection of the self creates a self consciousness that, like observing the path of an electron, is surely impossible to do without interfering with its trajectory.

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Lisa Chang Lee Habitat-1

 

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Haili Sun Curled Fugue

To question consciousness the works have a strong material presence linking identity to the land and the body and the interactions with the environment that build us.

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Le Guo Koan

How we forge our path and face our own nature is a universal theme. The Mark Bruce Company tackled this through dance in a reworked telling of The Odyssey.

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Mark Bruce Company The Odyssey

Like Pandora’s box it was an explosion of chaos as passions and demons were unleashed on stage leading and tormenting the wayward King on his epic journey, crossing lands beset with monsters and temptations to return home to face a Queen savage from years of despair.  In a vortex of kitsch high drama and inventive to the point of surrealism the story may have been obscured but the message that mortality is beset by challenges, and we must be cautious who we trust – least of all ourselves, remained.

Szilard Cseke’s installation Sustainable Identities is a sterile plastic environment.

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Szilard Cseke Sustainable Identities

Large white balls move silently along plastic tunnels above our heads on predetermined pathways.

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Szilard Cseke Sustainable Identities

Perhaps this is a warning of what our identity might become if we never leave the path to take that epic journey.  Or worse, we have our identity taken from us.

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Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner 1967