29 January 2014

Developing practice course - session 5

In small groups, we talked about our projects at some length, and then everyone gave a compressed presentation to the entire group - three minutes (timed!) to set it out, then two minutes (timed!) of open questions, the idea being that rather than answering them there & then, we'd write them down and think about them.
It's so interesting to hear what everyone is up to! In the small group I was in, Sara is doing prints around the Red Barn Murders; Ilana is looking at the history of the prison that was on the site before Tate Britain was built; Sylvia is bringing together hands and fans. In presenting my possible project(s), based on the travel lines and the memory balls, I had a big realisation - that I was working from what I'd already been doing and trying to fit that in "somewhere", rather than starting somewhere fresh and not worrying whether either of these would "fit in" - a breakthrough moment!

Having rejected my own proposals and talked about why, my notes from the Open Questions segment are: shops/history/archives?; connection of travel lines and memory balls; writing about travel; Walk On exhibiton Birmingham (8 Feb to 30 March); art on the underground; line/time; connecting museums.

Other projects include a school-based project using the site and "strata of time"; responding to the mask collection at the Horniman; responding to the slide collection at the Grant Museum of Zoology; personal history of objects; an effigy with spiritual power; invented objects into a traditional collection; shoes, footprints; tiles for Abney Park cemetery chapel.

From this I wrote notes about the importance of starting points: the impact, ie first impressions, of a collection - how to share that ... personal/emotional starting points ... relation of the work to something current, ongoing. And a reminder to myself: who is the audience?

In the afternoon, a presentation by Caroline Bartlett of how she approaches making her work, within the context of objects and the systems that control them. Her "case studies" included "The artist's journey", shown at Leighton House and Orleans House - two different artists, both in places that were notable for the absence of their personal objects. To represent Lord Leighton, she hung labels with information about his objects sold at Christies, whereas for explorer Richard Burton, she worked from a box of things connected with him that had lost the story of the connection - by not incorporating what his widow had written, the official label was very "dry". (Read about them under "response to museum collections" on www.text.freeuk.com/.)
"On the Shelves of Memory: To Mnemosyne" by Caroline Bartlett
The paired pages with their erasures represent the way Burton's widow edited his works
to sanitise them and make him fit into the values of the time
Another work used the archives at the Whitworth Museum in Manchester. New associations are made when items enter a collection; their history, often incomplete, is recorded on catalogue cards -
and they undergo conservation, with specialist tools, processes, and handworking skills. By layering images and text, "Conversation Pieces" embodies these relationships -
"You can't touch the textiles in a museum collection, but they hold the touch and the care of their makers and of the conservators."

This longer article gives insights into Caroline's work, which is so thoughtful, meticulous, subtle, and quietly brilliantly astonishing. (Disclaimer: I've enjoyed several courses with Caroline at City Lit over the years and have been a big fan of her work since first seeing slides of it, back in the 90s.)
After the break, some talk about research, formal vs creative (having a hypothesis, versus homing in on something and waiting for "the click"). Exploring, editing, collating information, pondering - these are research methods. I'm not sure if the next pix are Caroline's slides or Kate's, but they are useful -

Group brainstorm -
Then, to the Personal Action Plan - a prompt to help with finding a collection or object as a starting point, how it links with current ideas and practice, how it extends these, new skills that might be needed ... I found this so helpful especially because one of the suggested ways of working was to enter the "Inspired by the V&A" competition. Hurrah, a focus, a starting place! (Though looking at entries from previous years, and the 2012 winners,is rather intimidating...)
(On the subject of "inspiration" and how to develop it, have a look at the "folk couture" exhibition website, which shows how 13 designers were inspired by folk art. The show is on till 23 April at the American Folk Art Museum in New York.)

Also available at the class, inspiring books showing interesting artists -
Tanvi Kant works with reclaimed and organic textiles;
The House of Fairy Tales champions the role of creative play in art and life
Julie Arkell; Su Blackwell; Samantha Bryan; Jennifer Collier; Lowri Davies;
Rachael Howard; Carys Anne Hughes; Jayne Lennard; Cathy Miles

1 comment:

Jane Housham said...

This is all so inspiring and of such dauntingly high standard -- talk about aiming high. I'm so envious of you doing all this.