December 30, 2009

Gauging Freedom and Constraint




The Text Festival and the Language Moment have led me to engage more recently with Live Art practice. In January I will be talking to the Live Art Development Agency http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/ about running some of their DIY artists’ training sessions with a language slant as a Text Festival partnership. So I approached with interest a creative dialogue that has started on the related http://www.thisisperformancematters.co.uk/news.1.10.html website between Live Art theorist Adrian Heathfield and choreographer Jonathan Burrows. This dialogue also attracts me because my Gauge Symmetries work with Helmut Lemke (sound) and Ruth Tyson-Jones (dance) is a live project with issues still to be resolved. So adopting the same conceit of correspondence, I write to Adrian and Jonathan:

Dear Adrian and Jonathan

It is interesting to see that you have taken up the discussion of the relationship between the writing of words and the writing of dance – it seems very much of the moment that other artforms’ relationship to poetry is being reconsidered. That said, I am a little underwhelmed but at the same time not surprised by the poetry you reference. I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with the work of the poet Michael Donaghy. When I checked him out online I realised why I didn’t know his work. It doesn’t surprise me that his line on form is located in tradition; apparently ‘he chooses the analogy of a traditional dance, the form of which acts as a container for what is shared without restricting the freedom of each individual to be spontaneous in response to it.’ This fits completely with the comfortable output of Hegemony of the Banal in UK poetics
- from what I read online, Donaghy was more talented than a lot of his peers but it is still Official Verse Culture, to use Charles Bernstein’s term. The problem with the container with freedom for individual is, as William Carlos Williams said, “all sonnets are the same”.


Adrian asks: ‘Can one consider forms without first considering traditions?’ Of course; not only can one, one must. I would counterpose (paraphrase) Raymond Queneau’s line that we should be rats who construct the labyrinth from which we plan to escape – after all who needs to escape from a labyrinth that’s already been cracked? Again, Adrian identifies the impossibility of the absence of constraint, “and the ways in which constraint is absolutely necessary to the movement that resists and surpasses it.” I think that any formal constraints are what you make them. Referenced in the title ‘Gauge Symmetries’ which I am working on with Ruth Tyson Jones and Helmut Lemke, the only constraints that are impossible to avoid are the gauge symmetries of gravity and the laws of physics. Far from it being compelling that tradition is invoked as a space of freedom, I find it rather dismal; specifically because the ‘tradition’ which is venerated in UK ‘poetry’ is pre-modern. This phenomenon is readily recognisable to contemporary poets - “those who are truly contemporary, who truly belong to their time, are those who neither perfectly coincide with it nor adjust themselves to its demands” as Agamben wrote. The oft turning to tradition never seems to register the poets who actually had something progressive to contribute to Adrian’s ‘nowness’ (and dance) such as, most notably, Bob Cobbing. I hope that Jonathan’s sense of liberation when his cherished notions of dance were challenged by Peter Stamer can also apply to the language challenge to his notions of poetry.

There was a discussion at the recent launch in Salford of the Journal of British & Irish Innovative Poetry along the lines that the UK mainstream is now so artistically bereft that the journal would be wasting its attention to critique it; instead it should focus on the innovative and experimental. Certainly that is true, but as I said in that discussion, there is a field of contention wherein contemporary poetic practice has to engage and this is the dialogue with other artforms. As the Language Moment posits, despite the global art stylistic multiplicity, language is the increasingly unifying, if often unrecognised, constant. Your correspondence on “Performance Matters” manifests the urge of the Language Moment. As does Hans Ulrich Obrist’s recent Poetry Marathon at the Serpentine Gallery. But as I fear both your conversation and Obrist’s Marathon indicate the disconnection of innovative poetic practice from other artform discourse, the void which is filled by the School of Quietude, to use Ron Silliman’s phrase. As a poet I know little about current choreography theory and practice, so why should I expect dance, live art, music or any other form to know where poetry is. As Caroline Bergvall wrote of the Poetry Marathon: “it was something of a disappointment to see so many of them [non-poet artists] react with undisguised anxiety at that same word, ‘poetry.’ Otherwise lucid, articulate artists found themselves in the throes of open self loathing, “I don’t know poetry,” “I don’t know what to read,” choosing to calm the audience by reading from known values such as Eliot, Ted Hughes, Lorca, and Hamburger’s Celan, rather than tracing their own engagement with writing”. I wonder which Celan translation Adrian is using. My concern voiced at the Journal of Innovative Poetics launch is that the poetry mainstream’s only hope of artistic credibility is a critical relocation with an illusory validation from other artforms that have had a path of progress rather than stagnation. It becomes vital for poetry, and for other artforms themselves, that the other artforms know that this is a cul-de-sac which will sideline a vital field of cultural enquiry.

I don’t want my contribution to this conversation to appear patronising about non-poets grasp of contemporary poetics, just to point out that there is a cutting edge and blunt edge and a lot of other artform practitioners and curators are frequently using the poetry latter.

I am interested in Jonathan’s comments about his dedication as a performer to trying to be more 'in the moment'. I had the challenging experience of realising this problem in the first (and often subsequent) development rehearsals with Helmut and Ruth for Gauge Symmetries. Although their interest was the response and dialogue with my linguistic spatialisations, I was forcibly struck by the remarkable ease with which a dancer and a musician can immediately generate ‘nowness’ drawing on their artform’s traditions and capacity for improvisation. As my writing is generated through long slow processes of edit, textual reference, and poetic structuring, it would take me weeks to generate a meaningful text to work in spatial relation to dance-sound actions, to which they can respond spontaneously at the point of unveiling. We did develop forms of interaction over time: I tried various strategies such as pre-installation, so I was slightly ahead in generating a language space, in addition to projections of text but none of these seemed particularly successful or that interesting – projecting texts in a performative space just repeated what many other performance poets have tried. In the sound landscape created by Helmut with his amplified strings attaching him physically to the space plus his use of the sax, I developed a process of installation of lines aiming to uncover spatial geometries and the temporal thickness of Ruth’s responsive movement – the three forms intertwining with each other. However, Adrian’s description of Boris Charmatz’s crashing movement in comparison to dancers in the workshop rings a bell for me. This happens inevitably: an untrained, uncontrolled body has to be clumsy and lumbering beside a crowd of dancers. Having generated the same effect myself, despite my desire to be invisible, in relation to Ruth Tyson-Jones' Laban lyricism, it seems to me a pretty slim and obvious manifestation – what does it actually say other than juxtapositions of some artforms can clash with the aesthetics of others? I am still working on how to delete this effect from our collaboration as I think it doesn’t move the dialogue forward and has little formal value.

To seriously develop this correspondence, I don’t think that there is much mileage in looking at why a written text or dance is what it is, and when it might not be useful to write? Certainly on the latter, it’s not really very useful for a writer to not write. Similarly ‘unpicking the opposition between dance practice as a seemingly uncontained and prolific generator of “the immediate gesture” and language as a more restrained form’ may put me in an analogous danger of Charmatz-like of not recognising the problem you describe. If you locate poetry and dance in Cobbing’s view of poetry as a convergence ‘between’ all various performances, considering dance “perhaps the key to them all” the opposition doesnt exist. Indeed, amongst innovative poets “language as a more restrained form” would sound a very strange idea (OULIPO not withstanding). And maybe I need to get out more, as I have not heard of people comparing the powers of an artwork as like a wound or scare – is this common parlance in dance circles? If this relates also to the burning that Donaghy speaks of – it simply sounds like Romanticism to me.

I find it interesting how discourse about production of art, of whatever form, nowadays so easily shifts to discussion of its reception or consumption – as Jonathan terms it: the old argument about where we place the audience, or readership, in relation to the practice of art making. This argument was also there at the Innovative Poetics Journal launch. It was proposed that Matt Welton’s recent programme in Bolton which placed, for instance, Allen Fisher on a bill with Simon Armitage, and Scott Thurston with Sophie Hannah was valuable because it gave audiences which would come to the mainstream poets the opportunity to access the more innovative practitioners. I recall that Ron Silliman has also been on a bill with Armitage somewhere. I should ask him whether that was to allow an audience access to Armitage's less interesting work. It is the same attitude which informed the Serpentine Poetry Marathon. Although there wasn’t time to argue against this practice at the launch, on reflection, in relation to this correspondence, I feel it needs to be challenged for a number of reasons. Contemporary visual art never gives over exhibition space to traditionalist figurative painters or watercolourists, because historically visual art has been driven by the emerging, by the innovators, by the new. In live art I don’t imagine anyone has attempted to programme Tehching Hsieh in the same programme as X-factor style dancers – correct me if I am wrong. I just don’t see the aesthetic point in the juxtaposition. It will obviously expose the work of Armitage or Hannah or any of the others as not very interesting, but that is obvious anyway without the juxtaposition. Much more interesting is to create experiment: http://www.colin-herd.com/2009/05/can-you-curl-your-tongue-text-festival.html

I agree with cris cheek’s observation about Cobbing that “a performance of writing, in the majority of these cases intended to be in conversation with the possibilities for the poem, was an occasion of a moment”. When I started developing Gauge Symmetries I held to a position of not ‘sounding’ my texts, which I have now modified, as I blogged back in November (http://tony-trehy.blogspot.com/2009/11/on-jazz-or-comedy.html) so I look forward to investigating the possibilities this holds up. This may seem contradictory to the powerful validity Adrian attributes to choreographers and performance makers negotiating performance propositions in social space. But I take Bob Perelman’s position that writing in all its dimensions is fully social. It has been said that the difference between an innovative poetry reading and a mainstream reading is that the latter has an audience of readers and the former is an audience of writers. Something similar to Adrian’s comment that the audience is a co-creator of the work and is integral to its meaning, they are not simply spectating ‘upon’ it. Indeed I think that an audience’s job is to contribute a magnifying intensity to the artist’s deeper ontological investigation of the work. Charles Bernstein observes that “To speak of the poem in performance is, then, to overthrow the idea of the poem as a fixed, stable, finite linguistic object; it is to deny the poem its self-presence and its unity. Thus while performance emphasizes the material presence of the poem, and of the performer, it at the same time denies the unitary presence of the poem, which is to say its metaphysical unity.” I am not sure I'd go all the way with Charles on this, but I think, in performance the artist is generally characterised as outward
facing from the work, offering it up; conversely I believe that the existential dynamic of the audience’s Otherness focuses the moment of presentation, it offers the artist an implosive potential energy to turn inwards to the work, and with this intensity for future works.

Best wishes
Tony

December 27, 2009

Review of the Year: 2009



Tis’ the light-hearted season of reviews of the year. Not that anyone cares, but I might as well play the game too – a personal review of my top cultural experiences.

Best Exhibition of 2009: I saw a lot of shows this year and straight away the problem of how you compare one thing with another rears up. The tour de force show was “Holbein to Tillmans” exhibition at the Schaulager in Basel


I blogged it back in June (http://tony-trehy.blogspot.com/2009/06/as-mentioned-schaulager-is-great-space.html). Also worth consideration, coincidentally seen at the same time was “The World of Madelon Vriesendorp” at Basel Architekturmuseum. A strong contender for show of the year would have to be the Darcy Lange exhibition at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. http://www.ikon-gallery.co.uk/programme/current/event/263/work_studies_in_schools/ . Blogged in January, I’d also recall Grazia Toderi’s excellent video installation “Fantasia” at Base in Florence, http://www.baseitaly.org/Grazia%20Toderi.html . Though you can’t include your own curating in this sort of review, I think “Not At This Address” at Bury Art Gallery was a cracker too. And the name in the gold envelope is “Holbein to Tillmans” at the Schaulager.

Best Museum: Moominvalley Museum, Tampere, Finland.

http://inter9.tampere.fi/muumilaakso/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22&Itemid=45

Best Film: I realise now that I saw very few films this year so this category is a bit thin on the ground. With no claim to greatness other than I am a fan, I give this one to the new Star Trek.

Best music: will seem a funny mix; Norwegian Jazz - Håkon Kornstad: Dwell Time http://www.kornstad.com/dwelltime/ contemporary music - various works by Luigi Nono http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luigi_Nono indie-pop from everything everything
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFM_kTAYVsU and 17th Century Tobias Hume’s Poeticall Musicke http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobias_Hume - this one can go to whichever I am in the mood for.

Best Book: Phil Davenport’s “About Everything” was a great piece, though as I saw it from early draft stages, so I feel a bit too close to it; Tony Lopez’s “Darwin”, of course, and the other book I particularly enjoyed was Carol Watt’s “When blue light falls”; however, the one that I reached for when thinking about this was P.Inman’s “Ad Finitumhttp://www.ifpthenq.co.uk/books.html

Out of a lot of sound works I heard this year, the Best sound work ‘award’ goes to Ben Gwilliam for his ice-vinyl playing of 'molto semplice e cantabile'. http://www.thosesoundsbetween.co.uk/


Best Poetry Reading both Ron Silliman’s readings, at Bury and at Birkbeck, were great to see; but the Text Festival gig was more adrenaline filled for me because of the experiment in juxtaposing Hester Reeve, Claus van Bebber, and Catriona Glover, which meant that I couldn’t really relax to enjoy it. So the reading that I most personally enjoyed was the Bury Poems (Carol Watts, Phil Davenport and Tony Lopez) event.
From art to luxury:

Best Hotel: Marriott London Grosvenor Square

December 26, 2009

Speak is Code

(News from Phil in China)

Jiao Tong Teahouse 28 December 2009

Yao Bo, Philip Davenport, Wang Jun

Jiao Tong Teahouse is a mesh of conversations, meetings, deals made, gambling and over it all, parrots swing on their perches, aping the human noise. It is an intersection and into it the work of three artists is placed for the Speak is Code exhibition. The works explore the space between us all, locate the holes in language and - as Davenport’s poem says – “The impasse between skin.”

Yao Bo, ceramicist and painter premieres a version of her continuing major work On Reading Beckett: a long text response to Beckett is handwritten in Chinese script onto manuscript paper. As counterpoint, a series of collapsed pots – like collapsed lungs – are placed onto each piece of paper. From some of the pots comes the sound of the piece being read aloud. Yao Bo’s work explores the delicate seams of identity – where we join and where we fall apart.

My Paintings are Invisible by Philip Davenport is a poem sequence combining Chinese and Western alphabets. The work is dedicated to Hai Zi (1965-89) the Chinese poet. Alphabets of East and West entwine to make word pictures, ‘invisible paintings’, each given an imaginary colour. They are on translucent paper, scripted half in Chinese (by Chinese artists) and half in English. The two alphabets sometimes join, sometimes separate. These are ‘paintings’ of absence, images that never grow clear – and Hai Zi becomes a symbol for all who are missing, all that we cannot say.

Wang Jun is an artist whose works balance meaning against nothing. His recent pieces cross-breed industrial processes with the landscapes of hanzi that fill his paintings. He crunches together the Tao Te Ching, Wiggenstein and postmodernity into mould-presses misfits.

Exhibition curated by Philip Davenport, artist in residence 501 Artspace. Contributing artists to My Paintings are Invisible: Deng Chuan, Mao Yan Yang, Pang Xuan, Wang Jun, Xu Guang Fu, Yan Yan, Zheng Li, translation Deng Chuan, Yan Yan and Zhong Na. Philip would like to thank all for their kindness and for the beauty of their writing.

December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas


for the first ethic of christmas my true love sent to me an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the second ethic of christmas my true love sent to me two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the third ethic of christmas my true love sent to me three veils of illusion two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the fourth ethic of christmas my true love sent to me four errors of dogmatism three veils of illusion two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the fifth ethic of christmas my true love sent to me five extrinsic justifications four errors of dogmatism three veils of illusion two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the sixth ethic of christmas my true love sent to me six phenomenal modalities five extrinsic justifications four errors of dogmatism three veils of illusion two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the seventh ethic of christmas my true love sent to me seven inner experiences six phenomenal modalities five extrinsic justifications four errors of dogmatism three veils of illusion two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the eighth ethic of christmas my true love sent to me eight possibilities of realising seven inner experiences six phenomenal modalities five extrinsic justifications four errors of dogmatism three veils of illusion two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the ninth ethic of christmas my true love sent to me nine ladies dancing eight possibilities of realising seven inner experiences six phenomenal modalities five extrinsic justifications four errors of dogmatism three veils of illusion two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the tenth ethic of christmas my true love sent to me ten favourable circumstances nine ladies dancing eight possibilities of realising seven inner experiences six phenomenal modalities five extrinsic justifications four errors of dogmatism three veils of illusion two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the eleventh ethic of christmas my true love sent to me eleven singular conjunctures ten favourable circumstances nine ladies dancing eight possibilities of realising seven inner experiences six phenomenal modalities five extrinsic justifications four errors of dogmatism three veils of illusion two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth for the twelfth ethic of christmas my true love sent to me twelve harmonious equilibria eleven singular conjunctures ten favourable circumstances nine ladies dancing eight possibilities of realising seven inner experiences six phenomenal modalities five extrinsic justifications four errors of dogmatism three veils of illusion two hierarchies between body and soul and an ambiguity in a non-temporal truth

December 17, 2009

The crisis of COMMENT





Due to a short gap in Bury Art Gallery’s programme, a Crafts Council touring exhibition was brought in, called “Deviants”. Not being curatorially responsible for it, in fact knowing not much more about it than the title, I’d thought it an unusual opportunity to review an exhibition in Bury. It may also surprise you that my original degree is a craft degree – ceramics. I quickly gave that up because I got tired of having wet muddy hands, but the show felt that it should be familiar ground. It is; Deviants is a very small survey of crafts from the 1970s to 2000, so small, with so few objects, that the sweep of 30 years is like surveying a life by saying ‘Birth. Death’. When I was finishing my degree in 1982, since the sixties, ceramics had already divided into domestic wares/ceramic design, fine art ceramics – the one-off pot seeking some relationship of perfection of proportion, glaze or form, in the UK at least, influenced by the Japan and the pottery revival of Bernard Leach – and finally ceramic sculpture: this latter tended to be a rather fastidious sub-genre, because its practitioners had first trained as potters/’ceramicists’ and so rather than their work being sculptural, it was riven with Lilliputian scrutiny of surface or redundant formal enquiry. The most repetitive of which was the questioning of function – no self-respecting ceramic sculptor could resist ‘challenging accepted notions of function – ie tea pots that don’t pour, vorticist disruption of a coffee cup, porous or crawling glazes on domestic ware, etc: grandly claiming some glamour in ‘deviance’.


Deviants therefore represents this wing, it has to, given that this discourse was so endemic. I am not surprised to see it in the show; indeed, it gave me a sort of warm comforted feeling to be in such familiar if silly ground. Of course, it was also a dismal feeling that in the nearly 40 years since I was involved nothing much has happened. If this was all there was to say about the show, it probably wouldn’t be worth writing about it; and in fact, the show content is actually a digression from the issue which struck me as I viewed it.











Actually the biggest element of the display is a table with blank cards with punched holes at the top and the word COMMENTS printed. Backing the table a large board covers part of the wall. The board has a geometric grid of pegs and a large sign: DEVIANTS.

  • Before the show opened this board and configuration of cards had an aesthetic rigour which was quite attractive. But now it is open the board has filled up with ‘comments’. A flavour:

    Sean O’Brien (age 2 years) likes it here thank you. (accompanied by a child’s scribble)
    I love it.
    I really enjoy all the art
    This museum is cool by Grace Hogan (accompanied by a child’s drawing)
    Wayne from Old hall School had a great day today (smiley face)
    I love Gabby by Davy Cardiff
    I waz here: it’s only fun if you’re involved and included not left out and shut out cos you just don’t fit in to there little boxes
    Didn’t find this very interesting – Jordan
    I like this museum so much I want to come here for the rest of my life.

    I don’t usually waste anytime reading comments boards which are now ubiquitous in UK museums. I scanned this one because the exhibition designer had made the board such a large and integrated element of the show. Momentarily I found some of the comments vaguely interesting. The fact that Wayne from Old Hall School refers to himself by name rather than in first person and the way that ‘today’ magnifies his great day but also adds a hint of poignancy; the fact that some child wants to visit the gallery forever; the curiously excluded visitor – accumulatively was more interesting than any of the crafts objects in the show. To be honest, I have made the accumulation more interesting than it was because there were many more children’s squiggles – which are only of interest to their parents – and teenagers leaving their names or names of other youngsters they ‘love’.




So I couldn’t help wondering what was the curatorial point of this board, so specific an intrusion into the concept of crafts’ deviance. It is titled DEVIANTS but the act of comment implies conformity. Coincidentally, the same day I spent time in the show, I received a bulletin from the Arts Council of England, in part, announcing a new website http://www.helloart.org.uk/ wherein you can log on and share your feelings, COMMENT, on recent artistic experiences that you have enjoyed. The site showed that 197 people had COMMENTed so far, though as with Google I only looked at the first page. Although the user profile of the site is much older and more articulate than the COMMENTS board in DEVIANTS (or most other comments boards), the expressions on the site weren’t substantially much different. I was reminded of Lawrence Weiner’s comment that graffiti can be justified, engaged with as a discourse, if the graffitist says something; if they just scrawl their name they are simply manifesting an existential crisis.

What are these invitations to comment for? I presume that the website is the Arts Council’s ineffectual response to the sense of doom gathering as the arts are decimated by the economic crisis – it’s a form of petition, if it gets big enough it can be pointed to showing how important the arts are in people’s lives. The COMMENTS boards are slightly different because they don’t frame the invitation as either positive or negative. Primarily, comments that are left are from children or families – parents engaging in familial gesture of comment. This could be a self selecting mechanism because under the Central Cultural Imperative children and families are the most valued audience. To comment if you are a lone visitor could I imagine feel quite strange, intrusive somehow. What are the galleries/curators going to do with the comments? The ones that struggle above the non-verbal grunt, that are positive, will go into the evaluation that shows that the exhibition was useful to its audience. The audience will also be counted; probably surveyed too, if possible, so their geography, ethnicity, social class can be monitored. All this will prove that the arts are reaching the people who need them most: hovering unasked the frequently recurring question of the relationship of the artist (poet) to the audience (not the audience to the artist).

The Bury Arts & Museums Service will shortly be inspected to see if the governmental bureaucracy finds it not failing – this may not be a shoe-in because the criteria is the same one that is used for everything from refuse collection to highways maintenance; so it has a checklist of questions which the Service must provide evidence to prove itself. These inspections can only measure failure, of course, because such a system could not recognise the innovation or creativity which would characterise a gallery which had cultural value. I also find it interesting that targets are set for user satisfaction, but inspectors never consider artists as ‘users’. (Any artists who have ‘used’ Bury Art Gallery are welcome to COMMENT toward the inspection, by the way). The system assumes only the consumers of cultural objects have measurable value, not the producers. The audience of children and their handlers, their vacuous COMMENTS bear no relationship to the work on display – even paper-thin ne’er progressing vorticist teapot. They either ‘love it’, ‘hate it’, ‘love someone they know’, scribble, or write their names: right there in art galleries themselves the crisis has become a cultural object.

December 09, 2009

Launch of Journal of Innovative British and Irish Poetry

new canon
innovative = pragmatic
relationship of academia to the wider society

Why important? What challenges? How develop?

remembered from his time
between
readership and
writership



conflicts of interest
inform. history. production

December 07, 2009

The Montana Group


Taking part in the Lucerne conversations there were artists/creative practitioners with professional roles which put them in positions of management or institutional leadership. Organised by Metasenta http://www.metasenta.com.au/ in Melbourne (picture - Irene Barbaris of Metasenta and her research assistant Sarah Duyshart) and the University of Arts London, there were professionals from the continent, UK, northern America and Australia. It was agreed early on that the title of the conversation “artists in leadership” was problematic and so for now the dialogues will carry the title 'the Montana Group' – after the hotel in which we were meeting http://www.hotel-montana.ch/. It was also agreed that although there will be a website and subsequent publication, the content of the conversations should remain within the group for the time being to allow people to speak freely about the issues they faced negotiating their practice within their institution.
So for now I’ll just say that the discussions were deeply thoughtful and insightful. My one frustration was the fact that so far I am the only participant who is not located in academia. The problem with this is the macerating distortions that the structures of higher education introduce into an artist's creative practice while seeming to support it. So the conversations had a wearisome propensity to drift back to assumptions that students and developing their opportunities are important and even a creative driver for artists. I am always happy to do what I can for young artists but students are of no interest. I couldn’t stay to the end of the sessions so without me there I expect the drift to a debate focused on art education was unabated. I don’t want to sound too critical though; as this was the first meeting of the group, it was natural for people to locate their thinking in their daily reality and with the other ten or so participants sharing the same experience it was inevitable. Despite these reservations, I am looking forward to the next one.

December 05, 2009

Kunstmuseum Luzern


(view of Lucerne)

Luzern Art Museum is a striking architectural gesture on the banks of the Lake Lucerne. I saw 4 shows there today. With the annual show featuring 40 artists there were obviously a lot of works of little interest but I was impressed with the 4 untitled small drawings of Nathalie Bissig, which while very simply delineated in what looked like a waxy pencil carried very powerful images of helplessness and power, the distressing power which provokes eroticism over liberalism. Lukas Hoffman displayed some very thoughtful photos of the empty margins of public car parks in grey winter; his trees had the visual definition of lung diagrams footed with the indestructible alienated shrubs beloved of municipal parks departments. Miriam Sturzenegger showed 3 small note books pinned to the wall with ever so faint pencil drawings almost absent-mindedly doodled; but hovering in a dimension out of reach, immaculate tiny handwriting reversed slightly through the pages from the other side – made more inaccessible to me because of them being in German.
(kunstmuseum)
In another show “Tamed Light” – videos by Judith Albert were not very interesting.
In another show Irene Bisang’s paintings were enjoyable gouaches which mixed innocence with sudden shocks, a sequence of decorative portraits with thought bubbles, a woman being beheaded by a knife the size of her body, a happy penis; of course, missing Barney, I was drawn to Wise Dog I and II.
(I love the way they pollard on the continent)

From the stable of Barbara Thrumm in Berlin, I think, Valerie Favre’s big show was a variable experience. She had a lot of galleries which seemed to me to expose her strengths and weaknesses. Her large scale landscapes and allegories were stodgy, monotonously coloured and meaningless, whereas her Lapine-Univers [She-hare Universe] was superheroic, vibrantly painterly and erotic. Her series of small Selbstmord [Suicide] canvases with the restricted palette of yellows and greens hung in a long line across 3 walls were gripping but this was dissipated by the location of a monumental not very good painting of a Cockroach on the facing wall. A final room of her motifs intermingling with art historical references returned to muddy ill-definition, except for the strong presence of “Secret Service for the Queen”.


December 03, 2009

Inaugural Dialogue of Artists in Leadership

I have been invited to participate in the inaugural Dialogue of Artists in Leadership organised by University of Arts London & Metasenta Melbourne. So tomorow I am off to Lucerne, Switzerland. I arrive a bit before it starts so hope to see some of the city and do some writing - all being well I will be able to post thoughts from there.