July 29, 2010


Coincident but not causal on our arrival in the city, Dublin was announced as a UNESCO City of Literature; not sure what that will actually mean but I have observed in this and previous visits that it does seem to have a lot of readers – it is noticeable that many more people seem to read books in public places, parks and cafes. Anyway, as it was a shortbreak, my only literary tourism was a visit to the Chester Beattie Library; European Museum of the year in 2002, this is a must certainly for visual poets with its magnificent collection of rare and ancient manuscripts.

My only gallery experience was my habitual return to the Douglas Hyde Gallery.
The gallery has unusual but interesting levels and is always very thoughtfully hung. On this visit I saw Dana Schutz’s Tourette’s Paintings and a tiny display of photography (+ 1 painting) by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein. The latter was mildly interesting with its hinted at Secessionist outsider aesthetic in the exotic photos of his wife, but was also slightly disappointing as the brochure talked about his massive range of activity so the show was inhabited by its absence. I didn’t think I was going to like the Schutz paintings and certainly some of them didn’t quite work, mainly because there was on occasion a sense that she didn’t know when to stop painting so that especially some of the backgrounds were over-decorated. But the interweaving of art historical references with the visceral dysfunction, irrational jerks, the human humiliations, and the contradictorily sweet colours made it a show I was pleased to see.

July 23, 2010

Urban Moves in Bury

Guess The Winner

This year I couldn’t fit in attendance at the European Museums Forum in Tampere (Finland) – though I will pay my third visit to that city in October. This week I received the two booklets that accompany the conference each year. The first contains all the candidates for the Museum of the Year Award (plus a couple of other special commendations) and the second features the winners and some analysis thereof.

Although I think I did know which won, I couldn’t remember when I got the booklets, so played a little guessing game I do each year. Study each museum candidate in the book (and using no other evidence) rate the submissions and guess which one I would nominate (with no ‘official’ criteria other than my own instincts and predilections). My list is as much places I should one day visit and even if I don’t they are places that make me feel positive just by knowing they exist. Guessing which one will actually win is of less interest because I think that the judging panel in the past at least have had a tendency to be swayed by fashion or politics: an eco-museum in Lapland or validation of museums in EU border states that fit into an agenda of de-coupling those nations from Russia or Islam. In this regard the continued westernisation of Turkey, with its ever-increasing annual tally of new museums, is a noticeable feature.

So from this year’s batch, which ones stand out for me ?:

Austria: Vienna – The Museum of Contraception and Abortion
Independent of pharmaceutical companies and government, while the museum looks worth a visit anyway, in the context of it functioning in a strongly Catholic environment and the rise of the fascist right in Austria (and many other places), it represents an almost heroic intellectual gesture.

Croatia: Zagreb: Typhlological Museum
(Greek Typhlos = blind). Museum of the Croatian Association of the Blind – among other things that stood out was the extension of the museum outside its walls – white tracks guide blind visitors to the entrance from all directions from the nearest tram stations in its neighbourhood.

Ireland: Carrick on Shannon: St.George’s Heritage and Visitor’s Centre
(no website given)
This one attracts me as much for the story it tells of the oppression and suffering of the local community under British rule, and especially the devastation of the Great Famine of 1847-9.

Netherlands: Amsterdam: Jewish Historical Museum
Although this one looks interesting in its own right, I have a politico-emotional response to this related to celebrating the first direct action against the Nazis' treatment of Jews:
'The Strike of February 1941' was a general strike organized during World War II in The Netherlands against the anti-Jewish activities of the Nazis. Its direct causes were the pogroms held by the Germans in the Jewish neighbourhood of Amsterdam. So visiting it would be an act of respect.

Portugal: Lisbon: Orient Museum
In the photos, this just looks like a great collection of Oriental Art.

Russia: St. Petersburg: Dostoevsky Literary-Memorial Museum
This is the renovation of Dostoevsky’s house into a museum, study centre and theatre for performances, music and poetry events.

Turning to the winners booklet, it turns out the European Museum of the Year is
Ozeaneum, in Stralsund, Germany (picture)

Special commendations went to the Museum of Natural Sciences, Brussels; The Science Gallery, Dublin, and the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam. The Council of Europe Prize went Portimao Museum, Portimao, Portugal and the Prix Micheletti went to Agbar Water Museum in Cornella de Llobregat, Spain.

European Museum Forum Website: http://www.europeanmuseumforum.org/
Meanwhile, many museums in the UK await the new government axe - we are entering a darker age.

July 21, 2010

The Pollinators of Eden

The Pollinators of Eden (Ben Gwilliam & Matt Wand)
Rodrigo Constanzo & Richard Knight
(Clutter, Tandog & Noise Research)
Plus Tandog visuals

Free CD with £3 entry fee...

At The Briton's Protection, M1 5LE
on 23rd July at 8.30pm

Matt Wand became known to a wider public especially with Stock, Hausen & Walkman and frequent collaboration with Tony Oxley.
Wand has recently been commissioned by WDR radio Köln for sound collages extracted from WDR recordings of contemporary classical works (Schnitt-Haubenstock, composition & live performance).

Besides live performances, radio work and installations he has written film scripts for short films and animations (one winning the Goldcrest award for best short in 1988) and shown many small gauge movies in the UK and abroad. He also runs the independent artistic recording label Hot Air and designs the visuals and packaging for the many vinyl and CD items released so far.
Ben Gwilliam is a sound artist active in the fields of sound installation, curation, improvising new music and performance. He describes his practice as drawing attention to those sounds between things, be it objects, spaces or recordings. It is these sounds and their contexts that reveal visual and musical processes of listening and looking. It is from this curiosity about sound-making/recording/finding and how abstract/descriptive that sounds can be, that he makes parallels and similarities unpicking the relationship between those uncovered sounds and moments of primary experience. In 2004 he was awarded an AHRB Postgraduate Award. In 2007 he was nominated for the Jerwood Artist platform Prize. He has worked and shown internationally in Exhibitions, Residencies and Festivals including ‘art@radio’, 2002 USA, Artoll Labor, 2002 DE, ‘Hothouse’ 2003 Liverpool, Hull Time Based Arts, 2003 UK, ‘ineditos 2004’, Madrid & Barcelona, ‘stance’, 2005 market gallery, Glasgow, and ‘Unsilently’, 2005 CAC, North Adams, USA, ‘Sonic Arts Expo 2006’, Manchester, UK, ‘Klang-Labor 06’, DE. His work has been featured on Resonance FM, and has work in several CD and Publication Releases.
Rodrigo Constanzo was born in Madrid, Spain in 1976. He then spent the next three decades living in Miami, Florida, before moving to Manchester, England where he resides today. He has performed as a solo musician or as part of various groups for the majority of his life, including at the FUTURESONIC Festival in Manchester, the SOUND Festival in Aberdeen, and the GEM DAYS Festival in Huddersfield. He is currently involved in several projects, the main ones being performing with Takahashi's Shellfish Concern, an improv based performance-art group, Deaf To Van Gogh's Ear, a minimalist, math/pop band, and If Version Linger, a pseudo-chamber, composer’s band. He also co-runs Manchester’s long standing free improv night The Noise Upstairs.

Richard Knight is a sonic/computational artist, usually performing with digital equipment. Recently he has established himself as a practitioner of the no-input mixer, a subverted device which allows analogue feedback to be harnessed in an often precise and diverse manner. The performance for EOVI will see Richard utilise two no-input mixers, in an ongoing collaboration with Rodrigo Constanzo. Other relevant projects include the electroacoustic/jazz duo, 'Pesticide Organica'; no-input techno project 'Closed Circuit' and experimental/electronica 'Underbaud'.

Aht-n formed in 2010 from members of Clutter (Shaun Blezzard), Tandog (Harry Gallimore) & Noise Research (Ian Simpson). A desire to create avant improvised Electronica (with a basic structure) and multi screen visuals led to rehearsals and recording to create what you'll see tonight. The trio have a mutual love of early krautrock and leftfield electronica (FSOL, Mouse on Mars, Cluster, Faust, Klaus Shultz et al).

July 19, 2010

Urban Moves

Conveniently programmed near to my office and to my home, part funded by Bury, Urban Moves is a three-day festival featuring live professional dance performance outdoors. Surprising the crowds with a unique blend of dance and spectacle, Urban Moves celebrates the cityscape and architecture of Greater Manchester - out in the parks and in the fountains, in the squares and in the gardens. The festival is renowned for some awesome aerial dance performance and for the use of some unusual stages!
There's some great contemporary dance in Bury and Castlefield from 23-25 July - details from the website below.


July 17, 2010

An Iraq Soap Opera

I got to see Rachel Khedoori’s ‘The Iraq Book Project’ at Hauser & Wirth London this week. http://www.hauserwirth.com/exhibitions/667/rachel-khedoori/view/

(an excerpt from the publicity)
‘The Iraq Book Project’, Khedoori's ongoing documentary piece, consists of a chronological compilation of news articles found online using the search terms 'Iraq’, ‘Iraqi’ or ‘Baghdad’. The articles begin on 18 March 2003, the start date of the Iraq war, and in theory, can continue indefinitely. Presented as a series of large books on tall tables, the articles are sourced from a wide range of news services based all over the world, translated into English and formatted to flow together seamlessly; the only separation between the articles is the emboldened lettering of the titles, date and source. For this project, the gallery will be turned into a research centre with articles being compiled, printed and added to the books throughout the duration of the exhibition. ‘The Iraq Book Project’ is an attempt to find words for an indescribable event, highlighting the way in which perceptions of an event change depending upon time and place.

Seeing this show was an unexpected coincidence with my conversations with Derek Beaulieu re: conceptual poetry (since the show I intended to see was shut). I have had a couple of very similar submissions for the Text Festival from different artists and it has made me wonder given that there are so many versions of this choose-a-subject-google/findtext-amass-result process how is the quality of the artistic act understood. The case in point as experienced is quite disappointing in the Hauser & Wirth space. The visual rhythm of the books on the tables has a minimalist pleasure but this is undermined because there is no intention that this should be rigorous – the books are there because that is how the work is expanding rather than because of a proportional aesthetic – so one book which was not quite in line with the others became the transgressive focus of attention. (Carolyn Thompson, who was with me, had to straighten it in the end). In addition, because the concept generating the work is immediately stated, I found that I was much more fascinated with the mystery of what the only other book in the room was – namely the paperback being read by the young invigilator in the corner of the room (sadly it turned out to be Ian McEwan).

My response to this work was probably the opposite of what the artist intends; while it attempts “to find words for an indescribable event”, the books include endless words that are describing the event and what the viewer actually does is bring their own perception of Iraq to the work. That is something that all artworks do but I found myself irritated by this dialogue between my response to Iraq and an artistic gesture that fundamentally abrogates the artist’s responsibility and turns the ‘indescribable event’ into a structure more akin to a soap opera.

July 05, 2010


Welcoming Derek Beaulieu and Kristen Ingram arriving from Canada, David Osbaldeston and Katie Craven joined us for one of Sue's celebrated dinner parties:

The Menu

Spicy roasted red pepper and lime soup (accompanied with an Alsace Reisling)
Sue’s Crispy Prawn Toast with a dipping sauce
Pan-fried Sea Trout fillet with ribbons of courgette with chilli and ginger with a lemon and herb dressing (accompanied with a Spanish Albarino)
Home made clotted cream strawberry ice-cream, meringue, strawberries and strawberry sauce

(On Wednesday, Derek will be reading at Bury Art Gallery at 1pm and at the Other Room at 7pm)

July 03, 2010

The call of Nono

I have been asked to curate a CD of language/text-based responses to the great contemporary composer Luigi Nono. The works will also be featured in a sound art exhibition in October-November as part of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
If you would like to be part of this project get in touch with me.

July 01, 2010


Apart from the Contemporary Music Festival, like Bury, Huddersfield doesnt immediately jump to mind as a place where there might be something interesting going on. So I'm pleased to report that the worksetting gallery is an important new development, built around the vision of curator/designer Paul Bradley to create a space that shows established modern masters alongside emerging artists presenting a context of work that hovers between art, fashion, furniture and design, contextualised within an ornate 19th Century shopping arcade.
The opening show is a great opening statement of intent and the future plans suggest this will be a must-see gallery.

"a place for everything and everything in its place" has a great rosta of artists from Lawrence Weiner, Michelangelo Pistoletto, James Turrell and Jaume Plensa to names I didnt (but probably should) know like Laurence Kavanagh, Stefano Bonacci and Vittorio Messina.