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Choice blogs archive 2010
December 2010: Sarah Rowles selects Jane Boyer and Jo Moore
Two blogs stand out for me this month: Jane Boyer’s ‘Working in Isolation’ and Jo Moore’s ‘What it means to be an artist’. I was initially drawn to Jane’s blog after she responded to a letter I wrote in October’s a-n magazine where I questioned levels of ‘access’ to HE art education and what the term ‘access’ really means. I asked whether access to contemporary art is still as class-laden thing and whether or not the contemporary art world forces its own tastes, fashions and values upon those - who looking to study art (with their own socially contingent perceptions of art) -unwittingly enter into it. Jane raised a question in response about whether we should take responsibility for our own intellect – an good question and a path, which as she describes in her blog, comes from long periods of working in isolation.
In her blog Jane also frequently discusses with others, some of the ‘weights’ placed on contemporary art – concept, theory, questions over the balance between theory and intuition. In another blog – that of Jo Moore’s, other facets of the contemporary are mentioned – as in her most recent post where she begins ‘I've a post saved, half-written, about art fairs & gallerists, but it doesn't seem relevant any more (& I'm sure that any readers will guess my views on the matter!)’. Pontificating over things like the relationship between art and theory or our own relation to the commercial gallery system have become commonplace for many of us as we strive to negotiate and be part of a ‘contemporary art world’. But what about our world?
Jo seems after a rather difficult time to have turned her mind to philosophy, questioning the world of art and all of its networking and competitions. After much thinking and a conversation with a ‘philosopher friend’ she notes that she is ‘Feeling less angry & defensive than I did earlier in the year; but at the same time, I'm more and more certain about what I do and do not wish to associate myself with or be involved in. This includes not applying for projects that perpetuate a method of "doing" art with which I fundamentally disagree; not getting hung up on earnings as a mark of success; cutting down on endless comparisons & paralysing self-doubt because I work differently to others; and, most importantly, not getting drawn into some of the ugly interpersonal stuff I've observed’.
Jo’s statement caused me to think about why it is that we strive to move away from how we grew up seeing art or began making art, to be part of a world of endless competition, codes, canons, narratives, brands, newness, anxieties, someone elses values…?
Jo ends her recent blog by telling us she is going to a firework display. ‘What could be better?’ she asks. I don’t know. In five minutes I am looking to do the same.
Visit Jane Boyer's blog Working in Isolation: a dialog with history
Read Jo Moore's What does it mean to be an artist?
Go to the Q-Art London website.
November 2010: Dan Thompson selects Nicola Dale
I spend a lot of time reading what artists write, and to be honest, artists tend not to be the best writers. Too many wrap up basic ideas in pseudo-intellectual art talk to make themselves and their work sound cleverer than it is. I've worked, as a writer; producing strategies and toolkits for local councils and government quangoes, as a poet, using text in my own artwork and most importantly writing for local newspapers. Local newspapers need short, sharp words in Plain English.
Nicola Dale's blog the Collaborator is lucid, vigorously written and sharp. She has a simple idea - to explore why she likes collaborating with other artists - which makes the blog focused. If this is something you're interested in, stop and read; if not, skip through the 40+ pages of blogs and find something more interetsing.
She writes with a delicious dry wit, like this: "collaborations are not about...coveting the fact that your surnames joined together with and an “&” look good". She writes about the honest niggles of being an artist, and working "so hard... that the calluses on my finger and thumb created by constant use of scissors have now gone scabby." These small moments of personal honesty make this a good blog; too many are really just press releases.She brings in a wide range of outside influences, from architecture and film-making to Shakespare and even the hauntingly beautiful collaboration between Michael Rosen & Quentin Blake, The Sad Book. And, perhaps most importantly, she loves three of my favourite things - collaboration, maps and manifestos. A choice blog, for sure!
Dan Thompson is involved in artistsandmakers.com, the Revolutionary Arts online arts magazine, providing news, reviews and events listings for events across the UK and the Empty Shops Network, promoting creative reuse of the nation's empty shops.
October 2010: Tamarin Norwood selects David Minton
David Minton's blog Dead and Dying Flowers is first of all the day-to-day document of a painting practice, and in this respect alone for its detail, clarity, humour and patience the blog gets ten out of ten.
What’s better still about David’s writing is the way it navigates the unsteady relationship between mark-making, thinking about mark-making, and getting on with everyday life. He has an enviable knack for introducing quotidian things into the discussion of his intellectual and artistic concerns - one day, for instance, an unexpected mouse runs across his garden “just getting on with it”, leaving the artist confined to circling the pleasure, the guilt, the risk and the vitality of his own work.
But the circling that happens on David’s blog is continually productive. He tirelessly grapples with the problem that writing about your own artistic practice can be as confounding as it is elucidating. The tension between thinking and doing is always in evidence, and there’s a constant risk that one might undercut, contradict or unravel the other. Rather than shying away from them, he approaches these dilemmas with a lucid, lyrical honesty that makes his blog a valuable resource for those of us who question what it does to think, rethink, write and rewrite our practices into words, and then post them online for all to see - “out there for better or worse”.
Go to David Minton's blog Dead and Dying Flowers.
September 2010: Liliana Sanchez selects Nicola Naismith
To make something completely free from faults or defects and as close to such a condition as possible was one of the main goals of modernity. Living in non-stop big cities, surrounded by gigantic engineering structures that crawl, expand and grow to fulfil the desire of perfection in time reminds us of this modern project. The artist Nicola Naismith enters this territory to explore the entangled and complex relationship between art and technology. Through her journey, she uses high-tech machines to create images that by their formal qualities are trying to counterbalance a world dictated by control and precision.
The process of making can reveal the dialogue between us and our surrounding and the media we use becomes a language that mirrors that constant negotiation. I selected Naismith’s blog because it attempts to expose this complex relationship between art and technology. Naismith finds joy at the interior of a fabric, but rather than a noisy and dirty place she arives at a clean and aseptic post-industrial environment that pushes her to face industrial forms of production ruled by different principles.
To expose the bones of this new kind of machinery can bring us again to think about modernity and its utopian models of the future and make us aware of the risk of enchantment by forms free from contamination. The intention to humanise our experience is important in order not just to operate technology; it brings to mind the necessity of adding new values to the application of scientific knowledge beyond its practical purposes in a way that can challenge our sense and experience of daily life.
Liliana Sanchez is a Columbian artist currently living and working in London. Visit her website here
Go to Nicola Naismith's blog Digital making
Related blogs include Colourful Wi-Fi Network by Jung-Hua Liu which decodes London, New York, Chicago, Taipei and Hong Kong Wi-Fi landscapes and Tina Gonsalves' Chameleon Project which investigates the scientific foundations of emotional contagion.
August 2010: Siân Hislop selects Rosalind Davis
Rosalind Davis' blog Becoming a part of something is a perceptive and illuminating insight into the trials and tribulations artists face on their post-college odyssey. "Becoming Part of Something" won the accolade of Artists talking Blog of the Year 2009, and the draw I felt towards it demonstrates that she continues to set a compelling tone.
Particularly topical and inspiring is the recently posted AIR interview, in which she argues the case for continued funding in the arts, in particular for it to be channelled towards those who attempt to improve communities through the arts and for free university education. As an artist involved in the Bow Arts Trust's live/work scheme I found her well articulated proposals and sensible suggestions ringing very true for my experience.
Along with an ever growing community of artists, I took on an "uninhabitable" abandoned flat in the type of Brutalist behemoth tower block that haunts Rosalind's intriguing paintings. These Modernist visions for social housing are now widely viewed as dystopian failures on monumental scales, but we are attempting to make positive changes in our community through our roles as artists.
Rosalind's blog does more than just record one artist's personal journey - as the title "Becoming Part of Something" suggests. Her posts have the potential to inspire other artists to use their energy and vision to help make change possible.
Siân Hislop, artist www.sianhislop.co.uk
Bow Arts Trust www.bowarts.org
See also blogger Becky Hunter's interview with Rosalind Davis here »
July 2010: Andrew Bryant selects Vanessa Bartlett
Vanessa Bartlett’s blog Group Therapy explores artists whose discourse crosses in some way with the discourse around ‘mental health’. That these discourses converge in contemporary practices like curating reflects an interest in ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ – both the individual's and the society’s. Art’s praxis failed, according to Adorno, when art declared itself autonomous, and yet this is also a position of privilege because, to paraphrase Jean Genet, art never has the good or bad fortune to be tested in the world. The Victorian ‘asylum’ was just that: a place where people could go to seek asylum when the world became too much. In a solution-focused society, is art an asylum too, a place where you can reflect, question, or just free-associate?
Go to Vanessa Bartlett's blog Group Therapy
June 2010: Isaac Muñoz selects Tamarin Norwood
Who said that thinking in colour itself can be the representation of the infinite? Or more precisely, that differentiation does not appear. I came back to that thought when I read Tamarin Norwood's blog What the matter is.
Let’s have in mind that the grammar of things is there to be played with, not to engage with daily life problems, but just with the problems of the containers of knowledge, which actually is a daily life addiction. I enjoyed Tamarin’s writing, a sort of concrete exercise that ridiculises the properties of objects, the pencil, the biro, the stapler. There is a feeling that her blog is there just to spend time explaining time. It becomes a self-referred and indexical dialogue. She states that the act of finding the way of her practice is her practice (who cares then!). It sounds redundant even when I try to write about it, but it is because these kinds of banal dialogues about their own structure tend to be a black hole that absorbs their interpretation toward the same structure. And there we have a container for knowledge. It seems that Tamarin opens a space for a dialogue about dialogue.
Digging historically we have traces of this kind of writing in the development of semiotics, concrete poetry, post-structuralism, a sort of deconstruction with a background that sounded very political and now artificial, a criticism to the 'regime'. Which regime? The blog is very personal, and it also reminds me of Yves Michaud when he states that the world is so beautiful today.
I chose Tamarin’s blog because it is a platform to keep thinking about the possibilities to reconfigure reality, like a bracket or lapse of time to be aware of how I am experiencing generalities.
Isaac Muñoz is Artist beneficiary of the Foreign Study Program from the National Fund for Culture and Arts (Mexico), and of Fundacion/Coleccion Jumex.
May 2010: Hazel Evans selects Becky Hunter's Diary of an Art Historian
To sell or not to sell your soul, that is the question...
Someone recently told me that (in their opinion) to be a commercial artist would be to sell your soul, as art should only be for art's sake. Needless to say this person was in full time employment and was not trying to make a living as a professional artist either! In response to this person's bold statement, I found that the blog, Diary of an Art Historian, by Becky Hunter, brings to the surface the continuing question of lifestyle choices as an artist. Hunter says “I sometimes feel as if I'm betraying myself in some way by focusing on how to earn a living rather than on creative flow”. An honest declaration that hits the paintbrush on the bristles about how many artists compromise their creativity in order to make a living.
Determined never to be a 'hobby time' artist I have learned that earning a living as a creative person also involves getting skilled in business, being a multi-tasking extraordinaire, as well finding time to get in the 'creative zone', and this is something that many artists find challenging. Hunter raises questions about finding professional direction and even gives a handy link to making a start on a business plan.
Hunter's blog blends accounts of her progress in further education studying an MA in History of Art with engaging documentation of her own work and studies from drawings to “Yesterday I took my cardboard grid out for a walk through the nature reserve near my flat”. This appeals to me as I enjoy the journey into my own work through the written word, historical reference and humour mixed with a touch of glamour and magic. Finding time to follow my creative flow is not always easy but I enjoy what I do, and that is the question!
Hazel Evans is a Jewellery and Visual Artist.
Choice blogs April 2010: Laura Morrison selects Paul Conneally's blog 'Shopputting'
Paul Conneally’s Shopputting blog caught my attention for the comedy touch he adopts when it comes to poetic, soft-core guerrilla tactics. Whatever Conneally engages with, he does so within the law (almost... I am sure there is some anti-trespassing law that he is breaking by depositing goods in shops).
Still, his is an authority-tickling, uncomfortable hand-holding humour which is expanded upon in his other blog and collaborative project Invigilator: Digbeth, whereby Conneally and his colleagues benignly 'invigilate' the street.
Both of these projects/interventions fill in a gap that we didn’t want to be reminded was there. As with most ideologies/institutions whose practices suit us, our complicity is cringeful to acknowledge, especially when you are shopping. I wonder how people feel when they walk out of a shop with something ‘free’. Embarrassed and defiant? Weird! Conneally’s goods carry the slogan “Shopputting, Another Way of Giving”.
I feel like he tows a line between institutional critique and a saucy curiosity in people. ‘Giving something of himself – along with ‘the finger’ perhaps.’
March 2010: Paul Stone selects Gemma Hadley’s ‘Pretty Vacant’
'Pretty Vacant’ bills itself as “a touring visual arts exhibition featuring the best in brand new fine art and craft by students and recent graduates”. Over the last year they have staged temporary exhibitions in a number of empty shops and other buildings. Reading this blog makes me recall my own beginnings as I moved from ‘artist’ to ‘artist/organiser/whatever-else-was-necessary’ in setting up exhibitions in similar venues in Newcastle upon Tyne.
I’m often asked advice on ‘how we did it’ back then (the late 1990s!) and although my memory’s not failing yet, one thing I regret now is that the documentation of those temporary projects I was involved in ranges from pretty scant to non existent. There’s a few slides sitting in a box file but nothing that provides the same level of documentation as this blog. We were simply too focused on the end product rather than on how we arrived there.
What I think this blog gets across so well is the practicalities (and sometimes problems) that need to be considered in the process of setting up a self-organised project in a temporary venue. As featured regularly in a-n there are many such projects currently underway across the UK, and even the government is now supporting some of them in our recession-hit town centres. Month-by-month this blog provides a useful resource for those thinking of embarking on a similar undertaking, highlighting both the positive outcomes as well as potential pitfalls.
Paul Stone is a Director of Vane gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, and an artist.
Go to Pretty Vacant »
Go to Vane gallery »
Subscribers may also be interested in the article Artists in empty shops in which Dan Thompson from The Revolutionary Arts Group reveals how artists are once again making use of empty spaces as a means to kick-start both the cultural and economic well being of town centres, and suggests seven steps to enable this area of practice to flourish.
January 2010: Christine Lobb selects Emily Speed
"I’d like to celebrate the impending first birthday of Emily Speed’s blog Getting Paid, started on 16th January 2009.
It is easy to relate to Emily’s concerns and frustrations at the art world – badly paid residencies, unpaid internships etc - but I am also interested in the way her blog serves as her motivational tool as well as providing documentary evidence that she has been ‘working’, whether in the form of researching, reading or thinking. I often find myself hit by a twinge of guilt - 'what have I been doing?' - when I haven't made anything for ages; Emily's blog provides a valuable record of all the other things that constitute an artist's practice.
Christine Lobb is an artist at the Meltdown Studios in Ramsgate and a Careers Officer at the University of the Arts London.
Go to Emily Speed's blog »
First published: a-n.co.uk September 2008
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