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By: Rebecca Strain

It has seveal meanings some of which being:
a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network
in Geology; a major range of strata that corresponds to a period in time
in Astronomy; a group of celestial objects connected by their mutual attractive forces


click to expand/collapse 

# 159 [24 March 2012]

i took a break from this:


to watch this:


it is probable that the way i perceived the short film by Marlon Griffith was effected by the experience and therefore my perception effected by the legendary soap opera famed from it's overuse of violence; Eastenders.

To check the truth of a piece of text check for the adjectives used seems to be Edward de Bono's tip.

When I watched the 5 minute film I was reminded of visiting lecturer Brian Caitlings comment about the difference between art and craft: craft wants to be loved; art doesn't.

With this statement in mind is the piece by Marlon Griffith art or craft? It appears that is it is and does want to be loved, but it's not really it's purpose.  It's purpose is to begin a process of healing through an awareness of strength and fragility, temporary and permanent.  It does it's best to raise awareness of our perception of death by displaying metaphorical materials and processes.

Is this art or craft? Maybe it is loved, but can you descibe the feeling of love for the connection you may feel to this piece of work because it is about loss of love.  It is about coping with loss and how could we love coping with loss. No, rather it is connected to people in such an abstract way we have no other word but love to give to it.

The material and space that has been created using metaphor to induce a metaphor in the persons experiencing the work that would form a metaphorical connection with the experience to their own personal loss. They are connected to in as a group of people with their own individual experience of loss which contribute to its wider perception.

Is this what Walter Benjamin talked about in art in the age of mechanical reproduction?


# 158 [9 March 2012]




Working together, especially in a joint intellectual effort


To cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one's country


The first definition seems so positive, altruistic; combining skills and knowledge to achieve greater things.  Admirable!


The second seems nasty, weak, and sneaky; going along with ideas you believe to be wrong to save your own skin.

That is the surface - one word two perceptions.  In reality how does this work?


I am a collaborator in both senses.  I work together with other artists and other people in my community to achieve things we could not do alone.

I am also a collaborator as I live and work in a country that remains to some extent in forced occupation of my own country.

I want to examine this deeper.  It seems that working together is a good way forward; each individual contributing his or her skills, time, knowledge and experience to make something happen.  But in order for this to happen effectively there needs to be someone to facilitate this sharing.  If not then those with the strongest views or the loudest voice, or the capital will make the decisions and others will slowly be squeezed out working for rather than working with.

This is my experience. Mostly there has not been a facilitator in collaborations but the group has fought its way back out with some advocating on behalf of others.  Sometimes it has all gone wrong when the facilitator is part of the group and the position has not been clearly defined.  Other times there is an acceptance that there is inequality in the collaboration and that some collaborators have less power over the project than others. 

At the base of a successful collaboration is a good foundation.  Not as concrete as a manifesto but some explanation of potential contributions and skills an understanding of the individuals we are working with and respect for them and their input.

But we are human and when we get close to the edge we take it out on those closest to us. In a joint project there is joint responsibility, joint authorship.  The collaborators are dependent on each other to be fair and inclusive and to share the workload and decision making. 

This is the problem with collaboration - how to come to a joint decision when there is no consensus and no facilitator.  When it is a matter of a subjective decision how do we go forward?  Do some relinquish their opinions in favour of a complete outcome or do we stop entirely and fight it out.  Do we take a vote?  Who decides how the decision making process is carried out.

I'm going to go back to the second definition of collaborate and its two meanings.  There are many such words; Tear, this can be a noun meaning the salty bio fluid trickling down your face or the verb to pull apart by force.  There are many more examples here:

The second definition of collaborate; to cooperate with the enemy.  In spite of knowing that the views of the enemy are opposed to yours, you allow things to happen. In defence of your life/lifestyle you go ahead with what you know is wrong.


Does collaborate then mean the same thing?  When working with others we have to respect their decisions or go along with them with gritted teeth despite believing them to be opposed to our own for the sake of our reputation?

Or we can leave; leave the joint venture and allow a shared dream to wake up to the cold light of day and the reality that we don't agree and draw a line under all that has been invested.

Do we make a stand; fight for our opinion, what we believe is true at the risk of ending the collaboration in conflict?

And so we come back to the option of going forward with the idea, with a learned respect; or a controlled and enforced respect for our collaborators.  Is this any better than treason?


# 157 [29 February 2012]

Why am I doing this?

"I understand that an artist is someone who, among the silence of others, uses his voice to say something, and it is required that this thing is not something useless but useful to service people."
— Joan Miró , October 2 1979

To do something with art.

not to have a percieved outcome but go on the journey

report back after


# 156 [29 February 2012]

It's now actually 1.30am and I have finally finished writing a piece of text about Nicola Fosters lecture last Wednesday.  It has taken me about 5hours but it has been a worthwhile activity.

Now what I really did today was sort out the whole camera obscura thing. I spent a while doing some desk research, making some calls etc and then I set up an online page where I can store all the info I collect.

Eventually after lunch I cycled into Bournemouth on my quest to visit upstairs in the Cafe Obscura.  Before I went I'd read 4 really scary reviews of the place on Trip Adviser so the idea of making a film started to be dreadful.

I imagined myself Louis Theroux style being thrown out before I even started.  I braced myself. 

First i thought I'd have a look for the plaque as mentioned by the librarian at Bournemouth Library.  I walked around and around.  Noticed some bike racks which I noted for future use, but no sign of the plaque.  I tried to imagine the place 12 years ago and began to wander over to where there was now a litter bin and a grit bucket.  Sure enough in between the two was the plaque!


Anyhow, now that I found the plaque I had to move on to the next step which was to enter the cafe and attempt to go upstairs.  I was nervous.  I wondered about hiding the camera in my bag but in the end I decided to bite the bullet and just go right in there...

Wha'd'ya'know? It's perfectly acceptable to go upstairs.  i even celebrated with a beer!

The waitress said they have to close when it is busy because it takes too long to go in the lift upstairs with food and drinks.  i suggested having an event with bottles of beer and a buffet - no need to be going up and down.

Anyway she left me to it. I inspected the ceiling and the view to the clock tower which houses the infamous camera obscura. You couldn't see much but at a stretch there was a lens, mirrors and if you strained your eyes a mass of accumulated cob webs.

I had my beer, took a few pictures and thought about how easy this had been.  And if it is closed in the summer then maybe this is a good time to work on fixing it?

Next step - find out who designed it and how it looked way back then.



# 155 [27 February 2012]

knock knock, open wide,

see what's on the other side

knock knock and more

come with me through the magic door...

the artist is not an individual

the artist belongs to art

art belongs to the public

collectors and patriots of the art sustain the lives of artists but they never own the idea or the object. 

it is on loan to them and eventually returns to the public with the inevitability of mortality

some art is about being involved in the making process and is immediately in the possession of the people who choose to be involved.

this kind of art still needs collectors and patriots otherwise how will the artist eat and where will they sleep?

but how can it be valued?

artist Jonathan Shelper has opened a new venue for Gallery Soup in Bournemouth. His intention I believe is to try to answer the question of how we value art.  He has invested money earned from working at Sainsburys into the running of the space and has valued the work on display at £1000 per piece, of which I have two in the current show Topsy Turvy.

In the run up to the launch party which took place on Feb 20th Jonathan has referred to the space as 'the shop'.  At first he talked about making a space for performance where he could make and show work and where people could buy work.  It sounded like a good idea and Bournemouth certainly lacked a space for contemporary fine art.  Now that it has opened it does not appear to be a commercial space.  There was a decision made not to have a sign above the door or a price-list, names on the work or any information about who produced it.  In a way it has reverted to performance.  The idea that the 6 works on display are valued at £1000 each regardless of the wishes of the artist now means that in fact these objects are props on the performance stage and Jonathan's presence as director and occupier of the property is the performative action.

It is ironic because I had fought with him about displaying a series of black paintings which I asked the students in the peer critique group to produce.  In the end he chose some work I have named Paper Tears which I made at the beginning of the course for no real reason other than to produce something physical in relation to the research I had begun.

I have been invited to show work at the next show - Evidence is better, which opens on 14th March. Although I have shared an idea for a piece of work I think I will embrace the subversion of the idea of gallery space and use it to launch the beginning of my petition to reinstate the camera obscura in Bournemouth town centre.

And so this is where today has taken me.  Good night.


'Paper Tears'. my work in the window of Gallery Soup

'Paper Tears'. my work in the window of Gallery Soup

# 154 [23 February 2012]

What a difference a day makes!


I saw my supervisor today and it feels like things are falling into place. I need to do some planning before I can talk about plans but for now I can say I have a vision for action.


Also yesterday I attended an amazing lecture by the wonderful Dr. Nicola Foster.

She said original art but set precedence.  It must link to the tradition and then add something new.  Because of this it may or may not be accepted.  Whilst at university we have the opportunity to explain this link and the new thing we have added.

It makes me feel happy about this line of research I have arrived at.

Last night was also the launch of Gallery Soup's new venue at 243 Holdenhurst Rd.

I have work in the show and hopefully I will have better work in the next show on the 9th March.

There are plans to go to Documenta 13 at the end of may which collides with BH13, I need to sort this out.

Tomorrow I am at The Gallery and working all weekend.  Monday will be my planning day.  I can't wait.  Things are happening!!!!!!



Tomasz putting up his work

Tomasz putting up his work

# 153 [22 February 2012]

7.30am wake up and plan what I will do for my black painting for peer critiques on Wednesday, wonder what the others will look like and whether I will show them at Gallery Soup
8.00am dream about how Urban Sculpture Garden will look
9.12am finally roll out of bed and realise that I have to be at Gallery Soup at 10am to install work, frantically gather materials and fixings, make coffee for flash and jump on my bike
9.43am left the house to cycle to Holdenhurst Rd
10.14am arrive at Gallery Soup - it's closed
10.16am post package as promised, buy postcard for Bella's project
10.20am still no sign of Jonathan, cycle to Uni for research and Turkey sessions at The Gallery
11am receive reply to the snotty email I sent at mid-night, it's pleasantly respectful, wave of guilt at being so assertive
11.10am after peppermint tea (I've have been banned for coffee after letting it slip that I dreamt of being an art leprechaun) settle into research on Edward de Bono whilst simultaneously researching the Situationists)
12.09pm get some nice calming tomato soup from the canteen
12.30pm begin Turkey art stories - my turn.  Only a handful of us present.  Thinking about it I wished I planned projects to make the most out of them rather than just making, exhibition and making again.  Hopefully I can apply planning for MA to my work after the course.
1.30pm call Hannah back about writing a reference for her
1.42pm must leave to go back to Gallery Soup
2.15pm finally arrive at Gallery Soup
2.30pm start to work out what and how I am showing in this exhibition
3.30pm decide that I should clean the windows.
4pm buy squidgy
4.40pm sit looking at my work and wondering
5pm tea break, still no work
6pm try to make work, play instead
7pm Tomasz arrives, Jonathan is also here.  Argue about work, try out different things, and argue again
7.45pm Tomasz and Jonathan go to get food.  I finish putting up my work.  
7.58pm the guys are back more discussion about what is art
8.00pm I think I'm finished here
8.15pm still not finished, Jonathan has installed his work.  Tomasz is measuring.  I think I'm done for today.
8.30pm after further debate and insisting that Jonathan not risk his life to adjust the lighting I cycle home
9pm bath and stew (after)
9.30pm I get an email from Simon Lee-Dicker from OSR Projects with the image from the Long Lunch - so happy!!!
10pm a-n not working
10.20pm decide to do a word doc and upload tomorrow. 

# 152 [21 February 2012]

There are many things in my head right now. Topsy Turvy exhibition on Wednesday, curating BH13 Urban Sculpture Garden, schools workshops, the mystery of Cafe Obscura, peer critiques and of course the thing that should be at the center of my focus; my MA.

There are things going on there that I need to deal with.  I'm mostly demotivated, a little angry a little insulted.  At the same time I can see that I have my finger in many pies; curating, investigating, planning, organising and trying to do a bit of reading.  Am I subconsciously aware that I may be unfocused?  Who should I turn to for guidance?

I tried to take a few days off, I got lost on Portland high up in the hills.  I've tried to cycle lots too to keep me healthy; body and spirit but today there was a big blooper when I lost the key for my bike lock. 

Tomorrow I'm going to Gallery Soup to install work for the show on Wednesday.  It's a kind of back up plan for the black paintings project I have initiated.  The installation will involve tearing up lots of paper which will relieve some tension I hope but it puts me right back where I started again in October 2010.

Maybe that's what's up, I'm not into that work.  I made it.  I didn't like it.  Other people did.  I thought it had been anailated from existance but somehow it has come back to haunt me. Why do people like it?  Why am I so wound up?  Why am I so busy doing stuff for free?  I feel so undervalued I want to scream. 


Maybe I should go and make that black painting whilst I am in the mood to black things out.


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Comments on this post

Hi Sam, what IS going on indeed? The course is a challenge, that much I can say with confidence. They way I think is being challenged. I cannot simply do as I wish and at I cannot simply aim to please. I am making decisions and acting on them and justifying them. There are restrictions on time and resources which adds pressure to the whole thing. But beneath it I am happy. I am doing an MA, which I wanted to do. I am meeting interesting people. I am growing as an artist. Things are happening. Some days are harder that others; mostly the days where I do nothing and then wallow in the guilt of doing nothing. Thank you for your comments, it really helps to bring things back into focus.

posted on 2012-02-23 by Rebecca Strain

Hi Rebecca, You haven't talked about your MA work for a long while, so it seems, and I wondered if you were feeling a loss of enthusiasm, demotivation or something. Though you're obviously still working and making art. I'm curious, especially as I'm now getting to know the Fine Art department at AUCB (I'm 5 months into the degree). What's going on? Are you dissatisfied with the course, or just a bit burned out?

posted on 2012-02-21 by Sam Brightwell

'Study after Found for Final Days', Sept 2009.

'Study after Found for Final Days', Sept 2009.

# 151 [8 February 2012]


The sliding scale for art and craft could tilt so much that there's so little craft that, it is so very fuller of art that it makes you wonder; how did this appear in the world?


How did it arrive into my presence, and then, what caused it to be surrounded by whiteness; to be revered?


Who made the decisions; so that I am confronted with the presence of something that is almost nothing at all? It is so empty it only has the things it absolutely needs to exist.


Why is it here, now? In these surroundings, in this place in this existence and today?


This is not for you to know, maybe.  This, maybe, cannot be found out, resolved, answered but possibly accepted or acknowledged.


it shall not be affected with notice of, or put upon enquiry as to, the right of any person


ní bheidh sí faoi admhálacht maidir le fógra i dtaobh, ná inchurtha faoi fhiosrú i dtaobh, cearta aon duine


it is not for acknowledgement with regards to notices, to put under examination on the whole, the rights of any person..


Accept or admit the existence or truth of.


Information and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.




# mealladh = disappointment(n)


# 150 [29 January 2012]

Yesterday was the Art School Galleries of the Future Conference at AUCB.

In the morning I was working in the cloakroom which was a great opportunity to meet the speakers and delegates.  One of the most interesting characters of the day was Professor Richard Demarco.  When he arrived there was a lot of hugs and shrieks of delight, but I just took the coats and looked on as his adoring fans flocked to him.

Later, in the lecture theatre I'd sat with diligence and respect whilst the learned and experienced art school gallery managers shared their practices and observations with us.  It was a great insight into current state of affairs but I'd missed a lot of it because I was working. 

Then just before lunch I had a chance to sneak in and get a seat.  Mr Demarco got up.  I'd been told about him by Ronnie on Friday.  His eyes were bright and wide as he made his way over and back across the floor.  He spoke directly to the audience with the love of a grandfather.  he spoke of his conversations with Bueys his love on Edinburgh and it's castle and festival.  He was funny.  Every other line was a dry witty remark, but at the base of it he wanted to drive home a message.  Stuff could happen, if we want it to.  In fact whatever we wanted could happen if we work together.

The day continued, I caught glimpses of projects in Plymouth and Newcastle as well as a commercial gallery based in York who were aligned with York St John.  They'd taken a different approach and hung Dali prints in their gallery/cafe which seemed to encourage investment in the work of the artists who were based at the 40 studio spaces which were also on site.

Plymouth College of Art

Gallery North

Bar Lane Studios

After the formalities there was a reception in The Gallery we cracked open the wine.  Most people had left by now because of travel arrangements but Mr Demarco was still there, chatting with everyone, complimenting the curator, saying how great everyone was.  By now we'd had a visit from the caretakers shaking their keys so I made an effort to arrange taxi's and see that everyone was escorted to their cars.

Being an intern at The Gallery at AUCB has been great, but seeing how all these other galleries value interns has made me realise it's worth out there.  Their programmes are generally on the side of avant-garde.  The gallery managers and the curators they work with are interested in pushing things and the incentive is education.  In the main they sit in the marketing dept.  This means that they are usually about creating a credible reputation for the art school there are connected to to attract new students.

What I managed to catch on Saturday was a tiny slice of the range of art school galleries in the UK.  And according to Demarco were decades behind those in the US.  As an artist this has opened up the idea of working with these potential venues research for presenting research based work.



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Rebecca Strain

student of Fine Art