Currently reading: Jo Applin – Bric-a-Brac: The Everyday Work of Tom Friedman, Art Journal 67.1 (Spring 2008) pp.69-81


Abstract: L’Invention du quotidien (The Practice of Everyday Life) .4 The significance of Friedman’s work lies in the conceptual strategies of assemblage and bricolage that he employs.1 For all their playfulness and apparent slickness of execution and conception, Friedman’s works and the stock of arthistorical motifs he frequently (if obliquely) exploits through various strategies of recycling and appropriation or borrowing articulate a model for thinking about art’s relationship with its past. 41 For de Certeau, Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, and Friedman, using the merest set of blocks to do it yourself, implies a very different learning of the world, one that is tied not to the passive and readymade form of the plastic toy or consumer good, but to a process of generating individual, active modes of engaging with the world.42 Bricolage and braconnage, far from offering outmoded approaches to making and making do, might yet provide die most productive modes of explaining and encountering one’s lived environment.

Applin puts forward the notion that Friedman’s process of making, and making do, draws on the twin strategies of bricolage (“do-it-yourself”) and braconnage (“poaching”), terms which she, in turn, poaches respectively from Claude Lévi-Strauss’s 1962 work La pensée sauvage (The Savage Mind) and Michel de Certeau’s 1980 book L’Invention du quotidien (The Practice of Everyday Life).

“Lévi-Strauss’s description of bricolage is a temporary, do-it-yourself form of collecting, reordering, and recycling – a borrowing from other spheres and practices in order to generate if not something new then at least something else. De Certeau compares and integrates Lévi-Strauss’s model of bricolage with the practice of braconnage, or “poaching.” Braconnage relies not on established modes of reading, in which readers passively absorb the text before them, but is, rather, a dynamic process in which the readers as braconneurs establish their own routes through the given material with what de Certeau calls an “artisanlike inventiveness.” For de Certeau, the two practices are commonplace, banal activities in which we all engage; yet both potentially enable us to produce distinct, oppositional ways of engaging with the world.

In defining Friedman’s work:

“While Friedman does not use junk or throwaway materials, his works do address the impoverished conditions under which the object qua object now operates.”

“A continual procedure of recycling lies at the core of many of Friedman’s works, a circuit of exchange in which the leftover remnant of one work provides the building blocks to generate another, suggesting a process less of renewal than of making do.”

Tom Friedman – Untitled (Eraser Shavings), 1990 http://artintelligence.net/review/wp-content/uploa…

Applin references Briony Fer’s “sculpture as leftover” – Briony Fer, “The Scatter: Sculpture as Leftover,” in Part Object Part Sculpture, ed. Helen Molesworth (University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 2005) – a book on its way to me in the Christmas post.

In 2000 Friedman participated in the group exhibition American Bricolage at Sperone Westwater, New York, curated by David Leiber and Tom Sachs. The gallery’s promotional material claimed to eschew “traditional artistic materials (but not an awareness of the history of art)” in order to create a “new cultural syntax out of the debris of the already-given.”


Axisweb Curated Selection Prizes – Winners Announced

I have been selected for the Axisweb Curated Selection Prize

“To support the next generation of curators, we invited students on MA Curating (or equivalent) courses around the country to take a look through our directory, choose six artworks and pitch for a chance to publish their Curated Selection on Axisweb.”

“We were delighted with the response and range of applications we received, although this did make selection difficult. But with the help of Alessandro Vincentelli, Curator of Exhibitions and Research at Baltic, Gateshead, we selected three winners who will work their proposals up into full Curated Selections to appear on the site in the New Year.”

The Winners:

Alice Bradshaw – MA by Research, University of Huddersfield
Alice’s selection focuses on artists whose practice appropriates rubbish and waste. She is interested in rubbish as a human construct with complex anthropological and socio-economic associations.

Susannah Worth – MA Critical Writing in Art & Design, Royal College of Art
Susannah examines the parallels between art and cooking, exploring what these activities have in common and how they touch on fundamental aspects of what it means to be human.

Helen Hillyard – MA Curating the Art Museum, The Courtauld Institute of Art
Helen selected artists who use language, be it written or spoken, as their primary material. Her chosen works, all by female artists, reveal an ongoing conflict between the need to speak and the difficulty of speaking.
Amelia Crouch, Lap and Skirt, 2008

The Runners Up:

Elizabeth Ibbotson, MSc History of Art, Theory and Display (University of Edinburgh)
George Vasey and Lucy Macdonald, MFA Curating (Goldsmiths)
Hannah Conroy, MA Curating Contemporary Art (Royal College of Art)
Joshua Tengan, MA Art Museum & Gallery Studies: Curatorship (Newcastle University)
Victor Wang, MA Curating Contemporary Art (Royal College of Art)



Rubbish News

Rubbish has been in mainstream media a far bit this week.

Wayne Gooderham looks at items left in secondhand books, specifically the vast collection Skoob Books in London have collected in their warehouse in Oxford. Pressed flowers, bookmarks, tickets, telegrams, business cards, postcards, photos and maps or among items left in books. Many items were probably accidentally left in the books, so maybe not actively discarded, and rescued from the rubbish category by becoming part of this collection.

The secret contents of secondhand books, 5 December 2012, The Guardian


The Shit London Awards 2012 got press coverage too. The organiser Patrick Dalton is keen to stress that the awards are not commenting on how shit London is, but specific aspects of it.

Categories are:





New 2012 categories:



There’s some rubbish (Best international photograph: Possibly soiled mattress, Sydney, Australia, by Katja Forbes) and faeces to be seen (Best photograph: Pigeons and Boris bikes, central London, by Andrew Smith)

but the shitness is broader than rubbish and faeces and incorporates shit signs, shit buildings and shit views.


The Secret Life of Rubbish has been on BBC4 in a 2 part series:

Episode1: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01p48tt/The_Secret_Life_of_Rubbish_Episode_1/

Episode 2: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01p65qn/The_Secret_Life_of_Rubbish_Episode_2/

Archive footage is woven together narrating the recent history of British waste management.

The first programme deals with the decades immediately after the Second World War from post-war Make Do and Mend through to the arrival of supermarkets and consumerism.

The second programme looks at the 1970s and 1980s including the Winter of Discontent in 1978 and the 1974 Labour Government policy War on Waste.

Dr Timothy Cooper examines the War on waste? The politics of waste and recycling in post-war Britain, 1950-1975 (published in 2009 in Capitalism Nature Socialism, vol. 20, no. 4)