The First Cut, Manchester Art Gallery: Artists’ talk with Tom Gallant, Chris Jones and Nicola Dale 19/01/13


Continuing on the paper theme, I went to the artists’ talk at Manchester Art Gallery yesterday featuring participating artists Tom Gallant, Chris Jones and Nicola Dale. I mentioned Nicola’s work Sequel (2012) in a previous post which was commissioned by the gallery specifically for the show. Both the oak tree and cut paper leaves are made from waste materials. The leaves are made from reference books which Nicola collects from charity shops, book sales and other sources where she can get hold of books cheaply or for free. They are often out of date reference books which are no longer useful in their original purpose. Nicola has carefully arranged the leaves by content so that the physical tree represents a tree of knowledge which specific branches for specific areas of knowledge. The tree was from her friend’s small garden where an acorn had been planted 12 years ago and had been blocking out too much light but her friend hadn’t wanted to just cut it down and take it to the tip. The remaining use-values of these materials had been determined by the previous owners at that specific time and have been recycled to give another, less conventional purpose and value by the artist.

Also in the collection galleries is another work by Nicola, Down (2010), made from 1970s Ordnance Survey maps which were being thrown away from her local library. Again, these reference books may have some limited remaining market value but the previous owners had rendered them waste as they no longer had held any purpose and value for the library. 12,000 feathers have painstakingly crafted by the artist and she describes each installation as unique, site-responsive even, in order to create a new installation each time. The reconfiguration of the feathers is in each installation a new mapping of territory. In Manchester Art Gallery they are positioned on a low circular plinth. The feathers are symbolic of loss in that as birds shed feathers, traditional skills of map reading are lost as new GPS technologies supersede the need to read a paper map.


Currently reading: Haggith, Mandy. (2008). Paper Trails: Trees to Trash – The True Cost of Paper. Virgin Books, London.

Chapter 1: Addicted to Pulp

Haggith cites quantities of the average British person’s annual paper consumption from the UK Federation of Paper Industries Waste:

20kg (44lb) tissue products

60kg (132lb) paper packaging

10kg (22lb) “other”

80kg (176lb) graphic paper

40kg (88lb) newsprint

200kg (440lb) total

“Used paper is NOT a waste material,” Haggith is quick to assert, “it consists of strong plant fibres that can be used again.” (p.15)

Paper’s re-use value is readily quantifiable: “In New York City fines of $2,000 are imposed for the theft of waste paper from garbage left out on the street for collection indicating that it is valued at least by ‘rustlers’. (p.15)

Chapter 2: From Artisan to Industrialists

Haggith mentions a couple of waste materials paper has been made from: Tasmanian paper artisan Joanna Gair makes Roo Poo Paper from kangaroo dung. In Scandinavia elk droppings are used, buffalo turds are used in Africa and fibre from elephant dung is used for Ellie’s Poo Paper. (p.22)

Tracing China’s 2 million year history of paper production, Haggith finds that rice, straw, sugar cane waste and bamboo are just as good for making paper as tree pulp. (p.22)

“Up until the late nineteenth century almost all paper ij Europe was made from rags, and in fact a Scottish regulation made it illegal to make paper out of anything other than waste materials.” (p.27)

“The British tradition of doot to door collection of old clothes and fabric by the ‘rag and bone man’ stemmed from the demand by the paper industry for rags for fibre and bones for size” (a kind of glue used to strengthen and coat paper for printing). (p.28)

Chapter 3: Checks and Balances

“The most flagrantly wasteful paper we produce is the unsolicited postal itesm known officially as ‘direct mail’ but more widely as junk mail, the vast bulk of which goes straight into the bin without being opened.” The finance sector and mail order catalogue companies are the worst offenders. (p.51)

On the waste of paper making: “Making a single sheet of A4 paper not only causes as much greenhouse gas emissions as burning a light bulb for an hour it also uses a mug full of water. (p.25)


Currently Reading: Zucker, Paul. 1968. Fascination of Decay. The Gregg Press, New Jersey.

In the introduction Why Ruins, Zucker includes the following definitions of the ruin, it’s image and value (p.2-3):

“A ruin exists in a state of continual transition caused by natural deterioration, specific catastrophe or other circumstances.”

“The image of the ruin is always ambivalent and open to manifold interpretations.”

“Functional values which the ruin might have possessed originally are of even less value in its aesthetic interpretation.”

“Devastated by time or by wilful destruction, incomplete as they re, ruins represent a combination of created, man-made forms and organic nature.”

Zucker traces the history of the ruin in the main chapters. In The Beginning, he accounts, “Although Boccaccio, writing in the fourteenth century, described some ruins in the vicinity of Baiai a “old stones and yet new for modern souls,” the conscious awareness of ruins as such did not develop until the early renaissance. (p.11)

[During the eighteenth century] the general interest in ruins was most intense, and the motif reached its peak both in landscaping and in the applied arts. Innumerable artificial ruins appeared in parks, and even the most everyday household utensils were decorated with images of decaying buildings and monuments.” (Both ruins and parks were reactions against the formal geometric French gardens of Le Nôtre.)

At the end of the book, Zucker briefly mentions the nineteenth century kitsch of ruins and twentieth century symbolism of industrialisation, urbanisation and devastations of war.


Eduardo Coutinho – Scavengers: Boca de Lixo
Brazil, 1993, 49 Min, Color, Portuguese

Synopsis: The daily routine of poor people of Itaoca, São Gonçalo, state of Rio de Janeiro, who make a living out of revolving garbage.

Boca de Lixo roughly translates as “garbage mouth”

Translation from Eduardo’s blog: The scenario, at first glance, might shock: a pour point of trash in Sao Goncalo, the city of Rio de Janeiro. Used syringes, food in a state of decomposition, a state of absolute misery. People select objects and food that can be reused, which was rejected by a person serves as a survival factor for this. The bleak scenario does not express the mood of collectors. There is a set of integrity and values ​​that surpass all that state, and the camera Coutinho is responsible for this approach. Some deny things that eat trash (even if the camera denies), others say with pride, some are there because of lack of opportunity, others by choice: “(…) is better than having boss (…)”. The film is releasing the claim of an adverse context record to the standards of a society that respects the rights of its citizens and pulls her contradictions and ambiguities, which in turn, are able to resize it and reinvent it.

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY-4w-JQkOw
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfc27TxOjs
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neXJc8WHkEM
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34EdlpwfEmc
Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJVyE-m56Ow

Torrent: Download Movie

Emule: Eduardo Coutinho – Boca_de_Lixo-006.avi

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Tuesday Talks at the Whitworth Art Gallery: Samson Kambula 15/01/13

Artist and author Samson Kambalu has co-curated the exhibition Tattoo City: The First Three Chapters with Castlefield Gallery’s in house curator Clarissa Corfe. The exhibition includes Kambalu’s work interspersed with a selection of art inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s esoteric philosophy of freedom – anthroposophy, as well as newly commissioned and existing works by guest artists including Joseph Beuys and Jochem Hendricks. Kambalu’s first book The Jive Talker or How to Get a British Passport, published by Random House, Simon & Schuster and Unionsverlag in 2008, is a memoir of his upbringing in Malawi and the influence of Nietzsche in shaping his own art practice and quasi-religion ‘Holyballism’, centred around a sculpture of football wrapped in pages of the Bible. Born in Malawi, Kambalu has exhibited widely, including exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery, Tokyo International Art Festival, Brooklyn Institute of Contemporary Art, New York and the Museum der Bildenden Künste Leipzig. He is currently a PhD candidate at Chelsea College of Art and Design.


Samson introduced his philosophy to creating conceptual art including his background growing up in Malawi. One key reference to his 2003 work Holy Ball, a football covered in pages from the Holy Bible, is the footballs children make out of plastic bags. For his first residency, Samson took a collection of these handmade footballs from his neighbourhood in Malawi in a suitcase to Amsterdam.

Western philosophy played an important role in his upbringing, questioning everything about the world around him. Nietzsche and Bataille were cited as particularly important philosophers, concerning excess that has influenced Samson’s practice. “We need more useless things,” Samson declared; more art and less computers, less airlines, roads and planes. “Art should create wastage,” he claims; i.e. art should not be divisive/instrumental towards economic/regeneration ends, as it is often demanded by politicians and public grant bodies.

Samson also mentioned categories in his talk as something particular to Western ideologies. This necessity to compartmentalise everything in order to make sense of the world is something he finds quite strange coming from Africa.

More info: http://www.youtube.com/user/Holyballism