Weekly roundup 5 June 2016

The first two events were actually last Sunday – time ran out.

Exhibition: Biennale of Sydney: Embassy of Disappearance at Carriageworks.
This Embassy “brings together work by artists exploring themes of absence and memory, including disappearing languages, histories, currencies and landscapes”. Some of the works were very challenging on different levels – painful stories, huge amounts of text, jarring lights… More than I could take in.

Lauren Brincat

Lauren Brincat

One work that interested me, for quite specific-to-me reasons, was Salt-Lines: Play It As It Sounds, Performance Instruments by Lauren Brincat. She uses bell ropes – proper bell ropes with sallies. I’m an ex-bellringer, from a family of bellringers, and have spent many hours pulling on rope tail ends and sallies. The accordion pleating of the sail-cloth reminds me of parts of Mixed Media for Textiles. “Performance” suggests a nice mix of performance art (Brincat’s work was apparently rearranged daily by “aides”) and musical performances (depending on points of view you could include bellringing in those).

Lauren Brincat

Lauren Brincat

Perhaps because of those connections I found it difficult to see Brincat’s “meditation on the geographic borders that exist around the world’s oceans” (from the exhibition signage). That sits within the sailing references. And ropes like these I can only see as connections, not divisions. Perhaps it would have been different if I’d been there when the work was activated by rearrangement, with movement and the sound of rope through pulleys and fluttering sailcloth.

Performance was a major theme in the Biennale and it’s definitely a challenge for an exhibition that’s on for almost three months.

Lee Mingwei

Lee Mingwei

Lee Mingwei approached this problem in a very effective way in Guernica in Sand. The artist first recreated in sand the lines of Picasso’s masterpiece. Then over one day the artist first invited members of the public to walk barefoot through the sands, then he joined with friends to sweep the work with straw brooms. When I visited, a month later, the large, thick rectangle of sand on the floor was a maze of abstract, sweeping (!) lines, while on a monitor a video loop showed the performance.

Lee Mingwei

Lee Mingwei

It was a very effective way of presenting and re-presenting a time-based work. The footprints still visible in the sand made the performance feel immediate.

This links back to my earlier musing on ephemeral work. Even the blurred lines in the sand will be gone in a day or two when the Biennale closes, but its life was greatly extended by Lee’s presentation – and of course if he chooses the video continues to exist later

A pause as I realise a/the video could be available now, and found https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_4al72i4cs. Very interesting to hear the artist speaking, to find that he was still completing the initial drawing in sand as it was being changed by being walked upon. He speaks of impermanence, of cyclical nature (the sand will be recycled into nature after the show), more than of the violence and destruction of the war atrocity at Guernica.

A very impressive, beautiful, thoughtful and thought-provoking work.

Gerald Machona

Gerald Machona

Gerald Machona

Gerald Machona

Gerald Machona

Gerald Machona

Other work which combined physical objects and video (a frequent combination across the Biennale) was by Gerald Machona. I was initially attracted by a “space” scene – two figures in costumes and helmets, a flag with stars and stripes planted in a pile of sand. On closer inspection the costumes and flags were sewn, patchwork-like, with currency – decommissioned bank notes. On a monitor a narrative video performance screened, figures scrambling through sand dunes, passing through doorways to be transported through space, bizarrely interacting with suburban shoppers. There was a sense of dislocation, of the alien, of distorted values. I thought of imperialism, of claiming what is assumed to belong to no-one (luna nullius?)

Talks: From Studio to Clifftop: insights into the artists and process behind Sculpture by the Sea.
This session under the Vivid banner included talks by Sculpture by the Sea founder David Handley, curatorial panel member Michael Hill and three artists who have exhibited – Margarita Sampson, Lucy Humphrey and Dale Miles.

Some interesting snippets

  • broad church – consider “sculpture” any 3 dimensional interaction with space
  • qualities needed in a sculptor – a mix of optimistic and realistic
  • horizon Lucy Humphrey

    Lucy Humphrey
    blogged 3-Nov-2013

  • Lucy Humphrey: interested in exploring space and light; the impact of changing weather
  • Dale Miles: own the space; consider space, ratios, scale, correspondence with the body; the relationship of the work to gravity – splayed or defying.
  • Margarita Sampson - the yearning

    Margarita Sampson – the yearning
    blogged 15-Nov-2011

  • Margarita Sampson: Co-opt the landscape into its own story; Yearning ambiguous in form – the viewer adds their own story; be aware of potentiality, interior space of work.
  • Michael Hill talked about the challenges/opportunities of the live environment – sculptors draw with shadow, and here it is constantly changing; he looks for sculpture which makes you see a place in unexpected ways, from a sculptural perspective; artists speak metaphorically.
  • The venue was the top floor of the MCA, and the talks cleverly scheduled to finish with time for a glass of wine before the light show started. Some fuzzy photos:

    Lecture: Jessica Priebe: Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).
    Jessica Priebe introduced some interesting ideas about the ways in which we see and understand things. The building, Georgian gothic revival, was a fusion of historical and current interpretation. She told a story about Walpole actually wearing the gauntlet gloves of King James the First and a limewood cravat carved by Grinling Gibbons when he (Walpole) received guests to the house. Apparently there is some damage to the back of the piece, thought to have been caused by such use, and a deliberate decision was made not to repair this – the use and the story has become another layer in the multiple meanings of the objects over time.

    Another example was a chinese urn which was transformed into a relic by its use commemorating Walpole’s drowned cat, complete with a poem, Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes by Thomas Gray. The way in which we treat and display items becomes a part of their history and meaning.

    Collecting can be driven from different standpoints – as a gentlemanly pursuit, illustrating style and taste; of personal relics; as an antiquarian; and in the way of collecting modern art (where previously the art in a country house would be portraits of family or famous figures, perhaps prints of country estates…). My own note – this is a different perspective to that of Mark Ledbury the previous week, who finds a touch of the erotic in any personal collection.

    Exhibition: World Press Photo 16 at the State Library.
    All the photos can be seen on the World Press Photo website (link). Amazing photography, but the stories dominate. Distressing.

    Sketch 20160531

    Sketch 20160531

    1&20 sketching
    Chuck Close Leslie/Fingerprint (1986)

    Chuck Close
    Leslie/Fingerprint (1986)

    This week’s sketch took an idea seen in the Chuck Close exhibition (25-Mar-2015). Close used fingertip pressure to control shades of light and dark during the process of creating his etching.

    I used three metallic colours in a stamp-pad, finger printing onto black card. The image is based on a work by Frida Kahlo (from the front cover of the AGNSW Friends magazine – exhibition coming soon).

    It’s quite an interesting effect, especially as the card is moved around and light changes. It could look amazing on a draped fabric.

    Reading: Böhme, H. “Mythology and Aesthetics of the Textile” In Brüderlin, M (ed) (2013) Art & Textiles: Fabric as material and concept in modern art from Klimt to the present Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz Verlag

    I posted about another essay in this book 29-May-2016.

    Myths included Arachne in which weaving is a cultural technique with which a low-born woman challenged the gods, claimed her own skill. Böhme sees this as a “threshold between myth and enlightenment”. The spider as a motif is seen in the work of Rosemary Trockel and Louise Bourgeois.

    In the story of Procne and Philomena textile becomes a substitute for spoken language – it is evocative. An interesting side-note to recent thoughts about using text.

    Penelope used weaving as a form of self-assertion, getting some control while anticipating her husband’s return.

    All of these myths could be explored or could add depth to current work, but it doesn’t really fit in my thinking at the moment.

    Böhme’s discussion of threads and nets included Ariadne – her thread used to help Theseus out of labyrinth. This leads to ideas of route, vector, connect points, pre-cartographic. Hephaestus (god of technology) fashioned a net to trap Aprodite and Mars. Both of these stories trigger a response in me. Could this be used to bring grids, nets, technology, lines and stripes together?

    He also references Duchamp’s Sixteen miles of string – a “three dimensional line that develops in space”.

    Chiharu Shiota Conscious Sleep

    Chiharu Shiota
    Conscious Sleep

    Then we have thread as line “demarcation and registration, organization and rhythmization, enshrouding and unveiling, but also the engulfing and confusing, the tying and shackling of a space.” Artists mentioned are Shiota, Trokel, Annette Messager, Angela Bulloch and Eva Hesse.

    Annette Messager Chance 2011-12

    Annette Messager

    To Böhme nets are “regimes of order surrounded by disorder and endangered from within”. The structure has simplicity, economy, functional, adaptable. Is is a trapping or safety net?

    Much of this fits in with what is building as an area of investigation, but before moving to that I want to capture one more remark under the heading Garments in the medium of painting and sculpture. Böhme writes about deception and reflection in painting, trompe l’oeil, the fetishistic hiding of a scene behind a painted curtain, and then “A painting depicts something, but first and foremost it depicts itself – and this dialectic between representation and the self-staging of art that plays ironically with the tension between showing and revoking belongs to modernism.” I think I’m beginning to understand that. Something to keep in mind.

    Building to an investigation?
    Last week (29-May-2016) I wrote about a topological view of weaving, also the orthogonal structure. There’s the use of string as line.

    Reading Rosalind Krauss’s paper again led me to Sol LeWitt’s Expanding Grid – see Julia Caniglia “Dancing in “Sol LeWitt’s Expanding Grid”” [online] blogs.walkerart.org/visualarts/2011/02/17/sol-lewitts-expanding-grid/ on the Walker Art Center blog. Caniglia finishes “The art of the late ‘70s (and perhaps the ’80s as well) could be characterized as embracing the personal, the subjective and the narrative. By incorporating those qualities into his grids, LeWitt has found a way to revitalize structures that had seemed impervious to change and that had previously been identified only with an impersonal, objective art.” I love the idea of projecting on a scrim screen, the changes of scale to the dance behind…

    Another paper on the Walker Art Center blog is “Second Thoughts: Fred Sandback and the Virtual Line” by Jordan Carter (blogs.walkerart.org/visualarts/2016/05/10/second-thoughts-fred-sandback-and-the-virtual-line/). This lies a little further from my developing core interest. The work discussed consisted of drawings of 64 potential combinations of three lengths of yarn. Three walled spaces were used over the period of the exhibition to display sculptural realizations of the diagrams, replaced weekly with new variants. The constructions “challenge the viewer to actively engage in a dialogue with line and space.” That’s an exciting idea for a would-be sculptor. “The lines, whether emerging from the grid or floating in space, activate viewers and prompt them to imagine construction in mental space or to actually physically realize the sculptural form within architectural space.”

    All this thinking about grids and lines reminded me of my final essay for the Art History module – The Stripe. That was a way of being as close to weaving as I could in an Art History course 🙂

    In the essay I wrote of the medieval viewer, disturbed by stripes which disrupted the standard reading of levels in an image. How could a grid be disturbed or disrupted?

    I started with a piece of sacking – it had contained coffee beans. I was thinking of disrupting the reading of the grid, not the structure, so started shifting some warp threads a little. This is obviously treating “reading” literally.

    disturbed grid 1

    disturbed grid 1

    The weft threads were a little finer, but doubled in each pick, which gave more options in the simple idea. No material was being removed – just adjusted.
    disturbed grid 2

    disturbed grid 2

    The structure was disturbed – not just the visual, but the tightness and rigidity of the fabric. It became softer and more dimensional.
    disturbed grid 3

    disturbed grid 3

    Another way of disrupting reading could be by adding material that disturbed the image. My favourite plastic horsehair came into play. I experimented with different numbers of threads in each intervention, watching the impact change.
    disturbed grid 4

    disturbed grid 4

    The additions worked to stabilise the grid, returning some rigidity and also highlighting the nature of the weave visually. This new emphasis helps to further disrupt the original text.
    disturbed grid 5

    disturbed grid 5

    Given past experience with the plastic thread, it was natural to play with the grid once more, looping up sections.
    disturbed grid 6

    disturbed grid 6

    I like the way the grid is emphasized even seen at an angle, as the loops stride back and across the work.
    disturbed grid 7

    disturbed grid 7

    3 Responses to “Weekly roundup 5 June 2016”

    1. 1 Meg June 6, 2016 at 7:54 am

      Another extremely interesting post, Judy. To fix or not to fix an artifact. The Brüderlin book. 3D-ness in “weaving” – is it necessary, (other than for your study purposes), is that what makes it art, and aren’t all cloth 3D anyway, just not as exaggerated? Oh, if only my cloths were orthogonal. Thank you for a wonderful reading on this cold winter’s morning.

      • 2 fibresofbeing June 6, 2016 at 7:21 pm

        I agree with your point about all cloth being 3D Meg. I’m really just playing with ideas about perceptions and materials. We feel nice and organised in grids, but just a little adjustment and our understanding and assumptions are undermined. Or the mantra I learnt when winding a warp and dressing a loom, “a thread under tension is a thread under control”. What happens if release the tension, if we apply different tension (twisting) or let the material react to gravity or its nature or…?

        Currently I don’t find the old art/craft debate useful, nor any looking down the nose at something functional – or non-functional come to that. Not quite “it’s art because I / someone says it is”. More “I’m interested in this. You can call it what you like, but “art” is probably a better label than anything else”.

    1. 1 Weekly roundup 12 June 2016 | Fibres of Being Trackback on June 12, 2016 at 1:46 pm

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