Some Further Thoughts: ‘Decompression’ by Sally Golding and Spatial

The Hey Art, What’s Good? gang were kindly invited along to the Tyneside Cinema to check out a film from their Projections programme, which is a new programme of artists moving image. The motivation behind Projections is that these types of project are generally confined only to a gallery space, so with an entire cinema at their disposal why not utilise it to present a wide range of moving image works in a space designed for screening the moving image?

We went to go see an installation called Decompression by Australian/British artist Sally Golding and London-based electronic artist Spatial (aka Matt Spendlove). You’d be hard-pressed to call what we saw a film, but it was most certainly an experience. If you could imagine a hypnotic cross between a club, a light show, and a cinema you’d be mostly right.There was very little onscreen for a majority of the ‘screening’ aside from a sort of visual static, however this shifted part way through (I honestly couldn’t say when because time meant nothing in this space) to show quotes from a book called Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood. This book relates very much to Decompression given that it literally explores the concept of expanding what it means to be a cinema. (I managed to find a PDF of the book which you can access here).

A quote that I saw on screen that really stood out to me was “We have a compulsion to be occupied”, and I think this really hits home in the current age of digital and mobile media (if you haven’t read Rosie’s blog post about FEED by Zara Worth then you definitely should). I know I’m guilty of scrolling through Twitter or Instagram for ages simply because I wanted something to look at, and in the space of the cinema this would concern the images we see onscreen. The dramatic car chase, the quick cut action sequence, beautiful landscape and cityscape shots: a lot of the time they’re just visual fillers. And this can of course extend to the entirety of what we go see at the cinema; so many films have little real consequence and simply just aren’t good or engaging, they’re just something to go see. As such, Decompression works as a sort of response to this, a means to experience cinema in an entirely different way and to have the opportunity to see what that means for them. For me, it meant being completely and utterly mesmerised. I was engrossed in the sights and sounds around me, yet at the same time my mind was wandering very far and wide. I loved it.

This leads me to recall a quote I had to write an essay about at university, by philosopher Theodor Adorno: “Every visit to the cinema leaves me, against all my vigilance, stupider and worse” (Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life, p.25). What this can boil down to is that when we go to the cinema to watch a film we essentially stop thinking. Where Hannah Arendt posited her ‘two-in-one’ theory, detailing how thinking to the likes of Socrates would be like two people having a conversation, in the cinema one of these voices would be silenced. There are two distinct ways of combating this ideology, however. One could take it at face value, becoming dumb when faced with imagery on the big screen, or one could look a bit deeper, and come to understand how you have the opportunity to become wholly engrossed by something you otherwise wouldn’t. This is exactly how I was during the screening: engrossed. Being so engrossed actually gave me a lot to think about when it was over, so much so I recorded a podcast and wrote this little essay about it!

I hope you enjoyed this little ramble into academia here, this was such a fantastic piece and it is something I would love to look into further.

-Alice

Don’t forget to check out the next programme of screenings in Projections at Tyneside Cinema.

Further reading:
Expanded Cinema, Gene Youngblood (here)
Minima Moralia: Reflections of a Damaged Life, Theodor Adorno (here)
Stupider and Worse: The Cultural Politics of Stupidity, David Jenemann (here)

The Artist’s Book and the Book as an Art Object

Hey readers, what’s good? Back in university, I was introduced to the artist’s book at the International Artist’s Book Fair, an annual event that takes place in Leeds. Myself and one of my fellow Art and Design students manned the stall for the University of Leeds where we displayed and sold products made by our peers. I exhibited work and even managed to make a sale! But the biggest take away was a newfound love of the artist’s book.

The artist’s book is simply a book that is made or conceived by an artist (not to be confused by an art book which is a book about art). Some artists exclusively make books whilst others use books to exhibit collections of their work. Books provide an opportunity to collaborate with other artists, examine different methods of consuming art and potentially explore themes and ideas that may be difficult to communicate via any other means. Artist’s books are often self-published or published by small independent presses or collectives and the work produces is commonly limited edition or one of a kind.

An artist’s book can take many forms as artists bend the rules and challenge what we understand to be a book. Many contemporary artists’ books take the form of sculptures, others do not use paper, others are simply a stack of loose paper, some are empty and others are (literally) overflowing the page. Forget what you think a book is, art welcomes you to think outside the box!

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I am of the opinion that books, whether they be artist’s books or not, provide us with an intimate and often emotional experience that is unique to the medium. As a dyslexic who has not always had the best time with reading, my upbringing has still nurtured a great respect for the written word and the vessels that we use to consume them. Therefore, I am of the opinion that the artist’s book can provide a totally unique art experience, and not just unique in relation to other art mediums and methods of consuming art, but completely different to each individual viewer. When one consumes the content of a book, that relationship between object and reader is personal and unique to that person, that book and that specific time and place. Books often provide us with emotional landmarks in our life, whether they be a textbook, a book read for pleasure or a diary. The act of reading a book is, more often than not, a solitary act which creates a very personal relationship with the object and its contents. This is not to say that when a reader picks up an artist’s work that each reader will like the book artist’s book, it does not even mean they will have any strong feeling one way or the other. But the way that individual picked up the object, touched the cover and the spine, turned the pages and interacts with its materials, it creates an experience that is not only different to other methods of consuming art, but also one that is unique to that book.

In a previous blog post I have explained how a frame can change the meaning of an image and how it is understood. Books are simply another way of framing an artwork. ‘The Frame’ describes the context in which the art is seen and the value we place upon it. Consider the tacky laminated cover of a high school textbook in contrast to the leather-bound pages of a book of laws. We would treat the object differently depending on its frame, quite literally judging a book by its cover.

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Below I have provided some of my favourite examples of artist’s books to help give you a better idea of the ways different artists have played with the medium:

Barbara Tetenbaum & Julie Chen, “Glimpse” (2011) https://hyperallergic.com/182306/a-portal-to-unite-the-smithsonian-libraries-artists-books-collection/


Noriko Ambe, Cuts on a book of “ED Ruscha” (2008)
http://cargocollective.com/image-type-text/1A-Artists-books-digital-artists-books

Deirdre Kelly. “Coastal Walk”, 2013, edition 3, pencil on paper
http://artistsbook.lt/blog/2016/07/12/artists-book-exhibition-in-ireland-2016/


Angela Orr “The Breakdown Index Artist’s Book”, Watercolour and Acrylic on various papers (2015)
https://angelaorr.co.uk/artists-books/

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FUN FACT

We read in an ‘F’ shape! Studies have shown that we ‘read’ images and information at a glance, so fast we do not necessarily even notice. Firstly we register the information along the left from top to bottom. Then our eyes dash to the top left once more and take note of the information along the top left to right. Finally we go to the middle of the left side and follow a line horizontally across until we reach the centre of the page. This all takes place within milliseconds, before we have the chance to really register what we are looking at!

This information is used to make marketing more effective as the most important information will be placed along this ‘F’ shape. This means that we can take in an advertisement or understand a product at a glance as the information will be registered in our subconscious. The most successful marketing campaigns can use this to implant an idea with the intention of selling a product. On a less sinister note, artists and curators can use this information to make artwork more artwork easier to read, make a gallery easier to navigate and create a more pleasing composition

– Rosie

 

Resources // Further Reading

V&A Museum

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/books-artists/

Images:

https://angelaorr.co.uk/artists-books/

http://artistsbook.lt/blog/2016/07/12/artists-book-exhibition-in-ireland-2016/

http://cargocollective.com/image-type-text/1A-Artists-books-digital-artists-books

https://hyperallergic.com/182306/a-portal-to-unite-the-smithsonian-libraries-artists-books-collection/

The Tetley Gallery in Leeds hosts the International Artists Book Fair. Keep an eye out for more information on the website: https://thetetley.org/

‘FEED’ by Zara Worth and the Virtual Landscape of Social Media

Here at Hey Art What’s Good? we have taken a few opportunities to express our personal interests in the concept of virtual reality (VR) and how it is used in the context of the arts. We discussed VR technology in relation to 1UP North Gaming Expo, on our Instagram when we stumbled upon Zest Theatre’s street performance ‘Player 1’, and in various other conversations both inside and outside of the recording studio.

In this post I would like to consider how the exhibition ‘FEED’ by Zara Worth, which was shown at Vane Gallery, uses apps and social media to convey some of its ideology. The exhibition is a showcase of work by Worth from the last few years. The artist wishes to use her practice to explore our relationship with hand-held technology, social media and online culture. The show was overflowing with metaphor, so there is a lot to unpack, however I am most interested with the artist’s use of Instagram in her work.

“FEED”, the title of which describes both a social media feed and the cultural phenomenon surrounding food and lifestyle online, span across several rooms of Vane Gallery in the centre of Newcastle. The gallery is a crisp white cube space which added to the somewhat sterile aspects of the show. The work was a mixture of wall baised, 3D and audio visual pieces as this was a collection of various different projects Worth has worked on within the same subject area. This exhibition heavily focused the relationship between the impact social media has on society and culture, and vice versa. The crux of this is examining how ideas and values are shared and spread. A large portion of the work used motifs of food (in particular celery) and emojis. Instagram was featured within this several times, images mounted on the wall, spread on tables and the subject of moving image. Several television sets of varying size, shape and model displayed the same or similar footage of Worth’s instagram feed and videos she had posted on the app. Most of this content involved chopping celery to an obsessive degree, celery being the favourite food of many dieters. Opposite this, there were two rectangular projections, the dimensions of a phone’s touch screen, displaying similar content but to a much larger scale.

At university, I took a module which examined the concepts of landscape within contemporary art. Although I do not doubt that you are familiar with the term ‘Landscape’, these seminars encouraged us to consider the theory that, in the context of contemporary art, landscape is not a physical location but rather a constructed view. This relies heavily on framing, a topic I frequently discuss in Curation Corner. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the act of framing an artwork can completely change how it is read and therefore understood. Framing can take the form of a literal frame but can also include the environment the work inhabits, for example a gallery, a public space, outdoors or indoors, etc.

In the context of ‘Landscape’ and ‘the view’, this theory can be compared to looking through the lens of a camera, looking at the environment through the frame the camera provides. A good photographer knows how to create a successful composition, not by changing their subject but rather by making creative choices that impact how the subject is framed.

A perfect example of the idealised view can be found only 2 ½ hours and 109 miles away from Newcastle in the Lake District. The Lake District is a famous holiday destination in the North West of England. It is known for its lakes, forests and mountains which are so spectacular they have inspired many artists, including poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850), artist John Ruskin (1819-1900) and illustrator and writer Beatrix Potter (1866-1943). This is no coincidence. The land may look natural, but this aesthetic is only maintained through strict conservation that does not permit the land to become wild and restricts the buildings that can be constructed on the land. These rules were put in place to create the perfect Victorian resort. It is no accident that whenever rambling along a lake side or clambering to the top of a peak the surrounding view is phenomenal. This is a result of the Victorians (famous for their love of gardens) curating the landscape to create the perfect view. The environment is therefore synthetic, specifically designed to be framed and seen from specific vantage points to create a specific view. For this reason the land can be described as a landscape.

Think of this in relation to Social Media: the most successful posts are often also the most aesthetic. In this virtual landscape, it does not matter how beautiful or brilliant our physical reality is unless it can be successfully translated into the language of the virtual, framed by the platform. A photograph will only make a successful Instagram post if the subject of the photograph can be translated into a ‘view’ or ‘landscape’. A tweet will only gain traction if it can be framed with the correct grammar, emojis, and hashtags. In addition to this, social media posts must then be framed by the social and political climate of the virtual landscape as a whole, which in turn only exists in direct comparison to our reality.

For this reason, I believe that social media is a virtual reality that exists as a landscape. This is the landscape that Zara Worth’s work inhabits in her exhibition “FEED”. Worth included Instagram posts, QR codes and an app which reveals digital aspects of the work in this exhibition. Many galleries now expect their visitors to take photographs of the artwork upon their visits, however, Worth takes this to the next level by introducing technological elements which encourage the audience to have their phones in hand and engage with the work through the lens of their camera phone. By doing this, Worth was creating an additional framework for her work to inhabit. Here the artist is forcing her audience to participate in a digital, virtual landscape and interact with the concept of a view.

Worth has not created this landscape, but is utilising what already exists, bringing it to the forefront of her creative exploration. This encourages her audience to not only no notice what will normally go unseen, but more importantly encourage them to discuss it. This discussion is important as it is only by identifying this landscape can we use and enhance it. So often we hear about social media using us, the users, for its own gain. Whether it be through exploiting our personal data or the ad revenue we provide them with. I, rather optimistically, believe that if one has a better understanding of the way social media works as a virtual reality and its relationship with our physical reality we may be able to combat the issues surrounding this. Art can be the perfect platform to address these ideas. By placing Instagram in the gallery the app was framed in a different light. As Instagram is my favourite social media, I was shocked to find that in the gallery it came across as cold and manipulative in the context of Worth’s work. The heart-icon ‘Likes’ and the ‘followers’ became much less real and much more disconnected than when I have used the app myself. By changing the frame, my relationship with the app became different.

Perhaps simply becoming more aware of the realities that we inhabit and choose to invest our time into, the social media user can become more attune to the frameworks put in place to curate the virtual experience. Now, in the digital revolution, we exist in a duel reality, partly invested in the virtual whilst grounded in the physical. However, the everyday citizen of the social media landscape may be happily unaware of the ‘view’ that is presented and the impact this has on both realities. It is important to be aware of these elements, gain an understanding of how the social media user may be manipulated and question why this may be. Only through doing this can we utilise the ‘view’ of social media.

Worth’s work is thought provoking and engaging. If you did not have the opportunity to see the exhibition at Vane Gallery, you can access the archive via the link provided. I have also included Zara Worth’s socials:

 

Vane Gallery: vane.org.uk/past-exhibitions/feed

Zara Worth: www.zaraworth.com/about.html

                        Instagram @zara_worth

 

-Rosie Stronach

Some Further Thoughts: ‘Rift’ by Mani Kambo

Art and dreams have walked hand in hand throughout history. Prevalent across the arts from literature such as Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ (1823) which famously came to her in a dream, to cinematic classics like the Hollywood adaptation of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939) which used Technicolor to contrast the drab black and white reality that Dorothy inhabited when back in Kansas, to becoming the key focus of ‘Surrealism’, the 20th-century avant-garde movement concerned with exploring the subconscious. The meaning and existence of dreams has been the subject much scientific, social and artistic study. Whether dreams reveal aspects of our subconscious which we may otherwise be unaware of or if they are simply helping us process our day to day experiences they have been responsible for much creative contribution and no doubt will continue to do so.

Dreams can exist without time, coherence, narrative or form. There exists an idea that to enter a dream is not to create something new but rather a state of being that we are always somewhat a part of and are free to slip in and out of. This idea suggests that there is a stream of abstract consciousness that is constantly taking place that we can enter into a leave at will. This then gives the impression that we each have the capacity to abandon this reality and enter into a new one. We can do this not only through differing our physical state, such as sleeping, but also through the creation and exploration of the arts. ‘Rift’ could be a perfect example of this as through her chosen mediums and motifs Mani Kambo invites her audience to enter into her dreamscape.

This is most prevalent in Kambo’s audio visual piece. Kambo explained to us that she sees herself as mainly a digital artist whose practice is largely concerned with the moving image. The film exhibited in ‘Rift’ is an abstract sequence of film, photography and animation seeped in bold imagery that is coherent with the other elements of exhibition. The film is played on four sheets of fabric that hang an equal distance from each other in the centre of the room. As he projection hits each sheet of netting the images become enlarged and more distorted as the light passes through the fabric. The true beauty of this piece is that the viewer can not only walk around the film, watching as it changes from every perspective in the room, but they can also walk through it, literally entering into the landscape. As the light hits the viewer as they walk between the silk-like hangings one could argue that they then become part of the dream. As the film surrounds the viewer they can allow themself to become completely immersed. By doing this, they are inhabiting both this physical reality and the dream world that Kambo has constructed. This could therefore be a visual representation of slipping from the conscious to the subconscious, this physical landscape to a dreamscape, as seamlessly as drifting in and out of sleep.

One could even argue that all art is a dream, a dream that is becoming realised and grounded in reality as an artist translates the language of dreams into their own visual language with which they can communicate to a wider audience. There seems to be an overlap between. Examining Kambo’s work, one could explore art as a means of attempting to inhabit more than one reality at once. The ‘Rift’ that the title of the exhibition is referring to could be this pace between what is real and what is a dream, the space where one can exist within both.

Dreams are such an evocative subject matter I have left some resources and further reading so that you can delve a little deeper into the world of dreams within art.

– Rosie Stronach

 

Further Reading:

MoMA Learning: Surrealism

If you’re interested in how the practice of surrealism in the 20th century related to the study of dreams the Museum of Modern Art has information online at MoMA Learning. The link provided below offers information writings of psychologist Sigmund Freud inspired this movement as well as offering some activities that you can have a go at to pursue this subject more!

https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/surrealism/tapping-the-subconscious-automatism-and-dreams

 

Front Row on Radio 4: How do dreams become art? (6 September 2018)

This 12 minute discussion examines various different elements of dreams including, what they may be, what they can do, what they have inspired and the future study of dreams. This could be a fantastic starting point if you are interested in the study of dreams or perhaps want to start examining dreams in your own creative ventures…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06kg9wq

 

BBC Arts: Neon dreamland: Atmospheric photographs of Tokyo after dark (19th September 2018)

The cityscapes that photographer and art director Liam Wong captures exist in the space between landscape and dreamscape. His images of Tokyo resemble fantastical sci-fi backdrops or the setting of a futuristic video game in their dynamic use of colour and composition.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5Lnn9Lg48jv1RvvvLnKKrJK/neon-dreamland-atmospheric-photographs-of-tokyo-after-dark