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Common Property 3: Urinal, Pipe, Balloon Dog

15 Feb

by Tom Overton

Jerwood Encounters: Common Property is an exhibition about contemporary artists and copyright curated by Hannah Pierce. While it’s installed in the Jerwood Space on Union Street, London (15 January – 21 February 2016), I’m going to use this blog to publish a series of three interconnected essays about One Direction, magic eye pictures, Marcel Duchamp, John Berger, Kirill Medvedev, Alexander Pope, and how copyright law and creativity have been intertwined for at least the last 300 years. This is the third.

‘Wanting a different copyright’, Cory Doctorow argues in Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free (2014), ‘isn’t the same as not wanting copyright at all.’ Some parts he likes, others he doesn’t:

I like the part of copyright that says my publisher can’t print this book without getting my permission, because I won’t give my permission unless they pay me. I don’t like the part of copyright that says that I, the author, can’t authorize you to break digital locks that are put on my works by an intermediary.

An example would be the Kindle I just typed that up from. This sort of device is a ‘roach motel’ in Doctorow’s terminology, a dead end onto which material can be moved, but never moved off.

Doctorow’s prose style makes his attitudes sound inevitable, but they’re not. One of the major contemporary examples of this is the Russian poet, translator and activist Kirill Medvedev. In 2004, Medvedev renounced any claim to copyright on his work. Explaining himself in 2015, he reflected that

I was increasingly aware of the fact that in order to make a political statement an artist must not just work with “political” themes in his poetry, that is, on the level of content, but he must develop a structural, institutional alternative to the current order.

Medvedev made this gesture at a time when it looked as though copyright legislation in Russia was about to be ‘rationalized’ by Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (this didn’t actually happen until 2012, after 19 years of negotiations.) It was an appeal to a different sort of internationalism, a ‘gesture of yearning for the international progressive intellectual, artistic and political movement that seeks a way out of neoliberal capitalism.’

The action came to a head when the Russian publishing house NLO took Medvedev up on his declarations, and published a book called Texts Published Without the Permission of the Author (2005). Though some of Medvedev’s statements on his ‘Actions’ read as though they could have been written at any point in the last 150 years, his response to the NLO publication belonged more specifically to the twenty-first century:

I think the idea of separating the author from his text makes a certain amount of sense in the context of the internet-author, who really doesn’t have a name or a body – that is, in a situation when only the author knows of his connection to the text.

I know about this because I read it in Fitzcarraldo Editions’ English-language collection of his work It’s No Good (2015): a book which has ‘Copyright denied by Kirill Medvedev 2015’ where it would ordinarily state ‘© Kirill Medvedev 2015’.

 

Rob Myers, from the Shareable Readymades Series (2015), photograph by Hydar Dewachi

Rob Myers, from the Shareable Readymades Series (2015), photograph by Hydar Dewachi

 

Probably the closest analogues in Common Property are Rob Myers’ Sharable Readymades. In the gallery, they appear as bone-white models: a urinal, a pipe, and a balloon dog, respective transformations of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917),René Magritte’s La trahison des images [Ceci n’est pas une pipe]) (1928–9), and Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (1994). Myers had designers turn the works into open source files which can be printed and used anywhere so long as they remain freely licensed and are accompanied by the correct attribution.[1] Interestingly, the idea itself shares some aspects with the small terracotta mock-ups of canonical art-historical works Luke McCreadie  made for the Jerwood Project Space last year.

In Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, Doctorow advises his readers to change their attitudes to copying: rather than investing time and resources in a small numbers of copies ‘like a mammal’, think ‘like a dandelion’ and scatter a more than you can keep track of, in the hope that one or two will take root. The idea behind this is commensurate with his idea that fame won’t get you paid, but you can’t get paid without it: the broader publicity it gathers for you as a creative entity will in the long run earn you more money than the short, editioned run of artworks would. Is this what Medvedev is doing? I’m not entirely sure that I would have read It’s No Good if he hadn’t staged his action. But at the end of the Guardian article which accompanied the launch of the Fitzcarraldo edition, he wrote

Of course the question of publishing poetry and manifestos is unconnected with earning a living – you wouldn’t be able to earn a living that way in any case. If anyone’s curious, however, for several years I was a stay-at-home father; more recently I have worked as a delivery man for several companies as well as a freelance book editor.

 

Rob Myers, from the Shareable Readymades Series (2015), photograph by Hydar Dewachi

Rob Myers, from the Shareable Readymades Series (2015), photograph by Hydar Dewachi

 

Despite, or maybe because of this action, Medvedev can get extremely exercised about cultural ownership, more broadly understood. In 2007 he protested at a theatre which was staging a production of a Bertolt Brecht play. The theatre’s director, Alexander Kalyagin, had signed a letter in support of the imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky had been the richest man in Russia; an oil company executive who stood up to its increasingly totalitarian President, Vladimir Putin. In 2012, Masha Gessen wrote that

No single cause has done more than Khodorkovsky’s to inspire Russian speakers everywhere. Three of Russia’s best-selling writers have published their correspondence with Khodorkovsky; composers have dedicated symphonies to him; a dozen artists attended his trial and put together an exhibition of courtroom drawings. In July, a group of Soviet-born classical musicians traveled to Strasbourg to mount a concert in honor of Khodorkovsky.

Because of Brecht’s anti-totalitarianism, Medvedev felt Kalyagin’s production violated not something so bourgeois as copyright, but something more important. His manifesto on copyright, after all, was ‘an ethical, not a legal document.’ It comes closer to a subtly different, non-economic area of intellectual property legislation called moral rights. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works states that

Independent of the author’s economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to the said work, which would be prejudicial to the author’s honour or reputation.

Is a production by a Putin-supporting director ‘prejudicial’ to Brecht’s ‘honour or reputation’? It’s the kind of subjective decision which the judge in Luc Tuymans’ case was called upon to make, finally deciding that his attempt at parody wasn’t funny. Perhaps, then, it’s better you go and see the Common Property while it’s still up, and decide for yourself. I’m not sure if these blogs count as journalism, but according to Medvedev,

in art the reader or viewer subjects any ideology to a kind of resistance test for believability, whereas with journalism you can poison a great number of people with you yourself see that they are false, dangerous and disgusting.

 

Rob Myers, from the Shareable Readymades Series (2015), photograph by Hydar Dewachi

Rob Myers, from the Shareable Readymades Series (2015), photograph by Hydar Dewachi

[1] I copied some of that text directly from Hannah Pierce’s catalogue to Common Property.

Common Property 2: Fame and Money

15 Feb

by Tom Overton

Jerwood Encounters: Common Property is an exhibition about contemporary artists and copyright curated by Hannah Pierce. While it’s installed in the Jerwood Space on Union Street, London (15 January – 21 February 2016), I’m going to use this blog to publish a series of three interconnected essays about One Direction, magic eye pictures, Marcel Duchamp, John Berger, Kirill Medvedev, Alexander Pope, and how copyright law and creativity have been intertwined for at least the last 300 years. This is the second.

Because Alexander Pope was a poet, we’d think of poetry as his intellectual property; because One Direction are a band, we’d think of theirs as being their music. But as I explored in my last blog, it was Pope’s letters which helped shape copyright law in the Eighteenth Century, and there’s a long history of audiences being as interested in biography as in the work itself. One Direction are a product of the X Factor; they were “manufactured” live on TV, and further promoted through social media. They themselves, in addition to the social relationships between them and with their fans, are as much the saleable product as their music. This is what forms the substance of Fan Riot, Owen G. Parrys work in Common Property.

The term here is ‘ship’, an abbreviation of ‘relationship’ which entered the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2015 as a transitive verb:

To discuss, portray, or advocate a romantic pairing of (two characters who appear in a work of (serial) fiction), esp. when such a pairing is not depicted in the original work.

Owen G. Parry, Fan Riot, 2015, photograph by Hydar Dewachi

Owen G. Parry, Fan Riot, 2015, photograph by Hydar Dewachi

 

The example the OED uses is from 2005, for fiction which imagined a relationship between Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter books. A large subsection of One Direction’s audience (the term is ‘fandom’) is dedicated to imagining a relationship between the band members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, much of which is expressed through Tumblr-based fan art. Anna Leszkiewicz’s piece in the New Statesman pointed out that despite the skill involved in developing the ship by producing, say, an extremely lifelike computer animation of a pregnant boyband member, this is work that exists outside art galleries; despite the fact that it probably has an audience larger than much that does get shown in art galleries. These, Leszkiewicz points out

are often young women who are intellectually and creatively dismissed. But fanfiction often provides a space for young artists who might be marginalised in the mainstream to create artwork that reflects their experiences, whether it be by racebending or reimagining characters in different power structures and dynamics.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were portmanteaued into the press as “Brangelina”, Styles and Tomlinson were shipped into “Larry Stylinson”. As the New Statesman and Telegraph reported, Parry staged an event as part of Common Property which featured the ‘ship’ being performed by two members of a 1D tribute band.

In that context, tribute bands seem a very twentieth-century phenomenon. They largely helped the original band and their record company; keeping the name alive and encouraging record sales so long as it didn’t get in the way of the original’s ticket sales. In theory, we might extend the same logic to shipping and “fandoms”. A key part of the story is that the band’s management are forcing Styles and Tomlinson into keeping their relationship secret, so as not to disappoint their fans. It’s just as likely that the management are happy with the development of this subculture, as it sustains the market on which they can sell the records and merchandise over which they do exercise intellectual property rights. The situation is different for the band members themselves, who clearly find the whole thing quite traumatic; it’s changed the way they behave in public.

 

 

The text used as the catalogue essay for Common Property reflects on the relationship between fame and the market. It’s an extract from Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free (2014), a kind of self-help textbook; a primer in ‘the critical skills required to have a non-zero chance of making a living today’ which gives a potted history of copyright laws before arguing for their reform. Doctorow’s central insight is that ‘we can’t stop copying on the internet, because the internet is a copying machine’. Many of the other works in Common Property riff on this essential idea. Antonio Roberts’ Transformative Use, a work commissioned for the show, takes on some of the most powerful and litigious copyright holders in the world, Walt Disney (the catalogue’s typeface riffs on Disney, too). Roberts also has works in the show which start with songs famously involved in copyright infringement cases, and runs them through purpose-built software: a copying machine of sorts. According to the first hit on Google,

A derivative work is transformative if it uses a source work in completely new or unexpected ways.

Something similar is going on in Edwin Burdis’s POLYTUNNEL-BANGERZ, a series based around the sampling ethos which came out of hip-hop: copying elements of pre-existing music and combining them into something new. Doctorow in fact talks directly about how this technique became enormously popular with Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, and then was massively curtailed by copyright law. If Paul’s Boutique was made now, clearing the samples would have cost $19.8 million. The same is true of imagery: John Berger’s collaborative TV series on the work of art in the age of photographic and televisual reproduction, Ways of Seeing (1972), can’t be released on DVD because it contains so much uncleared imagery of artwork. Burdis’s paintings in Common Property have probably transformed their sources enough avoid prosecution.

Edwin Burdis, from the POLYTUNNEL-BANGERZ series (2015), photograph by Hydar Dewachi

Edwin Burdis, from the POLYTUNNEL-BANGERZ series (2015), photograph by Hydar Dewachi

 

The same is true of Hannah Knox’s wall-sized installation Reproduction (2015). The technical term for a magic eye picture is an ‘autostereogram’, and specific examples of achieving the effect are copyrighted. Knox’s work plays at the legal boundaries of what’s possible, partly through her own autostereograms, and partly through painted clay urns which seem to steal from the Han Dynasty vases Ai Wei Wei variously overpainted, smashed, and branded with the Coca-Cola livery.

But as the exhibition’s curator Hannah Pierce points out in her introduction to the catalogue, it doesn’t always come off: the Belgian painter Luc Tuymans recently lost a lawsuit against the photographer Katrijn van Giel, whose work he had copied. Tuymans attempted to defend himself by pointing to his parodic intent; the judge ruled it was too humourless to count. Perhaps this exhibition about the relationship between art and law is necessarily also about the relationship between critical appraisal and law.

Katrijn van Giel is an individual. Cory Doctorow makes a distinction by arguing that giving in to the demands of large copyright-holding corporations amounts to allowing censorship to be established – a point also made by the black rectangles on Guarana Power, the work by the collective SUPERFLEX which led to Copy Right (2006), their work in Common Property. From here, he argues that such censorship can’t be achieved without allowing what is essentially wholesale surveillance of everyone on the internet.

 

Detail from Hannah Knox,  Reproduction (2015), photograph by Hydar Dewachi

Detail from Hannah Knox, Reproduction (2015), photograph by Hydar Dewachi

 

The full phrase used in the title is ‘Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, People Do.’ Doctorow dismisses the critique of everyday internet use as merely about wasting time chatting and social media: these are deeply human, important activities.

But as much as anything else, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free is Doctorow taking his own advice: a kind of autobiography and advert for the author’s previous work – perhaps most famously the Boing Boing website – and a platform for it in the future. And this is maybe where we get the closest to the separation between fame and intellectual property involved in the Larry phenomenon. Really, it’s a baroque illustration of Corey Doctorow’s dictum ‘fame won’t make you rich, but you can’t get paid without it’. Fandoms and shipping might not make One Direction or their management any money directly, but they help create the necessary conditions.

 

Common Property 1: SUPERFLEX and Tristram Shandy

3 Feb

by Tom Overton

Jerwood Encounters: Common Property is an exhibition about contemporary artists and copyright curated by Hannah Pierce. While it’s installed in the Jerwood Space on Union Street, London (15 January – 21 February 2016), I’m going to use this blog to publish a series of three interconnected essays about One Direction, magic eye pictures, Marcel Duchamp, John Berger, Kirill Medvedev, Alexander Pope, and how copyright law and creativity have been intertwined for at least the last 300 years. This is the first.

I’m writing this on a stackable chair with four steel legs. The wood-veneer seat is of one, curved piece with the back, and there are symmetrical cutaways roughly where my hips are. Something very like it – Arne Jacobsen’s 1952 ‘Ant chair’ – costs £296 from the Danish furniture company who own the design. If the one I’m sat on were worth anywhere near that, the previous tenants of my flat wouldn’t have left it behind. The differently shaped, less severe cutaways allow it to have most of the functionality of Jacobsen’s design without infringing upon his intellectual property. Copy Right, a 2006 piece by the Danish artists’ collective SUPERFLEX which features in Common Property, takes on this precise story by sawing the silhouettes of similar chairs back down to something close to an Ant Chair. The sawdust and excess wood sit on the floor just below; giving a physical, and appropriately messy form to the concept of ‘intellectual property’. In a few grams of otherwise worthless material, it represents the grounds for what could be an extremely expensive law suit.

SUPERFLEX, Copyright (2006). Photograph by Hydar Dewachi (http://www.hydardewachi.com/)

SUPERFLEX, Copy Right, 2006. Photograph by Hydar Dewachi (http://www.hydardewachi.com/)

The work pinpoints the almost metaphysical question at the core of copyright: even if you pay your £296, you own a chair, but not the right to reproduce it. There is a clear separation of idea and object at work here. Interestingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the Washington State University page on plagiarism connects the philosophy of René Descartes (1596–1650) – and his  famous assertion ‘I think therefore I am’ – directly to the development of intellectual property legislation.

Whether or not there’s anything in that, the laws which govern SUPERFLEX’s activity began to take shape in the century after Descartes’ death, as a way of responding to the copying abilities of the printing press. The British Government’s 1710 ‘Statute of Anne’ is generally recognised as the first real piece of copyright legislation. Visual artists like William Hogarth (1697 – 1764) were demanding greater commercial control over their images; a law was passed in 1735 in response.

As I’ll explore in later posts, Common Property is partly about artists responding to digital reproduction by blurring the boundaries between artistic and legal creativity. Centuries before, mechanical reproduction stimulated the same energy and cunning.

In a delightfully grubby episode entirely of his own engineering, the poet Alexander Pope (1688–1744) anonymously released a cache of his letters to the publisher Edmund Curll (d. 1747), a long-standing adversary who was soliciting material for a pirated Pope biography; Curll ‘took the bait’[1] and published them in 1735. Pope’s hand now appeared forced into publishing a ‘correct’ edition of his own letters. By 1737, an undeterred Curll had published five volumes of Pope’s correspondence from a Covent Garden shop that used the poet’s head as a sign.[2] When he published Dean Swift’s Literary Correspondence in 1741, a volume including letters between Pope and Jonathan Swift, Pope took him to court, claiming rights over both those he’d sent and those he’d received. According to the academic Mark Rose, Lord Chancellor Hardwicke’s decision marked ‘an important moment in the production of the concept of intellectual property […] in the court’s response, the essentially immaterial nature of the object of copyright was born’:[3]

It is only a special property in the receiver, possibly the paper may belong to him; but this does not give a licence to any person whatsoever to publish them to the world, for at most the receiver only has a joint property with the writer.[4]

As the academic Tim Padfield points out, Lawrence Sterne put it more concisely in Tristram Shandy (1760–7): ‘the sweat of a man’s brows and the exsudations of a man’s brains, are as much a man’s own property, as the breeches upon his backside’.[5]

Now we’re back on the subject of seating, SUPERFLEX made Copy Right as a continuation of the themes of another 2006 work, Guaraná Power. This work was made for the Sao Paulo Biennial, but barred at the last minute at the insistence of the multinational drinks company whose copyright it infringed. SUPERFLEX’s web page incorporates the story into the work by obscuring brand names with black rectangles. It’s the aesthetics of censorship we associate with a twentieth-century state at war, put in service of fizzy pop. The intention had been to work in collaboration with the farmers of guaraná, the energy drink ingredient, to highlight how manufacturers were increasing their profits while reducing what they paid the farmers. If eighteenth-century poets or painters needed to be supported as the originators of works which then went through various technological processes as it is mass-produced into the market, aren’t guaraná farmers the originators of the drink in which their produce is the active ingredient? That’s clearly not how it works. The deciding factor seems to be what part of the process we decide to value more, and for what reasons. It’s an issue I’ll try explore in my next post in relation to Owen G. Parry’s work in the exhibition, which draws on the relationship the band One Direction have with their fans.

SUPERFLEX, Copyright (2006). Photograph by Hydar Dewachi (http://www.hydardewachi.com/)

SUPERFLEX, Copy Right, 2006. Photograph by Hydar Dewachi (http://www.hydardewachi.com/)

[1] Howard Erskine-Hill, ‘Pope, Alexander (1688–1744)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22526> [accessed 17 August 2011].

[2] Raymond N. MacKenzie, ‘Curll, Edmund (d. 1747)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22526> [accessed 17 August 2011].

[3] Mark Rose, ‘The Author in Court: Pope v. Curll (1741)’, Cultural Critique, 21 (1992), 197– 217 (p. 198).

[4] PRO C11/1569/29, cit. Irene Tucker, ‘Writing Home: Evelina, the Epistolary Novel and the Paradox of Property’, ELH, 60 (Summer, 1993), 419–39 (p. 419).

[5] Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman [1760-7], ed. by Ian Campbell Moss (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 177.

Terra exhibition at Grizedale Forest

4 Apr

The Jerwood Encounters Terra exhibition is currently on tour at Grizedale Forest, following it’s showing at JVA at Jerwood Space in November 2011. Terra is curated by Haley Skipper and Anthony Mottershead of the Forestry Commission England and brings together five artists who are considering the relationship between their practice and the environment outside of the white–walled gallery space. These artists include: Jonathan Anderson, Edwina fitzPatrick, Luke Jerram, Anne-Mie Melis and Owl Project. In its new home at Grizedale Forest artist Melissa Hinkin has been exploring and responding to each of the exhibits through sculptural text works which will be uploaded to the Grizedale Forest Sculpture website each week. Find her first piece on the Owl Project; Sound Lathe & 9v Sound System here: http://www.grizedalesculpture.org/index.php/current-projects/42-artist-responds-to-terra-at-grizedale-forest

Check back each week to discover Hinkin’s further texts.

Melissa Hinkin graduated in Sculpture at Wimbledon College of Art in 2008. She currently works as an artist, writer and curator in Mid Wales and has recently been awarded a ‘Go Wales’ traineeship as Exhibitions and Education Assistant at Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown.

First Day Back at School

20 Jan

by Louisa Elderton

As the new Writer in Residence for Jerwood Visual Arts (JVA), my first day was appropriately similar to embarking on the first day at a new school, full of nervous excitement, and proved to deliver a treasure trove of fresh experiences and surprises. I say appropriately, because part of my induction included a guided tour of Jerwood Space, (which hosts the programme in its gallery spaces[1]) during which time the history of the building was progressively unravelled for me, revealing how we were in fact occupying the cavity of an old Victorian school building. As a contemporary art writer and curator, I have admired and engaged with the exhibitions and events programme organised by JVA for many years, and yet, having never ventured beyond the galleries and café, I found myself fascinated by a vital aspect of Jerwood Space that had never previously entered my consciousness, namely, its pivotal role as a purpose-designed rehearsal studio space for the performing arts.

Accordingly, I wanted to dedicate a few words of my first ever post to the history of Jerwood Space site itself, in turn highlighting for readers the raison d’être of this art space, and the place that Jerwood Visual Arts occupies as part of this initiative – perhaps this story is already known to many of you, in which case, I am merely openly laying the foundations for my expanding conceptual engagement with the activities that take place within Union Street’s arts hub. As Imogen Lee so eloquently puts it in her essay examining the social and cultural history of the Jerwood Space site: ‘The space we stand in cannot be the space we stood in. It has shifted; it is shifting; and it will continue to shift’. [2] Built in the early 1870s as the Orange Street School, this red-bricked Victorian building was originally designed to house over 800 students, and the existence of these children is still felt in the space’s architectural nuances. As I wander around the building’ exterior I see sharp-brick corners that have been rounded off just up to the height of the tallest child — these seem to carry memories (or imaginations?) of how these children may have once measured themselves against these bevelled bricks; in the winding tile-lined stairwells, speckled-grey chips adorn the walls where the children would have push themselves off to gain momentum for the next flight of stairs to be descended. These surfaces act as a palimpsest that tells the tale of a century’s own mark making, and render the hidden history of the building once more visible.

Damaged in the Blitz and subsequently all but forgotten, the Jerwood Foundation acquired the building in the 1990s — attracted to the area by the snowballing renewal taking place in Southwark, with both the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Tate’s new home in the former Bankside Power Station — and opened Jerwood Space in 1998. [3] It has since become regarded as one of the most significant rehearsal spaces in London for theatre and dance companies, and it is within this context that Jerwood Visual Arts exists. The galleries occupy the former Orange Street School wash house (photographs of the gallery as a ‘work in progress’ show the arrow symbol formed by the building’s structure that remains today, and the artist Patrick Coyle utilised this element of the building in his exhibition in the Jerwood Project Space), [4] and it is these former sanitised spaces that today enable a creative platform for a vibrant community of artists, writers, curators and thinkers to play, experiment and realise ideas.

I am writing to you now in my role as JVA’s first resident writer and thus the walls of this building will envelope me and allow me to play out my own story within them; the physical walls of Jerwood Space and the cyber walls of the JVA blog will be my home for the next three months. I aim to open up the wider contextual debate around the issues raised in the JVA exhibitions and events programme, and create dialogues with the activities of related arts organisations, highlighting national and international trends. Surface Noise is the next exhibition in the Jerwood Encounters series, a programme that explores themes or forms of practice that exist in the pockets between the main disciplinary fields of JVA’s programme. Curated by Gill Saunders (Senior Curator (Prints), Victoria & Albert Museum) and John Mackechnie (artist and Director, Glasgow print studio) this thoughtful exhibition presents works by a diverse mix of both established and emerging artists to explore the potential of printmaking in contemporary art today.

Quietly interrupting the installation process to see some of the works being delicately removed from their plastic bubble wrap shells, I observed how the ontology of printmaking — and the spectrum of artistic practice encompassed by this one word, ‘printmaking’ — has been subtly captured by the curators. Each artist represented in the exhibition embraces printmaking and utilises it according it to their own needs; the techniques are far ranging and vary from digital and photographic means to layering hand-mixed pigments to produce unique screen-prints.

Preconceptions of printmaking seem still to be tainted with the idea of reproduction, or repetition, translating a unique image into a water-down version that can be mass circulated. Surface Noise offers the notion that print is in fact a medium that has its own characteristics and capacities, which artists are absorbing as part of their practice — as another valuable medium for play, exploration and realisation. I am chomping at the bit to see the finished installation at the exhibition’s private view on this evening (Thursday 20th January) – hopefully see you there!


[1] Jerwood Visual Arts is a major initiative of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

[2] Imogen Lee, The Space Beneath The Space, http://www.jerwoodspace.co.uk/documents/JSHistory-TheSpaceBeneathTheSpace.pdf, October 2007, p. 1.

[3] For further information about the development of Jerwood Space, see Matthew Sturgis’ Jerwood: The Foundation and the Founders (Norwich: Unicorn Press, 2009), pp. 83 – 105.

[4] For further information see the press release for Patrick Coyle: Up,

RECENT DRAWING EXHIBITIONS

15 Dec

By Lizzy Rose

The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2010 was recently exhibited at Jerwood Space and is now on tour in venues across the UK. Having spent so much time in the company of the exhibition I wanted to write a blog entry that responded to it and to explore other current or recent UK drawing exhibitions that build up the landscape of contemporary drawing practice.

The Jerwood Drawing Prize is the country’s leading award in drawing, and is the largest and longest running annual open exhibition dedicated to drawing in the UK. For further information and details about where you can visit this exhibition, click here. Just under 3,000 entries were submitted for consideration by the distinguished panel of selectors: Charles Darwent, Art Critic, Independent on Sunday; Jenni Lomax, Director of Camden Arts Centre; and Emma Talbot, artist. The shortlist includes established artists as well as relative newcomers and students fresh from art school. The 72 works explore the scope of drawing ranging from the analytical to the poetic. Student Prize winner Warren Andrews’ naïve cardboard structure David M. Hutchinson Drawing Device No. 436 shares much of the values of drawing in its use of perspective and the continuation of line. The work is unassumingly placed on the floor; a broken little solar system of primitive shape and colour.

 

Image: Warren Andrews, David M. Hutchinson Drawing Device No. 436, 2010, Mixed media. Courtesy the artist

Betsy Dadd’s drawing titled From the train window expresses the rush of movement using a perfect economy of shape and line, pencil on paper.

 

Image: Betsy Dadd, From the train window, 2010, Graphite on paper. Courtesy the artist 

First Prize winner, Virginia Verran’s work Bolus-Space (signal) explores the layering of sounds and thought, her gently woven icons gently dripping through a circle of canvas. Drawing is clearly a diverse medium and there are many current exhibitions that seek to identify the parameters of drawing.

 

 Image: Virginia Verran, Bolus-Space (signal), 2009/10, Pens on canvas. Courtesy the artist

A group exhibition titled Kupferstichkabinett: Between Thought and Action [1] took place at White Cube in July this year. The show was curated by Susan May and featured over 200 drawings by a host of significant artists including Bruce Nauman, Lucian Freud, Antony Gormley, Raqib Shaw, Gabriel Orozco, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Gary Hume, Luc Tuymans, Georg Baselitz, Miroslaw Balka, Tracey Emin, Mona Hatoum, Damien Hirst, Anselm Kiefer, Julie Mehretu and Rachel Whiteread, amongst others. The drawings were hung in clusters on dark walls which made the exhibition appear like a museum; the term Kupferstichkabinett means a dedicated room in a museum for drawings to be kept. The exhibition sought to look at the pivotal role of drawing in current practice.

The Huddersfield Art Gallery is currently showing Every Day is a Good Day [2]; an exhibition of drawings by John Cage curated by Jeremy Millar. The composer John Cage is a major influence to musicians and artists alike, and is famous for his 1952 work 4’33” in which three movements are performed without a single note being played. In this exhibition the drawings are hung using a computer generated random number program similar to the Chinese oracle called the ‘I-Ching’ [3] with a hundred works on show and over nine hundred and twenty works on rotation. The placing gives rise to chance encounters between works, giving a sense that the installation itself is an ongoing creative process. The drawings express John Cage’s day to day thought processes, composed from a series of procedures. Unlike his better known analytical musical works, the watercolour drawings are poetic and fragile  Drawing is in its immediacy is more difficult to control; Cage’s struggle to contain process within drawing comes across within the works.

Image: John Cage, 10 Stones, 1989, Colour soap ground aquatint and spit bite aquatint on smoked paper © The John Cage Trust

In a recent exhibition at Hauser and Wirth curator Germano Celant explored Louise Bourgious’ less famous pieces. Fabric Works [4] comprise a series of patterned abstract collages created using bits of textiles including napkins and clothes collected from the artist’s life. The compositions are instinctive, following the patterns on the fabric, reflecting a sense of Bourgious’ compelling need to create. In an interview with Art Review, Celant explains “the fabric drawings can be taken as a visual diary of the last 10 years of Bourgeois’ life: something intimate and personal but at the same time a ‘shroud’ of the last stage of her existence and feelings” [5].

Similarly in the exhibition Rachel Whiteread: Drawings [6] at Tate Britain, Whiteread describes her drawings as a “working diary”. Her sculptural manifestations are predominantly large in scale and highly complex in materialisation, yet her drawings speak of something other, a seemingly more intense experience but still concerning the same themes. The cool analytical thought applied by the artist to deconstruct everyday objects is used to draw the clutter of her own world. In both exhibitions the fleeting qualities of drawing is seen as a revelation.

The multifarious nature of drawing is explored in the exhibition A moving plan B – Chapter ONE [7], selected by Thomas Scheibitz for the Drawing Room, London. Scheibitz’s interest lies in drawings that are not usually seen, made by artists who are better known for their work in other mediums. Scheibitz explains that the selected drawings “possess autonomy and convey meaning beyond the often very constrained and specific conditions within which they were made” [8]. The exhibition includes Tacita Dean’s cutting book for the film Friar’s Doodle. The film documents a drawing on the walls of Santo Domingo de Silos a Benedictine Monastery in Northern Spain and is edited in such a way that the drawing is never in its entirety but broken down into fragments. The cutting book shows fragments of the film with red pencil marking the movement of the cut, a flurry of thoughts are set down on the page. As an audience viewing this cutting book we are placed in a similar position to that of the viewer of the film, attempting to decode graphic residues.

Image: Tacita Dean, Cutting book for The Friar’s Doodle, 2010, Pencil, ink, Sketchbook. Courtesy Frith Street Gallery and the artist

The current exhibition at mima titled Drawing in Progress [9] curated by Gavin Delhunty, displays works by artists from post-war America. On a recent episode of the Culture Show [10] Delhunty comments “the artists were asked to select a drawing that for them represented an exploding moment, a point in time in which drawing did something more for you than any other media”. The artists shown in the exhibition are all highly regarded and influential figures, noteworthy for moving drawing beyond its historical conventions and parameters, forcing a reassessment of virtually all the criteria under which one might produce, view and discuss drawing. Among the earliest works in the exhibition are a series of six, colour pencil and graphite drawings on vellum from 1968 by Stephen Antonakos titled Large Open Neon. Originally plans for sculptures these drawings appear to describe more of the artist’s intention than the subsequent sculptures.

Image: Stephen Antonakos, Large Open Neon, 1968, colored pencil, graphite pencil and fixative (Krylon) on paper. Collection of mima Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Presented by the Art Fund under Art Fund International

These seven exhibitions explore drawings potential to uncover a more intimate portrayal of the artist’s ideas. Drawing has a life of its own: an autonomous value. The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2010 does much to explore the scope of drawing through a wide range of mediums and approaches. Artist and writer Deanna Petherbridge states in The Primacy of Drawing that “Drawing renders thought visible” [11]. The immediacy of drawing tells us something of when ideas are at their purest; thought captured as a frame in time is a timely subject and well worthy of exploration.

Please comment on this post if you have found any other drawing exhibitions that have captured your imagination.

The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2010 was exhibited at JVA at Jerwood Space from 29th September to 7th November. The exhibition is now on tour at South Hill Park in Bracknell [12] until 23 January 2011. For full tour details please click here


[1] Kupferstichkabinett: Between Thought and Action, 8 July—28 August 2010, 48 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6PB
[2] John Cage: Every Day is a Good Day, 20 November – 8 January 2011, Huddersfield Art Gallery, Princess Alexandra Walk, Huddersfield, HD1 2SU 
[3] An ‘I-Ching’ is an oracle of Chinese origin that offers advice according to a line drawn by throwing a coin.  The ‘I-Ching’ was used by John Cage to influence the process of his decision making when composing.
[4] Louise Bourgeois: Fabric Works, 15 October – 18 December 2010, Hauser & Wirth,  23 Saville Row, London, W1S 2ET
[5] Fabric Drawings Art Review: November 2010
[6] Rachel Whiteread: Drawings, 8 September 2010 – 16 January 2010, Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG
[7] A moving plan B – Chapter One, 16 September – 31 October 2010, Tannery Arts, Brunswick Wharf, 55 Laburnum Street, London, E2 8BD
[8] A moving Plan B – Chapter One by Thomas Scheibitz , 10th December 2010
[9] Drawing in Progress,  26 November 2010 – 20 March 2011, mima Middlesborough Insisutute of Modern Art, Centre Square, Middlesbrough, TS1 2AZ
[10] The Culture Show BBC TWO, Episode 16 2010/2011
[11] The primacy of drawing: histories and theories of practice / Deanna Petherbridge. New Haven, Conn; London: Yale University Press, 2010.
[12] Jerwood Drawing Prize 2010, Until 23 January, South Hill Park, Ringmead, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 7PA

Welcome to the Jerwood Visual Arts (JVA) blog

18 Nov

by Sarah Williams, Jerwood Visual Arts Coordinator

The new Jerwood Visual Arts (JVA) website has recently been launched and includes information about current exhibitions, artist opportunities, an exhibition archive with previous catalogues and event audio. Coming soon will be a directory of artists that have been involved in our programme since 2006 . Running alongside the JVA website the blog offers an informal area for debate and discussion inspired by the subject areas and disciplines that the JVA programme supports and will include posts from; artists, curators, JVA contributors and invited guest writers. JVA is also offering three Writer in Residence opportunities – more information can be found in the artist opportunities section of the JVA website. Forthcoming posts include: JVA Artist in Residence notes by Gemma Anderson and updates from artists and mentors from the Jerwood Painting Fellowships initiative. You are encouraged to respond and comment.

It is a cliché to say how important the internet is to our daily lives. It is as a huge resource; a space to gain knowledge, to feedback and comment, review and exhibit. We express opinions, create conversations, forge networks and showcase work and ideas. New media and the accessibility of digital technology has fueled the volume of content available to us. And with the recent boom in mobile technology the internet has opened up new levels of communication, access to information and networking opportunities. The popularity of social networking sites, online forums and blogs has allowed anyone to be a commentator, a publisher of thoughts and ideas. It seems fitting that the first JVA blog post should consider the wider context for artists using the web.

Blogs are so appealing because they allow more personal thoughts and opinions to be expressed by their writers. An essay by Jane Watt in reference to the development of artist blogs in the ‘artists talking’ section of the a-n website  titled ‘The art of blogging’ explores this area further looking at how artists blogs provide unique insights into artists’ practice and experiences as well as an open forum for discussion and feedback. A hugely popular blog, written by artist and curator Stuart Semple, is published in ‘Art of England’. One of his recent posts is a twitter conversation between Semple and the artist Keith Tyson.

Previously blogs have been an important part of the shows that I have curated for Jerwood Encounters exhibitions as a way to record progress, thoughts and ideas. In 2008 I invited six artists to participate in an exhibition titled An Experiment in Collaboration. Each artist chose a collaborator to work with on experimental projects that looked at the process of collaborative practice. The project was collaborative on every level: curator, writers, design team, artists and associates, shared ideas, negotiated changes and decisions to produce work that had unknown outcomes. The blog ran along side the exhibition as a place to record and publish thoughts and discussions and opened up a dialogue between contributors.

Similarly a blog accompanied the Laboratory exhibition in 2009 and was far more ambitious in scale as it sought to document the entire process of producing an exhibition from its beginning to end as the show continued to change and develop. This unique exhibition focused on supporting three artists; Steven Eastwood, Jock Mooney, Mia Taylor, and provided an opportunity for them to work on site at the gallery for a 4 week period. It revealed some of the processes involved in making, hanging, curating, documenting and exhibiting. The blog, designed by The Partners, was created to document the changes that occurred and became an online archive of a live exhibition. A review of the exhibition, written by Charles Danby for a-n magazine, looked closely at the blog as an intrinsic element to the exhibition raising questions about the role of an online catalogue archive in recording a live exhibition.

In order to have an online presence, artists need to record, document and promote their work. I recently attended the ‘Living Archive’ discussion which formed part of the Performing Idea symposium. Performance artist Janez Janša spoke about an ongoing piece of work that forms ‘Name Ready-mades’ – an ambitious project by three performance artists who officially changed their names to that of the former Slovenia’s economic-liberal, conservative prime minister. All of their works, their private affairs, their lives have been conducted under the name Janez Janša ever since. This incredibly complex project was brought to life by the artist’s enthusiastic PowerPoint presentation followed by a question and answer session. It was interesting to visit the artist’s website after the discussion to see how the project translates to a web archive format.  It was the combination of the live explanation teamed with documentation that brought the project to life, one format reliant on the other to give it meaning. The discussion raised many questions including practical issues about the strategies that artists employ to document and showcase their work.

In terms of promotion and selling work, it is now fairly standard for artists to have their own websites. Driving an audience to view a website can be a challenge however social networking sites, word of mouth, sending info through mailing lists and contact groups may be a helpful way to do this. In addition, artists often add their profile to websites that are dedicated to promoting artists work, allowing them to become part of a network which also assists in sourcing opportunities. For example Axis features over 2500 profiles of professional artists and curators, interviews, discussions, art news, debates and showcases the artists to watch. Axis also commissions artists, curators and writers to select and write about key artists and projects with online curated selections; ‘MAstars’ feature selected graduates from MA courses and an ‘Artist of the month’ is also selected and showcased. Artists hoping to sell their work have been known to use the website Etsy among many other sites dedicated to selling.

Listings and review websites are a good way for artists to promote their exhibitions and to find out what else is happening. Some listings sites provide an authoritative selection of what is good to see, selecting interesting exhibitions and events tailored to a specific audience. A relatively new and unique addition to this area is Art Licks, directed by Holly Willats who describes Art Licks as: “a free weekly contact, keeping its audience in touch and right up to date with what is going on in the London art scene – the art scene beyond the obvious. Art Licks is a creative and social guide that looks further than the commercial and the mainstream, doing the work for you by going and seeking out the best up and coming artist run spaces, artist collectives, curatorial groups, pop-ups, exhibitions, performances and publication events. Art Licks has a very strong online presence through its website which is updated every week, but also uses Facebook and twitter each day to create conversations with its fans. The Art Licks Tours and Magazine are two new initiatives for Art Licks, both of which have been received with great enthusiasm.”

Similarly review websites offer a chance to access information about exhibitions internationally. In a recent email conversation with James Smith, Founder and Editor of ‘this is tomorrow’ describes the motivation for creating the website: “http://www.thisistomorrow.info aims to become a comprehensive archive of contemporary art, providing those restricted by place or time with the chance to visit some of the most innovative and culturally significant exhibitions around the world. We believe that contemporary art has an intrinsic value for society that enriches people’s lives, offering multiple reflections on how we live and how our futures might be constructed. ‘this is tomorrow’ was born out of a wish to display art in the best possible way online and to provide in depth access to the largest potential audience the world has ever know It feels like a very exciting time for this medium as artists embrace not just the chance to disseminate their work, but to discuss the economic, sociological and political impact that the online world is having on our lives.”

It seems fitting to mention the effect of globalisation, teamed with the mass of information available on the internet, on artist practices. In a post on the Artforum website Lauren Cornell, curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York discussed her latest exhibition ‘Free’ which opened on 10 October 2010: “Today, what constitutes the fabric of public space is not only the expanded sociality we’ve come to experience with the Web, but a highly visual, hybrid commons of information. ‘Free’ attempts to illustrate how artists are approaching this radical change in culture to examine its possibilities, limits, and dilemmas.” British artist Charlie Woolley works across formats including; radio, text, collage and photography. He questions ‘what can be done with the images that we are confronted by everyday?’. Recent works have responded to images on television screens, frozen into photographs allowing us to experience the still beauty of these once flickering images. His popular ‘Radio Show’ uses the internet to stream his work live to a global audience and demonstrates how important the web is as a medium and a resource.

The internet is such a wide and complex subject area which I can only begin to introduce here. We recently held an event at Jerwood Space which began a discussion about the impact of the web on artist practice covering areas such as: networking, opportunities, copyright, selling and the web as a resource and inspiration for art production. The event was chaired by James Smith, editor of online contemporary art magazine ‘This is Tomorrow’ with guest speakers: Charlie Woolley, artist; Stuart Semple, artist & arts blogger; Sheila McGregor, Chief Executive of Axis Web. You will be able to listen to this talk on our audio archive page which is soon to be launched.