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garnering empathy

em·pa·thy [em-puh-thee]
1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.

definition from the insufficient, yet currently convenient dictionary.com.

at an art opening (or 'private view' as it's called here in the closed system that can be the art world), i found myself talking to an investment banker who was really interested in what i was jotting down in my trusty moleskine about the show. we were chatting about a painting that he had made an offer on, a work by pierre gerard, which featured the exposed insides of an orderly, cubicle-filled office block and the exposed chaos of those within it (possibly once the privacy or structure of the wall was removed?).

being an investment banker, he could completely related to the cramped and mad quarters that were depicted and asked me a really important question: how do you speak to people like me (ie. those living in a trapped environment of great pay, soulless work) if you've never worked in that kind of environment?

i was a bit stumped really. i know that i look at universal ideas of structure and destruction, which often speaks to people across demographics, but that's not really what we were discussing. we agreed that using imagination is important (and that's what artists, creatives are excellent at) and that empathy was key.

now, i believe i have empathy. in fact, i'm pretty sure of it because i could feel how these people in the painting felt, and also how our investment banker guy felt, going into the office day after day with absolutely nothing apart from his paycheck to keep him going back. but how did i get that? and how do i continue to regenerate my empathy, so that i don't become a self-absorbed artist-type only being able to speak to other self-absorbed artist-types?

and i have no idea.

friend and super artist, anita larkin, has created an artwork, a machine for inducing empathy, but i'm pretty sure it's not a functioning unit. and i'm sure there is critical and learned writing on the subject, i just haven't looked at this stage. for me it's always been a bit intuitive and impossible to clearly articulate, but is that being naive? do i actually have to do things in order to maintain empathy (as opposed to apathy)?

and despite the above definition, is empathy more than just the intellect. isn't in fact a mental, emotional and possibly even spiritual action (verb, not noun)? do you need to actually feel something, understand, have the concept of transferrence in order to really have empathy with someone. and if so, can you do this only through the 'method' way of doing things, literally walking a mile in another's shoes, or does imagination cut it.

i don't necessarily have answers, but, as an artist, that conversation with paul the investment banker was incredibly important in reminding me of my purpose to communicate with people, to speak to them and that i should never assume an arrogant stance with it.



a gallery per day: june week 4

this week's post is up: Damien Hirst at White Cube Parts I & II, Cardiff, The Wellcome Collection and East End group shows.




despite struggling on the 'gainful employment' front, i've been quite prolific on the 'creative engagement' front and i wanted to just share a little bit of the excitement with you all.

red thread

the most super-exciting project that i've secured is to be an artist-in-residence-of-sorts at the research/planning agency Spinach. they have spunky offices and a rotating arts roster, all managed by their creativity director, martin, and he has invited me to do my installation from the end of july, for a week.

the work focuses on the thought process and the often messy or complex nature of that process and the development of ideas. which is also a nice little reflection on the work that spinach does. the piece is made of red wool and will thread its way along the offices of the agency, sometimes a messy knot of troubleshooting, other times a clean line of inspired thought. I'll also be installing during work hours, which will be a fantastic interaction with the people there, adding a slightly performative aspect to the work.

both spinach and i are excited about this work, and i'm keen to do more of this in other creative agencies, so look out for documentation in the future.

red letter day

hangin out in the east end yesterday, i stumbled upon a shop in which i could spend my inheritance (if i even have one!) and found some really cool enamelled copper letters. i bought 4 of them (no prizes for guessing which 4) and will be creating a relief/work on paper with them.

aye, aye babushka aye aye

last month the kaotic kraft kuties made babushka dolls and some of them came out fantastically - especially my friend sarah's. i so wanted to join them, but was in dubai at the time and swore that if i had a chance to make them, i would. well, at the afformentioned money-hoovering shop, they had a set on sale, so i'm painting them like my ova mortis works. i don't know quite where they'll end up, but it's cool to paint them anyway.

red stickers in toilets

i've been doing more red stickers (art works on sticker, stuck in public places). I'm currently focusing on toilets - giving people (actually, only ladies so far) something to look at and ponder while in the loo. It takes the work into the public, yet private and intimate domain. hopefully these end up as part of a joint show at toilet gallery a bit later in the year.

so, there you have it kids. a bit of an update of what's happening. keep an eye out for more info as these all play out, one by one.



a gallery per day: june week 3

this week's post is up!



red light indicates doors are secure

tonight i went to see the arctic monkeys in cardiff, wales, it was a fucking hoot and i have decided that i really needed to write about it here for several reasons. firstly, 'cos it kicked fucking ace. the bands before them were pretty average, especially the main support - they were trash, but "the 'monkeys" were so awesome!! they played like a bunch of lads who had somehow become huge but wanted to maintain that 'we're just playing in our friend's backyard' kind of feel. all the hits were played and totally killed it, the crowd sang along (pretty well most of the time) and the sound was super-hot. in fact i don't think i've been to a gig in such a large venue (CIA) and heard such a good mix. tip-fucking-top. and while i don't really go for lightshows, this one was pretty damned sexy - intermediate backdrop of 7 huge photostudio backlights which made it totally swanky, and then a proper backdrop of uplit hanging silver threads, all 40s like.. eep!

the other aspect i need to blog about is about the totally fucked behaviour at the show by some of the audience. it's a sign that i'm getting older, but people who see bands these days have no idea about mosh ettiquette like the way i was brought up to have.

so here is lauren's gentle guidelines for seeing bands.

1. short people down the front. that's the way it works, OK. it was getting ridiculous at one stage tonight, so a bunch of us short gals (and one jerk-off midget - more about him later) decided to bounce everyone out. a bunch of tallish lads were trying to push in to stand in front and instead of just letting them through, we told em to fuck off. ha! i don't quite know if that fits into having ettiquette, but it made life easier for a whole bunch of us, so it counts.

2. hands off, fuck-face! oh my god, the amount of blokes trying to cop a feel tonight was fucking appalling. just because we're all squished in, does not give anyone licence to go the grope! it happened a couple of times to a bunch of us and slowly but surely, we all started telling the ratfaced dickwads to piss off. in fact, at one stage, i saw our midget friend slide his arms around some young girl he didn't know like a creepy crawly. she looked so uncomfortable and just took his hands away politely, so i got all motherly and slapped him upside the head. (i know, violence doesn't solve anything). just 'cos he's a little person, doesn't give him the right to be a fucking pervert without consquences. funnily enough, because he was short, he didn't see who did it and tried to start a fight with all the big blokes around.. ha!

3. put away those mobile phone cameras.. please. lighters in the 70s were strange enough, it must be really disconcerting for a band to look down and see and bunch of outstretched arms holding up mobile phones, trying desperately to 'capture the moment'. the funny thing is, how often are you really going to go back and watch that shit video of the night, that's all grainy and wobbly? it's really just proof of 'i was there' and yes, being cheaper than the merch slightly understandable, but wouldn't you much prefer to get a well-designed shirt and support the band than a distorted mobile phone photo/video of the night? go on.

4. if you want to snog in the crowd, get a room. there is nothing more offputting than trying to dance and/or see a band while some couple are playing tonsil hockey in the middle of the dancefloor! it happened tonight and i may or may not have been partly responsible for someone bumping into them, interrrupting them mid-snog. maybe i was just jealous. whatever.

5. have a good time and share the experience. there was water being handed out tonight by security, which was a very good thing. it's nice to share it around too. help each other out - if someone has fallen, help them up. if they're crowd surfing, go with the flow, they'll end up at the barrier soon enough anyway and, as much as you can, respect people's right to enjoy their night. that means having a good time yourself too. i know i rocked the fuck out tonight and it was a total blast.



The artist and employment

Boy this topic is a hot one for me at the moment! After seeing the Fay Incorporated show at Toilet Gallery (above image, thanks to Feltbug) last week (see here for more info), I've been thinking about "Artist as Labourer", and then of course there is my own process of looking for work in this crazy country.

Since leaving art school in Australia, I have been pretty lucky to be working (mostly) in the arts. I worked at a gallery during my degree, briefly spent some time working in a record store (and if that isn't cultivating rock'n'roll artistic tendencies, i don't know what will), did some teaching and then worked at a National Visual Arts organisation for a few years, in a variety of roles and of course non-paid work running Project. All the while collecting a little pile of skills that are easily transferrable and being able to use my knowledge about the arts.

And since I've been in London, I've had a few 'interesting' experiences with working here and both of them have taught me a thing or two about myself and about being an artist. And the complicated relationship between work and artistic practice that I find myself rubbing up against every once in a while, ie. how much am I worth?

cooking as part of the installation of entropy at platform. not on minimum wage.

For the last couple of weeks I've been working in a kitchen, for minimum wage and suffice to say, this sucks. i can do it OK, but i'm not actually very equipped to deal with the stress that's in a kitchen. give me 5 deadlines, an artwork that's not working, an email inbox a mile long or a grant application to do overnight and i'm fine. However, none of those skills really apply for very long in a busy kitchen, day after day. Or perhaps i'm just a wooss (howeverthefuck you spell it). and as a result, i quit. i know my mum won't be very pleased to read this, but hey, she'll deal with it.

And then there's the crazy experience I had when applying for work with an architecture practice:

I went for an admin position in an architects' office ("with high street clients") and was offered the job, if i could dye my hair all one colour and take out my facial piercing [For those who don't know what I look like, I have blonde and black hair, with a lip ring, but I scrub up alright]. I've had 'funny hair' and piercings for most of my adult life and I've never been asked to do that before. It was quite a strange experience. And I'll tell you why it was strange and had a process all of its own - I'm outta my comfort zone. If i was at home, I would a) probably not being applying for admin (having moved a little further than entry level now, although not by heaps) and b) I know the lay of the land and I would easily be able to know (from experience) that it wasn't necessary to look a certain way in order to do my job.

I had thought to myself - If I owned a punk nightclub or a DIY art gallery, which had loads of punks, skins, tattooed people with funny hair and piercings as my main clients, and i was looking for staff. Would i say to an applicant who had straight blonde hair, perfectly done neutral make up and corporate clothes "you're great for the job, I like you and what you've done, but do you think you could cut and dye your hair, get a tattoo and maybe get a few piercings?" ? I knew that the answer would be no. And that the answer would be no. In fact I felt like asking them whether they had asked their African secretary if she would change her colour because the clients wouldn't like it, but decided not to stoop to pettiness. Although I was glad to hear when I told my mum about it, at the end of it all she said "by 'one colour' [as in the hair colour], can it be all blue?" Ha!!

Which brings me to the point of this post:

Being an artist is not a consolation.

So many artists I know are staffing the kitchens, bars and dining halls of countries around the world unnecessarily and I've decided, invoking the spirit of the spoilt brat (which I'm not usually) that this is no longer applicable to me.

I (like all my other artistic brothers and sisters) am a creative, intelligent, resourceful, organised and talented person and as an artist, can bring so much to an organisation in terms of perspective, lateral thinking, creative solutions and attention to the audience , no matter what country I'm in. And it's time I actually begin to push that. In fact, if you're an artist in a similar position, it's time you start to do that too. I'm a little bit over the artist-as-cheap-labour routine and you should too.

I moved to the UK to soak up the depth of cultural experience here. I've got artwork on the go, I've got exhbitions planned here and an opportunity to see and learn so much creative stuff, to actually get involved and make a difference. Fuck wasting that on a shitty grill and/or a small minded corporate firm.



Interesting 2007

Some of you will remember or know first hand about the Interesting 2007 conference that happened on Saturday. For those who don't, read some bits here, here and here.

It started for me on the Friday, where I popped into The Design Conspiracy to help out a little bit. I didn't help much but I've heard that every little bit helps. And it was a great way to build up the excitement too. Made it a bit of a two-day thing rather than just something on Saturday.

I loved the absolute breadth of the variety of the speakers and have taken away so many thoughts and ideas. The main thing I got from the day, actually, was the thrill of hanging out with 'my people'. Like the first time I walked into a Last Hemeroids show at the Vic on the Park. We're all a little geeky, a bit brainy, totally open to experiencing new and exciting things (except those who hated the chanting and the drawing exercise) and not afraid to show it. It was love all round, from my end.

Although, disappointingly, while the rest of the conference was as far from a conference as I've ever experienced, as usual, the lunch wasn't long enough. But as I was discussing with Paul afterwards, that applies to life in general, so it ain't all bad.

Another extremely cool thing that came from the conference was in fact not at the conference, but the people who were there. At drinks on the friday night beforehand, I got to meet my dear blogging buddy Marcus (who is as sweet, mad and awesome in real life as he is online), as well as having drinks with other bloggers Paul and Ben Terrett. Then on the day other bloggers I got to meet included Rob Mortimer and NP, Beeker and Claire ex D&AD, plus catch up with some of the other kids I've previously met, Sam, Gemma, Will, Charles, etc. So as well as the goodness for the mind, there was heaps of goodness for the heart too. In fact it felt something like a family reunion and a mensa talent quest mash up. Postmodern was the theme of the day and I'm OK with that.

And speaking of mashups, the one thing I took away from the day was my sketchbook. A compilation of all the mad stuff and cool stuff I learned and experienced at Interesting. I sat up the front like a girly swat the whole time and sketched out the day. Well almost everything. In fact my sketchbook is a swarm of notes, quotes, words and little tidbits of images from the day. Some are ghastly, others are not so bad. My personal favourite is the image of the 'tech table', the only constant thing about the day.

Grant, who spoke exceptionally well*, has suggested (again) that i post the sketchbook as documentation of the day. I've tried to find a way that i can make it slightly animated and turn pages, like a real sketchbook would, but I didn't get very far.

*[although I'm surprised I can say that, seeing as during his talk I had to run around avoiding a disaster - trying to find something else to draw with after my pen had died after it had been drenched in tea after my tea leaked from the recycled cup i had been using all morning. Fuck!]

here's a link to the sketches as a flickr slideshow (the closest i could get to an e-book):

Suffice to say, I had a wicked day. I didn't get bored once, didn't fidget or tut, or want to hang outside (except after lunch, but i really should let that go). And at the end of the day when we were all having drinks and meeting/catching up, I could easily have gone back to do it all again the next day.

Seems like the name of the conference was absolutely perfect and I'm looking forward to seeing Interesting 2008 happening.

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my nanna

In the midst of lots of thinking, writing, living and talking about art and art-related type things, it's time for a sentimental post.

For the last week and a bit, my Nanna has been visiting London from Australia and I wanted to tell you all about her and the great time we've had.

Nanna turns 77 this September and she's the spunkiest old bird I know. [She reads this blog and will be absolutely mortified that I'm blogging about her, and the 'old bird' bit probably won't help matters either.]

Here are my top 5 reasons why my Nanna rocks:

1. She is on a galivant around the world - visiting her family here, after 5 days in Singapore, is off to Chicago on Tuesday, is back here for a bit, is hoping to squeeze in a trip to Paris [with me] before she heads back home via 2 days in Tokyo. All on her own!

2. She's a wicked techofiend - she is here with her new laptop, which she has mostly managed to set up on her own, is access the wi-fi in the hotel she's at, bought a new digital camera on her travels too - and when she came over to check out my new pad the other day, brought with her a mobile photo card reader! What a gal! She's not great with sending text messages, but always replies to my ones with O k (note the space), loves trawling the net and is up with the basic photo manipulation software! In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I can convert her into twitter! Ha!

3. She's into 'doing stuff'. Last night we went to Royal Albert Hall to see the English National Ballet doing Swan Lake ('quintessential' anyone?), the other night we saw Mousetrap at St Martin's Theatre, the night before last her and her cousin went to see Chicago (the musical, not the US City which she's leaving for in a few days' time, although the irony wasn't lost on her) and tripped up to the London Eye. And when I suggested we go rowing on the lake in Finsbury Park (in the pirate boat, of course), she was totally up for it, despite a very inexperienced oarsperson. *ahem*.

4. She copes with my language. In fact, she just ignores it now, which I appreciate no end. I do tend to tone it down, but sometimes a thoroughly appropriate 'fuck, fucked, or fucking' will escape and she just lets it slide. That sounds like a lame reason why she rocks, but I know very few septegenarians (except Rob's mum) who can deal with us young 'uns and our appalling language.

5. She is smart, independent and stylish. She has always been 'smart' in all senses of the word - in fact she studied biology via correspondence in between her 3rd and 4th child, just because she found it interesting - and her fashion still isn't what I would call 'old'. Certainly she's not got the latest from Topshop or Primark, but there's no twin set for my nanna. I really admire the independence she has strengthened in her twilight years. She still drives well, travels (see #1), has opinions about all kinds of things, is interested in life and uses her brain.

What a fucking role model hey.



a gallery per day: june week 2

Duncan Hannah, The Lost Girl 2006
thanks to Rh|g website

boy it's been a busy week!

this week's post for gallery per day is up here



hold on, i'm coming..

this week has been a super busy week and i've got draft (or daft) posts waiting on gallery per day, cultural tourism 101 (part 2), how cool my nanna is and some more cultural observations about my time here in london.

they're on their way, so if you're not the patient type, perhaps check out the other blogs in your bookmark/RSS/blogreader for a bit and check back in a few days. it will be a nice surprise then!



cooking in the kitchen

i often compare being an artist to being a cook and artistic practice like a kitchen - there are loads of similarities between the craft of making things that it seems to work well. and you have to be able to multi-task, know when to put some things on high heat, when to just let pieces simmer, have the patience to wait until it's ready, but the ability to go-go-go when the timing is right.

and maybe it's because i'm currently doing kitchen work (english pubs have the best qualified staff!) but i thought i would just post about what's cooking in my kitchen (artistically speaking)

it's a hive of activity, but not a lot of output. i've several dishes on the go and am madly preparing others that i'm hoping will take off.

i spent last night concentrating hard on a little plan of an idea i've had, for a work i'd like to see happen in An Undisclosed Location. Like making hors d'oevres pastry bases from scratch, it was very particular and time-consuming, but hopefully will be a good base for some 'lovely stuff'. Whether it tastes good to others, I'm not sure, but as soon as it gets the OK, it's a matter of piping out the filling and voilà!

As well as doing that prep-work, I'm I'm also doing some brainstorming (gasp! the bad word at the moment in parts of the blogosphere) for a position i'd like to get. which involves playing around with words and using a bit of software to make things look nice. like working on a recipe, i'm writing, rubbing out, writing, scribbling out and thinking about how best to present it all.

and then there's another idea that has been slightly formed and is just simmering on the backburner for the moment. it's going to be a collaborative work, so today the other artist and i went for a bit of a trip to the space, to check it out and see the fantastic show that was on there (check the gallery per day stuff later in the week for an elaboration). it was like doing a tasting - making sure we're on track, that it has all the right ingredients in the right order and ready to reassess at any moment.

there a few little side orders i'm working on too- one being very simple, like a plate of chips and needs to be presented regularly, and another a bit like soup - ready to go, just needs heating, and they're the dishes that compliment the more involved ones, making a balanced diet of works and exhibitions.

unlike kitchen life, though, i'm not stressed about all this activity, quite excited about the prospect of it all taking off and the 'kitchen' being abuzz again. i'm not quite sure what the equivalent of wash-up is in my arts practice (maybe documentation?), but i'll cross that bridge when i get to it. for now, it's all about preparation.



a gallery per day: june week 1

having spent the better part of the week actually concerned with finding a place to live and a job to go to, my gallery visiting was not quite as deep as it has been in the last couple of weeks. you'll have to just forgive me.

in some nice news, i've decided to make a separate blog for a gallery per day. i'll post a 'new gallery per day post' each week on here when one goes up, so you can still keep up with what's going on. i'll also be trying to improve my grammar, spelling and language on there, because i'd like to take that element of my writing a little more seriously. don't worry, i'm not having a complete personality transplant, just a little bit of a tone down, so that if grown up publishing-type people want to take it up, they don't have to freak out about offending the kiddies.

it's here.

. 29.5.07
. Tuesday

Riflemaker, John Maeda, myspace and Anja Niemi, Statbad

I popped into Riflemaker because I had been enjoying a very yummy coffee at flat white and it was around the corner. I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with a John Maeda exhibition. I had heard of Maeda, but not quite registered it, so was pleased to be able to acquaint myself with a name that seems to be well-regarded in tech-art circles. I wasn't 100% enamoured with the exhibition - the text boards and the random op-art pespex reliefs were a bit random for me, but i did totally love his ipod works. There were 2 works in particular that were sharp as tacks and I would have loved the whole exhibition to be like this. But sometimes I can be greedy.
The first ipod work was an ipod video that displayed a screen that replicated the old-school Apple green screens and 'played' a logic code 'conversation' along the lines of:



When i was in high school we learned very basic code like this to play very basic games and draw very basic images. This contemporary chat between technological machines was amusing and poignant at the same time. I was pleased that superceded systems and machinery were given a nostalgic place by Maeda.

The other ipod piece that I loved was a relief sculpture framed in a beautiful box frame. There were 16 white ipod nanos piled in a fan-like shape, all running different films of passing scenery, abstract and colour-based work that didn't seem to relate to each other, but I think that was the point. It was such a beautiful moving colour field object.

The other exhibition at the gallery was the photographic work of Anja Niemi, whose eery photographs of ghostly girls in abandoned spaces were very beautiful, well photographed and reminded me of Emily Portmann whose worked got snapped up by Sullivan & Strumpf as a graduate. This may sounds like I'm saying that Anja's work was 'so undergrad'. That wasn't the intention, but it was quite single-minded. I could have bought one (the one of the girl in the bath), and for regular readers of these weekly ramblings, you'll know that while it doesn't necessarily mean a lot, it means something. Especially 'cos I don't have any money to buy one.

. 30.5.07
. Wednesday

National Gallery, Sainsbury Wing, Italian painters, 1350-1550

I decided to mix up my usual pattern this week and take advantage of late opening hours on Wednesday. Although I didn't actually stay until 9pm, there wasn't the feeling of pressure to leave that usually happens when i find myself engulfed in the National's collection. For good measure, I met both Charles and Young Will there today and while I was quite a crap gallery guide for Charles in the first instance, once Will arrived, we all found ourselves having fantastic conversations about all kinds of stuff, while slugging tea in the National Café. It was so acceptable, it was unbelievable. Stuff geek girls' dreams are made of.

While i was quite ambivalent about most of the Italian painting in rooms 62-65, I did arrive at Sandro Botticelli's Venus and Mars and spent quite a while drawing it. Getting Venus' proportions right wasn't easy, but once I got it, I really enjoyed it. I could really converse with the seraphims playing havoc with Mars' war paraphernalia (helmet, staff), i loved drawing Mars and his raised knee and the curve of Venus' body (through the sheer drapery) was lovely. While Boticelli has left me cool in the past, I can see why the boys and girls love him. Here was the beginning of the rennaisance and it was oh so sexy and completely legit. Sexual subversion, advocated by the church? Better than Eastenders anyday.

Annika Eriksson, The Soundtrack
Thanks to the Cubitt Gallery

. 31.5.07
. Thursday

Cubitt Gallery, Annika Eriksson, The Soundtrack

Tucked in behind Pentonville Rd, Cubitt Gallery is a fantastic artist-led-space, attached to studios. I felt right at home in the place that was raw, with concrete floors and an industrial feel. The video work was really quite good. I don't often feel like standing in front of a video piece for longer than a few seconds, but i stood in front of this one for a while. It's an image of a drummer on the street, just playing on his own, to either his own internal rhythm, or the rhythm of the street. Or maybe a bit of both. I have a connection with rhythm and I was fascinated by the representation of someone else's - both obvious (drums) and more subtle (traffic, citylife, solitude).

. 1.6.07
. Friday

Tate Modern, UBS Openings, Poetry and Dream

Regular readers will be wondering what happened to going to Tate on Thursdays, but I decided to go for a Friday this week for the same reason I shifted the National - late openings means i can just drift in there. And when I start working [which i have], i can still go to the Tate easily after work and spend time there.

If I thought the States of Flux section was crammed, boy was I in for a surprise in Poetry and Dream. There was one room there which was seriously jam-packed full of Surrealist works. After going to Surreal Things at the V&A last Friday, this show was a nice compliment to that. Giorgio De Chirico's work was the first thing in the room and it was so, so exquisitely painted, that I just stood in front of if for ages. The form of the classical sculpture was so perfectly rendered and there was just the right amount of disegno(form through drawing) and colori(form through tone) to provide absolute harmony. Unsurprisingly, I saw an artist sketching it when I was on the way out.

The exhibition covered such a range of (mostly) Surrealist and Dada works and what was fantastic about it was to hear the conversation amongst patrons. The images and style of symbolism/imagery is so much in the vernacular that whilst people didn't quite know what was being said, they felt they had the right to discuss it, which I think is absolutely vital. I was really aware of the dynamic of visitors during my visit and I would have to say that Poetry and Dream had the most visitor engagement thus far. The Joseph Beuys 'Stag..' installation got the least understanding/most fear, which was completely balance by Cy Twombly's large scratchy paintings of Quattro Staggioni (Four Seasons). Well done, Tate.

I was pleased to see some more Magritte works and totally loved this quote from a wall plaque:
".. the subtle undermining of the everyday was characteristic of Magritte and his Belgian Surrealist colleagues, who preferred quiet subversion to overt public action."

And speaking of subversion, Marcel Duchamp is one of the single most influential Dada/Surrealist/Installation Artists in the modern era, apart from Pablo Picasso (IMHO) and while I appreciate the method behind scattering his work amongst all the exhibits, I really, really want him to have his own room. His subversion and his proliferation were so far-reaching that it feels like he gets lost among his colleagues. I managed to put something like this on my little postcard drawing I did as part of the kids program (OK, so i'm old enough to have children, but that doesn't/shouldn't stop me), but I'm not sure whether that makes much of a difference, really.

In fact, while drawing my Tate postcard, I had the nicest time chatting with a couple of younger Tate patrons about the collection, which was just delightful, and something I thoroughly recommend.

. 2.6.07
. Saturday

No gallery.

I spent all day running around North London looking for a place to live and applying for work. I didn't feel much like going to a gallery by the end of it.

Mark Wallinger, State Britain
Thanks to the Tate website

. 3.6.07
. Sunday

Tate Britain,State Britain, Mark Wallinger.,

So much has been written about this work (rightly so), by Turner Prize candidate Mark Wallinger, that I'll just keep it brief. In fact, I'm going to focus on the Talk with the Artist - a video that is playing in a small nook on the ground floor, which is Mark taking you through the work and the impetus and feeling behind it. It was incredibly enlightening and while I usually prefer to leave the Introduction until last, i really appreciated it. He discussed the piece being transformed into an authenticated 'object' by being in the gallery, rather than an 'eyesore' sitting outside Palace of Westminster. He discussed that for certain conservatives, this work now has validity because it has been recreated by an Artist (capital A), as opposed to a passionate protestor, Brian Haw.

While the work was a little obtuse the first time I saw it, the concept of it began to sink in and I really enjoyed poring over the way in which such basic forms of communications - hand-made signs, raw wood, grubby material and greasy tarpaulins - have been 'recreated' using artistic means.

After checking out State Britain, I had a quick peek in the Modern Figures section of the Modern Britons section and was wildly disappointed. There were only a small handful of interesting paintings, including a self portrait by Gwen John and some of the daily scenes by Walter Sickert. I haven't seen other parts of the Modern collection, but I was really surprised that, in terms of figures, that Frank Auerbach and Lucien Freud, are missing. Surely they are Modern figurative painters. Perhaps they'll show up elsewhere and I can safely report that British Art is in safe hands. If not, the Brits are being seriously under-represented in their own gallery.

. 4.6.07
. Monday

Nolias Gallery, W+E M I X

I stumbled upon this gallery, while on the way to catch up with Helen. While the space was not particularly welcomming, the show was slightly interesting. In particular, a work by chinese artist Yuan Tian. Up on the mezzanine, there was a bedroom setting and the duvet/doona cover was printed in red writing in English "Hey, make yourself at home!" and Chinese script of the translation "Get the fuck off my bed, I just changed the covers!" (paraphrase). The Welcome mat was also in both English and translated in Chinese as "Take off your bloody shoes".

As a recent visitor, running into my own version of English translations (ie. Thankyou, can mean, Why don't you just fuck off!), I really appreciated the idea of culture clash and miscommunication. The rest of the works, looking at an east asian perspective of living in London was a refreshingly familiar inquiry and to be admired.

Next week, galleries I've got on the list include Jeff Koons at Gagosian, Damian Hirst at White Cube, Cindy Sherman at Sprüth Magers, Old School at Hauser & Wirth and hopefully the Design Museum (which i've been meaning to get to for weeks now).

EDIT: Sorry about two mega posts in a row. I promise I'll post something light-hearted and whimsical next.



cultural tourism 101: how to get people to enjoy a cultural experience

After my distastrous trip to Leeds, instead of getting a goitre about how shit it was, I decided to get constructive and get open source. Inspired by Sacrum, the Open Source Art School and the Advertising/Planning School on the Web, welcome to the first lesson of Cultural Tourism 101.

While i don't have a PhD in Cultural Tourism, I am a cultural tourist (especially at the moment), i have resurrected a gallery in a regional town from the depths of hell (to hand it over to the best) and i have a brain, which i choose to use often.

What is cultural tourism?

Dictionary.com didn't have a definition, but on a basic level, cultural tourism is attracting people to a place that is based around experiencing a creative experience, in order for them to be able to transcend their daily lives. Commonly, it is centred around music, art, literature, dancing, theatre, performance (as opposed to sport, business, or nature). as these are ways that we express ourselves as humans and give others a way to know us and know themselves.

Now, cultural tourism isn’t really a new thing. Even 2-bit towns in the arse-end of Australia have cottoned onto the phenomenon, but there are a few key points that need to be followed if a city/region/organisation is really going to attract tourists based on their cultural icons. I'm going to separate the lesson into two sections: events and institutions, because while a lot of the strategy behind it may be similar, there are a few key differences between the two.

Firstly, housekeeping.
There are a few basic questions you need to ask yourself if you're going to embark on establishing your event/institution as a point of cultural reference for someone:

• Do you want people to come?
Yes? Fantastic. That's what i would expect.
no? Leave.
What are you doing it for then? Is launching it online more your cup of tea, so you don't actually have to engage with anyone?

• Do you believe in your event/service/idea/product/place/whatever?
Yes? Fantastic. That's what i would hope for.
No? Leave.
Why are you doing this then? Perhaps a better option would be to actually hire someone who does.

• Do you have a good event/service/idea/product/place/whatever?
Yes? Fantastic. Now we're cooking with gas.
No? Leave.
Go away and improve it. Spend some more time/money making it right (not perfect, just right) so that you're not flogging a dead horse. Necro-sado bestiality is so last century anyway.

OK, chapter one.


These are the main means of contact tourists will have with your event. If you can cover these bases, to the best of your budget/ability/means, you'll be on your way.

Make a list of the people you are trying to attract. If it's only a few people, that's OK, It's only a few people. But the important things is that you're clear. You need to know who they are. It will help put everything else in check later on and it is a lot easier to attract people when you have clarity of purpose.

Often this is the first question that cultural event organisers (especially small ones) ask themselves, as they're often restricted by budget, or government funding/staffing etc. In doing so, they lose out on asking that first vital question, out of a sense of panic. After you've asked who, the when may be a whole lot easier

For example, if you want to attract students, don't make your event in the middle of exam time. Or 2 months before exams. Make it in the holidays, or at the beginning of semester. It sounds like common sense, but you would be amazed.
Consider things like what hours people work - maybe think about having a later closing time? Also, don't forget to check what else is on that day - big sporting events, election day, Mother's Day, Eid, beginning of Ramadan, etc. These will all be a hindrance to getting people to turn up, so it's best to avoid them, if possible. Knowing which ones to avoid will be made easier by knowing who you want to come. If your target is christian death metal fans, chances are Ramadan won't matter, but they might be busy on Sunday morning.

Accessibility is key for tourism. Not to reduce everything down to lowest common denominator, but to make it as open as your event can possibly be to the people you want to come. So your choice of where to have something needs to take this into consideration. And not just the physical accessibility either. Yes, it needs to be available to those who still have brains, but may not have legs that work, but it also needs to be perceptually accessible:

For example, a labourer with 3 kids may be intimidated by something held in the lecture hall right in the middle of an elite university, but could still brave it if it was in a hall open to the street. It's just an example (which i'm sure people will pick to bits), but what i'm trying to get at is to actually think about the wider implications of where you hold your event. This will be amplified in the next point.

Again, accessibility is the key and if they can't get there easily, they ain't gonna come. Full stop. Assume that all of the people, coming to your event will be walking. That is the basic way of getting anywhere and if you make it accessible by walking, you've got half your bases covered. It may sound obvious, but make sure there is public transport available. If there isn't , make it so. Organise a shuttle bus from the nearest train/bus/plane station. If you can't afford that, leave a bunch of push-bikes there. Whatever, make sure that people who don't drive cars can get there. Not only is it fucking simple, but it shows you actually care about the environment and are preventing drink-driving (if it's an alcohol kind of event).
If you have thought about public transport, make sure you're in partnership with the companies. Maybe organise a special deal where you can buy your ticket and a train ticket for a cheaper price. And make sure transport is running throughout the whole time (not just the beginning).

Once you've sorted out public transport, obviously, you have to consider parking for those who cannot or will not use it. I have a friend who hates public transport. I've tried to persuade her, but she will drive. You need to make room for people like her, so organise somewhere that there is adequate parking. Let the local residents/council know that you may be clogging up the streets for a while. Maybe include a parking permit in with the ticket (at a price).

And same with cabs. Let the cab companies know that you've got a shindig on. The drivers will appreciate the increased business and your people get a safe ride home. Maybe you could make sure there's a phone on site, from which to call a cab. Just to make it a little easier.

As you can see - the how is all starting to mingle with the who and the where...

If you've got all of the above covered, the promotion should be just like joining the dots. In fact, it's a waste of time and money if you've got great promotion, and a sub-standard event organised. You'll just alienate your visitors and have them blogging about it behind your back!

There are a tonne of ways you can promote cultural events. the great thing is that people who are into cultural events are usually open to being interested in interesting ways. Which means you don't have to go down trad routes of advertising.

Well-chosen advertising will still work, but choose wisely. Artists still read art magazines and musicians still pore over music mags, so a good looking ad in a well-read/regarded mag will still hit the jackpot. the saturday papers get read at a much slower pace and when people are open to transcending their daily lives, so if you want to go mainstream media, they still work.

I wouldn't even bother with a tv commercial. I don't think i've ever been to something cultural based on a TVC and the cost is astronomical. But i'm not a media buyer/consultant/boffin, so it's entirely possible that i could be way off.

Use the internet. In fact, if you have £5[$12.50] to spend on marketing, use £4 [$10] on a good, accessible website that tells you everything and the rest on a good well-placed ad (provided that you have everything else sorted, to back it up)

Whatever mode you go with, i encourage you to think intelligently about it. And if you can't, get someone who can because you will save yourself a lot of money, time and heartache. And if you've done the hard work (ie, the other questions), like i already said, the rest is easy.

Chapter 2 will be on institutions and i'll tackle that in a couple of days.

Your homework will be to go to a cultural event - a concert, a fair, a festival, a one-day talk, a poetry reading, a private viewing, and tell me what worked and what didn't, in terms of attracting an audience.