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london proxy required

Wed 4 Jul '12
19:00 - 21:00


Wellcome Collection Auditorium
Euston Road
London NW1 2BE

Reports welcome in the comments.


it's all about the planes

so, if i'm going to generalise wildly and irresponsibly about art, then i'll say this:

london is all about totty, berlin is all about the planes.

in the last week and a bit, i've seen a creepy amount of artworks here about airplanes, airports, travel and flying. i don't know whether it's just me, or whether it really is a 'thing'.

last week i caught the last day of the most-excellent exhibition at the deutsche guggenheim by roman ondàk: do not walk outside this area. the exhibition was primarily about constructing narratives and realities from slices of life, using sculpture, text, found imagery and a fucking big airplane wing.

i vaguely remember seeing his postcard works before; in which he and his wife sent franceso bonami from the fondazione sandretto re rebaudengo postcards from around the world with the same stamp: "we are still alive", and i like the combination of faux optimism, cutting commentary on the privilege of travel and safety and the process of continuing to send these things from around the world.

and, the rest of the works in the show were way better than these (including the brilliant 'newspaper clippings' of eastern european news with all the leading images of people queueing or waiting).

and, the two rooms of the gallery were bridged by the wing of a domestic airplane. complete with the words: DO NOT WALK OUTSIDE THIS AREA.
the audience were invited to walk the wing to get to the other room, although not outside the area.
i was excited. how often do i get to walk on a plane wing? never. and especially as i had literally alighted a plane not an hour prior to attending the show and i had seen those words on the wing outside my window, as we flew into berlin (although they were in french having flow air france, natch).

a few days later, i went to tempelhof to get a bit of open air, check out the crazy airport (having recently finished lights out in wonderland) and i stumble upon the raumlabor berlin exhibition the world is not fair. whilst i liked the idea of having an exhibition at tempelhof, for its peculiar space as a public recreation space that still very much looks like an overgrown public transport space, the works that i did see on foot were a little bit shit.

they were all super-open super-relational communal spaces. which, in theory is great. but i feel like a whole lot of art and architecture at the moment is going for the Occupy 'aesthetic', for community's sake and missing a bit about what art actually brings to people. i'm not down with it. as i said to a friend yesterday 'a shanty is a shanty, regardless of whether its in an art exhibition or not'. but that is another rant.

Then yesterday i go to TANAS/Edition Block (another amazing, consistent gallery in Berlin with a fantastic show) and there's another work about planes and airport. One in which a group of artists try to make a 'tattoo' of a plane at Tempelhof on the grass, so it'll be seen from Google Earth.  yes, well.

I spent a lot of my childhood in airports and on planes, discussing flight schedules, maintenance plans and the politicking of australian airports, thanks to a father who worked in the airlines. Sometimes i get nostalgic about that whole travel/engineering culture.  But if i'm honest, I'd rather see works about sexy bodies at the moment.


AURA project end of residency

regular she sees red readers will vaguely remember the AURA residency project me and a bunch of artists help organise at the collingwood housing estate.

well, the final residency project is about to have its last hurrah with an event in a few weeks' time.

michael, pixie and teresa from the $12K Collective have done workshops, created installations, made jewellery, drawings and sound works over the last few months.

if you're interested in socially engaged art, or have been following the collingwood project since the beginning of last year, go to the final huzzah! and tell 'em i sent you.

i wish them all the best and i wish i was there to say hey.


listening to others' works

over the years i have done a little bit of this - intervening in others' works to do my own listening version of it.

it's quite interesting to me to 'enliven' others' work through this subtle performance. perhaps people don't get it, but as part of my practice, it's a way that i can interact with the ideas in others works that reflect my own. and as an audience member, i am also participating in a way that i choose.

the two previous works i've done in this way have been to 'negate' the listening experience in their work - to listen to something else instead (in the case of a Jean Luc Guionnet work at West Space) and to sleep in to an alarm playing music over the gallery (in the case of the Perfect Day to Chase Tornadoes work at Kunstraum Quartier).

i recently did the same as part of Amalia Pica's work at chisenhale gallery. although it was less and intervention, more of a response to an opening for volunteers to listen. And, rather than a negation, this was specifically an activation of a work - a listening trumpet in the middle of the gallery.

Sitting for 3.5 hours, it gave me a chance to think about my own similar work in a concentrated way. Some thoughts i had at the time:

listening is deemed to be activated when there is a response to the sound. 
as i sat and listened, a young boy and his dad came up and  because my role was to be a human listening object, i couldn't respond in any way to the spoken/given sounds. the boy whispered hello, and his dad asked whether i though spain or france would win the football on the weekend. i heard them loud and clear, but because i didn't 'respond' in an expected way, they believed the work was 'broken'. interestingly, they didn't try to 'fix it', or try a hundred times (like you do when headphones are broken, or the computer won't turn on, or the DVD stops playing) but it was interesting to note that 'working' meant 'responding'. that someone is 'listening' when they actually respond to what you've said.

of course, part of that is true. in communication and from a psychoanalytical point of view, one proves the action by another responsive action. but from an experiential point of view, it's not necessarily the case. I was listening. intently.

I also thought about what this means for us all wearing headphones. the idea that we can be 'not listening' still works, becuase we don't respond (or we have a delayed response) when someone talks to us. nice.

the performance of listening really is a subtractive device.
i've spoken about this before - when i was doing my listening and being works. i wondered whether it was just that particular installation (covered in mirrors), or just my perception, but when i performed this work for amalia, a similar thing happened: people would be chatting as they come into the gallery and then, as they see me, they immediately shut the hell up. it happened twice and it was amazing - i wish i had been able to record it. voice levels became low and subdued and they crept around the work. seeing that one is listening, it seems one becomes self-conscious. and perhaps with that, one stops 'expressing' oneself.

this has to become a new area of research for me - it's too good!

What is the pose of a listener?
I’ve been interested in the ‘poses’ of listeners for a while, but participating in this work had me questioning to best convey, through form, that I’m really listening? Is there a best ‘pose’ for listening? Should I move slightly from a ‘passive’ to an ‘active’ pose with the move of my head? Should I look up, or down? Should I act as if I’m concentrating, or is the lack of eye contact enough? I previously made some silhouette works of people ‘listening’ and some feedback I got was that they ‘didn’t really look like they were listening’. Which I thought was hilarious and definitely impetus for a body of work. The presence of the cone/trumpet negated some of the ambiguity, but it was an interesting experiment to see whether I could convey that action of listening, should the trumpet not be there. If that makes sense. It’s all about ‘codes’.

I’ve previously had to ask myself ‘What is the uniform of a listener?’ - which came up again in this work when I got ‘busted’ getting up from the cone to go to the toilet. I wondered if the audience wondered if I was meant to be there, or just another audience member who had decided to sit on the floor and listen. One day I’d like to work with a fashion designer to come up with such a ‘uniform’, but it may have to wait.

The accoustics of Chisenhale gallery itself are amazing. Incredibly resonant, all conversations become garbled very quickly and people speaking becomes a bubble of sounds that pop and diappear very quickly. At some points in the afternoon, there was a beautiful soundtrack which i could have magnetically recorded - combining the hard rhythm of someone walking in heels, with the activity of a spoken conversation, plus the faint echo of traffic from outside and then this beautiful 'space' in between all the sounds, from the acoutic shape of the gallery.

It was such a gift to be able to experience and think about all of these things for myself and for another's work. Having done something like this, now for the third time, i may have to make it a regular part of my practice.

the exhibition is on until the 15th july at chisenhale in london (a gallery i always make a point of visiting when i'm in town) - you should check it out and there's a panel discussion this thursday too!

image credits: 
What Makes A Sense of Place, Installation view. Photo Andy Keate, from chisenhale.org.uk
she sees red listening from claire selby on instagram


regimes of hardship

[ok, way overdue post about this....]

on a thursday evening earlier this month, i dragged my friend and fellow sound/listening/thinker/arty-type, huw, to ]performance space[ to see the third installment in a residency by martin o'brien, called regimes of hardship.

open as part of east london's first thursdays, this final performance was a 12-hour durational work in collaboration with sheree rose.

there was a signed and fingerprinted (in blood) agreement between martin and sheree, stating that for the 12 hours, martin would hand his body over to her, for her to do anything she wants with it.

we arrived and martin had a badly-shaven head (presumably before we got there), and was being painted green with bruce nauman connotations. he was a lowly worm.

we left to eat, but returned and sheree had a costume change herself, with a little more satin and tuille - more french maid than doctor frankenstein.

she attached a leather ball stretcher, chains, fishing weights and jewels (it almost reminded me of a strange guy benfield piece). she stretched him from post to post - in crucifix formation, having wiped the green off his body somehow. there were references to ketchup, so i'm not sure what happened whilst we were out.

then sheree got a scalpel out and cut her initial into martin's chest that sort of looked a bit like an 'S', a bit like the lightning bolt between AC and DC and a bit like half of the SS (Schutzstaffel) logo.

after being released she made martin kiss her feet and he was to become a table for the audience to eat trifle off of. i didn't feel like doing that (which actually might have more to do with trifle than the act of degredation).

noticed sheree's tenderness as part of the pain infliction process. the care that heightens the torture. giving and taking. and when i spoke to her after the symposium (see below), she said that tenderness and care is a crucial element to the performance of pain.

there seemed to be a level of reservation, which may have been the gallery context, exhaustion, it may  a subconscious reticence to be intimate or a reluctance to truly take the power given to her. or just my perception. apparently the work a few days later was far more unrestrained and the tension between master and slave had returned.

martin's residency culminated in a symposium on the following saturday.

this was a clincher and put the work in context for me. i have an interest in performance art, but i clearly am not a student in it, because i learned a lot that day.

featuring amazing names like: ron athey, sarah wilson, dani ploeger, lois keidan, franko b, sheree rose, rita marcalo and michael mayhew, i was suckered in straight away.

sadly i missed an intense peformance with sheree rose and martin o'brien again - apparently it was amazing.

i walked in on a bit of a marina abramovic haters club - a slight diversion based on a side remark that got blown out of proportion, but was redeemed during the lunch break - a chance to meet some other performers and researchers from across the UK.

the symposium was really well run and, for a bunch of people interested in putting their body through quite anti-social levels of distress, everyone was mostly well-behaved. there was a bit of heated debate, usually instigated by Franko B, but it made for an interesting and dynamic afternoon discussing a variety of topics, such as the audience complicity, bloody, rights to ones body, corporeal knowledge, sex, illness and the relationship between artist and medical research.

and i got called a colonialist, which was an interesting turn of events. huzzah!
thankfully, it has become impetus for a new, difficult work, so it's all ok. for now.

the interesting final session was actually the highlight of the day: three 'conversations' between artists and their medics and discussion on ethics, complicity and responsility of artists and the medical field:

martin o'brien and karen lowton spoke about their ongoing research collaboration related to cystic fibrosis and its treatment. obviously the medical research into the disease influences martin's physical wellbeing, but his intense performance and masochistic works give the medical profession other ways to perceive the way a patient can 'take control' of chronic illness and the influence duration, pain and identity have on it.

michael mayhew and tuheen huda discussed how they came to work together and the importance of their working relationship over the years. michael spends a lot of time taking blood from his body, tuheen is a medic but with an interest (and qualifications) in art. during their discussion, tuheen took 6 vials of blood from michael that michael gave to people connected with the symposium, whilst they talked about the intimacy of doing that, but also how normal it is for both of them to both do what they do (tuheen take blood and michael to give it), but how shocking it still is for many of them.  i got a lot out of hearing michael's story of his desire to pay tribute to charles drew for black history month and the  difficulty in doing so.

rita mercala and georgia testa spoke about their collaborative research into the ethics of working with illness in art. initially introduced during rita's work in which she attempted to initiate her epilepsy in an installation/ performance context, the main project that they have been discussing is rita's desire to create a pill that would do the same.

this one generated a lot of fantastic discussion afterwards about the right to harm oneself (operation spanner was a case i learned about), whose responsibility is it if we ask people to help us make work that will harm us and what are the other implications about the right to ones own pain.


as usual, the discussions afterwards were also great and i'm considering now doing the performance space summer residency and another live art development agency DIY workshop.

even though it took me forever to write about, this little symposium that i accidentally stumbled upon, it has given me a stack of food for thought for upcoming works and i'm looking forward to being able to focus on them.


the space

yes please. this is my newest discovery: art videos and clips and film archives. excellent.


some recent joy:

tracey emin  - watched whilst waiting for the conversation between her and stephen fry to become available. my brain almost stopped working at the fantasy of the offspring of such amazingness.

richard long's long walk

marcus coates' ritual for elephant & castle

i think it will be ace if it grows to include archives from all kinds of art and performance video works - from the big names and the little ones.

that reminds me, i have to go back to the centre pompidou and check out their art on video collection.


berlin again begin again

oh, hai!

please forgive the live-journal-esque tone to this post. i'm actually not seeing a lot of art at the moment, hitting some kind of existential shit where i need to be mature and sort out my options, rather than go and see art. it's good to see how the rest of the world lives, every once in a while.

so i'm in berlin.

huzzah. kinda.

the catch is that i have no idea whether i'm in the right city any more, thanks to option overload, a lack of clarity on my part and a bit of a gut feeling. the plan was to come back to berlin and settle. but it's all up in the air again.

sadly i don't have much time to wallow or even ignore it. i have to find a way to make sense of what i do, why i do and where i should actually base myself because, quite frankly, i'm sick of being a nomad.

london was actually really, really great. it was mega low key and i didn't rush around like an idiot. i learned a whole lot of new things and found myself having some really great discussions with all kinds of people about quite important things: politics, the body, colonisation, working in london, the arts, fashion, study, and music.

i expected it to just be a flow-through, stop-over, catch up with peeps time. but i think i saw the city with new eyes. london seemed to actually be great. i'm not sure if it's because it was heading into more summery weather (despite the week of dreary rain), the olympics, or because london has decided to be cheery despite its tory government. or maybe it was me. i think for the first time since i was there back in 2007, i considered living there again. strange little kink in the plan isn't it?

but, because the original plan was to come to berlin, i'm here. but, because of some (possibly preventable) mistakes, i'm on an admin mission for the next week, trying to recover funds, sort out accommodation and make a decision.

last night i went to a dance, yoga, movement thing, tonight i'm going to see clayton thomas. and apart from that, for the last 24 hours, this has been my view.

i can say this - it's not what i thought i would be doing when i came to berlin. but i guess sometimes you make plans and sometimes, the strangest things uncouple them.


pink bits (NSFW)

oh hai!

apologies for the big gap in my writing there. i haven't really felt like writing much in the last couple of weeks - i barely opened my laptop.

having landed in london and started to check out quite a bit of art and a bit of space to myself for a few days (thanks age!), i've got the inclination to write again. a bit.

for those who've been reading this blog for a while, you'll probably remember when i was living here, i went to a gallery every day for 6 months. i think i'll start that up again.

even in just the few days i've been here, there have been some interesting themes popping up in the works i've seen.

one of those is erotic, explicit or visceral imagery.

pink bits

i'm not afraid of seeing pink bits in art, but it's kind of unusual in london for me to see a lot of it. i imagine the english in prime awkwardness getting all hot under the collar when they view it. perhaps because of that, there's also an amazing contemporary custom of art that pushes sex and viscera (think gilbert and george, cosey fanni tutti, chapman bros, sue webster and tim noble, trace, leigh bowery). perhaps there's another cycle of art and artists that are sick of being all nicey nicey between the sheets.

**naughty bits coming up **

patricia picinini at haunch of venison

she's part of a group show, observer, in the eastcastle gallery (which is a great show, by the way) and is presenting two works that are the kind of work i like about this australian artist - the creepy, hairy, orificial, cronenberg-esque, fleshy silicone.

these two relief works are hairy and contain two quite different images - one with obvious orifices, boobs, foreskin, parted human hair. it's primal. animal. engorged and wet in so many ways;

the other an apparent floral arrangement that william morris might be proud of - if he was, in fact, into arseholes and body hair.

the gallery staff said that most people are grossed out by the works. which delighted me no end. of course.

the back room (female beauty), curators' series #5 (bouvard and pécuchet's compendious quest for beauty) at david roberts foundation

this show is really great - featuring the works of some excellent artists (shrigley, turk, demand - to name a few). and there's also a naughty back room, featuring works by sarah lucas, valie export, john currin and man ray. (images: the spectator by susan meiselas and napoli by john currin)

there are ladies' spread legs, muffs, images of cunnilingus and fellatio, prostitues, fucking and a beautiful  painting of a girl getting a lovely fingering in naples.

mary reid kelly at dublicowicz collection*
not that this was super racy, but there was a slightly macabre, naked grotesqueness about the play/video accompanied by sexual overtones in the text and dialogue. word images of a uterus, muff and some more boobs for good measure.

family jules NNN (no naked niggahs) by barkley j. hendricks at tate modern

a beautiful black man odalisque painting - leg up, showing off his penis, gaze straight at the viewer, white couch and decorative background. the style of painting is quite like some of the americans - eric fishl and ewan uglow, but the pose is all lucien freud and the tone is all chris offili. it's brilliant.
in a room full of portraits of white men and women, it was so powerful and sexy.

telephone box calling cards
i forgot that this is what the phone boxes are still hanging around for. i know, not art per se, but still london arousal. they're such an arresting sight - all those boobs, stars, posturing and phone numbers in a physically contained, but very exposed space. a welcome reminder that londoners are actually a whole lot more public about their titillation than i give them credit for.

i'm loving this mini 'trend' to my viewing. there really wasn't enough sexy art i was seeing back home and it's the perfect time and i'm in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. i'm craving something not-so-vanilla, provocative, uncomfortable, illicit. and relishing the space and anonymity for it that big cities like london can provide.

*i'll be writing about the show at this gallery later (because it rocked my socks, yo).


give me something to listen to in africa

just read these excellent posts about about street-level music market. like a much more vibrant (and financially beneficial) version of give me something to listen to.

i think i need to go to mauritiana.

thanks to the goodness of goodness: chris kirkleycory doctorow and boing boing