Saturday 26 December 2015

A sentiment describing right now

A sentiment describing right now

I’ll always remember you
reading Walt Whitman that summer
but now its warmer than it should be outside,
nearly five years later
and it feels like we’ve barely spoken.

I’m having one of those moments
I know I should try to hold onto on purpose,
where music can almost levitate you
(maybe its just the air mattress)
but I could swear it’s the fiddle.

Wondering now what the new Star Wars
sounds like with a Polish voice over –
always that same man-voice –
for folks with bellies full of carp and pate,
or for me.

When you said it was ok to cry
in public, I could never have predicted
it would stay with me this way,
this way that it has,
and yet, I cry less often now.

I thought about your gestures,
though it seems I’ve forgotten how
you move your body to tell me something.
I read books quickly these days, flipping the pages
as they dictate the angles of my hands.

Friday 18 December 2015

Repeating and Mirroring in Ingleby’s ‘Resistance and Persistence’

Originally published in Art plus Thought.

Edmund de Waal, - and gone -, 2015
8 porcelain vessels in a pair of aluminium and plexiglass vitrines
38 x 60 x 10 cm
Image courtesy the Artist and Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh

Repeating and Mirroring in Ingleby’s ‘Resistance and Persistence’

The current exhibition at Ingleby Gallery, Resistance and Persistence, might be best described as elegant, as in fact, it exudes an overt and agential poise in its clean and often minimal appropriation of unusual materials such as slate, sunlight on wood, and terra sigilata. Instituted by the etchings and oil still lifes from the 1930s and 50s of Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, the curation of the works included is such that each room initiates a unique mirroring and repetition so that the artworks, distinct in their media, are involved in active conversation with one another.

The largest wall in the side room on the ground floor is dedicated to a small Morandi etching – titled Natura morta di vasi su un tavolo – of a series of vessels presented only in negative space, their varied shapes left to expose the glowing white of the paper. Yet, the viewer’s access to gain a closer view of the etching is impeded by a significant cluster of plaster casts of cardboard boxes in the centre of the room: Rachel Whiteread’s Garage. The theme of the trace is already evident through the missing forms in Morandi’s print, or the absence of the actual boxes Whiteread used to produce her casts that now serve as indeces of the original objects. Yet, Francesca Woodman’s paired photographs and Edmund de Waal’s cylindrical porcelain vessels reflect one another’s engagement with the notion of absence and removal so poetically that the curatorial decision for the particular congregation of these works becomes even clearer. In Woodman’s first photograph, a nude woman sits gracefully on the edge of a chair in a domestic setting, while the second shows the chair empty, and a bare hand and forearm of a woman coming from the left edge of the picture, as if she is exiting a set theatrically. De Waal’s powder blue vessels, each the approximate size and shape of an index finger, are also presented as a dyptich, placed asymmetrically in two plexiglass vitrines, the first one containing seven vessels, the second containing only two. The work’s title - and gone - explicitly accents a certain absence, a lack of that which once was, and could just as easily be allocated to Woodman’s photographs, where the woman, once seated, becomes gone, the trace of her initial presence suggested only by the extended arm.

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Boulder, Colorado, 1978
gelatin silver estate print, edition of 40
9.7 x 9.7 cm image size, 38.5 x 39.2 cm framed
Image courtesy the Francesca Woodman Estate and Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh

Another similarly generative interaction occurred between a set of ten distinct monochrome lithographs of grids on vellum by Agnes Martin made between 1974 and 1990 and James Hugonin’s 1993 Untitled IV, a large multi-coloured grid made of oil and wax on wood. Perhaps more implicit than the connections in the side room, these two works, albeit abstract in form, imply the presence of a body, in Martin by her use of skin as foundation, and in Hugonin by the acknowledgement of the artist’s body as he would have navigated the large scale of his support to trace his geometric pattern and colour in in each tiny rectangle.

The upper floor appeared to be more concerned with the potential dialogues between objects consistent with the scale of still lifes and larger matter, best exemplified by Richard Long’s Cairgorm made from fifteen slabs of slate and organised in an ascending and then descending stair-like outline laid on the floor. One of the walls housed a projection of Robert Morris’s iconic 1968 film Hand Catching Lead beside another Woodman photograph, Untitled, Rome, Italy, portraying an outstretched hand holding an anthropomorphized glove. Both works unambiguously attend to the mutual and interdependent relationship between hand and object, whereby the shape of the hand is determined by the shape and malleability of the object.

The title of the exhibition, given to accredit the artists and their works with a determination to endure the unlikeliness of their projects within their particular moments of production, is not necessarily what excels in the show, as there is no effort to explain these historical circumstances. Rather than clinging to the notion of resistance, it is perhaps more fruitful to view these works in terms of an openness and a readiness to receive. It is ultimately the understated and intimate nature of the artworks in and of themselves as well as their at once subtle and loud correspondence with one other that is most compelling.

Installation view of the group exhibition Resistance and Persistence
Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh (28 November 2015 - 30 January 2016)
Photograph: John McKenzie, Courtesy the Artist, Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh and Gagosian, London

Wednesday 16 December 2015

One year of Hot Tub Astronaut

Today, Hot Tub Astronaut published its 80th post, almost exactly one year after I launched the site. Its been really quite an exciting project with many ups and downs and challenges but I'm glad it persisted and what it comes down to really, is that I'm glad people care and that I've been able to foster this space or a venue to show some really incredible projects. Hopefully 2016 will bring as much participation and creativity!

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Quote by Hannah Arendt on the private and public realms

“This functionalization [of society, action, and speech] makes it impossible to perceive any serious gulf between the two realms; and this is not a matter of theory or an ideology, since with the rise of society, that is, the rise of the ‘household’ (oikia) or of economic activities to the public realm, housekeeping and all matters pertaining formerly to the private sphere of the family have become a ‘collective’ concern. In the modern world, the two realms indeed constantly flow into each other like waves in the never-resting stream of the life process itself”

Arendt, Hannah. 1958. The Human Condition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 33. 

Thursday 10 December 2015

Incredible quote by Julia Kristeva on "the feminine genius"

“It has let us to consider that the anxiety over the feminine has been the communal experience that has allowed our civilization to reveal, in a new way, the incommensurability of the individual. This incommensurability is rooted in sexual experience but nonetheless is realized through the risks that each of us is prepared to take by calling into question thought, language, one’s own age, and any identity that resides in them. You are a genius to the extent that you are able to challenge the sociohistorical conditions of your identity. This is the legacy of Arendt, Klein, and Colette.”

Julia Kristeva, “Is There a Feminine Genius?”, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Spring 2004), pp. 504.


Dialogue: Code/Tourism

-       I wonder if somehow there is some kind of essence that connects us all?
-       Who is us all?
-       All human beings.
-       So, you’re wondering if there’s something that is essentially human?
-       No. I wasn’t clear.
-       Then how do you mean?
-       Like coding, you know.
-       Computers? DNA?
-       Neither.
-       Then what?
-       Like, a code that unites us as being present on the Earth, today, at the same time as other people. Maybe by code, I only mean God.
-       So you think God is like code?
-       Possibly.
-       So you believe in God then?
-       I wish.
-       You wish?
-       Yeah.
-       Then why did you say that he’s code?
-       Code is easier to believe in. Despite not understanding the language.
-       Language?
-       Yeah. So maybe God is like some kind of tourist that comes to visit us when we need answers, but seems to be absent for long stretches of time. A tourist that visits the same place every few years.
-       What does this have to do with code?
-       Nothing.
-       Then what is God?
-       I don’t know.
-       But you said he’s code and he’s a tourist.
-       Yeah, like, he knows us, but he doesn’t speak our language and we don’t speak his.
-       But?
-       But somehow it all works. We get by, eventually, and we communicate and make something. Something appears, is visualized eventually and we know that we made it, but that somehow, he has something to do with it.
-       I’m picturing God wearing a sombrero.