Creative Arts Today prepared to have a more open mind and knowing I would find
this initial section on Contemporary Art hard. It has been a struggle trying to
keep questioning and find understanding for things which I see as
grandstanding. The finest example of this is Damian Hirsts shark in
formaldehyde, I’ve read several essays on that now all explaining to me how
many layers of meaning there are but I just can’t take it seriously. What
surprised me most about my responses to this module is that even when I really
looked deeply into it, I could find nothing that appealed to me. If that means
I’m doomed to be a cultural peasant for the rest of my life at least I’ll know
I haven’t felt inspired by any of the works that I’ve looked at, that’s quite a strong word. There are several Illustrators and Photographers that inspire me but nothing from this module has stood out. The most interesting installation for me was the illuminated lettering ‘A Place Beyond Belief’ by Nathan Coley. Initially I was hopeful that this might prove to be a Contemporary Artist that I could get behind but these hopes were swiftly dashed when I started to explore the rest of his work. What really put me off his work was the Dundee based housing block in the Bristol church yard in response to Bristollian history. I’ve searched the internet out of sheer curiosity looking for any reasoning behind it, any sense, but am still bemused.
I have discovered one artist that I am interested in. Doug Aitken and his use of large letters containing photographic imagery. It reminded me of an exercise in Illustration One where we had to use mixed media to illustrate pairs of words, ie FAT would be bulbous and composed of McDonalds labels. He is one artist which I would like to look at further.
What has changed for me is my definition of
Art, or maybe rather, my understanding of what Art is for other people. I still
prefer my physical image depicting something, these images often prove to be
thought provoking/stimulating for me. I better understand now that other people
don’t want or need that physical image, they are happy just to be stimulated in
a particular direction and fill in the blanks for themselves.
the case study I must look at a piece called A Place Beyond Belief by Nathan
your first response to this piece?
are the meanings behind the words? I can see a church roof, is it a statement
about heaven? Or is it more about what’s after belief? Death?
questions are you going to ask in order to make sense of the piece?
Is it site
specific? If so, where is it?
Who commissioned it and why? Were they motivated by
In which year was it constructed?
Does it only comprise of the illuminated letters or
is there more too it? Does the scaffolding count as part of the piece or is
that just what the letters are attached too?
Does the time of day at which you view it matter?
Does the piece evolve or is this the finished
type of work do you think this is? It could fit into several different
categories; how would you define it?
immediate reaction is to say, it’s contemporary art! That’s surely too obvious
an answer though so, if I had to pick a sub-category I would choose Text Art. Possibly
Text Sculpture is a better word considering that all the letters are quite
large physical items?
do you think the text is about?
think that the phrase ‘A Place Beyond Belief’ refers too either the afterlife,
what people of religions believe awaits us all when we die, or possibly just a
really strong sense of believing in something. From the initial image with the
illuminated lettering set against the stormy sky either of those could be
workable theories. With a different image taken from a different angle or at a
different time of day the message could be quite different. I’m assuming here
that the physical lettering on the scaffolding is the artwork here, not the
Listen to the
monologue – what are your first thoughts?
I could not
access the given link to the monologue nor locate it when I searched, I did
however find an article from the Guardian newspaper in which the artist talked
about the creation of the piece.
My first thought is
that the text on the art installation is not religious as I initially thought.
It is a message of hope and aspiration, something for people to strive towards.
Religions with their differences often lead to wars but if everyone can look past
that and just try to be good people, the world would be a happier place and we
would all achieve a lot more.
other information can you find on Coley’s website about this particular piece?
The ‘view text’ link, centre top, is a good starting point.
Where is it actually sited? Does this change your response to it?
The installation is sited in Kosovo
outside a half built Orthodox church. The country is mostly Muslim, they were
oppressed by Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990’s and the church is seen as a
symbol of that.
The siting does not change my response
to it. The wording and it’s message is not site-specific but I would argue that
it is situation-specific. The original inspiration for Coley was the aftermath
of 9-11 in which it was obvious that people had to come together, to move past
differences of religion and work for a greater good. That is very similar to
the situation in Kosovo post-Milosevic. The Muslims were the majority and they
suffered under an oppressive regime, they could turn on the minorities much
like what happened in South Africa or they could all try and work together to
create a better future for their country.
Have your views on this piece changed
after listening to Coley speak about it? If so, why?
Yes my views have changed on reading
more about the origins of the piece. I initially thought that it was more
likely to be a religious statement, now I can see that it is about something
much bigger than that. My view changed on learning about the Sikh man on the
train experiencing misplaced hostility, now that I have that piece of
information I am better placed to apply a context to the wording on the
Can you see how this piece might take on
more political significance than we might have realised upon first viewing the
image on the page?
Yes, the message that Coley has chosen
to illuminate is particularly relevant to Kosovo. They are currently on the
road to being recognised internationally as an independent nation, though still
under supervised independence and with some way to go they are looking to the
future. It is said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, as
recently as the 1990’s whilst being oppressed by Serbia, all ethnic Albanians
(90% of the population) were banned from holding state jobs. Normally sweeping
acts like that are in the history books but that is still one in living memory.
That is exactly the kind of act that Kosovo wants to move away from, a mistake
that they do not want their politicians to make again. That is possibly why the
Guardian article talks about how it was the idea of Petrit Selimi, Kosovo’s deputy
minister for foreign affairs to have the installation in place for one month
and how there is an idea of the Government buying a copy of it to display in
their Parliament building as a constant reminder of where the nation has been
and what it is heading towards.
Do you think contextual information is
essential to gaining a greater understanding of contemporary art? Do you think
that it should be an essential ingredient?
Contextual information is essential to
gaining a greater understanding of contemporary art. Without it the various
pieces have no meaning or relevance and is a waste of time in both the creation
and the viewing.
What do you think about this piece, what
do you think it achieves?
I think that whilst this piece was on
location in Pristina, Kosovo it will have been a constant reminder that we need
to move beyond tribal differences and work together to make a better future for
With something so large and outdoors, even when it has been taken away
again it is not the sort of thing that will be quickly forgotten. The
juxtaposition of it against a church which was a symbol of Serbian oppression
will have served to magnify the message that Coley is trying to spread. I think
that the installation will have had an effect locally, I think it will be a
reminder, those that forget history are doomed to repeat it.
The phrase “You imagine what you
desire” is a quote from a play, ‘Back to Methuselah’ Pt 1 Act 1 written by
George Bernard Shaw. The full quote is “Imagination is the beginning of
creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last
you create what you will’. For an installation in Australia Coley chose to
split the text into different sections and install them seperatley. The
installations were not just confined to Australia, the above installation was
resident in Brighton in 2015.
This is my favourite of the variations of examples that I can see on Coleys website. The reason for my preference is the choice of Place. Brighton is very close to my hometown so I know it’s culture well. Famed as the gay capital of the UK it has a fun loving all accepting environment where people can be as flamboyant as they like. With Brightons reputation the topic of sexuality frequently gets associated with the most unlikely issues. I looked at this work by Coley inside a church and instead of thinking of religion I have thoughts of sexual tolerance and it’s occasional absence. The South East coast has a strong older population many of whom are a little bit stuck in their ways meaning that there are still such unfortunate scenes as people attempting to ‘pray the gay away’ out of their children. Also linked to this for me are the many individuals that I have known who have been passionately anti-gay only to burst out of the closet a few years later.
Moving in a totally different
direction and looking at it’s specific placement in a church as opposed to the
town, it could be a statement about faith. People imagine what they really
want, I imagine leaving the military, a new career in the creative arts and
being able to have a dog. People who are passionate about their religions
imagine a heaven, a loving god and in some cases miracles.
There is a school of thought that to
achieve what you want you only have to picture it clearly enough, to see it
happening and it will materialise.
This potentially could also be a message reinforcing that belief.
It looks very different when the illuminated letters are displayed in a gallery on a plain wall as seen below.
When set against a backdrop of trees and nature the phrase could be relating to yet something else. It could be a message about saving the planet or global warming, or even a hope for good weather!
to this he works in a range of media including photography, film and sculpture
whilst approaching ‘questions about how we relate to public spaces and
2005 was the result of a commission in the city of Bristol. Coley was invited
(amongst others) to join an exhibition called ‘Thinking of the Outside’ which
was supposed to be in response to Bristol’s historic landscape.
the National Galleries article describes, rather than making a work that came from the place, Coley decided to bring a
work too the place.
on a project that was to respond to the historic landscape of Bristol which is
extremely colourful in both drama (slavery and trading) and actual structures,
Coley chose to make a plywood rendition of a four-storey housing block. On the
side he then added a graffiti tag which he had photographed up in Dundee. The
tag itself, ‘Iceman’, refers to heroin. This entire ensemble he then placed in
the churchyard of a place called St Johns which is in the centre of the town.
I’d love to know what the exhibition organisers thought of it!
Iceman, 2005 (detail), painted plywood, 3.2m x 4.8m x 2.7m. Photo: Jamie
Woodley, Courtesy Studio Nathan Coley.
The essay at this hyperlink seemed to be about the evolution of the use of language and its increased incorporation into art. This ranges from examples by Bruce Nauman with neon tube wording to more basic presentations of words by Edward Ruscha as seen in his ‘Dirty Baby’. Ruscha focused more on pop culture and common parlance when choosing his word forms. In this sense ‘time’ and ‘place’ are very relevant because out of context the words ‘Dirty Baby’ have very different meanings.
As marketing became more important with the rise of consumerism post-war especially
in the 50’s it makes sense that people were paying more attention to the effect
that the different presentations of words can have. The font or size, ie
small/bold etc, can impart different meanings to the same word choices. This is
something which I explored in my previous module, Illustration One.
Displaying a selection of words can inspire the
viewers imagination into creating a sensation for themselves as I saw in
Exercise Two when looking at the work of Kate Paterson. “The scent of rain left
on the moon” is something which I can conjure up very easily.
The essay then continues on to talk about artists
associated with the dada movement and their rejection of traditional art
materials in favour of ‘ready-mades’. Again Duchamps ‘Fountain’ is brought up,
apparently ‘this controversial work questioned the identity of the artist
through the incorporation of text’. That statement piqued my curiosity until I
read on to find that this was only because he’d written his pseudonym ‘R.Mutt’
on the side. Frankly, unless you’re leading a secret double life or have a high
level of identity theft paranoia you don’t need a pseudonym. As for writing it
on the side of a plaster cast of a toilet, I can only assume that this was to
try and add hidden layers of meaning to hide the fact that it is just
showboating. A plaster cast of my toothbrush with my name on the handle is not
a controversial statement on oral hygiene habits of the 21st
century, it’s just a plaster cast of a toothbrush from someone currently living
in a 4 person room.
which I found most interesting was this “Conceptual art represented a shift
towards ideas and systems that invited the viewer to engage with an
intellectual concept, art became increasingly ephemeral and transient –
famously described by Duchamp as the “dematerialisation of the art object”.
I think that this
pinpoints what it is that I struggle with so much with conceptual art. Whereas
the conceptual art movement focused on ideas and systems which the viewer has
to take more of an active role in, to me proper art is a physical depiction of
through the essay there were more examples of how artists have used the presentation
of words alone in different forms to provoke some kind of mental engagement
with the viewer. They seem to be intended to stimulate either the imagination
of the senses.
Ian Hamilton Finlay takes this a step further with his garden creation Little Sparta. He has random words which relate back to Ancient Greece, Sparta and Athens at different points within the garden.
Unfortunately, I am
currently sat in the middle of nowhere (Falkland Islands) where I am condemned
to remain for some months and so am unable to get to any kind of art gallery.
Before I left the UK (knowing about this exercise) I had a look around my local
art galleries at the exhibitions that they had on. There was nothing that
particularly caught my eye until I wandered through town and strolled past one
of the sites of the local annual street art festival. I love a bit of good
street art and normally always end up stopping there for a bit to stand and
stare. Street Art has been gaining in popularity in the last few decades thanks
to the efforts of a while cadre of artists including one of the most famous,
Banksy, a household name. Not a lot can get more contemporary than things that
were painted just last year, and frankly after the exercises that I’ve covered
so far I’m just happy to be looking at something that isn’t riddled with
maggots, so my two selected pieces are both from the North Street Car Park,
Each year during
the paint festival artists who apply to enter are allocated plots of wall in
various places around the town. The criteria is pretty broad but all designs
are to be approved before they are applied to the walls. Because of this a lot
of the designs are site specific, the advance notice allows the artists to
design something which works with the surrounding environment and architecture.
The first, by an artist called Void One in 2018 is of a tank emerging from a wall.
This piece is more
designed to be on a corner than site specific in so much as it was designed for
painting onto the corner, utilising a small area of the ground in front of it
has enabled a very effective 3-D effect to be achieved, the tank really pops
out of the wall and towards the viewer.
As a piece it makes me think of a future time, something that could maybe transpire if the world continues to relentlessly build over green spaces and inch towards a Total Recall-esque existence.
Looking at Void One’s website it became clearer that this tank really was specific for the Cheltenham Festival. His portfolio shows that generally he just paints artistic squiggles. It made me curious about why he chose a tank for that particular location.
Looking at the different work he has done for protests and commisions he covers a wide range of topics in a highly skilled way. My particular favourite is a wall featuring Alice in Wonderlands white rabbit which he created as a commision for a summer mushroom party!
The second piece I selected is by an artist called Rich RTC Turner. It shows a Chimpanzee called Caesar from the franchise Planet of the Apes, Caesar ends up leading a war against the humans, so his face becomes quite a menacing sight. The film franchise is filmed in jungle/woods, so the artist has made use of the handy nearby tree placement to give added power to the image of Caesars face (this is the only tree on this particular road). This painting is site-specific, it wouldn’t look anywhere near as good a bit further down the road and especially not on the side of a building!
Suprisingly Rich RTC Turner does not have his own website. I say surprisingly because he is quite a rising star on the stencil street art scene. His Facebook page and Instagram are all he uses to document his work. He paints on a wide range of topics in a variety of locations. Heavy on the portraiture he is known for his use of stencils but is in no way confined to it. His artwork is simply superb.
the phrase installation art has no one definition anymore
installation art can include the environment the art is displayed in as well as the piece itself
some artists use our bodily reaction to the display space to enhance or antagonise the senses
even the Tate Modern does not acquire a lot of installation art for its collection preferring to invest in mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography and video.
further installation art is dedicated solely to the use that people can make of it such as Rirkrit Tiravanija who recreated his apartment to be used by the viewers.
Jorge Pardo convinced the LA Museum of Contemporary Art to subsidise him building a house as both a dwelling and a work of art ( – How. How can this possibly be classed as art. I’ll paint my house pink with yellow spots if it means someone will subsidise my mortgage. *head in hands*)
installation artists attempt to activate the viewer in some way
In this exercise I was directed to look at the work of Katie Paterson, I
was directed to particularly look at her website featuring her iceberg project
and to listen to the extract at the bottom of the page.
When I visited this
website I found that the sound extract was not functional. Reading the page as
directed I found that it was about a phone line installed on an iceberg at
Vatnajokull, the idea was that for one year anyone from around the world could
phone the iceberg and hear it melting.
How would you define this piece in terms of media?
I would define this
piece as an interactive sound installation.
Unlike Longplayer (Project 2) this is a genuinely site-specific piece.
Make notes on this and also on Vatnajokulls relationship to place and Patersons
use of text.
This piece is
obviously site-specific, it’s linked to a particular iceberg. Vatnajokull is a
place which normally would be inaccessible except to the few. By adding a phone
line in, this has now become accessible to anyone on the planet (for the one
year that the artwork was operational). By allowing people to phone the iceberg,
Paterson is empowering them to generate their own sense of place and project it
towards the idea of Vatnajokull without ever having visited, much the same way
that people do with books that they read. Imagination can be a powerful tool.
I could not see any use of text in the reports
and pictures which I could locate about Patersons project, so I am assuming
that this relates to her other work?
I inspected her
website and could not find any examples of her work using text. What I did find
(on a broader search) was a video about an exhibition in which her work was to
be placed beside that of William Turner.
Within this video
there were several phrases displayed in large letters by themselves on walls coated
in a variety of textures. From their positioning they look as though they too
are features of the exhibition as opposed to supporting elements. Possibly this
is what the course workbook is referring too? The phrases were;
“The scent of rain left on the moon”
“The speed of light
slowed to absolute stillness”
“a drawing made
from the ashes of stars”
“the surface of the moon sculpted onto white cliffs” I’ve got quite a vivid imagination, so I find all of these phrases pretty compelling without any further input. My favourite is “The scent of rain left on the moon”. It really tickles my imagination. It makes me think of the smell of earth and grass after rain which in turn takes me back to a variety of locations and therefore that phrase has given me a sense of place. The same could be said of “a drawing made from the ashes of stars”, it brings to mind the stars, the solar system, the Sun, and as the mind wanders back towards Earth…a sense of place in the Solar System. I’m finding ‘place’ a lot easier to relate to than ‘time’.
Make a list of the artists mentioned in Dean and Millars essay. Look up at least one piece by each of the artists mentioned whose work incorporates text. How many of these pieces are relevant to the theme of place and how do they reference place?
Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid I’ve listed these two together as they worked together so closely that even when just one of them made an image they chose to sign them together. They created a series of paintings called ‘Peoples Choice’ where after using questionnaires by country they would identify the factors most and least wanted in a painting by that countrys demographic. Below is Americas Most Wanted.
This is relevant to the theme of place as in the majority of countries, it was a place or location which the questionnaires respondents listed as a desirable scene. It is also relevant to place as it is an accumulation of views taken from one specific geographical location. The responses will be governed by the different living conditions, economic hardships and political structures present in each particular country.
2. Graham Guissin
These neon letters bolted to the wall seem to be something of a contradiction as they are neither blurred or vague nor unstable. I imagine that they could be deemed as relevant to a sense of place as something like a comment on the fleeting nature of an average lifespan and everyones quest to leave the planet, their place, in better shape than they found it. I struggle with this as I really do not see how neon lettering can be thought of as art.
3. Roni Horn
I’ve read the blurb that accompanys this image on the Tates website. The blurb itself does not mention place at all, I had a different thought process entirely when I looked at it myself.
To me the references to place are quite heavy despite being unspecific. The nearest thing to philosophy that I have seen that I like is the old question ‘when a tree falls in a forest does it still make a sound if thee is no-one to hear it’. This piece with it’s two lines reading “to see a landscape as it is” “when I am not there” reminds me of that old question. I think of trees and forests which I love, of deforestation and the relentless spread of humaity over the planet and into the wild places which I hate. It’s quite sad.
So, for me, this piece invokes a sense of place.
4. Doug Aitken
Time for me to chew some humble pie. I’ve found a piece of contemporary art that I love.
For me, this piece is class. It summarises rebellious spirit, adventure and daring to push the boundaries of whats possible. In terms of place there is the obvious reference to Planet Earth, this itself refers to outer space. In terms of the viewer it took me straight back to being 18 with the world at my feet, when anything was possible. More of a time in life than a place.
5. Ian Hamilton Finlay
This is one of Finlays stones from his garden entitled Little Sparta. It references the Romans which immeadiatley gives the viewer a sense of context, it gives us a sense of time and place. It also makes a clear and easy to understand statment. The Romans (as Monty Python explained) did a lot for us. We have not had an era of such innovation yet which could possibly compare.
6. Alec Finlay
This collaboration work references a sense of place in a broad sense. It gives the viewer the option of regarding where they are right now, where they were previously or where they intend to head in life. I like the idea that everything is connected, I dont think that anything is pre-ordained but I do think we can choose which route we take.
7. Marine Hugonnier
I found that with a lot of Marine Hugonniers work it was the isolation of previously established text which formed the artwork. In this example of a newspaper front page depicting the moon landing the star of the show should be the image of Neil Armstrong stood on the moons surface. Instead the text is all that remains so the viewer is forced to imagine the scenes for themselves to fill in the blanks. In this sense, we are forced to generate a sense of place for ourselves.
8. Robert Smithson
In Robert Smithsons ‘A Heap of Language’ in a very basic sense it gives me a sense of place. It visually looks like a hill and when walking in the hills I always find that they make my mind more eloquent…wordy. It vaguely reminds me of the opening sequence of Star Wars (the angle of the text) which in turn takes me back to being in our ratty local cinema. Except when it’s the only cinema you’ve ever been too and the biggest screen you’ve ever seen, it’s more of a palace. If I shut my eyes I can see the pink lights on the walls, smell the popcorn and feel the tackyness on the floor.
9. Guy Moreton
I could not locate any work by this artist that used text and referenced a sense of place. Whilst reading through his bio I did learn about a collaboration project that he carried out with Alec Finlay and Micheal Nedo entitled Ludwig Wittgenstein – There Where You Are Not. It explores landscape and the architecture of landscape, but from what I could see, without text.
An artist that I have heard of! I knew that Blake was famed for being a poet but I had no idea that he also painted, exhibited at the Royal Academy and opened a print shop. I read a lot about his various work and found that he released a series of poems called ‘Songs of Innocence’. It seems that these poems were originally presented with watercolour paintings. I have not been able to locate examples of the two together but I did find the poems themselves online.
I wasnt sure which Jane Wilson I was supposed to be looking at so I also checked out the work of the identical twins Jane and Louise Wilson. Again, I could not find any examples of work that included text and referenced Place.
Again I struggled to find a good information source for Susan Maris. On one website under ‘biography’ all it said was “Alexander and Susan Maris is an artist” ! There is evidence of photographic work attributed to both the Maris’s but no solo work that I can see, and nothing that uses text.
I found this exercise quite frustrating. Although it was interesting looking at the different artists work and learning some new things, to find that so many of them do not use text initially made me think that I wasn’t reading around enough. After spending a couple of days exploring different sources and satisfying myself that my initial impressions were correct I do not feel that what I have submitted for this research point reflects the amount of time I have put into it.
But, on a positive note, I’ve found some Contemporary Art that I quite like. I’ll be looking at more of Doug Aitkens work at a later date.
exercise requires me to read and assimilate the essay on Page 11-26 of the set
book ‘Place. London: Thames and Hudson by Dean, T and Millar, J (2005)’
Reflect on how you found the activity. Is it too
difficult? Do you agree with the authors or not? Has the piece expanded your
understanding of what the word ‘place’ can signify?
the essay which I found too philosophical for my taste, particularly “Place is
all that there is, the limit of all things and in this it might be considered
as a divine being” (Page 14-15).
The activity is not difficult. The most
challenging bit for me was in cutting through the waffle to what the authors
were getting at. I feel sure that I could have put all the same points across a
lot more succinctly with a page of bullet points.
I don’t agree with a lot of the conclusions
drawn by the authors. I do not think that the value of place has been
diminished. I think that it is down to the perception of each individual, if
you have been to a particular location, you know what it feels like, you know
it’s moods. How those make an impression on you will differ to those of the
next person. For example, I see big green hills and think of the rural freedom
that they provide, a town dweller may look at them and imagine only the horrors
of the wind, the rain and the cow pats.
What I mean to say is, somewhere either resonates with you or it doesn’t, there
is no lessening of that.
The only new thing I found within this text
was the description of how the modern concept of landscape has evolved into being.
This was interesting, and I saw the truth in it more on my third/fourth time of
reading than I did on my initial read-through.
are more concepts of place than actual geographic ones’’ (Dean and Millar,
2005, p12) What does this mean?
initial response to this one question perfectly sums up what I’m struggling
with with this section of the module. Although I know exactly what the authors
are getting at with that statement, my initial thoughts were that there are an
awful lot of places in the world and that I doubt they could come up with
enough theoretical notions to beat the list I could make after just ten minutes
with an atlas.
authors are trying to put across is that there are many different uses of the
word place. I’m currently working out of the country, everyday for 2 weeks I
have sat in the same chair at the communal meal time. Initially it was just a
chair, now it’s my place which is left free for me. When I first arrived here
my initial actions were to put my own photos on the wall and to swap the
institutional bedding for some that I brought with me, doing that turned it
from a faceless room into my place. Another example is the feeling of relief
that I have on returning to the UK from working abroad or even holidays.
Although other places are nice, England is where I belong, it is my place.
doesn’t have to be a physical location, it can be a notion or a mindset or even
a memory attached to a set of circumstances which make it relevant to an
puzzled as to how this can be classified as art. Maybe it is a statement on the
perishable nature of life? Maybe it’s supposed to be a reminder that fresh food
is better for you but it goes off fast? Maybe it’s a statement that peopleare
ignoring their health and thereby their lifespans are shortening? Maybe my
ideas that art should be something beautiful and good are wrong?
and form of the piece
is, I’m assuming, the video as opposed to the rotting bowl of fruit. As a form
I normally quite enjoy a time lapse video, the ones I see are more often things
like sunsets or speed-art photoshop videos on Youtube. Seeing that someone has
decided to apply time lapse video to something like decaying fruit was a bit
of shocker for me. Initialy the setup of
the fruit looked quite classical and reminded me of a Caravaggio still life. In
classical old paintings of bowls of fruit there were often nods to death or
references to the impermanence of life, maybe by using video in this form
Taylor-Woods is putting a modern spin on classical techniques?
you think has influenced this piece?
A lot of
things could have influenced this piece. It could be a modern spin on a
classical approach to still life, it could be a piece about the passing of
time, or it could be a shock and awe exercise reminiscent of Damien Hirst. I
had a look around at some of Taylor-Woods’ other work. A video which I accessed
on YouTube at
https://youtu.be/NYka4ouQXqk (YouTube. (2019). Sam Taylor-Wood – A Little Death [720p]. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYka4ouQXqk [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019]. ) entitled ‘A Little Death’ shows a hare and a peach rotting. As the video continues the maggots erupt from the body of the hare and consume it. Weirdly very little happens to the peach.
Again I found this quite gross to watch. There are different messages
that the artist might be trying to put across, it could be a statement on the
life cycle, how maggots will consume us all. Maybe it’s a statement on how we
all feed off each other. Having read a few essays about Hirsts shark in a tank
I imagine that it’s more likely to be a darker approach about how something
like a consumerist society destroys all life and feeds off the broken carcass
of it’s participants. Just a guess. I’ve noticed that not many of these modern
artists seem to be wanting to spread messages of positivity and rainbows.
Talking of Damien Hirst, one of his early works which attracted him much
publicity was a rotting cows head (complete with maggots) inside a tank. The
tank even included smell holes to allow viewers of the piece to ‘engage
further’ with the installation. Freud commented on it along the lines of that
Hirst had opened his career with his best work.
The rotting cows head with maggots rings bells when I look at
Taylor-Woods ‘A Little Death’. Is it a deep statement or is it more like one
artist craving a bit of notoriety of the other and so is embracing the same
How does this piece comment on
piece comments on time in several different ways;
the more basic passage of time shown by the way the hare is being devoured by
the relation to time shown by the speeded-up video which is what the viewer
the way that seeing a video of a still life with its references to death
relates to the classical painters of hundred of years ago.
possible references to vegetarianism, currently a very popular trend. This can
be seen in the way the hare is devoured so much faster than mould starts to
affect the peach on the left hand side.
In 250 words describe your understanding of this
made some notes of different aspects of the piece I believe that this video is
about time passing. I think that Taylor-Wood wants us to think about how short
a lifespan is and how everything ends with decay no matter who you are. I think
this is symbolised by the choice of the hare, hares traditionally win races but
this one has met the same end as everything else. This is further echoed by the
maggots, they live breathe and breed just the same as we do and we get to see
their life cycle play out as they feed on what has gone before.
There are several different refences to time
in this piece. The initial set-up echoes early still-lifes as depicted by
Renaissance painters, this allows Taylor-Wood to show how far technology in art
has come by using different methods to show the same relationships between life
The choice of video as a medium has allowed
further references to the passage of time. The actual event of the hare rotting
would have taken several days, possibly weeks. This is delivered to us in
minutes thanks to technology. There is also a possible relationship here as to
how long traditional paintings of still life would have taken to create as
opposed to how we can use for example digital cameras to swiftly create the
same stunning images.
I think the use of video has allowed this art
piece to be more user friendly (no Hirst-like smell holes here!), the choice of
this media makes it accessible and gives it longevity.
What is your initial reaction to the
idea of this piece?
My initial reaction was to wonder how on earth they think that they can
guarantee that something will play for 1000 years. My next reaction was to
wonder why they would set this up in the first place. Is it for any substantial
reason or just another act of humankind attempting to do something that will
What do you think about the sounds in
I think the sounds are very basic, I imagine that this is to form a
connection between the early music practitioners who used bowls in this way and
to ensure that no matter how technology evolves the music can be continued. As
the musicians on the video demonstrate, it is a music which can be created by
Why do you think Finer has chosen
these particular sounds?
I would take a guess that Finer chose these particular sounds because
they do not form any obvious pattern or tune. It is the kind of background
noise with which it is very easy to switch off and start daydreaming. Again
looking at the ‘spectators’ on the video who, the longplayer website tells me’
are directed on where they may sit’ I can see that many are meditating and some
are in fact asleep.
I’m really struggling with this module. The module textbook says ‘This
is quite a mind blowing piece’. The internet shows me that there are legions of
rabidly fanatical Longplayer fans, musicians are playing it on video with such
a degree of seriousness, it was commissioned
by an arts agency. Going back to Grayson Perrys Reith lectures at the beginning
of the module he states a series of tests that something must pass for it to be
successful art. I look at Longplayer and I see it passing these tests so I know
that it must be classed as good, but
for the life of me I can’t see why. If someone presented the concept of
Longplayer to me on April the 1st I would put (and lose it seems) my
house on it being a prank, a mad imagining of a brain addled by drugs over the
course of a music career.
I understand that it’s a cool idea thinking that in decades to come
people of a different generation will be listening to or maybe even still
performing the composition but it’s not something that I can get all warm and
‘The term site-specific refers to a work of art designed specifically for a particular location and that has an interrelationship with the location’
Longplayer is not a site-specific installation. It is performed in various locations and is continually broadcast online. For something which Finer produced as a result of philosophical, cosmological and a physics perspective it would be wrong for the Longplayer to only have one home.
Analyse the performance of the piece,
looking at how it is presented to the audience. Think about;
the quality of the sound used
The sound used has an ethereal
quality. This echoes both backwards and forwards through time. The lack of
human influence in the quality of sound produced, by which I mean they are
ringing metal bowls as opposed to blowing into a woodwind instrument, ensures a
consistency which may not otherwise have been achieved.
The choice of singing bowls
I would guess that Finer chose
singing bowls as a matter of continuity. They have a long history, and with
their very basic nature, should be around for years to come. There is also less
room for artistic interpretation of Finers composition, less room for
character. It is just a relentless clinical march of exactly what he wanted
being played for the next 80 years. Another reason for the choice of singing
bowls may have been for their ethereal quality, t is easy to space out or
meditate when listening to their background noise.
the positioning of the singing bowls
The positioning of the bowls in
circles reflects the circular nature of time such as the life cycle. It also
physically resembles the rings of the Solar System which have long been
associated with the passage of time, when shall we colonise Mars etc.
the positioning of the spectator
Spectators are allowed to circle the
installation either around the periphery or within the rings. The rings keep
reminding me o the life cycle and how humans keep rotating through it.
the time length of the piece
The piece is due to run for 1000
years and then it is intended that it should run again. The Longplayer site
tells me that it is associated with the movement of planets, it seems that they
only ever line up once every 1000 years and that Longplayer is designed to
reflect this. Currently there are six pieces of music, the computer is choosing
to play different parts of each piece at the same time which ensures that there
will be different music with no repetitions until the next run through.
how the piece is performed
Players taking part in performances
move within the rigs of the Longplayer set-up. This resembles a life cycle, the
Solar System and the intended ongoing cycle of the Longplayer performance. Most
of the time the piece is played by a computer but knowing that at some point
this will become obsolete, a Trust has been established to ensure that new
methods of continuing the composition are found as technology evolves.
Write a short interpretation of
Longplayer is a 1000 year long musical composition composed by Jem Finer of The Pogues. It started playing at the turn of the millennium in 1999 and is currently officially based at a listening post in a lighthouse in Trinity Buoy Wharf London. Though performances are played in a variety of locations, in addition the whole thing is broadcast live on the Internet constantly. The Longplayer set up is of 234 singing bowls set around six concentric circles. It is comprised of a series of six pieces of music, one for each physical circle of the composition which are all played at the same time. Each of the six pieces of music is broken down into a further si pieces/ The timing of each of the six pieces on each circle is staggered and picked at random by the computer (which usually controls the playing of the music) to ensure that nothing is repeated for a one thousand year cycle. The Longplayer composition is based on perspectives taken from physics, philosophy and cosmology as opposed to just music. The siting of the bowls in concentric circles echoes the movement of the planets. Once in a thousand years all the planets align, Circle One’s composition within the Longplayer piece takes 1000 years to complete, unlike the other circles ‘parts’ to play, it will not repeat itself. Finer has created a work which, if the Longplayer Trust is successful, will outlive generations to come.
For my research into Longplayer I used the following source;