Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Response to Bow Gamelan Ensemble Great Noises That Fill The Air by Elizabeth Ann Day

The collection of performance art: a critique of Bow Gamelan Ensemble at Cooper Gallery

After first viewing Bow Gamelan Ensemble’s Great Noises that Fill the Air at Cooper Gallery I was struck by the exhibits distinct links to an issue I have been researching in my own practice for the last year; can we collect performance art?

The exhibition itself has two clear sections. One focuses on the new iteration of Bow Gamelan (known as W0B) wherein Anne Bean and Richard Wilson, accompanied by DJCAD students, performed on the show’s opening night, whilst the other looks to the past. The larger space on the gallery’s upper level is focussed on ephemera, with some of the earliest pieces on display dating back to the group’s inception in 1983.  Accompanying these physical objects are CRT monitors displaying footage of past performances as well as a mix of interviews from Bean, Wilson, and past member Paul Burwell (1949-2007). A new piece sits with this ephemera, titled Bow Lines (2018) it attempts to bring this material into the present by rattling large metal sheeting at seemingly random intervals. This naturally shocks the viewer, making them view the displayed ephemera in a slightly tense manner as their body attempts to anticipate the next thundering noise.

On December 7th I had the privilege of hosting a workshop within the gallery space wherein myself and student participants could discuss the issues of collecting and displaying performance art. Walking around the show during this discussion, the group dissected some of Bow Gamelan’s interviews. Burwell states in one that he “falls between two stools” when it comes to his practice, he is neither an artist nor a musician in his own eyes. As a group, we discussed whether this would still be the case. It seemed clear to all of us that Bow Gamelan Ensemble, in 2018, could be considered a group of performance artists. However, this relation to the traditional music scene meant that Bow Gamelan had the opportunity to perform in a wide variety of locations usually unavailable to visual artists. The ephemera on show backs up this idea as we see Burwell, Bean and Wilson performing at music festivals with loud, dancing audiences, as well as the white cube gallery more commonly associated with artistic practice during the group’s core activity (1983-1991).

If we consider Bow Gamelan Ensemble as performance artists, and if we consider the footage and ephemera on show at Cooper Gallery documentation, then how do we truly collect and display performance art? I am still struggling with this idea; however, the workshop participants came to the conclusion that if you can sell performance then you can collect it. How very prudent, I personally had never considered such a logical solution.

Elizabeth Ann Day
February 2019

Bow Gamelan Ensemble, Bow Lines, 2018.
Installation view Cooper Gallery, 2018. Photo by Eoin Carey.
Thundersheet (pictured left) Bow Gamelan Ensemble Archive (pictured right).

Bow Gamelan Ensemble Great Noises That Fill The Air took place at Cooper Gallery 27 October – 15 December 2018.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Ceremony | Phil Collins suggested reading

Artist Phil Collins shares a list of suggested reading material as part his exhibition Ceremony at Cooper Gallery, 18 January – 16 February 2019.

Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1845. London: Penguin Classics
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848. London: Penguin Classics
Eric Hobsbawm, How To Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism 1840-2011, 2011. London: Little, Brown.
Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, 2009. Winchester: Zero Books.
Vickie Cooper and David Whyte (eds.), The Violence of Austerity, 2017. London: Pluto Press.
Jamie Woodcock, Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres, 2016. London: Pluto Press.
Tristram Hunt, Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels. 2009. London: Allen Lane.
China Mieville, October: The Story of Russian Revolution, 2017. London: Verso.
Peter Weiss, The Aesthetics of Resistance, Vol. I., 1975. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Gavin McCrea, Mrs. Engels, 2015Melbourne / London: Scribe.
Walter Greenwood, Love on the Dole, 1933. London: Vintage Books.

Study Area for Phil Collins, Ceremony, 2018. Installation view Cooper Gallery, Dundee, 2019.
Photography by Sally Jubb. Courtesy Shady Lane Productions. 

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Cooper Summer Residency | Paul Noble suggested reading

For Cooper Summer Residency [online] Paul Noble shares a suggested reading list ahead of his upcoming exhibition, Politics of Small Places, with works by Patrick Geddes at Cooper Gallery in September 2018.

Paul Noble suggested reading:

Nawaal El-Sadaawi, God Dies by the Nile, 1985
Heinrich von Kleist, The Earthquake in Chile, 1807
Svetlana Alexievic, Second Hand Time, 2013
Jean Joseph Goux, Oedipus, Philosopher, 1993
Michel Serres, Statues, 1987
Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies, 1951
Samuel Beckett, Mercier & Camier, 1970
Samuel Beckett, Watt, 1953
Gerrit Achterberg, Ballad of the Gasfitter, 1977
Franz Kafka, The Burrow, 1931
Thomas Bernhard, Gargoyles, 1967

During the residency artist Paul Noble and Architecture Reader Lorens Holm engage in a public conversation shared across Cooper Gallery’s websites and social media.

Cooper Summer Residency 2018 [online]
Lorens Holm + Paul Noble
2 July - 13 September 2018

Friday, 13 April 2018

Exhibition tour of Ingela Ihrman's 'We Thrive' by Mhairi Abbas

DJCAD Textile Design Graduate Resident Mhairi Abbas reflects on the exhibition tour she co-lead with Cooper Gallery for current DJCAD Textile Design students.

We Thrive
, is a fascinating exhibition of work by Ingela Ihrman at Cooper Gallery. Ihrman is a Swedish contemporary artist with a background in Textile Design. Using her basis in textiles Ihrman has produced a tactile experience, playing with scale and bringing in humour in unexpected ways. Some of the pieces bring a sense of tranquillity while others have a laugh out loud awkwardness.

This exhibition includes performance, physical installations and video, creating a truly immersive experience. I recently co-lead a tour and discussion around the gallery with the aim of helping Textile Design students engage with the show, expand their horizons and to explore how it could inform their own work.

The tour was in two parts, firstly exploring the exhibition as a whole and getting a feel for the artwork, followed by an informal group discussion. The group of fifteen 2nd year Textile Design students were keen to investigate the space, this was the first time any of the students had visited the Cooper Gallery. It was great to see them exploring the space and hearing what they thought of the exhibition.
Textile Design students in workshop devised by Mhairi Abbas. Photo by Mhairi Abbas.
As the artist has a background in Textile Design, it is great to see the work cover unusual ground and utilise a range of mediums. The work by Ingela Ihrman is a charming mix of humour and thought-provoking insight into our relationship with the natural world. The artist also uses materials to great effect, using both organic and manmade items to create her range of work. The students were asked to look at how the artist had applied unusual materials as well as considering how the work was constructed. This was of great interest to the students who are encouraged to use a wide variety of materials in their own textiles practice.

The fascinating thing about Ihrman’s work is that it is only when you look closely that the objects give up the secrets of how they are constructed. The attention to detail in the work is beautiful and the way the artist has chosen to keep elements of the original materials in view gives a sense of honesty and artistry to the work as well as hinting at the creative process.

The group of students had time to experience the exhibition as well as discovering what the Cooper Gallery has to offer. The work is thought provoking and inspired a great discussion from the group. This helped them to expand their horizons in terms of a textile practice, consider a range of mediums and see an artist use and display textiles within their work in a gallery setting.

Ingela Ihrman We Thrive took place at Cooper Gallery between March and April 2018. Find out more about the exhibition here.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Ingela Ihrman: We Thrive | Reading List

Ingela Ihrman has selected material to contextualise the thinking around We Thrive, the artist's first solo-exhibition in the UK.

Study Area at exhibition preview. Photography by Ross Fraser McLean.

Jan Lindblad, Anakondabrottningen (The Anaconda wrestling), 1967:
Jan Lindblad, video compilation of nature documentaries for TV:

Ingela Ihrman, Green Paradises, notes on Jan Lindblad, 2018
Ingela Ihrman, Seaweedsbladet #1, 2017
Stina Nyberg & Sofia Wiberg, The Practice of Listening, 2017, (Paletten Art Journal # 307-308)
Maria Lind, The Transforming wonders of the natural world, 2015 (Art Review March 2015)
Emanuele Coccia, on plants, interviewed by Olivier Zahm, 2017 (purple MAGAZINE, 25YRS Anniversary issue)
Mary Midgley, Beast and Man, 1979 (Routledge)
Chus Martinez, Marianna Vecellio, Metamorphoses, 2018 (Castello di Rivoli)

Further reading suggested by Ingela Ihrman:

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts, 2015 (Graywolf Press)
Marston Bates, The forest and the sea, 1960 (Vintage Books)
Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble, 2016 (Duke University Press)
Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto, 2003 (University of Chicago Press)
Elsa Beskow, The Sun Egg, 1993
Elsa Beskow, Children of the Forest, 1987
Elsa Beskow, The Flower Festival, 2010 (Floris Books)
The work of the Swedish ethnobiologist Ingvar Svanberg

Ingela Ihrman
We Thrive

9 March – 13 April 2018

Friday, 19 January 2018

Response to Ulay 'So You See Me': by Charis Edward Wells

Student Curatorial Team member and MFA - Art Society and Publics student Charis Edward Wells writes a reflection on her experience of Ulay's exhibition 'So You See Me' at Cooper Gallery

It's a Thursday afternoon in November and I'm sitting in the corner of the Cooper Gallery main exhibition space rubbing my chilly nose to see if it's still there. I've been invigilating the current exhibition for around a month now for three hours a week, camped in the corner with my straight backed chair perpendicular to the unique curved wall. Determined to use the time productively, my aforementioned chilly nose has been stuck in a book or illuminated by the blue light of my laptop screen. I'm alerted from my post intermittently by the sound of a page turning as Ulay's sound piece Aphorisms resonates around the room. The intangible nature of the works which we engage with aurally have been countered with a wooden structure framing twelve A4 prints which show the works written in the original German with accompanying pink English translations orbiting the originals. The individual panels in the structure contain a physical representation of the sound pieces. Each poem is contained in its own frame, suspended by the surrounding air which is full of Ulay's voice. The very air holds the artists intent, the years of experience, the history of the words and the gaps between the two languages.

I force my head down again to submerge myself into the work for my impending assessments trying to allow myself to be lulled into an academic trance by Ulay's voice. He is watching me from the wall to my right, watching me through the lens of his Polaroid from 12 years before I was born. The series of Auto-Polaroids in Elf show a younger Ulay peacocking for the camera alone in the woods. It doesn't feel intimate, more like a display, a performance for everyone in the future looking into these little windows on this wall in Dundee. As if I am a voyeur to a secret performance held many years previously. Does he know I'm watching? The title of the show answers my question:  So You See Me. He is the voyeur, not me: watching me in my intimate moment of solitude in the gallery.

From the adjacent corridor, Ulay dictates his thoughts on Women With Flags, part of his social experiment series where he plays the scientist seeing if he can illicit ethical responses from us, the audience. The accompanying slide show depicts women of various ethnicities proudly parading augmented flags of the countries of their residence. I can see the bright, polymer colours of the flags dancing in the reflections on the doors from my seat. Both colour and voice invading the softness of the main gallery from the dark corridor.

It becomes increasingly difficult to focus on anything else in the space due to the heavy presence of the artist. I give up and close my laptop to walk around the space and view the works. Ulay’s presence is almost tangible. I can feel him looking at me, but it is not me, he is looking at the audience and demanding attention. From his demure reflections on his lover in Pa’Ulay (1973-74) to the extensive documentation of There’s a Criminal Touch To Art (1976) where he brazenly steals Carl Spitzwegs The Poor Poet and hangs it in a Turkish immigrant household to draw attention to the treatment of migrants in Germany. The entrance to the gallery is plastered from floor to ceiling of the newspaper articles and ephemera associated with this ‘Action in 14 premeditated sequences.’ It is an action that ignited debate in both the art world, the public, and the marginalised communities he drew attention to. The work was/is audacious, incendiary, and paved the way for misdemeanours as an art practice.

Ulay’s work is confrontational, invasive and captivating. He steals your attention as if it was a beloved painting in a national gallery. He has asked questions of us, the audience, since before we could even answer them. Am I a participant in your social experiment? Am I the audience? Who is looking at whom? It is you who is looking at me, Ulay, and you are demanding I look back.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Urgency and Possibility: Counter-Cinema in the 70s and 80s /// Laura Mulvey suggested reading

To coincide with the screening programme of the collaborative works by influential feminist film theorists and filmmakers Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, Cooper Gallery asked Laura Mulvey to select further reading to locate and expand upon the films concerns.

Laura Mulvey talking at Cooper Gallery on the opening of the Screening Programme

Laura Mulvey suggested reading:

Sophie Mayer, 'A narrative of what wishes': Laura Mulvey's and Peter Wollen's adventures in the essay film, 2013 (BFI, London)
Sophie Mayer, Listening to Women, in: Other Cinemas:Politics Culture and Experimental Film in the 1970s; eds S.Clayton and L.Mulvey, 2017 (I.B. Tauris, London)

Esther Leslie, AMY!/Crystal Gazing (available here)
Volker Pantenburg, The Third Avantgarde. Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen, and the Theory-Film, in: Beyond the Scorched Earth of Counter-Cinema. The Films of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen; ed. O. Fuke, 2016 (Texte Und Töne, New York)

Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, 1975 (Screen, Oxford University Press)
Laura Mulvey, The Spectacle is Vulnerable: Miss World 1970 in: Laura Mulvey, Visual And Other Pleasures, 1989 (PALGRAVE, New York)

Peter Wollen, Godard and Counter Cinema: Vent d'Est in: Readings and Writings: Semiotic Counter-strategies, 1982 (Verso Books, London)
Peter Wollen, The Two Avant-Gardes, 1975 (Studio International, New York)

See more about the screening programme here

Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen
Urgency and Possibility: Counter-Cinema in the 70s and 80s
ran from 29 September 2017 - 7 October 2017 at Cooper Gallery