Monday, 31 October 2011

Engaged Response

I'm really happy how proactive and engaged the MFA students have been in A CUT and how perhaps the dialogues they instigated in such opportunities as Meet the Writer's in Residence and chairing a 5o'clock Salon carried on once they had left the confines and privacy of these sessions. I really hope that a collaborative exhibition does take place as part of their assessment. I always thought it a shame that in final degree marking in Fine Art and APCP that projects/collaborations could not be taken more into account alongside one's practice.

In response to Tracy's post, I do feel that out of most graduates from DJCAD I have a more well-rounded experience of curation and what it can mean in contemporary visual culture. I worked as an Information Assistant to Karla Black's Venice show for the 54th Biennale and in this time I met a collector of Black's work and Arte Povera historian and curator who asked me many questions about the direction my life and my involvement in the arts was taking. When we got onto the subject of my interest in curation, he said;

"Holly, do you like people?"

- "Yes."

"Do you like working with people?"

- "Yes."

"Then you can't possibly be a curator."

.... This left me quite astounded. And four months on, I don't think he's right. I think the notion of a curator is now a very loose term. I think curators are facilitators, producers, directors who enable artists to fully realise their creative and socially responsive ambitions and I hope this experience as Production Assistant has instilled the confidence in me to do this in the not so distant future.

There are many artists who work successfully as artist-curators and vice-versa and I do believe it is essential that curatorial practice becomes a more fundamental aspect of Contemporary Fine Art education, as no one can curate your work better than yourself. This brings me back to my wish that exhibition in the Cooper Gallery had been given time to breath, and that the artists had time to reflect on the immediacy of their sculptural performance, which could be conveyed in a series of dialogical, more logical outcomes for a fresh audience. 

Shadow prop cut-outs in the current Cooper Gallery exhibition

Nonetheless, what I think this project and a lot of performative-based works do is to emphasise the current obsession with documentation. The beauty of this project was its 'durational' quality, being the definable and seductive characteristic of performance art. Performance begs the questions - does is need documentation, and does there need to be an outcome? - and that is why wording was so important within this project. The performances were not a means to an end, the last performance was not the finale, it was 'Culminating' because A CUT A SCRATCH A SCORE not only remains alive in the minds of the artists, curators, team and most importantly participators/audience, but it has a life after Dundee when it moves onto London's RCA. It leaves me and Katie asking:- was the vibrancy of the week’s multiple scheduled but disorderly performances not enough, should there be an exhibition?

Sam Belinfante in the first of three Open Rehearsal's in the Cooper Gallery

Above: Sam and Bruce McLean at the City Square Open Rehearsal
Below: Bruce and Lore Lixenberg

Pics by Holly Knox Yeoman

Saturday, 29 October 2011

stage for recollection

I agree with Holly that the empty stage has a very different presence from last week. The potential for action has disappeared along with the artists. The fixed exhibition, with its film footage and re-presentation of objects, acts almost as a recollection of the performance from the week before.

The ‘durational’ of the open rehearsals week allowed for viewers to experience the constant change, with decisions being made and un-made by the artists so that even the Culminating Performance was not finite. Although it demonstrated some of the more finely tuned performative actions developed from the week, it also experimented in new ways, and involved the gathering together of previous and new participants who interpreted the artists’ directions in different surroundings from the open rehearsals.

In contrast, the static exhibition feels more clearly defined. The cardboard cut outs are neatly gathered together and face away from the viewer – almost as they were when not in use during the Culminating Performance – however, they have been delegated to the outside space of the Upper Foyer Gallery. We see them in use through documentation footage in the Cooper Gallery but by being separate and away from the stage they seem to be waiting to be moved/removed. Although last week I held the tree, moved the trousers, and picked up the cloud, I wouldn’t dare touch them now. Perhaps with the empty stage they (challengingly?) present too many options, so that no one act would be appropriate?

The chaos, exhilaration and excitement of the Open Rehearsals week has dissipated but the exhibition provides a platform to recall it in part.

I am intrigued to discover more about the MFA collaborative exhibition, it will be interesting to see what choices are made that perhaps wouldn’t have been without the experience of A CUT and An Action.

durational fixity

Good to read of your experience Holly, as a participant in A CUT ... and as a recent graduate who has first-hand experience of a very different type, form and approach to the presentation of art and the art of exhibition-making: the Venice Biennale. I wonder how your immersion in these two projects has impacted on your thoughts on the role and place of the artist, and curation? And what about the manipulation of time as medium – the ‘durational’ within performance versus the ‘fixity’ of the exhibition?

MFA students who participated in A CUT … and An Action … have subsequently proposed staging a collaborative exhibition as part of the MFA PGCert assessment – students, what are your thoughts on the questions here?

Friday, 28 October 2011

"see the music and hear the image"

This past two weeks has been an absolute blast and given me real insight into artists’ collaborations and the inherent tensions of many people combining in a large scale project.

My introduction to the musical, sculptural, performative, theatrical, dialogical process of the efforts of Belinfante, Barnett, McLean, Bourrett and Lixenberg has been truly inspiring and often perplexing when people come together to create something unique.

Belinfante's and Lixenberg's input has reaffirmed my personal interest in the notion of musicality in contemporary art and the versatility of the voice as an instrument, as a way of engaging with the public and as an identifiable form between artist and participator - whether as performer or audience member.
The complexities of this project enabled a breakdown of the restrictions that exist between viewer, artist, the unaware public bystander, and who or what can become sculptural performance. The intensity of Performance week is now over, where the artists, curators and production team battled with a schedule that included meetings, discussions, Open Rehearsals, actual rehearsals, 5o'clock salons and the Culminating Performance. And so we are now left with remnants of this chaotic but fantastic time in the form of an exhibition in the Cooper Gallery.
The exhibition gathers attention through the unusual sounds which echo from the Cooper Gallery, and then captivates the viewer further through Barnett's geometric graphic based movement recordings framed by glimpses of performances from the previous week. The long stage diagonally disrupts the space leaving the viewer with a longing to have witnessed its orginal and live purpose - as a place to perform.

I am incredibly happy to have played a part in this collaboration between five diverse artists, Exhibitions at DJCAD curators, and the other members of the production team. It is always hard to have a clear opinion on something you have been so heavily involved with, and I do believe that those who attend the exhibition will come away unsure of the gallery experience presented and it will be interesting the response it receives. However, I believe the performances that many witnessed last week were beneficial in engaging people from various backgrounds, with the majority of singers, drummers, audience members enquiring about other opportunities to participate and learn more about the work. Those who participated went away feeling positive about their new experience, widening the appeal of contemporary art and of the vibrancy artists can bring to a cityscape such as Dundee.

Members of Dundee Drum Academy and individual drummers spontaneously drumming at the top of Crichton Street after the City Square Open Rehearsal.

Margaret Mather's and The Free Voice Choir practicing before the Open Rehearsal in the Botanics Greenhouse.

Vids by Holly Knox Yeoman

Friday, 21 October 2011

Doodles from Wednesday's 5 o'clock salon.

Doodles from Tuesdays 5 o'clock salon.

I saw a Sculpture

Photos by David Aitken

Thoughts from Thursday's rehearsal.

Space is in a constant state of reproduction, issues of space and the spacialization of social relations and conventions of epistemology within this sphere are in constant flux. Henri Lefebvre in The Production of Space argues this, and Wednesday’s rehearsal in Dundee’s Botanic Gardens exemplified it beautifully.
The public places chosen as venue for the past two rehearsals, the city square and the botanic gardens are public places with socially assigned functions, this being the nature of the notion of Place. They are also social spaces, which by the nature of Space, allows for a constant reconfiguration of use and an exploration of the knowledge gained from that process.
The Botanic Gardens was the most striking example of this when we consider the reaction of the public. The members of the public, who did not attend specifically to see the event, appeared to have stumbled upon the process in a very different way to the public at the city square rehearsal. In the square the viewer encountered the rehearsal passing through the space. Stopping if they wished, continuing on with their way with ease in an open space which is frequently reassigned different functions. A Live Art event does not happen often but is not inconsiderable within a city square.
Within the context of the Botanic Gardens, the resulting feeling was altogether different. Most of the public were there for a specific reason, to see the plants, their encounter with the rehearsal was met with surprise, intrigue, and on one occasion I witnessed annoyance. (One gentleman was ‘just there to see the coniferous plants, not this shit’...I quote) Those that stayed cut statuesque silhouette, motionless with their heads peering out from behind trees, becoming parts of the artwork unbeknownst to themselves. We were moved by the musicality of the space and the artist interaction to it. However there was a feeling of peering in, of being uninvited, creating a strange tension within the viewer participant.
Perhaps this is due to location? This event being in a public place with a strongly defined function, is it that when the functionality of a place is subverted, uncomfortably we must rethink? The space is also extremely enclosed, closely defining the route of movement, prohibiting the agency of the public. The artists were intruding into a public place yet the public felt it was the one intruding.
End of the first act of the rehearsal. Clapping. Exit choir, and the insularity of the rehearsal becomes even more apparent. The artists move to a different mode of action as the second process of the work is employed, the artists working with their environment and props to create a more contrived aesthetic for future development away from this space. The public is not required here, silence is needed. The feeling of intrusion prevails. Perhaps the disordered new function of this place could have been more clearly defined, but is that possible in a work that does not wish to be defined and where the artist is striving for, in the words of Bruce McLean, unintentional intentionality?  
The culminating performance returns to the Cooper Gallery on Friday, this time differing from Monday’s events with the addition of the public. It will be interesting to see how the notions of place, space and public agency, develops within the very specific context of the gallery. Shall we all feel more comfortable?

Central Station

The volunteers on the A CUT! project have contributed to Exhibition's Cental Station Blog, which gives further insight into what has been going on this week in the Cooper Gallery, Board Room and our events in the City Square and Botanical Gardens.


Them and Us

The artists didn’t turn up to the salon last night in the interests of continuing their own work. This heightened the sense of them and us, which added to the week’s constant contradiction of the term collaboration. They may not turn up for tonight’s exhibition, but we should accept that, right?

I’m not going. Is that acceptable? Why can’t I help but feel that I should go after being so involved in the week’s events?

Darian Leader says that 'what one sees with one’s own eyes is mixed up with the question of what someone else sees.’ (Stealing the Mona Lisa, 2002, pg 15) My ‘someone else’ would be disappointed in me not going tonight, but that ‘someone else’ has been the person I’ve been performing for all week as I’ve participated in, A cut. A scratch. A score. My ‘someone else’ has forced me to push past an initial personal reaction and cause me to be critical, resulting in me to having to connect with something I would perhaps not have chosen to engage with. When are we completely experiencing something for ourselves?

To me, this whole week has been a performance, the very thing the artists seem to be trying to avoid, in the sense that everyone seems to have been playing a role and mixing up what they see with the question of what their ‘someone else’ sees.

It was interested in last night’s salon dialogue between those who had been to the rehearsals and the individual who hadn’t. She was experiencing the rehearsals only through what was talked about as she attended the salon discussions. I feel the barrier she presented herself with by not seeing the rehearsals were not dissimilar to the barriers viewer’s faced who did attend. Boundaries, that I thought would be broken through performance in a public place, were present in each location.

Tonight’s culminating performance is not to be seen as a conclusion yet we have been viewing events called rehearsals, which suggest the anticipation of a finished outcome. I am not going tonight because I didn’t book a ticket. Surely the booking system contradicts the intent of tonight not being final performance.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

And here is a page for you from my 1997 book BULK (Barbican, London), the drawing made in response to the man I passed daily on a Rotterdam street, miming an operetta whilst spinning an LP on his finger, endlessly seeking perfection.

the note as site for ...

Able only to join you at tomorrow night’s Culminating Performance, my comment is an observation on your postings and a continuation of my perpetual thoughts about the ‘note’ as a site for the crucial place of failure in art.

I am reading the current Metropolis M (NL) magazine Survival, and thinking about what Chus Martinez says about Documenta (13)’s reasons for publishing the series of notebooks 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts: that notes and notebooks …”move between drawing and writing, and between the collecting of ideas and the naming of them. But they are also about the search, the arguments in their raw form, about the temporary rupture with the discursive form they represent. Notes and notebooks point up the way that writing and reading are bound to one’s self, and thus say something about the relationship between the private and the public.” (my translation from Dutch).

Wednesday's open rehearsal, city square.

Images by David Aitken

Tuesdays 5 o clock salon

Images by David Aitken.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Failure as an option

Why can’t ‘failure’ be an option? What’s wrong with that?
What is it, anyway? 
Failure: ‘A lack of success. Something that falls short of what is required or expected’.*

So who decides? Whose requirements and expectations matter?

We make judgements all the time; in the rehearsal on Tuesday (as I saw it) the 'performers' were constantly making judgements as to what worked and what didn’t work (what was succeeding and failing) moment by moment.
Would it be Ok for it not to work as a comic opera - as publicised? Maybe it fails in that but it works, or is working, as something else…
I’m also curious about the influence of the academic institution on the work (both on the performers and the writers) given the context is a place where judgements about value and legitimacy are continually being made.
* from Encarta dictionary definition

Failure is not an option

Failure, is it a culturally conditioned fear of not living up to, or achieving a cumulation of the internal, external, subjective and objective, preconceptions, expectations, ideals or opinions of what something should be, how it should be done, or how it should look?

It seems, in the world in which we live, failure is a very easy possibility. Or at least it is if we allow it to be, If we expect something within rigid parameters, then there is always room for that something not to match up to what we thought it was going to be.

If there is no set agenda, or set of outcomes but only a will to do something, say something, explore something in a humanistic and truly collective way, embracing and cherishing the unknown. Failure is not an option, it is not a possibility because everything is possible, accepted and valued. The imperfections are what, in fact give depth, dimension and dynamism.

This to me is the essence of A Cut, A Scratch, A Score.

Initial Thoughts. Wed 19th Oct.

Well were not sure whats going to happen and that's going to be the point. But its not going to be a document and its not going to look like art. So that's good we think?
MFA Observer.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Setting the stage, settling the score and drawing a crowd

Today was the first salon for A Cut A Scratch A Score. Having spent the day working hard on the initial stage(s) of the project the artists Sam Belinfante, David Barnett, Adeline Bourret and the sculptor Bruce McLean invited us into the gallery to introduce their project and open up the discussion.

Topics of conversation ranged from why Bruce is not an artist to whether or not trees could 'draw', but mainly centred around the idea of the score and it's importance to the work they make.
The notion of scoring work is an interesting one. Traditionally associated with classical music, the score is often seen as a rigid set of rules, a precise record of a melody to ensure that it may replicated exactly each time it is played. Sam, David and Bruce however see a score more as a set of guidelines that help shape work, which if picked up by another artist would produce an entirely different result. For them anything can be a score.

This particularly resonated with me as I use the technique of scoring work when working performatively as a method of documentation. A score of an improvised work, when made retrospectively can document an aspect of performative work that is beyond a camera; it can provide insight into the thought process of the artist as they make the work. It can also then be used in a way similar to how Sam, David and Bruce use scores; to inform new work. It is interesting how even when the same artist responds again to the same score the outcome can be entirely different.

Adeline's method of working, creating a "playspace" and collecting "clues" to use as a score was especially interesting. Inhabiting a space to explore and play with ideas and inspirations allows for successes and failures (both equally important in the creative process) and for new possibilities to emerge. Far from scores being rigid rules, they allow a freedom to create.
The other hot topic was that of drawing. Bruce highlighted the importance of the drawing process as a real creativity and invention, stating that often the working drawings are far more interesting than the final piece of artwork.

Following the writers in residence talks and open rehearsals, the next few salons should be every bit as thought provoking as this one. The artists (and sculptor) are keen for you to shape the salons so if you have anything you want to ask or put to the artists feel free to come along to the Cooper Gallery at 5pm and bring your questions, scores and more.

I will leave you with a thought for the day courtesy of Bruce McLean; everything we use in our daily lives, from our socks and shoes to the nuts, bolts and components in a washing machine was drawn before it was made.

A CUT A SCRATCH A SCORE: a comic opera in three parts