Production at Tate Modern

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After wandering around Borough Market and visiting Southwark Cathedral, we walked the short distance along the South Bank to Tate Modern where we spent the afternoon. The Bankside gallery is huge, even more so since the addition of the massive extension, that it would take more than a day to see everything. During this visit we concentrated on the extension (now named after a rich foreign mogul who contributed to Trump’s election, so no name check for him, as far as I’m concerned it’s the extension or “Switch House”) which occupied the rest of the afternoon and we still didn’t have time to see everything in it.

The exhibition space on Level 5 of the extension is devoted to the Tate Exchange which is described as

A space for everyone to collaborate, test ideas and discover new perspectives on life, through art

Currently the space has been transformed into a pottery production line by the artist Clare Twomey an artist who

works with clay in large-scale installations, Sculpture and site-specific works

and whose

installations have the social and historical context in which the installation is created as their point of departure

Entering the gallery we had to pick up a clock card and “clock in” and were given an apron to wear .

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We were then invited to join one of the production lines where gallery staff were instructing visitors on how to weigh out materials, cast vessels from a slurry of clay (known as “slip”) or bone china flowers.

We joined the slip casting production line. We were shown how to assemble a mould, pour in the slip. The filled moulds are left a short while for clay to deposit on the sides, forming the shape of the pot. We were given one that was ready for the next stage, pouring off the excess slip, cutting off the excess clay and then opening the mould to extract the cast object.

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The next stage would be firing the pot but we were told to take the pot we’d extracted to the end of the line and exchange it for another that had already been fired, which we were then free to take home with us after clocking out and having a photograph taken of the selected objects and clock cards.

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The final stage in real pottery production would be to apply a glaze and give it a second firing. But the pots available were all unfired “biscuit”. I guess the objects made will be fired and added to the exchange for another visitor to collect.

I’ve never been in a real pottery production factory although because of my job I know about the production process and the health hazards associated with it. The main concern being exposure to silica dust from the clay, talc dust used as a parting material to stop the clay sticking to the moulds, and toxic materials, such as lead, in the glazes. So it was interesting, as well as fun, to participate in the installation.

The pottery production was the first part of the installation, lasting a week. During the second week, 5 to 8 October,

The production line stops, the workers have left and you will enter a factory soundscape. The now redundant factory becomes a space for questions. Talks from industry specialists, researchers and makers will explore how communities are built by collective labour, look at where the industrial processes of our past are informing our future and consider what we will need from factories in years to come.

Cards placed throughout the factory floor invite you to think about raw materials, how knowledge is acquired and shared, where transformation takes place and the different systems of value we apply to material culture and human relationships. Leave your thoughts and share where production exists for you in exchange for an object made in the factory.

It would have been interesting to return and participate in the second phase. Like most tradition al industry in the UK, the pottery industry which used to dominate the Staffordshire Potteries around Stoke on Trent, has declined as production and jobs have been transferred to countries where labour is cheap and conditions are often significantly worse for the workers. So the exhibition mirrors what has happened to the pottery industry in the UK. Given my professional interest, and political philosophy, I’d have plenty I could contribute to this discussion.

Everything we, and other visitors, were doing during our participation, seemed to be logged. There was a phone app we could download and log in and out of the different stages of the process. It was also possible to see the towns where the objects produced had ended up (we had to include this on our clock cards). So no doubt there is more to this project then meets the eye.

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[Re]construct at the YSP

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There’s always plenty to see at the YSP so after our first look around the Tony Cragg exhibition we had something to eat and then walked over to the former chapel which has been converted into an excellent exhibition space to see the [Re]construction exhibition which had only opened a few days before.

Selected largely from the Arts Council Collection by YSP, as part of the National Partners Programme, the exhibition questions what we know and understand about architecture, and features work by artists including Martin Creed, Anya Gallaccio and Cornelia Parker.

Walking through the entrance the first thing we saw was what appeared to be a brick wall with a large section of bricks that had melted.

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This was Alex Chinneck’s A hole in a bag of nerves (2017) which was constructed especially for the exhibition. The bricks are made of wax and a section has been melted with a hot air heater.

The centre of the main space was dominated by Cornelia Parker’s Neither From Nor Towards.

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This work comprises weathered bricks from a row of houses destroyed when they slipped into the sea on the south-east coast following the erosion of the cliffs. The bricks are suspended in space, recreating their fall. Like the exploding house we saw at the Whtworth a couple of years ago it was an impressive work.

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This work, can love remember the question and the answer, is by Anya Gallaccio

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Those are real flowers trapped between the glass panes in the mahogany door. The flowers will rot and decay, so the work will change subtly over the course of the exhibition.

There were a number of video works included in the exhibition. I found two of them, Rooms designed for a woman by Emily Speed and Device by John Wood and Paul Harrison – the “ art-world equivalent of Laurel and Hardy” according to the Tate website  showing in the Chapel’s gallery, particularly interesting.

“Sprung a Leak” at Tate Liverpool

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I called into Tate Liverpool during a day out in Liverpool last week. I hadn’t been for a while so there was plenty of new exhibits to see.

Something different seemed to be going on in the ground floor gallery so I thought I’d have a look. And it certainly was different. It was

a “multi-dimensional work featuring two humanoid robots and a robot dog”

by half-Belgian, half-American artist Cécile B. Evans, currently based in London, who .

No paintings or sculptures on display but instead the room was filled with video screens and in the middle of it all two robots, plus a robot dog, whizzing around and performing a three act play

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Interviewed in the Guardian

“In its simplest form,” says Evans, “it’s an automated play about a collaboration between machines and humans against external forces that affect their wellbeing … There’s a coup, there’s an incident at a pool party, and then everyone dies.”

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Human characters were represented by three digitised pole dancers – the Users – and a beauty blogger with hands but no arms.

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The work took the form of a three act play

“about a collaboration between machines and humans against external forces that affect their wellbeing … There’s a coup, there’s an incident at a pool party, and then everyone dies.” (Guardian)

It ran for 18 minutes and then the robots repositioned and the play re-run.

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It wasn’t exactly a straightforward play – the dialogue was rather abstract but it seemed to be about the loss of liberty in society – there’s a character called Liberty in the play – very appropriate given what is happening in the world at the moment with all the worrying  Populist and Nationalist  developments. For me, another theme was how society is becoming more and more automated with humans becoming ever more dependent on machines. Perhaps these two trends are linked?

It was an interesting work that makes you think and entertaining too – watching the robots whizz around. Worth seeing again if I get the chance

Art? In Wigan?

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It’s well known (by me, at least) that Wigan is something of a cultural black hole. It’s a great town for sport but the Local Authority have no real interest in art and culture (unlike Wakefield, a very similar town over the other side of the Pennines). They closed the only gallery in town a few years ago.So I was surprised to pick up a leaflet advertising and Arts Festival in Wigan. Turns out that it was organised by a local Arts group based at the Old Courts building at the back of the Parish Church. One of the things they’d organised was an exhibition of works by local artists, so last Saturday I popped in to take a look.

It wasn’t a large exhibition, and I wouldn’t say that any of the works were ground-breaking, but there were a number of pictures I liked.

This painting by Mike Fahey – Mill Girl Wallgate 1907 – referenced the town’s history as a centre of cotton production. I like the way he’s superimposed his figure and cotton spinning machinery on top of a map of the town.

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This mixed media abstract landscape by Sharon Barnes – Sylvan Twilight  – is based on the coast at Sefton (Formby and Southport). I like the way she has incorporated found objects and the colours are very atmospheric, suggesting a stormy afternoon.

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This Untitled work by Joyce Carlton is made from folded paper. The individual pieces are perhaps a little slim to represent books. But they rather reminded me of my collection of vinyl record or, possibly, CDs.

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A sample of other works on display

Crompton’s Nog and acrylic painting by David Stanley

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Shrinkining Shelters – Tripytch by Georgia Marlowe

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Over mountain and dark sea, the sun made our wings bronze by Elaine Philips

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I enjoyed the exhibition and hope the Old Courts group can build on their efforts. Good luck to them!

Syzygy

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On Sunday “Dad’s Taxi” was in operation ferrying one offspring to see another. To avoid running backwards and forwards twice in an afternoon, we decided to spend the afternoon at Salford Quays as we hadn’t visited for a while.

First stop was the Lowry to see the current temporary exhibition – Syzygy – which features works by Katie Paterson.

Katie Paterson was born in Glasgow in 1981 and studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 2000-2004 and at the Slade School of Art from 2005- 2007.

Paterson’s artistic practice is cross-medium, multi-disciplinary and conceptually driven, with emphasis on nature, ecology, geology and cosmology. (source)

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as the blurb on the Lowry website wasn’t entirely clear about the theme of the exhibition and the nature of the works and the only image was of a row of clocks on the wall. Entering the galleries we could hear music playing – the Moonlight Sonata – but it didn’t seem quite right.

We soon discovered that the works in the exhibition were inspired by science, particularly cosmology. So as someone with a scientific education it was of particular interest.

The music was a recording of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata that had translated into Morse code, transmitted by radio, bounced off the surface of the moon and received back on earth. The code was then transposed back into a player piano scroll and played back on a grand piano in the centre of the gallery on a. As some of the radio waves had been absorbed by the Moon’s surface, there were gaps in the recording. A simple idea, but I thought it was interesting and if visitors thought about it they would perhaps learn that radio waves can be absorbed by surfaces.

Earth–Moon–Earth (Moonlight Sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon)

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On the wall behind the gallery there were a row of clocks. At first glance you might think “what’s the point of that?” Looking closer they all seemed to be telling different times, although the minute hands were all in the same position. On closer inspection it could be seen that each clock had a different number of hour marks – only one with the “correct” number – i.e. 12. This work was entitled Timepieces (Solar System).

Here, each clock represents the number of hours that must pass before each planet in our solar system experiences a full day – that is, one full rotation of the planet equates to two revolutions of the clock face. Setting us up for a comic double-take, at first glance each clock looks as it should; but only the Earth clock takes 12 hours to circumnavigate. The clock for Saturn performs one round of the face every five and a half hours, Jupiter every five, while Mars needs only a small adjustment of the Earth clock, for it is just 20 minutes out, and Neptune requires an extra ten minutes.

An interesting idea that should make viewers think about the representation of time and how the meaning of something as simple as the length of a day changes with context and how something familiar to us, like an hour, is actually a human construct.

On the floor in one of the other galleries there was an object that was clearly a meteorite. A sign told visitors they could touch but that they shouldn’t attempt to move it. Well if they did they would have injured themselves. It was iron and very heavy.

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This work was Campo del Cielo, Field of the Sky, 2012. It was a  meteorite, but it had been melted and then re-cast back into a new version of itself – essentially using the original meteorite as the raw material to make a model of itself.

When it first fell, the meteorite was made up of recognisable elements and compounds, but in configurations never found on earth. On melting and re-solidifying, the molecules reformed into their common terrestrial arrangements. While the eventual cast looks identical to the original meteorite, it is profoundly, yet invisibly, different. It has been naturalised, by Earth standards.

So, while outwardly identical to the original, structurally and chemically it has been transformed by the recasting process. As someone who studied Chemistry, this was interesting. 

My favourite work in the exhibition was Totalitya mirrorball suspended in one of the galleries turning and reflecting points of light around the room.

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There were10,000 images of solar eclipses printed on the mirrorball which were reflected onto the walls, floor and ceiling.

The images depict almost every eclipse that has occurred since records began, and have been collected from all quarters of the globe, most from photographic sources, although there are some drawings from before the invention of photography.

The term Syzygy comes from astronomy, and is used to describe an alignment of celestial bodies. At the opening, Paterson said: “It’s a coming together of planets in space and time, and relates to how most of my work deals with Earthly time and cosmic time, and our relationship with heavenly bodies and the wider cosmos.”

Standing inside the room, watching the points of light swirl around the surfaces was quite disorientating.

Other works included All the Dead Stars – a stellar map showing the locations of all known dead stars, and Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull, a video piece showing three records cast from glacial meltwater, slowly melting while replaying recorded sounds made by the very glaciers from which the ice discs were made.

Some of the other works didn’t work quite so well for me, but another one,  Future Library which was a very interesting project, represented in the exhibition by a couple of drawings.

A forest has been planted to serve as the source of paper for a literary anthology to be printed in one hundred years’ time – the implication being that thinking literally about the materials one uses is the only responsible way to act when complex and occluded networks of production and distribution make it impossible to tell the real impact of one’s consumption. The trees have been planted within an existing forest in the environs of Oslo, its future secured by a forestry commission and a board of trustees. And as the trees grow, so will the Deichmanske library in Bjørvika in Oslo, with an archive box, containing a manuscript contributed by an invited writer, added each year.

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No one, not even Paterson, is allowed to open the archive boxes and read the manuscripts until the work is complete and that will be in 2114

Margaret Atwood has produced the first work for this library and the second has been written by David Mitchell. Apparently all authors will be given a copy of the completed anthology. Unfortunately many of them won’t be around to receive their reward!

So, for us, it was a very enjoyable exhibition. A pleasant surprise. I’m not sure every visitor will agree, but the concepts behind the works are very interesting if the visitor takes time to think about them.

Oh, and what about the title of the exhibition? Syzygy – a made up word? No, it’s an astronomical term used to describe an alignment of celestial bodies.

Emmet Kane at Collins Barracks

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While I was visiting the Collins Barracks in Dublin recently, although my main objective was to see the Easter Rising and Asgard exhibitions, I took some time to have a quick look round in Decorative Arts section of the main building. Tucked away in a series of rooms in the south east corner of the 2nd floor was a temporary exhibition featuring the work of the Irish woodturner, Emmet Kane. I almost missed it, but the above piece caught my eye as I was passing and I decided to take a look. It was a good decision.

The Museum website tells us that

Emmet was born and raised in Castledermot, Co. Kildare. He comes from five generations of Master Craftsmen. Self-taught, Kane creates thin-walled hollow forms which defy the difficulties of the medium and whose use of colour, is more readily associated with ceramics or glass. Today, he works predominantly in native hardwoods, citing a particular fondness for Irish oak, which he textures and ebonises, gilds and colours. At times, his work looks like glass or plastic, even metal, until you draw near and see the texture or grain and wonder just how it was achieved.

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The exhibition is a retrospective, featuring a large number of works, divided into sections

It provides a good survey of his work and shows how his technique and approach has developed and evolved.

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I guess I’d normally associate woodturners with practical objects like furniture and bowls. But that isn’t what Emmet Kane does. He produces abstract forms that don’t have any practical use but are extremely  imaginative and beautiful

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Some of the earlier works are more functional but over the years they become more and more abstract with holes and voids, spikes and the incorporation of pigments, metal and lacquer

These are some of my favourite pieces from the exhibition, but there were many more..

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