[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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Digital Art at the Lowry

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On Saturday we had an errand to run in Salford so decided to take the opportunity to drive over to Salford Quays and visit the Lowry. We’d seen that there was an exhibition of digital art showing there and although we weren’t quite sure what to expect, decided to take a look. A good decision as we enjoyed it.

The exhibition website tell us that Right Here Right Now is

A major new exhibition providing a thought provoking snapshot of contemporary digital art. Featuring the work of 16 international artists, Right Here, Right Now looks at how technology affects our lives – through surveillance, artificial intelligence, voyeurism or online dating.

Created in the last five years, their critical, playful and illuminating artworks challenge our understanding of the digital systems that surround us, while making visible those that are hidden. Prepare to re-think your increasingly connected digital life.

There were a good selection of works; photographs, videos, sculpture and installations.

We particularly liked and enjoyed those works we could interact with.With two exhibits viewers became part of the work.

Snowfall by fuse*, an Italian collective of multimedia artists. was a digital snow storm (quite appropriate as it was starting to snow outside). Entering a darkened room we were faced with a screen showing a digital snow fall. But there were video cameras in the room that detected the silhouettes of people and objects and processed the images, blocking the fall of snowflakes on the screen, creating digital snow men (and women!)IMAG3726

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Another exhibit, Darwinian Straw Mirror by Daniel Rozin’s, did something similar. In this case an image was produced of people in the room made up a lines or “straws”

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Planthropy by Stephanie Rothenberg was another interactive work. This was an installation consisting of plants held in containers suspended from the ceiling. Each container was associated with a particular charity, breast cancer, homelessness, refugees, .climate change Every time someone tweets about one of these causes (hashtags were listed on the walls), the watering system for that corresponding plant was activated.IMAG3724

Colony by Nikki Pugh consisted of two animated “creatures”

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a small group of people each carry a landscape-reactive ‘creature’ that uses real-time processing of GPS data to determine its movements. As the group moves across the city, the creatures react to their surroundings depending on their programmed claustrophobic or claustrophilic personalities (exhibition catalogue)

Not all he works were animated. There were three large photographs by Mishka Henner, whose work we’d previously seen at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool.The three works on display were from the same series (The Fields) we’d seen at the Open Eye. At first glance they look like abstract works, but they are actually aerial shots of oil fields. His images are taken from Google earth. He processes them and stitches them together to form large photographs.

Kern River Oil Field, Kern County, California (2013)

We liked many of the other works on display too. And it was interesting to see how the artists had imaginatively used modern technology to stretch the boundaries of art.

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