What art have I seen? Loraine Leeson and Peter Dunn’s The Things That Make You Sick at the ICA

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 26, 2017

The Things That Make You Sick: East London Health Campaigning, 1977-1980 by Loraine Leeson and Peter Dunn at the ICA until 2 July.

Brilliant to revisit the serious radicalism of these artists work with local Unions and Trades Councils to support local campaigns against hospital closures as well as raise issues of ‘health over profits’ and women’s rights. The issues are the same today though I’m not sure the art practices have the political alignment or intention. These artists put themselves at the service of local people’s needs as part of campaigns – they felt that it was better not being instigators (as they had been in a previous project). Lots to learn.

What art have I seen?Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors at Gagosian

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 26, 2017

Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors at Gagosian 

Good lessons in working in series, good lessons in not caring about mixing styles, fabulous sheets of bulls preparatory for making ceramics.

What art have I seen? Cerith Wyn Evans

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 25, 2017

No Maintenance: Chris Dooks

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 10, 2017


Can taking ‘no maintenance’ as a creative challenge inspire new approaches to art in healthcare settings? This is the challenge I posed in a blog for the London Arts in Health Forum based on a paper published in the new Design for Health Journal.

The intention is to provoke new approaches to making public art (or sited work) for hospitals and healthcare settings. Having considerable experience of managing the commissioning process, it seems to me that we need new ways to think about the challenge and the particularly difficult requirements of ‘no maintenance’ in a high ‘wear and tear’ context like a hospital. But the intention is to raise deeper philosophical and theoretical issues around ‘care’ and ‘maintenance’, and underlying questions of value.

One of the artists who has responded is interdisciplinary artist, composer and researcher Chris Dooks. In 2014 Dooks completed The Fragmented Filmmaker, Emancipating The Exhausted Artist, his Phd on his art practice in relation to his Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS-ME). The Phd took the form of three vinyl records (yellow, blue and red) and an autoethnographic text. Despite this condition Dooks has undertaken residencies in Berlin as well as with Woodend Barn, Aberdeenshire; Timespan in Helmsdale; and made work in response to the Dark Skies Park in the South West of Scotland.

Dooks’ research proposes that making art could be a way of coping with his CFS-ME even though the very character of the condition limits the ability to do the things normally associated with making art.

Dooks proposes that ways of making art, in particular ‘bricolage’, defined as ‘construction achieved by using whatever comes to hand’, are compatible with ‘low energy’ generally and his condition specifically. Dooks says, “The Holy Grail is to make something with conceptual value without actually ‘making’ anything at all.”
Each of Dooks three works for his Phd addresses a different method and a different challenge. He describes each of the three projects as experiments within a personal arts laboratory. One is focused by cosmology, another by the limitations of a broken harmonium and the third by what you can record from your windowsill.
In each case they address specific challenges of CFS-ME, such as not being able to leave your house, or the need for aids to sleep. Dooks says of this last challenge, “…one aspect of that is to create ‘soporific sonics’ – where tones to aid sleep and rest are cherished prizes, when found.” But each is also much more. Each demonstrates the potential of making art from whatever comes to hand, including broken instruments, conversations with strangers and ambient sounds.

In the sleeve notes for Ciga{r}les (the yellow album) Dooks explores the relationship between his own “predicament”, the “unpleasant and inconvenient limitations” he lives with, in relation to the wider importance of limitation and context in the making of any artwork. He juxtaposes these limitations with the necessity of limiting oneself when making an artwork, selecting what to work with and what to leave aside, editing and in the end knowing when to stop.

The question that I’m raising is asking artists to shift ‘no maintenance’ from an external limitation into a self-imposed creative constraint. Dooks’ work also explores using his illness as a part of his creative process, both for his own wellbeing and as part of cultural projects.

Of course one of the sharpest aspects is that whilst Dooks constructs sound with care for his own wellbeing and for our pleasure, most healthcare environments, and in particular hospitals, are characterised by monitors and alarms, a constant barrage of random noise. Although most work made for hospitals and healthcare settings is visual and applied art, Dooks’ work makes a compelling case for needing to address the sonic environments.

No Maintenance – a creative challenge for public art in healthcare settings

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 3, 2017

Thanks to the London Arts and Health Forum for the opportunity to share the idea that maintenance can be a creative inspiration for art in hospitals.

London Arts in Health Forum blog

By Chris Fremantle

Maintenance is one of the most difficult challenges in public art, especially working with the public sector, because no-one wants to commit to long term costs. As a result many briefs, and I’ve written my share of them recently for new projects in hospitals, specify zero or at best low maintenance. They go on to stipulate that any cleaning must utilise equipment already in use. Art must be able to cope with chlorine-based cleaning products and even with steam cleaning. Often the response is to do what we normally do but to specify more robust materials.

What if we imagined ‘no maintenance’ as a positive opportunity? What if zero maintenance was a creative challenge for artists and designers and a benefit for hospital patients, families, carers and staff (medical, nursing and support)? Could we still provide a positive distraction, aid way-finding, support patient dignity, make distinctive ‘places’…

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Museum of Failure

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on April 24, 2017

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Kentridge opens Johannesburg space for artists to learn by failing

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on April 16, 2017

Errata – Brief Interruptions. Futurefarmers at CCVA

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on March 21, 2017

“In Paul de Man’s notes on irony he asserts, citing Baudelaire, that falling can enable a duplicate consciousness wherein one observes and laughs at oneself without hierarchies of different subjectivities: one becomes aware of oneself as human and an object in the hands of nature.”  Rebecca Uchill, Errata (2017)

Source: MultiPage PDF File – futurefarmers_final.pdf

What art have I seen? Forms of Action

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on March 10, 2017

What art have I seen? A Caledonian Decoy

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on February 23, 2017

What art have I seen? D’Arcy Thompson

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on December 28, 2016

Sketch of the Universe: Art, Science and the influence of D’Arcy Thompson and Peter Randall-Page at the City Arts Centre and William Kentridge at the Fruitmarket. The D’Arcy Thompson exhibition is work collected by and commissioned for the Zoology Museum at the University of Dundee. Excellent.

Dear Professor: A Chronicle of Absences

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on November 28, 2016

What art have I seen? Muirhead Bone

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on November 25, 2016

Exhibition at Roselle House of Scottish artist known for his prints and drawings of industrial Glasgow and his work as the first War Artist. He was connected with Ayr and Pamela Conacher put the Inspiring Landscapes exhibition together as part of WW1 remembrance. Master Printmaker Ian Nicol contributed participatiry workshops.

Design Research Failures

Posted in Failure, Research by chrisfremantle on October 29, 2016

This project by Soren Rosenbak was developed for the Design Research Society conference 2016 and now has a web site with all the submissions and the opportunity to comment on them.

Interesting as part of the Design Research Society’s 50 year anniversary. Humble. Participatory in the right ways – community building and empowering. Causing of reflection. 

What art have I seen? The Context is Half the Work

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on October 28, 2016

The Context is Half the Work: A Partial History of the Artist Placement Group.

Went looking for descriptions in the letters and documents of what APG said an artist is and what they do… 

What art have I seen? E.A.T. Experiments in Art and Technology

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on October 14, 2016

What art have I seen? William Kentridge, The Guerrilla Girls, Jannis Kounellis

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on October 13, 2016

William Kentridge environments and Guerrilla Girls on European galleries and museums and the women they show and collect bothe at The Whitechapel Gallery

Jannis Kounellis at White Cube.

What art have I seen? Sunken Cities

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on October 12, 2016

Sunken Cities at the British Museum. Jake pointed out that the pitch the Lighting Designer made was to give a sense of being underwater with strong directional pools of light. It’s too much – the shadows on this utterly astounding carving of a woman with a diaphonous dress was so bad there were big areas in shadow.

What art have I seen? Marie Velardi

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on September 22, 2016

‘Lost Islands and other Works’ by Marie Velardi at Peacock Visual Arts including the timeline of human development according to Sci-fi literature.

I was invited to respond to the work as part of a Creative Carbon Scotland Green Tease. Anne Douglas and published an essay in the Elemental: Art and Ecology Reader earlier this year talking about the way that the Harrisons use inconsistency and contradiction in their works. This seemed relevant in relation to Velardi’s works, perhaps most obviously the timeline but also the works about islands and coastlines. Keeping contradictory truths in tension is an important skill and capacity that artists use in their works. Having just been at Tim Ingold’s lecture on the Sustainability of Everything this point is relevant to how we conceptualise living and carrying on. 

What art have I seen? Out There: Our Post-War Public Art

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on September 14, 2016

Walked past this yesterday and today went to see the Historic England exhibition on post-war public art. Highlights how the Festival of Britain in 1951 acted as a platform for new work perhaps in a similar way to how the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and 2014 Commonwealth Games have provided a platform for a new cross artform sited work.

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What art have I seen? Surreal Encounters

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on August 27, 2016
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Failure, with intention

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 26, 2016

“To fail meant we took a risk, and because we did it with intention, knowing what we were aiming for and what went wrong, we could immediately go back to the drawing board and approach it again.”

What art have I seen? Jo Spence

Posted in Arts & Health, Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on August 17, 2016

Jo Spence at Stills.  Three groups of work that clearly demonstrate the radical approaches to photography being used by Spence and her various colleagues.  Put this alongside the ‘Context is Half the Work: Partial History of the Artist Placement Group’ at Summerhalland its a salutory reminder of what radical practice looks like.

Good review here

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What art have I seen? Alice Neel and Jess Johnson

Posted in Exhibitions, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 16, 2016

Two exhibitions at the Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh.  Alice Neel, New York portrait painter. The drawings in the Playfair Library on the ground floor and the balcony are well worth the trouble.  The influence of the Expressionists is really strong, but it’s clearly NYC.  The show links biography with work which is fascinating, but a bit distracting.  The mark making is great!

Jess Johnson’s Eclectrc Panoptic drawings, video and VR environment are all enthralling – the VR environment is really successful  transposition of the drawings – it is a linear exploration and not ‘gamified’ but I suspect that the real quality is in the work with Simon Ward to make it feel like you are moving through the drawings.

Design Research Failure

Posted in Failure, Research by chrisfremantle on August 11, 2016

What art have I seen? A partial history of the Artist Placement Group

Posted in Exhibitions, Research by chrisfremantle on August 6, 2016

Roger Coward speaking about his Placement with the Department of the Environment in Small Heath, Birmingham

What art have I seen? Charles Jencks + Alex Rigg

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 4, 2016

Failure and Mental Health

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on August 2, 2016

We were challenged in the q&a after our presentation on the Art(s) of Failure at the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities Summer School on the question of mental health.

There is no smart relationship between working with failure and mental health issues.  Anyone saying to someone depressed or with other mental health challenges that they need to learn to ‘work with failure’ is wrong.  Using failure as part of a creative process requires a degree of mental strength and resilience.  It just does.  Only the person knows what they can do.  All the serious advice on mental health and depression says to support the individual, not give them any sort of ‘get over it’.

If you know someone with mental health issues then please don’t advise them to find ways to use their failures.  Rather support them appropriately.  If you are not sure, here are a couple of links.

Scottish Association for Mental Health

Advice for friends and family from MIND


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What art have I seen? Dia Beacon

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on July 24, 2016

‘Best of minimalism’. The good tracks were Agnes Martin, Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra, Robert Irwin, On Kawara, Fred Sandback. Having come from Mass MOCA it is apparent that Dia need to have a space for one artist to be focused on in depth.

What art have I seen? Mass MOCA

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on July 23, 2016

This is part of Michael Oatman’s ‘All Utopias Fell’, a strange spin on solar energy and communication with the stars. The Jetstream is about 3 stories up and contains amongst other things a library and archive.

The three floors of Sol Lewitt’s work arranged Early, Mid and Late. 

Explode Every Day – an inquiry into the phenomena of wonder – standout pieces by Michael Light’s ‘100 Suns’ (photos from the Los Alamos National Laboratories); Rachel Sussman’s ‘(Selected) History of the Space Time Continuum’; Ryan and Trevor Oakes’ drawings exploring perspective; Tristan Duke’s scratch holograms; and Julianne Swartz’ trembling, rattling ‘Bone Scores’.

Three works from the Hall Foundation by Anselm Kiefer, one of which immediately physically connected with Kilmahew.

What art have I seen? Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Posted in Exhibitions, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 17, 2016


In the Yellow Room we find Whistler’s ‘Nocturne, Blue and Silver: Battersea Reach’ along with a Matisse, a Degas, a Sargent and another Whistler.  Having been to Hearst Castle last year, we wondered what the difference was?

What art have I seen? Simon Starling

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 6, 2016

What art have I seen? GSA MFA

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on June 25, 2016

Glasgow School of Art MFA at the Glue Factory. Liked Yeonkyoung Lee’s disco inspired installation – v nicely composed. Uesung Lee’s drawings and detritus of drawing as a form of labour. Also Jamie Green’s Shankland ‘Sun Never Sets’ – v clever curatorial exercise. Finally like Sian Collins and Westmoreland Stones.

Holding the paradox

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 29, 2016

On The Edge Research

hands by Chris photos: Chris Fremantle

How can art respond to complex social and ethical problems? When should the demand for solutions be resisted? And how might this affect our understanding of cultural leadership?

These were among the questions keenly debated in the first of our series of full day seminars on Cultural leadership and the place of the Artist which took place in Edinburgh on Friday 20th May.  Our thanks go to the artists, researchers and cultural organisers who attended and contributed so fully.  The day brought together participants from various phases of On The Edge research alongside new friends and colleagues from our project partners Creative Scotland and ENCATC.

Discussion ranged across different understandings of what is meant by leadership and how it relates to artistic production.  This led on to questions about the role of art in public life.  Some compelling suggestions were made about the distinctive capacity…

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What art jave I seen? Deep in the Heart of Your Brain

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on May 27, 2016


Jacqueline Donachie’s exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow. Three groups of work: drawings of lamposts – sources of illumination in the modern urban landscape; sculptures which use the materials of accessibility infrastructure (ramps and handrails) but perhaps seen from the perspective of someone for whom they don’t work or maybe just that they evoke the precariousness of the people for whom they are designed; finally videos speaking to sisters, speaking to feelings of doubt, but also playful.  Powerful stuff. (Oh and a piece of armour –  a boot – that could flex more than you expected.)

What art have I seen? Scottish Endarkenment

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on May 19, 2016

What art have I seen? Sarah Barker

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on May 19, 2016

What art have I seen? When the future was about Fracking

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on May 9, 2016
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CV of failures: Princeton professor publishes resume of his career lows | Education | The Guardian

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on April 30, 2016

Elizabeth Reeder and I are going to be talking about failure at the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities in June and the reversal that this achieves is exactly the point. Like Hockney including an apology letter from a photolab in a collage or Deller exhibiting his failed design for the cover of the Tube map, failures are materials for new things.

Chicago; 3rd novel; Essays

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on April 9, 2016

In June Elizabeth and I are doing a joint session for the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities on the subject of Failure. She’done sessions on the Essay for Phd students at Gray’s which unfortunately I missed, but I’m very much looking forward to the Chapbook promised for the summer and the investigation of the essay form later this year, more details below.

Elizabeth K Reeder

A Trip to Chicago; The Third Novel

We’ve just made a spur of the moment trip Stateside. We swung through Iowa and played ping-pong with family (there may have been some singing and dancing too) and then spent some time in Chicago. It’s April but the city seemed to have forgotten this and typical Mid-western weather welcomed us: ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it’ll change.’ Including more than one blustery bout of snow when we walked Chicago’s version of the highline – the 606. We walked quite a lot in the cold, determined rain. We even braved the weather on an open top bus to tour Chicago neighborhoods run by the Chicago Architectural Foundation.

During February and March I worked to finish a full draft of my third novel, Those We Buried. In this book I not only create buildings but I burn them down…

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Questioning cultural leadership

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on April 1, 2016

On The Edge Research

Who do you depend upon to make your role in the arts possible? Who looks to you for support? What form of change would you most like to see happen – and who can help you bring it about?

IMG_9477 Photos: Graeme MacDonald

On The Edge posed these questions to a diverse group of artists, researchers and organisers at the first event of its new AHRC investigation, Cultural leadership and the place of the artist, on 14th March at Woodend Barn, Banchory. Each question was approached through the viewpoints of a range of archetypal roles: artist, funder, teacher, policy maker, board member, parent, venue manager, volunteer.  We built a network in miniature of the relationships and forms of influence through which our actions are shaped in aesthetic, organisational and social contexts.  Opening up issues of leadership in culture beyond the operation of hierarchies, we tried to understand the…

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What art have I seen? Gray’s Graduates in Residence

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on March 25, 2016

They’ve called it Only the improvisation remains constant, a quote from the Harrisons


This is a detail of one of Tako Taal’s works.

A postcard from Brussels

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on March 23, 2016

From Jon Price in Brussels

On The Edge Research

Benoit tearI’ve always loved travelling through Maelbeek metro station, as I often do when staying at my regular apartment in Brussels, going from local stop Merode towards the centre. Until yesterday Maelbeek was most distinguished for its fabulous station artwork, completed in 2001 by the Belgian artist Benoît van Innis.   This series of 8 faces would gaze benignly from the white tiled walls, deceptively simple line drawings fired in ceramic.  They look at first glance like someone has drawn them on with a marker.

Benoît’s faces, echoes and anticipations of the passing commuters who stared blankly back at them on a daily basis, have been a reassuring presence on this route through the EU quarter.  They are also a symbol of the city’s cosmopolitanism, with their sparse detail sufficient to suggest diversity and their open expressions inviting self-identification.  I found myself looking for their images on the internet last night…

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NEA Magazine: The Art of Failure: The Importance of Risk and Experimentation

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on March 13, 2016

What art have I seen? Anselm Kiefer

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on February 14, 2016

What art have I seen? Musee Art Moderne, Paris

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on February 13, 2016

Dufy, de Chirico, Braque and Picasso, Matisse, Sekula (Museum Guardroom), Duchamp, Bourgeois, Messenger.

What art have I seen? Another Minimalism

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on January 22, 2016

Another Minimalism: Art After California Light and Space at The Fruitmarket, Edinburgh – I saw Robert Irwin’s 2 year installation at the Dia in NYC in 2000 in deep midwinter. The exploration of formal and sensory experience in this show is really well curated with a spectrum of works by key people. I particularly liked the retinal afterglow from the Olafur Eliasson.

What art have I seen? Island Drift and Nick Hedges

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on January 21, 2016

Streetlevel have an exhibition of work done with NVA in the Loch Lomond national park exploring light in a dark landscape. Light is brought to life almost as another albeit strange and new entity in the landscape. In the Trongate 103 Foyer Nick Hedges photographs from the Gorbals in the 70s are a reminder of what highrise housing was replacing – slum tenaments – but Hedges photography doesn’t just capture the issue – it’s as beautifully composed as a Vuillard.

What art have I seen? Drawn into tomorrow

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on January 19, 2016
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BBH story on recent Arts and health projects

Posted in Arts & Health by chrisfremantle on January 15, 2016

Better Building in Healthcare ran the story Arts and health – more than just a picture a couple of weeks ago featuring the ‘Podium Landmarking’ project by Rachel Mimiec, Graphical House and Haa Design for the Queen Elizabeth University Hospitals in Glasgow.  The landmarks are designed to work like landmarks in towns and cities, telling you that you are at an important junction.  The conventional signage works like street names and directions.  They compliment each other.

Rachel and the team did some workshops with staff and patients to understand what constituted a ‘landmark’ and the answer they came back with was ‘something quirky’ that stood out.  They then asked some 25 members of staff (current and retired) to tell them about something quirky that happened to them.  The result was distilled down in discussion with the NHS Capital Planning Team and then developed by Graphical House working with Haa Design into 3d illustrations eventually built by specialist fabricators, Interior Solutions in Corian (the Dupont kitchen surface product).

That’s how you get a jar of beach sweeties or a pair of flying saucers (or 19 other quirky images) working as landmarks helping people remember where they’ve been in a hospital.

You can also see more about the project on Ginkgo Projects and NHSGGC’s Arts & Health

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