CHRIS FREMANTLE

Audiences and and… pt8

Posted in Sound, Audiences and by chrisfremantle on October 19, 2020

Alan Moore (“comic artist and warlock”) and Brian Eno…

Alan Moore: “…purpose in art is something which has obsessed you – the ambient music – this was music with a social function. Was this a breakthrough for you? In actually finding a different way to apply music?

Brian Eno: “Yes, well, I think I’d noticed that one of the things that characterises all new forms of music is an accompanying new way of listening. Every new musical proposition is a new propisition about what you do as a listener…”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b00lgkzc

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PhDs by Public Output/ Published Work

Posted in CF Writing, PhD, Research by chrisfremantle on October 8, 2020

I’m currently undertaking a PhD by Public Output (also known as a PhD by Published Work) through Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University (RGU). I’m a part-time member of staff – Research Fellow and Lecturer. I’ve been associated with On The Edge and Research at Gray’s for 20 years, in various capacities (Director of Partner Organisation, Member of Project Steering Group, Contracted Research Assistant, Research Resident, Co-Investigator on Projects).

A PhD by Public Output collects a selection of previous research (publications and projects) and frames the overarching enquiry, identifying the significance, originality and rigor of the contributions.

In summary, RGU takes the view that a completed PhD should provide material sufficient for 4 journal articles, and therefore if you have 4 peer reviewed journal articles all focused on a common theme, you can write a 10,000 word thesis which demonstrates the overall contribution and submit this along with the outputs. (Each institution will have its own regulations.)

Gray’s School of Art, RGU, has played a notable role in particular in supporting established practitioners to undertake practice-led doctoral research.* There are fewer examples of Practice-led PhDs by Public Output. I’ve identified four examples including one from Gray’s:

  • Suzanne Lacy, 2013. Imperfect Art: Working in Public A Case Study of the Oakland Projects (1991-2001).
  • Minty Donald, 2014. Exploring human/environment interdependencies through critical spatial practice.
  • Ross Sinclair, 2016. Ross Sinclair: 20 Years of Real Life.
  • Nicola Triscott, 2017. Art and Intervention in the Stewardship of the Planetary Commons: Towards a Curatorial Model of Co-inquiry.

Full References including links are below.

Before I unpack these I should say that Prof Emeritus Anne Douglas always draws attention to key artists’ writings which demonstrate Practice-led Research before it was an institutionalised process (e.g. Cage, Kaprow, Bernstein, Harrisons, Denes) and Anne’s essays on Practice-led are worth reading too (I’ll do a separate blog on that subject).

Suzanne Lacy

Lacy’s thesis is a reflection on a series of projects, the Oakland Projects, undertaken in collaboration with other artists, large numbers of participants, as well as with a range of institutional partners in Oakland California over 10 years. The thesis incorporates extensive description and discussion of the projects as well as two DVDs of video and TV. Lacy’s text broadly falls into three sections: 

  1. methodology, 
  2. description and reflection on the Oakland Projects, 
  3. discussion of art and pedagogy. 

The description and reflection of the projects comprises 110 pages of the 190 pages of the document. The Oakland Projects, whilst taking place in public, are not written up and reflected on elsewhere by the artist. Rather her contention is that the projects constitute arts-based research in and of themselves, not through exegesis or discrete academic texts.

Lacy’s PhD by Public Output therefore constitutes a major reflection on a body of work and the process which supported it, the Working in Public Seminars (2006-08), is an important aspect of methodology, if unusual. Prof Anne Douglas was Lacy’s Supervisor and proposed the seminars as part of the methodology (see https://ontheedgeresearch.org/working-in-public/ for full details).

The seminars, enabled by support from Creative Scotland, opened up reflection and interrogation of a key body of work by an internationally recognised artist. The programme included public events as well as a programme of seminars for a selected group of established practitioners based in Scotland. Lacy was able to engage in deep reflection, in particular with the group, on 10 years of work in one community. The focus of this reflection is captured in the titles of the three events: ‘aesthetics and ethics’, ‘representation and power’, ‘quality and imperfection’. 

Lacy had previously published Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art (1994), a collection of essays by key practitioners, and has published in Journals as well. One essay in Mapping the Terrain in particular, Allan Kaprow’s piece discussing Project Other Ways is referred to extensively. This too is a personal reflection by an artist on a work that confounds simple analysis as either art or pedagogy – a fundamental theme for Lacy.

In her thesis Lacy describes her methodology as three fold: 

  1. review all the material associated with the Oakland Projects (20 boxes plus a considerable body of video and TV material) 
  2. interview 40 individuals involved with the projects 
  3. present this material as part of the Working in Public Seminars 

Lacy describes her contribution in the following terms, 

“Although in the last chapter I suggest a few directions for assessing the success or failure of this work as social action and the perfection or imperfection of it as art, I think the major contribution I can make here is curatorial, assembling some of the multiple narratives and, through interviews, multiple voices of the project. (Perhaps because early in my education I was trained in science, I realize that an “evaluation” from my vantage point would be extremely flawed in terms of any “truth” it might reveal, considering my inherent bias as one of the primary makers.)”

(Lacy, 2013, p. 5)

Lacy focuses in particular on the importance of ‘Building a Critical Position for the Artist’s Voice’, saying “…it is the practice, however, that remains fundamental to my analysis – what I know from what I have learnt while making art.” (Lacy, 2013, p. 13).

Lacy highlights a key example of the multi-vocal approach, as demonstrated by Americans for the Arts’ Animating Democracy Initiative and the Critical Perspectives Project. This involved groups of writers reflecting on civic projects from differing perspectives. Lacy highlights others who engaged with the Oakland Projects in depth, as well as her several roles: “…as one of the creators of the artwork, as a curator and recorder of the narratives, and, through writing it down, as contributor to the discourse in the field.” (Lacy, 2013, p. 17). She goes on to ask, “What is inside the practice that only the practitioner can articulate?” (Lacy, 2013, p.18).

Turning to the third section on art and pedagogy, pedagogy is intimately linked with public practice, particularly through the concept of ‘public pedagogy’. For Lacy this is the key intersection that she is concerned with and seeks to navigate. Lacy’s practice is fundamentally concerned with forms of representation, particularly in the media, starting with the invisibility of rape and in various works using this as a lens with which to explore questions of equity and exclusion. She identifies the development of feminist pedagogies and situates her practice within this story, articulating her concerns with class and race, and the emergence of ideas of intersectionality.

This in turn correlates with Lacy’s concern for the development of the ‘Artist’s Voice’. She quotes Arlene Raven saying “Our processes prefigured the emerging public art practices today that move fluidly among criticism, theory, art making and activism.” (Lacy, 2013, p. 145). She has previously articulated her multiple roles within the one dissertation (art maker, curator of multiple perspectives, and narrator).

The form of theorising is distinct, drawing on personal engagement with the emergence of feminist art practices and thinking amongst a community of which Lacy was a part. Her citation is often based on direct engagement with the authors. She particularly highlights Raven’s articulation of the ways that feminist attention to contextual social and political events in turn required nuanced ethical thinking on the role of this reconstituted artist in the public sphere. Lacy discusses her own underpinning engagement with questions of equity in multiple contexts.

Having established the context she turns to her argument for arts-based research (or as she calls it ‘Research as an Art Practice’). The first element of her argument focuses on her own question led approach, and the way that expands as she engages with others (in the Oakland Projects, youth specifically) to be a shared set of questions.

Lacy explores the idea of ‘curriculum’ in her expanded (public) pedagogy, highlighting five areas within the overall framework of the Oakland Projects. This highlights the complexity of the Oakland Projects but also the interweaving of multiple aspects – modalities, contexts, participants and audiences – in the media, in formal  and informal sites of learning, in youth development and in elements more conventionally recognisable as ‘art’.

Lacy in following sections unpacks both aesthetics and ethics in relation to the Oakland Projects, including where these can come into conflict. In particular Lacy discusses the role of institutions as partners in these projects. She summarises seven key practices adopted within the projects. These are drawn from good practice in youth work and adapted to the circumstances that include large scale public performance, but are also in place to ensure that the projects are not co-opted by partners.

Lacy’s conclusion highlights two contributions. One focused the value and significance of the voice of the artist, and the second on the understanding of feminist art and pedagogy, particularly public pedagogy. She identifies areas for further work and also returns to Kaprow, and in particular his interest in ambiguity, and the way the Oakland Projects reveal the tension between aesthetics and ethics played out in works that have a fundamental public pedagogical character. 

Other examples

The three other examples, Minty Donald (external supervisor for my PhD), Ross Sinclair, and Nicola Triscott, all offer different lessons.

Minty Donald’s thesis (2014) is supported by 3 Journal Articles and 1 Book Chapter which between them address two discrete projects, of which extensive documentation is supplied. The focus of the thesis is the development of practice-led approaches to critical spatial practice, particularly in the context of performance and increasingly engaging with a New Materialist conception of agency.

The focus of the framing essay is on the overarching principles Donald identifies in the exemplified practice concerned with the tension between the ways space, place and site carry meaning and embody histories, but are also fluid. The theoretical frame has several dimensions:

  1. a concern with context bringing together post-structuralist writing (Michel de Certeau, Michel Foucault and Henri Lefebvre) with public art and site specific theorising (e.g. Rendell, from whom she takes the conceptualisation of critical spatial practice) and with de-colonial literatures (e.g. Massey).
  2. a concern with heritage and in particular the relationship between heritage and performance. A key concept for Donald is nostalgia and how this is understood.
  3. New Materialism (eg Bennett). This dimension is identified as the emergent focus within the practice.

It is interesting to note that, possibly because this is a PhD by Published Work, the range of theory highlighted is broad. The clear identification of the different dimensions is helpful.

In the context of practice-led research, the theoretical context is critical, as is the historical context – the precedents and significant peer and predecessor practices. Donald highlights her practice as a scenographer and unpacks how that informs her practice in the works under consideration in terms of scenography specifically and the wider context of issues within performance. Donald links aspects of scenography with New Materialism. She links the concerns in performance with practices in public art (Wodiczko, Alys, Starling), creating a clearly articulated territory for her practice.

Donald discusses her understanding of practice as research drawing on a range of literature. She draws out arguments for “…a persistent concern for those engaged in practice-as-research: the relationship between praxis and discursive reflection on, or exegesis of, that praxis.” (Donald, 2014, p.16). This approach allows the practitioner to reflect on their own intentions and the ways in which they had to adapt in relation the ‘resistances’ of the world.

Donald highlights the generative character of practice-as-research, drawing attention to the particular forms of ‘not knowing’ and ways of working with ‘not knowing’ to reveal new insights.

Donald touches on the collaborative aspects of several projects where she worked with others, sometimes in a role which organised others (directorial/curatorial).

These sections, setting up the theoretical, professional and methodological aspects are followed by description of the projects profiled leading into a discussion of the insights in the associated Journal Articles and Book Chapters.

In the work Glimmers in Limbo Donald is concerned with the binary of tangible/intangible in heritage, something she suggests as a false dichotomy. Donald is concerned with “…the potential of critical spatial practice to bring about what Nigel Thrift describes as an extension of ‘the imagination into matter’. (Donald, 2014, p. 26)

Donald’s articulation of her work Glimmers in Limbo in relation to New Materialism highlights the aspect of agency. Hauntology, the exploration of the ways that material histories of places remain present even after erasure, offers another frame for these concerns, it places less emphasis on agency in the materiality.

In The River Clyde Project Donald is focused on “…ideas of space/place as networked and always in-process.” (Donald, 2014, p. 30). Donald discusses Bridging, a work which opens up new issues for her practice. She explores Tim Ingold’s concept of meshwork in relation to the project because it enables us to ‘see’ the agency of the material, in this case the rope, within the performance. This in turn leads to opening up ecological concerns in ways that humans and materials are encompassed by wind and tide. The role of these encompassing elements in frustrating the artists’ intention is key, opening up new insights.

This section concludes with discussion of a work in progress, High-Slack-Low-Slack-High, for which there is no published corollary. She discusses the parallel research trajectories of herself and collaborators exploring tides, a development from the earlier Bridging project.

Donald identifies aspects of both projects that influenced policy – of the Merchant City Initiative’s understanding of the Britannia Panopticon and of the Velocity programme’s thinking about the regeneration of the Clyde.

In Donald’s conclusion she highlights the importance of experimentation to her research trajectory because it reveals, particularly in failures, the agency of materials and environments in ways that would not otherwise be apparent. Donald indicates the future direction of research particularly into ways of working that reveal forms of agency – quoting Bennett, ‘tactics […] to discern the vitality of matter’ (Donald, 2014, p. 47).

Ross Sinclair

Ross Sinclair’s thesis is different from the others reviewed in that he focuses on his Real Life Project, an ongoing ‘everyday life as a work of art’ process which he has been engaged with over 20 years.

In his abstract, Sinclair sums this up saying,

“This has built a 20-year durational performance project that connects with the public at a dynamic intersection of ideas, context, performance and art-practice. This project was initiated when the words REAL LIFE were tattooed in black ink across my back, at Terry’s Tattoo parlour in Glasgow in 1994.”

(Sinclair, 2016, p. 6)

The form and voice of the thesis are distinctive not least in being informal and personal in a way the others reviewed aren’t.

In practice the thesis is based on a series of 5 monographs (publications associated with solo exhibitions) plus two pieces in Journals. However Sinclair articulates another version of the ‘Prior Publication’ writing,

“…the published evidence of its public dissemination via diverse heterogeneous outputs: starting with the tattoo, then the photograph, the cover of a magazine, the performances, the multiples, the exhibitions, the interventions, the t-shirt paintings, the installations, the dialogue, the hybrid sculptures, the physical structures, the songs, the paintings, the live music, the diverse contexts, the cd’s, the neon signs, the galleries, the shops, the streets, the posters, the records, the billboards, the conversations, the arguments, the planning, the travelling, the meetings, the fund-raising, the talks, the teaching, the publications and finally this submission of Degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Published Work.”

(Sinclair, 2016, p. 29)

Sinclair provides an overview of the context in which the Real Life Project emerged, including the significance of the Artist Placement Group manifesto and the rubric ‘The context is half the work’ to the Environmental Art course at Glasgow School of Art, as well as the strange status of Glasgow negotiating it’s post-industrial future. There is a self-reflexivity in this thesis that is sometimes complex to unpack. The historicization of the practice started as early as 1994 when Sinclair created the Museum of Despair in a shop on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and offered the detritus of 5 years’ practice for sale. From artist as flea market to artist as Co-Investigator in an AHRC funded project investigating the context in which the artist emerged (The Glasgow Miracle, Materials for Alternative Histories, 2012-13).

Sinclair positions the tattoo as a key sign, needing to be, “…traversed along the critical ley lines of Debord / de Certeau / Baudrillard / Barthes / Borges / Eco…” (Sinclair, 2016, p. 33). It acts as the pivot of his analysis, raising a series of issues including the understanding of signs, the relationship between the art world and commerce, the relationship between the artist and the spectator.

He also positions it ‘spatially’ in relation to the concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones, suggesting that the works, in part because they are centred around his unstable presence, “My character is an active performer, everyman, an individual, confused living human presence, e Pluribus Unum: but a member of the public too.” (Sinclair, 2016, p. 35).

Sinclair juxtaposes his own articulation with a significant body of quotation, including key citations which speak to his thinking (in addition to those noted above, Lefebvre), but also texts by leading curators (Archer, Brown, Gillick, Mulholland, Richardson, Verwoert) that reference, interpret and position the Real Life Project. His use of de Certeau’s distinction between ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ both reminds us of the positioning of the individual and the positioning of the institution, providing Sinclair with the opportunity to explore the ways in which the Real Life Project is positioned adjacent to the audience (but perhaps still at the behest of the institution – not least as a teacher in Higher Education undertaking a PhD by Prior Publication). He highlights the changing relationship with audience as the individual outings for the Real Life Project increasingly open themselves up to participation by audiences. Sinclair turns to the discourse of socially engaged art (Bishop, Kester, et al), positioning his work in a Brechtian space of critical distance through presenting the audience with disruptive situations. In the end Sinclair is seeking to distinguish the Practice-led researcher from the critic and art historian, and claiming value in the artists’ voice (a theme in Lacy’s PhD too). 

That being said, Sinclair is right to highlight the significance of the sequence of publications as a key part of the Real Life Project and a significant body of constructed (self) understanding and (self) construction. He concludes by suggesting that the Real Life Project demonstrates Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomatic mode of existence, “The publications reflect the rhizomatic evolution of the RLP and articulate the contribution made to contemporary art-practice in Scotland, UK, and internationally over two decades via the medium of a single-authored practice-led project that could be characterised as organic, research-led, horizontal, non hierarchical and dialogic.” (Sinclair, 2016, p. 61). The Rückenfigur of Caspar David Friedrich is central to the conception of the Real Life Project, and the modalities of Romanticism, particularly in terms of the authority of the individual, even if only to be tactical are inscribed throughout this thesis.

In relation to the concern to understand structure and approach, voice and positioning, the Real Life Project is distinctive, partly as the most carefully designed of all the examples, but also because of the particular self-referentiality, the curious Beuysian totality, even gestamkunstwerk, of the project. The lack of any reference to Beuys (or Kaprow whose Blurring of Art and Life should surely have featured as a key text) is curious.

Nicola Triscott

Triscott’s thesis addresses 5 projects from 2010 to 2016 across a range of contexts, including outer space. The portfolio supporting the thesis includes 5 exhibitions and a public monument; 3 books associated with various of these projects including 3 authored chapters; a chapter in a collection; and a conference paper. Triscott includes a detailed breakdown of outputs from each project. In this she identifies her various roles including curator, co-curator, editor, author. She highlights the role of writing in the formats noted above as well as in a blog (Triscott, 2017, p. 28).

The focus of Triscott’s thesis is three-fold:

  1. curatorial practice;
  2. interdisciplinary, interdisciplinary art, critical art;
  3. the global/planetary commons.

Her three research questions all raise issues in curatorial practice.

The second key term for Triscott is ‘interdisciplinary’ She briefly unpacks histories associated with the development of thinking and practice in response to specialisation in the sciences. She reflects on her own process of developing ‘multi-disciplinary expertise, listing what she describes as, “…basic knowledge of areas of science and technology (such as synthetic biology, genetic engineering, biodiversity studies, and climate change research), outer space systems and policy, as well as current debates in areas such as STS, cultural and political geography, and international governance.” (Triscott, 2017, p. 28).

The third key concept Triscott invokes is ‘planetary commons’. Here she is referring to not merely the legal definition of global commons (“…the high seas (including the frozen Arctic ocean), the atmosphere, Antarctica and outer space…” Triscott, 2017, p. 19). She seeks to focus on in her words,

“…the planetary turn in the arts and social humanities … to redirect the emphasis of inquiry from governance, with its systems of regulation, to stewardship, the notion of responsible use and protection, as well as allowing greater consideration of non-human actants (other species, objects).”

(Triscott, 2017, p. 19)

In this Triscott is not suggesting that the art needs to address the planetary scale but that art is increasingly engaged with issues which affect the planet in different ways in different places – that there are common concerns including outer space, the Arctic, biodiversity and scientific knowledge (all aspects of the projects discussed).

Triscott positions herself as contributing to the reconfiguring understanding of curating as a practice, and to the development of the understanding of research in curating from a practice-led perspective (as opposed to for instance as an art historical endeavour, a more traditional frame for research in curating). Triscott references Dewey (as does Lacy) in her argument for experience-based understandings of knowing and knowledge. She argues that, “This curatorial knowledge takes two main forms: curatorial knowledge from the projects and knowledge about broader curatorial methodologies and frameworks.” (Triscott, 2017, p. 20). She unpacks forms of knowledge (informational and transformational) and approaches to curatorial practice (active, dialogic, critical interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, experimental institutional, experiential/ performative). Triscott brings Science and Technologies Studies (STS), drawing on Stengers and Latour, to bear on her curatorial practice involving artists with scientists and other disciplines. She provides a nuanced reading of concepts such as collaboration and cooperation. In doing this she is both articulating her practice and also articulating her understanding of research and method.

She carefully positions the challenges arising from the approach she has developed, saying, “The overarching aims of these inquiries are to co-create knowledge and foster new forms of cultural production. These transdisciplinary inquiries are not separate from the distribution and display aspects of art.” (Triscott, 2017, p. 25). This in turn raises challenges both in relation to curatorial practice, which is still largely understood as a monologic endeavour, and also in relation to academic research, where she points out that the ‘Principal Investigator’ is still the normative and institutionalised way of working. She draws on Heron and Reason’s articulation of co-inquiry to inform her curatorial and interdisciplinary practice and to clarify where her practice is different.

Section 2 provides a Contextual Review of her three key issues, exploring curatorship in relation to institutional developments in the UK and Europe from the 1990s leading into  developments in curating interdisciplinarity including discussions of various configurations and constructions. This in turn leads into a discussion of art-science initiatives and the need for criticality, particularly in relation to assumptions or claims of the authoritative world view of science, or the universal applicability of its methods (again drawing on Latour, Stengers and Haraway). She then turns to ‘planetary commons’ and juxtaposes it with Anthropocene as a framing for addressing current challenges, arguing that the latter term, “…fails to orientate us towards the type of change that is needed to transform the political economies of extraction, consumption and inequality that underpin the catastrophe and that spread its impact unevenly.” (Triscott, 2017, p. 48). Triscott’s provides a detailed discussion of the modalities and significance of commons and its reemergence as a critical concept since the 1990s. Combined with planetarity (as opposed to globalisation), the concept of commons forms the grounds for the interdisciplinary curatorial practice under discussion.

In her conclusion Triscott argues that the model she has developed through her practice over 10 years can be understood through three concepts, all drawn from or related to STS thinking. She is focused on ‘matters of concern’ (Latour), seeks the co-production of knowledge, and this is achieved through ‘an ecology of practices’ (Stengers), which she further elaborates.

Discussion

Reflecting across the four examples, Ross Sinclair’s thesis (2016) is perhaps the most leftfield in part because the practice he has developed over 20 years, the Real Life Project, is from the outset historicised and self-reflexive in itself. ‘Real life’ is constantly in question and the thesis adds another layer of how ‘real life’ can be art (or in this case Practice-led research). The discussion of publication (even including the ‘REAL LIFE’ tattoo itself) and the attention Sinclair has given to publication within his practice is valuable. 

All four comprise different combinations of journal articles and book chapters alongside projects captured through documentation (as noted above). Lacy and Sinclair in particular include materials such as video, and Triscott includes a public monument created by artists where her role was curator (i.e. not primary originator).

Each addresses theory (as noted above); the context and development of the practice; as well as methodology, both in the sense of the methods used in assembling the thesis, as well as the methods used in the practice and outputs.

All four specifically address the voice of the practitioner, and the value of practice-led research as a means of opening up the knowledge of the practitioner to others. The importance of knowing how to create, techne, alongside theory and knowledge of acting, of understanding other human beings, phronesis, is widely explored within the literature of practice-led research (cf Coessens, Crispin and Douglas, 2009, p. 76-8).

This approach allows the practitioner to reflect on their own intentions and the ways in which they had to adapt in relation to the ‘resistances’ of the world. If we accept Duchamp’s analysis in The Creative Act (Duchamp, 1957), in which he articulates the relationship between the artist’s intention and the spectators’ experience, then the practitioner cannot attempt to address the significance of the work to posterity. That is the realm of the spectator. However the practitioner can speak to their understanding of ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’

Douglas, reflecting as Supervisor on Lacy’s PhD, highlights this key purpose, “…Suzanne embarked on the research to deepen her own understanding of what it takes to practise well, with quality, in public life. She was seeing many poor examples of practice. She wanted to explore this work through the experience and voice of the artist because the artist had the deepest knowledge of what was involved in producing the work.” Douglas, 2016, p. 4). Douglas goes on to say, “Suzanne’s approach to critical reflection and analysis was simultaneously performative and pedagogical.” (2016, p. 5). She reflects, “In this PhD – and this is perhaps unusual – she was simultaneously ‘research student’ and mentor to us in learning what the practice could be along with figuring out an appropriate way of researching it.” (2016, p. 5). This opens up aspects of practice-led research which arise from the combination of reflection and theorisation, as well as the context and complexity of working with established practitioners.

Reviewing these theses in particular has informed the structure and voice I am adopting. Lacy, Donald and Triscott all raise issues of collaboration and multi-authorship in various relevant ways which are relevant to my own work. This review has enabled me to better understand how to contextualise the various contributions in my outputs as well as provided me with a sense of how my work sits in relation to others undertaking similar exercises.

Notes

* Prof Emeritus Anne Douglas oversaw a significant number of PhDs including by established practitioners (Goto-Collins, 2012; Chu, 2013; Smith, 2015; Gausden, 2016; Price, 2016).

References 

COESSENS, K., CRISPIN, D., and DOUGLAS, A., 2009. The Artistic Turn: A Manifesto. Leuven: University of Leuven Press.

DOUGLAS, A. 2016. Practice-led research and improvisation in post modern culture. Presented  as part of the docARTES: crossing borders programme, 26 February 2016, Ghent, Belgium. Available from: https://rgu-repository.worktribe.com/output/246562/practice-led-research-and-improvisation-in-post-modern-culture 

DUCHAMP, M., 1957. The Creative Act. [online] available from: https://ubusound.memoryoftheworld.org/aspen/mp3/duchamp1.mp3 

DONALD, M., 2014. Exploring human/environment interdependencies through critical spatial practice. PhD by Published Work, University of Glasgow. Available from: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/4932/ 

LACY, S. 2013. Imperfect art: working in public: a case study of the Oakland Projects (1991-2001). Robert Gordon University, PhD Thesis. Available from: https://rgu-repository.worktribe.com/output/240070/imperfect-art-working-in-public-a-case-study-of-the-oakland-projects-1991-2001 

LACY, S., 1994. Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art. Seattle: Bay Press.

SINCLAIR, R., 2016. Ross Sinclair: 20 Years of Real Life. PhD by Published Work, The Glasgow School of Art. Available from: http://radar.gsa.ac.uk/4817/ 

TRISCOTT, N., 2017. Art and Intervention in the Stewardship of the Planetary Commons: Towards a Curatorial Model of Co-inquiry. PhD by Published Work, University of Westminster. Available from: https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/download/e987be50137cb09003ed3c4c525f7a6861a50d7373417d8fcb3c4633ef08e4eb/7743765/Triscott_Nicola_thesis.pdf

‘Failures in Cultural Participation’ new issue of Conjunctions: Transdisciplinary Journal of Cultural Participation

Posted in Failure, Research by chrisfremantle on October 4, 2020

“This special issue of Conjunctions is edited by Leila Jancovich and David Stevenson. It explores how cultural participation policies, projects, and practices could be improved through recognising the pervasiveness of past failures. The issue thereby attempts to challenge existing narratives of unqualified success by offering alternative narratives that consider failure from different perspectives and at different points in the design and implementation of cultural participation policies and projects. In doing so it highlights the extent to which success and failure coexist and the richness of insight that comes from considering both. This matters because it is only such open and honest critical reflection that has the potential to facilitate the social learning needed for those who can exert the most power in the cultural sector to acknowledge the extent of the structural change required for cultural participation to be supported more equitably.”

Published: 2020-10-02

https://www.conjunctions-tjcp.com//issue/view/8832

Audiences and and pt. 7 … on ‘doing good’

Posted in Audiences and by chrisfremantle on September 5, 2020

Henry David Thoreau said,

“If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.”

(Thoreau 1977 p.328).

James Fathers ended his presentation to the Does Design Care…? Symposium with the following,

“… statement by Lila Watson an Aboriginal elder, activist and educator from Queensland, Australia. “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

(Labonte, 1994 p.258).

RIP Siah Armajani

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on August 30, 2020
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Audiences and and pt.6 … the Community, the State & a specific kind of Headache

Posted in Audiences and by chrisfremantle on August 17, 2020

This essay explores the sharp issues around Cultural Democracy and tests this challenges with some key people working on the ground.

In particular the reflections on arts institutions and the temporariness of local action (discussed through the example of Showroom but could equally have been Tramway).

Also the exploration of the edge between ‘arts’ and ‘third sector’ is interesting. There are organisations which configure themselves straddling this boundary (see for instance Center for Urban Pedagogy, Project Row Houses, Glasgow Women’s Library). But the funders find this difficult to understand because the conventional ‘success criteria’ are apparently different.

https://www.thewhitepube.co.uk/communitystateheadache

“Honour thy error as a hidden intent”

Posted in Failure by chrisfremantle on August 16, 2020

Failures: Mental Furniture Industry Externalities

Posted in Failure, Research by chrisfremantle on August 12, 2020

The following failed as a proposal for a Flattime House Delta Research Residency.

ecoartscotland library as bing #1 (2016) digital image (published in Performance Research)

Statement of Interest

Latham offers a radical critique of ‘knowledge production’ linking the Mental Furniture Industry (MFI) with waste landscapes. During his Scottish Office Placement he reimagined the ‘bings’ (spoil heaps from the shale oil industry) which dominate the Lothian landscape as ‘monuments to our time’ and wrote to various authorities seeking their protection. In the ‘newspaper’ publication for his Fruitmarket exhibition of 1976 he explicitly links the bings with another of his key concerns – the MFI. The bings are an indication of his conception of the scale of the MFI, both in temporal as well as spatial terms.

Latham’s conception of MFI raises questions about production: about the waste produced, but also of caretaking, which is often overlooked. Care is a process, or in Latham’s terms an event. Care has two aspects. Firstly it requires attention to all forms and dimensions – mental, social, environmental. Secondly care is about extending life. Some have been legally protected. They do evolve over time. Latham’s reframing of them as ‘monuments to our time’ is apt as they have become biodiversity hotspots in monocultural landscapes.

ecoartscotland’s library, comprising books, DVDs, etc., is mobile in order to interact with practitioners and projects in specific contexts. It is related to the Martha Rosler Library and Nils Norman’s Geocruiser.  However, if it is understood as a manifestation of the MFI, then it is necessary to test the relationship between the library and the bing. Is the library a form of waste from a process of accumulating cultural capital? Or, as with the bings, can it support the emergence of a diverse ecosystem?

The Delta Research Placement will provide a period of focused attention on the materiality of the MFI as manifest in the both analogue and digital forms. The Ligatus Archive will be mined as a resource, both for further understanding of the MFI and bings, but also as a visual material source. FTHo as a live/work space will be investigated with a particular focus on waste and care.

Latham’s methods of working, such as collage and stop motion animation, will be used to appropriate the results of research into new forms with the support of the digital producers. Further analogue and digital experiments with the materials of ecoartscotland and FTHo (and potentially the Tate and other sources) will be undertaken.

Two specific areas of investigation are currently envisaged. Experiments to date have taken the Moodiesburn bing, the simplest form (reverse and tip), as a model. The ‘Five Sisters’ offers a more complex formal model to investigate, and the ‘Niddrie Woman’ a massive improvised model. These experiments have resulted in temporary arrangements of books as well as collaged images. Secondly the time base of the Ligatus Archive will be taken as a starting point for investigation in juxtaposition with the ‘plan and elevation’ of the bings as objects. ‘Reverse and tip’ will be explored as a literal and metaphorical process.

The contribution to the new digital platform will consider the issue of waste and the emergence of diversity.

ecoartscotland library as bing #2 (2018) digital image

Artist’s Statement

I am an arts worker. I work as a producer, lecturer, researcher, writer and artist. In 2010
I established ecoartscotland as a platform for ongoing relational work, growing and connecting the community of people interested in this form of hybrid practice. ecoartscotland has various aspects: events, exhibitions and publishing. It includes the mobile library.

My practice involves a dynamic and iterative relationship between research and practice. A consistent theme is the reuse of visual and conceptual strategies.

I have an ongoing interest in exploring failure as part of a creative process. The development of ecoartscotland library as bing (2016) came from the rejection of a more conventional proposal to represent it in a compilation on artists’ libraries. Reading the catalogue essays from Mental Furniture Industry (2013) led to reconsidering the library as material through various analogue experiments and digital manifestations. This is in line with other in-progress projects including Calendar Variations, a drawing project which explores changes of state (wet to dry, living to dead).

Building on extensive research and producer work with the Harrisons (Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison) I, with colleagues, have recently presented readings from their works. This reuse-to-keep-alive raises questions regarding re-presentation and re-performance which are rarely explored in the visual arts.

I am employed part-time as a Research Fellow and Lecturer at Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University. I am a contributor to the Mental Furniture Industry (MFI) through being an ‘active researcher’ with targets for publishing and impact.

I live in Ayr in South West Scotland. This opportunity to work remotely with FTHo and the Archive would provide invaluable time to develop experimental work.

ecoartscotland library as bing #3 (2020) digital image

Here is the announcement of what was selected http://flattimeho.org.uk/projects/ftho-news/delta-d-research-placement/

Abstract: The Hope of Something Different

Posted in CF Writing, News, PhD, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 12, 2020

Educational theorist Gert Biesta proposes that we need to be ‘in the world, without occupying the centre of the world’ (2017 3). This injunction provides a frame with which to interrogate the hybrid practice of ecoart. This practice can be characterised by a concern for the relations of living things to each other, and to their environments. Learning in order to be able to act is critical. One aspect is collaboration with experts (whether those are scientists and environmental managers or inhabitants, including more-than-human). Another is building ‘commons’ and shared understanding being more important than novelty. Grant Kester has argued that there is an underlying paradigm shift in ‘aesthetic autonomy’, underpinned by a ‘trans-disciplinary interest in collective knowledge production’. (2013 np). This goes beyond questions of interdisciplinarity and its variations to raise more fundamental questions of agency. Drawing on the work of key practitioner/researchers (eg Jackie Brookner (1945-2015); Collins and Goto Studio, Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b 1932)) and theorists (Kester, Kagan) the meaning and implications of not ‘occupying the centre of the world’ will be explored as a motif for an art which can act in public space.

Biesta, G. 2017. Letting Art Teach: Art education ‘after’ Joseph Beuys. Arnhem: ArtEZ Press.

Fremantle, C., 2015. ‘The hope of something different’. In A restless art: thinking about community and participatory art [online] https://arestlessart.com/2015/12/17/chris-fremantle-the-hope-of-something-different/

Fremantle, C. 2015. ‘Art and Ecology’ in Interesting Times: Environmental Art Festival Scotland. Dumfries: EAFS.

Kagan, S., 2013. Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity. 2nd Edition. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.

Kagan, S., 2014. “The Practice of Ecological Art”, Plastik: Art & Science, http://art-science.univ-paris1.fr/plastik/document.php?id=866

Kester, G., 2013. “On Collaborative Art Practices”, Praktyka Teoretyczna, http://www.praktykateoretyczna.pl/granth-kester-on-collaborative-art-practices/ accessed 7.12. 2015

Published: ‘What if?’ Introduction for North Light Arts 10 Year exhibition

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 9, 2020

North Light Arts kindly asked me to write a short piece by way of an introduction to their 10 year exhibition.

Gert Biesta proposes that we need to be,

…in the world, without occupying the centre of the world.

Whilst Biesta credits this idea to a French Educational Philosopher, Philippe Meirieu, Meirieu’s comments seem to be in the context of the classroom, and Biesta certainly uses the phrase in a larger sense, as part of what it means to be educated (see in particular Letting Art Teach: Art education ‘after’ Joseph Beuys, ArtEZ Press, 2017).

But for me this phrase speaks to an ecological understanding, or even ‘becoming earthly’ (in Latour’s sense). Ecological approaches to art are distinctive – they ask us to re-imagine our relationship with the world, as part of it, with art being not simply a human commodity or communication. Rather art is potentially a way to experience and understand the livingness and agency of the world, to share experiences with the more-than-human.

North Light Arts, under Susie Goodwin’s leadership, have put myriad aspects of the environment of the East Coast town of Dunbar as the focus of artists’ residencies.

John Muir, mostly known for his key role in the creation of the National Parks in the USA (remember the 1903 picture of him with Theodore Roosevelt on the top of the world?), was born in Dunbar. He provides North Light Arts and Susie in particular with inspiration. Muir is remembered for saying,

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.

The power of imagination makes us infinite.

Published: Improvising as a method in the time of Covid-19

Posted in Arts & Health, CF Writing, News, Research by chrisfremantle on July 7, 2020

Screen Shot 2020-06-26 at 16.05.44

The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance kindly published some thoughts on artists and improvisation, drawn from the writings of Professor Emeritus Anne Douglas and the work of Dr Chris Dooks.

This came out of a discussion during a meeting of arts and health networks (WAHWN (Wales), ArtsCare (Northern Ireland) and ACHWS (Scotland), as well as APPG AHW and CHWA (England). We were talking about how artists were adapting to continue to work with various communities, not only shifting online, but also finding new analogue ways.

Improvising provides a different way of thinking from statistics and modelling, which have dominated the news and discussions certainly since lockdown, but actually well before that, and in other discourses such as the climate crisis too. ‘Improvising’ can also be a critique of politicians, but where artists are doing it, the approaches are tested methods, not on-the-fly half-baked patches.

Thanks to Anne Douglas for her comments and Chris Dooks for allowing use of his work.

 

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What art have I seen? #AIWW: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei

Posted in Performances by chrisfremantle on May 4, 2020
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Failure talks

Posted in CF Writing, Failure, Research, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on April 26, 2020

A recurring theme has been failure. This has resulted in publications (paper in iJade written with Dr Gemma Kearney, Business School, Robert Gordon University) and talks (principally for the Scottish Graduate School in Arts and Humanities Summer School 2016-18 presented with Elizabeth Reeder, Creative Writing, University of Glasgow).

Recently I’ve prepared the talk in four segments which can be watched online.

Pt 1 focuses on the prescriptions and fables that surround failure. Pt 2 draws on the research Gemma Kearney and I did into Gray’s School of Art staff perceptions of failure in their own practices and teaching. Pt 3 draws on Elizabeth Reeder’s talk for the Summer School as well as on Gert Biesta’s art pedagogy to discuss methods and desires. Pt 4 highlights some of the references and discusses them briefly.

The Art of a Life Adapting, published in Leonardo

Posted in Arts & Health, CF Writing, News, Research, Texts, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on March 10, 2020
'Drawing 2016', pen (Sharpie), found object, sculptural object, 2016. (Photo: Fergus Connor)

‘Drawing 2016’, pen (Sharpie), found object, sculptural object, 2016. (Photo: Fergus Connor)

Statement ‘The Art of a Life Adapting: Drawing and Healing’ just published in Leonardo Vol 53 No 1. You can find an earlier version here. Drawings are here.

There is a lot of talk about adaptation in relation to the climate crisis, but there is also an increasing recognition that cancer survival rates mean that a larger proportion of the population is and will be living with the long term consquences of cancer treatment. This has been highlighted by the EU Horizon programme, “The EU has already placed the needs of survivors as one of the key pillars of its Beating Cancer Plan and has now launched a consultation aimed at identifying where research is needed most.” (‘Treating cancer is only part of the journey’: the overlooked needs of cancer survivors, online.)

The role of arts and cultural practices, as well as approaches to understanding adaptation conceptually and practically, all need further consideration (see recent blog on climate adaptation). We know arts & culture has multiple contributions to make, including:

  • offering forms of autonomy in palliative care, as explored in the ‘Tracing Autonomy’ project by Prof. Ben Colburn of University of Glasgow, Jeni Pearson and Kirsty Stansfield of the Art Room in the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow.
  • playing a role in ’emotional regulation’ (Daisy Fancourt’s recent research provides significant evidence), but there are also issues around ‘uncertainty’ which also connect climate-related adaptation with cancer-related adaptation.
  • opening up ways of ‘living with uncertainty’, which medics recognise as an important part of their professional practice, but is equally significant for patients.

 

What art have I seen? Ballet Rambert

Posted in Performances by chrisfremantle on February 27, 2020

Ballet Rambert at His Majesties in Aberdeen. Three pieces,

    • PreSentient, Wayne McGregor’s arresting response to the music of Steve Reich
    • Rouge, an original creation from rising star Marion Motin
    • Hofesh Shechter’s powerful In your rooms

Three quite distinct pieces, formal, abstract, political. The last, the Shechter, shifted between the chaotic and the orderly – Anne also read some Deleuze & Guattari into it. The formalism of the McGregor piece set to Reich was stunning.

What art have I seen? Tendency Towards’ Haunted by the ghost of a flower

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on February 20, 2020

IMAG1386

The resonating thought

Haunted by the ghost of a flower an exhibition by the collective Tendency Towards at The Barn. Tendency Towards are all graduates of Gray’s – an evening with students in discussion with the collective. The work is in the ongoing conversation with a curator, in the appropriation of materials (theatre flats) and in the composition of the space.

Making an exhibition as a collective, as another identity from all the individual identities, is a particular exercise in negotiation, and in working out how to speak with a single voice. Each personality in the collective is important, and the whole can be better than any individual if the collective draws out the best in each other.

Adaptation and failure

Posted in CF Writing, Failure, Research, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on February 3, 2020

Harrisons-South-Gallery-Installation-view-3-2009

Greenhouse Britain installed at the Feldman Gallery in New York City

Ten years ago I was working with the Harrisons on Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom. They insistently focused on ‘adaptation’ although Defra, who were funding the work, wanted the focus on ‘mitigation’. Now public policy is addressing adaptation (cf Climate Ready Clyde) as well as the Cultural Adaptation project (which I’m helping to evaluate as part of my work as a Research Fellow at Gray’s School of Art).

Mitigation is easier to plan and measure. How much reduction in carbon dioxide emissions has this initiative achieved?

Adaptation might be based on strengthening infrastructure and systems, but the shape of the challenge is timescale for knowing whether it has worked or not – this might be a decade?

So understanding what failure means in this context is important. In particular the challenge is that methods and approaches with known outcomes can seem attractive (less likely to fail) but can only deliver what is already understood. Embracing change must mean also embracing failure as a possibility.

The voices speaking as the projection of sea-level rise onto the island of Britain plays out ask,

Will it be enough?

As the most extreme model suggests
to halt the juggernaut of the ocean
if carbon use is stopped
almost all at once
almost all over
in the next 10 years?

Later they ask,

Would it be enough?

To begin now
a transglobal discourse in which
the Global Domestic Output
is discussed
agreeing all efforts be directed to commit
1% of the Global Domestic Product
to the reduction of the carbon surge
to near zero
in order to reduce
the ocean rise?

And again later,

Would it be enough?

to transcend economic thinking
and begin creating
a domain
of ecological thinking
that regenerates
the great carbon-sequestering
world systems
that operate in the forests
and the oceans
while leaving
ancient carbon stored
as coal and oil
in their present inactive states?

This repeating pattern of ‘will it…?’ / ‘would it be enough?’ asks about how we imagine risk of the unknown, risk of failure.

The issue of failure and why it matters in experimental projects is explored in this blog from the Cultural Adaptations project (including more on failure from previous publications).

What art have I seen? Ironstone Prize

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on January 30, 2020

Visited Banbury to see the Ironstone Prize with Gail Anderson and Mark Bigelow, who had a piece included. Local open competitions are such a good thing – a community should periodically have a chance to see what the artists living there do. This included a mix of the pleasurable, the rigorous, the experimental and the enquiring.

What art have I seen? Eco-Visionaries

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on January 30, 2020

Eco-Visionaries at the Royal Academy. Quite a mix of work, old and new; video, sculpture, performance, architecture; addressing energy, interspecies communication, extinctions, pollution, waste, and other ‘ecological’ issues.

The final element was a performance – we entered a room and sat facing a mirror. We put headphones on. We were addressed and asked questions about our perception of our own mortality. Then the light changed and the mirror revealed itself to be a tank containing jellyfish with another group sitting on the far side. There was some discussion of how they were also experiencing the same performance, albeit ‘offset’ so our actions were seen by them, and then their actions were seen by us.

However the most provocative element was the jellyfish who are doing very well as a result of climate change – I know this because I see a lot of big ones washed up on Ayr beach. The elements that asked us to consider our lives and the changes we might need to make, in juxtaposition with the jellyfish and their thriving, were powerful. The two audiences was a bit ‘over egging’.

Overall the exhibition demonstrated the many ways artists, designers and architects are to a greater or lesser degree succeeding in wrestling, some for more than 50 years, with the issues of the climate and biodiversity emergency. Each work makes sense as an attempt to grapple with all the complexity that Timothy Morton highlights in Hyperobjects – the nonlocality, the phasing, the stickiness and so on. As an exercise in curation I’m not sure it made sense beyond ‘look at all the ways…’ It also didn’t quite address the lameness and hypocrisy that Morton also highlights.

 

What art have I seen? Hamish Fulton

Posted in Exhibitions, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on January 29, 2020

A Decision To Choose Only Walking at Parafin.

Fine selection of work – the itemisation of walking around many Kora suggests more committed Buddhism. Fulton talks about the time it takes to get into the ‘quiet mind’ at the start of a walk.

The statements “I am a contemporary artist, not a mountaineer. I have no knowledge of Alpine-style climbing and I see no reason why I should paint a ‘good likeness’ of any mountain. I employ words but I’m not a writer. I am a walking artist and I record all my walks in word form…” 60 years of clarity…

What art have I seen? Jo Spence

Posted in Exhibitions, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on January 24, 2020

Abstract for Guest presentation: “The work is a chant and was made to be read aloud.”

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on December 18, 2019

Title: “The work is a chant and was made to be read aloud.”*
Chris Fremantle and Anne Douglas

Abstract:

Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b.1932) are pioneers in bringing together art and ecology. Their work is combinations of text and image, always intended to ask us to put ecosystemic health and wellbeing first in all our decision-making. More timely than ever, their works speak to improvisation and offer ways to think about adaptation.

The Harrisons worked together in a fifty year partnership drawing on their skills as researchers and artists to engage different publics across the globe in understanding the entangled nature of rising temperatures, loss of biodiversity, sea level rise among other issues. They pose the question of how we as a human species among many others will cope with these changes.

Reading (or re-enacting) the Harrisons works is a process of exploration of experience and meaning distinct from critical writing (which we have also done).
We will perform a selection of texts chosen from three periods of the Harrisons’ work. We will introduce each of these readings with a view to developing a shared discussion on what the arts contribute to the current environmental crisis.

Theatre Studies, University of Glasgow, 5.30 pm 23 Jan 2020

Bios:
Anne Douglas is an artist and researcher. She has focused over the past 25 years on developing research into the changing nature of art in public life, increasingly in relation to environmental change. She has published extensively on artistic leadership, improvisation and participation exploring the function and poetics of exemplary artistic practices, including that of the Harrisons, the latter in collaboration with Chris Fremantle. She is a professor emeritus from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen and continues to develop and support practice led research through the arts at doctoral and postdoctoral levels.

Chris Fremantle is a Research Fellow and Lecturer as well as a Producer for art projects across health and environment. He has worked as Producer on the Harrisons’ work Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom (2006-09) and more recently as Associate with On the Deep Wealth of this Nation, Scotland. Together with Anne Douglas, he has written on the practice of the Harrisons. Chris established ecoartscotland in 2010 and has been Chair of the Art Focus Group for the Ramsar Culture Network since 2016. He studied English and Philosophy and has a Masters in Cultural History.
* Harrison, H.M. and Harrison, N. 2001. From There to Here. San Diego: Harrison Studio

What art have I seen? Young Turner

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on December 1, 2019

Turner’s Perspective Diagrams

Banbury Museum’s exhibition from the Ashmolean of Young Turner and Oxford. Includes a sequence of diagrams used by Turner for his lectures on perspective.

What art have I seen? Hal Fischer, Dike Blair and more…

Posted in Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on November 22, 2019

Hal Fischer’s Gay Semiotics and Other Works. Several different series exploring gay culture in San Francisco – life on a street bench over 24hrs; the archetypal attire of particular groups, the key signals. All b/w photos with text, some done as almost scientific textbooks.

Also at GoMA Fiona Tan’s Disorient and a group exhibition Domestic Bliss

At the Modern Institute Dike Blair at Osborne Street and Matt Connors Figure at Aird’s Lane. Quality painting in both cases. Connors’ visual games with abstracts playing with colour and scale, a game to see the connections.

And revisiting Nick Cave’ Until at Tramway where there was also Zadie Xa’s Child of Magohalmi and the Echoes of Creation and Fred Moten and Wu Tsang’s Gravitational Feel.

What art have I seen? Max Ernst on the first floor and Richard Serra on the third

Posted in Exhibitions, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on November 3, 2019

Max Ernst: An Invitation To Look
The Artist’S Career Surveyed In A Private Collection

Un/fortunately only three of the fifteen works because of another event, but came away with the catalogue.

The show features fifteen works from an exceptional private collection, covering Ernst’s entire career from 1925 to 1971, acquired largely in the 1950s and 1960s by a prominent Italian collector and friend of the artist.

Of course the question of ‘how to look’ is vital. All the works in the exhibition involve different methods used by Ernst in addition to drawing and oil on canvas – frottage, collage, grattage, and gesso relief.

Upstairs in a different dealership is a selection of Richard Serra drawings – examples of several different series. These test the edge between drawing and sculpture; the surfaces are as dense as Chestnut tree bark. The one exception, a looping line spiralling across the page is more like a stream and banks of accumulated sediment.

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Enrolled as a p/t student for PhD by Public Output

Posted in CF Writing, CV, PhD, Research by chrisfremantle on October 14, 2019

Abstract

There is increasing interest in the contribution that the arts can make to the major challenges facing researchers, policy makers and societies more generally. Artists are included within multi-disciplinary teams addressing environmental research subjects (amongst others). Hybrid practices such as art and ecology (‘ecoart’) have established themselves at the intersection of disciplines, adopting approaches from the environmental sciences into arts practices. These practices are often situated within the broad category of Environmental Humanities, however there are distinctive aspects, particularly around the orientation towards collaboration which means that ecoart has a specific contribution to make.

The research, in opening up the specific contribution artists can make to public life, as well as their development of hybrid practices through collaborations with other disciplines, addresses a number of important challenges identified by policy makers. These can be broadly characterised as ‘wicked problems’, problems beyond the scope of any single discipline. This includes in particular global warming: sea level rise, heatwave and biodiversity loss. Other ‘wicked problems’ include healthcare (and specific conditions including cancer and dementia), social injustice, and natural hazards.

The articulation of the contribution, approaches and effects of artists to and within multi-disciplinary teams is key to growing an interdisciplinary culture to address ‘wicked problems’. Clear articulation of how artists’ work works both in terms of the process of development, particularly when it involves collaboration with other disciplines, and well as how it works with audiences and participants, is critical to the realisation of a meaningful contribution.

Practice-led approaches, including live projects as well as reflecting on exemplary practices, provide means to open up and discuss both the contribution made by artists as well as the interactions with other disciplines – the forms of inter- and transdisciplinarity that artists ‘bring to the table’.

Drawing on more than 10 years of work, this PhD brings together outputs including Chapters and Papers on the work of pioneers of the art and ecology movement, Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b. 1932); live project work as Producer on their key project ‘Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom’ (2006-09) and currently as Associate Producer on ‘The Deep Wealth of this Nation, Scotland’. In addition to opening up the approaches of the artists to creating the works and their approaches to collaboration with other disciplines, the research discusses the utilisation of key questions that shape the design process in other contexts including public art in healthcare settings. The discussion of collaboration and inter- and trans-disciplinary work is informed by Chapters and Papers addressing another live project, the Land Art Generator Glasgow initiative, as well as reflections on issues of participation and collaboration.

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5818-8208

What art have I seen? Nick Cave’s ‘Until’ and Red Note improvising

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work, Sound by chrisfremantle on October 14, 2019

We were at the evening organised by ArtLink Edinburgh where, as part of their Altered States programme in association with Nick Cave’s ‘Until’ installation in Tramway, Red Note Ensemble improvised for a mixed ability audience.

ArtLink is an ‘arts and disability’ organisation, and this immersive experience was amazing, taking an already stunning installation and creating a moment where an audience spent time together just being … in our bodies, in the environment, in the light and glitter, in the sounds…

What art have I seen?James Richards ‘Migratory Motor Complex’

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on October 11, 2019

More collage today (bit of a theme) this time sound. At Collective on Calton Hill. Video from original presentation with other works by Richards for Wales at Venice Biennale.

Migratory Motor Complex is how your digestion works. Slightly ironic since I was discussing ‘diverticular’ with a colleague over coffee this morning!

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What art have I seen? Ade Adesina, NeoNeanderthals

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on October 11, 2019

Ade Adesina, After the Questions, linocut, 2018

Ade Adesina’s linocuts.

Robbie Bushe and Jeanne Cannizzo’s collaboration NeoNeanderthal. Bushe said Neanderthals didn’t wreck the planet in 250,000 years. Maybe if they came back… Cannizzo is an anthropologist and maker. Brilliantly in one case are objects she has made, provided interpretation for, and the contested the validity of aspects of the interpretation. Bushe’s paintings and drawings have aspects of children’s books with cutaways to show ‘how it works’, but what’s going on is genetic extraction and the reproduction of an extinct species.

https://www.royalscottishacademy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/The-View-After-The-Questions..Linocut.109.2-%C3%B9-167.6-cm..2018-.jpg

What art have I seen? Collage

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on October 11, 2019

What art have I seen? Fife Arms

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on September 30, 2019

‘Disciplinarity and Peripheries’ at Gray’s Research Conference

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on September 29, 2019

‘Peripheries’, Gray’s Research Conference, takes place on Friday 4th October. I’ll be presenting on disciplinarity and it’s edges.

Abstract:

By analogy disciplines are a form of ‘centre’ and work across disciplines involves focusing on edges. Some people conceptualise disciplines to have ‘near’ and ‘far’ relations i.e. visual art is ‘near’ art history and ‘far’ from environmental modelling. Gavin Little talks about radical and moderate saying,

“The radical variant involves scholars working across major discipline boundaries—such as theatre and environmental science—while the moderate one takes place between scholars in intellectually cognate disciplines such as law and policy, philosophy and religious studies, politics and history, or visual arts and media.” (Little 2017, 6).

Murdo Macdonald quotes George Davie’s The Crisis of the Democratic Intellect saying,

“…the most important side of any department of knowledge is the side on which it comes into contact with every other department. To insist on this is the true function of humanism.” (Macdonald nd, np)

Disciplines certainly don’t sit tightly next to each other and there are definitely gaps between them – we only need to think about the rationale for ‘multi-disciplinary teams’ in ensuring that these gaps are addressed and acknowledged in for example healthcare between clinical, nursing and other health professionals. Nicolescu goes further and argues that the ‘space’ between disciplines is full with an “information flux” (much as geographical peripheries are full). (Nicolescu 1993, 6)

This conceptualisation also raises interesting analogies in the other direction, including the possibility that attention to linking two ‘centres’ can produce, in the ‘periphery’, a new centre. The interdisciplinary developments between biology and chemistry resulted in due course in the emergence of bio-chemistry as a new discipline (and thus a new ‘centre’).

One of the abiding ‘disciplinary’ debates is whether the objective is synthesis and holism – is the objective to produce centres or even one totalising centre? Or is it as Murdo Macdonald, following George Davie, suggests about specialisations (centres),

“But it also creates blindspots, eddies of ignorance in epistemological space, which can only be perceived from another perspective. This is interesting from our perspective here because it shifts the emphasis of interdisciplinarity from the purloining of other disciplines’ methods in the hope that you can apply them within your own discipline, to illuminating, by the methods of one’s own discipline, what those other disciplines may be methodologically unable to access.” (Macdonald nd, np)

This presentation will be a meditation on the issues of disciplinarity as a spending time with edges and differences, drawing on the writings of Basarab Nicolescu (multi-, inter- trans-disciplinarity), Gavin Little (proximity and distance), and Murdo Macdonald & George Davie (the Scottish tradition of the Democratic Intellect).

References

Little, G. 2017. ‘Connecting Environmental Humanities: Developing Interdisciplinary Collaborative Method’. Humanities, 6(4), 91; https://doi.org/10.3390/h6040091

Macdonald, M. 2007. A Note on Interdisciplinarity. https://www.academia.edu/39621092/A_Note_on_Interdisciplinarity.1

Nicolescu, B. 1993. Towards Transdisciplinary Education. Invited talk at the International Conference Education of the Future, Memorial da America Latina, Parlamento Latinoamericano, Sao Paulo, Brazil, October 4-8.

Nicolescu, B. 1997. The Transdisciplinary Evolution of the University Condition for Sustainable Development. Talk at the International Congress Universities’ Responsibilities to Society, International Association of Universities, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, November 12-14, http://ciret-transdisciplinarity.org/bulletin/b12c8.php

Abstract: A Funeral March for Economic Valuation

Posted in Maintenance, News, Research by chrisfremantle on September 24, 2019

Accepted for the Valuing Nature Conference at the end of October
This presentation will explore the various ways that we can think about ecosystems that are degraded or dying and how this relates to questions of economic valuation – what does it mean to attribute a monetary value to the Great Barrier Reef, apparently a significant asset for the Australian economy when the Reef by all accounts will be at least three quarters dead within a generation or two?
Drawing on the work of artists who have raised issues of care and maintenance including Mierle Laderman Ukeles and theorists such as Tim Morton, the presentation will juxtapose articulations of economic valuation (eg bees and the Great Barrier Reef) with creative approaches to death and dying. The aim of the presentation is not to offer a solution, method or answer, but rather to evoke the contradictions inherent in thinking about environment.

What art have I seen? Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on September 7, 2019

At Somerset House – threaded by Harold Ové, including music, sculpture, photography, painting, writing, poetry, music, carnival, fashion, design, activism, anger and politics.

What art have I seen? Walid Raad’s To be honest the weather helped

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on September 6, 2019

Walid Raad makes work that blurs with everyday life, but coming from the never ending conflict of the Middle East. His images are often banal, but the stories that he wraps them in are sharp – the ‘first job’ photos of shop fronts which are later discovered to be put out of business because they wouldn’t pay the extortion. Above the discovered artist who made works on the backs of paintings in a museum.

How do you deal with (adapt to) living in a state of continual low intensity war?

Para-fictions.

https://www.stedelijk.nl/en/exhibitions/walid-raad-2

Also saw Welkom in adjacent rooms a totally factual documentary photography exhibition on mining communities in South Africa. The implementation of Apartheid, the connections with Dutch culture, the impact on young people. Very strange because the aesthetics intersect.

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What art have I seen? Rijksmuseum

Posted in Exhibitions, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on September 6, 2019

Medieval and Asian art.

Saint Elizabeth’s Day Flood (1490-95) amazing record of a flood in 1412 caused by storm surges in the North Sea https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio/155667–r-s/collections/elisabeth-panelen-dordrecht?ii=0&p=0

Also ‘A Lohan’, carved wood from China before 1400AD. “This is Ajita. He concentrates fully on listening to the reading of a sutra, a scripture that conveys the Buddha’s teachings.”

(and we thought Masaccio was good) https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/search/objects?q=wood+figure&s=chronologic&p=1&ps=12&st=Objects&ii=10#/AK-MAK-1727,10

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What art have I seen? Faith Ringgold

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on August 19, 2019

The activism sits alongside the storytelling. The humanity alongside the anger. The imagination, the stars of the lights on the bridge, the girl floating.

The consistently acknowledged involvement of family in the making of various of the works, particularly the influence of Faith Ringgold’s mother, must be pretty exceptional in contemporary art.

American People Series #6: Mr. Charlie, 1964 (from Faith Ringgold's website)

American People Series #6: Mr. Charlie, 1964 (from Faith Ringgold’s website)

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What art have I seen? Cindy Sherman

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on August 18, 2019
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What art have I seen? Energy Objects

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on August 16, 2019

Hannah Imlach’s Energy Objects at WORM in Aberdeen comprises works made over a number of years resulting from an ongoing enquiry into the infrastructures of renewable energy, on Eigg, on Orkney and at Donside in Aberdeen. These carefully crafted objects are no less beautiful than the Archimedes Screw newly installed in the community hydro project in Aberdeen, or the OpenHydro units at EMEC on Orkney. Imlach also touches on the relationship with Community Land Ownership, the critical connection between energy and political evolution.

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Carlos Cruz-Diez RIP

Posted in News by chrisfremantle on August 11, 2019
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What art have I seen? My Own Private Bauhaus

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on July 31, 2019
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What art have I seen? Placing Sound

Posted in Exhibitions, On The Edge, Research by chrisfremantle on July 25, 2019

Maja Zeco performing her work 'Hold In/Breathe Out'

Maja Zeco performing her work ‘Hold In/Breathe Out’

Maja Zeco opened her exhibition ‘Placing Sound’ at Gray’s School of Art where she is just completing her practice-led PhD with a performance of her work ‘Hold In/Breathe Out’. This work might be a meditation on the experience of immersing yourself in everyday life and stepping out into perhaps your own mind, or in some sense private space. Zeco filled a large bowl with water and as she immersed her head completely in the water, triggered a soundscape of an urban environment with associated imagery. As she came back out of the water about 30 seconds later she ended the audio imagery. She breathed in silence. Her urban included images of streets and buildings and I’m pretty sure I saw an artillery piece.

Spead across three rooms, this exhibition represents nearly 10 years of work exploring sound and performance. One room is quartered and composed of sounds from the North East of Scotland (Aberdeen and Banchory) and from Bosnia Herzegovina where Zeco was born. Voices and bird song, trees and traffic all layer over each other drawing you to different points in the room as different elements come forward.

The middle room has video and physical documentation of two performance works. In one case, One Thousand Pomegranate Seeds’ bringing the action in the video into another form of presence with the physical evidence of the event in front of you whilst watching its making. Below is the promo video from Horsecross, Perth, where the work was originally performed.

The first room you encounter (I started with the last) again brings together different forms of documentation, physical remains and video, of performance – in this case ‘Silencer’ and in another part of the room the space in which Zeco performed ‘Hold In/Breathe Out’.

What art have I seen? The Asset Strippers

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on July 16, 2019

Mike Nelson’s The Asset Strippers at Tate Britain transforms the Duveen Galleries into some part of Govan or Clydebank, Paisley or maybe East Kilbride.

The structuring of the dignified neoclassical spaces into a series of workshops, lacks only the suspended fluorescent lights to fully realise the conceit. The partitions’ materials, structures and even adornments are all evocative of industrial spaces across the UK.

The assemblages in the first space seem more ‘found’ whilst some in the rear spaces are more contrived or absurd and more poignant, particularly the giant diesel engine on a bed of sleeping bags.

It might be trite to say there’s poetry in the everyday of industry, but in truth you can find it easily.

What art have I seen? Victor Pasmore Gallery

Posted in Audiences and, Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on July 12, 2019

View of Victor Pasmore Gallery

Small selection of works by Victor Pasmore who lived in his later life on Malta.

Very clear sense of Pasmore’s Modernist understanding of the way the artwork is a thing in itself, not a representation or derivation. Curious if this links to ideas of Object Oriented Ontology?

Pasmore says, “Once independent, a painting becomes the sole visual object so that its content becomes totally immanent in its form and image, a condition which renders its meaning essentially potential. Emerging in anonymity, therefore, the new painting can become a sign or symbol of infinite extension, directly finding its place in the eye and mind of the spectator” (Images of colour 1983).

Harman says, “By ‘objects’ I mean unified realities – physical or otherwise – that cannot fully be reduced either downwards to their pieces or upwards to their effects.”

And goes on to say, “But for the arts, as for the social sciences, the greater danger is the upward reduction that paraphrases objects in terms of their effects rather than their parts. For it is dubious to claim that objects are utterly defined by their context, without any unexpressed private surplus.”

Obviously an artwork is a thing in the human world, but for Pasmore it is not a communication, a message, between the artist and the spectator. It is a thing in itself, not reducible to a representation.

WW1: The letter that reveals a brutal day at Scapa Flow – BBC News

Posted in Family by chrisfremantle on June 19, 2019
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What art have I seen? ‘Dora Maar’ and ‘Prehistory’ at the Pompidou

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on June 17, 2019

After the Picasso Museum and also the Tate’s Dorothea Tanning exhibition (with it’s continual reminders that she was married to Max Ernst), this was more interesting and better judged. Includes Dora Maar’s early commercial work, her social investigations, move into Surrealism, connection with Picasso, later abstract photography… rich and diverse.

Pompidou Centre trailer

The ‘Prehistory’ exhibition is a huge survey of art and archaeology, taking inspiration from Lucy Lippard’s Overlay. Interesting that France has its own history of geological ‘realisation’ parallel to Hutton in Edinburgh.

Giuseppe Penone

What art have I seen? Picasso Museum, Paris

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on June 16, 2019

Permanent collection and the temporary exhibition bringing together works by Picasso with works by Alexander Calder. Came away with a renewed respect for Calder’s judgement and elegance. Some of the Picasso works… less so.

What art have I seen? Love at first sight

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on June 9, 2019

Morag Myerscough’s installation in collaboration with poet Jo Gilbert encompasses the Mercat Cross. Commissioned by Aberdeen’s LookAgain Festival (based in Gray’s)Lovely story connecting Myerscough to Aberdeen, and Gilbert is a powerful voice for Doric poetry.

Audiences and … pt5

Posted in Audiences and by chrisfremantle on June 7, 2019

This thread records bit and pieces that seem relevant to thinking about the complexity and many dimensions of art in the world.

Although my colleague Anne Douglas might ask for a tougher and more careful articulation of the ways in which improvisation is operating here, Francois Matarasso’s piece is a pretty good articulation of what we know to be possible and opens up what he means by Community Art pretty effectively.

Community art is improvisation

Celebration of Richard Fremantle’s life

Posted in Family by chrisfremantle on June 2, 2019

Harriet Walter very kindly read a piece at the suggestion of Chloe Fremantle Blegvad.

It came from the Portsmouth Priory School newsletter and was very close to Richard’s heart. It has a similar sentiment to The Four Quartets which he also loved. Oskar Baines Fremantle videoed this. The text copied out by Chloe is below.

This captures his spirit so well.

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