Working with Allan Kaprow

Posted in CV, Exhibitions, On The Edge, Research by chrisfremantle on January 23, 2021
Anne Douglas produced Calendar Variations as a project amongst a group of researcher artists including Reiko Goto, Georgina Barney, Fiona Hope, Jono Hope, Janet McEwan, Chu Chu Yuan and myself. Anne took Allan Kaprow’s Activity entitled ‘Calendar’ as a starting point, asking all the participants to respond individually to the text. We then came together for two days to negotiate a collective response. As a collective we explored what might be considered the minimum intervention – walking a square into long grass. We did this at The Barn in Banchory (above). My own work with ‘Calendar’ is documented here and below are a pair of works that resulted from an analysis. Other drawings explore wet and dry (proxies for life and death) in various ways.  I also did a curatorial exercise documented here.
Chris Fremantle, CV, Acrylic and Pencil (2015) installed as part of Staff Outing exhibition, Look Again Space, 2018.
Calendar Variations publication More recently I discovered that Jupiter Artland had also invited some artists (Andrea Büttner, James Hoff, Peter Liversidge, Cinzia Mutigli, members of ORBIT Youth Council and the Wilson family) to respond to Kaprow’s Scores and Activities. You can see their work here. Kaprow’s Scores and Activities are one of the inspirations for a book coming out of the ecoart network to be published in 2022 by New Village Press. The book, entitled Ecoart in Action, comprises contributions by 67 artists. The contributions are all exercises, recipes or instructions for activities; case studies of activities; or provocations towards developing activities. Some are more literal than Kaprow’s, with obvious pedagogical outcomes. Others are elliptical and open-ended like Kaprow’s, leaving those undertaking to work out what might be learnt or done for themselves. Kaprow continues to inspire.
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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’.

Calendar Variations

Posted in CF Writing, On The Edge by chrisfremantle on August 4, 2010

Drawing in context, C Fremantle, 2010

Walking In Long Grass Score

Looking for an area of long grass.

Walking into the middle.

Deciding on a shape: a square, a circle, even a triangle.

Walking the shape until the grass is flattened.

Walking hands outstretched to feel the stems and seeds and chaff.

Standing back and admiring your efforts.

Going back in.

Looking at the flattened grass, or

Smelling the scent, or

Walking around the perimeter of the shape to make it bigger, or

Walking the other way around the shape, or

Lying down in the middle in the long grass.

Chu Yuan, Georgina Barney, Janet McEwan, Reiko Goto and Fiona Hope - Woodend Barn

Working in Public Seminars

Posted in CF Writing, On The Edge, Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 20, 2010

Published on the PAR+RS Public Art Scotland website, an introduction to Working in Public (2007) by Prof Anne Douglas and Chris Fremantle.  This includes links to essays written by Prof Douglas as well as Wallace Heim‘s evaluation of the project.


Posted in On The Edge, Texts by chrisfremantle on September 1, 2009

Berne, Switzerland?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, On The Edge, Research by chrisfremantle on June 3, 2009

Working at the University of the Arts, Berne

Presenting The Artist as Leader and doing a workshop with 2nd Year Graphic Design students.

Zentrum Paul Klee

Two visits. In the first (27 May) I find:

“Calculation and work. Trial and error, first on paper, then as a model, then eventually as a prototype on a scale of one to one, that is the method of the practical scientist Renzo Piano and his people. The design process oscillates between tinkering and totalling, the simplest hand drawn sketches and the most high-tech computer drawings are used. The search party takes side turnings, longer routes, gets itself out of dead ends, but every step takes them closer to an as yet undefined goal. The detours are necessary – they ensure that no short circuits, no apparent short cuts, lead to a rash, un-thought-out result. Anyone who commits himself too soon, locks himself in. Piano’s people approach their task like a team of researchers on thin ice.” p.24 Benedikt Loderer, Monument in Fruchtland in Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Short Guide. Hatje Cantz, 2005.

Also Dream and Reality: Contemporary Art from the Near East. The curatorial concept is very strong comprising firstly, contemporary works; secondly, elements of material culture chosen from an anthropological collection; and thirdly, a selection of works by Paul Klee. But in practice, as an experience, its not very successful. It’s not that the Klee works aren’t relevant. It’s not that the anthropological works aren’t relevant. Some of the contemporary art is very good. But in this category there are too many video works. But let me tell you about the three really good pieces. Firstly The Walid Raad/Atlas Group work that seems to be called either Untitled 1982-2007 by Walid Raad, or We Decided to Let them Say “We Are Convinced” Twice by the Atlas Group. Secondly the series of carpets by xxx variously titled. When you first walk down the stairs you see a collection of four carpets which are not quite hung in the same way as for instance the carpets in the Burrell in Glasgow. Then you start to question what you are looking at and you realise that they are modified, reconstructed into new forms, subtley different from the normal. Finally, the chair. I thought it was simply a chair with a small booklet chained to it which might elucidate one of the videos. The book started with a short text which explained that in both Europe and in Cairo there are lots of plastic garden chairs, but where in Europe, when they break they are thrown out, in Cairo they are repaired. A sequence of approximately 20 images of various repaired plastic garden chairs followed. The text suggested that visitors to the exhibition should treat this chair very roughly because the museum had agreed to repair any broken chair in the same way that the Egyptians were repairing their chairs.

For me this work articulated the potential for the arts to highlight the infection of one culture by another culture, and the potential for that to work in both directions. Asking the museum exhibition, conservation and curatorial staff to firstly assume that a piece of plastic garden furniture is an important cultural object, and then to suggest that it should be repaired in a very explicit way, is just great. Asking the people visiting the exhibition to treat an artwork roughly (though sadly it was not showing any significant signs of wear and tear), is brilliant. Definitely a sort of Fluxus Score or an Allan Kaprow happening, read through a post-colonial distorting mirror.

Kunstmuseum Berne (28 May)

Tracey Emin (I missed it in Edinburgh, so it was great to see it in Berne).
“Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” Guerrilla Girls 1989.
If women are going to be naked in the museum then Emin tells us something about her experience of being a woman.
Walking through the gallery away from a video about being in a band, suddenly I heard screaming, screaming that hit me in the solar plexus. My immediate reaction was that someone in the next gallery was in deep, deep anguish. The pop music and the screaming.
In the sequence of polaroid or photobooth works it seems that Emin is saying “If you are going to look at my body, then you are going to see it as I see it, feel it as I feel it.”
There is a display of small images of early, post art school work that Emin destroyed. The pictures are presented like a collection of family photos. You can see that she has been deeply influenced by Edvard Munch. Someone also mentioned Egon Schiele. There is a work which reminds me strongly of Louise Bourgeois.

Conclusion: it’s a game of consequences – the statement is ‘if’ ‘then.’

Kunsthalle Berne (29 May) Zhang Enli

Second visit to the Zentrum Paul Klee (30 May)
Paul Klee: Carpet of Memory

It didn’t feel like an historical exhibition.  It was overwhelming, both in the beauty of the images and in the variety of tactics of the visual.  It’s not just a lot of squiggles.  The one image which was apparently simply a series of dabs of colour on a dark surface was infact a broadly applied impasto, overlayered with watercolour, and the dark colour was used to heighten the shapes of the watercolour dabs.

Conclusion: he asks which tactic will I apply here?

The sculpture park behind the Zentrum – five works – twisted and beaten coreten steel and cast bronze.

The Artist as Leader

Posted in CF Writing, CV, On The Edge, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on May 6, 2009

The Artist as Leader programme: I have been Research Associate since 2006 working closely with Professor Anne Douglas, in a partnership between academic research and practice.  We have recently published the final report from the first phase of work, and are in the process of developing new initiatives.

See Research and Writing > The Artist as Leader

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Working in Public

Posted in CV, On The Edge, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on March 26, 2007

Working in Public:
Art, Practice and Policy

This On The Edge (OTE) Seminar programme taking place during 2007 (I am a member of the Steering Group for the project) aims to develop a new level of thinking in relation to art practices that work within social and cultural spheres of public life. At the heart of the programme is a significant, long term case study – the Oaklands Projects, California (1990-2000) developed by Suzanne Lacy (an internationally renowned artist). The series will focus on the issue of what quality means by connecting the experience of Oaklands to recent work and critical thinking.

Each event is hosted by a different venue in Scotland and consists of an evening public lecture followed by a morning seminar discussion. The programme is part of a significant development of research and learning in the visual arts as they relate to the public sphere.

Aesthetics and Ethics of Working in Public
Suzanne Lacy and Grant Kester
27 March, 18:00 – 20:30 & 28 March, 9:30 – 12:00
The Foyer Boardroom, 18 Marywell Street, Aberdeen
Tel: 01224 224250

Representation and Power
Suzanne Lacy and Tom Trevor
22 May, 18:00 – 20:30 & 23 May, 9:30 – 12:00
Centre for Contemporary Art, 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
Tel: 0141 352 4900

Quality and Imperfection
Suzanne Lacy and Simon Sheikh
19 June, 18:00 – 20:30 & 20 June, 9:30 – 12:00
UHI Executive Office, Ness Walk, Inverness
Tel: 01463 717 091

Public Dissemination Event: Cultural Rights and Entitlement
The core group presentation and exhibition with the support of
seminar presenters (September, TBD)

Booking is essential for each event
For more information:
On The Edge Research,
Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University, Garthdee Road, Aberdeen, AB10 7QD, UK

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Jane Jacobs 1916-2006

Posted in CF Writing, On The Edge, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on May 1, 2006

Obituaries: Toronto Star, Washington Post, The Guardian

Anne Douglas and I used Jane Jacobs The Nature of Economies as a means of interrogating the first phase of On The Edge Research in “Leaving the (social) ground of (artistic) intervention more fertile“, a paper presented at the Darwin Symposium, Shrewsbury; Waterfronts IV, Barcelona; and Sensuous Knowledge 2, KHiB, Bergen.

On The Edge Research is a practice-led research project based at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen. OTE has, since it was launched in 2001 with a major award from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, focused on developing new articulations of the value of the visual arts. In 2005 Anne Douglas, the principle researcher, and I wrote a paper which started out with the question – what is sustainability in the visual arts? This is a particularly tricky question especially in the UK because of public subsidy. Any discussion about sustainability will normally veer off into a discussion of the Arts Councils. Jane Jacobs book the Nature of Economies seeks to set out the fundamental rules of development looking at developmental processes in natural systems. She argued that the same rules that govern the development of ecosystems also apply to economies, and we explored the application of this thinking to ‘arts development’.

  • What is really important is to recognise that development occurs at multiple levels simultaneously (ie fractally),
  • that all development requires co-development (ie nothing happens in isolation),
  • that all development requires various forms of governors (ie feedback loops, bifurcations and emergency adaptions).
  • Development occurs qualitatively and quantitatively.
  • Development occurs in a cycle of differentiation from generality.

I am very sad that such an important thinker, who I only recently learnt so much from, has died.

Originally posted 1 May 2006

Culture and the New Scottish Parliament: Report by Anne Douglas

Posted in Civics, On The Edge, Texts by chrisfremantle on May 23, 1999

This event took place at the point where the first candidates for the new Scottish Parliament were standing, and it was more or less a hustings.

Report for Artist Newsletter on the meeting at Lumsden Village Hall on 23 May 1999

Culture and the New Scottish Parliament.

Report by Dr Anne Douglas, Senior Research Fellow in Fine Art, Gray’s School of Art.

With the imminent election of members to the new Scottish Parliament, the second meeting in the series Culture and the New Scottish Parliament took place at Lumsden Village Hall on Friday 23 rd May. The panel consisted of three prospective candidates from Gordon district; Maureen Watts, representing the Scottish National Party, Gordon Guthrie, representing the Labour Party and Mike Rumbles for Liberal Democrats. The fourth invited member, ? of the Conservative party was unable to attend. The meeting was, like its predecessor, an initiative undertaken by Chris Fremantle on behalf of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop at Lumsden. Building on the success of the July meeting, the aim was to question candidates specifically on their parties’ plans for the provision for culture within the new Scottish Parliament. The candidates had received three prepared questions drawn up by representative members of the community within Gordon district as a means of focusing the debate. In the chair for the second time was Eric Robinson, who is currently involved in the promotion of culture within the voluntary sector. The meeting drew a significant cross section of people from Gordon District, some professionally involved in the development of the Arts through practice, education and administration as well as other participants engaged on a voluntary basis.

The ensuing discussion debated a range of issues on culture, creating a matrix of links between, for example, access to culture and education; support for national institutions (such as the Scottish National Ballet) and provision at a local level; the choice between supporting professional and/or amateur activities, between so called ‘high art’ and/or popular culture, between heritage and/or contemporary culture. Deep concern was expressed on the depletion of resources, in particular within education, with the cut of visiting specialists to primary and secondary schools, and its negative effect on future participation and awareness of the Arts. The importance of local indigenous culture was stressed, specifically in creating and nurturing a meaningful Scottish identity, as opposed to a contrived ‘Tartan culture’. The nurturing of Doric culture was linked closely with the issues of engaging participation across age and specialism, through education. as well as dedicated festivals such as the anual Doric Festival in the district of Gordon.

All three parties acknowledged the importance of decision making at a local level. Mike Rumbles (Lib Dem) cited with regret the retention of the control of broadcasting at Westminster and the opportunity that local control of the media offered, in promoting local culture. All three candidates saw the opportunity that the New Scottish Parliament created for reviewing the procedures by which funding and cultural resources are distributed. Where, at present, decisions rest with the Secretary for State for Scotland, it should now become possible to influence the political situation on an area basis. The possibility for extending a practice of positive discrimination presently ongoing in the Highlands and Islands, to other less privileged and geographically dispersed areas of Scotland was largely supported with a view to enabling, among other developments, a more appropriate fit between Lottery funding and local Arts plans.

Gordon Guthrie for Labour responded on a number of occasions with the clear view that both the production and consumption of culture was a question of debate open to Scotland’s citizens. While Labour were committing £60 million to support the Arts over three years, there was an issue as to how this should be divided up. He compared Scotland to Iceland, where the development of culture, in particular popular culture, was instrumental in developing self confidence as a nation. This situaton was helped by the lack of segregation between culture, politics and business. He proposed that the professionalisation of politics in Britain with its current centres of expertise in academic institutions and trade union offices, resulted in distancing politics and business from culture.

The discussion was drawn to a close, perhaps fittingly, by a question about the Per Cent for Art Scheme for the Visual Arts. The panel and members of the audience alike were informed of the current position by professional experts; the sculptor, John Maine and Chris Fremantle himself , both currently collaborating on a Per Cent for Art Scheme in the area at Kemnay, Aberdeenshire. Their role and recent experiences demonstrated quite poignantly the way in which meetings of this type and quality can function. At one level they create an opportunity to exchange important experience. At another, they form a mechanism for engaging a community in first raising the crucial issues impinging on current practice, and from these , in developing informed strategies in the company of political representatives.

Dr Anne Douglas, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Research in Fine Art, Grays School of Art.

This report was originally published in Artists Newsletter and on the Scottish Sculpture Workshop website.

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