More public time?

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on November 30, 2010

Thanks to Alison Bell for drawing my attention to the following quote from Rebecca Solnit,

‘Landscape’s most crucial condition is considered to be space, but its deepest theme is time.’

See earlier post Public time?


Posted in News, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on November 25, 2010

Artists & Activists Pamplets from Printed Matter

If you ask, Printed Matter will add the selection of Artists & Activists pamphlets in with an order.  Including polemics by Fritz Haeg, The Center for Tactical Magic, Ultra-red, Cathy Busby, Raqs Media Collective, Critical Art Ensemble, amongst others, they addresses rights and responsibilities from the perspectives of the peripheries, and there is much to be learnt from the peripheries.  And as Alasdair Gray says “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.”

What Art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on November 18, 2010

James McNaught at Ewan Mundy Fine Art.  This scan of the invitation card does not do this work justice.  Figurative art is not dead.  Painting is not dead.  This sequence of work, almost all concerning urban spaces, but also including two or three still lives, is completely compelling and utterly bewitching.  The quality of surreal space (reminding me a little of De Chirico), the implicit narratives of revolution and religion, the still strangeness animated by gusts, were a joy, each more interesting than the last.

McNaught’s works, though labelled as watercolours, are not wishy washy or lightweight.  The scenes remind me of various parts of Europe – the appearance of the Eiffel Tower in the distance suggests a working class suburb of Paris, but some of the architecture suggests Italy.  The ships, trams and buildings suggest an unmodernised area.  The relationship between key aspects of the foreground, the recurrent ‘Abbe’, the crows, the prams sometimes upset, and the papers caught in gusts all suggest a narrative of the imagination.  The symbolism of the ‘abbe’ and the crow, in at least one image obvious transformed from one to the other, is perhaps in competition with the symbolism of the Eiffel Tower, the centennial monument to the French Revolution.  I’d associate the papers, stacked on a pram or caught in gusts of wind in otherwise very still space, with another form of knowledge from the religious, perhaps with revolution, but communication is also broken – in a number of works the overhead telephone lines are broken.  But my favourite was a work entitled ‘still life with all the objects fallen to the edge of the table’, or something like that – almost Juan Gris cubism.

Attending the SKOR conference in Amsterdam

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on November 1, 2010

Actors, Agents and Attendants: Speculations on the cultural organisations of civility

On The Structure

SKOR (the Dutch Foundation for Art and the Public Domain) set out to focus on the shift from a welfare state to a neo-liberal state, and the implications for care and civility (health and state responsibility).  There were regular references to mega-changes, not only political.  The construction of discourse through multiple channels was embodied in the scenography of the conference (designed by architects) constructed as a podium or soapbox for statements, bleachers for discussion and a table for panels.   The multiple channels extended out of the conference to commissioned works in the streets of Amsterdam and a film programme presented prior to the conference.  It was also manifest in the preparatory seminars bringing together first politics and policy and then practice and research into focus.

Felix Meretis, the venue, is an independent European centre for art, culture and science and a national and international meeting place in Amsterdam.

The form of [a] poem is like the form of a new public sphere, like the structure of a new idea. Paulo Virno

On The Purpose

Superficially focused on the issues of arts and health, the underlying issues raised by the conference included:

  • questioning “the role of art and its assumed ameliorative function,”
  • exploring “care as a political and philosophical concept,”
  • the ability for art to be critical when it is also implicated in gentrification and “consensualising the increasingly capitalised infrastructures of public care.”

“We can say that care forms the core of public art’s aesthetic assemblage: that public art has been invented to produce ameliorative caring, performances and objects within a landscape organised by a welfare state.  So what happens when that landscape is radically withdrawn?”

Day 1 Fulya Erdemci, Director of SKOR, introduced the day which was chaired by Andrea Phillips.

Mark Fisher, a UK writer and philosopher, started his presentation by channelling the experience of precarious work: swipe cards to get into buildings; submitting bank details and forgetting which organisation you have done it for; logon details for different computer systems; emails from institutional administrators; occupational therapists talking about stress; psychiatrists prescribing drugs: the obverse of flexibility is contortionism.  Living with the impact of the business ontology and epistemology (business models of being and thinking) that have been imposed on health, education and culture.  The therapy culture which reflects everything back onto the individual and the family.  He suggested that the flip side of ‘no such thing as society’ is ‘the big society’ based on ‘magical volunteerism.’  I asked about the requirement that all activity be valued as work (caring for instance needs to be transmuted into work for it to be valued by society).  He suggested that there are two responses: refusal to participate or total adoption where everything is defined as work and accounted for financially.  Underlying this is the need to extend the discussion of ‘externalities‘ from the environmental discourse into the wider social discourse.  In other words to find ways to deal with those costs or benefits not ‘transmitted’ through price.  One strand of environmental policy seeks to ensure that environmental impacts, not historically acknowledged in cost, enter into the financial systems through, for instance, carbon taxes.  Is it useful to financialise the value of care any more than it is useful to financialise the value of bees?  Where attributing financial value to the negative environmental impacts of human activity should enable the costs of remediation to be met, attributing financial value to positives such as elements of ecosystem services can produce absurdities.  A good example was the news the day that Lehman Brothers collapsed with an impact measured in billions of dollars, that bees were worth some hundreds of millions to the economy.

Steven de Waal, a politician and social entrepreneur who argued (as I understood him) for the potential of the Dutch co-operatist system, where a significant part of the welfare state is delivered through private not-for-profit institutions, to adapt and engage with the neo-liberalisation of care by reducing the bureaucratic stranglehold and increasing citizen participation in their own care.

Alfredo Jaar, the art star speaker, in a conventional artists’ presentation, showed us a series of projects located in the ‘real world.’  NB his construction of his practice is split across the art world, real world, education – his distinction between the art world and the real world being about the audience expertise.  He talked about the role of artists working in public space trying to create the cracks in spaces of consumption to draw out resistance.  Although a clearly charming and skilled man, these projects were nailed by Ian Hunter as ‘the spectacle of empathy’.

[apposite quote of the day: USE AN UNACCEPTABLE COLOUR, Gavin Wade]

Edi Rama, the Mayor of Tirana in discussion with Fulya Erdemci, Director of SKOR.  Rama is famous for being the man who painted Tirana.  In a short film Rama talked about colour as ‘dresses’ or colour as ‘organs.’  He compared relationship of the Mayor to the electorate with the relationship of the artist to the audience.  Rama talked about the role of beautification in changing a culture and re-engaging the population in civic society.  His colour strategy was one of desperation on discovering himself in a kafkaesque town hall with no budget at all (no one was paying taxes).  When asked by an EU official responsible for repairing a bridge (?) in Tirana, “What colour should I paint it?” Rama replied the orange of the Dutch football strip!  This immediately set off a public discussion.  Based only on the fact that it was actually generating a public discussion of civic space, Rama continued painting buildings and urban structures in vivid colours.  He reported that they undertook a referendum.  In the referendum they asked two questions: “Do you like it?” and “Should we continue?”  He reported that something like 55% said they liked it but 75% said they should continue.

Anton Vidokle, artist, curator and founder of e-flux talked about his understanding of art, referencing the French Revolution and the use of the King’s art collection for public benefit.  Talking about the emergence of Manet and Courbet forty years later, the first artists one would associate with a critical practice as might be understood in contemporary practice, he speculated on a connection with transmutation of the royal art collection into a public art collection.  He went on to describe various e-flux projects.  I’ve written about Vidokle, e-flux and in particular the Martha Rosler Library before, so I’ll move on.

Chto delat?, the Russian artists’ collective.  Dimitry Vilensky challenged the core subject by arguing that care is maintenance of the status quo, and that care contradicts change.  “Where is violence in this discussion?”  He questioned the value of health, coming from one of the most unhealthy countries and reminded the audience of the misuse of ‘a healthy body is a healthy spirit’ by the fascists. Vilensky, in describing the ideological fight, drew out the relationship between the work of Chto delat? and the role of artists during the revolution, particularly highlighting Rodchenko’s design for a workers’ club reading room which Chto delat? have reused in exhibitions.  He noted the strategy of creating pedagogical spaces using furniture, murals and newspapers.  He asked “Where is the factory that we can seize?” and noted that there were no revolutionary masses outside the conference waving flags and supporting the important deliberations.  He commented on the importance of not only taking over the means of production, but also inventing new means of production (such as Vidokle’s e-flux).

Gavin Wade performed part of freee‘s spoken word choir event currently taking place at Eastside Projects in Birmingham, an artist-led space he has been involved in setting up.  Wade is known for amongst other works STRIKE and his involvement in the organisation Support Structure.  When challenged about something he had said about art not being useful, he referenced the Artist Placement Group and the complexity of working within non-art organisations without becoming completely subsumed by their agendas.  He also commented that although Eastside Projects is undoubtedly contributing to the gentrification of the area and generating increased wealth for the landlord, he said, “We are not the tailors of Utopia.”  They use a billboard (the only non-commercial one in Birmingham) attached to the building.  They produced a manual for Eastside Projects, making the operation of the organisation explicit.

Introducing Day 2 Fulya Erdemci reiterated the mega changes, e.g. welfare state to neo-liberalism, analogue to digital.  She also commented on commissioners becoming customers with their own aesthetic preferences (perhaps suggesting some recent experiences where SKOR’s aesthetic authority has been questioned).

Beatriz Colomina‘s presentation on x-ray architecture took us on a cultural historical tour of the relationship between the body and architecture by way of renaissance anatomical/architectural drawing, section and dissection, and the emergence of x-ray and the international style (not synchronous, but not unrelated).  Relating health to architecture she highlighted Le Corbusier‘s language and then demonstrated the relationship between sanatorium architecture and domestic spaces.  Referencing Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor Colomina talked discussed the reshaping of the city by illness, in particular TB.  She explored the evolution of CAT scans into architectural practice manifest in the increasing aesthetic use of sections.  One comment was that medicine is also the end of particular forms of architecture such as TB houses and leper colonies.

Hedy d’Ancona, politician, spoke about the influence of the built environment on wellbeing, the importance of the healing environment as a concept coming out of both healthcare and public housing.

Matthijs Bouw of One Architecture discussed the Jozef and Geertruiden Projects.  He said “We love markets because they encourage dynamism, teams, diversity and flexibility.  We hate markets because they promote atomisation, arbitrage and risk management.  Asked by hospital management to finalise the layout for a housing development on a site being vacated due to relocation of services, Bouw questioned the economic model and with the support of the hospital management developed a new approach.  On one site, Geertruidentuin, existing hospital buildings were regenerated as housing without the involvement of a developer.  On the other nearby site, St. Jozf, the ‘allied services’ (midwives, physiotherapists, etc.) dislocated by the hospital moving to a new site, but not themselves moved in the process, became stakeholders in a new healthcare facility utilising the remodelled existing building.  This important example involved questioning the ‘means of production’ (i.e. developer-led regeneration) through which more value (cash) was produced for the hospital and more value (dislocated services becoming stakeholders) was produced for the locality.  Bouw also raised an interesting point about the client/commissioner because the daily reality is that these are project managers, risk managers, quantity surveyors and legal representatives rather than individuals carrying the vision.

AA Bronson channelled St Paul’s letter to the Galacians setting out his own cv and then making clear he was addressing not only those present, but also those many different absent peoples.  He talked about art, death and healing.  Whilst in many ways adhering to the conventional artists’ talk, it challenged fundamental ideas about boundaries and limits.

The story took us from the early years of General Idea (“Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal and AA Bronson of General Idea lived and worked together for 25 years. Partz and Zontal died in 1994.”), through the emergence of AIDS and its impact on their community,  their work and their lives.  Whilst AA Bronson did not describe in detail the process or experience of caring for his two friends and collaborators as they died, he did show us the works he made with them during that process, and he did allow us to understand how he has since woven together an art practice and a healing practice.  The weaving together of life and art is a constant process: Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal are diagnose with AIDS so pills enter their lives and so the pills entered the work becoming sculptures and installations, as large as sofas and as light as clouds.

Describing life after their deaths, AA Bronson developed his experience of healing built up with his friends and collaborators and how this began to form a fundamental part of his life.  He set out his healing practice as a thing in itself and in his art practice, creating therapy rooms in galleries, and seeing clients in them before and after gallery hours.  He described more recent collaborative work with younger artists (School for Young Shamans) and the group work (Invocations for Queer Spirits).   He talked about his role as a medium for individuals to speak to their own bodies.

Perhaps like Alastair McIntosh who, in Soil and Soul, addresses spirituality and environment without descending into new age waffle, so AA Bronson spoke about healing and art in a compelling and challenging way, straddling uncomfortable boundaries with a compelling presence and story.

Bik van der Pol‘s discussion of happiness started with a short anecdote about advice not to test your sense of humour on policemen in other countries, from which they developed an argument about cultural difference, but more importantly about happiness.  Touching on the World Values Survey and on Laughter Yoga, they talked about using nitrous oxide as part of urban public health programmes.

The programme ended with Willem Geerlings discussion of the challenges for health.  He is the Chair of the Board of the Medical Centre Haaglanden and pulled Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor from his pocket.

The New Bourgeoisie

Posted in News, Texts by chrisfremantle on October 22, 2010

Public time?

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on October 21, 2010

Claire Docherty’s comments at the Mapping the Future (of public art in Scotland) event in Dundee yesterday were billed as a discussion of ‘public time’ and focused on the current state of public art. She seemed to be arguing around a need to move beyond a dichotomy of monumentalism or critical ephemeralism looking in particular at what she called public time. She described a number of projects which were iterative or cumulative or strategic, i.e. that, without monumentalism, tried to develop relationships with audiences and participants (the public?) over a period of time. She highlighted gardening and pavilion projects, slow food, conversation and referenced her own year long programme of One Day Sculpture across New Zealand.   The obligatory Ranciere reference – participation does not equal critical legitimacy – was made.

But her comments remained looking around in the (public) art world. Whilst time and space are different dimensions of the same experience, the focus of public art, certainly in Miwon Kwon’s construction, has been an evolution of the understanding of space and the abilities of artists and designers to shape and reveal space.

“Yet despite the meanderings of the last 15 years we often continue to use such a search for resolution in lieu of admitting that there is a need to understand the relative value of work that deals with time as much as space.”  (Proxemics, 2006, JRP Ringier, p.99)

Nothing is ever cut and dried, but when Liam Gillick raised the issue of shifting the focus from public space to public time, and I’m not sure if that’s where Docherty got the idea from, he prompted in my mind thoughts about the public experience of time, not artists’ construction of time.

Turn your thoughts to public time and approach that idea:
Waiting, waiting lists, waiting rooms, wasting
Travelling, delays, speed, dislocation,
Working, pressure, shifts, holidays, nightworkers, clickworkers, payday
Boredom, repetition, necessity, cuts, dole,
Queuing, waiting,
Shopping, retail therapy, footering
Beer o’clock
Timeless places, casinos without clocks or natural light, skara brae
Sleep disorders, postcode lotteries,
Today vs PM, rolling news,
“The geese from Siberia are three weeks earlier this year”
(the list is as long as the time invested in making it – half an hour yesterday, another five minutes today)

Time is a curious phenomenon. It is structured within society, historically by culturally determined cycles derived from the process of the planet’s angle and rotation around the star at the centre of our solar system. In Scotland, because of our Northerliness, the pattern of the seasons mean that our school holidays are different from England. We have different festivals (Michelmas has just passed, Lammas before that, and in the future Candlemas) with associated happenings, including food and drink. Marking time and the pattern of activity related to the seasons has slipped our minds’ because we shelter, light and heat our lives. Other cultures have a more present experience of seasonality, including for instance the Sami (image above).  We rarely extend our timescale to even one cycle of seasons, let alone thinking beyond our own lifespan.

If there is value in drawing attention to scale, then it is equally important to draw attention to value. Time is money. Or rather there is a more complex relationship where social position is related to time and money. Just as money is unspecialised form of exchange (and humans are unspecialised animals) so time (as we organise it in Western society) is an unspecialised form of measurement enabling a little of one person’s time to be valued very highly and a lot of another person’s time to be bought extremely cheaply. In this way time is like space. Public art is complicit in the gentrification of space. Can public art not also be accused of being complicit in the gentrification of time?

Detailed summary of all three Mapping the Future events on PAR+RS website.


"I always knew you were wrong." Ross Sinclair and David Harding on the train returning from the seminar.

A Manifesto for a time when the environment bites back

Posted in CF Writing, CV, Texts by chrisfremantle on October 12, 2010

One of 30 presented at State of Play (Saturday 9 October 2010, James Arnott Theatre, University of Glasgow) an event organised by AHM.

AHM – Ainsley Harding Moffat ‘WORK AS IF YOU LIVE IN THE EARLY DAYS OF A BETTER SOCIETY.’ Sam Ainsley, David Harding and Sandy Moffat are a collaborative group working with individuals and institutions locally, nationally, and internationally, who share similar or related aims and aspirations – namely to place the arts centrally in the making of a new Scotland.

It’s not often that artists organise conferences and symposia, but in the tradition of Littoral, this one brought together an excellent introduction to the current Scottish cultural policy context from Philip Schlesinger; a reflection on a career trajectory from Christine Borland; a critical theory dérive on the statelessness, medievalism and prosumers from Neil Mulholland and some words of wisdom from the older generation in the form of Sam Ainsley and Sandy Moffat.  The next event is 2 April at the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh.

It went a bit flat at the end.  I think there had been such a good range of presentations that the audience didn’t know how to respond effectively.  There is a sense of imminent doom, not least because of the underlying ideas shaping Creative Scotland, impending public sector retrenchment and the end of the buoyant art market.  But no-one could quite put the target in focus.  It was certainly helpful to have Peter McCaughey’s rallying call for the audience to join the Scottish Artists Union en masse.  There is a need to bend Creative Scotland into a relevant shape (the conceptual underpinnings having been shown to be deeply flawed and the current spectral suggestions that its role is akin to an investment bank being laughable).

But equally Brett Bloom’s talks Temporary ServicesArt Work initiative to establish a national conversation (in the US) on art, work and economics is also very much to the point.  I suppose my question would be, was Christine Borland the best choice?  She spoke eloquently about the importance of getting involved in Transmission and the challenges of developing a career, but there is a point where an artist is represented by one of the foremost galleries and is exhibiting in major international bienniales is reinforcing the existing model of artworld career success, rather than offering alternatives.  If one of the problems is, as Bloom suggested, the proliferation of MFA programmes producing young artists geared for a conventional route, and as Schlesinger commented, the current model works on massive overproduction from which a few stars emerge, then we need to explore alternatives rather than re-state existing models.

One of the real challenges for the future events planned in this series is to explore how fine art education can or is reinventing itself, and how artists are operating outside the artworld.  This was hinted at, and Christine Borland’s comments that there is evidence that doctors engaging in medical humanities as part of their education are demonstrably better able to deal with ambiguity than their peers was an interesting point of departure.  What is it about a fine art education that enables engagement with other disciplines to wider social benefit, and how can we construct pedagogical models that promote this?

Art Work: Ayr

Posted in CV, Producing, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on September 16, 2010

Artworkers won't kiss assTemporary Services‘ project Art Work has raised important questions about the personal economy and practice of artists. On the back of one-off newspaper-format publication, distributed free throughout the US and internationally, Temporary Services have kick started a discussion about the ways that artists and creative people use alternative economies to once again challenge the idea of competition and the market dominance of culture. Temporary Services produce exhibitions, events, projects and publications. They say “The distinction between art practice and other creative human endeavors is irrelevant to us.”

The Scottish Artists Union has invited Brett Bloom, one of the founders of Temporary Services, currently based in Denmark, to speak at the SAU AGM (7.00pm 30 September 2010, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh) about Art Work.

Brett Bloom will come to Ayr on Saturday 2nd October for a discussion with anyone whose interested in participating. It’ll be upstairs at Su Casa, a new cafe in the Lorne Arcade, between the Gaiety and the High Street at 2pm for as long as it goes on.

Preparatory Reading:

Art Work, the publication;

Helen Molesworth’s Work Ethic, catalogue of the Exhibition (not available online);

A response to A Call to Farms, a book resulting from a dérive organised by Temporary Services and Brian Holmes.

Expanded Fields at SSW

Posted in Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on September 16, 2010

Robert Barry

Posted in Exhibitions, Texts by chrisfremantle on September 3, 2010

I have tended to believe in the curatorial strategy, ‘find that artist who was known in the past and rediscover them.’

From left, Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, Weiner

Robert Barry is one of those names associated with the dematerialisation of art, diary courtesy of Lucy Lippard.  Barry and the others in the picture above, the other names, Sol Lewitt, Robert Mangold, etc., and the organisers, e.g. Seth Siegelaub, they were the avant garde, rejecting the domination of the commercial galleries and the academy.  Barry’s lecture at Glasgow School of Art as part of the events programme of his exhibition at The Common Guild, Glasgow, started with his move away from painting.

The works Barry made, e.g. Radiation Piece (1969), deeply challenging at the time, retain their edge, not least because, as Barry himself commented, post 9/11 security means that you can’t just buy radioactive materials any more.  The troubles of the Critical Art Ensemble, although cleared of all charges after four years, indicate one dynamic of the interface between contemporary art and security.  The more recent challenge to academic freedom by UCSD and Arizona over Ricardo Dominguez’s Transborder Immigrant Tool further highlights the sharp edge where contemporary art highlights and questions mainstream values of security, immigration, terrorism and imperialism.  Where Barry talks about his invisible works, and the discovery of their form using FM Radios or Geiger Counters, the FBI are now involved in the search.

Barry moved into text pieces and The Common Guild themselves acknowledge the lineage of artists working with text in their press release, coming down to Douglas Gordon, et al.

Robert Barry, 0,5 Microcurie Radiation Installation, 1969

Something which is very near in place and time, but is not yet known to me, a work which Barry made between 1969 and 1972 is perhaps a progenitor of his more recent work.  Consisting of the same sentence, Something which is very near in place and time, but is not yet known to me, with a new date added each time it was shown, the date selected for the opening of the relevant exhibition.  He made it 30 times and then Seth Siegelaub published a small volume containing all 30 works.

Something which is very near in place and time, but not yet known to me, 1970

Since then Barry has focused on text works, some installed permanently in Swiss banks, such as that of his Italian dealer, and for exhibitions in galleries.

Wallpiece with Blue Mirrorwords, 2006

He described his style, and he used the word style, evolving around the use of a particular typography, a limited vocabulary of perhaps 200 words and a deep concern for the intuitive installation of the works in spaces.  The words he has selected have no narrative context or meaning in relation to each other or to him, they are rather objects selected for their physicality, longer, shorter, more ‘o’s, etc.  It is the space between them which is supposedly significant.

Word Lists, 2009

In the end this is the second time a Common Guild event has been a disappointment.  The last one was Richard Flood, Curator at the New Museum, NY.  That time I had gone because I knew of their Night School programme (Anton Vidokle’s iteration of his United Nations Plaza), but Flood didn’t mention it.  When I asked a question at the end, he said, “Oh, that’s the work of the education department” and went back to telling us about all the artists he had curated.  (Stills then showed the Martha Rosler Library and invited Vidokle to talk, so I got to hear (read post) the bit I was interested in).  Robert Barry was also a disappointment.  The avant garde becomes not much more than stylised decoration.

I’d rather have John Latham’s ‘God is Great’ or Nathan Coley’s ‘There Will Be No Miracles Here’ or Ian Hamilton Finlay, or Thomas A Clark.  Maybe I’m looking for some poetry?

John Latham, God is Great, 2005

Nathan Coley, There will be no miracles here, 2009

Center for Urban Pedagogy

Posted in Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on August 29, 2010

Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) releases another three in the series of Making Policy Public posters.  CUP, based in NY, make educational projects about places and how they change.

Barriers to Reentry. This poster takes a look at formerly incarcerated people and the difficulties they face when trying to reenter the workforce. It was produced through a collaboration with the Fortune Society and Sara McKay.

I Got Arrested! Now What? This poster breaks down the juvenile justice system comic-style. It was produced through a collaboration with the Center for Court Innovation, the Youth Justice Board, and Danica Novgorodoff.

Immigrants Beware! This poster explores the immigration consequences of criminal convictions and gives non-citizens knowledge and resources to fight the deportation process. It was produced through a collaboration with Families for Freedom and designers Lana Cavar and Tamara Maletic.

Lady Anne Tree RIP

Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on August 28, 2010

Composer in residence

Posted in Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on August 27, 2010

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

6th International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 10, 2010

“Come for the Fire Stay for the Art”

“Meet Melt Make”

These are the strap lines on T-Shirts in July in Kidwelly, Camarthenshire: more than a hundred artists taking over an industrial museum to live and breath casting iron. Hard hats, leather aprons and jackets, work boots, gloves, face masks, lots of moulds being made and poured…[more]

Louise Bourgeois 1912-2010

Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on June 1, 2010

Sadly Louise Bourgeois died yesterday.  Her shows at the Fruitmarket (Edinburgh), Serpentine and Tate Modern (London) were all utterly rivetting. Le MondeBBC, Telegraph.

Thinking about Radical Nature

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on May 31, 2010


Posted in Sound, Texts by chrisfremantle on April 3, 2010

Chris Dooks eclectic Ayrtime programme of Literature, Alt-Folk (and Alasdair Roberts was so good last night), Astronomy and Theatre taking place in Ayr at the moment. Season 2 in the Autumn.

Listening to Alastair Roberts I kept thinking about Martyn Bennett and was reminded how important it is to tell those strange and brutal stories of death. 

Next is Wounded Knee.

Health, Nature and Art: the GROVE project at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s New Stobhill Hospital

Posted in CF Writing, CV, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on March 2, 2010

New Stobhill Hospital Sanctuary, Photo: Laurie Clark

Invited paper as part of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh,  Theory in Practice programme:

“Health, Nature and Art: The Grove Project at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s New Stobhill Hospital”
2 March 2010.


This paper sets out the Art & Architecture collaboration resulting in the GROVE project for NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde’s New Stobhill Hospital.  This project, based on a strong conceptual framework, uses artworks as part of the construction of a environment where the experience nature plays an important role in healthcare. The paper discusses the practical aspects of this major new public art work and looks at the theoretical ideas of the artists, architects and NHS Arts & Health team.

The author, as part of NHSGGC’s Arts & Health team, has worked closely with Thomas A Clark, lead artist-poet; Reiach & Hall Architects; four other artists, and NHSGGC’s Capital and Commissioning Teams to deliver the project.  The project was conceived and developed by Thomas A Clark and Reiach & Hall over a 6 year period prior to commissioning, and has been funded by Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Public Art Fund, NHSGGC Endowments, NHSGGC Staff Lottery, as well as a wide range of community groups.  It forms one of a series of Arts & Health developments as part of NHSGGC’s Modernisation programme.

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Language of Sculpture

Posted in CF Writing, CV, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on January 29, 2010

Invited panellist, Language of Sculpture, International Sculpture Center Conference, London, April 9 2010.

Antony Gormley, Lucy Orta, and Peter Noever will headline the International Sculpture Center’s 22nd International Sculpture Conference, “What is Sculpture in the 21st Century?”, being held in London, UK, April 7-9.

This monumental event will explore topics including: The Languages of Sculpture; Public Perception and Investment; and The State of Education. In addition to the keynote speakers, conference highlights include an international roster of presenters, opening reception at Tate Modern, free admission to Henry Moore Exhibition at Tate Britain, daily ArtSlam sessions for attendees to show their work, workshop demonstrations at Chelsea College of Art & Design, and a gallery hop, as well as pre and post event optional activities.

Registration Deadline: March 16, 2010. Find more information and register online @ Questions? Contact or USA 609.689-1051 x302.


Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on January 29, 2010

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 Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 12, 2010
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Posted in Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 12, 2010

ARTWORK, a project by Chicago-based Temporary Services.  Well worth getting a copy of this newspaper which challenges, documents, proposes and otherwise stimulates thought about alternative economies in the arts.  With essays, personal stories and re-presentations of historical artworks, this is excellent food for thought, arising as it does out of the current climate which in the US is seeing the collapse of the art market, and in the UK  a significant shrinking in public-sector investment in the arts, whether the government changes or not.

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Posted in Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 12, 2010

How not to Commission by Ray McKenzie on the PAR+RS web site.

Well articulated challenge to assumptions about public art, both against works which are simply corporate posturing, regeneration ‘place-making’, or artist’s ego, and also against the overblown claims of socially engaged art.

McKenzie makes use of Nicholas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, but I wish he had also taken into account Grant Kester’s work, a more nuanced and subtle argument.  In the end the projects he discusses are compelling, and I am persuaded by his argument that the 19th Century monuments in our cities are not so far away from some contemporary public art, being focal points for community activism, celebration and memory.

An artist reports on COP15

Posted in Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 12, 2010

Read Aviva Rahmani’s reflection on attending COP15 in Copenhagen.  She sees hope, not in transnational engineering of negotiations, but in all the NGOs and projects seeking to make a difference on the ground.  It strikes me that the increasing attention focused on the periphery, whether it’s Eigg or Tuvalu, might be indicating a very basic shift (see posts on Landworkers).  The sharpness of the challenges faced in remote edge locations is matched by the imagination and energy brought to bear on them.  What is interesting is the extent to which these examples, of crisis or initiative, become visible and in turn become benchmarks and potentially become models.

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What art/science have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on November 19, 2009

Ex- at the Zoology Museum, Glasgow University.

First, you have to go and find this gem of a museum in Glasgow University, proper old-fashioned place, not over-interpreted (though not quite sure about the size of containers for the live snakes).

This exhibition is the result of a field trip to Payamino in the Ecuadorian part of the Amazon Rainforest by a group of zoology students accompanied by Kate Foster, environmental artist, and Martin Muir, a photographer.  The students were documenting and recording bird and amphibian biodiversity as well as learning about the life, culture and change.

The exhibition includes work by the students as well as Foster and Muir.  The students have presented photography and drawing.

Foster’s sketchbooks seem to capture some sense of interconnectedness.  Few of the drawings set out to isolate and analyse a single ‘thing’ in a ‘scientific way’.  Rather they explore relations, interactions and situations.  A small sketch at the back of one book of a ‘luggage jam.’  Tyre marks on the runway.  Most pages have text in amongst drawing.  Across two pages she has drawn a stream of ants some carrying cut pieces of leaf and others returning for more.  The quality of drawing: suggesting movement by lightness of touch, suggesting pattern, suggesting context without providing one.

One of the students raises the issue of value.  They are documenting and recording biodiversity under threat from oil extraction, soya farming, etc.  What is the value of the biodiversity? And is it measured in monetary terms?  This was crystallised for me recently when, on the radio, I heard a spokesperson for Natural England discussing the economic importance of bees.  They said bees were worth £200 million to the UK economy.  The next item on the news was about the commitment of £4 billion to some aspect of the financial crisis.

We say that we can’t put a price on life, but we are only talking about ourselves.  We don’t understand that we can’t put a price on ecosystems, or on biodiversity.  NGOs try and get us to make donations by showing us pictures of ‘charismatic mega fauna,’ but, and its horrible to say, the loss of polar bears or tigers will have a limited effect on ecosystems (as I understand it), where worms, bats, ants, small birds and especially bees have dynamic and exchange based roles.  Our image of hierarchical food chains makes the big animals look like the most important, but if you begin to think about the other operations taking place at the ‘lower levels’ then your perspective changes.

The student was asking what to do: one answer is to think about what connects Scotland and Ecuador, now economically, and also in the past colonially.  Bring forward the connections, make them visible.  Make us aware of, not distant jungle lushness, but the ways our lifestyle in Scotland is implicated in the changes taking place there.

Art and Regeneration

Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on November 18, 2009

C words at the Arnolfini

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on November 16, 2009

Nina Möntmann’s essay for the e-flux journal, (Under)Privileged Spaces: On Martha Rosler’s “If You Lived Here…” is a useful analysis which could almost be written about the C Words show at the Arnolfini.  Many of the same issues are raised.

This essay was commissioned on the occasion of “If You Lived Here Still…: An Archive Project by Martha Rosler,” an exhibition of the archives of If You Lived Here… running from August 28 to October 31, 2009, at e-flux in New York.

The essay sets out the context of homelessness in New York in the 80s and 90s (for which we could substitute our own circumstances of climate change in the first decade of the 21st Century).  It is precisely the market, as unquestioned driver, which is challenged by both exhibitions.

It discusses the role of the institution, then the Dia and now the Arnolfini, and the decisions leading to this form of work being programmed, concluding by linking this work to wider discussions of ‘institutional critique’ or ‘new institutionalism’.

If You Lived Here… was, like C Words, initiated by an artist/artist group, and drew in work by a number of other artists, through a cluster of linked elements.  The character of documentary art raises questions about the role of art in public life, the reference to things that have, or are, taking place outside the gallery, and the questions that need to be raised about presence and absence, about knowledge and the senses.

One of the precursors to If You Lived Here… is evidently Joseph Beuys’ Free International University at Documenta 6 in 1977. In each of these cases, from Honeypump in the Workplace, through the Reading Room as Asylum Seeker’s home, to PLATFORM’s tent/boat/quadricycle, each seek to make the pedagogical space also a visceral, somatic space.  Each of these works disrupts the artworld production/exhibition/distribution structure.

“Art that can not shape society and therefore also can not penetrate the heart questions of society, [and] in the end influence the question of capital, is no art.”  Joseph Beuys, 1985

Of course the question of time plays a role, and we must be careful not to fall into a narrative structure that values avant gardism, making Beuys the greatest because he is the earliest, and PLATFORM an afterthought, as if it took 30 years for an idea to travel from Kassel, via New York, to Bristol.  Furthermore, whilst Möntmann’s essay provides an effective ‘art history’ of a work, it also leaves many questions hanging, such as the inability of members of the ‘artworld’ attending events during If You Lived Here… to do other than sit silently.

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What art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on November 6, 2009

C Words: carbon, climate, capital, culture, How did you get here and where are we going?
Arnolfini, Bristol

The collaborative practice PLATFORM articulate their work as research, campaigning, education and art. As a result of their long-term project Unravelling the Carbon Web (2000-) PLATFORM have been quoted in the financial and environmental sections of newspapers on subjects including hydrocarbon legislation in Iraq, and Shell’s role in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa. At the same time their opera And While London Burns… (2007) was widely reviewed and they are currently the subject (perhaps) of a major retrospective at the Arnolfini.

But this is not a solo show.  PLATFORM have, in microcosm, demonstrated the Movement of Movements: simultaneously inhabiting the Arnolfini (at their invitation) are Ackroyd & Harvey, African Writers Abroad, Hollington & Kyprianou with Spinwatch, the Institute for the Art & Practice of Dissent at Home, the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, the Trapese Collective, and Virtual Migrants.  Plus Amelia’s Magazine, Art Not Oil, Carbon Trade Watch, The Corner House, Feral Trade, FERN, Greenpeace, Live Art Development Agency, new economics foundation & Clare Patey, Sustrans – Art & the Travelling Landscape, Ultimate Holding Company and others.  In parallel Ursula Biemann’s Black Sea Files, Peter Fend and Barbara Steveni are also exhibiting.

The PLATFORM aspect touches on several key points in 25 years of work – the walls have been lined with recycled timber and this frames a tent, a boat, a quadicycle, an image of a strategy game on a burning world stage, and a discussion.  There are a lot of words in the Arnolfini at the moment, but this is an exhibition, not just a pile of documentation.  This is activism brought into the gallery, but it is as animated as activism.  There are events going on regularly, and between the many different contributors and the team of co-realizers, I don’t think you can just walk into the gallery, walk around and say “Seen it” without someone engaging you.  It fights against being objectified, whilst still acknowledging the need for something aesthetic to engage with.

At the Friday afternoon Critical Tea Party there was an interesting discussion about combative art.  Is this exhibition trying to tell you what to think?  Is it propaganda for a leftist agenda? It certainly wants to say: you are complicit in all of this.  Do you the world to be like this?  Just because you are comfortable, is it ok that everything goes to hell and damnation?  Is this what you call justice?

Underlying PLATFORM’s work is a deep understanding of radical educational theory.  Yes, shock tactics are applied, but to the end of making each of us think for ourselves.  Propaganda is about one truth, and there isn’t one truth here.  Here there is one question: what future?

But we can also ask the question “Where is the art?”  For me, I can’t answer this by saying that the installation of the boat, with the chairs placed next to it like a bow wave, is the art, though that has formal aesthetic elegance (and I do like a bit of formal aesthetic elegance).  Of course the art has been taking place in public over the past 25 years, and this is a gallery.  The danger is that all you can put in the gallery is the evidence of something that happened somewhere else. So, for me, it is important that what is in the gallery is something which is present, here and now.

And is this a PLATFORM show?  Or a group show?  Are PLATFORM curators?  Is their work the most important?

And what about the education, research and campaigning?  To discount them from the aesthetic of the practice is to fail to understand its roots in the work of Joseph Beuys.  His idea of social sculpture is central here.

Or to put it another way, Hal Foster says that there is a fault line travelling through the term ‘art history’ because he says that art is judged on its own terms, not, as with history, enmeshed in the world.  If we accept that art is only judged on its own terms (some strange connoisseur’s estimation of PLATFORM vs Beuys vs Kaprow vs APG)  then we dismiss the world.  Whereas PLATFORM want us to understand that life can be art and art life.

So we are left with more questions, but they are in sharp focus.

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Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on November 2, 2009

Nat Tate, An American Artist: 1928-1960 by William Boyd, 21 Publishing, 1998

Turtle Island by Gary Snyder, New Directions, 1974

aimless executions and slaughterings
are not the work of wolves and eagles

but the work of hysterical sheep

The Demonic must be devoured!
Self-serving must be
……………………. cut down
Anger must be
……………………. plowed back
Fearlessness, humor, detachment, is power


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What art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on October 23, 2009

I travelled up to Cairngorm Mountain for the official opening of the second phase of Arthur Watson’s Reading the Landscape.

There are many parts to this, developed in collaboration with a number of other artists.

The first phase works in the base station (images below), Drawing Dangerously, were installed some time ago.   This is a series of images and texts created out of the mountain climbing culture. The huge screen prints were developed from photographs taken by Andy Rice, one of Watson’s collaborators.  The words surrounding the images are the names of climbs.  As climbers explore the rock face and discover a route, they give it a name, subsequent climbers discovering variations of the climb, in turn use variations of the name.

The image below introduces another dimension, collecting Scots and Gaelic words for snow.  I have a small contribution to the first publication on Reading the Landscape and it focuses on this aspect.

The new works include several viewpoints and the Camera Obscura.

At the western end of the site a structure, designed by Watson and Will Maclean, has been built channelling a mountain stream through a platform and down three buttresses.  Within the structure, poems and texts draw attention to the outlook. This is a development for Maclean from Cuimhneachain nan Gaisgeach (Commemoration of our Land Heroes) on Lewis.

Images of construction of viewpoints on CairnGorm Mountain’s Flickr Photostream

Nearer the base station, at the top of a set of steps from the carpark, is a seat built into the wall.  Sit down and Stanley Robertson‘s voice comes out of two speakers built into the walls starts to tell you folktales.  Robertson (1940-2009), certainly one of the foremost traveller storytellers of the North East of Scotland, and a longtime collaborator with Watson.  This is an outdoor version of works that Watson made for Singing for Dead Singers.

In the mountain garden Fergus Purdie, architect, Lei Cox and Mel Woods, artists, have created a Camera Obscura.

This is a built structure sitting over and along a path.  There is a small bay, something like a side chapel, which you enter through heavy curtains.   Inside the landscape is laid out before you on a table, turning gently.  Periodically you move in giant steps along cardinal lines to the sea.  These latter steps are the art introduced by Cox and Woods, a series of videos taken at regular intervals of distance (12 steps to the sea in each direction) and time (going north is winter).

The rangers are already using this particular feature when the weather is bad and the school kids can’t do anything outside.  Lay a piece of paper on the table, show the pupils all Cox and Woods images, let them choose one, and then they can collectively draw the image superimposed on the paper.  Suddenly landscape drawing is both incredibly literal (the image is projected on the paper) but doesn’t come out looking literal – mark making takes precendence.

Images of construction of Camera Obscura on CairnGorm Mountain Flickr Photostream

It was great, eight years after my first journey’s to Cairngorm Mountain to meet Bob Kinnaird, to go back and see something so good.  I suppose my job at the outset had been to suggest what might be possible, to help Bob see that something really interesting might emerge.  I remember writing the application to Scottish Arts Council with the help of … and then being involved with the selection, which by then was being organised by Susan Christie, to whom I had handed the project when I left SSW.

Studio International on Arthur Watson

Previous post.

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Designing Environments for Life

Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on October 22, 2009

For the next event we have been asked “…we would like to invite and encourage you to prepare a very short presentation (5mins max) on a single reading. Please choose one text which has had a profound influence on your thinking and/or practice, and review it with the very specific brief of Designing Environments for Life in mind.”

So I’ve been thinking about texts…

Jane Jacobs’ Nature of Economies is a definite possibility

Helen and Newton’s piece for Structure and Dynamics pdf

Looking through books:

Vivienne Westwood’s Manifesto

Merle Laderman Ukeles Manifesto of Maintenance Art

(actually I have a lot of manifestos and statements by artists)

James Turrell talking about needing to continue Ranching whilst making Roden Crater

Robert Smithson’s Collected Writings are always good.

Renwick’s report “The land we live on is our home” pdf

Patrick Scott’s Stories Told about the impact of the Berger Inquiry on First Nation Politics and the importance of storytelling.  Or Alistair McIntosh‘s Soil and Soul.

I could also suggest Distance & Proximity, a book of Thomas A Clark‘s poems, and then I could just read a few!

(e.g. “In the art of the great music, the drone is eternity, the tune tradition, the performance the life of the individual”

or “”The routines we accept can strangle us but the rituals we choose give renewed life”

or “A book of poems in the rucksack – that is the relation of art to life”

And I should certainly consider Gary Snyder who I was reading over the summer.

Ayr to Zennor

Posted in CF Writing, CV, Exhibitions, Sited work, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on September 15, 2009

Goethe vs. Petronius and also de Certeau

Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on September 9, 2009

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative (and creation).
There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definately commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occured.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones favor all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no person could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.



We trained hard; but it seemed that every time that we were beginning to form into a team we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating an illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.

Titus Petronius


“In him, the productivist law that requires a specific assignment (the condition of efficiency) and the social law that requires circulation (the form of exchange) enter into contradiction. To be sure, a specialist is more and more often driven to also be an Expert, that is, an interpreter and translator of his competence for other fields. … They do it through a curious operation which “converts” competence into authority. Competence is exchanged for authority. Ultimately, the more authority the Expert has, the less competence he has, up to the point where his fund of competence is exhausted, like the energy necessary to put a mobile into movement.”

de Certeau

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Posted in Exhibitions, Texts by chrisfremantle on September 7, 2009

Forest Tunes, The Library, 1995-2008 by Shai Zakai

Can remember when I was reading this.  Think it was 9 months ago when I was trying to persuade Rozelle Maclaurin to show this important work.  Located as they are in parkland, it seemed to me an interesting and worthwhile exhibition around which a stimulating series of events could have been organised, a sort of arborischool, with speakers like Richard Mabey, David Haley and Thomas Pakenham, as well as local rangers, academics from Auchincruive, etc.

I think its at the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World this autumn.

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

Radical Nature at the Barbican

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on August 31, 2009

Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009 is an important exhibition.  Much has been written about it in the papers and on the Eco Art Network.  It is a really valuable opportunity to see seminal works by a range of artists and architects.  I hadn’t seen Beuys’ Honey Pump, nor the film of UkelesTouch Sanitation, nor Smithson‘s film Spiral Jetty, nor any of the Harrisons’ Survival Series (1970-1973).

But I finally worked out the essence of my problem with the exhibition.  The title frames ‘art and architecture’ and there are works by both artists and architects included in the exhibition.  The artists and architects included, particularly the works from the 60s and 70s are radical, there’s no question about that.  But the real radicalism of some of the artists and architects is in the scale of their work, and in the exhibition this is only really conveyed in the Center for Land Use Interpretation work The Trans-Alaska Pipeline.  Even the film of Touch Sanitation doesn’t convey the eleven month performance of shaking 8,500 sanitation workers’ hands and saying to each of them “Thank you for keeping New York City alive.”  The exhibition feels like its driven by a curatorial focus on artwork as object, rather than artwork as question or consideration of context.

The real shared territory between artists and architects is in thinking at scale about boundary, organisation, information, energy, metaphor, systems and people; not the superficial similarity of objects.

Think about Hans Haacke’s Shapolsky et al., Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971,  shown at the Tate’s exhibition Open Systems: Rethinking Art c.1970 a couple of years ago where he focused on the ownership of tenaments in New York by one family through a network of businesses.  This would have been as relevant an introduction to social ecological concerns.

Think about the Harrisons’ work Peninsula Europe (2001-2003)which presented the European peninsula as single entity considering the role of the high ground in the supply of fresh water to the population.

Think about Tim Collins and Reiko Goto’s work 3 Rivers 2nd Nature (2000-2005) which involved the strategic planning of the whole Pittsburgh river system area.  Goto and Collins “addressed the meaning, form, and function of public space and nature in Allegheny County, PA.”  They developed the Living River Principles which were used as a tool for lobbying public officials.  They worked with a team of volunteers to develop monitoring systems documenting land use, geology, botany and water quality.

Or PLATFORM’s work Unravelling the Carbon Web (2000 ongoing) which asks us to understand the social and environmental consequences of oil through multiple iterative works drawing attention to the oil industry and its associated networks to Universities, Government and other corporates, working with inhabitants, NGOs and Unions along BP’s Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, and in Iraq.  The purpose of this work is social and ecological justice, but it is also to relate this distant business to the lives of people living in London and the UK.

Or even Peter Fend, one of the most interesting artists, whose work with the Ocean Earth Development Corporation actively seeks to challenge the relationship between art and business by developing approaches to ecological problems through the means at the disposal of artists – colour theory, conceptual synthesis and the use of emerging tools such as satellites.

All of these works:

  1. Are of a scale which touch on or encompasses whole political, social and ecological systems.
  2. Involve communication between artists, scientists, politicians and inhabitants (i.e. in multiple and complex ways, rather than from singularly from artist to audience).
  3. Foreground the connections between living and non-living structures, such that the work is relevant to our daily lives, rather than objects for aesthetic contemplation.
  4. Blur the idea of the artist, raising the question “is it art?” because the work and the artist are also  economist, environmental scientist, planner, etc..
  5. Raise the question, “Who made the work?” breaks down the idea of the artist as individual, because the work is made through the input of a range of people.
  6. Embody diversity of description (something very problematic in museum contexts).
  7. Embody and make relevant all phases of the life-cycle of the art.

Whilst much of the work in the exhibition is also characterised by the above points, it has not been chosen to emphasise these points.  Rather it has been chosen because it meets a different set of criteria, criteria of objectness.  Thus there are at least five works that involve plants in the gallery – Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison’s Farm, Hans Haacke’s Grass Grows, Simon Starling’s boat for Rhododendrons, Henrik Håkansson, Fallen Forest, 2006.  But the differences between these works, between ironic comment and practical application is lost.  The Harrisons’ work is of a practical character “What can we do in these circumstances?” where Starling’s work has an ironic purpose, raising questions about nativeness and protection.  Haacke’s work Grass Grows is a work that demonstrates the Manifesto he wrote in 1965,

…make something which experiences, reacts to its environment, changes, is nonstable…
…make something indeterminate, that always looks different, the shape of which cannot be predicted precisely…
…make something that cannot “perform” without the assistance of its environment…
…make something sensitive to light and temperature changes, that is subject to air currents and depends, in its functioning, on the forces of gravity…
…make something the spectator handles, an object to be played with and thus animated…
…make something that lives in time and makes the “spectator” experience time…
…articulate something natural…

Hans Haacke, Cologne, January 1965 republished in Art in the Land. A Critical Anthology of Environmental Art, ed. by Alan Sonfist, (New York: Dutton, 1983

The off-site project in Dalston, which I wrote about earlier, is a more interesting work than some in the exhibition, precisely because it was not curated, but rather made.

Sculpture Parks and Gardens

Posted in CF Writing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 14, 2009

International Directory of Sculpture Parks and Gardens

New resource developed out of Cameron Cartiere’s research.  The section on Scotland includes Galloway Forest, Glenkilns, Jupiter Artland, Little Sparta and Tyrebagger.  No reference to those that are gone, including Cramond and Glenshee.

The category Sculpture Parks and Gardens raises a few conceptual challenges and complexities.  Because ‘public art’ is associated with regeneration and the creative city, it has gain far more bureaucratic currency and also funding.  Is a group of work by a number of artists in the landscape a public art project or a sculpture park?  Is a landscape made by artists a sculpture park?

So some other possible inclusions:

Place of Origin though I’d say its a park as sculpture rather than a sculpture park? see essay in writing.
Place of Origin

Yet to be completed is Arthur Watson’s Reading the Landscape, a collaborative scheme developed with Will MacLean, Lei Cox, Stanley Robertson and others for CairnGorm Mountain.  All the works are intended to contributing to a cultural understanding of the landscape as lived in and used.
CairnGorm Mountain Ltd,
Cairn Gorm Ski Area,
PH22 1RB
tel: +44 (0)1479 861261,

I was very pleased to see Glenkilns included, but I wondered why Charles Jencks and Maggie Keswick’s Gardens at Portrack House, Dumfries were not included?  Best reference I can suggest is It’s only open once a year for Scotland’s Gardens Scheme, usually first weekend in May.
Portrack House

And you cannot leave out the Hidden Gardens behind the Tramway as a new and award winning ‘art garden.’  The Hidden Gardens are a project of NVA, and are a focus for intercultural dialogue and shared experiences.  Very much driven by community focused activities in a brilliant space.
The Hidden Gardens
25 Albert Drive
Glasgow G41 2PE
0141 433 2722

There is a group of works by Ronald Rae in the grounds of Roselle House/the Maclaurin Trust in Ayr.  I understand that they were made as part of a Manpower Services project in 1979
Roselle House Galleries
Roselle Park
Monument Road
Ayr KA7 4NQ

Finally the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Aberdeenshire has a Sculpture Walk
AB54 4JN
01464 861372

See also thoughts on Sculpture Parks after visiting Centre international d’art et du paysage de l’île de Vassivière.

Pecha Kucha: 6 mins 20 secs

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Producing, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 7, 2009

If you start with the sentence “My practice is focused by place,” then the next sentence that logical follows is “I’ve been working in … Ireland, Palestine, Siberia.” Whereas if you start with the sentence “My practice is focused by context,” then the next logical sentence can be any one of a very large number of things… [more]

This text and the associated slides were presented at the Pecha Kucha held at the RSA in Edinburgh.

Pecha Kucha Invite

What art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 6, 2009

Don’t go and think about Dalston Mill as a whacky eco retro art project.  Think of it as architects working very hard to imagine a future for us all.  And bear in mind that they are sleeping in this structure, above the bar cafe, next to the seminar room and adjacent to the toilets.

The bus dropped me on Dalston Lane and I towed my wheelie suitcase over the uneven pavement.  Leaving Liverpool Street and the skyscrapers we’d passed through Little Nigeria on Shoreditch High Street.  I’d seen the main Radical Nature exhibition at the Barbican a few weeks ago, and Dan Gretton had said this “off-site” project was really worth seeing.  I’d caught a glimpse of the mural you are meant to look out for and seen a black painted wooden wall with words hand painted in white saying Dalston Mill, but it looked closed.  So thinking that there was another entrance I walked through a yard, caught sight of a scrubby patch of wheat, went through an opening in a builders temporary fence and wandered around.  It was 2pm and a few people were casually doing stuff.  One guy in a t-shirt and shorts was sweeping up fag butts whilst smoking.

Going to Nils Norman and Michael Cataloi’s University of Trash at the Sculpture Center, my mother’s comment “I saw this in the 70s” is still firmly with me.  She’s got a point.

And the answer may lie in the blurb about the show Into The Open currently in Philadelphia.  This was the official US representation at the 2008 Venice Bienniale of Architecture.  The sixteen groups represented are at the cutting edge of thinking about the urban, the landscape, the recycled and the social.  I immediately recognise Center for Land Use Interpretation, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Project Row Houses and Rural Studio as landmark initiatives.  I have a collection of CLUI and CUP materials, the book Rural Studio produced on my shelves and I’ve been to Project Row Houses.

The blurb goes:

“Critics noted the exhibition’s unusually sober assessment of the challenges America faces, as well as the inspired attempts by grassroots architects to mitigate these conflicts.”

But I do have a problem, and it was hell of an easy to walk in look around and walk out – to do the artworld strut – and say “seen that”.  I did end up talking to the guy clearing up the fag butts and he turned out to be one of the architects.  I nearly voluntarily got roped into making dough, and I really should have (no strutting making dough) but in the end they were just getting organised and I was heading for a train.  Vidokle does address this so directly and effectively: The Martha Rosler Library as well as the Video Store and the Night School are all about stopping (or tripping) the strut.  And I wish the University of Trash and Dalston Mill had, in addition to the events programme, something which when you walk in off the street, sucked you into ‘the sober assessment of the challenges,’ whatever time of day it was.

Because in reality, these architects and artists have created a structure which is lightweight, adaptable, portable, generates energy, supports social activities, addresses questions of food and land use, and therefore embodies some very serious issues.  And I loved the scarecrows with milk containers for heads.  And I hope that as they take it all to pieces and move on, that they clean up the site, including the archaeological trash from the periphery, which has clearly been there longer than the three weeks of this exercise, and leave the site better than they found it, whether they have left us wiser or not.

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Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on August 3, 2009

Paul Kingsnorth in the Guardian 1 August 2009

Technology and hubris.  What is the role of technology in solving the huge challenges that face the world (i.e. all the species living on the planet earth)?  Watching the Center for Land Use Interpretation’s slide show of the Trans Alaskan Pipeline in the Radical Nature Show at the Barbican, I was struck by the scale and sophistication of our engineering (technological) capacities.  I came away feeling that it was not optional.  Yes, I might use the car less, walk more, fly less, use the train more, recycle more, reuse more, eat more vegetables and less meat, grow more potatoes.  I might also be political working on projects which raise environmental issues, join the green party, read the latest thinking on green issues.  But the idea that we, as unspecialised animals, don’t use technology to solve our problems, is impossible.  Kingsnorth rightly highlights the real problem about the application of existing assumptions to the new challenges: they are not ‘wind farms’ they are ‘ wind power stations.’  But pride is a great driver of human development, technological as much as philosophical.  How do we apply our technological imaginations and skills with modesty and humility and a respect for all the other lifeforms on the planet?

What Art/Reading?

Posted in CF Writing, Texts by chrisfremantle on July 31, 2009

Chris Biddlecombe’s book when visitors appear produced as part of his work with the Arthur Conan Doyle Richard Lancelyn Green Collection and the Aspex Gallery which resulted in the exhibition Between Worlds, 2009.

Biddlecombe explores his own interests through the cypher of Arthur Conan Doyle and the Richard Lancelyn Green Collection held by Portsmouth City Council.

Conan Doyle’s public persona as author of the Sherlock Holmes stories is entwined with his less well known involvement in Spiritualism.  Richard Lancelyn Green obsessively collected anything to do with Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes.  Biddlecombe has, in turn, obsessively explored this material during an off-site project co-ordinated by the Aspex Gallery.

The book is a juxtaposition of the moments when Holmes and Watson first meet their ‘clients,’ drawn from the stories; and a number of psychic research photographs found in the Richard Lancelyn Green collection.  Biddlecombe has made drawings of an almost anthropological or illustrative character from the photographs.  Each photograph appears to contain both people and spirits, not always human.  Interestingly Biddlecombe’s drawings apply the same mark making techniques to both subjects, and therefore emphasise an equality of reality.  The spirits are as real as the sitters.

As is highlighted in the text for the exhibition, trickery does not necessarily preclude truth.  Visitors may be the product of the imagination, but that makes them no less significant.

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What Art?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 28, 2009

The unacceptable face of Britain
Aesthetic of European stag party culture
Blue Cowboys
out of Newcastle rebranded to maximise market penetration take Gdansk by storm
Find them on  youtube under the name StudioSzkic
Explore Polish bars
Tree climbing, table Squennis, arm wrestling,
begging bankers

Sexercise disco
on a streetcorner in NY in PLish
Who is mixing the beats?  They should be on iTunes as well.

Resources on the history of climate change and science

Posted in Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on July 23, 2009

A timeline of the development of the science of climate change (1800 to the present), part of a much larger site and educational resource created by Spencer Weart (author of The Discovery of Global Warming) and hosted by the American Institute of Physics.

An article on the history of Climate Change science from the Guardian in 2007

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Posted in Texts by chrisfremantle on July 22, 2009

Gary Snyder
Endless Streams and Mountains

This web site has the first section of this book length poem, and juxtaposes it with the visual work it refers to – very interesting to see the two together.  The poem is a deceptively simple description of the contents of the images.

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What Art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 11, 2009

The University of Trash at the Scultpure Center

Art space become alternative pedagogical space.  Quote “I saw enough of this sort of thing in the 70s.”

So are we revisiting the 70s?  If so, why?  And what is the difference between now and the 70s?

What art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 11, 2009

Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City.

What sticks in the mind?

Fifty bums raised in the air: yoga in the Park.

A giant doilly suspended in the trees
(Jennifer Cecere, Mom, 2009)

Looking across to Manhattan’s volume.

A series of physical challenges modelled on an exercise assault course
(Risa Puno, The Big Apple Showdown Spectacular, 2009)

A carnival wagon with artefacts displayed
(Dana Sherwood and The Black Forrest Fancies, The Ladies Society of Alchemical Agriculture, 2009)

A black barn of jig-sawed patterns
(Bernard Williams, Socrates Ply- Teck Barn, 2009)

A small garden, the most valuable space for urban-dwellers
(Jeanine Oleson, Retribution, 2009)

Socrates Sculpture Park reinvents itself as a cross-over public space between art and temporary amusement park.  Away with formal sculptural concerns: roll up, roll up to the crazy summer Saturday on a field in the sun.  Is it New York or is it somewhere in Kansas?  Is it Little House On The Prairie or is it socially engaged practice?  Even without the specific ‘dialogics’ intended to captivate the art audiences, Socrates is busy.


Posted in CF Writing by chrisfremantle on July 5, 2009
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All the trees…

Posted in CF Writing by chrisfremantle on July 4, 2009
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