CHRIS FREMANTLE

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.

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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

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