Sorry it been quite a while since my last blog entry but,
amongst other things, I blame the recession inspired cuts to the
arts - and the coalition hell released upon Higher Education.
Like most people in the arts I've had to try extra hard over the
last few months to make anything like a positive move. Then again,
like most people involved in the arts, that hasn't stopped my
One thing that has stuck with me over the past few months, I'm
more than mildly surprised say, is how badly I've been bitten by
the big JR bug. So far, the conversations I've been having with
people, and those that I've recorded for this blog, are really
pointing towards a re-thinking of my relationship to art (and to
art's relationship to me). The video I've popped up today is a case
of this. As I grabbed a few JR interviews at the end of Grizedale's
're-Coefficients Club' event in sunny Sheffield last April, I
couldn't help thinking of Alistair Hudson's prophetic flight of
metaphoric fancy - that if big JR were to be around today he'd be
wearing a hoodie and getting straight up the noses of the current
art industry glitterati (and not, me thinks, in a necessarily
neo-conservative way either). After all, just because much of
today's off-the-shelf avant-gardism seems dull, vacuous and
fascicle, doesn't mean we have to 'return' to traditional norms -
unless, of course, those traditional norms are those long lost
values of radicalism, activism and a will to coherently re-evaluate
the present worth of our artistic and political efforts.
I guess some things just keep cropping up, re big JR, which I
want to find out more about. Craft is one of them. Maybe not the
usual idea of craft (as the pseudo hand whittled mass production of
tourist tattle and middle class Sunday supplement escapist fodder),
but the idea of Craft as a hands on approach to trying to do
something different, something against the grain. After meeting up
for a Jonathan Meese event at Grizedale almost a year ago, I had a
really exciting conversation with about this with Charlie Gere.
It's really stuck in my mind. I need to follow this up with Charlie
and spend some more time reading Richard Sennett.
I've also become fascinated with Grizedale's idea of
re-inventing the 'Mechanics Institute" as roving art and education
intervention. It's not just that this idea appeals to me on the
level of something I'd quite like to help out with (after all,
tagging along with an itinerant bunch of art bedeviled educators
may be my only option if cuts to Higher Education bite much
harder), it's that John Ruskin's ideas seem to allow for a very
contemporary re-appraisal of what education actually is and can do.
Also, the Art and Design School that I currently work for at
Liverpool John Moores University can, apparently, trace itself back
to a nineteenth century mechanics institute… more of this when I
check it out.
However, I have to admit that the biggest 'big JR' haunting has
happened when I've been looking at contemporary (and historical)
issues of how artists can simply find a way to do something
different, worthwhile, against the grain. Alistair kindly joined us
for the Autonomy Summer School at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven
in July and it was both surprising and exciting to find out how
many Ruskinian strands of thought kept re-emerging. And, as well as
this, 1848 has taken on more of a significance than I thought it
So, I have the big JR inspired bit firmly between my teeth now.
Expect more interviews, musings, idling, rambling and surreptitious
attempts at fitting square pegs into round holes as winter draws in
and the long nights await. But what better way to spend nights
beside the fire than with a laptop and the continuing ghost story
of big JR?
This week we are hosting Michael Eddy and Emi Uemura from our
good friends Vitamin Creative Space in China.
Michael, who runs the Vitamin operations in Beijing and artist
Emi are here to develop ideas for a project between us.
During their stay they will be contributing to a number of
events we are involved in. Please feel free to come along and take
Tuesday 26 October, 1.00 - 4.00pm
Market Place, Kendal
This afternoon, we will be contributing to the South Lakes Food
Group stall at Kendal Food Fair in the Market Place. We will be
presenting International Eating from Local Fields, or cuisine with
normally high food miles made with local ingredients.
Tuesday 26 October
6.00 - 8.00pm
Coniston Institute, Yewdale Road Coniston
Mobile Radio will be making a programme at the Institute on
Mosel Wines with a wine tasting thrown in. Michael, Emi and their
friend Rob have made a range of cutting edge breads to soak up the
Wednesday 27 October
10.00am - 12.30pm
We will be helping out at the Fair Trade café at St Andrew's
Church, Coniston Come along for some ethical catering and
Emi is a Japanese artists who creates complex food related art
works that address social and political issues surrounding food
production and consumption. A recent project in Beijing saw the
creation of a bespoke lunch delivery service for office
Vitamin Creative Space are based in Guangzhou and Beijing and
are one of the foremost Contemporary Art organisations in China
working with many of the Chinese 'Art Stars' currently working
I've just been to Spain on a package tour. I took a flight from
Manchester to Murcia, surrounded by golf clubs and young families
and the rest of my package group from the North by Northwest group
of northwestern northwestern art organisations (ie those that
aren't in Liverpool or Manchester).
Most people at Manchester Airport were in groups too. But they
all had the same t-shirts with Malaga Muff Divers on the back. We
all have the uniform of regional art administrators. As treasurer
of the group I could not sanction Manifesta Muff Diver shirts,
though it would make a nice change from the staple art cloth sacks
favoured by the artnoscenti on these occasions. There's a Biennial
I'd never been to Spain before this. Being a white middle class
art snob from Cheshire I always assumed the place would be full of
British en mass, getting pissed and inflicting their culture on the
locals. And so Manifesta
Manifesta8, subtitled The European Biennial
of Contemporary Art Region of Murcia (Spain) in Dialogue with
Northern Africa, was constructed on a trinity of curatorial
collectives who had spent too much time believing their own art
theory. Manifesta in dialogue with northern Africa was therefore
filled mostly with a European sensibility that manifests itself
either as a) Lots of photocopied pieces of A4 paper that you don't
want to read pinned to the wall or b) beautifully crafted HD
projections of slow panning shots of nothing in particular
If I counted right, there were only 8 artists based in Africa,
out of about 100. One of the curator teams was the Alexandria
Contemporary Arts Forum who laid on something close to the British
Art Show in the old post office building. The consensus amongst the
visiting audience, composed almost entirely from UK regional art
tours like ours, was that this was the best bit. And there were
good works here and there of course, but they could have been good
works anywhere. Alexandre Singh brought some humour into the
equation, as too Simon Fujiwara with his big cock. Ryan Gander made
a puddle, which was nice. Pablo Bronstein and Common Culture were
in a minority who actually addressed the context with any real
sharpness. It was hard to find elsewhere with works that waded
through and wore their academic credentials like a celice.
This comes across an aesthetic system built on extrinsic values,
rather than any intrinsic will to have an effect on the world.
Africa really didn't get a look in, not even in the catering.
You pay £3.5 million to get Manifesta. For that you get the art
circus come to town and credibility branding and a few parties. I
reckon that there were maybe 500 people at the opening party and
this was the prime audience for the Biennial. That would work out
at about £7,000 per head then.
Just down the road from the Frieze Art Fair, Mrs
Rebecca Gander-Limoncello has organised the Sunday Art Fair in a cavernous
underground boiler room. A sort of art fair without walls, it feels
like the old London art world used to feel, with fashionable kids
and arrangements of artlike objects in an as-you-found-it
warehousey place, in a venue you have to discover, rather than have
shoved up you.
You access the fair through a metal gate on Marleybone Road,
descend a metal staircase, follow a service road down and around,
then go through a small door, into what you you'd expect to be a
bunker, possibly housing a James Bond baddy.
Inside is the closest thing the art world has to a James Bond
baddy, Ryan Gander (nobody understands what he does and he's taking
over the world).
"Ah, Mr Hudson, I have been expecting you."
Ryan is running an eponymous bar serving tea, coffee, wines and
beer at astonishingly reasonable prices and cocktails at
astonishingly unreasonable prices. He has asked a number of artists
to design and make their own cocktails, which are £50 each. Liam
will be serving spilt vodka on a tray, Bob and Roberta Smith a
glass of freshly poured concrete, but the mixologist on duty when I
arrive is Fiona Banner. She has devised a drink in which the
consumer has to down as many glasses of champagne as they can as
she counts you down from 10. It's rather undignified, but actually
not bad value considering champers is £10 a glass over at the Big
So, seeing as the art world is on the brink of financial
collapse I buy one.*
Three glasses is all I can manage and feel quite glad about this
as I don't want to be sick over Ryan. The prize though is a pair of
boxing gloves and signed certificate. And I got a receipt for Julie
in accounts. Look out for these items in a Christies sale near you
Proof of the indignity is laid bare as I appear the next day in
the Art Newspaper.
*NB If as a taxpayer you are questioning the ethics of this, be
reassured that this was part of a complex marketing
excercise/Ganderwerk to get punters to part with their cash for
real. A bit like those gangs of scallies from Kent do, who sell
perfume at Oxford Street. And it worked because someone did
actually buy one, for real.
It doesn't seem to matter what kind of ticket you have there
always seems to be some Eva Logronia, fur,denim and heels Italians
sailing past you to wafting some other super pass. The ostentatious
wealth of the Frieze crowd was even more evident than usual, with
the VIP limo service and discounted hotels that start with the
budget Connuaght at £300 a night - actually a bit of a bargain I
would say bearing in mind the kind of humiliating experience you
can put yourself through in a run of mill London shitpit at around
half the price. The Connaught does at least make you feel good - I
stayed budget before anyone gets shirty.
In general and considering the 5% of the fair that I saw I think
it was a slightly livelier show than usual, fewer drawing room
sketches, more big statements. I did enjoy a moment with vaulting
young buck Simon Fukiwara, where I was bogusly and exaggeratedly
commiserating with him on the immmmmmense pressure he must have
been under in completing his Cartier commission and asked him where
it was, he kindly pointed out that I was standing on it.
From our perspective Frieze offers a once a year shot in the arm
(inoculation) update on how all that selling stuff is getting on
and a chance to see a lot of people we saw last year and talked to
about 'doing something'. It was great to see Vitamin's Hou Fang and
Zhang Wei - (we are actually doing something with Vitamin next
week) and Bruce Haines, attempting to complete on his commercial
suicide, first giving Alan Kane a solo last year and now Des Hughes
- added to which he appeared to be babysitting his 2 year old at
the opening, call me old fashioned but…. still Bruce's chaotic
charm will have no doubt seen him through the 15k barrier needed to
break even. Toby Webster breathless as ever, the Association of
Ginger Regional Curators and so on.
What always amazes me is how many people there are at Frieze
that I don't know - I mean 'who are these people, where do they
come from, why are they here, how much did it cost them to get here
and where can I buy a 12 year old sex slave, Tahiti - great' (in
the words of Gauguin). (Actually… Gauguin celebrated - Gary Glitter
reviled, how so? So many similarities)
Talking of shows at the Tate that sunflower seed thing is
disturbing and some. I trudged across the seeds in mounting horror.
I was relieved to learn that the seeds were mould made, the thought
of 100 million hand made seeds was hurting me somewhere inside. I
think for anyone that's ever made something repetitively it is a
shocking sight, however most of the audience seemed to
misunderstand it as a beach - it's a bit like skate boarders who
skate anything in the public realm, the Tate audience seem to think
everything is a beach opportunity.
However it is a phenomenal artwork, with all its complex
meanings, contradictions and downright wrongness. I also like that
it has no visual charm at all - long live the pottery revival - (oh
dam I shouldn't have said that now it'll be over).
Grizedale Arts collaborated with the local church (St. Andrews)
on the Coniston and Torver Harvest Festival. There was a lot of
donations of locally produced vegetables and well as some
shop-bought stuff (though hardly any cans, and no tinned mandarin
segments in sight). There were some fantastic volunteers and
together we made about 150 meals that day. Mostly packaged up to go
out on a local meals-on-wheels round and the rest was enjoyed that
evening at a sumptuous supper. It was a real collaboration with
George McClure on design, including a great logo for the plates,
Glenn Boulter playing some lovely music during the supper as well
as taking the photos and waitering duties, Matthew and Hermione for
making realistic marzipan vegetables and lots of people who turned
up to help in the kitchen. DJ Sons of Birds gave the night some
edge with his gospel vinyl. Sample playlist -Violinaires - Grooving
with Jesus, Tommy Ellison - Let that be a Lesson to you (Drunk
Driver), Gospel Keynotes - That's my Son Hanging on the Cross, 5
Singing Sons - Are you Lonely for me Jesus, Ziontones - Use me
Jesus. We got sent a nice thank you card.
New resident artist and chipper Whitechapel geezer at large Mat
Do currently has an exhibition at
(AND/OR) at 171 Mare Street. The Ties That Bind Us are
Stronger Than Ever features work based on his residency in
Egremont. Mat is due back up in early November to develop a project
with the goodly people of this vale.
'Go see' as they say in the print media listings these days.
The International Village Shop is a growing network of
cultural producers who set up permanent and temporary trading
places for goods that are rooted locally. The products
range from horsemilksoap to porcelain Frogbutterspoons, Peter's
Pots and Titschy Kitschy houses, single-village rice, music CD's,
handmade arrows, etc.
Grizedale Arts, myvillages.org, public works and Somewhere have worked with shop
formats, trade and collaborative production since 2003. During a
myvillages.org residency at Grizedale Arts in 2007 the idea was
born to join ventures and the International Village Shop began.
Since then the partners in the network extended and reworked
their trading places which include amongst others the ongoing
Honesty Stall at Lawson Park, an annual shop for the village fete
in Höfen, a two day shop at the Royal Academy in London, a one hour
shop at the Studio of Urban Projects in San Francisco and an
afternoon shop in a supermarket in the Swiss village of Fanas.
During the harvest month of October 2010 the International Village Shop
website will go online. The site brings the
geographically dispersed temporary and permanent "counters" of this
one shop together, and gives insight to products that are developed
for and contributed to this shop.
Throughout October 2010 a series of live shop activities
will take place across both urban and rural places in the UK and
03 October, a "Höfer Waren" 2010 Swap Shop as
part of the village fete activities, from 14.00 - 17.00 in the
village of Höfen in Southern Germany, to make and swap clay
06 to 17 October , myvillages.org presents thee
International Village Shop at the offices of Lower
Saxony in Berlin, with the shop open on Thursday 7th
October from 19.00 - 22.00.
08 October at 19.00, a Friday Session on Shops
at the public works studio in London.
10 October, "Heaven's Kitchen" as part of the
Coniston Harvest Festival, with Grizedale Arts making frozen meals
and a harvest supper from donated local produce.
New products that will enter the International
Village Shop during October 2010 include:
Potato Sleepers, a bag to store potatos in the
kitchen, developed with residents from the potato growing village
of Neuenkirchen and myvillages.org, designed by FUCHS + FUNKE &
Michael Lehner and made from leftover material from the local felt
Paramentenmeterware, a new fabric devoloped
with professional embroiders from the Paramentenwerkstatt at the
Monastery of St. Marienberg, Helmstedt, in the far East of Lower
Clay Fruit, a new dish applying
"Hausfrauentechnik" to local clay to process the fruit that grows
on it in the village of Höfen, Southern Germany.
Art and Agriculture porcelain sets , a printed
second hand dinner set used during the Art en Agriculture wedding
reception at Kultivator in Dyested, Sweden
New partners and products to enter the International
Village Shop network are welcome.