CURA300

Within my CURA300 module I have partaken in two live projects as well as my own studio practice. Throughout the year I have also attended visiting lectures at my university as well as reviewed texts and exhibitions. I have also discussed my opinions on the role of the artist as curator.

Contents

BBROOTS

Plymouth City Council House

Artist practice

Visiting lectures

Exhibition reviews

Texts

Places

Artist as Curator reflection

 

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Artist as curator

Throughout my third year of my BA (Hons) Fine Art, Critical and Curatorial Practices degree I have been researching into, as well as experiencing, the role of artist as curator. I have reflected on the question of where the line begins and ends between the artist and the curator, as well as the possibility of considering ‘the exhibition’ as a critical medium. During this process, I have read texts such as the first issue of Mousse Magazine’s ‘The Artist as Curator’ by Elena Filpovic and Art Lies’ issue No.59: Death of the Curator and the text ‘Art as Curating- Curating as Art’. I found it quite interesting for there to be conflicting opinions on the role of the artist as curator when comparing both texts. Mousse Magazine’s issue primarily reflects on the importance of an artist who curates, discussing important figures such as Marcel Duchamp and his groundbreaking installations of his works and exhibitions, and the process of displaying the work for the exhibition becoming a material surface for spatial experimentation. Elena Filpovic explores these influential artists such as Duchamp, Richard Hamilton, Yves Klein and Graciela Carnevale, among many others, who have gone unnoticed for the curatorial achievements within the art world. Whereas ‘Art as Curating- Curating as Art’ by Art Lies portrayed a conflicting discussion between Jens Hoffman, a ‘communist curator’ and Julieta Aranda, primarily an artist, whereby they discussed ‘the grey-zone of confusion’ between artists and curator. In this conversation, Hoffmann projects his views against the blurring between the roles, proving that many of the existing curators are reluctant for change within their practice. However, both issues reflect upon the changing of times for the curator and a new age of artists who curate as well as curators whose artist practice consists of ‘the exhibition’.

During the course I have also attended many visiting lecture seminars where I have listened to artist curators such as Christopher Green, Simon Baylis, Cathy Wade and Matthew Stock who discuss the process of curating their own work which I have found to be very interesting as well as helpful when considering my own practice. As well as this, I have attended discussions where curators themselves feel that exhibition making is an art form in its own right such as curator Bridget Crone.

Reflecting on my own personal experience on the roles of artist as curator, I have found that I have learned a lot mainly from producing the artwork for and curating The Future of Plymouth exhibition at Plymouth City Council House. I found that by having a curatorial understanding of the space we would be exhibiting our work in, the creation of the work became quite natural and the display of the work as well as the context suited the space we were given to work with extremely well. When producing the kaleidoscopic wall pieces for the show, I created the images using the space of the Council House which made the works very site-specific pieces. When displaying the pieces we also decided against the use of extra information towards the images, which led to more exploration of the space. As well as this, I feel I have learnt to produce publications and texts to support my work at a more professional standard, as throughout the year I have had a firm role in producing posters, press releases, proposals and websites among many other things in order to support the projects at hand. When producing the website for The Future of Plymouth exhibition, my open call hand in as well as my own personal blog, I have considered a more curatorial approach in doing so, making sure to they are easy to navigate, clean and professional as well as including all appropriate information.

Within my projects I have also experienced producing budgets for exhibition proposals as well as projects that I have partaken in myself. This has allowed me to consider the pricing of my own artwork as well as given me more knowledge towards the costs when producing an exhibition which I have found to be very helpful.

Within my own artist practice, I have also explored a more curatorial element when considering the display of my work in order to allow my viewers of my work to create a connection between the fields of art and science. Through my display I aim to allow space for my viewers to make their own interpretations and opinions of my work, whilst still understanding the connection between my textile pieces and microbiology. For my artist practice, I have explored and compared the spaces of the typical white cube gallery with the museum as well as the laboratory in order to create a connection between the fields of art and science when curating my work.

Although I will be venturing into studying a PGCE in Primary as of September in the aim of becoming a teacher, I feel this does not mean that I will not return or consider the position of a career as an artist curator in future. Throughout the year I have enjoyed the role of taking part in group projects which have allowed me to work with live briefs and work collaboratively with artists such as Lee McDonald and Take a Part as well as my peers. As well as this I have tackled a lot of problem solving within my curatorial projects which I feel has aided me in the installation of my artist practice and will continue to help me in other aspects of my life. To me, the knowledge of curating has offered me an opportunity to understand my work at a larger scale in terms of audience, spacing, installation and marketing my own projects. I feel the artist as curator role offers artists the chance to decide on their own methods of display in order to attain a stronger context rather than relying on an institutional curator who may not be as connected to the artwork. As well as this, when considering someone who is primarily a curator, I feel that ‘the exhibition’ can and should be seen as a medium due to the new and interesting ways in which art is being displayed to date within and outside of the gallery.

References:

Filpovic, E. (2013). When Exhibitions Become Form: On the History of the Artist as Curator.Mousse Magazine, (0).

Aranda, J. (2008). Art as Curating-Curating as art. Art Lies: Death of the Curator, [online] (59). Available at: http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/issue-no-59-death-of-the-curator/ [Accessed 4 Jun. 2014].

Final piece and reflection

 

 

Reflection

Looking back at my final display, I feel that my work reflects my intentions of creating a connection between art and science through the use of microscopic imagery and textiles. With feedback from my peers, the overall feeling about my pieces were that they were desirable to hold and people found them to look very pretty with the new details I had added compared to my older pieces. Many of the people who were familiar with my work understood that my fabric pieces were in fact replicas of part of disease under the microscope and therefore understood what they were looking at when holding them. However, it will be interesting to see people who are unfamiliar with my work interacting with my pieces as I feel that at the most they will understand that they were inspired by microscopic images due to the video also on display, but will not consider them to be of diseases until reading about my work.

Things I would change with my display

Desired display sketch by Kath Howard (2014)

Desired display sketch by Kath Howard (2014)

Due to the unfortunate event of not being able to gain a projector for my video, I decided to use a mac computer last minute to display my video which led me to create more of a ‘scientific desk space’ for my installation. As I had little time and materials to plan out this display the best to my abilities, I feel there are some things I would go about changing for the Summer Show if possible. Curatorially speaking, I would like to change my display by adding in certain scientific props such as a small microscope and some sketches and notes of the microscopic disease cells to accompany my textile pieces. I feel this would add a more ‘used’ feeling to the display making my installation feel like a scientist is currently in the process of creating these pieces themselves from the research on the video. I would also like to change the current table in use to a desk which has a filing system which would represent that this particular desk is used for research and stores important information. To replace the chair I would choose an office chair of similar shape and colour although I would select a smaller chair as to not obstruct the view of my installation when viewed from far away. I feel this over all display would portray more of a working area and would show clearly the connection between the microscope and the microscopic images to the sketches and the finished textile disease cells compared to my current installation.

Curatorial aspects

Inspiration

When considering the display of my final pieces, I looked back at display from last year in order to develop and improve my curatorial aspects of my work. My initial plan was to create a large collection of textile 3D pieces, place them in an arrangement of jars and display them on a shelf or cabinet. This initial plan supported my ideas of creating a museum-like display similar to what you would see within the Natural History Museum. However, as my plans changed to making a much smaller collection of pieces so that I could spend more time perfecting each ones details, I moved away from the idea of displaying my work within a large shelf, and looked into the possibilities of displaying them as a smaller installation by which I would still use the jars to display the pieces, but using a table to arrange them instead.

Fabric disease cell inside sweet jar. Photo by Kath Howard (2014)

Fabric disease cell inside sweet jar. Photo by Kath Howard (2014)

Within my previous work, I had used simple food jars to display my textile pieces as these were cost effective and easy to obtain at the time. However, with more research into other jars, I came to the conclusion of using different sized old-fashioned sweet jars to display them in. I found that the sweets jars slightly resembled the jars used within the Natural History Museum where the collections would be submersed within liquid and contained within the jars. When looking into the usual display of sweet jars, I also found a similarity in how the jars were arranged within the collections at the museum. My main purpose within this particular artwork is to make my fabric disease cells look as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as possible, and personally I felt the use of sweet jars added a certain appealing quality to my textile pieces in comparison to if I had used a more scientific looking jar. However, I still feel that the sweet jars also add a certain scientific quality to the pieces.

Initial idea

Initial plan of display sketch by Kath Howard (2014)

Initial plan of display sketch by Kath Howard (2014)

With my idea of creating a smaller installation using a table to display my fabric pieces and video I drew out a possible scenario for my display. In terms of the video, I considered the idea of reverse projection whereby I would create a frame using wood and cover the frame with white cotton to project through the back of. I would then cover the projector with a white box to disguise it whilst on display. The use of the white cotton I feel will bring out the textures of the images used within the video and link into my use of fabrics through out my project. When displaying my fabric pieces and jars, I considered the idea of arranging them with mostly all of them inside the jars and possibly having one of the pieces out so that viewers can hold it. I feel that having most of the pieces inside the jar with only one outside of the jar will create a desire to hold the other pieces. When contemplating what table would be suitable for my display, I considered a clean white or silver table in order to give myself a very clinical looking space. I also contacted Oliver Tills one of my contacts for collaborating with the science field in order to see if there were any available to borrow but have still not received a reply due to him being quite busy.

Installing and problems

When I began to install my piece had already made my projector screen using wood and white cotton and had bought my media player which I would use to play my video from by connecting it to the projector. However, as I was still waiting for my allocated projector I was still yet to try out my video projected onto my hand made screen. Unfortunately the projector I had managed to get on short notice would not focus enough at the distance I wanted my video to project onto my screen from and with no time or money to obtain another projector which would project at this particular distance, I had to change my ideas for my display. As well as this I had some concerns about my media player being on for around nine hours a day for around one week during the summer show due to it getting quite hot from only being used after a few minutes.

Change of direction

With the need to find a new way of displaying my video fast, I came to the conclusion of using Mac computer to display the video and considered several ways of doing so. Initially I had contemplated creating a white box in which to cover the computer with, leaving a square hole in which the video would be seen through. However, covering the computer with a box didn’t feel right, and after some thought and discussion with others I decided to keep the computer as a whole set up making my display seem like more of a work space for a scientist. I also felt that the use of the computer related well to the idea of making a connection between art, science and technology, and having both sit side by side seemed to work a lot better. Now that my display had changed from a clinical, scientific installation to more of a work space, I had to reconsider my display of my fabric disease cells in order to fit with the display. From here I experimented with the idea of including some of my older fabric pieces and played around with placing them outside of the jars on the table as if they were some form of research. However, I decided against this idea as my work seemed to look unfinished, and over all I favoured my newer pieces as I felt they reflected my concept a lot more. When choosing a table to display my work on, initially I had used a small silver table which added a more clean and clinical feel to my pieces. However after some thought, I decided to find myself a wooden table which resembled a science desk much more and had the feeling of being used often for research. To accompany the desk, I also placed a black office chair as if the table were in use, however I may still change the chair prior to my summer show display.

Final display

Over all I am content with my display as although I had to change my plan quite suddenly, I feel the outcome works well with my context. I also feel that by having the computer, the viewers can relate the images to the fabric pieces and consider the images as research towards them, making a firm link between the scientific, microscopic images and the soft, appealing, fabric pieces in sweet jars. However, there are some major aspects of the display that I would change in order to make my installation look more like the work space of a scientist. I have written about these changes in my evaluation of my work where you can read by following this link: https://kathhoward.wordpress.com/final-piece/

 

References:

The Natural History Museum, (n.d.). Collections at the museum. [image] Available at: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/collections-at-the-museum/ [Accessed 1 Jun. 2014].

Minster Sweets, (2014). Sweet Jars. [image] Available at: http://www.wimborneminster.net/bid/16/shopping-and-services/29/Minster-Sweets [Accessed 1 Jun. 2014].

Making

Previous work

When looking back at my work from the beginning of the year, I concluded that I needed to look into a way of making my fabric disease cells look more aesthetically pleasing, which would in turn make viewers of my artwork want to hold them. When making my previous pieces, the materials I used prevented me from doing this, causing my pieces to look messy and unattractive. At the beginning of the year I had planned to create a large collection of fabric disease cells, however I feel that with the time I’ve been given to create these pieces I would rather make only a few pieces in which I would spend more time on in order to make them looked detailed and aesthetically pleasing. Although I was unhappy with the over all turnout of my previous work, I was still quite fond of one fabric disease cell in particular which I had spent more time on and for this reason, I decided to keep this particular piece to display with my upcoming work.

Materials

For me, changing my choice of materials was an important part of improving my work. From working mainly with cotton materials, I changed to using velvets as much as possible in order to make my pieces soft and pleasant to touch. However, I also kept to using some cotton material in order to create different textures and qualities in each piece. When choosing my fabric, I kept with the idea of using a range bright, non-offensive colours as much as possible in order to make my pieces interesting. As well as fabric, I also chose to use sequins and beads to add more detail to my pieces. I also felt like using these types of materials would draw more attention to them as well as adding more textures and colour.

Drawings

Before beginning to make my pieces, I created a few rough sketches with inspiration from my own images of disease under the microscope as well as found images from the Wellcome Science Photo Library. When drawing out sketches, I though about shape, colours and textures as well as possible materials. Looking back at my previous project, I chose a sketch I had made at the beginning of the year and decided to finally create a piece based on this sketch. I found that drawing out my ideas helped, as I find that when working with materials, the outcome is never as accurate as the image being replicated. However, I still found that my finished pieces changed whilst in the process of making.

Making

To begin making my final pieces, I created the main body of the disease cells using white and light pink velvet. I created several different size bodies in which to work with and add detail to and then stuffed them with polyester white stuffing to make the pieces soft to touch and squeeze. When making the fabric disease cells, I followed to my sketches and images as much as possible, cutting out my desired shapes of fabric and sewing neatly onto the body. With one of my pieces, I created different sized stuffed balls of velvet in which I attached to the body of the cell. I felt this particular method added a desire to hold the fabric disease cell and play with the shape of the piece.

Once the main parts of the fabric disease cells were added, I began to add more delicate details such as sequins and beading to three of my four pieces. I decided against using beads and sequins on my older piece as I felt it was unnecessary due to it already being quite heavily textured and therefore I didn’t want to over do it. When securing the beads and sequins I made sure to keep them as neat as possible, and only selected particular areas of the pieces to place them in order to not make the fabric disease cells look over crowded or too kitsch.

Comparing fabric disease cells. Photo by Kath Howard (2014)

Comparing fabric disease cells. Photo by Kath Howard (2014)

Making my final pieces turned out to be quite a long process in order to make them look as aesthetically pleasing as possible as well as making them resemble the images in which inspired them in the first place. However I was happy with my outcome and felt that my new fabric disease cells were a lot better made and represented my concept of how disease under the microscope is deceivingly beautiful much more.

Video

Screenshot of making the video. Photo by Kath Howard (2014)

Screenshot of making the video. Photo by Kath Howard (2014)

To accompany my fabric disease cells, I created a loping video which consisted of my own images of disease under the microscope which I had sourced from visiting Derriford Hospital last year. When selecting the images, I chose the most interesting as well as aesthetically pleasing, selecting bright colours and complex patterns. When creating this video, my initial intentions were to include some unpleasant images of surgery relating to disease, or the results of cancer cells amongst the more beautiful images of diseases under the microscope, however, I feel that only showing the more pleasant images allows the viewer to interpret my fabric disease cells how they wish before knowing what they really are a representation of. I feel the video allows my viewers to make a connection between the 3D pieces and the images within the video, however I feel that it doesn’t give too much away, complimenting my fabric pieces well. I also feel that although these images are primarily for scientific purposes, they can be seen as artworks themselves, supporting my ideas about the collaboration between art and science within my work.

(Please use this link to visit the final video and artworks on display)

 

References: Wellcome, (n.d.). Breast cancer cell. [image] Available at: http://nutritionfacts.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/stem-cell-blog-for-NF-on-april-19th.jpg?c3d2dd [Accessed 1 Jun. 2014].

Helen Pynor

Untitled (Heart Lungs) by Helen Pynor (2013)

Untitled (Heart Lungs) by Helen Pynor (2007) Photo by Danny Kildare

Helen Pynor originally studied Cellular and Molecular Biology at Macquarie University where she then went on to major in photography, sculpture and installation at the University of Sydney where she then later gained her PhD. Within her thesis, Helen researched into the materialist understandings of the human body, exploring the body as a ‘culturally-constructed entity’. Helen still continues to explore this theme throughout her artistic practice where she is inspired by the writings of scientists as well as philosophers of biology. As well as this, Helen works collaboratively with both scientists and philosophers as well as having more advisory roles. Her work questions the material and philosophical status of human and non-human organisms. In one of her more recent projects she is undertaking, Helen collaborates with artist Peta Clancy in order to explore organ transplantation.

Helen Pynor working on ‘Inhale’ (2007) Photo by Danny Kildare

Helen’s work displays a strong element of intricacy and labour due to the long time spent knitting strands of hair together to make 3D organs which are then displayed as an installation. Helen chooses to use hair as she loves the tactility of it as well as the metaphorical meanings that come with each strand. For Helen, the use of hair as her medium helps her to explore the way in which memory is registered in the hair in terms of time and biological memory. She discusses how all forms of memory such as social memory, cultural memory and personal memory are all registered in the body in some way or another, and for her, she believes these memories run all the way through our bodies, contained in our organs as well as our minds. The organ sculptures she makes are largely made out of empty space and air, with the fine hairs running through the space like fine lines. When discussing the process of knitting the organ sculptures, Helen mentions how the patterns for the organs are extremely complicated meaning that there is only so much that she can control in the process of making them and that at some point the hair takes over. From here, Helen modifies the direction of her work in order to respond to the hair as sometimes the outcome works out much better when allowing the hair to control her way of working. In this sense, Helen feel that her work is very organic and alive in its own sort of way.  When displaying her work, the sculptures are hung in a cabinet which takes hours to do as it is a process in itself. However, when they are finally hung and the light is shone her her sculpture, Helen fells that her work truly becomes animated, with something lifeless suddenly becoming alive.

In relation to my own artist practice, I feel that Helen’s work really resonates with me due to the delicate and detailed outcomes of her sculptures. I also feel that within my own practice, the material also takes control when making my fabric disease cells, and by allowing them to do so I often find myself creating something much better than originally planned. Not only are her pieces beautiful with the fine lines of hair creating ghostly shadows, but her scientific background adds to her knowledge of her areas she works in within her artist practice and allows her to create such accurate pieces

 

References:

Pynor, H. (2013). untitles (heart lungs). [image] Available at: http://degenerateartstream.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/extreme-knitting-part-2-helen-pynor.html [Accessed 3 Jun. 2014].

Pynor, H. (2013). Helen Pynor working on ‘Inhale’. [image] Available at: http://degenerateartstream.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/extreme-knitting-part-2-helen-pynor.html [Accessed 3 Jun. 2014].

GV Art London, (2011). Helen Pynor. [online] Available at: http://www.gvart.co.uk/helen-pynor.html [Accessed 3 Jun. 2014].

Power House Museum, (2011). INTER-LACE: artist Helen Pylor in the love lace exhibition. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYDwC95_rzI&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 3 Jun. 2014].

 

The Institution of Unnecessary Research

http://www.unnecessaryresearch.org/

The Institute of Unnecessary Research consists of a group of artists and scientists who explore a new way of viewing the world through the use of interdisciplinary methods and connective aesthetics. One of the founders of the institution is artist Anna Dumitriu whose work connects the fields of art, science and philosophy.The outcome of their works consists of installations, performance and audience experiences which bring together art, science and philosophy. The work ranges from awe inspiringly beautiful to grotesque confronting the audience with questions about knowledge production of the 21st Century. The institute allows artists to take on the role of a scientist almost in a performative manor, allowing them to experiment with scientific materials and technology which may not have usually been available to them. In the same way, scientists take on a more artistic approach through he production of political or commercial purposes. This new way of working allows for the extension of audience which in time will influence member of that audience to become ‘Unnecessary Researchers’ in their own rights. The research conducted collaboratively between artists and scientists is presented to the audience through performative or experimental methods, such as workshops, in order to engage members of the public as well as giving members of the audience the chance to participate in new research and learn about their work through experimentation and participation.

I feel that The Institute of Unnecessary Research is something that will hugely benefit the development of the collaboration between art and science due to not only the chance for artists to access new scientific material, but the opportunity for the public to engage through observation and participation. For me this is an important aspect of my work as I aim to create something which will engage someone who would not usually research into microscopic disease or necessarily understand much about it on an aesthetic level.

References:

Unnecessaryresearch.org, (n.d.). The Institute of Unnecessary Research. [online] Available at: http://www.unnecessaryresearch.org/ [Accessed 4 Jun. 2014].