Notes from UG

These notes are from a couple of lectures from my third year of fine art studies at Wimbledon College of Art. These are mostly based off the chapter The Predicament of Contemporary Art from Art in Theory

Starts with language – Sassaure 1911
linear structure
examines what happens when you try to change the linear structure
synchronic structure
Claude Levi-Strauss
Raw / cooked – how culture looks at its own culture
raw = not refined, cooked = refined
typologies – pragmatic

Jacques Derrida
doubts about the liability of language

the process by which “instinctive desires” are set free

the process through which art becomes “banal and useless”
releasing of repressed desires
situationists / surrealists
not liberating – reinforce the capitalist system (production/consumption)

Spectacular culture / culture industry
1945 on culture/freedom/practices gobbled up by culture industries
Guy Debord
“integrated spectacle”
social life is taken over by commerce
superficial representation take over from the real experience
“wow factor” = spectacle

Art as commodity production
within totalitarian systems, politics becomes an aesthetic spectacle
Walter Benjamin – “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

Decentralisation of the art world
1945 – art world started to decentralise
Japan & Brazil developed their own avant-garde (looking to the old power centres)
Vietnam ware unified “progressive minds around the world against American Imperialism”

How does your practice relate to global issues?

Magiciens de la Terre (1968)
western term “artist” for practice that was not necessarily art
Capitalism drives globalisation

Post-structuralism – art media have no essential characteristics
Media-specificity – we can say exactly what the medium is
post-structuralism says that we can only analyse a media in relation to another
medium-specific = paintings about paintings

Mandarins & Grand Old Men
when a position gets fixed, practice takes on a conservative take
“selling out”?
depoliticisation of art
the proliferation of new media
mnemonic art slides into fetishistic distortion and spectacle

Formless / abject
Postwar avant-garde
Mike Kelley
“Pay For Your Pleasure”
paintings of “genius figures”
paintings and quotations, the genius as a figure exempt from reality
John Wayne Gracey
prison paintings
child murders
criminal can become perverse hero/genius

Nouveau artist
“Condition of Woman I”
derogatory depiction of women
deconstructed stereotype?
is it its own critique?

“the place where meaning collapses”
“neither one thing nor the other”
neither subject nor object
Julia Kristeva 1980, “Power of Horror”
that which does not respect “borders, positions, rules” that “disturbs identity, system, order”
the moment you identify it, you classify it, it ceases to be abject
the paradox of representing the unrepresentable
Cindy Sherman Untitled I, 1985
abject anxiety?
abject horror?
Mike Kelley, Spelunking
David Cronenburg, The Fly
abjection rituals
abjection and felinity

Rosalind Krauss, “Formlessness: A Users Guide”
base materiality / horizontality / pulse / entropy
Alberto Burri – Combustone Plastica
medium specificity
Robert Morris – Scatter Piece. Hetero-sculpture
Georges Battile
The Story of the Eye 1928
The Solar Anus 1931
Notion of Expenditure 1933
formless is informed by “bringing things down into the world” (debasement)
speaks to us of what is “belittled, denigrated, repressed” – Victor Grouer

Encylopedia Acrphalica
the higher up something is, the cleaner it seems to be
social construct?
hierarchy in family portraiture
mapping of abject gender

abjection vs formlessness

Beavis & Butthead – abject masculine

Jackson Pollock

abjection is uncanny / unease

Hayao Miyazaki

Murakami’s phallic sculptures

Yayoi Kusama – “polka dots are the way to infinity”

Barbara Creed

Betty Freedon – “The Problem Without a Name”

Carlos Castaneda

The uncanny valley

Robert Gober

Sarah Lucas

Paul McCarthy

David Cross
The Lion & the Unicorn – Wolverhampton Art Gallery
George Orwell
connections between people
intergenerational continuity
relationship between past / present / future
Gallery – white cube / cultured / cut off from nature
experimentation with limits
artists put a frame on the world
thinking must be as a collective, not individual
climate science/change
electric light is a necessity?
Richard Long
Waltham & Cross
Karl Andre
Donald Judd
Black Sun
Practice – breed research
Frieze turns art into commodity capitalism
Art world concentrates cultural capital
After Image – David Cross
What happens if we push this?
People and Planet Green League
RBS investment in oil / coal / fracking
Divestment from oil / coal / fossil fuel
Public interest research centre

Process #1

My absence on the blog lately can be explained by attempting to pass my degree (haven’t yet, so posting might still be a bit sporadic). I’m starting a new series, looking at what I’m reading at the moment, which also ties into my current research interests and writing so I suppose I’ll just combine all that into one series – reading, researching and writing in one!

I’ve been researching and working on my graduate project which is titled “Is e Eire mo Bhaile”, which means “Ireland is my home”, in Irish. To that end, this post is about what I’m doing to research this project.


Rodinsky’s Room – Rachel Lichtenstein & Iain Sinclair

Lichtenstien and Sinclair take a very upbeat stance on the disappearance of David Rodinsky and trace this through the archive of ephemera left behind in his room in Whitechapel. The book traces Lichtenstien’s research of Rodinksy through writing and photography and gives a good example of a book using both photography and writing to illustrate.

The Photograph – Graham Clarke

Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma – Ulrich Baer

The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning – James Young

The Painter of Modern Life – Charles Baudelaire

On the Natural History of Destruction – WG Sebald

The Pivot of the World: Photography and it’s Nation – Blake Stimson

The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories – John Tagg

Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes Camera Lucida – Geoffery Bachen

These books deal with the photographic image as carrier of memory, the memorialisation of the journey, the journey itself, the ontology of the image and photographic archives.

Images of the final book and project itself to follow.









New directions

My current body of work is continuing my research practice into notions of identity and “Irishness” (see artist statement). As such, I’m concentrating my current body of work around Irish emigrants and second-generation Irish who live in London. This project aims to explore the theme of “home” and what this means to people who are not necessarily in a place they call home. The concepts of what and where home is will be explored through a photographic project using medium format analogue photography and transcribed interviews. I plan to document my research and process on this blog for research and my personal blog for process images.

Stay tuned for research and process images and info

Surrealist / minimalist collage

My research at the start of this semester centered around surrealist collage and Gothic painting. My research has since taken a turn into looking at museological display and artifact studies. This is documented in my purpose-built research blog which can be accessed at Aisling Keavey Art Research

Joan FontecurbertaMind Games, British Journal of Photography, November 2014

Joan Fontecuberta constructs false narratives and false archives using photo-montage and photography. This work is particularly interesting as it displays the power that the manipulation of photography as over the audience’s perception of a work, and also questions about the validity of archives and the arching process.

British Library – Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (03-10-14 => 20-01-15)

This exhibition aims to “reflect the cultural concerns of 18th century Britain” by exploring Victorian Gothic literature and art.
Dan Hillier. (website)
Dan Hillier is a surrealist collage artist working primarily with Victorian images and themes of Victorian futurism, the uncanny and steampunk. He makes screen-printed, digital collages.   
Hannah Hoch is considered an “artistic and cultural pioneer”. She uses collage as an art object instead of using it as a process to work through ideas. She explores the concept of the “New Woman” through collage.
Leonora Carrington was called a “central figure of the surrealist movement” for her multidisciplinary approach to practice which included writing, painting, printing and weaving. She worked with themes of personified nature, Irish folklore and mythology and religious motifs.
This book centres around the collage as an homage and as a reference. The author identifies the collage artist’s ability to recognise the preexisting to create something different. The collage can separate things that belong together.  These artists break the boundary of the flat, glued image that historians have relied upon, the collage can become a material study, a three-dimensional assemblage or even an environment or performance. Collecting of images to collage can be a way of stopping time, of grasping or studying the past.
John Stezaker uses collage as a “genuine response to the tyranny of images that is our contemporary visual culture” and as a way to explore the “absurdity of the present”.
Matthieu Bourel uses images to “evoke a fake history” and to explore the power of the image and its considerations. He uses images as the point of departure for a story to create false narratives.
Office Supplies Incorporated are a collective that explore the formal aspects of the medium of collage such as “materiality, depth and scale”. They focus on what happens to an image after another image is added to it.
Cur3es is a collage artist who mixes photos to point out their inherent mundanity or dark insinuations.
Eva Eun-Sil Han uses “recurring layers of geometric lines and shapes” to repeatedly “mask and reveal the layers beneath them”.

Human Heart in a Heart-shaped Cist, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

The strongest reference I have found for my current body of work (which centers around the autobiographical, museological display and the Irish experience) is an object housed at the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University.

The Pitt Rivers museum, founded in 1884, is a museum of anthropology and world archeology.  Its collections include materials by peoples from cultures around the world and from throughout history. While the focus of the Museum is on human cultures and how different peoples have solved the problems of everyday life, the collections include human remains acquired to show some aspect of culture, such as burial customs. 

The artifact that I am researching is one with the object number 1884.57.18, a human heart in a heart shaped cist.

Human Heart in a Heart Shaped Cist

(Click on the image to go to more information)

This object is particularly interesting as it raises questions for me about colonialism, burial practices and artifact studies.

This object, according to the Pitt Rivers website, was found in the basement of a church in county Cork, Ireland by General Pitt-Rivers on one of his expeditions to the country in the 1880s. This raises various questions about why Pitt-Rivers decided to extract this object from its current location and house it in a foreign museum; is colonialism to blame for this object and other objects being housed in British museums; do objects being housed in foreign museums help the discourse around such objects and themes to be opened up to an audience that would otherwise have not been exposed to it?

A sound file of the curator talking about this object can be found here.

I’ll be going further into these themes in subsequent posts as this research and project progresses so watch this space.


Research interests

At the moment, my research centers around the autobiographical; post-colonialism, musicological display, artifact studies and the Irish experience. My next project centers around an Irish artifact found under a church in County Cork but housed in The Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford University, England.

My next post will go more in depth about this object