Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Quiet FACT Liverpool

It's hectic, its half term, in an effort to fill the time people are taking to the streets of Liverpool. Swelling the population, swelling the noise.

The hubbub is up.

To avoid this I'm travelling up Wood St, which is quieter in comparison. Just other people avoided the mainstream or having of fag break.

I'm on my way to FACT to see the Quiet, which promises to be a immersive installation which will recreate the still before the storm.

Or I hope it will as attempts to find more information just leads to a silent 404 page. I hope it is.

There it is in the foyer of FACT a strange combination of plywood and soft baby blue, erm stuff.

On the entrance there's a hefty bolt, it makes me hesitate. Is there someone locked inside a unknown stillness inside? Anyway the gallery assistant assures me I'm free to enter.

So I do, and like a deep breath, the silence is there, the stillness, the expectation that something will happen. Like a breath its gone and there I am in a room filled with that twilight that comes with a heavily overcasted day.

One where you can't tell were the light is coming from.hh

With a collection of tropical plants, lights and the sighing of a air conditioner. The muffled songs of the outside leak through from a distant world.

Though I feel I could stay I feel that my time here is fleeting. On exiting the installation I feel oddly upbeat. As if the installation has acted like a mental reset.

It's a slight experience but a affective one. Later I capture myself thinking about that space. Almost like a secret. I also think about that episode of the Avengers where a eccentric Army Major recreates a tropical jungle in his mansion.

Maybe because the both create hermetically sealed individual worlds.



Sunday, 2 November 2014

For the Mowdery's!

So, Lauren, do you think it might be serious with this Karl fella? 

Yeah, Ok then I’ll say I few words about this wedding thing, about love, relationships and Lauren and Karl. 

Where to start, really, where to start? I could give out quote after quote about love; I mean I can find some good’uns. All that stuff, all that heart and flowers, Hallmark view of the power of liking someone a lot. Somehow doesn’t reflect the feelings the Lauren and Karl share. 
For what we have before us is more complex, deeper then something that could be summed up in a few well-chosen lines, or a speech. 

This marriage is another episode, another step in the on-going public display of affection that is your relationship. 

I was ‘nearby’ at the beginning and remember I conversation in TJ’s Newport about a boy Lauren met during a trip to Huddersfield. When she spoke about this boy there was a something in her tone that was a clear indication of attraction, a spark. Though when I asked Lauren if is liked this boy she was all ‘yeah he’s ok’. Anyway this attraction grew; with the occasional nudge from Jack Daniels a relationship was formed.

Since then I’ve been witness to the small acts of tenderness between these two. The carefully constructed mixtapes, the gifts bought with an ease which belies the thoughtful affection which goes with it. I’ve even seen the smile on Laurens face as she typed away sending messages to Karl over the internet. 

So what’s my point? Well all these moments are the evidence of why these two belong together. All these little acts of affection, all the quiet un-witnessed moments of love had led Lauren and Karl to this point. To this act of love, this marriage, this symbol of commitment, this statement of the obvious, and marvel at the fact that within a universe of billions of stars, on a planet with billions of people. 

Two people who are right for each other and are willing to share a life together can find each other.

Now you’re legally stuck together, until one of you is DEAD! 

The Mowdery’s! 


Friday, 24 October 2014

The Passing of The Biennial 2014

It’s been a funny Biennial, gaining mixed reviews. Some of them proclaiming doom and gloom or criticising the lack of political engagement.

Myself I wrote this for The Double Negative focusing on how I saw it as a Biennial which presented work that played with the conventions of the gallery space and the role of the visitor within that gallery space.

Three months on and how does this still stand up? Well Claude Parent at Tate Liverpool is still a playful, exciting change to the normal modes of gallery viewing. While the exhibition upstairs is interesting if a little hit and miss.

Though it’s always great to see work by Susan Hiller.

Whistler at The Bluecoat, I feel pretty much the same as I first saw it.

As for Sharon Lockhart’s exhibition at FACT I still find Lockhart’s use of the gallery space more engaging then the actual concepts that inform the work.

What of the main exhibition at The Old Blind School? On my final visit though I enjoyed the many sci-fi tinged works I felt that a lot of it had lost it shine. Now I see the edges of the projection screen of William Leavitt’s Artic Earth and Michael Stevenson’s remote controlled doors where far to accommodating for you notice that anything was awry.

Ultimately how do I feel about the Biennial? Well I’m not sure after the initial excitement of its arrive I never found myself possessed by a urge to revisit many exhibitions. On the whole I have had a more positive reaction to the 2014 Biennial then others. Looking back on it I wonder if this has been a Biennial that didn’t really have its mind on the here and now, but rather it was looking towards its possible future expanding outside the city centre.

Maybe this is true of most Biennials I guess we’ll see in two years’ time.



Sunday, 5 October 2014

Thinking City: Adam Chodzko, Liverpool Biennial


Funny, when things seem to come together.

The way life can connect seemingly disparate things. Giving the impression of a greater meaning, I think that this is sometime referred to as synchronicity. A recent experience of this phenomenon involves my current (paid) job, a novel, the current social-economic situation and a performance lecture.

That lecture by Adam Chodzko took place in an abandoned above ground reservoir in Toxteth.  Now Liverpool gets its water from elsewhere it stands as an monument to Victorian engineering and bravado.

So where once were tonnes of water stands Chodzko and his seemingly modest presentation. Though the reverberation of his voice throughout the space lends his voice a certain booming gravitas

Fitting as Adam is talking about some huge subjects, literary. One of the things under discussion are super container ships. Modern leviathans that cross oceans and seas, making sure that you and I have things like iPods, Lego and training shoes.

This is where the first ‘connection’ comes into play. I have recently read Simon Ings novel ‘Dead Water’ a multi-layered narrative, which features a character Eric Moyes who creates these shipping lines and uses them to hide a terrible secret.

Both Ings and Chodzko touch on the strangeness of these sea born giants which despite their size are as invisible as air. How these thing follow a unique idea of fluid dynamics, operating to the imagined pressures of commerce.

The creation of a constant flow of things and stuff which threatens to overwhelm us and fill the spaces we inhabit. Which brings me to the third ‘connection’ recently I have found myself employed (by a company known for tiny pens, that’s not IKEA) this puts me rather neatly at the end point of this epic voyage of stuff.

One of many who facilitate the ‘last mile’ of that journey. Helping everyone fill their homes with stuff, in the lecture Chodzko speculates that this collection of stuff will lead to the instigation of people creating and dealing with smaller and smaller spaces. He provides this by showing us his prototype living space created from a IKEA wardrobe.

All this may just be preparation for a future, a future that will take place on the giant super-boats. These will become the cities of a flooded world, a world flooded with water and stuff. Once aboard this floated cities we will be surrounded by all of our stuff that we would arrive at some kind of nirvana.

A capitalistic equilibrium, a utopia on the ocean waves.

When where on our never-ending cruise, what will happen to the mega-docks that where once home to these behemoths? Well Chodzko suggests that the ultimate role for these docks, such as the proposed Liverpool 2 superdock is as massive earth-works, as land art. Their destiny is to become supersized monuments to entropy like Robert Smithson’s ‘Spiral Jetty’ or even oversized versions of J.G Ballard’s empty swimming pools.

The archaeology of this future is to be built through commerce, we are building it.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

We Buy the Cosmos

On Wood St, unsupposing Wood St for a brief moment there exists a conjunction of two experiences of time, history and our place within it.

Both revolve around dumb objects. Objects in themselves arguably nothing more than the material which composes them. Nothing more than the whatever banding of atoms determines them to be.

Starting with a very earthly object, an LP, in particular The Beatles ‘The White Album’. Under the title ‘We Buy White Albums’  artist Rutherford Chang has been endeavouring to collect all numbered copies of The White Album. For Chang the famous white sleeve is a void which the concerns and personal history of whoever possessed it can expand into.

So you get exotic drawings, forgotten names neatly sitting in corners patiently waiting for identification and reunion. You also get a series of objects in various states of decay. Flick through the copies and each one is corrupted by its own existence. Each is its own maker within an individual journey in entropy.

Drifting through sleeve after sleeve, which can get repetitive, you do begin to think about the need for collecting. Is this need to collect some kind of attempt to keep entropy at bay? To halt or slow down the passage of time, by gathering object which hold residual histories.

Or is it simply something to do?    
                                                                                              
Objects with residual history also exist a little further down Wood St. Three meteorites’ sit patience on three brown modular plastic chairs. They can afford to be patient they’ve been around for a long time.

This is Beginnings by AKRA group part of Axolotl at Model. The aforementioned trio of space rocks and earth chairs sits in a group around a humming amp. Partly shielded by an old cinema screen, again objects imparted with historical residue.

The main focus is the meteorites; to experience Beginnings you select a meteorite don headphone and sinister black hood. Already under way is the narrative of the lump you hold in your hand. As the soft LIverpudlian accent intones this narrative, which for me starts somewhere out in space, heading towards, away from a familiar blue planet.

I begin to spin off connections, one of them being Charles and Ray Eames treatise on our place in the universe Powers of Ten. Of course all of this doesn’t matter to the space rock, it just is. All the poetry and astonishment comes from us, the humans. Due to our placement, out temporary placement, in the universe we create a sense of wonder; we attempt to come to terms with the incredible odds of our existence.

We do that do projecting some immense ideas onto the things that make up the world. Whether those object be record sleeves or things that fall from the sky. In pursuit to comprehend our place here and now.

  

Monday, 18 August 2014

Opposite Ends


Some while ago I went to see a few exhibitions in Manchester and this is, according to my notebook, what I thought.

First was the Clifford Owens exhibition at Cornerhouse ‘Better the Rebel You Know’ which to my knowledge is probably the first exhibition dedicated to a performance artist in the North-West. As I like that sort of thing I’m quite interested.

It doesn’t disappoint. It begins with a selection of photographs of an audience at one of Owen’s performances. Instantly I begin to see these images as evidence of the idea Barthes had about how when confronted with a camera, we perform. Follow this train of thought and you arrive at the question what is the difference between performer and audience.

As in this case the audience is asked to categorise itself, by race, by sexuality even personal experience. Here the boundaries about who the performer is get smeared. Within a system which Owen presents in this work is he uncovering some desire held within everyone to perform, to display some kind of characteristic that we can say is us?

There is a thread of this going upstairs. The other two floor of the gallery space features work which was created by Owens based on instructions from many members of the art world. The results are varied and interesting. Videos and photographs provide evidence of this undertaking. One piece features Owens randomly French kissing members of a gathered audience. Again making the audience a performative element. In turns the video is funny, exciting and uncomfortable definitely a boundary breaker.

I think my favourite piece is on the top floor. Here a white cube takes up the majority of the space, though it appears that part of this cube has been removed to allow access. Once inside you see a brown powder (coffee) gathering around the edges of the space. Something has happened here, and within me there sparks a myriad of imaginary motions and actions. It’s almost contradictory the absence of the performer allows the idea of the performer of his physicality.

To be aware of my body and the performers.

Better the Rebel you Know has been a totally satisfactory and completely engaging exhibition. I hope to get the chance to see Owens work again.

I also managed to see Ryan Gander’s exhibition ‘Make ever show as your last’. Which in short I didn’t like.

From the looking at empty boxes etched on Perspex the empty cartoon strips, the cloth shapes rendered in marble. I look at them and think it’s a whole lot of nothing, as if all this art has been reproduced, photocopied by a bored and inattentive intern. The whole thing feels as if someone has copied a Matthew Collings book on the YBA’s and hasn’t bothered to put in the feeling.

As I progress through the show I begin feel like I’m being teased and not in a playful way, just in an annoying way. For example when I move a curtain to relieve a wall, I’m not please that my expectations have been played with I’m just angry. It’s art I don’t trust, it feels insincere on the receiving end of a poor joke.

Though there are small points which might offer relief, which include sculptures based on descriptions of engine parts made by Ryan’s father and a mock sci-fi supercomputer. Unfortunately by that point I don’t really care.

I compare it to the Clifford Owens exhibition, which works in a very conceptual way but still invests his work with emotion along with a social and personal history, which makes his work human. While Gander’s work feels like an exercise in making something that looks like art.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Artist Statement generated via 500letters.org

C James Fagan

C James Fagan (°1975, Liverpool, United Kingdom) creates performances, drawings, performances and media art. By using popular themes such as sexuality, family structure and violence, Fagan tries to approach a wide scale of subjects in a multi-layered way, likes to involve the viewer in a way that is sometimes physical and believes in the idea of function following form in a work.
His performances directly respond to the surrounding environment and uses everyday experiences from the artist as a starting point. Often these are framed instances that would go unnoticed in their original context. By merging several seemingly incompatible worlds into a new universe, he uses a visual vocabulary that addresses many different social and political issues. The work incorporates time as well as space – a fictional and experiential universe that only emerges bit by bit.
His works often refers to pop and mass culture. Using written and drawn symbols, a world where light-heartedness rules and where rules are undermined is created. With a conceptual approach, he touches various overlapping themes and strategies. Several reoccurring subject matter can be recognised, such as the relation with popular culture and media, working with repetition, provocation and the investigation of the process of expectations.
His works bear strong political references. The possibility or the dream of the annulment of a (historically or socially) fixed identity is a constant focal point.