Galerie 8

Exploring the Northern Performance Art Scene

The art landscape in England is anything but predictable.

It might only be the end of September, but it’s already starting to feel like Winter here in Leeds…

I’ve made the journey up North to explore an Art scene that is employing dozens of ambitious millennials here in Leeds, whilst empowering many more with zero-experience in the realms of Art to create their own unique performances.

Performance art is by no means a new thing. It rose to prominence in the 1960s with artists such as Carolee Schneemann and Andy Warhol continually breaking the mould, challenging the concept of what art truly meant. Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable was a one-off, mixed media event that might have seemed like a gimmick at the time, but has no doubt influenced the way large scale television events are planned and executed today. Whereas Schneeman’s Interior Scroll broke more social boundaries than any modern artist could hope to do today.

Due to it’s subjective nature it’s very difficult to lock down a specific definition for what constitutes a piece of performance art. The difference between a piece of performance art and simple theatre is that performance art can occur anywhere at all, whereas theatre is generally restricted to a specific performance space. The radical artists of the 60s and 70s enjoyed nothing more than breaking the fourth wall and confronting their unsuspecting audience – but things have changed a little in today’s world.

Rebecca has been living in Leeds for the last 6 years, she’s 26 and has a habit of not finishing her sentences, preferring to tangentially flit to another subject altogether than get bogged down in specifics or deep analysis. It might sound like I’m judging her harshly, but after spending a day and a night in this young artist’s company I feel like I have the measure of her.

We’re sitting at the back of a Subway on Leeds main high street – hardly the hippest of places to get a cup of coffee, but that’s probably the idea. When I first meet Rebecca she’s buzzing with excitement and caffeine. Her mop of hair, a patchwork of mismatched dye jobs, is pulled up in a messy bun and big bags hang under eyes. “I’ve been up for three days now, only one more to go!”

No – she’s not an art student racing to meet her deadline, she’s an artist – working and living in Leeds. Tonight she performs a piece of performance art that she has been working on for half a year – it combines skills she learnt during her three year Fine Art degree with some of the more avant garde aspects of the performance art scene that has been quietly developing here over the past 10 years.

Although London is often hailed as the only place to truly commit to a career as a working artist, more and more young creatives are turning their back on the capital in favour of the ex-Northern power house. Thanks to it’s vast student population (the fourth largest in the country) there is plenty of cut-rate accommodation to choose from here, with rent coming as low as £38 per week for a double bedroom in a shared house. If the canny artist invokes their right to housing benefits and job seekers allowance, they can easily live off the £70 they receive from the government. Whilst many might view this lifestyle as cynical or exploitative, artist like Rebecca argue otherwise.

“I don’t see a place in the traditional working space for the skills that I developed during my degree. I’ve tried working for Foundations, Art Schools, Museums – they all bored me stiff, there’s simply no passion in a job like that. Here in Leeds, I can express myself and live well. I might not be making any money, but I’m happy”

Later that night I see Rebecca’s piece at a local performance space…it’s hard to describe in words. I’m enraptured, disgusted and confused for around 20 minutes, but by the end I understand her better as a person.


The young artist that I met in Leeds was no doubt influenced by the work of pioneers like Schneemann and Warhol, it remains to be seen if her work is noticed by the larger art community of today or even remembered in the future. Either way, she will no doubt continue to perform her work regardless.

Airport to Airport – An Artist’s Life

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

 

In the last few years I’ve managed to ascend from a low-level employee of a back end of nowhere Auction House to a high-end buyer for one of the most renowned collectors in the world. How did I get to this position? Do I deserve my current state of success? Well – that depends on your stance on morality…

The Art World is a competitive one. Its cutthroat, really, a savage playground of battling egos and lithe liars, where one person’s opinion can turn a worthless canvas into a priceless heirloom. No one rises in this business without getting a leg up off someone else’s misfortune, occasionally that ‘misfortune’ must be orchestrated somewhat. That’s how I got to where I was today and the story of how I succeeded is one that will probably lead you to decide that I’m not a good person – but if you want your work commissioned in the future, you better make sure that I’m not aware of that.

As I write this, I’m travelling at hundreds of miles per hour, over 30,000 kilometres above the ground. I’m in a Business Class seat, paid for with my benefactors money, looking back over the short meteoric rise that brought me to where I am today. The champagne I’m sipping is piss poor. I know that I’ve tasted better because I just spent a week in Champagne. You’d be surprised how quickly you get used to ‘the high life’, as I used to refer to it as. You start out starstruck by the shining cutlery, crystal glassware and silver service – but it soon grows ordinary. Eat enough meals in Michelin Starred Restaurants, and you’ll start seeing the smudges on the white cotton and the blemishes on the plates.

Before you know it, instead of booking airport parking from Heathrow, you’re calling limousines to pick you up and complaining when there’s no ice for your complimentary whiskey. Where once you would be meekly passing through security, you are now confidently striding and causing a scene when the TSA take issue with the 800-year old Scimitar that you’re selling to the VA.

Whereas some would see this change in personality as a slippery slope, I prefer to look at it as a steady ascension, from snivelling prole to corporate elite.

I understand how this sounds. Surely, you must be able to tell that there’s a certain level of irony present in the tone of my discourse. There’s a latent dose of sarcasm that you should be detecting. I’m aware of the abhorrent beast I’ve become. I didn’t always use to be like this, you see. When I started out, I was a mild-mannered Arts graduate just looking to get full-time employment, let alone any real kind of wage. I would beg for interviews, send open letters to any and all that would take it. Would you like to know where that got me?  Absolutely nowhere.

Thousands of graduates leave their safe little academic bubbles every year to go out and search for a job that won’t completely destroy their sense of self. I was one of them, but realised soon enough that I would have to resort to devious strategies if I wanted to get my foot in the door. That’s why there were so many unexplained data breaches in the Art community, leading up to my hiring. That’s why so many of my fellow prospective interviewees arrived hours later than they were supposed to. That’s why I’m glad I taught myself to code whilst other Graduates struggled to say sober for a single 24 hours period.

And they told me that it was all about ‘who you know’…

 

Disney’s Big Bucks Bonanza – Good For Cinema?

We are two thirds of the way through the calendar year and, as far as box office figures can tell us, the multi-media powerhouse of Disney is currently well on it’s way to becoming the most profitable Studio of the year.

avengers 2Passing a monstrous, cumulative sum of $5bn at the international box office, the House of Mouse knows how to rack up the dollar bills – but how much of these box office smash-hits will stand the test of time?

Disney’s recent space of movies released under it’s Marvel brand, as well as its continued spate of live-action remakes of it’s animated classics, have earned the studio a reputation for quality family-friendly movies. However, there is a danger that the movie going public will tire of Disney’s rehashed ideas?

Instead of focusing on entirely original content, Disney have made a real business out of recycling and remaking old franchises. By buying out Marvel and re-branding characters that are decades old, Disney could simultaneously draw a new demographic of younger people whilst reigniting a sense of nostalgia amongst the older, cash-rich 30 and ups.

Similarly, within the female skewing live-action animated remakes, a whole generation of Disney Princesses have been created for a young, empowered audience – giving the older generations a trip down memory lane with musical numbers but keeping them surprised with reworked plot twists and unconventional character arcs.

For now, it would seem that Disney have got a pretty good thing going. If they maintain the momentum that they’ve built up to now, they could successfully train several generations of movie-makers to revere the properties as gospel – allowing them to revamp and remake the same properties indefinitely.

Is their style of aggressive serialisation and franchise building good for the movie industry though?

Disney’s modus operandi, when it comes to hiring personnel for their big-budget projects, is to sign on actors for multiple movies. This allows them to create a string of stories that can be easily linked to one another, keeping the all important continuity in check. This is mostly a good thing for the actors they hire. Before the release of Iron Man, leading man Robert Downey Jr. was seen by many as a washed up has-been. However, the film relaunched his career making him one of the most highly-paid actors in the world.

russo brothersThe studio similarly launched the careers of Tom Hiddlestone and Chris Hemsworth, whilst keeping respected heavy-weights such as Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo relevant to the masses.

Likewise with the group of directors and writers they’ve hired, Disney have made sure to keep costs down by hiring relatively new talent to helm and scribe their pictures.

The likes of the Russo Brothers and James Gunn were given the reins to films that had over 10 times the budget of films they’d made in the past, creating the kind of fresh cinema that brought new respect to the series.

Of course, all of this comes with a critical proviso. You could argue that the combined acting talents of all these people could be put to better use, having a stab at more serious fare.

In a culture that is feeling staler by the year, how long will the big studios really be able to keep their mega-franchises running for and will we want to keep watching them?

Does Your Gallery Need A Declutter Service?

You know how it goes:

day after your exhibition opening party and the gallery is in complete disarray and you have to get everything sorted for tomorrow.

At this point you think ‘God, I should really sort this place out, there’s so much bloody clutter everywhere’ but you never get round to doing that. Well, a few London galleries have recently been employing a declutter service where an expert at organising and cleaning a space can come in and clear and organise and sort out your space. I know so many gallery runners who could really use this kind of thing quite desperately actually! messy-office-spruce-up-startup

Messy, messy, messy! Totally mental. Getting tidy isn’t easy, I know that better than anyone, but it something which has to happen and can become a habit if you cultivate it. Because this is how it is and this is how it goes!

You’ve got to get cleaner buddy, there is very little other choice for you, I mean what else can you do? If you keep your space filthy and un-organised your going to look like a big unprofessional ass hole. And you don’t want to look like that, the art world is notoriously unforgiving for ass holes…

On Returning

Return! Kthimi! (Albanian) Bueltan! (Basque) вяртанне! (Belarusian)!Bosnian povratak
Bulgarian: връщане!
Catalan: retorn!

Croatian: povratak!
Czech: zpáteční!

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Long journeys we take, and long journeys take us. Away from what is normal and customary. Toward that which can be more difficult, toward that which can be more exciting, toward the unknown.
Danish: afkast!
Dutch: terugkeer!
Estonian: tagasipöördumine!
Finnish: paluu!
French: retour!
Galician: retorno!
German: Rückkehr!
Greek: απόδοση!
Hungarian: visszatérés!
Icelandic: aftur!
Irish: ar ais!
Italian: ritorno!

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But we return and it is special. We return and it is loved. Or we return and all has changed, we return and nothing is the same, we return and we have imagined that place to where we are returning beyond all proportion. And it disappoints. And it destroys.
Latvian: atgriešanās!
Lithuanian: sugrįžimas!
Macedonian: враќање!
Maltese: ritorn!
Norwegian: retur!
Polish: powrót!
Portuguese: Retorna!
Romanian: a reveni!
Russian: вернуть!
Serbian: повратак!
Slovak: spiatočná!
Slovenian: vrnitev!
Spanish: regreso!
Swedish: retur!
Ukrainian: повернення!
Welsh: dychwelyd!
Yiddish: צוריקקומען!

But we return. For that is why we go away in the first place.

Fashion As Art

Is fashion an art form?

It’s a good question. And remember, the question is ‘Is fashion an art form?’ Not ‘Is fashion good art?’. Which means that examples of particularly awful fashion…
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… are not arguments against fashions status as an art. Because as we all know, having no sense of aesthetic beauty or cultural interest is no barrier to being art…

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…oh no. If anything it often seems like a requisite. So is fashion art? Well, yes. Clearly. Kind off, in a way. Art is just creative expression intended to be appreciated as expression. This is how I interpret and define it and I’m sure that is misguided in many ways and that there are many things which fall outside of that definition. Some things defy definition, they are left to the instinct of the observer to define and it comes down not to any perfect formulas or truths, but too arguments and ideas, intellect and experience. Sometimes, with such things, you just know it when you see it.

It is possible to read the Court’s opinion in Roth v. United States and Alberts v. California, 354 U.S. 476, in a variety of ways. In saying this, I imply no criticism of the Court, which in those cases was faced with the task of trying to define what may be indefinable. I have reached the conclusion, which I think is confirmed at least by negative implication in the Court’s decisions since Roth and Alberts, that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments criminal laws in this area are constitutionally limited to hard-core pornography. I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

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Justice Potter Stewart

Sometimes I just know it when I see it. And I see it in things like this:

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[Sienna by Siobhan Molloy]

What is especially fascinating in fashion as an art form to be studied is that it is an art form that everyone participates in, in an era where art is more and more trapped behind gallery doors and owned and produced by a self sustaining sycophantic elite.

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But everyone wears clothes, some do so creatively, some do so with little thought, but all engage in some way in an act of material self expression, and that basically is what all art art is! Material self expression. So yeah, fashion is art.

Right?

Looking At Neon

So, neon.

I recently spent a few hours wondering around a wondrous little hole out past Walthamstow called ‘God’s Own Junk Yard‘.his is a quite miraculous place run by a guy called Chris Bracy who has been creating, collecting, designing and saving various neon signs and works for over 37 years. It’s a magical and beautiful place.

“Oh what a world of pleasure and delight,

Of power, of honour, of omnipotence,

Is promised to the studious artisan”

Dr Faustus

The glow of neon is an amazing and magical thing. In general, I love the use of small glow en mass.

 

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But it is neon especially that bathes the world in such a beautiful light.

 

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If you ever get the chance to head out to God’s Own then get out there. Galleries are so freakin’ stale and set up, it is such a pleasure to go somewhere that is just a man’s dream. Or rather, a man’s dream world. It is truly beautiful. 

 

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Sitting amongst that glow, who cannot be inspired and magical. 

 

13.12.02_GODS-OWN-JUNKYARD_001-030-1Such is the power of Neon

Yeah. Know it. God’s Own Junk Yard is an art gallery in every way apart from the Art World signifiers that we ‘insiders’ so crave.

Fuck our art world. We should get back to colour.

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Source: Bad Boys Neon

Collaboration In Art: Rainer and Roth

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When you imagine an artist in your mind you do, perhaps, not imagine a group of ego-less collaborators. In art, or at least in modern western art, the idea of the ‘artist’ as the individual, and art as pure expression of the ego has been heavily prevalent for so long that collaboration is often seen as necessarily lessening the purity of vision within the work. If art is best when it is a singular vision purely realised then collaboration in vision and realisation only lessens it.

 

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When we imagine the artist as a raging egoist the idea of collaboration seems even more far fetched and ill advised. When artists are driven by an obsessiveness with their own vision and journey, why would they ever want to invite someone else in to shove their vision, perspective and practices in? It would, surely, end up in war.

 

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Artist war! Not the most deadly of wars, but conflict never the less. In some situation though such a tussle of egos is a productive aspect of the artistic process more than a reductive one. Conflict can create great art just as collaboration can. When two artist collaborate in conflict they can create. As Arnulf Rainer and Dieter Roth did:

 

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Dieter Roth, a German-Swiss artist and writer (1930-1998)  was a serial collaborator, he worked with many great artists through out his life including, when he got older, his own son Björn Roth:
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But it was his work with Dieter Roth, a self taught Austrian painter and photographer, that really took off. Working from Rainers studio in Vienna irregularly between 1972 and 1983 the two were prolific. They produced over 700 pieces of work during that period including photographs they would paint over, performance work, drawings, prints, collages and films. They had a fractious artistic relationship, as some have described it ‘more duel than duet’. Often they would make a point of this in their work, overly displaying the divide in their influence over a particular piece:

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Rainer and Roth did not work by converging their styles and combining them, but by putting them along side each other in conflict. Roths controlled and lyrical draughtsmanship with Rainers angry, tough, chaotic black marks. The two perfectly summed up the way they practised as “Misch und Trennkunst(mixed and separate art)”. Mixed and separate, untainted and unbowed, but bouncing of each other and fighting with each other, making each identity more pronounced. This is what collaboration can be.