Jeff Koons

Switzerland Exhibition

Jeff Koons is known for his work which references popular culture and his reproductions of banal objects. What I found interesting about Koons’ work is the way he manipulates size in his “Banality” series. By increasing the scale of kitsch ornaments that would typically be found in a gift shop, these objects are defamiliarised and given a new context when situated in a gallery or within a similar space.

 

“I realised that people respond to banal things; they don’t accept their own history; not participating in acceptance within their own being “

 

 

The questions arisen by this unoriginality is part;y something our collaborative work is concerned with: when is re-purposing art or simply recycling? The series was very controversial simply in the acceptance of it as art, as well as the copyright infringement that arose from this re-purposing of pre-existing objects. What was also fascinating was the transference of these objects into a space that was previously not inclusive to them. Ellie and I are interested in the space these objects inhabit, choosing to hang them so the audience is confronted with what they have neglected, so it is engaging to see how Koons has conveyed this message in a different way, choosing to manipulate size to reiterate the lack of space the objects were resigned to before.

 

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Haim Steinbach

Steinbach’s art centers around the arrangement and selection of everyday objects. In order to highlight these objects, he has been creating structures and framing devices in order to present them. The range of objects he has present included: the everyday, the natural, the ethnographic etc. By placing them in an artistic setting, meaning is assigned to their existence and an identity is created. This is a similar idea to what myself and Ellie hope to pursue. Through the display and installation of these objects and his framing devices, Steinbach explores what it means for things to appear aesthetic, to hold psychological meaning and what makes things possess a certain cultural or historical relevancy.

 

 

Steinbach’s art has been associated with Simulationism the belief that the world is part of a simulation. This stems from the idea that humans are becoming more capable of creating a virtual world with sentient beings, it could be possible that we are living in a simulation created by similar intelligent beings. Because this world could be false and is only one surface of a true reality people might as well have fun with it. Neo-geometric conceptualism is also an influence of Steinbach. This movement stems from minimalism, pop art and op art using these movements to criticise ‘geometricisation of modern life’ French thinker Jean Baudrillard is also a strong influence to the movement.

 

 

Steinbach’s work fits into this movement through his inclusion of consumer objects and his precise composition in the installation of these objects. Through the use of objects, he has also been associated with Duchamp and his “Readymades”. Steinbach’s art not only relates to the presentation of the objects but the contemporary consumer culture and what within ourselves forms attachments towards these objects.

 

 

Ed Ruscha

Ed Ruscha is an American artist associated with the pop art movement and has worked in the media of printmaking, painting,  photography, drawing and film. Ruscha is known for his paintings that include words and phrases influenced by the irreverence of Pop Art as a movement.

“Art has to be something that makes you scratch your head”

As Ruscha is interested in typography, these became his primary subject for his work. A lot of the time his word paintings allude to some part of life in L.A in a sense, they become a reflection of a place and time. Apparently, when asked where his inspiration came from  Ruscha stated:

“Well, they just occur to me; sometimes people say them and I write down and then I paint them. Sometimes I use a dictionary.”

The Music from the Balconies 1984 by Edward Ruscha born 1937

As well as painting in a more traditional sense, Ruscha has also used more elemental materials such as water and gunpowder as a method of writing. In this way, his work feels temporal, fleeting and intangible. The words cannot be grasped or kept the only relic left would be the marks made on the page or the documentation left behind of the work. Paper is also used in some of his work taking the form of the words themselves. The paper is not fixed to the page, and becomes similarly transient as his water and gunpowder works.

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As well as using existing typography within his work, he also created his own font named “Boy Scout Utility Modern” where curved letters are squared-off. Not only is Ruscha utilising available typography but he is also restructuring the use of text in his practice from the ground up. This enables a full ownership of the words that seem to subvert the usual traditions of language. words strung in a sentence do not always need to make sense within or outside of a context. Ruscha is further enabled to create his own rules and regulations by abandoning traditional form whether it be by language itself, or the method in which text is transferred to a page/canvas.

Born in Flames

Today we watched “Born in Flames” by Lizzie Borden a documentary style film which tackled themes such as racism and sexism in an alternative United States socialist democracy in 1983.

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The plot concerns two feminist groups, each based in New York, speaking their concerns to the public through illegal radio stations. One is led by an outspoken white lesbian named Isabel (operating radio Ragazza) and the other group is led by Honey, an African American (operating Phoenix radio). Once a well-known political activist called Adelaide Norris is arrested and consequently dies under suspicious circumstances the community is drawn to action. At the same time, The Women’s Army led by Hilary Hurst are under investigation by the FBI following their feminist actions regarding protest due to lack of work, and ultimately respect, in society.

As a whole, the story involves the perspectives of several other women coming together and choosing to work separately in the face of extreme sexism. The main focus appears to be that action is key rather then discussion and hesitation. Additionally, the unity of women is stressed throughout in the hope of a cohesive moment inevitably toppling the sexism that so prominently exists around them.

The women come to realise that the weight of change rests solely on their shoulders as it becomes clear the government will do nothing to help. This form of unity is gradually referred to as terrorism yet is still undercut by sexist comments despite this label. For example, a news reporter hints that perhaps the police are searching for their phone numbers in an unprofessional manner.

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Ultimately, both radio stations are burned down (again in suspicious circumstances) and the two stations (Ragazza and Phoenix) collaborate as one radio broadcasting station operating from moving vans. They also join The Women’s Army which send a group of Feminist Terrorists to interrupt a broadcast of the President proposing woman should be paid in their completion of housework. This is followed by bombing the antenna of the World Trade Center as a preventative method to stop such other destructive messaged being relayed to the public.

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I found this film very empowering especially considering the strength possessed by these women to fight for their cause. One scene I felt was especially powerful was when a woman was being harassed on the street by two men to the point she was struggling on the floor and a large group of The Women’s Army came to her rescue on bikes blowing on whistles. What was especially interesting to me was the scream the woman was making echoed the sound of the whistles themselves. This could perhaps refer to the fact that in the yes of the film, it is truly up to women to rescue themselves from complete subservience. Although this film was produced in 1983 it is interesting, and also horrendous, that it holds so much relevancy to today.

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Cornelia Parker

Since visiting Cornelia Parker briefly last term, we felt her mode of display and installation was again relevant to our own work. We particularly enjoyed the way in which she hangs her objects as often environments are created and the objects inhabit a space that would not normally be available to them. Examples as follows:

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Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991 by Cornelia Parker born 1956

Thirty Pieces of Silver 1988-9 by Cornelia Parker born 1956

What struck me was the use of space, the objects are not placed on top or beneath anything, rather, they are suspended. They are perfectly valid one their own without support. This form of suspension is what I hope to emulate in our work. In suspending our found objects the audience are forced to confront the abandonment of the objects in a space they cannot ignore. Not only are we celebrating their existence and history, but also acknowledging their forgotten beauty.

 

Gleaning for Objects

Myself and Ellie decided to go to a local charity shop to find pieces for our found object installation. This spot is particularly popular with art students as it isn’t set up like a traditional charity shop. Instead, objects and other things are stacked in cabinets, boxes, shelves with little order to them. There are no prices pasted on the things found there and little categorisation of the objects themselves. What interested Ellie and I about charity shops is the tension between the objects being discarded and also donated. They are deemed as worthy and unworthy all at once as they have not been thrown away, yet they have not been claimed either.

What we were looking for in the objects we gleaned was some indication that the objects have had their past life imprinted upon them. We really tried to hunt for objects that serve as relic to a life, that have memory to their experiences of simply existing. Here are the objects we had found:

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My personal favourite objects we found are the bent knife, butter dish, and cassette tape. None of these objects are altered at all and I found the “defects” of this items particularly intriguing. The bent knife possesses some ironic humour, subverting the function of cutting in a straight line. Additionally, the rainbow tarnishes on the butter dish at once seem entirely out of place, yet uniquely beautiful. In terms of the cassette there is something nostalgic about the obsolete technology and intensely personal that the track list has been written by hand neatly and with care.

Found Objects

Working with the “Things That Matter” project, Ellie and I decided (Hazel is working in another external project next term so we won’t be able to collaborate in the same way) that we would like to work with found objects. This mainly stemmed from our work in Ciara’s “Landscape and Memory” module where we studied Agnes Varda’s “The Gleaners and I”. From this film we were especially interested in the animist theme in her work: the fact that disregarded objects can still have a life, past memory and can be appreciated despite their abandonment. The variety of things that were gleaned and to what purpose were also interesting to us. In a rural setting, homeless or poor people would glean the local potato fields to collect the rejected crop left by the industry. In the urban setting, markets are gleaned for produce and appliances are gleaned from the streets. Artists also make use of this tradition, gleaning materials for their practices.

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We considered other object based practices such as the OG ready made artist Duchamp. We found that his concept that objects can be altered only slightly and can still be regarded as art particularly interesting. He chose mass-produced, commercial objects and dubbed them “Readymades” subverting the preconceived notion that artists are skilled creators of original pieces. Duchamp stated that: “An ordinary object [could be] elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.”

Duchamp’s “Readymades” also undercut the notion that all art must be beautiful. He stated that he chose everyday objects “based on a reaction of visual indifference, with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste….”. In doing this, Duchamp initiated the Conceptual art movement, work that is “in the service of the mind,” then to a purely “retinal” art aesthetic.

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Fountain 1917, replica 1964 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968