Caroline Achaintre

Caroline Achaintre (born Toulouse, 1969) spent her formative years in Germany studying Fine Art at Kunsthochschule in Halle/Saale (1996-98), with her postgraduate Studies in Fine Art and Combined Media at Chelsea College of Art & Design, London (1998-2000) and a MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, London (2001-03). She trained as a blacksmith before coming to London, where she now lives and works. Recent solo exhibitions include those at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2016); TATE Britain, London (2015-15); Castello di Rivoli, Turin, IT (2015-16) and currently at FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Riems, FR until April 2017. Her works were also part of the recent British Art Show (2015-17). 

Achaintre spoke to us primarily regarding her work rather than a biography and began explaining the general themes behind some of her work. She began by sketching and drawing patterns that explored a form of teenage angst. This tension was expressed and enhanced by the use of ink imitating that of a Rorschach ink blot test. Along the lines of this psychological field, Achaintre wanted to operate on a larger and explore the tension of a physical presence though domestic material.

This pursuit of a domestic material to work with translated into the making of carpets. 2003 was the year of the first development of her practice that followed the use of wool in carpet making. Achaintre liked the intensity of an image consisting of individual fibres. In her words there is a “non-neutrality to the material” as well as an inner tension and torsion in the manipulation of the threads of the carpet as well as the liminal display of object and subject.

In her piece “Insider” the work inhabits both object and painting as both the mask and figure are looking in retrospectively and outward towards the world itself. For me there is a question as to whether the mask itself counts as expression of a person, or is simply a painted persona, as Achaintre mentions: a “performative character”.  There is a distinct interest in shamanism and animism as the carpets themselves often contain elements of faces or figures that walk a tight rope between living and inanimate. This is aided by the hairy and shaggy qualities to the carpet which can be seen as seductive, inviting and playful.

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“Insider”

Achaintre is interested in German expressionism and also masks and the process and performative qualities of masquerade. Often her work are attached to metal stilts, which although are polite and modernist still create their own context when introduced to masks. These masks can be considered as ceramic like carpets and, like the carpets, are something that she has never done. In terms of process Archaintre enjoys starting from something flat and trying to make it 3D with a presence and a voice.

One of her works feature a mask with a ceramic feature attached onto the mask itself. Here, there is a fetish-like element to the piece that, once the ceramic is displayed with the mask, becomes a character. There is also a keen interest in Anthropomorphy and the perception of humanity in animate objects. Achaintre claims to see human features in handbags all the time.  this habit creates and animistic habit in which objects and people co-exist and live and communicate together. This can be traced in her clay workings from which a slab of malleable clay can appear to change shape once looked away from for a brief moment.

Birdsssss is the only piece by Achaintre that is suspended and she states that it probably the only piece that ever will be. There is a definite Animist feature to the work due to the  tension and ambiguity of deducing if the bird is rising or landing. this tension is especially poignant to me as the bird itself is caught in suspended animation which is further highlighted by the object/subject debate related to the material itself. This idea of tension in material, form and perception is very intriguing as I do feel her pieces are full of vibrancy and life despite the fact that on face value they are carpets.

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“Birdsssss”

Camp Coo is described as a post modern annex by Achaintre, where plinths to display here ceramic pieces slot together like Tetris. There is another dialogue between these characters and the hollowness and fullness with their combination with the space.  In terms of process, Achaintres carpets are not woven but tufted: the canvas is stretched and shoots of wool are “tufted” back to front from the canvas. Archaintre calls this, painting with wool which I feel is a great description of her practice; merging both disciplines of traditional art and skilled crafting into a very unique and inclusive practice. Nevertheless, Achaintre always sees herself as an artist and tries not to define herself  in general.

Achaintre’s work is often described as both ancient and modern at the same time having an archaic, distressed presence. There is something quite humorous yet apt to her work that often when thinking about the future it can be imagined that humanity has “advanced” yet potentially could also “revert” back to a primitive state. The use of tensions such as these encapsulate the environment of her work exceedingly well. Achaintre never ceases to be surprised by how display changes her pieces this is especially true when her pieces get transferred into photographs. She describes them as “flattened” and I believe that only in full presence of the work is the real character is able to be experienced and introduced (although it is undeniable that traces of these characters can be met in the pictures).

When asked about sourcing materials, Achaintre explained to us that she doesn’t dye the wool herself but that she likes to work within certain limitations so that some of the choices when it comes to her process are taken away from her. Early on to the development of her carpet pieces she decided that irregular shapes, instead of symmetrical pieces, were going to act as the base to her work as symmetry is boring and with such vibrancy and diversity to her pieces, they must be considered anything but that.

Website address: http://carolineachaintre.com/

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Caspar Heinemann

“Caspar Heinemann is an artist, poet and twinky butch anarcho-communist mystic based in Berlin. Their interests include critical occultism, gay biosemiotics, and countercultural mythology. Recent events include readings at the Baltic Triennial, Serpentine Miracle Marathon, Basis voor Actuele Kunst, Utrecht, and the ICA, London. They have recently exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, David Roberts Art Foundation, London, and Outpost Gallery, Norwich.”

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Caspar Heinemann

Caspar introduces the talk by stating that they are in the midst of a mental breakdown. Although this has not been clinically diagnosed their current mental health, travel, the state of the world and a recent health scare take part in their current work.  They wish to talk about how their art operates in the art world in a setting they think, personally, should not exist. What resonated with me was how Heinemann explained that in order to pursue art there is a real focus on production; where their work itself is transient, untethered and – often – not physical. Heinemann states that their personal biography is not relevant to their own practice at this current moment and would rather like to discuss their current influences and spoken/poetry pieces within the current art world setting.

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A phrase that struck with me throughout the talk is that there is a:

“Need [to be] bloody and raw. To know how to be a body.”

specifically that there is a necessity to be uncomfortable in order to experience what it is truly meant to be alive.

I particularly enjoyed a specific spoken word piece that (to paraphrase) included the term: “Reading novels and fucking is the greatest ambition.” There is something wholesome to think that ambition is only important once you feel truly content and fulfilled. Some heights do not need to be reached to complete a purpose and feel stable in oneself.

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Heinemann began to describe how there is a quote that they have pinned upon their desk by Lisa Robertson taken from her piece “The Middle”. The stanza that the line was taken from goes as follows:

Minute perceptions speeding along a dirty surface
will say something else about the way
every pronoun is absurd.
One puts up her hair—
she makes sound
to treasure her body’s
unsynthesizable remnant
then the city can dissolve
in the scale of her accident.
And if I think in these letters
to substitute, to distribute, to fuck
universe of the undiscussed
as in myth and ritual and politics
this is a very old tradition.
Because of the fact of the structure of the human mouth
the festival of idleness is speaking in signs through my body.
I do this because it’s valueless.*

*italics added for emphasis

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As their practice is often based around the spoken word and what seems to be the very private thoughts of the artist, the art itself is not deemed as sell-able. In the same sense, the transience of each piece is what prescribes it value.

Heinemann briefly discussed the practicality of working as an artist. They talked about how they were able so sustain their practice and their living costs. Heinemann takes part in a plethora of activities to enable them to continue working. These involve Poetry readings, transcribing interviews, living in a relatively cheaper city and knowing that they are able to ask for help from their parents if they would ever need to. In revealing this information they hope to start a dialogue regarding the art world and money where there has previously been little transparency.

Heinemann describes how they have an uncompromising aesthetic position when it comes to their work. They enjoy the fact that it is often seen as dirty and often falls apart and so is consequently not sold. They envision a time in which everyone can be considered an artist while simultaneously not being anything like one at all.

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Heinemann has a real focus on the emphasis of desire and consumption rather than production. They hope to adapt and manipulate the functional everyday objects and make them as opulent as they need to be.

A quote by Marx was featured in the talk:

”The less you eat, drink and read books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public-house; the less you think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save — the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor dust will devour: your capital. The less you are, the more you have. . . .”

It was interesting to consider that (disregarding money) that a person is their most valuable at their basest function.

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An influence and personal friend to Heinemann is C A Conrad whose process included them writing a ritual for himself in which he partakes in the ritual, takes notes during it, then makes it into poems.

A phrase that was spoken in the talk that I found powerful was that “Survival is more than the day to day maintenance of a body.” We must remember to do more than simply sustain ourselves in order live up to our true potential.

There was then a brief discussion of the relationship between Heinemann and their artwork in terms of installation. They state that they are “building many crushable things and decorating them so very well”, embracing the delicate and impermanent nature of their work.

When writing their poetry and other spoken word pieces, Heinemann describes how they carry a notebook and write their thoughts directly. From there, they add and edit from their writing and what remains is the final written product.

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Currently they are interested in ideas of the occult, materiality, and animism. They are particularly focused on the emotional and spiritual effect of these outcomes.

When questioned about the relationship between their spoken pieces and physical installation pieces and how one informs the other, Heinemann explained how object making creates a space outside of writing. It is a symbiotic relationship: they are both integral to each other.

Wendy Mclean

Wendy Mclean specialises in small, quiet paintings. With these paintings she explores how they inhabit a space. The work focuses on the ideas of how intertwining work are articulated differently. She focuses on many paintings at the same time which centers around her daily practice. Shes doesn’t feel pressurised in this space but settled in her surroundings that prompt an exploration of the particular architectural forms in her setting e.g glass in a window, a railing etc.  Her work often explores the tensions of a passage of writing or words. Repetition of her small paintings allows her to slow down and, at once, speed up making. She feels that it is important not to accept the first version  of a piece of work and to exhaust each motif thoroughly.

In terms of process, Mclean often makes an ode to one of her previous works, but not intentionally. She finds that it takes at least 10 minutes to become relaxed enough to actually produce work. She must overtake the thinking in the process of making and live with things for a while. She stated that it takes 10-20 times to get to know something.

She talked about a set of work that tried to give permission and allow for contradictions. A painting could look like one thing and in its next evolution, inhabit what it seems to go against in its initial phase. Mclean also tests paintings against the memory of object – drawing its focus and holding its attention.

Beyond the hand holding this book that I’m reading, I see another hand lying idle and slightly out of focus – my extra hand.”

This is a quote By Lydia Davis that was especially influential for the artist and I enjoy how Davis draws attention to the previously unnoticed, similarly to Mclean’s tender and understated paintings

When starting and finishing a painting, Mclean recognises her habits and strives to break them. The thin cotton casts a shadow of the frame that confirms that the canvas doesn’t want heavy treatment. The wooden panels have very little grain and highlights the subtlety of not only her work, but her materials as well. Additionally, small works are also completed on paper, creating a small, archival library of paintings. These are not subservient to her weightier objects nor is their scale limited by size.

Mclean is also interested in storytelling. One narrative she recounted was of a mother fascinated  by an event out of her window. There is a significance in the barrier that the window provides, whilst being completely transparent.

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Rehana Zaman

is an artist based in London working with moving image and performance. Her work considers the interplay of multiple social dynamics that constitute subjects along particular socio-political formations. These narrative based artworks, often deadpan and neurotic, are frequently generated through conversation and collaboration with others.”

Zaman explains that in the last 3 years quite distinct themes reoccur in her work. She showed us a tenderpixel video piece entitled “TELL ME THE STORY OF ALL THESE THINGS” which was an intimate snapshot into world of Farrah and her aspirations. She was born in Pakistan but lived most of her life in the UK. What was anchored into the piece was appropriated material from educational “prevent” government schemes. CGI animation was also interjected. Zaman explored a woman coded as Muslim and the instability assembling and disassembling with her trying to remain individual and navigate the world.

Zaman later showed us a piece developed in 2015-16 which was initially 22 minutes which she had shortened to a 7 min clip. There was a succession of female narrators which were made up and some scripted. Beauty salon scenes interrupted the video. It took the form of an audition tape where Zaman invited actors to read a text prepared that responded to devised questions. The idea behind this was the testimony and the sharing of accounts. The scripts were a culmination of experiences Zaman had.

Zaman then showed an early show from the first film. GIANTESS is multiscreen work which featured crude fetish animations. The body of the giantess emerges from a mining site and her developing precursor figure appears later. 

3 years ago was a strong turning point in Zaman’s work. A film she devised was ambitious in scale as it was a 6 part video 2004 at the tetley gallery. It tracked the earlier moments in the history of the brewery that explored parallel narratives. The workers narratives acted as a dramatization which explored a working class identity. It also explored themes of Immigration and women’s roles. Conversations of domestic workers  were interjected with drama and initially it was not clear how the immigration groups’ involvement in the film would be. They discussed what needs would be a campaign issue and how to raise awareness. The film sought to put questions on the table. The film emerged from the process of the continued work within the group. What was a running thread within the Melodrama was the character of Sue as everyone gets laid off apart from Sue which Zaman described as her smashing through the glass ceiling. She later becomes pregnant which describes that the moment feminism was achieved, labour is unrecognised in the home and gets outsourced. 

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White Pube

White Pube stemmed from the experiences of the duo when confronted with a formal art review compared to what friends have recommended regarding art shows. They questioned the star rating system that existed in countless reviewed and to what extent they held meaning. White Pube sought to provide more honest reviews, free from academic authority. They replaced the conventional star rating with emojis that changed for each review, making it more personalized while subverting what was deemed as normal. Artist Jesse Darling commented that the review White Pube made regarding her work was:

“not facetious or ironic, this might b the harshest most true review bc @thewhitepube channels somatic currents not jus fuxxin w dyscourse”

Comments such as these are not uncommon for White Pube which depicts just how appreciated and need they are in the art world, almost acting as mediator between artist (through text) and critics themselves. They said that often they do not research the artists before attending exhibitions, nor do they read the text that is so commonly found next to exhibitions and installations, instead they approach the work only through their own interpretation allowing for the most purity of thought.

White Pube began to meet fans or people interested in their work process in what they call “Anti-networking”. This has recently become a way of interacting with their fans as well as breaching the disconnect normally seen between author and reader.

What was especially interesting was the fact that White Pube broke down their expenses and cost of working/travelling to different events and exhibitions. They stated that they are fascinated by money because no one talks about it. This really put into perspective the reality of working as an artist or to something of similar effect.

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Joey Holder

To start Holder showed us a video where research, images and work were displayed on her website.these, along with screengrabs played throughout the talk. This continual flow mirrored continually transforming nature of Holder’s work. Joey Holder describes herself as a Multimedia artist and the essence of her work acts as a constellatory network.

Holder is influenced by Network theory and Complexity theory which diverge from our mutating reality. Shd focuses in the contrast and entangldment of the Organic and the manmade.

Holder is interested in the systems of language communicated in the world around us. Her work features clips of sea creatures with diagramatic things overlayed to breach the gap between nature and the analytical. What I hadn’t considered is the organisational system that exists within world. The example Holder gave was that our eyes have 100 million detectors in the retina but only 1 million go to brain which is where reduction light patterns happens and  categorisation occurs.

Hydrozoan was birthed from a residency with The Internet of Growing Things which introduced Holder to working with scientists. She began researching new farming methods into the idea of how humanity feels the need to control nature.

Biostat – explores the digitisation of bodies and the collection of data that exists online of peoples’ genetic data. This biological information will, no doubt, have considerable value in the future.

Other influences of Holder science include The Cosmic Serpent DNA, The Origin of Knowledge, Shamanism and molecular biology. 

A Solo show Holder created was a Sci-Fi style medical room. She created things such as a genetic sequencing machine. At one point she considered creating apps analysing genetic data to work alongside this piece. For the show she made up a pharmaceutical company namss Ophiux that had dark untertones, as she mentioned, like the Illuminati. Here, she hoped to comment on the speculation as to what a large company can do under such grand claims that they make.

Paul Clinton

“Paul Clinton is a writer, curator and is the associate editor of the magazines frieze and Frieze Masters. He has taught seminars on art, stupidity and queer theory at Goldsmiths College and the University of Manchester. In 2013 he edited a special issue of the philosophy and critical theory journal parallax on stupidity, and in 2014 the South London Gallery staged a day-long event around his research on this subject. In the same year he organised the conference Shimmering World, which featured presentations by artists Ed Atkins, David Panos and Hannah Sawtell. In 2015 he co-curated the exhibition ‘duh? Art & Stupidity’ at Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, and in 2016 he co-edited a special issue of frieze devoted to class politics, which lead to a study day on the subject at the Royal College of Art, London, co-hosted with Nina Power.  Recent articles include on the queer sociologist Didier Eribon, the artist Gustav Metzger and on the queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Previous speaking engagements have taken place at the Frieze Art Fair, ICA, Tate Modern, Whitstable Biennale and Whitechapel Gallery, amongst other venues. He was also a founding member of the band No Bra, co-writing several songs on the album Dance and Walk, and with Patrick Wolf he formed the band Maison Crimenaux.”

Paul Clinton acts primarily as a writer and a curator bu has participated in a range of projects. He initially started in bands and formed the group ‘Maison Crimeneaux’ with Patrick Wolf which satirized figures around them. His most notable band was titled ‘No Bra’ whose most popular song entitled ‘Munchausen’ tackled pretentiousness and the process of showing off that at once depicted superior knowledge as well as revealing an insecurity and the need to be accepted. ‘Munchausen’  acted as a kind of delusion yet the band itself was included in this parody as they themselves acted as the voices in the song.

Clinton showed us his work entitled ‘Inches’  (2001)  a short film that was created collaboratively with Susan Oberbeck. Clinton described that the work lacked ‘subtlety’ and a clear plot line. He was influenced by the Cinema of Transgression whose films were often shoddily produced and the explicit aim was to question social norms and to offend. Clinton told us that he was suspicious of the idea of transgression and subversion and his influences include Richard Kern ‘You Killed Me First’, 1985 and Jonathan Dollimore who focuses on containment and subversion. An interesting comment that Clinton made was that often, through protest we are defined by the thing we are trying to resist.

Other influences to Clinton include George and Mike Kuchar and the band Throbbing Gristle in which their industrial music fit into a certain genre yet subverted the norm due to the fact that sinister undertones were often present.

During the end of the talk Clinton ran out of time but tried to tackle topics that he has worked on such as Queer Stupidity. I didn’t quite grasp some of the concepts discussed but it seems very in depth and would be interesting if more time was assigned.

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