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Seminars

Probably the most interesting set of lectures I have attended at ECA, the only thing I was slightly disappointed with was that the ‘Ruin’ lecture happened after our seminars finished. I felt a bit outside my comfort zone in relation to some of the other topics but these lectures were great at making you really examine even the smallest details of our own culture and how we respond to it. The idea of the washing machine is a prime example of this, as Angela stated in the lecture the placement of the washing machine inside the kitchen can be perceived as being odd and different since in American culture the washing machine is placed outside the kitchen, separating the two forms of waste or dirt. Simple things like this never struck me as being cultural but obviously they are. The seminar readings were particularly interesting, the notion of commodities and how something goes through the processes of commoditization, decommoditization and recommoditization is fascinating. There isn’t much or anything that does not have the potential to have an exchange value. The part I struggled with the most in these seminars is how to relate the anthropological aspects to art in general. Eventually I began separating it out, and relating it directly not to my art but to the subject matters I use.

The commodity aspect made me look at the Genocide Museum differently. This structure houses the painfully memories of the nation but it is also a tourist attraction, a commodity for locals and global tourists alike. I understand the need for tourism in Cambodia since it is a huge part of the national income. This directed me to the ideas of dark tourism which is visible in Europe as well, locations like Auschwitz   and Dacau are both examples of this phenomenon.

Another huge influence on my reading of my subject matter was the amount we discussed power and power relations. This was evident in the anthropology documentary about the tribe in Papua New Guinea preparing the gift for another tribe leader. The task of preparing the gift was given to one man, he was in charge. However it was the rest of the tribe and his wife’s who had to prepare the gift and he oversaw the whole affair. However he said himself that he had to persuade the people of the tribe to do their duties. He did not have a totalitarian authority so then comes into question the ideas of power. Does he have the power or does the power lie with the tribe, since without the tribe he has nothing so can we say that he really has power in this situation?

This really got me thinking about the ideas of power that lie within architecture, the Panopticon is a prime example of architecture constructed with control in mind. A prison structure built in a cylindrical fashion with a tower in the centre. The tower in the centre works as a watch tower with all the cells facing it. The guards are hidden for view so the inmates never know if they are being watched so they must behave as though they are always being watched. This control over the inmate can only be made present with the belief of continuous surveillance.

Panopticon

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It’s always nerve racking doing a presentation, even if it is just a ten minute one. However, during the time I was preparing this presentation I had an ethical dilemma about the subject matter. The task was to present our topic for our individual essay’s and I have elected to write about the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and its 3 identities. Throughout my research I have been confronted by horrific tails of human cruelty and some very vivid re-enactments and renditions, this left me with worries of whether or not it is my place, or if I have the right to discuss this subject. After rethinking my approach and the realisation that looking at this structure from a western perspective could be beneficial I decided to press on with it.

A plain reading of the history of S-21 is not what I feel is necessary, instead I have decided to look at the manifestations of power within the walls and the power the structure holds now. This will be done in relation to the power structures discussed by Foucault.

The structure has moved seamlessly from a school to a prison to a museum, all of which have got structures of power within them.

The school had western traces already built into it since the education system was a surviving element of the French occupation so it wouldn’t be hard to find traces of the Foucault’s Power/Knowledge ideas implemented within its walls. The school could be seen as a micro centre for control, instead of consolidating all control into a central body, it was individually implemented across different systems, the schools, prisons, barracks and hospitals. The control in these micro-systems allow the image of power to be separated and distributed across smaller groups.

The notion of education hit a reversal point in 1975, with the introduction of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s decision to impose the agrarian society. With the beginning of “year 0” all elements of Cambodian history and culture was to be erased. The power spread across the micro-centres was removed and consolidated into one central point. The first stage of this structures transformation began with the hollowing out of its occupants. The people first and then the interiors with few exceptions. This structure had lost the power imposed on it and now faced a form of punishment for having that power in the first place. It was mutilated to fit its new purpose as a prison.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This is the identity that I experienced and as the name suggests this object now has museum status. It does however have two other functions, one as a memorial and another as a site of performance.

Museums implement the same form of control you’d expect in many micro-centres of power, the interior establishment expects certain behaviours from visitors and implements them with surveillance and other measures.  We also frame them as institutions with our own expectations. Coming from a western society I have certain expectations to what a museum is and how I am expected to behave within them.

This is a bare-bones synopsis of what I am interested in writing about, I know I need to expand on the Foucauldian notions of power and also the agencies that have used the power within this structure, but this will come in due course.

I will be looking to expand on these ideas and will publish the finished result on this blog

Brad Troemel’s article which calls for a new form of distribution for art is an interesting concept. Turning to the internet to reach a larger audience. However the notion of ‘free art’ means exactly that, giving it away for free online. I can understand the thinking of this, he argues that art as a commodity is a secondary attribute and the exchange of knowledge is the primary. It is extremely competitive in the art world especially with hundreds of art graduates getting added to the mix every year in Scotland. This has allowed galleries and arts organisation to ask for volunteer labour, making this one of the few professions that expects you to work for free. Its quite hard to take this on bored when you invest so much time and effort into your practice to be told that you won’t be reimbursed or even paid., Right now I am paying huge amounts of money for an MFA degree without any form of security for when I leave. This is a labour of love but it is still a form of labour, yet its an unpaid one.

An interesting Seminar, discussing the projects undertaken by Gavin Wade and Celine Condorelli as Support Structures. The discussion lead more to the aspect of success and what constitutes success. However before divulging to far into that aspect I’ve added a link to the website, which has some great insight into the projects they developed:

Support Structures

The main question that arose about Support Structures was how successful was this project? but how do we measure success? Is success to do with the amount of people take part or visit? Its made me think of how I measure success when it comes to showing my own work.  I’ve always considered a show successful when its had a large amount traffic, exposing my work to a lot of people. However this hasn’t particularly effected my career. I am still in the same position I’ve been in for years. So perhaps it hasn’t been seen by the right people to further my career but I do hope that my work has had a positive effect on the people who have seen it.

This post has been annoying me for weeks, sitting my drafts because I don’t know what to do with it so I may as well just get it out there.

Adaptation, translation, transmission, assemblage, replication, reenactment and contamination.

What artist wouldn’t want a factory of workers helping to create your work with only you being recognised as  the soul author of the work. My tutor made an interesting comparison with the connection this method has with that of the old renaissance artists having apprentices. The only problem I would say I have with that is the direction of knowledge, in that relationship it is passed down in a one way system, Eliasson needs a two way system, hes creating ideas (like most of us) and needs help from professionals to produce them, to see whats possible. When your working in the realm of contemporary art then its necessary to seek out help. In my practice I jump from material to material with no prior knowledge of how to use it. I need to learn and the best way to learn is from someone who knows how to use these materials. This is my basic opinion on his situation as an artist but there is obviously more at work. He’s obviously turned the production of art into a business and his studio looks less like a factory and more like an office/studio structure.

So really the best comparison I can make with Eliasson isn’t with the old ways with renaissance apprenticeship but rather a comparison with the film industry. A director can’t make a film on his own, he needs all the help he can get from the people with the right skills. However it then all comes down to credits, and I quite liked this quote from a frieze art talk which I’ve linked to at the bottom. It’s not particularly relevant but its interesting none the less

“There is certainly too many people credited within the credits and that just discredits the whole thing”

I’m not a flopper

Renzo Martens, Enjoy Poverty.

This post follows a previous one where I struggled with the idea of using certain locations as subject matter in my work.

As part of the seminars I had to interview a person pretending to be Renzo Martens. A fun exercise which lead me to some realizations. Firstly it isn’t possible to just explain away your work as just being art, its becoming more and more apparent that art has to be more conscious in what it does and you do have to explain your work in other contexts and fields such as sociology. Also who has the right to make work about certain subjects. I’ve been producing beds, model beds. These are only around 24cm at there longest edge, small objects but they do carry a lot of weight. They are replicas of beds used to torture prisoners in the era of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. I have been trying to combine them with another structure I found in Leith which I have been finding difficult to do. They are strong objects in there own right and I feel it degrades them to place them in this other structure especially after this task with Renzo Martens. Who has the right to use, not another countries, but another peoples history. I’ve been told of outrage in Ireland relating to a similar situation. the Art was made about a very personal history by an outsider, is it morally right to do this or is it not his place. In that particular case I was informed the show was indeed powerful and extremely impressive. I feel to work with this subject matter I can’t just throw these two places together without just cause, or at least more consideration. Perhaps next semester I will have a better understanding of where to take this project.

I surprisingly found this quite relatable to my practice. The notion of “Thick things” and “thin objects” is a variation on what I feel I try to make with my architectural sculptures.

I’m referring here to an article I had to read for a seminar relating to adaptation. this was probably the first article I needed to read for the seminars that really felt it could be connected with my work. So much so I went looking for some other sources within the text to explore a little deeper. Instead of this post relating entirely on the text I want to use it to explore briefly the connections I found with my work.

A term connected with materialism… reductionism. I found this out while exploring blogs and articles connected to the phenomenon of materialism. I try to produce accurate works which depict the histories and memories that are contained within the built environment. With in particular structures.
I try to produce ‘thick thins’, I try and provide as much information about a structure as I can to the viewer. It’s very difficult to do this considering the element of time as well. I’m producing a static piece, this can’t show a lifetime of movement but only the result of a lifetime of movement. So in a way my work can be seen as a form of reductionism, well in relation to time. Although since time is a social construct and the notion of the singular moment then perhaps I can in a way encapsulate the “thick thin”  instead of a ‘thin object’. It’s difficult to say with only reflecting on previous work. My current practice that I’m developing at ECA has split my thought process a bit and I’m going down related avenues but I feel its still connected to materialism, after all the basic connection of ‘material’ is a large part of my process of working.