Thursday, 22 July 2010

Embracing the installation

We had predicted that there may be some resistance to Tomoko Takahashi's exhibition here at the DLWP but it does not appear to have materialized. We underestimated the receptiveness of our audience. After the intial shock of encountering what looks like a pile of rubbish in Gallery 1 people are really appreciating the meticulous nature of the installation. There's an element of nostalgia in the work as well - almost everyone recognizes an object that they have owned or known at some point in their lives and this gives them a way into understanding Tomoko's approach. The objects contained within the 'Clockwork' installation are from the domestic world but perhaps the 'hidden' domestic world of sheds and undersink cupboards. I think that because these objects have been forgotten they are imbued with a life of their own. Tomoko loves this and communicates this enjoyment to us all through her art.

Oh - and we've had 20,000 visitors so far!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

18/07/10 Bern O'Donoghue

Today Collector's Corner was fortunate to have Geoff Dudman and his display of beautiful oriental rugs and bags at the rear end of the gallery. There was a steady stream of visitors and it was difficult not to stroke the carpets admiringly as he shared his knowledge of their tribal significance, along with impact that the political history of the area has had on their production and survival. People were also interested in more practical issues such as who made the rugs, how they were used, dyeing techniques and the meanings of motifs and patterns. Several people shared their own stories about rugs or textiles they owned, including one visitor who had seen hers being made in India by a young boy under the tutelage of his grandfather. The old man remembered the pattern and passed on the skills entirely word of mouth, much as Geoff described the skills being passed on by the women of the Baluchi.

The exhibition has made me take stock and think about why I personally keep so much stuff, some of it long after it has served its purpose. I wanted to explore if and why other people do this, so took in wrapped 'useless' objects from my studio to exchange with willing visitors. I saw Jill and her husband looking at Desk Top Garden Culture as I was setting up. They confessed that they also found it difficult to decide when to throw things away. When asked if they had a garden shed in which to hide clutter, they said that their garage served that function, so much so there was no room for the car. Jill regretted not keeping some music memorabilia from her youth as it would now be worth a great deal of money, while her husband and I mused on the difficulty in discarding possessions He felt that he was editing himself when he threw things away and that maybe another person needs to do it for him, as they would be less affected by an objects history or emotional attachment. Before moving on he told me: "Things that outlive their usefulness don't outlive their usefulness" citing the example of letters he keeps which his parents sent to each other when they first met.

When Frankie opened one of the brown paper parcels and discovered a pretty ink well (which was a gift from a friend now living in New Zealand) she was surprised it was to be given away. Though a lovely to look at, it is impractical and so I want to pass it on. Frankie suggested that it might serve as a keepsake. We talked about keeping things to remind us of our friends, but how sometimes although they are a reminder, when we still don't keep in touch, the object then becomes loaded with guilt and getting rid of it impossible.

Simon from Brighton found a cup and saucer which I had reluctantly housed because the previous owner found it too difficult to give to the charity shop; a remnant from a deceased parent's house. S imon felt compelled to give it a home because he found the story so touching, although having picked it up in the exhibition, he saw a change in function from cup to a piece of art. Simon described himself as collector of several things and has recently been buying toys he played with as a child. He saw this as 'collecting his own past' though he could never get as close as he wished. It felt like he was only able to catch an echo. He wondered what might happen if he managed to buy the very last toy on his list — would he drop dead?

Eerika looked a little disappointed with the nearly dried up tubes of paint she had chosen and confessed that she also hoards things because it seems wrong to throw them in the bin. This she puts down to the influence of her grandmother, whose wartime experiences make it very difficult to throw away containers or small scraps, just in case they prove useful. I took pity on her and offered to throw them in the bin on my way home.

Many thanks to Geoff and Sue Dudman and all those who took the time to talk.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Forthcoming exhibition announced

Myth, Manners and Memory: Photographers of the American South
October 2010 - 2 January 2011

Myth, Manners and Memory: Photographers of the American South is a major photography exhibition bringing together a number of prominent American artists who have, in various ways, engaged with the physical and psychological landscape of the American South. The exhibition will combine historical and contemporary work, exploring what is perhaps indefinable, the cultural complexities and tensions, the constant but unresolved dialogues between past and present, and the varying material patterns of everyday life in the South that might constitute its sense of identity.

Myth, Manners and Memory: Photographers of the American South brings together for the first time in the UK, the work of Walker Evans, William Eggleston, William Christenberry, Carrie Mae Weems, Susan Lipper and Alec Soth.

The exhibition has been devised to encompass a wider programme including film, literature and live performance will explore the mythology of the American South entering into the popular imagination and artists representing the “mind of the south” in their work, often reflecting pertinent political, social and cultural values of this region.

Myth, Manners and Memory Photographers of the American South is guest curated by Photoworks

Image: Susan Lipper, Untitled from the Grapevine Series, 1988-1992, courtesy of the artist.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


The Gallery interaction session got off to a good start with a talk: Everyone's a Collector, by
Dr Louise Purbrick - Researcher in material and visual culture and Principal Lecturer in the History of Art and Design at the University of Brighton. A lively and engaged group squeezed in to the interactive area for the exhibition and joined in a discussion around objects and the relationships people form with them, looking at a range of anthropological theories as to the reasons behind the attachments we form with things, and what those attachments signify. A clear distinction was made by most of the participants between objects people actively choose to collect, and objects - as perhaps represented by Takahashi? - that simply accumulate around and within our lives.

This talk was followed up by me with a series of small group interactive activities, using random elements such as rolling of dice to determine the (imagined) fate of the objects participants possess. This opened up some very interesting discussions as people had to decide on - or reveal - a value system where only they could decide what objects have the most value and how that value is determined.

Of particular interest was the area of objects that we simply can't bring ourselves to throw away, with many people identifying something of their own lives in the seemingly random chaos of some of the exhibits; the sheer volume of stuff that becomes intertwined with a life. My favourite answers in the dice game where from Poppy (aged 3?) whose most valued object was a toy fish called Olivia (pink with purple spots) - and from Heloise, who although able by the rules of the game to choose three things of most value concluded the session by saying that she would choose to let everything go. Very Zen, and apposite with regards the exhibition, I felt.