Thursday, 3 November 2016

Reflections on the Homeless Sculpture series of lectures, held at the Whitworth Art Gallery,Manchester. Thursday, 27 October 2016.


The series of lectures entitled Homeless Sculpture, which was introduced and curated by John Plowman was my engagement for the day.
The sessions were presented and opened early in the day with a description of the homeless sculpture website.
Within the introduction it was explained that Charles Hewless considers sculpture as "a world entire into itself", its home is nowhere except the imagination of the viewer. It is belonging to the world but also interfering at the same time. A quotation by David Smith, (as cited by Philip Potts) was "break the isolation of the sculptural object."

Sculptures original home has always been the museum, but for the last 150 years (as per the ideas of Baudelaire and Rodin) it has become autonomous.

There is a constant pressure to reconnect with the public. For example Giacometti and his sculptures engaging with space and around the form to connect with the public of New York in Times Square.

In the words of Barbara Hepworth "consider the matter and space as one", an example of this might be in work by Mike Nelson "the Coral Reef". In this piece, it has no outside, but only an "inside."

Going back to some of the concepts of Aristotle in "the reciprocal belonging of the place" as quoted by Edward C. Casey ("The fate of place", page 71).

For current practitioners, consider Thea Djordjadze, "as Sagas Sa" 2012 at the Documenta exhibition in 2012. This extends the idea that sculpture and place are as one.

In Japanese culture, this is sometimes referred to as "KuWai" which is often related to Shintoism. An obvious example might be that of the work in Arato Isozaki, in his "Japanese-ness in architecture", page 66.

There is a reciprocal relationship to place and Shinto gods. As an object, such as a tree, maybe the central focal point of the type of worship.
What is essential to the place is "what is happening" - reference, Dorothy Tanning, who once said, "the only thing happening here is the wallpaper."

A sculpture is present in the object, but it is also something that invites a "yet to be" idea. In consideration of the statement, I thought and reflected on Heidegger's "becoming"?.
It has a dialogue with the outside, in other words, the preparation and the production, then the dismantling with notions of its occupation elsewhere.

Lucy R. Lippard created sculpture based on the populations of people in the town that she was investigating. For example in work "557, 085" which was made in Seattle in 1969; and also the work "995,000" which was a reflection of the investigation she conducted in Vancouver in 1970.
 Her premise was to "create an exhibition from out of a suitcase".
To create the blurring of the role of the Creator and the Observer.
- She created cards of instruction and then sent them to other artists. Within these cards, she included instructions specifically about her predetermined duration of an exhibition. These other artists, in contemporary context, were people like Sol LeWitt. He then created sub- cards of further instruction to further artists. Robert  Smithson also received instructions, and then he created a sub- instruction from the further production of art.

Following on from Lippard's original catalogue of cards she then writes about how the actual works (post sub- direction) were then made, or in most cases the excuses and reasons were for not being made!

An example of this might be "One-ton corner piece" 1967 to 1968. Consider the position of this work which was one tonne of sand placed in the corner of the studio and how it manifested itself in each new installation.

In Gerhart Richter's "Seven Panes; (house of cards)", this was the Sheards tribute to the UK architecture with strong influence by the Bauhaus movement and Walter Gropius.

A sculpture is usually made for a speculative audience and is invariably held within the museum. A further example might be Serra, "House of Cards".  These were four sheets of self-propped-up pieces of steel into a box shape and placed within the centre of a museum or gallery space.
The questions it brings are, "does it neutralise and destruct the gallery space?" The answer is, of course, no, it accords itself with its place.

The ideas that these sculptures induce is the capacity to give free and deliberate attention, and that is, in itself, necessary of the viewer to do so, to get the best meaning from these objects.

(I noticed that an interesting inclusion into this exhibition which was ostensibly contemporary was the addition of works by Donatello.  The argument put forth is that Donatello's work is much more tangible, physical and connective to space (as per Giacometti's work generally for instance), and is much stronger than say other artists of that same period such as Michelangelo).

Discussion around the ideas of "homelessness" invokes the ideas of space and place as a cultural concept, which makes anyone attending to it, to have some role as an occupier. This may be a spectator, or participant, et cetera.

"Homeless and belonging" is an entirely different feeling and situation from the old-fashioned ideas of "public and private" which would be found in a museum or gallery space. It is, therefore, logical to conclude that architecture may drive different response to how we might experience dramatic sculptural pieces and how we experience them.

The next part of the lecture was then given by John Plowman who was the artist in residence in the town of Lintz, Austria.

He wanted to investigate three things. (These were the result of being lost during a perambulation of Lintz and he stumbled upon).
"Being Lost / Perambulation;
Rilke's writing on Rodin;
The sculpture is a thing lost in a Studio.

During his time in Lintz, he found the Bruckner Hall site, which was the local City Concert Hall. This was designed by Eduardo Paulozzi (1924 to 2005), and his work was a homage built on Bruckner, -  Anton Bruckner 1977.
This continued with the ideas of the physical and metaphorical sense of being lost in the museum.

The temporal notion can be gained by people gathering and moving through space to make a sculpture become activated. This can be seen in the works of Richard Serra, for example, autonomy of space and place.

The studio is "made and is a site adjusted", the indifference of the public, towards how they treat a piece of sculpture is what is of interest here.

The next short work tools provided by Rosamond Krauss.
 She stated that modernist sculpture was homeless.
The idea that high art culture and in particular high sculpture, such as the figurative, could be heightened through the idea of surrounding it with water.
An example was shown which articulated well an interesting technique or device that would ensure that the observer would be detached completely from the sculpture. This was used at the Festival of Britain sculptures. In themselves, they were a representation of modernity.

The heroic concept of the mother and child, but in a way as some of these sculptures occupy a social space, they are kind of "rubbished" as they sit in shopping malls where the public often take the objects for granted.

Sculptors and Sculptures of today are taking on a very different weight. For example Rachel Whiteread's work. In her works, it is permanently present as it also becomes a kind of architecture.

This perceptual feeling of anxiousness, "like being on the edge of the bottomless pit, with a ladder extending into it"... invites the viewer to take that first step in an anxious invitation towards letting go.

In work "at the foot of doors" by John Llewelyn-Waldron, this remained hidden in an archive for over 30 years but then brought out to the public to view very recently.
 In this work, it makes different engagement with the works as a sculpture, because it is clearly not a monument. But equally, we re-engage with these works with new dialogue, which is entirely different from the sculpture or object which continuously remains in place as is usual, to such a familiarity.
A consciousness that almost seems for the object to disappear in plain sight. Something that is on display continually, therefore, becomes mute.
People no longer see it.
Sometimes it gets covered in graffiti.
Perhaps the sculpture should be decommissioned?

An example here is the Paulozzi piece that John Plowman found back in Lintz in Austria which he then further articulated in his photographs, ...of the mound outside the Bruckner concert Hall in Lintz.
Sculpture needs to be different.  Different to differentiate itself from other objects by using materials that make space and then articulate their differences or specialness or other, some form of unusual mass, than other objects might do. Something has to structuralize for it to become a sculpture rather than just another object.

In the next short lecture at the Whitworth Gallery, art historian Claire O'Dowd of the University of Manchester provided her discussion of sculptures as architecture and architecture as sculpture. The first example that she provided for this kind of consideration was the work by Mike Nelson "a psychic vacuum" (2007).

Creating a narrative from the flex of response of the viewer, where a kind of displacement is felt, as the outcome of such works. The installation was approximately 15,000 feet in space, which in itself created feeling of homelessness in a contextual sense. The context for the viewer is different therefore from the framework of the artist.

Another artist in this mode that has been explored is Gregor Schneider for example in his room works "Kaffeezimmer" ...this was a rotating room within a gallery space.

Another piece of work that was analysed and discussed was by Gordon Matta-Clark "Splitting" (1974) which was a whole two-storey house that appeared to be chopped in two. Another one of his works "Conical Intersect" (1975) was a huge hole that had been bored into and through a series of three terraced houses.

These had some similar ideas and resemblance to the work by Henry Moore and the Parenthetic sculpture. This can also be seen with Lynn Chadwick's "Beast" (1959) which has only been presented once before, and it, in itself creates an anxious sculpture of a four-legged animal; seems to be very disturbed in how it is received.

The next lecture was provided by the senior curator of the Whitworth gallery. (She was formerly the curator of the Hepworth). A talk entitled "things" because ultimately this is with what she deals! (See Elizabeth Price's work on homelessness).

Her idea and interests as a curator are in the concept of "Re-homing". Her life is about sculpture and is always in motion, as "in transit" or as an object going from one space to another, that is "rehoming".

For example one of the works she cited was that by Gustaf Metzger "Flailing Trees" (2009).
Initially, this works was in the centre of Manchester but is now placed at the front of the Whitworth Gallery, and is in fact due to be moved again.
The decorative object or sculpture is 21 willow trees that were uprooted and repositioned upside down in concrete, with the roots exposed to the air. It is, therefore, a living sculpture.

The sculpture is often exhibited and then disposed of. This, in itself, must be changed in some way. Many Manchester artists are attempting to preserve these temporary transient sculptures through collectively using premises at the Islington Mill and Salford with an intention to store artists' work for free in future.

Reflecting on the lecture provided by Alex Potts at the Whitworth Gallery regarding "post-war modernist public sculpture."

In this talk, Alex Potts looked specifically at the work of Eduardo Chillida ( and Henry Moore.

Sculptures have to create works that are related to their space within the future use of that particular space.

A figure that was made specifically for the UNESCO buildings in Paris, which is the "Reclining Figure" by Henry Moore in 1957 is of particular interest, as it explicitly contrasts with the site or space that it is placed within.
Within that space in the union UNESCO Park area, this changes with the change of space as a humanist location of gathering.

In contrast, in Chillidas work, it makes mischief of Henry Moores work. However, in Chillidas "Wind-comb" of 1966 to 1977, which is installed in San Sebastian in northern Spain, he went on to create the "House of our Father's" made in 1986 and then installed in 1987. This was a sort of tribute to the ideas of Pablo Picasso's Guernica. It provides a statement of Basque-ness and its sense of place in the "Park of the peoples of Europe" situated within the town of Guernica in northern Spain.

Now compare that with Chillidas work and Henry Moores "Large Bronze Sculpture" (now also located in the park of the people of Europe) also in Guernica, which was installed as a tribute to that artist after he had died.

The point of looking at these pieces is that giant sculpture creates its own sense of place. An example to further illustrate my be the work by Henry Moore "Two Large Forms" which is installed at the Bundesbank German Chancellery in Germany.

At the time, this particular sculpture made lots of sense. However, this caused all sorts of problems after the reunification of Germany, as to where it should then be positioned.

In contrast to Chillidas' "Bundeskanzleramt" in Berlin and his sculpture which shows a natural response to the German reunification proper (in other words the history, as post-modernists, made from steel), which is essentially two halves of the sculpture grappling with each other.

The placing of an object become something of a social creation, rather than an "artistic" creation. For example Chillidas "Place of Encounters 3" made in 1972, but not allowed to be installed when it was due to do so, until 1977, which is situated under the Paseo del Castellano in Madrid. Within this, the metaphysical concept of autonomy is blurred.

There is a much deeper engagement nowadays, certainly over the last 50 years, with the connected meaning of the object and its place. In the case for example of Metzgers' "Flailing Trees", the movement of the sculpture into the park will create an entirely new meaning of it, because of its own placement. Metzger, the artist, is fully agreed that the work can be removed and remade as it is moved and so therefore re-contextualised.

Perhaps it's re-recontextualization is necessary because it now lies within the centre of the Whitworth and therefore it is now institutionalised within a gallery space. Consider and reflect further that ownership itself is also temporal. Ownership can also be public and connected or private and disconnected. And equally, this can change through time as ownership changes through time to.

The idea of "un-fixity" helps to create the idea of "an encounter". Useful to consider here might be the work of Matta-Clark again and "the performative encounter" as a strategy.
This further reflection ties up nicely with some of the ideas that I wrote last year about Heidegger's notions of "place as an event".

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