Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Creating the Archive - Discursive Documents - Thinking about how we set up a project.

In thinking about the discussion that we had with Dr Liam Devlin last week, the new Huddersfield gallery exhibition called "Discursive Documents" which opens on 11 February 2017.  He described it as an exhibition that challenges the idea of photographic practice, to situate the practice of "what was there" into a new form that is "what is possible".

This is a philosophical construct to facilitate that idea through six artists work. Each of these six artists will be paired towards three themes. Each theme is intended to allow a viewer to place oneself between the two artists in their interpretation of work, to situate the viewer as a kind of fulcrum or axis.

The three themes are as follows;

1) Sieba Curtis and Alex Baldea. In their exhibition, they will be looking at the plight of refugees in the current context. The two photographers/artists deal with the subject in two different ways. In the case of Curtis, he provides access to this issue through the notion that refugee groups are usually considered as masses, and his desires to get away from that notion and engage with the individual. For example, Dr Devlin mentioned the recent case of a refugee hiding in a tanker full of talcum powder (magnesium oxide). The irony is that it is virtually impossible for a refugee to cross borders, whereas a commodity, such as talcum powder, is able to cross borders without any impeachment.

In the case of Alex Baldea, he chooses to get his photographic images and the references through the refugees own photographs. He does this by visiting refugee centres throughout the world and literally gives cameras to these refugees. He then specialises in taking a point of view, such as those images created by children, or single mothers, or fathers perhaps (et cetera). The photographic and artistic output, therefore, becomes a multi-vocal point of view.

2) Richard Mulhern and Richard Higginbotham. Photographic Representation.
In this theme of the exhibition, Richard Mulhern explores how we unconsciously regulate our behaviour within society. For example, we always walk on the curb, we know that we need to do that to stay safe! We don't blindly go walking into the middle of a dual carriageway. Mulhern engages with these ideas by trying to use photographs to show how subconsciously we abdicate our behaviours.

Similarly, Richard Higginbottom, whose photographs are explicitly within the city of Manchester, are in response to a piece of text written by Michel de Certeau, and his book "Walking in the City" (2006): seeing and knowing.
Higginbottom encourages the viewer to make connections that wouldn't normally be connected. The images and pictures are taken from different reasons, both are still photography. De Certeau suggests he can see over the whole city from the point of a high Observer, and in his case, while standing on top of the World Trade Centre in New York, Manhattan. He suggests that it is possible to know the city; however his book describes that in reality, it is impossible to take this helicopter view and gain some sort of understanding of the minutiae, because it is a seething mass of possibilities.

3) in the third theme, the exhibition will explore objectification of the female body, through the work of Sarah Eyres, and Leila Sailor.

Sarah Eyres explores this issue through her objects, for example, a collection of wigs (false hair). Her artefacts are usually moving images, photographs and gif files.

Leila's however, explores objectification of the female body through a mannequin. In fact, the manikin is a cheap plastic blow-up doll whom she calls "Dolores". With this goal, she suggests a kind of life force by slowly inflating and deflating it, whilst videoing the doll, and then finally at the end of her video she decapitates it.

Therefore there are three different debates.

We need to think about how we are going to archive all of this work and record it. There is not much time as the exhibition opens on 11 February, less than two weeks away. However, the official opening night and preview will be conducted on 16 February (Thursday).

And then we move on to the events which we will be responsible for. Each of these events will take a similar format and will commence at 2:30 PM in the afternoon and continue for approximately 2 1/2 hours until 5 PM.

The first event will be on 2 March, this will comprise of a short talk by the artists, and then a form of response through invited guests. In the first event, a refugee will be the responder, and a panel style discussion will then ensue. Therefore a practitioner, either Curtis or Baldea will be present to defend his position.

The second event will take place on 23 March. The former will follow the same as the first event with Richard Mulhearn and Richard Higginbottom both being in attendance.

The third event will take place on 6 April with Sarah and Leila. Again the same format as above for the first two events.

While the control of the event is likely to be pretty much up to the event organisers (group B of our team), the suggested format will be to look at the exhibition and work displayed and then open the debate which will also be recorded (again by our team).

The objective of our group engagement is to ostensibly help Dr Liam Devlin;

  • to document & record through audio and video,
  • to create a public archive/website and or both,
  • to plan host develop and manage the complete closing event on 4 May 2017.

With regards to this closing event, it is intended that a contemporary dance team who will be choreography by Gerry Turvey, and the dance group will provide an interpretation of the whole exhibition which we will also be expected to record.
Dr Devlin would also like us to re-present a kind of mash-up of the entire show at the closing event.


  • we need to consider how we curatorial coordinate and capture all of the material
  • think how we could develop a publication of the debate
  • discuss and document the effects of the exhibition.
  • Record interviews and create reflective material and writings
  • include any conclusions and aspect of the debate that may need further explanation.
  • We therefore urgently need to manage ourselves and organise who will do what?
  • Who will do the video?
  • Who will manage and develop the website?
  • Who will conduct interviews with the artists?
  • Who will film the exhibitions and photograph them?
  • Who will manage the audio recording of the above interviews?
  • At the closing event, the mash up and become something to create further debate from itself perhaps? Ultimately this event is intended to provoke ideas.

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