Friday 27 April 2012

An event with the University of Nottingham and Lakeside Arts Centre.

By Kate Edwards , Development Officer

It was a pleasure to welcome a number of VIP guests to celebrate the Small Collections Room at Nottingham Contemporary. This is the first time an event has been held to highlight this corner of the gallery and take a closer look at what can be found within.

The artist Pablo Bronstein was commissioned to  create a 21st Century take on a Renaissance cabinet of curiosity or wunderkammer  (literally ‘rooms of wonder’). The Small Collections Room has been running an exciting programme of mini exhibitions since the gallery opening in November 2009.
The room houses four ornate 17th & 19th century cabinets with numerous small drawers and compartments housing the work of artists, writers and cultural commentators. Visitors are encouraged to explore the cabinets, opening the drawers to discover the objects inside.
Kashif Nadim Chaudry, Confessions of a Magpie. Photo: Philip Jackson
This event was organised to highlight the work of Kashif Nadim Chaudry who filled two of the four cabinets with an exhibition entitled Confessions of a Magpie in reference to a collection of beautiful objects.  Nadim studied Textiles at Goldsmiths College, London and has a rich family history in tailoring.  He compares the work to dioramas, small pictures, each one telling a story within its own drawer. 
Jim Waters, Nottingham Contemporary; Michelle Bowen, Primary; Kashif Nadim Chaudry, Artist

Nadim is currently artist in residence at Lakeside Arts Centre and has also worked at Nottingham Contemporary as a valued Gallery Assistant since the opening in 2009.  This set of circumstances provided the perfect opportunity to highlight the ongoing relationship between the two venues.  A key factor of this is valued support the University has provided to Nottingham Contemporary’s public programme.

Nadim said “It's been a real pleasure exhibiting in the Small Collections Room especially because as a gallery assistant, you get to see the joy and pleasure on visitors faces as they discover the draws and what is going on inside. Last night’s event was also very special and in many ways it reflected the Small Collections in its informality and intimacy.”
Our Director Alex Farquharson welcomes the guests
It was a pleasure to welcome Richard Flisher from CPMG Architects , our newest Business Benefactor  and to meet Daniel Hanson in person following enjoyable conversations by phone and email regarding special Business Benefactor events. Our Director Alex Farquharson and the Visual Arts Officer at Lakeside Arts Centre, Neil Walker welcomed the group and invited guests to enjoy a glass of wine and canapes with the chance to explore the drawers of the cabinets.  The event had an enjoyable intimate feel; those who attended included individuals from the University, Primary and Nottingham Contemporary who came together in a relaxed and sociable atmosphere.
This event and exhibition acted as a taster to the stunning and dramatic exhibition of new work which has been produced  during his residency titled Memes . The exhibition opens on  Wednesday 11 July at the Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre. 

Thursday 19 April 2012

By the way

By Isobel Whitelegg, Curator of Public Programmes

"Can I ask why a Gillray exhibition is happening at Nottingham Contemporary? Not that I’m at all interested in policing period boundaries - it sounds like a great idea! - I’m just intrigued…"

It is a fair question, - one of many we hope to answer via the Public Programme. This series of events allows the critical and contextual motivations of curatorial decisions to come to light. In the case of Gillray, the question is not only ‘What does the work of a long-deceased 19th century satirist have to do with contemporary art’? We are also using the Public Programme to ask in what other ways his work remains relevant - how does its context connect to questions of media, communication, colonialism and political action, for example..?

The Plum Pudding in Danger by James Gillray (1757 - 1815) Hand-coloured etching © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The person asking this question was Richard Taws, a prize-winning young lecturer at University College London. His work places Gillray's caricature in relation to a universe of print media used to circulate conflicting representations of revolutionary politics on both sides of the Channel and beyond. The leaders of the French Revolution wanted to spread their new national ideology beyond geographical boundaries - and this ambition spurred on a second revolution - a wave of experimentation with new communication technologies in France. French Revolutionary ideals (brotherhood, freedom, equality) were undermined by the fact that France was still fed by colonial slave labour - and one outcome of their parallel revolution in communication technology was that ideals of equality were heard, and radically appropriated, by those working in slavery overseas. The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) is often considered as the ultimate test to French Revolutionary ideology. If all men are created equal – would that also include slaves? Richard's talk on 16th May will lead us to this point of tension, and it will provide an introduction to the contested history of Haiti itself – a country whose art will be the subject of a major new exhibition opening here at Nottingham Contemporary in October. In this way, the Public Programme also allows us to underline the connections and continuities at play as we move between different temporary exhibitions. 

Haiti exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary this October

The question could however have been answered in two words: Alan Moore. The acclaimed graphic novelist is visiting us for a live discussion in May. According to the University of Nottingham’s Matt Green, the James Gillray connection was the main reason that Alan said yes. The discussion will link the two boundary-pushing graphic artists via various tangents - from the Gothic imagination to underground publishing and radical politics. Sharing the stage with Alan is Melinda Gebbie - a long-standing force within the underground female comics movement.  Her participation will establish connections not only to Gillray but also to Mika Rottenberg – whose work will also be occupying three of our gallery spaces. One of the ideas running through Mika's work is female self-definition; she identifies herself as a feminist and cites Karl Marx as a reference. I admit that my first copy of Moore’s V for Vendetta was stolen from my boyfriend’s bookshelf, but the work of Gebbie (as well as that of Karrie Fransman, Nicola Streeten and Mary Talbot - will remind us that cult comics are not only for the boys.

Alan Moore; Melinda Gebbie by Jonathan Worth. C-type colour print, 6 February 2007 © Jonathan Worth / National Portrait Gallery

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Quality Moments

Heather Kirk & Lizzie Thompson reflect on their favourite moments being part of Get Involved 17, the Nottingham Contemporary youth group

The Lab
HK: Only being part of Get Involved 17 since the beginning of January, the first few months for me have been eye opening. I first heard about Get Involved 17 through my college and I immediately thought it would be a great opportunity for me to build on my skills, get a taste of the art world and experience working with other aspiring young artists which will help me with my Fine Art degree.

LT: After joining Get Involved 17 in September there have been many memorable moments. We have organised events and showcased these to the public, made films of the public’s opinions and made artwork which is to be showcased in Bulwell Riverside. It has been an exciting experience and within it I have made many new friends.

I particularly enjoyed our first project, The Lab, as this was a completely new experience for me. We were able to ‘take over’ The Space for a whole weekend and hold an event which we had been planning, inspired by Klaus Weber’s exhibition.  We had lots of stalls each inspired by different pieces of artwork and involved the public in different ways. For example we made a tree, on which we hung old, broken and unwanted items, to show how humanity was trying to control nature and was abusing the environment. This linked to Klaus Weber’s ‘Tornado machine’ as he too was trying to control nature. The rest of the stalls followed a similar thread, with the ‘13 impossible questions’, sound machine, and ultimate invention designer. We also created a film asking people around Nottingham ‘If you could invent anything what would it be?’ 

HK: Being introduced into Get Involved 17 proved to be a decision well made. One of the qualities of the group is the strong connection between everyone, and the friendship that we share. The Bulwell Riverside Project has to be my quality moment within Get Involved 17. This is because we have had the opportunity to work with a local centre and create pieces of work to represent The River Leen in Bulwell, which will then be exhibited within the building for a few months. This is a great opportunity as we are learning and gaining skills throughout the project. It also gives us the chance to exhibit our work and explain it to members of the public and people in the art world! I am very grateful for this opportunity and I don’t doubt that there are more quality moments to be had in the future.

LT: This whole experience was particularly memorable to me as it was my first project within the group and was exciting and new. Throughout the whole project I enjoyed acquiring new social, marketing and creative skills to carry on in the future.

Follow Get Involved 17 on Twitter or Tumblr

Monday 26 March 2012

The Power of Art & Architecture

by David Newport, Gallery Assistant

The present exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary explores the power and art of architecture. In the first two galleries, we are introduced to the work of the DAAR, a loose architectural collective based near Bethlehem and consisting of an Israeli, a Palestinian and an Italian. This group has taken the tragedy of the Palestine/Israel situation and injected it with both hope and humour.

DAAR, Common Assembly. Photo © Andy Keate
What better use for an ex-military base could there be than to punch holes into it, so that migrating birds can nest, or to replace the pitched roofs of private houses with an interconnecting terrace to celebrate communal life. The group further probes the absurdity of colonisation by taking the line on a map literally and scaling it up into a five metre wide ‘lawless line’; a line that bisects, among other buildings, the Palestinian Parliament. A building which the PLO erected as close to Jerusalem as the Knesset, and consequently incurred a boundary change between Palestine and Israel, which led inevitably to its abandonment. The DAAR has now taken that bisecting line and re-constructed it in Gallery 2 as a spectacular, dream-like structure. Its sleek, black form appears suspended by cables that reflect and refract the light. The resulting structure dances in the sunlight, lifts your spirits, and appears to reach up to heaven.

Thomas Demand, Model Studies. Photo © Andy Keate
From the heat of the desert, the exhibition moves to the decadence of the Los Angeles coast and to the cinematic luxury of John Lautner’s architecture in Galleries 3 and 4. In these galleries, Thomas Demand has created a vibrant atmosphere consequent of his empathy with the building and his love of this space. Colour, texture and depth radiate from his monumental photographs of Lautner’s architectural models. They appear as doors inviting you to step into extraordinary spaces, or to contemplate the DNA of a roof or a terrace. The flamboyance of Lautner’s designs may not be to everyone’s taste, but few can argue with the beauty of Demand’s presentation.

The overall effect of this exhibition is to remind you of the value of architecture and its ability to affect the human experience. It is an exhibition that will change the way that you look at the world; tiled roofs and boundary lines will never be the same again….so don’t miss it.

Thomas Demand, Model Studies & Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, Common Assembly run until 15 April. For more information including opening times, click here.

Monday 19 March 2012

Social Moments

By Vicky Godfrey, Marketing Officer
I have been looking back on what we have been posting on our social sites over the last couple of years. Sometimes the things we think are sure to work well go down like a lead balloon and things that we post off the cuff get an extraordinary response. There isn’t a magic formula for what to write about – but here are some of my most enjoyable!

What do you think sound looks like?
When Caroline Locke showcased her Sound Fountains for a weekend in November 2011 this question provoked a whole range of responses from practical to the romantic. I love to learn what sparks the imagination of our audiences. Here are some of the comments  

Makena Sheila Depends on the source, all sound does/cannot look the same.
Love Notts We think sound would look messy.
Robert Squirrell What does the visual field of perception sound like?
Ben Nimerovski A spectrum analyzer can answer that for you
Kelly Vero it's looks like corn syrup in a speaker
Carmel Gummett-Kemp That depends on the sound surely? Some music looks like shards of broken glass (Stockhausen) while other music looks like a dark room with colours behind your eyelids (Pink Floyd) then again other music looks like a dewy autumnal forest (Vivaldi) I could go on....
Bogusia Matylda sound doesnt look, sound tastes

Klaus Weber introduces Already there!
Sharing video is a perfect way to provide an insight, the thinking or process behind an exhibition. Klaus Weber was the one of first artists that we recorded, and it is something we hope to build on this year. Since then we have broadcast live from talks by Razia Iqbal and the DAAR conference. I'm looking forward seeing what the response will be when we stream Thomas Demand in conversation with Joseph Grima (which is fully booked) in April with This is Tomorrow.

Behind the scenes of the Jean Genet exhibition
We have had some seriously complex installations that have re-configured the gallery spaces dramatically. We don’t want to give away everything before the exhibition opens, but aim to provide a snapshot of the process. We have always posted photos of the install periods but the Jean Genet exhibition last year reached a peak for being the most popular for views and comments.

photos from the Jean Genet installation

There are always observations in the office that go down well too!

Setting a new colour trend for 2012
Weather and nature
Snow, glorious sunsets and rainbows have provided a seasonal frame for our building over the last year. I am also a sucker for cute cretins. When animal trainer James McKay bought his owl and giant rat for a walkthrough of the Jack Goldstein exhibition I was delighted to meet them!

James McKay walks through the Jack Goldstein exhibition
Double rainbow above the gallery
The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust visited the gallery recently, through meeting them I found out about the peregrine falcons that live on the Nottingham Trent University building in the city centre. It’s wonderful that nature can thrive in a such a busy urban centre, and last week they laid two new eggs!

Zebra Spotting
Our zebra does a fabulous job as our family ambassador, one of his jobs is to give out badges and hugs in the city. He developed a new dimension to his personality last year via zebra spotting. He went travelling, made a music video and can also be found chilling in The Study.

Zebra on a rainy day

So there are five of my online moments from last year, I could have included many more! If you have been following us on Facebook or Twitter I hope you have enjoyed hearing from us and I look forward to sharing more online adventures with you this year.

Look out for some exciting changes to our website this spring - and if you want to get in touch this is where we are

Friday 2 March 2012

Get Involved 17, by Sian Watson

Young people in the driving seat with creativity as their vehicle

Get involved 17 is Nottingham Contemporary’s young peoples group. They have witnessed and taken part in a host of unexpected, imaginative and innovative projects, weaving the voice of youth between the walls of Nottingham Contemporary.

The first ever project over two years ago took place before the doors of our gallery had even opened!  The group  set sail with over 300 members of the public to celebrate  the opening of the gallery by creating an armada of  paper boats that sailed across the waters of Old Market Square. 

The group has had a fantastic journey over the last two years, experiencing  adventures in the shape of carrying a stripy sofa across the city collecting conversations, turning The Studio into an application form installation, even causing a coup d’état by staging an  ART FORM election.

Get involved 17 are a peer lead group who have complete freedom in the direction of how their projects travel, taking pride in sharing fresh ideas and perspectives with us. In turn we have support our young people in the process of action research and consultation. Inviting a collective curiosity, openness, and dialogue that allows a shared conversation to grow.

I have been lucky enough to have been involved on this exciting road trip, along the way I have seen them complete the Silver and Gold Arts Award, with their portfolios acknowledged as outstanding levels of achievement. Two of the young people’s portfolios were chosen to be used nationally in Gold art award training as examples of excellence.

We were also invited to visit the US ambassador's residence in London. Marjorie Susman, the ambassador's wife, guided the group around the house in Regent's Park, sharing with them the beautiful modern art collection. They even got to sign in the official US Embassy guest book, their names nestled between the likes of President Obama and Tom Hanks!

Our new project is even more exciting!

We are taking part in the Tate Plus initiative, a programme exploring young people’s engagement with arts and art organisations. Working with 18 organisations across the country such as, Tate Liverpool, Ikon and the BALTIC, Get involved 17 will be helping to create an evaluation tool which can be shared with other galleries and their youth programmes. The group will be looking at  ideas around,  ‘what is quality?’ and how can we evaluate a quality experience?

So, keep your eyes open for events around the city, celebrating what quality means to the Get Involved 17, Nottingham Contemporary and you!

I know that Get involved 17, old and new, have made my life full of quality moments!

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Missing Houses and Possible Plans

by Becky Ayre (Researcher, Inheritance Projects)

Support Structure with a Clumber Spaniel and owners 

Clumber is a vast expanse of park, farm and woodland on the Northern borders of Nottinghamshire. Amongst the wildlife, the Serpentine Lake, the campsites and the cycle tracks, there lies a space that exists to remind visitors of what is no longer there. The mansion that once stood at Clumber was demolished in 1938, leaving only traces of itself behind in the landscape that The National Trust would later purchase in 1946 from the people of Worksop, who inherited the grounds from the previous owner, the Duke of Newcastle. Much of the collection of art and furniture was sold off and dispersed around the country and the world, while the bricks were made use of around Nottinghamshire. As the result of a recent period in residence at Clumber, the artists group Support Structure recently seized upon this notable gap in the landscape and the park’s history as an opportunity to invite users of the grounds to imagine new possibilities for the future of the park.

The Residents is a series of artists in residence programmes at three regional National Trust properties, curated by Inheritance Projects in partnership with Nottingham Contemporary, BALTIC and The National Media Museum. The challenge put to the artists/artists group by Inheritance Projects in considering their time in residence, while taking the opportunity to develop their own practice, was to engage critically with the historical and contemporary contexts of the designated properties in order to scrutinize the ways and means that The National Trust protects, preserves and promotes notions of English national heritage. How could an artist working in residence with The National Trust, an organization that holds something of a monopoly over, and responsibility for, the Country’s known social history, challenge or unsettle otherwise dominant narratives in national heritage? While in residence at Clumber, Support Structure (research-architect Celine Condorelli and artist-curator Gavin Wade) met with historians and various users of the park to learn more about the absent house, including how the building was utilised until it was demolished. They also spent time investigating various unrealised proposals for other buildings at Clumber Park and around the world. This led them to discover the story of a house designed by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe for the Kröller-Müller family in the Netherlands. Although a full-scale fabric and wood structure was erected of the final design for this house, the Kröller-Müllers ultimately decided that the house was unsuitable and it was never built. Between a house that was but no longer is, and a house that never was, Support Structure have imagined new possibilities and stories that resonate in the unfinished histories of such social and architectural ambitions.

Hazel Robinson, Gardener, 1:1000 model of Clumber House, 2011-12
The research undertaken while in residence has accumulated in a series of proposals for changes to the future conditions of Clumber Park, on-site and at Nottingham Contemporary- the partner institution for the residency. These proposals are presented in a new publication, co-published by Nottingham Contemporary and distributed to all visitors at Clumber Park and are aimed at discovering and producing new stories, generating new ideas in a manner that seeks to support new social and communitarian potentials for the site where Clumber’s mansion once stood. The publication’s launch on February 24th at Nottingham Contemporary will be with a panel of presentations aimed at further illuminating the threads of research pulled out by Support Structure from Clumber’s varied history, and from the story of the unrealized house in the Netherlands. A weekend-long programme of events from Nottingham Contemporary and Clumber will follow.