Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Singing in the Galleries

Helena Tomlin
By Helena Tomlin, Head of Learning

On Friday 21 July I had the privilege of introducing a women’s choir in Gallery 1 to an audience of visitors many of whom were new to the gallery. We were treated to an amazing harmony of voices issuing from Gallery 1 as Platform 51 began a 20 minute performance of their favourite songs, singing in front of the vibrant red and black Emory Douglas mural. Their beautiful voices easily filled the gallery and we were encouraged to join in to the programme that included Sing with Joy, Across the Fields and Down the River to Pray.

Comments from the Choir included:
“Stimulates the senses, contributes to my wellbeing within a group of like minded people, testing my ability in a direction I’ve never used before.”

“It has given me lots of confidence and has been brilliant getting together with other people. We have laughed a lot and has been so much fun!”

“Singing with this choir has helped me to have fun and meet new people. It has also given me a focus during a family members stay in hospital. And I’ve been on the radio!"

Platform 51 are a charity who give a voice to young girls and women, campaigning for things that women need and want. Many of the women who Platform 51 work with lack confidence and some are in a crisis situation so the choir was begun in Nottingham to inspire women to take up a group activity. The Learning team hope to work in partnership again with Platform 51 and use the gallery in creative ways that will be of benefit to women in the city. We are all looking forward to it!

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Novelties of an Internship

By Alice Gale - Feeny, Fine Art Student from Nottingham Trent University and an Intern with the Public Programme Team

For the past few months as an intern, I have experienced a fluctuation of events and consistently eye-opening experience involving on ground-level, many-a-cup of tea in front of a computer which led to some wonderful meetings, moments of anxious participation whilst singing in Persian, the occasional backing vocals in a Korean and Polish; I could continue.

But maybe it’s important to elaborate on the occasion that led to the Persian Singing.

Hiwa K, the Kurdish Iraqi artist began the neoliberal discussion group and 70’s cover band Chicago boys... while we were singing they were dreaming whilst on his residency at The Serpentine’s Edgware Road project: The centre for possible studies. Hiwa spent a day with me, as I acted as city guide, the day before their first rehearsal. Firstly, I would use the word guide loosely. Between the downpours of rain, we seemed to consistently miss buses and decided against buying an umbrella; my influence I’ll admit. At one point, we passed a hairdresser’s that Hiwa pointed out. Traditionally, it’s the local that points out to the tourist, destinations of interest; however my inability to speak Kurdish limited my awareness of this particular business.

The ramble up Mansfield Road to The New Art Exchange and Polish Centre (which I found impossible to find), was in the hope of finding individuals to collaborate and discuss with; those who may bring local insights into topics that occupy the Chicago Boys: migration, privatisation of public space, education cuts, to mention a few. The definitive point, when all tour-structure was lost came as we lost ourselves, for nearly an hour, in The Forest Field graveyard.

“This is not putting aside the stories...
This is not a picture of the decadence of human”

Talaah by Googoosh was taught to me a day before the Chicago Boys event on May 14th, by CB member and (powerful) singer, Helene Kazan. I should refrain from relishing in the feeling of singing with such a wonderful band but at the same time, cannot deny the joy I felt to be so welcomed to participate for the occasion of this event. The songs were chosen by the group for their weighty, political and personal resonance. This aspect felt by far the most important and pertinent aim of the group and influenced my overall experience of singing the songs.

Hiwa K was one amongst many of the group to present an interjectory insight between the cover songs. A video was shown of a protest involving Hiwa himself, alongside fellow Kurdish civilians in Sulaimaniya. The action caught on film, was not only utterly moving in terms of its political resonance but because of it’s terrifying proximity to the date of the Chicago Boys event, having happened only weeks before. The video saw protesters clutching bullet shells, chanting in the direction of the riot police that were just down the street. One older man stood in front of the younger protesters. Hiwa translated his chant that could be described as self-sacrificial, in honour of those younger behind him. Amongst the action, Hiwa K reiterated a performative, yet calm form of protest, playing Man with a Harmonica from Once Upon a Time in the West on harmonica, with megaphones strung around him. This was oddly conflicted by the reality of what was happening around him. Halfway through the footage, protesters began to cover their mouths with cloths to prevent the inhalation of tear gas released by the riot police. Following this, gun shots were clearly heard. A man half-covered in blood was lifted by the crowd; his foot suspended by others hands. To me, it was horrifying and at the same time, undeniably distant from The Space at Nottingham Contemporary. My overall encounter with the Chicago Boys project was all the more surreal for this necessary insight.

My experience of the current exhibition during my time as an intern has differed dramatically to that of a visitor (that I once was and will be once more.) In the run-up to my Wednesday Walk-Through, I have viewed the work time and time again. Not enough perhaps. What I find most important about it as a whole, is the repetitive use of the replica; the translations performed in order to speak about certain topics and ideas that are perhaps too politically difficult or close to home in the case of the artists. Through the use of animals, marionettes, architecture and children, Huang Yong-Ping and Wael Shawky seem to draw in an audience, to otherwise tricky topics. Shawky has used the term translation to describe the role of an artist. To me, Shawky does this exactly. With aesthetic consideration, he retells events that would otherwise be purely factual. In this translation we are given a go-between through its transference into a new medium. In Shawky case, video is key. In many ways, the medium is the most understandable to us now and therefore frames the historical events so they may be consumed as we consume media.

Friday, 1 July 2011


We asked Dave Thomas our building technician a few questions about the one of the busiest and exciting times in the gallery - exhibitions changeover

David Thomas
As part of Huang Yong Ping's exhibition - an elephant and a cockpit of an American aeroplane left the building yesterday – were you looking forward to moving them out of the galleries?
It is nice in some ways to get them out of the building, but we were sad to see them go. For the elephant to leave the building we had to remove the front doors as it was too large for our goods lift - and the sculpture weighs close to 1000kg. Then we had to build the steel crate (which weighs 500kg and is six metres long) around the elephant outside the building, and fork lift it into the transportation truck to be returned to its store in Paris. The aeroplane was slightly more straightforward. I guess I could say that I was looking forward to taking it down, but only because it means that we can build something else in its place!

The Tech Team moving Huang Yong Ping's elephant

How would you describe the installation for the next exhibition, Jean Genet?
We have a number of technically challenging works coming up in the next show. There are plinths to make, which will be used to house the Giacometti sculptures. Marc Camille Chaimowicz will be wallpapering the gallery walls - removing it afterwards might be a challenge! Also I am fabricating a new commissioned work for Lili Reynaud-Dewar - I can’t give too many details of this away before the show opens, all I can say is that it’s a large scale piece which is made of steel, wood and fabric and in total weighs close to two tonnes.

Marc Camille Chaimowicz's limited edition wallpaper

What have you been working on to prepare for the Jean Genet installation?
I have been finishing the welding and engineering for Lili Reynaud-Dewar’s new commission, this involved processing over a tonne of steelwork, and custom fabricating over 100 individual pieces to make up an internal framework system. I have also been finalising CAD designs for the exhibition build, ordering materials to construct a new cinema room in Gallery 1, pre-fabricating the framework for this construction and processing timber sheet stocks for the Giacometti plinths.

CAD drawing for Lily Reynaud-Dewar's new commission

How far in advance do you have to plan a new exhibition installation?
The plans start as soon as we know the rough outline of the exhibition; this can be anything up to 2 years in advance. If new pieces of work are being commissioned there is often a great deal of planning and engineering which needs to go into a piece of work before it reaches the fabrication process.

What part of this installation are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to seeing Lili’s new commission finished and constructed, it’s been quite a complicated piece to design, engineer and fabricate. All in all this process will have taken almost 6 months to pull together and as the pieces have been fabricated in different sections and stages its exciting for me to bring it all together at the end. For Lili I imagine it will also be an interesting experience as it will be the first time that she will have seen the piece in its completed form, having previously only seen certain finished elements, plans and photos etc during the fabrication stage. For an artist this can often be an exciting and a nerve wracking time, especially when your work is completely outsourced for fabrication. For myself, and other fabricators it’s a time where you share these emotions and hope that the artist is happy with what you have constructed.

What is the biggest thing you have built – in or outside of the gallery?
I used to build houses so I guess they would be the largest! In terms of my creative fabrications I guess housing the cinema space at the end of gallery 4 would be my largest internal purpose built structure. This included two new supporting walls to take a load bearing ceiling using 250mm roofing joists, full high spec acoustic treatment, an integrated air filtration system, light baffled entrance, suspended cinema screen and surround sound system. In total we processed over 10 tonnes of material for this build, and this space has now been in the gallery for over a year so it’s also the longest standing temporary structure that I have designed and built. I’m looking forward to taking it all down for the next show though, opening Gallery 4 fully again and building a new cinema space in Gallery 1.