Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Drama Queens by Elmgreen & Dragset

By Sam Mercer, artist, co - director of Tether and Gallery Assistant

Giacometti's ‘Walking Man’ finds itself onstage with 5 other seminal 20th Century sculptures, including ‘Elegy III’ by Barbara Hepworth & ‘Rabbit’ by Jeff Koons.

Over the next 45 minutes, the sculptures ponder their creation, existence, what they’re doing on stage and who all the strange people are that are staring at them.

Drama Queens is a one act play devised by artists Elmgreen & Dragset for Skulptur Projekte in 2007. In 2012, their work will occupy the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

The play sits alongside other works created in recent years that attempt to anthropomorphise and create a conversation between inanimate, abstract objects and artworks. A similar work, ‘The School for Objects Criticized’ by Alexandre Singh has a variety of everyday objects speaking to each other about an exhibition they have seen recently- an exhibition the audience is currently viewing.

Perhaps this existentialist comedy has similarities to the way Marc Camille Chaimowitz uses Giacometti's Walking Man at Nottingham Contemporary, a way of reconsidering and creating new meanings or dialogues in 20th Century artworks.  

Drama Queens the play can be found in our Study.

Sam Mercer is co-director of Tether, see http://www.tether.org.uk/

Friday, 19 August 2011

Carry On Gallery Assisting

Marjie To
By Marjie Todd, Front of House Assistant

Working as a Gallery Assistant can be varied, very informative, really enjoyable and often fun. Fortunately, at Nottingham Contemporary we are visited daily by a public eager to take in the experience of each exhibition and sometimes to share their ideas with us.

In our last exhibition, the Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping exhibited a sculpture “Amerigo Vispucci” - an aluminium bull mastif appearing to urinate against the wall in Gallery 1. The waste matter formed the shape of a U.S. map on the floor. One visitor, a dog owner and seemingly a canine behavioural expert, informed me that the patch of urine was in the wrong place in relation to the angle in which the dog was taking aim. An illuminating comment which highlights the fact that contemporary art can evoke the most unusual responses from those who view it.

Huang Yong Ping, Marche de Punya. (detail).  Photo by Stuart Wood
School Group at the Gallery
Another of Huang Yong Ping’s works was a sculpture of a very life-like elephant which lay on its side as part of the installation “Marche de Punya” which was showing in Gallery 2. It was interesting to witness the initial responses of visitors when confronted by this piece, particularly those of young children. My favourite was from a girl aged about 3 who mused that maybe Dumbo had flown through our large picture window at Weekday Cross and knocked himself out on the Gallery floor.

During our current exhibition “Jean Genet”, a young boy was very excited to see that we were showing sculptures by Alberto Giacometti. He told me that he took part in a school project inspired by the artist where they made art works using tin foil. He also made an offer (accompanied by a knowing look) for the bronze piece “Man Pointing” which is on display in Gallery 3.

John Newling, The Miracle Trees (Moringa Oleifera). Photo by Andy Keate.

We recently showed an installation by artist John Newling in our Study. This involved the germination and growth of the rare Moringa plant and the project drew many interested visitors. I was somewhat taken aback one day when I was on duty at the reception desk and a gentleman approached me and announced that he had “come to have a look at your Moringas”. Perhaps the Carry On films have a lot to answer for here!

John Newling, The Miracle Trees (Moringa Oleifera). Photo by Andy Keate.
Since Nottingham Contemporary has opened it has become commonplace to see our visitors making friends with our own loveable zebra and some of our regular young art lovers come especially to see him. It has also not been unusual to bump into a roving Russian cosmonaut, young men in swimming trunks and semi-naked ladies in large hats. (Most of this can be explained by viewing our 15 specially designed and striking logos on the Nottingham Contemporary website).

Marjie has a secret! She is the person holding the sunglasses in Ben Cain's artist logo.

Logo lady inspired by Anthea Hamilton's artist logo
Zebra mascot inspired by Klaus Weber's artist logo
 Paying us a visit can provide for a very entertaining and uplifting experience. Working as Gallery Assistants we see at first hand the effects that contemporary art has on those who come to see it and responses are overwhelmingly positive as we see and hear from those who come to visit us again and again.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Partial Eclipse

Alex Farquharson
 By Alex Farquharson, Director Nottingham Contemporary

I went to Tate Britain on Saturday to see a room of works by Marc Camille Chaimowicz from the 1980s. It’s part of an exhibition based on Tate’s collection called 'Has the Film Already Started?' It considers performance in the visual arts, directly and indirectly.

The exhibition opened a fortnight or so before Marc Camille’s exhibition here dedicated to Jean Genet. The two make for a fascinating comparison. His room at Tate is centred on a group of works called ‘Partial Eclipse’, begun in 1980, which consists of a slide projection, paravents, painted panels, collages and an occasional subtle performance. It established a vocabulary he has been working with to this day – as is soon evident to visitors of both exhibitions.

Chaimowicz plays with the two meanings of interior – interior meaning the domestic interior, and interior meaning one’s inner life. For Chaimowicz, one’s rooms should be intensely personal environments. He doesn’t have a studio, instead his south London flat is the fulcrum of his work. Its precise arrangements of eclectic objects relating to different periods of his life and the lives of others is expressive of a very particular sensibility. His own art works, which also resemble furniture, furnishings and objets d’art, retain a sense of belonging and personal significance despite the publicness of their exhibition settings. For that reason the experience of being in one of his exhibitions has the intimacy of literature. ‘The Courtesy of Objects’, the subtitle of his exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary (and before that, at Norwich Gallery), conveys this: how can objects be courteous, unless they are somehow imbued with the personality traits of certain people? In Nottingham, one thinks of Genet, naturally. ‘Partial Eclipse’ evokes fragments of Proust, transferred from the Bourgeois interiors of late 19th century Paris to more cramped quarters in London in the 80s.

Each Saturday at 3pm, the slide projector comes on, Kraftwerk’s primitive synths can be heard, and the lights go down. Eventually, a man, simply dressed, enters the exhibition. He does next to nothing. He paces around and around the space between projector and screen, preoccupied. His shadow becomes part of the images Marc Camille took in his home in the early 80s, reanimating memories in our present; at the same time, fragments of these images appear on the man’s shirt, which acts as a moving distorted screen. At one point he smokes a cigarette (a surprising event these days). A woman’s and a man’s voice are heard reciting lines from the ‘Partial Eclipse’ collages in the exhibition. Their words are monologues on desire prior to consummation. We also see black and white photographs of the couple in question on the paravents and the decorated panels that lean against the wall. A dreamlike atmosphere pervades the scene, and we are left uncertain as to whether or not the piece is recounting an affair between two people or one person’s fantasy of a possible affair. Moreover the man and woman don’t appear sufficiently differentiated; perhaps they refer to male and female aspects of the same individual. In Proust too there is often the same sense of desire infinitely suspended, postponed or sublimated, as the first person narrator recalls his difficulties finding true fulfilment of the self through relations with others (a quest he’d abandoned prior to beginning writing the monumental In Search of Lost Time). In Chaimowicz’s work desire can be found amongst the thickets of ornamentation. Stencilled patterns, like creeping ivy, leave their mark on all manner of objects. The Modernist architect, Adolf Loos, notoriously declared ornament a crime in the early 20th century. There’s the sense in Chaimowicz’s work that he enacts crimes that ornamentation might engender: his work’s etiquette may be immaculate, but it harbours unspoken and ambiguous desires.

Has the Film Already Started?’ continues until 26 February, 2012 at Tate Britain. ‘Jean Genet… The Courtesy of Objects’ at Nottingham Contemporary continues until 2 October 2011.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Art Work of the Week

This week Marjie Todd, Front of House Assistant picks her favourite art work from the Jean Genet exhibition: Marc Camille Chaimowicz, The Casting for the Maids – First Cut, 2010

Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Jean Genet... The Courtesy of Objects, installation view Nottingham Contemporary, 2011. Photo Andy Keate

This installation consists of a props and wardrobe room which is situated adjacent to a TV screen showing a film. The subject of the film is a fictional casting session of Jean Genets 1948 play The Maids. The story is about two young servant girls who plot to murder their mistress. The play was based on a true life incident involving the Papin sisters which took place in Le Mans in 1933.

The film is made up of various shots of three young women applying make up, costumes and reading aloud excerpts from the play. There are close ups showing some of the objects we see in the room within the Gallery – costumes, mirrors, flowers, masks and at one stage a container of barbiturates.

Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Jean Genet... The Courtesy of Objects, installation view Nottingham Contemporary, 2011. Photo Andy Keate

The props and wardrobe room can only be viewed through three window frames designed by the artist, the door is locked so we cannot enter which is echoed in the accompanying film – here we see split screen shots of a winding staircase where the maids slowly descend the wide stone steps. The use of strobe lighting creates a ghostly and menacing air and freshly lit candles suggest some kind of ritual. As viewers we are witnessing an informal interpretation of Genet’s play but even here an uneasy aura of mystery pervades.

Find the installation in Gallery 4 until 2nd October, http://www.nottinghamcontemporary.org/art/jean-genet

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Peeping Into Contemporary Art

By Saima Kaur, Community Programmer

Saima Kaur
Last week a pile of notebooks arrived on my desk, each one brimming with notes, sketches, inserts and reflections on contemporary art.

These notebooks belong to students who have just completed the ten week ‘IN2 Contemporary Art’ course. It is aimed at adults who want to learn or reconnect with their interest in artistic practice, be it their own or that of contemporary artists.

Into Contemporary Art sketch books - top by Daphne Bene
The course is ably run by our associate artist Chris Lewis Jones and my role is to ensure it’s all going smoothly, but I manage to sneak in some friendly tea making as an excuse to chat to the participants and get an insight into the workings of the course.

Daphne Bene
As a result, I’ve been privy to watching near strangers create striking artwork, have some heated discussions and even strike up unlikely friendships. I’ve seen previously reluctant participants create arresting artwork in ten minutes flat,  marvelled at two generations working together to make work that deconstructs received perceptions of gender and listened carefully to the lone voice lamenting the invisibility of class politics in current cultural discourse. Each course produces artistic expressions that are diverse, personal and sometimes strangely moving.
Jan Bentley

I feel we’re lucky to have such people work with us and am gearing up for my next round of tea lady duties!