Thursday, 27 October 2011

New Season

by Siobhan Carroll, The Space Programmer
It’s a new season at Nottingham Contemporary and we are really busy over the next 8 weeks with lots of screenings, talks and events to coincide with the Klaus Weber exhibition and some performances that have nothing to do with the exhibition but are there to be enjoyed!

Jean Rouch,  Les Maitres Fous

There are so many events that I am looking forward to, but some of my highlights include:

An evening of Jean Rouch films including the incredible Les Maitres Fous – the last time I saw this film was an unforgettable experience of being in Mary Kings Close, a underground, spooky part of the Old Town of Edinburgh, with Spartacus Chetwynd’s film ’The Call of the Wild’ screaming in the back ground! For this event there won’t be any screaming but we will have comfortable chairs and a great introduction by Elizabeth Cowie, Professor of Film Studies at The University of Kent –I’m sure the impact of this film will still be as strong, Rouch’s films are must see.

I am looking forward to welcoming The Free University of Liverpool to Nottingham Contemporary on 9th November to find out more about their programme which is considered and dynamic with the important underlying commitment to free education for all. They describe what they do as a protest, one which seems to have more and more presence as we slip further into this age of austerity.

Jonathan Rée is one of the most respected thinkers today combining art, history and philosophy. In Weber’s exhibition the artist represents the body various ways including Death Masks and vegetables, heightening our conscious relationship to our own bodies, flesh, organs and how we represent this.  I am delighted that we will be welcoming Rée to Nottingham Contemporary on 16th November to consider this relationship, and to examine the challenge that modern science and medicine bring to traditional ideas of the meaning of bodily existence.

Forced Entertainment have been at the forefront of performance, theatre and writing since they began in 1984. The Sheffield based company, will be at Nottingham Contemporary on 19th November performing their new work ‘Void Story’ a  bleak and comical contemporary fable performed as if it were a radio play, sitting at tables, turning the pages of the script, ‘doing’ the requisite voices and adding in sound effects for gunshots, rain and bad phone-lines. Tickets are available now; I am particularly interested to go to the post show talk by the company after the afternoon performance.

I have to send a lot of leftfield invitations asking specialists and academics to be part of our public programme here, but I think the most random invitation I sent and one of the most gracious responses was from Professor Vivienne Brown, Professor Emeritus in Economics at The Open University, who is one of the leading authorities on the moral philosopher and so called godfather of capitalism, Adam Smith. Considering both Weber’s Bee paintings - paintings that were made by leaving primed white canvasses on a bee-keepers grounds in Berlin, to be painted by the bees during their  annual 'cleansing flight' and his failed proposal to Edinburgh City council to cover the statue of Adam Smith placed on the Royal Mile in a swarm of docile bees - Professor Brown has agreed to come to Nottingham Contemporary and present the Adam Smith’s thought on the “hive” – as a model of productivity described in Smith’s text ‘The Wealth of Nations’. On the same evening we have also invited expert urban beekeeper Alison Knox to describe the joys of the apiary and the importance of the bees “cleansing flights”.

This kind of events is an example of what I enjoy most about programming events; bringing two people who would never normally be together, to discuss their specialism’s in relation to a work of contemporary art – through this process I hope that we can appreciate the connections that we might never have seen before, not because they are direct but because they can sit next to one another, quietly informing.

As I mentioned this is a packed 8 weeks, it was really difficult to choose these few to talk about! It is also sadly the last Public Programme that I have programmed with the incredible Daniella King, who has been the Inspire Assistant Curator at Nottingham Contemporary for the last 2 years and who is leaving us in a couple of weeks – we had fun programming it, I hope that you have fun at the events!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Animatronics, a Beekeeper and Windscreen Wipers

By Abi Spinks, Assistant Curator
What links an animatronics expert, a beekeeper in Berlin and a manufacturer of industrial windscreen wipers? The answer is Klaus Weber’s forthcoming exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary. Along with a team of engineers from the University of Nottingham, all have been involved in creating artworks for this German artist’s solo show.

The exhibition includes several new commissions which Weber proposed specifically for Nottingham Contemporary’s building and I have worked alongside the artist on bringing these artworks to fruition.  The process as a whole has been both exciting and taxing – in ways I could not  have imagined. One of the things I find enjoyable about my job is the need to develop new and diverse areas of expertise, every few months.  The journey from an artist’s idea, through stages of research and development and onto a (sometimes) physical end result, can lead to the most unexpected conversations and experiences.  

For example, how does one produce realistic and continuous rain, indoors? This was but one conundrum I faced for the new artwork, ‘If you leave me I’m not coming’, in which the 7 ½ metre wide window of Gallery 2 will be turned into a giant windscreen, complete with oversized wipers and never-ending indoor rain. To tackle this, we turned to the aforementioned team of engineers at the Environmental Technology Centre at University of Nottingham, who have brought their expertise to one of the largest and most technically challenging commissions we have hosted yet.  Working out precisely the volume of water required and the exact droplet size which would allow for even distribution across the glass is one challenge we have set their scientific brains to. 

Oversized wipers for this artwork, each over a metre long, are currently being designed for production by a company in Redditch, which is more  accustomed to supplying wiper solutions for the Singapore Metro and large scale naval ships. Each wiper works tirelessly to clear away the “rain” which continually obscures the view both into and out of the gallery. This artwork functions as an alternative (and very suitably British) public fountain and alludes to the transparency of the art world, as it works to allow the public outside the gallery brief glimpses of the inside, before the eternal drizzle takes over again. 

 So what of the animatronics expert and the beekeeper?  Well, from 22 October, you’ll have to come and find out for yourself.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Glenn Ligon

By Nadine Zeidler, Assistant Curator

American artist Glenn Ligon reflects in much of his work the difficulties for African Americans within contemporary American society. Investigating how minorities are still coping with the remnants of slavery and subliminal manifestations of racism, Ligon has become well known for his text based paintings. These works predominantly draw on the writing of such notable figures as Zora Neale Hurston, Jesse Jackson, James Baldwin and Jean Genet.

Glenn Ligon, Untitled (We are the ink...), 1992, Private Collection, Boston

Untitled (We are the ink...) refers to a famous quote from Jean Genet's memoir Prisoner of Love where he states, “In white America the Blacks are the characters in which history is written. They are the ink that gives the white page a meaning.” Being a white amongst blacks, Genet was fighting alongside the Black Panther Party, choosing his words carefully to speak on behalf of them. In this text painting Ligon subverts Genet’s outsider designation “they” and re-personalises the text using “we”. Working with stencils from top to bottom the grease from the stick thickens, increasingly obscuring the black letters. The duality Duality (physics)

The state of having two natures, which is often applied in physics. The classic example is wave-particle duality. The elementary constituents of nature—electrons, quarks, photons, gravitons, and so on—behave in some respects
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of the black text and the white page embodies Genet’s metaphor of racial power relations and it questions how we perceive and construct oppositional categories of identity.

Glenn Ligon, Untitled (Malcolm X), 2006, Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery
Untitled (Malcolm X) forms part of a series of works where Ligon conducted an art workshop for young children. He asked the children to colour images that were intended to foster shared cultural knowledge and pride. Based on the children’s drawings, Malcom X – the Icon of Black Liberation – is subjected to a clownish remake. Through the investigation of racial stereotypes as well as the nature of representation, Ligon is interested in the slipperiness of the images he is using and also the anxiety around this slipperiness.

L-R Bruce Nauman, One Hundred Live and Die, 1984
Glenn Ligon, Excerpt, 2009, Courtesy of Private Collection, NY
Excerpt – another of Ligon’s pieces in the exhibition – is a direct reference to a larger neon work by Bruce Nauman entitled One Hundred Live and Die. Set against a dark backdrop the black tubes of “Black and Die, Black and Live” were nearly invisible and are not allowed any agency within the flashing spectacle. Ligon admires Nauman’s precise use of language and sampled this particular excerpt. Using visible black wires and black painted neon tubing so that the white light emanates from the back of the text Ligon’s gesture gives the text “Black and Die” and “Black and Live” its own realm of visibility and amplifies the brutality of Nauman’s words.