Looking Forward – work

As I am completing my reflection of the Exploratory Project I have identified my interest in work. In my tutorial with Stewart Geddes he had an issue with my use of the workers as a way of describing my subjects. He said it sounded very dated. I find this really interesting. It might be partially related to the language issue, I still read ‘trabajadores’ in Spanish news, or do I? What then or who are the workers now? With huge unemployment there is a lower percentage of the population in employment but how are we employed? I have realised that these issues matter a lot to me. Having completed the essay and sent off and uploaded my work for assessment I feel I have the opportunity to research new areas. I was not able to put all the issues I wanted to research in 2000 words. Various subjects I wanted to include and which I want to relate to my work had to be edited out. I also realise that I started so late that I don’t think I had a good approach the essay was just me surveying some theories and practices which relate to mine in a relatively superficial way without much of a critical edge. At the time I just wanted to meet the deadline and keep up with my other work.



It is clear that my work in Ciempozuelos not only relates to social changes in communities but also fundamentally to the work place and labour itself. Over the past few months the change in the way prostitution is ‘sold’ has become more and more visible in my daily life. Every day these small flyers (usually about 6-8cm) are left on car windscreens. I first noticed these walking around in Southern Madrid neighbourhoods but gradually they got to more central areas. In some ways it is shocking and saddens me on the other hand maybe this ‘industry’ should not be hidden from us. I was shocked by the prices ‘anti crisis’ how little they were asking and the supermarket style special offers. This makes me question not only how women are used in the sex industry but also how this is part of a huge change in the way work is defined and our relation to it. I am not sure what I will do with the flyers for now I am collecting and I am reading about how we define work.

Some references:

Braverman, H. (1974) Labor and monopoly capital: The degradation of work in the twentieth century. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Reflection so Far

MA1 Visual Enquiry

Exploratory Project Plan & Evaluation

Name: Alison South Date:             23rd February 2015


Project Plan. 1 to 2 pages.

What do you want to explore? Be specific.

Making a piece of work which is temporary and site specific relating to an abandoned building. I will seek advice from friends to make contacts in different areas and negotiate with those responsible. My preferred sites are abandoned factories, institutions such as hospitals, schools, prisons etc. If possible I would like to be able to open the work up to the public as some kind of an exhibition even if only for a short time.

What is your personal challenge?

    1. Negotiate with people and having to defend my ideas to strangers.
    2. Adapt my way of working to a specific space.

What methods will you use?

  1. talk to as many people as possible to find a good space as quickly as I can.
  2. analyse the space in terms of past function and physical properties
  3. investigate the history of the space, develop new research methods. Through communication with people, archives and technology.
  4. adapt my way of working in the studio and possibly on site in response to the space and the stories
  5. collaborate with people and environment

Plan an outline programme over 12 weeks; build in time for reflection.

wk 1 find a space and a back up plan B.

wk 2 investigate the site and its stories (the history – oral history)

wk 3 consider materials and begin to play with them on site and studio

wk 4 experimentation on site and in studio

wk 5 experimentation and documentation of progress

wk 6 reflection

wk 7 more experimentation according to the outcomes of the reflection

wk 8 making

wk 9 making

wk 10 working in the space

wk 11 photographing and documenting the event

wk 12 reflection

What challenges do you anticipate?

Finding a space and getting permission

Legal challenges – permission to use the site

Lack of personal negotiation skills and having to keep going with them.

What could you do when you get stuck?

go for a run /read a chapter of a novel.

pick up the phone and call someone to ask for help

Project Evaluation

16th May 2015

  1. What went well and why?

The working on site was generally successful it freed up my process as I had to strip back to essentials and plan carefully. I could not take a wide variety of equipment with me so I had to choose what to use carefully. Sometimes this was more successful than others. For example I did not dilute the paint enough but in the space this was more effective than in the studio. The figures needed to exist and they were not over powering.

2. What did not go so well and why?

I am not as well organised as I need to be. I took the wrong ladder with me to the site once and could not reach the beams. On another occasion I charged the DSLR to go and take photographs and left the battery charging in my kitchen. When I arrived at the site I had to take photographs using my phone which are not very good but are the only documentation I have of this phase of the project.

3. Comment on what have you learnt about:

  • Your making process

I found it difficult to make the figures the size I wanted them to be: a little larger than life size. This might be as this year I have done less drawing than usual but also because I was working outside my comfort zone in a public space and never knew who may arrive. In fact the only people who came whilst I was there (some runners) were more frightened of me than I of them and ran away when I said hello. Painting on the walls was difficult especially at first and very different to walls in the studio but I really liked how the mark interacted with what was already there. I was more comfortable in the studio and enjoyed the sensuality of the paint on calico, but both felt right.

  • Your use of resources

As mentioned previously I needed to select carefully and be organised before driving a 60 km round trip to the site. I would like to use more from the site in future and find a way of integrating the supports I took with me (card and fabric) into the site more effectively. Working without water or electricity was a challenge which I got better at dealing with. I also felt several times that this would have been an excellent type of project for some kind of collaboration.

  • Your capacity to take risks

Throughout this project I felt a bit like I did as a child entering forbidden territory. I feel I took the biggest risks in articulating my project within the local community, some of whom frankly thought I was crazy and the local culture councillor offered me a nice new gallery space in which to exhibit. I did meet some very helpful people too who I think will be mutually useful in the future. Although my best sources for images in the end were online scanned analogue photos.

  • How you cope with problems

When I took the wrong ladder and forgot the camera battery I felt very frustrated. I tried to reschedule the tasks but in one case I got sick and some phases are not documented.

  1. How could you take forward what you’ve learnt?

I intend to document the project using digital and analogue photography. I like the idea of going back into analogue as I used found analogue images as sources. I will use this documentation when I approach the Ciempozuelos town hall about exhibiting either in one of their institutions, possibly in the patio. I will also use the documentation to seek the use of other sites.

Through this project I have identified my interest not only with institutions and the narratives of those who inhabited them but also a concern for the changing labour relations and ways of working. I can continue to work in abandoned spaces to build up a portfolio whilst trying to take the work into more ‘official’ sites where I will need permission for access.

I also had the idea of using this work in an educational way if I can get a voluntary job in a young offenders center in the summer I would be able to develop what I have done into a project

Santiago Sierra

I had to remove this piece from my essay about painting histories. Although in many ways Santiago Sierra’s work is relevant to my own it does not directly relate to the past and is more of a comment on the present. I had too many word so I cut it out. I am still struggling to get the essay into a form that convinces me. I will have to complete this tomorrow.

As I am especially concerned with changes in how work and labour relationships are changing I was interested in howcontemporary Spanish artist Santiago Sierra has used controversial methods often within traditional art spaces to make the audience feel uncomfortable about our relationship to work and how the art gallery and capitalism work. He employs people in a variety of ways to ‘perform’ in his pieces. For example in London’s Tate Modern he paid homeless women a night’s hostel accommodation to stand facing the wall. These performances focus our awareness of the labour market. In a world of ever diminishing labour rights these individuals, on behalf of whom he has been criticised are possibly earning more than some of the gallery employees. As he said:
“At the Kunstwerke in Berlin they criticized me because I had people sitting for four hours a day, but they didn’t realize that a little further up the hallway the guard spends eight hours a day on his feet..¨(Margolles, 2011)
Sierra pays the performers in relation to the market value of a charge or cost relevant to their specific situation. He has been accused of ‘.. treading a thin line between detached conceptual criticism and complicity with the very economic exploitation and human objectification he is critiquing’. (Church, 2009). His work is ephemeral but also at times invisible. For example in ‘100 hidden individuals’ Dr Fourquet, Madrid 2003, he hid 100 unemployed people for 4 hours in a street in the center of the city. Sierra has also been criticised for his relationship with the artworld and cynical stance.(ephemera)

Anonymity and Visibility

I am starting to panic as to what I will actually be able to put into my essay and this is one of the elements I might have to leave out. I also realised that I havent posted anything on this journal whilst I was travelling and that I should have made more effort to continue to reflect as I read and think. The writing helps me to make sense of my ideas and reach conclusions.

Yesterday I managed to sit down and listen to the recorded session from 11th May about the Exploratory Project and submission of work to the OCA. This was fascinating as many of my group have chosen to work outside their comfort zone and have found this either very rewarding and found new ways into their practice, often returning to themselves, or helped to reinforce their conviction of where they should be. Either way I got a feeling listening to the recording that in many ways they had located themselves in a new way. They seemed to all have a new perspective on their practice. For me this has been really interesting. As a rather unprepared student in the initial session on the Exploratory Project I chose to fill out the form with a project I didnt really believe I could do but that I was what I really wanted to do. Had I had any longer to think about it I doubt that I would have done this. After the great excitement and then fear I had to become quite pragmatic and also realistic about what I could actually do. Angela put my mind at rest about working in a less public way and Stuart Geddes also helped with the idea of work that might never be seen or that had to be discovered.

Later on I read on Jeremy Deller’s webpage about his proposal for the Battle of Orgreave that when he applied he didn’t even think it was possible. (I also like the failures section on his site). This made me think a lot about how we limit ourselves and, given that most realistic proposals and entries are unsuccessful I am so pleased I tried something which I didn’t initially expect to work out. I also learnt that in order for it to work I needed to be better organised and focused than I normally am. This reminded me of the video I once saw in the Tate Modern in which Joan Miró’s housekeeper explained his rigid routine (and I have since read or heard about Gerhard Richter’s similar discipline). I believe many of my MA1 peers are more self disciplined than I am. They spoke of emotional responses being new to them and said they normally knew how a project would go that they followed a process and that changing this was liberating, I also now that to achieve their outcomes they have been disciplined within this shift: that emotional does not mean disorganised.

So, what has changed? I feel more confident about taking my work into new spaces, about negoitiating sites and with people. The elections on 24th May might help me with this. Many people are ready for a change and the local town halls may be more open to proposals. I also met a few people who can maybe help with negotiation and feel more confident with talking and taking this forward. Part of this plan includes improved documentation of the project which I will not be able to do for assessment but which I need to take forward as an example for future proposals.

The big question of making work in the street/of the street without permission or any legal rights is the importance of the author. The anonymity of the street artist. I think of activists who cover themselves or face away from the camera but are named. The cult of the artist or the art object as a comodity are both issues I need to investigate further and which are unlikely to make it into my essay as I already have too many words and it is not central to my question. I am not sure how visible or invisible I want to be and there is a huge question about invisible painting which I have only just begun to think about. Like Santiago Sierra’s hidden people in boxes in a gallery or in Calle Dr Fourquet in Madrid. I will need to come back to hidden paintings after I have finished the essay.

Mapping the Territory

mapping the territory

This is like a postscript to Mapping the Territory. As I couldn’t keep the nests I tried making a drawing of them on paper but it was really difficult to see. I therefore then decided to paint it onto the wall (wardrobe) in my studio. I did this is much the same way as I am drawing on the walls of the abandoned factory. I thought this would be useful as I am writing the essay as well and I need to focus- with only 2,000 word it is really hard to go into depth and cover the areas that might might be useful so I am trying to choose. I preferred the painting on the wall as it is so physical. I don’t think being so many hours on the computer is always helpful. I even thought of writing my essay by hand but it seemed impractical. However on reflection most papers, books and articles we have were written this way. As I will be travelling this week maybe I shall try writing some of the essay by hand and see what changes.