Goldthorpe

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-22183736

burning Margaret Thatcher

In a controversial act the town of Goldthorpe, 10 miles from Barnsley, they burnt a model of Margaret Thatcher in a street party the day she died to celebrate her passing away. I understand that this act was not met with the agreement of all the town’s residents but many used the event of Thatcher’s death as a way of marking their anger and own sense of tragic loss of life and identities. Whilst in Parliament the Labour party were restrained from making negative comments about the ex Prime Minister this is a group of people who largely lost their sense of community coming together in an act of defiance.

This symbolic act interests me as a community-led protest which shows how strong the feelings are in South Yorkshire

 

 

Examples of women walking alone and in solidarity

I wanted to start a list of these to types of walking. This is compelling to me as I have an interest in walking alone and thinking and realise it has not always been so easy for women to do so. I am also interested in the solidarity of women and their subsequent empowerment through the process. With Barnsley on my mind the Miners’ wives spring to mind as a group who revolutionized their lives through their solidarity.

So what examples do we have of women who walk alone?

agnes Varda film Vagabond 1985

the peace pilgrim from Solnit

George Sand

Virginia Woolf

Elizabeth Bennett (from Pride and Prejudice)

 

Women who walk together:

Miner’s wives- UK

greenham common – UK

sufragettes – USA and UK and?

women of plaza de Mayo – Buenos Aires

This is obviously and ongoing list as I continue to research. I am also a bit worried at the completely western nature of the books I have read so far as they have not taken non western traditions into account.

 

Interview With Miguel Yunquera

Last week when I was on half term holidays I met up with Miguel who, apart from making small models of small businesses in this part of Madrid, grew up in the area and has more recently held workshops in centers for the elderly. I was interested in meeting him because of his own experiences as a child to get a picture of  a disappearing Madrid and especially ask him about how people worked. Rather than focusing on the Cigarette Factory and the Matadero I also wanted to know more about the many small businesses.

As well as his own experiences he has built up a lot of information from meeting the elderly and also the comments from visitors to his exhibitions. In fact his stories were often about the ways of life and sense of community as much as work. He claims that he has found out a lot of stories from the elderly who are reluctant to talk about life in the post war. He feels that this generation have had very little voice because they were too afraid to speak about the past. This area was a largely (but not exclusively) republican area and there was still a lot of fear especially when Franco was still alive. This perhaps continued. Miguel told me stories that people had not spoken about for many decades, in the end partially out of habit.

Many of the stories are collected in books but also exhibited as texts in his exhibition. They are not precise about years but rich in details. For example he told the tale of the woman who remembered doing her first communion 8 or 9 times because every time you got given a cake. She had to stop when she grew out of shoes to borrow for the service. He also talked of how people carried on working and their routines during the defence of Madrid in the civil war. Some criticises them for this but it allowed many to survive. They would open up their shops or their workshops and then in the afternoon go to fight the war for a few hours and then back home. It became a part of their daily life to a certain extent.

In terms of work his exhibition shows small business and anecdotal stories about them. It also tells us when they stopped keeping animals in the city. How it was difficult for republican supporters to get work at times. I was particularly interested in the details. Although Miguel gave me a great sense of nostalgia about how the cummunity supported each other he also left the area along with many once the new suburbs were built and the shanty towns on the Southern edge of Madrid were demolished. That is also a common story along with the current fight against gentrification.

I will return again to make more notes from the oral histories he has collected and displayed in the gallery. It also gives me a chance to reflect on how I will install my own work.

 

link to webpage

Bricks

I was thinking about the use of bricks in my work and especially about how they could be used to navigate the exhibition space.
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The objects represented, as I have mentioned previously, are removed of their function. They were chosen because of their use in paid and unpaid work and the fact that they have existed over time and continue to be used today, some more commonly than others. On the bricks on the floor they have become removed further from their functionality. All are used by being held in the hands. Their reduction to 2D illustrations in bright colours also makes them further removed from function. The bricks too are mere art objects no longer holding walls or protecting us from the weather.

I have chosen to look at Carl Andre for the way in which he uses bricks or brick like structures to ‘control’ the audience and their ways of negotiation space. at Lever from 1966 which is 137 firebricks lined up on the floor the space is changed very simply. the audience walks around the work and negotiates the space in new ways. And encountering this work you are required to either walk over it or around it.

course of development:

Sculpture as form,

sculpture as structure,

sculpture as Place

Carl Andre 1966

Lucy Lippard suggests that walking became fine art through sculpture rather than as a development of performance. She maintains that the viewer has to travel. Andre also sees sculpture as a road. Sculpture is in a sense read as time-based work. One travels or at least moves in order to experience it and is never aware of the whole. I am therefore looking at ways in which I expect the viewer to encounter the work in the gallery space and this is interesting in another sense because the paintings being 2 sided cannot be viewed at the same time. The viewer can only see one side at a time. In the case of the paintings they are not totally static either. If there is a current of air they move. In the gallery this will be more limited than the work I made in  Ciempozuelos in 2015.

I need to think carefully about how I place the bricks should I choose to use them. In the space 3 bricks on the floor would be very lost I would therefore need to make many more and consider including plain bricks. The fact that the bricks are more artisan than many found today is also something I need to question. Should I intermix them with more mass produced ones? I could try painting on them too. I also realise that some of these decisions might be made in April in the space. Although I need to complete all the work in 2016 to allow me to focus on Barnsley.

 

14/11/16 – Crits in small groups

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This small group allowed us to go deeper into the work and was therefore really useful. We looked at the work and then the others gave reflections without us speaking first. I presented the 2 unfinished hangings and the 3 ‘tools’ on bricks. I struggled to photograph the work and Angela asked for more information. Inés came round and she agreed the photographs are not really reflecting the physical pieces in either scale or material. She kindly offered to photograph them for me. I added a finished one hanging free so that the audience had some idea what they look like off the stretchers.

Comments on the above piece about which I am unsure whether it is finished were very helpful. The balance between, finished / unfinished were varied but the most interesting were about the solidity of some of the figure’s gaze making it less comfortable and nostalgic. It made the people present but ‘trapped’ rather than melancholic but covered. some people liked the unfinishedness and I think for now this is a characteristic of my work for which I have to judge somehow each piece at a time (in the same way as all makers do in a way). Inés’s comment about weightlessness of all the pieces was useful as I am not sure I was so conscious of this and the others would have found it more difficult to perceive. The comments about migrants also resonated with me as although they are not going from country to country the migration is the people arriving in Madrid from the country and becoming new city communities. Angela also felt that this was taking away the romance with history and was making the work more of a challenge to be with.

This is a half finished ‘background’ to another hanging which only includes figures in the distance. They are men working with the tobacco – putting it into large baskets to be taken and made into cigarettes although this was not at all clear from the images. I always liked this image because of the ambiguity of the work. Even in the original photograph I only know it is tobacco because of the source. It could easily be crops being put into baskets. I was partly drawn to this because of the texture of the tobacco. I need to decide what image to overlay it with and how solid it should be. I do think it should be full size figures either from the cigarette making women or agricultural work; both of which link thematically. I am tempted to make the overlaying image more like the first one as I like the idea of challenging the viewer and I am also wanting to move away from the nostalgic comfortable view of history. I also wish to play with the workers’ gazes and their solidity. Angela made the point of relating these to each other, which they will need to do although they will not be seen simultaneously, but closely. I do not want to continue with the digital dots as I am concerned they might become a signature or a lazy tactic.I believe they work to a certain extent and I have made 4 hangings with dots which ‘float’ on top but are also very much part of both sides of the fabric. There is a temptation to continue a way of working which is successful on some level and links all the work together but I am not satisfied by it. The overlaying of figures also makes the whole thing more complex and the interconnectedness of pasts.

The most interesting qualities are the doublesidedness (which Angela pointed out gives us a sort of opposition), weightlessness, layering and fragility. I need to focus on the gazes of the people and consider very carefully the tension between the transparent lines and washes and the thicker opaque paint. I need to be especially concerned as to how the pieces work with each other, although I could use other pieces I make (The gallery is downstairs and the pieces are not going to be exhibited with the permanent collection which is about historical popular culture). The other work I make might be crucial to these links. I was also asked about the lighting (so complicated in the studio and for the images I sent to the Group) I should be able to control the lighting in the museum insofar as the installations allow which is actually great news but also a challenge to get right.

Here I should distinguish maybe between my work for the museum /gallery and the street art. To have a signature colour scheme, dots, twitter tag might be more appropriate to work we encounter in the street. The workers in the street also need to try and grab the attention in a saturated visual culture where there is a lot of competition and little time for reflection. It has been quite hard to sustain this work with the same aesthetic but it has quite a comforting side to it. I might feel it is boring to repeat a figure, but if I am stuck with more complex problems in the hangings it is quite therapeutic to just paint and enjoy the experience. I have also managed to improve the drawings, enlarge the figures, and avert the gazes of the workers. So it is not mere repetition. Someone, Máire?, asked whether I could incorporate the workers and I remembered Caroline’s suggestion that they could stay in the streets nearby.

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This street is very close to the museum and the cleaner has been there since the end of the summer. This is where I could consider adding more women working.

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Finally I included these bricks which are a recent addition to the models of and prints of tools which we still use for paid and unpaid work but are flat illustrations and useless. The 3D ones were also useless because of the materials used. I really enjoyed making these and particularly the contrast of brick and acrylic paint. However I do not know where or whether they fit in with the body of work I am preparing for this show. The group raised excellent questions about the purpose of these pieces. Were they to hold fabric? From the museum? personal objects from the people in the images? All of these could be ways of making them work. By connecting them to the workers in the images I could add to the narrative or link pieces which at the moment are rather varied. At the moment they are on the floor and instinctively I like them there but I need to reflect on this more. I think the positioning also needs to depend on the overall body of work. I do not have to include them in the exhibition but Angela warned of being seduced by them as objects with which I totally agree.

 

Site specific painting

I decided to look at a few examples from the history of painting directly onto walls (and ceilings) as this is one thing I feel I prefer to do even if it means that it then gets destroyed or painted over. The murals of india (and the cave paintings) are a strong and continuing tradition I did not know about, especially strong in Kerala Southern India.

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These frescos in the monks cells in Florence by Fra Angelico I do remember well from when I visited many years ago. They are however framed like canvases and therefore lose some of the quality of being part of the building and the wall. However I remember being impressed by this quality when I visited. I do not remember them as framed in this way. Perhaps my memory is failing me or they changed the display.

Frescos  in monks cells – Fra Angelico

The most recent example I have heard of has been Richard Wright’s gold leaf work in the Greenwich Palace in London. This work is made very much in harmony with the features of the building. None of these examples are  temporary and their functions vary greatly but there is a particular emphasis on the spiritual. I have avoided the Mexican muralists or the Harlem Renaissance or other murals with an overt political message  which I have and I am trying to look at wider traditions. I am thinking about this as I sometimes feel a pressure (from myself?) to make art objects. I am interested to see this choice as something other than purely political, contemporary and part of a wider tradition.

 

Ways of Walking

Through reading, especially the Rebecca Solnit book ‘Wanderlust’, I have seen many different ways of walking and types of walks. There are also many ideas about and ways of walking, as she begins by stating, that she does not explore. I am realising that whilst it is all very interesting only some of it is going to be useful or relevant to my practice. Firstly, Solnit is attempting to put walking in its socio historical context and touches on many other disciplines as well.

Early on she states that she is looking at walking as an amateur act – it is still not part of contemporary job descriptions although sometimes recommended at work places for de-stressing. In spite of this she explores the history from an English speaking perspective and therefore gathers poets, political activists, essayists examples which show how walking habits changed over centuries. Solnit does acknowledge that this is not about the poor who always walked but could not write. For them to walk was probably an integral part of survival. She does talk at length about Wordsworth for whom walking is essential to compose and how the classical philosophers walked to discuss ideas. Both of which suggest working to me if not a trade or physical labour.

Solnit also has a fascinating theory that we think at 3 mph, or rather our thoughts are comfortable with the speed of walking. This is presumably what  Wordsworth and other Romantic Poets harnessed. I think this aspect of walking and working is one main element I want to continue to research, although I will focus less on history (I will not ignore the above) as there are few records of women doing this the further back we go, Dorothy Wordsworth is a notable example. This will be my main focus, however, I am also interested in workers and class struggles from which protests are born and the collective walk or demonstration. That might be less about how I work but more a subject or a part of what my work becomes or a part of the research.

Here are some of the other, really interesting, types of and approaches to walking which I have come across but which for now I am going to set aside:

walking to appreciate the landscape and the picturesque and show good taste or following guide books;

Spiritual pilgrimages such as the Camino de Santiago;

Mountaineering;

Walking because it has been declared healthy for you either physically, morally or both;

Walking as a kind of public display, to be seen;

Going for a walk as an excuse to speak privately with someone;

walking in labyrinths;

the origins of bipedalism;

The environmentalist aspect of walking;

Of course there are elements of the above I may need to touch on such as I might follow the route of a protest walk which might feel a little like tourism or following a pilgrimage but I think the function would be very different.

 

 

Developing hangings for la corrala

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This hanging has been very slow to progress but I feel it might be approaching some kind of resolution. Although I have done relatively little to this it feels much more resolved now I have added the orange washes. I still have a doubt about adding cooler receding colours but think maybe I need to start the next piece using different colours in order to decide.

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example of previous hanging

I am also considering whether to add a ‘covering’ of thicker paint in a grid or otherwise to obscure the memory. However looking at the images I feel the newer piece is already more removed from the  nostalgic with the overlaying and the reading is made more complicated. I hope there are enough references of time and work for this to be accessible even if this is not immediate. I have decided to start the next one as this one might be ‘finished’ – the question I find the hardest is when to stop.

It is also important for me to remember that these hangings are to be hung loose: ie without the stretcher which I need to use to paint them. They look very different – these are both photographed still on the stretcher. I am also thinking of the need to ‘finish’ the sides and bottoms and considering whether I need to sew them or leave them cut. The top will have to be sewn to fit on the poles that will hold them in the air.