Archived entries for

Art World Systems: Network, Medium, Platform

Francis Halsall, Kris Cohen, and Johanna Gosse in Conversation

Friday, November 6th, 5:30 PM
DXARTS Media Lab
Raitt Hall 207
The University of Washington, Seattle

This event is sponsored by the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and hosted by the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS) at the University of Washington.

In this public exchange, art historians Francis Halsall (National College of Art and Design, Dublin), Kris Cohen (Reed College) and Johanna Gosse (Columbia University) will discuss the art world in terms of systems. They take as their starting point three recent books on the state of the contemporary art world: Pamela Lee’s Forgetting the Art World (2012), David Joselit’s After Art (2012), and Lane Relyea’s Your Everyday Art World (2013).

After brief introductions of each text, the speakers will embark on a conversation tackling issues such as the art world’s embeddedness in a networked, global system and shifting conceptions of the artistic medium, from specific materiality to technical support to platform.

Questions they consider will include: what specific forms of knowledge does art continue to offer as its historical definitions, categories, and criteria have transformed, and often, faded into obsolescence, much like the technologies it would critique? To what extent should art and art discourse, as resources for getting our bearings in the present, mesh with and respond to technological change? How are the interconnections between art and technology inevitable within networked life, part of the very structure of destablizing change; and if they are inevitable, and if art and technology are not opposed but forced together in the medium of history, where does critique begin and what shapes should it take?

When all is said and done // Laura Smith

ACW alumni Laura Smith, winner of the Kinsale Arts Festival emerging artist award 2014, at Wandesford Quay gallery, Cork.


Second Floor, The Institute, Enniscorthy, Wexford

Open View 16th October 2015 @ 7pm
Runs Until 31st October 2015

Co-Curated by Trudi Van Der Elsen & ACW Alumni John Busher

Sift is a co-curated project initiated by John Busher and Trudi Van Der Elsen. Without addressing a specific theme, the works examine emerging developments in contemporary painting practice. Sift is a reference to the physical act of filtering through source material, unearthing ideas, and the unexpected which can result from this. A common thread is formed, where image making, photographic referencing, place and memory rise to the surface. Largely grounded in the premise of figurative painting, the individual art practices explore a territory where this concern borders on abstraction.

The practice of Will O’Kane is concerned with the significance of everyday objects, that which surrounds us or may otherwise be over looked. A coat hanger, a half opened book or a decorative picture frame, personal artifacts all enmeshed with a history of their own. Discreet narratives left unfinished, O’Kane’s cryptic works never tell the whole story. Similarly, Kate Murphy’s work explores the curious human attachment to objects. This significance oscillates across ordinary material that is accumulated in particular settings. Wallpaper is seeped in generations of grime, the fissures withholding the unspoken. A patched makeshift watchtower seeks out refuge, inviting pedestrian solitude. Current preoccupations reevaluate the function of traditional painting surface, and enter into an intangible sphere of perplexingly tailored symbols and motifs. Noelle Gallagher renders wraithlike dwellings and interiors with loose references to habitation. Through a process of deconstruction, she rebuilds the surface, eroding the underlying deposits of paint to eventually reveal. Traces of human presence stand evocatively, an abandoned wheelchair, a static earthmover straddles on the edges of urban decline.

The works of Joan Sugrue offer a window into a peculiar world, one filled with barely intelligible figures. A jarring pallet, redolent of late 19th Century interiors rests alongside ill-defined swaths of colour. A silhouetted form floats over a solid emerald ground, her glowing ribbon fastened securely in place. Sugrue’s forms meld into the background, often seen through the dimensions of adornment. John Busher’s practice is concerned with a bodily sense of space. Figures often wander aimlessly through settings that are difficult to pin down. An agitated painterly approach suggests an underlying tension. The act of repeatedly working out the surface allows a space where a variety of sources inform the work.

Place is a major concern in the practice of Trudi Van Der Elsen, particularly sites of historical importance. Architectural forms are obsessively rendered down, an otherworldly presence articulated in the subtle nuance of colour. Observed from above, they edge their way into the visual language of abstraction. Painting forms a large part of her multidisciplinary practice. Positioned in a Victorian (1896) dance hall, Sift offers a juncture where this diversity can be reimagined. Over a number of months, all artists will engage in dialogue to explore the shared concerns of their practice that will eventually conclude and unfold in the space. This dialogue will examine literary connections that may emerge, and eventually provide a framework for works through a series of spoken word events. Writer Caroline Busher will write a series of short stories in response to the works that will be exhibited alongside the show. Author Peter Murphy will engage in a series of performative events. Enniscorthy Choral Society will respond to the space through works selected by choral director Donagh Wylde.

John Busher

Play It By Ear // Richard Carr // Review by Susan Edwards

Play It By Ear
Richard Carr
Soma Contemporary Gallery
Waterford City
27, August – 19, September, 2015

One could almost be excused in missing a tiny gallery along a street in Waterford City. Unassuming and ironically it is quiet. If a building can be quiet and taking into account this gallery is called Soma Contemporary which exhibits and examines sound art. An art practice commonly associated with the term, “acoustic sculpture”.

Play It By Ear is the first solo exhibition by artist Richard Carr and the culmination of several years of research and work that began with a trip in 2012 to Mt. Kerkis, Greece and Pythagoras’ cave. Tradition holds that Pythagoras became the world’s first acousmatic practitioner when he fled to the cave around 400 BC and began to teach his students from behind a screen to increase their listening abilities.

Sound is experienced through the single sense of hearing. It is an aspect of an object that often gets overlooked in a busy bid to “see” an object with the other senses such as sight, taste, and touch. An object or thing does not have to possess a sound or more technically stated, the sound may not be audibly perceptible, so that the absence of noise is in itself, a sound. The auditory experience might well fit into a category termed slow art. One must slowdown in order to “catch” what is intended to be heard. And often times what we hear does not correlate with what we see.

Carr’s sound installations could produce jarring experiences for the viewer/listener for the above reason, the objects seen did not necessarily link to the sound heard. One particular piece which so beautifully exemplified this was a sleek Ikea type glass shelf hinged to a white wall along with natural elemental noise. While one end presents as a distinctly minimalistic architectural design, the other end is a sound emitting near this design of a deeply primal environmental nature. The overall effect is curiosity into why the two ends have been linked together in the installation. This work could have tottered unpleasantly but instead gives a balanced effect of query.

Walt Whitman in his poem “Song to Myself” wrote:

“Now I will do nothing, but listen
To accrue what I hear into this song,
To let sounds contribute toward it.“

In his writing, Whitman was reflecting of communion amongst individuals, that “what I assume, you shall assume”. He was also reflecting that one must look inward, to do nothing, to listen, and put this documentary evidence of humanity into a collective file for reference in trying to grasp one’s and each other’s response to life’s events and situations. The directive from this poem best achieves an insight of Carr’s solo exhibition.

The four gallery spaces where the installations occupied were a cocooned womb of subdued lighting. It was soothing, it was relaxing and it also supported a sense of heighted sensory awareness. The first piece encountered was “Construct”. A wood and glass phone booth type shelter of four individual seating areas complete with head phones, control buttons and a glass viewing window directly in front of a seat. There were no directions or guidance on how to utilize the arrangement.The first decision was to sit down, then to put on the head phones, then to turn and twist the buttons. Whether one wished to engage others sitting in opposite or adjacent booths was a personal decision and also depended on if others were present and willing to play. The headphones produced a child endless recitation of the Letterland alphabet amid construction sounds of lumber being sawed, dropped and moved with accompanying foot fall. The silver knob manipulated and controlled the illumination and brightness in the different booths with images of one’s self projected across to opposite panes of glass due to a central lens in the centre of this quadrant. What was fascinating about this interactive piece was how long each individual took to learn the process of the booth and more importantly how long or if at all, did they choose to interact with others in their own process of self-discovery. It was an experiment of human nature, of curiosity, of a child’s voice inviting the process of discovery, play and construction. An experiment with countless results as varied as the people who occupied the seats.

Returning Solid, installation view 2015

Turning into a small corner of a hallway was “Returning Solid”. The slim 15 inch glass shelf, positioned twelve inches off the floor was the only thing adorning the wall. Subtle lighting emphasised this transparent material. An amplified type object opposite the shelf produced the sounds of wind and trickling water though these felt as if they were floating in air. On the first exposure to this piece, it was almost possible to imagine a small creek flowing off the glass and into air. Because of its complete lack of symbolic referencing, a mental void occurred. The viewer either dismissed this work walking past it or paused, stepping back a bit in puzzlement to question, to reconcile what the eyes saw and the ears heard. It was simplicity of an extreme and hauntingly beautiful.

Residual Error, installation view 2015

Progressing further into the gallery, in a large space all to its self was a creation which became the triangular ten point symbol on the accompanying exhibition publication. Titled “Residual Error”, it involved ten crumpled balls of paper placed on a transparent slab that lay on the floor. The balls of paper were consciously and specifically placed in a bowling ball formation and begged to be picked up, moved about and repositioned. There was the sound of paper ripping, the ear asking the mind to visualise these paper spheres being formed. Listening to the material being torn apart perhaps encouraged deconstruction. The idea was tempting for a child or an adventurous adult to move these balls of paper about the space or even to another room! This reviewer imagined the gallery caretakers would no longer find a ten point triangular formation in the room by the close of each day, but as in a game of probability, they would appear in different areas and locations for the duration of its presentation.

Play it by Ear, installation view 2015

At the very back of the gallery, marking the end of the installation pieces was the work from which the exhibition claimed its’ name, “Play it by Ear”. Even before the viewer entered the area of the work, it was able to be heard. Like a beacon, the sound lured an individual towards it; unnerving, distressing, unable to be identified as human or animal with an impression of dripping liquid amongst the droning hum. Blackened walls with an octagonal screened shape, centrally positioned, created a shrine like atmosphere in the room. The eight sided form was internally lit but no access was available. At once terrifying, but with the soothing gentle light softened by the screen, a wash of curiosity prevailed to investigate. While the other pieces in this exhibition were playful, this acoustic structure was most decidedly not playful, but the contrast of the expectation and the encounter created its own sense of humour or amusement.

Roger Scruton in an essay on the ontological theory of sound states that sounds are “pure events; secondary objects whose existence, nature, and qualities are all determined by how things appear to the normal observer”. In a very simplistic summation, this links well with Whitman’s more poetic observation that one needs to listen, to collect the song of one’s self, the perception of what one hears to understand how it is perceived, “what I assume, you shall assume”. Richard Carr skilfully challenged how we allow sound to influence what is seen within the context of his art practice and first solo exhibition.

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