Wednesday 23 June 2010

Art concepts in historical contexts symposium

This symposium in Brighton was organised by the unravelled group and followed a morning at Preston Manor being shown their exhibition. The first speaker was Frances Lord, an independent curator, who had worked with Catherine Bertola on her exhibition at Nottingham Castle, she talked about her recent work. Lyndall Phelps spoke about her residency at the Natural History Museum store at Tring, where she studied specimens that had been stored in stately homes for safety during the war. Catherine Bertola talked about her work and inspiration. The image above is of Catherine Bertola’s ‘If she is not out as soon as I’ exhibited at Preston Manor – the title is taken from a lace tell.

Unravelling the manor house

This exhibition at Preston Manor by 12 artists in the unravelled group was an intervention inspired by the house and its artefacts. We were shown round the house by some members of the group who explained the inspiration behind the interventions, which were found in different rooms throughout the house.

The artists variously based their work on the owners of the house, the servants and the objects. The pieces I found most interesting were the two installations by Laura Splan, the pillow by Catherine Bertola, the screen by Emma Molony, the blood prints by Kira O’Reilly and the video and notes by Ingrid Plum.

In one of her pieces, Laura Splan had machine embroidered wording from the manor’s visitors’ guide on to two layered pieces of cosmetic facial peel. They were ‘framed’ by embroidery hoops and left on a stool as if just laid aside by the lady of the house. Her other intervention was a glove made in the same way left in a bedroom (Trousseau, shown here). Catherine Bertola’s ‘lace pillow’ was a pillow on a bed with pins sticking out of it as if they had been used to construct bobbin lace providing a play on words and contrasting the idea of the soft comforting pillow and the hard pins. Ingrid Plum’s installation in the same bedroom played out the narrative of the owner’s relationships, by combining a video of shadowy figures, sounds from the present day manor house and handwritten copperplate notes of unexpressed feelings.

Emma Molony’s work was in another bedroom and showed animations of the daily tasks of the servants superimposed on a screen (shown here). The animations were cleverly made and very delicate and also included humorous twists. The jointed models she had made were also shown and were for sale which made the piece more interesting. Kira O’Reilly’s blood prints in lace were in one of the bathrooms; they were attractive and appealed to me because of the lace but I wasn’t sure why the lace had been used.

This domestic setting served to show off the quirkiness of the exhibits in a way that would not have been possible in a white cube setting. It was also interesting to hear the artists talk about their work and inspiration.

The concise dictionary of dress

This exhibition at Blythe House, the museum store for the V&A, was an intervention by between fashion curator, Judith Clark, and psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips. They chose 11 words that were linked to psychoanalysis and dress, Phillips then wrote definitions for them and Clark produced the installations linking them to dress.

The whole experience was staged, you had to be escorted through the store in a group of seven people, each exhibit was revealed to you in turn and you were then given the definition of the word being depicted. This theatricality enhanced the experience and made it feel as if you were discovering the installations for yourself. The 11 words were: armoured, brash, comfortable, conformist, creased, diaphanous, essential, fashionable, loose, measured, plain, pretentious, provocative, revealing, sharp, tight, and the link between them and the exhibits was not always obvious, although they provided food for thought. However, in a discussion in the evening between the artists and Lisa Appignanesi at the London College of Fashion they revealed that Phillips’ words were prompts for Clark rather than absolute definitions of the exhibits. Likewise, they seemed to be prompts for the viewers and Robert Frost was quoted ‘look after the sound and the sense will look after itself’.