Last talk

Three times lucky for me: I’ll be talking at Birkbeck again this morning. Drawing on notions of authorship and translation, and making connections with ‘the curatorial’ and ‘the translational’ I will consider some case studies that I’ve been looking at recently, including the book Ways of Seeing.

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More talking…

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Not strictly talking about a specific book, but I will be in conversation with graphic designer Stuart Bailey this coming Tuesday, 20 June, about how we both approach our research around art books, and publishing about and in relation to art. Stuart finished his PhD at Reading in 2014, embracing Umberto Eco’s notion of the Open Work, something I am also interested in.

The talk will take place at Birkbeck, in a series of Corkscrew events that focus on practice-based or practice-related research. For more information click here.

On Management

Issue 5 of the open access PARSE Journal of Valand Academy of the University of Gothenburg has just gone online (click here to access the webpage). As always, it comprises an interesting range of texts, this time on ideas and practices related to management in the arts – both on individual and institutional levels.

PARSE No. 5

Contributors include the late Marc Fisher (Accelerate Management), Andrea Francke and Ross Jardine (Bureaucracy’s Labour: The Administrator as Subject), Christopher Newfield (Arts and Humanities Education as Neo-liberalism Comes Unglued), Karin Hansson (The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Between Alienation and Belonging), Carla Cruz (‘Save Our Library!’: Social Action, Austerity and The Big Society), Kaldun Bshara (Biennales in Palestine: Thinking Art and Making Art), Erling Björgvinsson (Managing Collaborative Critique in Times of Financialisation Capitalism), Dari Bae and Apolonija Šušteršic (Master Plan for Duamdong) and Barbara Czarniawska (After Practice: A Personal Reflection).

Revisiting: Tony Oursler – The Influence Machine

In Madison Square Park in New York, and subsequently in Soho Square, the heart of London’s media world, video artist Tony Oursler created a spectral audio-visual experience for an image-saturated society. Conceived as a kind of psycho-landscape, The Influence Machine delves deep into the history of media, rousing long-forgotten spirits and setting them to roam about both squares at night. The ghosts of the Fox Sisters, who made telegraphic contact with the spirit world in the mid-nineteenth century, haunted alongside the ghost of television pioneer John Logie Baird.

Jointly commissioned by the Public Art Fund, and Artangel, and realised in 2000, the work is now part of the Artangel collection, and has been restaged in a range of location both in the UK and elsewhere.

What the work itself comprises is difficult to delineate, as it not only relies on Oursler’s quintessential ‘talking heads’, and thus also sound (including a sound track by Tony Conrad), in this case moving image’s ephemerality is pushed even further because of the outdoor projections onto whatever they fall upon – buildings, trees, people and, most strikingly, smoke, which forms an integral part of the realisation of the work. As a result it is not only literally always fleeting but also different in every context, visibly influenced by the surroundings in which it is revived.

In the book Oursler’s then most elaborate deep media project is condensed in an illustrated time line, ‘Timestream, I Hate the Dark, I Love the Light’, while accompanying texts elaborate on the phantasmagorias of the late eighteenth century, its contemporary equivalents, and the influence of spiritualism within the general development of media. With an introduction by Susan K. Freedman, Tom Eccles and James Linwood, a conversation between Tony Oursler and Louise Neri, and essays by Carlo McCormick and Marina Warner, as well as extensive image sequences.

The design is by Mark Diaper, who came up with the idea to break up the ‘Timestream’ and divide it in different strands that, as time passes, cross each other, or new strands ‘fade in’ and old strands ‘fade out’. The hardback cover also has a dust-jacket on which the title on the front cover and spine lights up in the dark…

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Revisiting: Rachel Lichtenstein – Rodinsky’s Whitechapel

Traversing London from near Euston Station to the top of Brick Lane through back alleys and quiet streets today, made me realise how much this city has changed in the span of just under two decades. I was reminded that in the late 1990s, early 2000s, virtually the only happening place was the Vibe bar on Brick Lane, and that you struggled to find a decent cup of coffee. And now look at it! Designer shops galore, and more trendy bars and restaurants than one could have ever imagined. Not to mention the upmarket hotels, private members’ clubs and bicycle shops…

One of the reasons I know the area around Brick Lane well is the range of projects Artangel commissioned around the area around 1999. In addition to the premiere of Douglas Gordon’s  Feature Filmin a cavernous space that was part of the Truman Brewery complex, and Janet Cardiff’s The Missing Voice (case study b), which literally took visitors out on the surrounding streets, from the Whitechapel Library to Liverpool Street Station, there was Rachel Lichtenstein’s Rodinsky’s Whitechapel.

The project focused on the story of the Jewish recluse David Rodinsky. In 1969, he mysteriously disappeared from his attic room above the synagogue in Princelet Street, in the heart of the old Jewish East End. A decade later his room was reopened and its mess of papers, notebooks, writings in several languages and cabalistic diagrams began to capture people’s imagination. Eventually, Rodinsky and his rooms assumed mythical proportions.

As the granddaughter of Polish immigrants who settled in Princelet Street in the 1930s, writer and artist Rachel Lichtenstein was immediately intrigued when, in 1990, she first heard of the synagogue. She secured a residency in the building and took over Rodinsky’s role as self-appointed caretaker. She began to catalogue the objects left in his room, and also started searching for people who had known him. Granta commissioned her to collaborate on a book about her findings with Iain Sinclair, which became Rodinsky’s Room.

Working on this publication and walking the streets of Whitechapel, Lichtenstein built up a wealth of information about the area, and gradually the story of David Rodinsky began to interweave with her own history, her knowledge of this neighbourhood they had both inhabited. Commissioned by Artangel, Lichtenstein ended up writing an artist’s guidebook titled Rodinsky’s Whitechapel, which takes the reader on a walking tour, past sites and buildings that played an important role not only in Rodinsky’s life, but also in Lichtenstein’s own. The walk highlights the last remnants of many important locations of the once vibrant, but now quickly vanishing Jewish East End. Mr. Katz’s closed not long after publication in 1999, as have many other places on the route since. Like Cardiff’s book and audio work, Lichtenstein’s guide highlights how a city like London has been a home to migrant and different communities living side by side for centuries. Doing the walk now also makes us aware of how quickly so much of the city’s tissue can change, and what stays the same, revived, refurbished, regenerated.

The book as an object is a neat little number, that comes with a map, and that fits easily in one’s pocket. Designed by Mark Diaper.

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