have you seen the rhinos in southampton? they are a group of 42 rhinos painted by artists, sponsored by companies from denplan to southampton solent university, placed around southampton city centre. each one brightly coloured and inviting, yet we come close and we are dissuaded from really engaging by a sign. each one is placed on a concrete plinth exclaiming ‘this rhino is a work of art’. suddenly, we mustn’t touch, or climb or physically engage with the beasts, despite their comfy looking backs and their cuddleable countenances. we are conditioned to apply a reverie to these objects because they are ‘art’. thankfully, many are ignoring this proclamation, and i have seen hoardes of giggling children mount their steeds and gallop off into their imaginations, rebellious parents snapping enthusiastically.
but it started me thinking about art and what it is, and how we consider it – conceptually, aesthetically, ponderously, reverentially.
a favourite piece that deals with this, is kosuth’s ‘one and three chairs’ (1965). the constant in the piece is the plan – one chair, one photograph (life size) of the chair and one large print wall hung definition of the word ‘chair’. it should be of the chair that is in the space anyway, with the piece developed specifically around that chair – photo to the left, def to the right.
kosuth said of the piece:
“I used common, functional objects – such as a chair – and to the left of the object would be a full-scale photograph of it and to the right of the object would be a photostat of a definition of the object from the dictionary. Everything you saw when you looked at the object had to be the same that you saw in the photograph, so each time the work was exhibited the new installation necessitated a new photograph. I liked that the work itself was something other than simply what you saw. By changing the location, the object, the photograph and still having it remain the same work was very interesting. It meant you could have an art work which was that idea of an art work, and its formal components weren’t important.” Joseph Kosuth, April 7, 1970:
in a conflation of my responses to these two things, i have made a small piece of work for the artists’ vending machine at unit11studios, called ‘kosuth’s rhino’. it comprises a small model rhino, a picture of the rhino, and a definition of ‘rhinoceros’
“It meant you could have an art work which was that idea of an art work, and its formal components weren’t important.”
so, in my mind, the southampton rhinos remain an art work, however their audience interacts with them. the rhino rodeo riders become a formal component of the work, the experience becomes a part of the work, the laughter becomes a part of the work, the reverential looker becomes a part of the work. indeed, these rhinos are works of art.
nb. the artists’ vending machine, from which you may purchase small contemporary works of art, including ‘kosuth’s rhino’ by sarah filmer, for just £5, will be sited at unit11studios as part of the southampton open studios trail, aug 17th, 18th and 24th. click here for further details: https://unit11studios.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/southampton-open-studios-trail-2013/
Posted: August 14th, 2013 | Author: sarahfilmer | Filed under: artists' book, kosuth, open studios, partcipatory art, southampton rhinos, thoughts on future work | No Comments »
@troy is everything i want from theatre. specifically sited in space, set in the military pomp of the gurkha museum, and based on the story of trojan women during battle with the greeks over the beautiful helen, @troy is non-specifically sited in time. the story is ancient, but the issues are timeless, from all time, and painfully relevant to today. with both oblique and direct references throughout to some of the horrors we currently face (drones, governmental guff and bluff, silencing of dissenters, ill-informed decision-making), and with the genius device of cassandra’s visions arriving by mobile telephone, the central military themes (the prospect of which, as play material, i did not relish) were handled so deftly and in such an interesting way, that i was captivated from the start.
there were two aspects to this piece of work that particularly appealed to me:
it was staged such that we, the audience, were sitting around two large tables, making bunting, drinking toasts and were extras to the action, creating the atmosphere of the event. the play itself moved around the room, between the tables, amongst us. we were invited, implicated, questioned, directed, immersed. this was active watching, participation – an iteration that we none of us were exempt from the ramifications of the horrors of war, whatever our position.
and then there were the stories. the stories of the women. contemporary accounts, garnered at first hand by the writers, were synthesized so fluidly with the high drama of greek tragedy to give nuanced and diverse insight into the lives of women whose military menfolk, be they fathers, brothers, husbands, or sons, live in peril. whether staunch, unerring supporters of the system, or troubled, questioning women compelled to maintain a supportive front, the strength and endurance required were shown to us with a humanity that touched us, and engendered a deep empathy.
the casting was perfect – cassandra’s pivotal madness, cora’s encompassing resilience, hecuba’s tragic leadership, andromache’s wretched ambivalence, helen’s seductive isolation and diakonos’ dutifully delivered, life-changing news, were each conveyed with commitment and skill that left me speechless. the chorus rounded the shape of the production, with just two actors bringing a sense of group and community in an understated yet powerful way.
so, from me a huge thank you, for a truly remarkable experience, to all involved.
cora .. vix hobbs
chorus 1 & 2 .. amber o’connell, anna carr
diakonos .. colin mcallister
hecuba .. annie sanger-davies
andromache .. hannah timms
cassandra ..johannah jolson
helen of sparta .. beth cleeter
this play was written collaboratively by writers deborah gearing and fiona mackie. please read more about this most unusual process here:
Posted: March 3rd, 2013 | Author: sarahfilmer | Filed under: collaboration, partcipatory art | Tags: @troy, deborah gearing, fiona mackie, gurkha museum | No Comments »
towards the end of last year, my goldfinch photograph was selected for the zeitgeist arts project open exhibition (excitement outlined here: http://sarahfilmer.com/news/)
it transpires that i am a natural ‘zapper’ – if you investigate the philosophy of this organisation, it does not take long to realise that zap founders and drivers, annabel tilley and rosalind davies are fuelled by a compulsion to build relationships at every turn. they exude accessibility, so at the closing event of the exhibition, i found myself tentatively inquiring whether they would consider a trip to southampton and give their ‘a-z of surviving as an artist’ talk to the students at southampton solent school of art and design.
the talk was held in the art school yesterday. we were treated to a thorough journey through every letter of the alphabet, with top tips at each of the 26 stops which were not only invaluable to the students about to step out of the safety of art school, but which will also re-invigorate my own outlook and approach.
the three things we were to take from the talk were:
commit to your practice – make the work
invest in your future – raise your profile
the other gems that rang loudly in my ears were:
the importance of thank you’s
find three words to answer the question ‘what is your work?’
stand proudly by your work and talk about it – if you don’t love and promote it, who will?
make work make work make work
as i look through my notes, it becomes apparent just how comprehensive the talk was – these women shared a wealth of experience both generously and genuinely. it is no surprise that after just a couple of years of working together, annabel and rosalind have created such a huge buzz – the synergy of their partnership is something to behold!
as well as a good student turnout, several artists from unit11studios, melinda mccheyne from studiosbournemouth, local artist chantal powell, and others from the wider southampton art community attended. we then decamped to unit11studios where we continued to share and discuss our experiences and approaches to working in, and managing, our studios, melindas plans for bournemouth studios, and the success of the day. it was relaxed yet informative, and accompanied by coffee cake, tea and a glass of tardy wine.
so thanks very much, rosalind and annabel – you are extraordinary!
Posted: February 26th, 2013 | Author: sarahfilmer | Filed under: blue jumper | No Comments »
i was lucky enough yesterday to go on the ‘west end gallery trip’ with the fine art students of solent university. it was an amazing day – greg palmer’s itinery ensured that we encountered a diversity of contemporary fine art in a variety of spaces ranging from russian art from the 1980’s to the present, at the enormous, pared-down, magnolia opulence of the saatchi gallery, to a small but exciting judy chicago retrospective in the higgledy space of the tiny riflemaker’s gallery in brewer street.
after a recent controversial review of the mid year show at the art school, there was a great deal of interest in how work is presented – we saw an interesting and eclectic collection of solutions to how work is shown – salient points, particularly fior the third years as their degree show approaches, were an attention to detail, method relating to content, the endless adage that less is more, and how successful a response to the space in which work is situated can be ……. and did i mention that less is more, and, of course, that less is more ………
the whole day comprised really strong work. i don’t think it is my lack of discernement that lead me to conclude that i didn’t have the ‘this is shit’ response to anything, more testament to the amount of great stuff that is being produced. there was a real pervasion of art that concerned the body, much of which manifested in highly sexual, sometimes violent imagery – cindy sherman’s two series: sex pictures ‘89-92, and broken dolls ’99 (at the spruth magers gallery as part of the group show ‘the vivisector’), were a difficult but compelling view, with the abject, composite, burnt and en-holed dolls evoking recent media overload with abuse, sexual violence and exploitation. questions of power and hierarchy, specifically in relation to gender, were discussed at the karsten schubert show ‘taking matters into our own hands’ – a group show comprising documentation of feminist performances from artists working in Britain in the 1970’s.
rose english’s piece ‘quadrille’ was my pick of the day: 6 women clad in aprons and dressed as horses – shoes made of hooves enforcing a tiptoe stance, tails strapped on in heavy and cumbersome fashion – performed a ‘quadrille’ (a classic dressage dance performed by real horses) on southampton common at a horse show in 1975. it was not only a phenomenal spectacle, but dressage acts as a powerful metaphor for the hidden power wielding, and the power structure of ‘man’ and ‘beast of burden’ found in the male-female structures in place in the 1970’s. there is, of course, endurance of such issues, which explains the ongoing resonance of this work. the ephemera of the performance – hoof shoes, tail pieces, invitation and performance descriptions from the event were also part of the documentation.
my other highlight was fred sandback at david zwirner. his simple introduction of acrylic yarn ‘elaborates on the phenomenological experience of space’. this i experienced first hand in ‘untitled (sculptural study,two part standing construction) 1978/2007’, two rectangles were drawn in space, floor to ceiling, taller than they are wide, perpendicular to each other: when i stepped through the yarn drawn shape, i had a physical response, genuinely feeling as though i was stepping from one space into a different space. it is difficult to explain, but it was remarkable how that piece of yarn, via the intervention of the artist, could elicit such a sensation.
richard wilson 20:50
all in all, it was a day that broadened my mind, expanded my sense of possibility, nourished my making self, and warmed my soul. if anyone is ever looking for an intense gallery day in London, i am going to promise myself one of these every 3 months, and going with others for the purposes of discussion and insights would be great – let me know if you might want to do the same.
Posted: January 25th, 2013 | Author: sarahfilmer | Filed under: thoughts on future work | 1 Comment »
so yesterday, with my heart in my mouth, and with the patient and lateral thinking, solution driven help of ben lower, i drilled the holes in the photos to bind the books. results below:
Posted: January 15th, 2013 | Author: sarahfilmer | Filed under: artists' book | No Comments »
i am reading ‘you are not a gadget, by jaron lanier. it is about how the interweb is depersonalising us all and how certain tropes we have adopted in our engagement with it are limiting and faulty, but suit ‘the man’. we also stop questioning many things … like how are creative people supposed to make a living when our content is available for free for anyone? now, i consider myself to be a generous individual, but i am very drawn to the work of a man called ted nelson, who conceived the notion of a ‘hyperlink’ in the 60s. but his idea was that each time we clicked on someone’s link, a very small amount of money was paid to the person/organisation supplying the contentby the person/organisation accessing the content. apparently the main objection to this model, back in the days before it was seen to be otherwise, was that this would privilege the few writers, film makers, visual artists, musicians etc who would provide the content over the vast majorities who would only access, not provide. well, how wrong these objectors were – it turns out that with a platform such as the interweb, many people can, and do, find their voices and share their thoughts. but because nelson’s model was not considered viable, the monetary transactions that do occur go through advertisers and big corps rather than to the content providers. any musings?
Posted: January 13th, 2013 | Author: sarahfilmer | Filed under: blue jumper | 1 Comment »
so to sit here today, all day, making and cutting and sticking and folding and moving and touching, has been a total treat.
the reason i have been doing this is the E book show submission date looming next friday – i am submitting a book/ two books/ three books …. as yet undecided.
the book(s) will be reconfigurations of some i had printed up a couple of years ago from the photo series ‘now’ and ‘then’ – these are pared down, very handmade versions , and i think they are going to be much more beautiful than the previous versions.
i spent 8 hours printing digital images yesterday – again, i pressed buttons, stuff emerged. i had them cut to size this morning and today has been about making covers and investigating format. i have decided to spiral bind them by breaking up some notebooks i bought in staples. i have also recovered and reused the covers. all i have to do now is get my safety glasses on on monday and drill appropriate holes.
Posted: January 12th, 2013 | Author: sarahfilmer | Filed under: blue jumper | Tags: artist books, book binding. books, unit11studios | No Comments »
did some research on behalf of someone who has bought a ‘goldfinch’ print, and can now confirm that he is a male goldfinch. fittingly, the evidence lies in the moustache ….. *
if you are in london, please go see the finch lying beautifully within a collection of work by 41 artists in the zap open exhibition. it is open tomorrow and saturday, and there are open studios for your perusal and delectation also. i for one will be having a jolly good nosy on saturday. also on saturday, there is a discussion event with artists and curators of the zap open … 4-5pm. details here: http://www.zeitgeistartsprojects.com/exhibitions.html
7″x5″ prints of ‘goldfinch’ are available at £50 each. the perfect christmas gift?
* from the side, the red area of the face will stop at the level of the eye in the female, it will extend beyond the eye in the male. there are degrees of this, so an additional gender difference lies in the colour of the tiny feathery moustache that they all sport, between beak and red area: the male will always have a black moustache, the female’s moustache will be paler – from a light blond to a mid brown.
Posted: November 29th, 2012 | Author: sarahfilmer | Filed under: blue jumper | No Comments »
so it is finished – has been for some time now. the final stats for the blue jumper were amazing – 2186 visitors, 300 new knitters (i did not keep a record of how many of those who had knitted it prior to the exhibition and then came back to see it and add a little more – but i would estimate that half the original 420 knitters revisited the jumper during its time at the bargate). if we really stop and think about what those figures mean, the mind starts to get over excited about art and people and connection and desire to participate. one in seven of the people who came through the door stopped, put down their shopping, delayed their plans for anything between a couple of minutes (i’ll just do a quick row) or a couple of hours (yes, really), knitting on to a piece of art that they had just encountered, but which drew them in and compelled them to add. if we include ‘repeat knitters’, almost one in four of all visitors stopped and knitted. this level of public engagement is unbelievable – and if you then stop and think about what those numbers actually represent – these interactions were between real people, participants usually unknown to me, or whoever was invigilating with me, or to each other. we spent time together. we knitted together. we talked, we shared, we got to know a little about someone new. we became knitted together.
i think this is why i have found it difficult to reflect on the blue jumper – the enormity of how that piece of work operated in the public realm is hard to contemplate. so i have to mull a little longer to try and find a way of writing it all in a way that does it justice.
in the mean time, here is a funny little film i made …
Posted: October 30th, 2012 | Author: sarahfilmer | Filed under: blue jumper | No Comments »
today is the start of the beginning of the end. 5 more days – 5 hours each day. what to expect? it could be viewed as more of the same. but it is never quite the same. there are common strands to the interactions, but the intrigue and freshness lie in the particularity of each story, each reason for stopping, and each person. i enjoy that this activity-in-common in some way exposes the individuality of each of us, through technique, through the specificity of our learning journey, through the memories and histories evoked by the process. once knitters are reassured that it is not possible to do anything ‘wrong’ on the jumper, thereby freed from any sense that their contribution will be judged, self and knitting are given generously and without self-consciousness. i am relishing the prospect of these last days.
on saturday and sunday, the blue jumper was left in the caring hands of vix, grant, dan, claudia, steve, oli, and alice. it was a brilliant weekend, by all accounts, with hundreds of visitors (many enticed by the music-in-the-city musicians who were playing in the space with the jumper) and an astounding number of knitters – on sunday, 50 people, out of the 169 who visited, added to the jumper. it looks different, with structural changes having occurred through the joining of previously outward heading strands into the central body of the jumper. acquainting myself with its new self took some time, and for sure there are areas of subtle intervention yet to be discovered. click here for claudia’s pictures - seeing the exhibition through the eyes of others reframes it for me. these pics show a calm and an intent that mine sometimes lack.
i was drawn away for the weekend by a whistlestop trip to kilmarnock, ayrshire, for john fulton harris mcallister’s 90th birthday celebration. i believe that he, and the clan of attendees, had fun, shared a special day and ate heartily. it was lovely to see my far-away family, and catch up on their news, stories, achievements and excitements.
and the 19 hours spent in the car facilitated the augmentation of the ‘lamp-post and pylon’ photograph catalogue by 600 or so new shots. there were some developments in the form of birds on lamp-posts this journey.
Posted: October 10th, 2012 | Author: sarahfilmer | Filed under: blue jumper, partcipatory art, thoughts on future work | Tags: art, birds, blue, blue jumper, blue knitting, community knitting, exhibition, experience, family, family knitting, knitting, knitting dilemma, living history, men knitting, pylon, sarah filmer, value of knitting | No Comments »