Thursday, 21 March 2013

Art Academy Reading Group: The Mother Archetype, Carl Jung

Following an Art Academy discussion on fairytales and myths and symbols, we collectively decided it may be of interest to read some writing by the twentieth century psychoanalyst Carl Jung, and a chapter on the Mother Archetype was put forward. On reading the text, it was apparent how embedded some of Jung’s ideas now are in popular culture, as well as critical and cultural theory.
Art Academy member Rachel Newsome had read a lot of writing by Jung before, and likes Jung as he was a paradoxical thinker who was really visionary. She explained that for Jung archetypes, of which the mother archetype is just one, are a representation of a collective unconscious. 

The mother archetype Jung describes is all encompassing, manifested in aspects of nature as well as concepts such as the mandala – although some of us were not familiar with the idea of the mother as an oven! – and has both positive and negative elements. Jung’s chapter on archetypes appears to approach the mother archetype in two parts: first, by describing some background to the mother archetype as found in myths and religions (Jung points out that the mother archetype is not necessarily your mother), and second by describing the uses of archetypes in psychoanalysis and what they can reveal about the patient, who projects them onto the psychiatrist. 

Whilst Jung uses ideas from religion and spirituality, as a psychoanalyst he approaches the idea of the archetype in a scientific way; Art Academy member Sara Nesturek suggested that whereas religion projects outwards, for analysts archetypes’ value is in their ability to reveal what is inside ourselves.

We also discussed other archetypes, for example the trickster: today, pranksterism is often used in social activism to make a serious point (see also the roots of carnival, when everything is turned upside down for a day to reveal truths about the social order). Rachel suggested that people have a bit of each archetype in them, but certain circumstances can knock them out of balance. She is a fashion tutor, and has used ideas about archetypes with her students. She previously taught journalism, and showed students how the media is all about archetypes (for example, it is easy to identify popular figures like the trickster and the virgin whore).We discussed whether, in fact, we can manipulate archetypes, and aspects of archetypes, to shape the way we project ourselves to others. It was suggested that only through Jungian analysis are we made aware of projecting these archetypes, which can be an empowering process.

We were also interested in Jung’s reference to the anima and animus: the idea that men possess a feminine aspect and women a masculine aspect. Rachel said that, as an author, the idea of the animus is a useful tool for thinking both about different sides of her characters and herself as an artist

We agreed that we would be interested in reading more writing by Jung in future, for example about dreams as well as other archetypes. It was suggested that Man and His Symbols could be a good starting point as it is accessible, and that there are some good three minute videos on Youtube by scholars of Jungian theory.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

IMAA Reading Group 26.02.13: New Schools

Lauren Velvick, Sara Nesteruk, Maurice Carlin, Natalie Bradbury and Lisa Risbec
This essay was featured in Frieze and comprised of a series of interviews with 'new schools' across the world, including the Art Academy.

It was really interesting reading the text together and raised discussions around many aspects including; the naming of things, if you name something does that mean it's taken more seriously? Being radical for the sake of it versus being useful. The common factor of these schools - is it connections and community? Do you need to attend a physical space to experience that or does it happen online too? We also discussed participatory art, and the artists role/ motivation in it.

We didn't come to any firm conclusions but it's a topic that I would definitely like to pick up in the future, I find the all of the alternative schools interesting in their own way and think there are definitely elements we could incorporate into the Art Academy.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Art Academy Open Crit 15.03.13

The most recent Art Academy crit group was a long session, enabling presentations to be made of two ongoing projects being undertaken by Art Academy members, Natalie Bradbury and Jen Wu, and allowing for in-depth discussion of these projects. Natalie Bradbury explains:

Natalie Bradbury: 'Woman's Outlook: A surprisingly modern magazine?' 

Whilst I am not an artist and therefore don't have a practice as such, I thought that the Art Academy open crit might be a good time to practice a talk I have been working on called 'Woman's Outlook: A surprisingly modern magazine?', which I am going to be doing at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum next Thursday evening (21 March). I really needed a run-through as I have never spoken in public before.

I started by explaining that the magazine Woman's Outlook was published by the Co-operative Press between 1919 and 1967 along with a number of other specialist magazines aimed at the co-operative movement. I explained that my interest in magazines is partly linked to publishing my own zine, the Shrieking Violet, as well as my love of twentieth century history and interest in Manchester's historical reputation as the 'Fleet Street of the North' (Woman's Outlook was based first in Manchester city centre, then in Old Trafford). I spent several days reading through volumes of Woman's Outlook in the National Co-operative Archive in Manchester and found it really hard to focus my findings down because of the amount of interesting information I found! However, I decided to discuss the ways in which I thought Woman's Outlook was modern as a magazine – firstly, because I think that much of the content, such as recipes, fashion, fiction and articles about issues affecting women, isn't that different to the subjects covered in women's magazines today; second, because many of the challenges facing society today, such as unemployment, lack of affordable housing and challenges to women's reproductive rights, are worryingly similar to those experienced in the early-to-mid-twentieth century; and finally because the magazine's political and editorial stance appeared to be ahead of its time on a number of issues such as abortion, family planning and divorce.

I had initially tried to make a powerpoint to present my talk, but really struggled so decided to go back to what I knew and present the history of Woman's Outlook and some of the key themes which emerged in the form of a magazine. I then showed some examples of pages from the only modern-day women's magazine I read, Stylist, to show what sorts of topics are thought to be important to women today. Each person who was present at the crit was given a copy of my magazine about Woman's Outlook, and I also projected the pages of the magazine digitally via PDF hosting site Issuu, which allowed me to flick through the pages as I talked.

Whilst the audience was quite different to the one I am expecting at my talk – who I am anticipating will have more of a specialist interest/prior knowledge of the co-operative movement and its history – the crit was a really good opportunity to practice public speaking, and gain feedback on how I presented my ideas. People who heard the talk seemed to be really interested in the history of the magazine, and some of the themes I highlighted such as the shift towards a consumer society in the 1950s, higher living standards and the move towards individualism also prompted some good questions about things such as advertising and a really interesting discussion about the role of male/female-targeted magazines today. Of particular interest was the way in which the co-operative women's movement was a means of self-education; something that as members of the Art Academy we are all interested in! We discussed the lack of emphasis today on skills such as public speaking, which the co-operative women's movement aimed to instill in its members.

One pertinent suggestion was that the type of feminist viewpoint espoused by Woman's Outlook is now seen more on blogs such as Jezebel and the F-Word than in printed magazines; unlike magazines, most blogs are not dependent on advertising to remain in print and therefore do not have to avoid being too controversial. Importantly, we discussed the extent to which Woman's Outlook and present-day magazines such as Stylist are really comparable – although some of the content may appear similar on the surface, there are key differences. Woman's Outlook was a mouthpiece for politics and campaigning, whereas Stylist's occasional investigative and issues-based content mask the fact it is really just one big advert for consumer lifestyles. Additionally, Woman's Outlook was paid-for and had a very defined audience, whereas Stylist is handed out free. I also took on board some comments such as showing bigger versions of pictures of pages/covers from Woman's Outlook.

Jen Wu: 'The Wall' 

We then returned to more of an art-based discussion, as Manchester-based artist Jen Wu presented and projected images of her ongoing project 'The Wall'. Jen has been awarded money from the Chinese Arts Centre and Henry Moore Foundation and is currently in the process of applying for Arts Council funding to realise the project, which aims to stabilise a brick wall on the derelict Old Bank Theatre on Chapel Street, Salford which is due to be knocked down along with a number of other buildings as part of the ongoing regeneration of the area. It is hoped that one redbrick wall will be retained, then bricklayers and members of the local community will be invited to help dismantle it and rebuild it elsewhere in the vicinity in an act of 'creative DIY', accompanied by celebratory 'rave' parties (this references Jen's past projects, which have involved working with musicians and DJs). The wall will function as a public sculpture, but could also be the first wall of something longer-lasting, for example a new facility like a community centre. The focus of the project is not just on demolition, but action and rebuilding, a cycle of activity that will show how people can physically change their area and celebrate the past at the same time as looking to the future.

Jen, who arrived in Manchester in 2011 to undertake a residency at the Chinese Art Centre, described the evolution of her practice, from getting into sculpture during her undergraduate degree in the United States to moving to the United Kingdom to do a Masters, starting temporarycontemporary, a successful artist-led space in Deptford, south London and then transforming the visitor experience of some of London's established art institutions such as the ICA and Royal Academy by, for example, turning the ICA into a nightclub. Jen traced key events in her development as an artist, including going to China on residency and becoming interested in the way industry had been transported to China, as well as influences such as music and American land art.

When she came to Manchester, Jen started researching the history of former Manchester landmarks, now demolished, such as the Hacienda nightclub (now rebuilt as apartments) and the notorious Hulme Crescents, once the venue for famous parties, becoming interested in narratives of regeneration, demolition and starting over again. She started to document the demolition of buildings, a process she describes as 'looking like warfare', and became interested in the way sites acquired value when solid matter such as buildings had disappeared. One such building was the former Salvation Army centre Stella Maris near Islington Mill in Salford, where Jen got to know the demolition crew and the security guard, who let her take bricks from the demolition of the building. This led to Jen taking numerous buses around Salford to look at various walls, and realising how much of Salford is made of brick.

Jen explained that she is interested in the ways in which spaces where people used to come together, such as nightclubs, have been destroyed, and thought that moving a wall would be a way to bring people together at the same time as acknowledging the DIY spirit operating in places such as Islington Mill. She explained that the project is constantly shifting, and sometimes seems impossible, but she doesn't think it could take place anywhere else. The Chapel Street buildings are due to be demolished soon, but Jen hopes that the project can coincide with Manchester International Festival in July, when events will also be taking place at the Mill. Jen's past career was an important part of the way in which the project was presented to the group, and we discussed how Jen should bring this development of her practice out in her application for funding. We also noted that there are a diverse range of people living and working in the area around Chapel Street, from council residents to tenants of new flats and artists working at the Mill.

Friday, 1 March 2013

I.M.A.A Reading Group 12.02.13: Theodor Adorno - Punctuation Marks

Adorno's Punctuation Marks was written in 1953, and playfully discusses the nature of punctuation in written language, with references to ancient usage and the personification of certain marks. I had come across this essay whilst conducting research into the work of Rosa Barba, an artist who is interested in gaps and breaks, and suggested it for the reading group. I thought it would be interesting to discuss a piece of writing about writing, and also to read writing about writing, then, with this particular reading group being punctuated by pancakes and late arrivals, we had some compelling, fun and anecdote-driven discussions.

Present: Lauren Velvick, Marcelle Holt, Natalie Bradbury, Maurice Carlin, Sara Nesteruk and Hannah Leighton Boyce.

The essay itself is much jollier, and more flowery than many of us expected from Adorno, poetically expressing the often subtle, yet indispensible function of punctuation for the written word. Initially, it seemed like it was the writers in the group who had enjoyed this essay the most, perhaps finding a cameraderie in this indulgently in-depth analysis of, and story about these marks, which can make all the difference to a piece of writing regardless of it's content.

By having had our attention focussed on punctuation in general, the discussion turned to the most common ways in which we write in our every-day lives. Leading to questions about how punctuation is used in social media such as twitter, and other short communications. Marcelle, who had performed research into twitter, in terms of the performance of identity for her undergraduate dissertation, recognised how some users are better at tweeting than others. What, we wondered, made a good tweeter, and would they also be considered to be a good writer, by dint of their twitter skills?

It was noted how within text messages, when they first became a ubiquitous form of communication, punctuation was famously abandoned in favour of a form of written language in which many, if not most words were shortened, for essentially practical reasons. Text messages are also private, which can be seen to remove the performative element associated with twitter, however, anecdotal evidence suggests that with certain of our peers, there would be a performative element to text messages, whereby they would function as banter, or a form of 'jamming'. Good writing, it seems, is appreciated no matter its form, and a perceptive use of punctuation is an integral part of this.

Adorno refers to punctuation marks as "friendly spirits whose bodiless presence nourishes the body of language" linking their use in written language, to how written music is punctuated to indicate the length of notes and breaks. Indeed, how punctuation is used by a writer alters the pace and flow of a text, and Adorno's analysis here is quite beautiful. His characterisation of individual punctuation marks also belies a sort-of wistful affection for these abstract and dispensable - as we have seen in the case of text messages - marks, which may be overlooked for their importance in enriching a piece of writing with mood and subtle meanings.

"An exclamation point looks like an index finger raised in warning; a question mark looks like a flashing light or the blink of an eye. A colon, says Karl Krais, opens its mouth wide: woe to the writer who does not fill it with something nourishing. Visually, the semicolon looks like a drooping moustache; I am even more aware of its gamey taste. With self-satisfied peasant cunning, German quotation marks (« ») lick their lips."(p. 1)

"a drooping moustache"

The text is not an objective analysis of punctuation by any means, and according to Adorno's own interpretation, nor could it be, for the understanding and use of punctuation is as personal as the appreciation of music. In line with this, the majority of our discussion centered around how we experience written language, especially as there has been an explosion in new ways to communicate via the written word since this essay was written. We observed how on-line, punctuation is vital in conveying the complexities of what is being said, and usages have evolved in innovative and specific ways in different communities. This is befitting of the opinionated way in which Adorno discusses punctuation, and whilst he occasionally refers to changes in usage negatively, as a whole the text seems to be a piece describing Adorno's own experience of punctuation, rather than a treatise on correct usage.

Adorno's Punctuation Marks is available for free on Ubuweb