Friday, 16 August 2013

Crit and Collaborative text for Portfolio NW


As part of 'Portfolio Northwest' the current exhibition at the Bluecoat gallery in Liverpool, we are writing a collaborative text in response to our recent open crit, themed around auto-biography. As a starting point, we've taken an artwork by Art Academy member Jared Szpakowski, a blog as a daily visual diary:
http://threeteabagsinanenvelope.tumblr.com/

10 comments:

  1. Browsing through Jared's blog what strikes me initially, bearing in mind our previous discussion around autobiography, is a sense of long sentences. A long sentence can draw you in, and along with it, so that your understanding of the subject is richer. Although, it's difficult to maintain focus and rolling understanding throughout the reading of a very long sentence, even if it's gramatically correct, and you don't lose you breath. I find the images - photographs, digital collages, gifs, and screengrabs - along with the snippets of text on threeteabagsinanenvelope to be immersive in this way. Knowing what I do of Jared's practice from previous I.M.A.A discussions I noticed the recurrence of waiting room chairs, either in their natural environment or bundled up into weird pom poms, and wonder about their significance to him. The bits of text matched with images are descriptive and sensory, what makes those images in particular need or warrant text?

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  2. Further to what Lauren said about previous conversations on autobiography, Jared's blog also made me think of a recent discussion we had about the conventions of art criticism and the tendency among critics to over-explain everything and set up their reviews and interviews with context about an artist's previous work and biography. We questioned whether this is necessary in the age of the internet, where we can head to google with a mental list of things we've seen fleetingly referenced elsewhere. Web criticism enables the author to add hyperlinks to other sites and images, avoiding the need to explain everything in full. To bring this back to Jared's blog, I found its self-referentiality interesting: it creates an online web of his practice through internal hyperlinks (for an example see http://threeteabagsinanenvelope.tumblr.com/post/56166018813/jeden-i-dwa-see-the-18th-of-january-c-image), which take you backwards and forwards in time on a non-sequential journey rather than presenting a purely linear progression of thoughts and images.

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  3. I headed straight for Google to translate the Polish words for city centre and communication system whilst considering the autobiographical relevance of these words and images to Jared, which he posted in response to the crit group discussion, as a blog entry. http://threeteabagsinanenvelope.tumblr.com/post/58453324637
    The speed of the flickering photographic book illustrations made viewing difficult. It had a similar effect to an uncomfortable strobe light or how rapid eye movement (REM) might be imagined before waking up or even semi-consciously trying to pin down an image whilst dreaming.
    The threshold between sleeping and waking has parallels to Rachel Newsome’s current writing upon waking exercise and her reference to Jeanette Winterson’s metaphorical use of the household threshold. This sense of movement continues to Natalie’s remark about the backwards and forwards, non-linear progression of time. This could be envisaged as a cyclical sequence, reminiscent of the kind of internal circular discussions which hinder sleep, illustrated in a similar way by Beckett’s 'Play.' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJSENSF_pes


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  4. Jackie translates languages in the previous post, and this seems relevant when looking at Jared’s blog, which appears to stride at once the highly personal and completely casual, and so I find myself trying to decode what I see into something I can relate to between these distanced points.

    I find myself repeatedly clicking the ‘random post’ link, bringing up various blog entries: the colour of driving licence forms, a rail bridge remembered from childhood, wasps outside the window and then, finally, a post about finding some old photographs, which turn out to be too personal for art appropriation, and this somehow seems to echo my experience of viewing the blog, a sense of looking where you’re not supposed to.

    Each image has a ‘© IMAGE Jared Szpakowski 2013’ underpinning it, and perhaps this reinforces the sense of nosing into someone else’s private material. It brings up a question pertinent to the digital age, about how much of ourselves we ‘give away’ versus what we retain, and for whom?

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  5. To me, this conflict between the personal and impersonal is at the heart of the blog. Maybe it is the mundane made personal, an exploration of the moment. Ideas surrounding collecting and collections seem to be salient when viewing a blog, and maybe this one in particular. Collections of objects or experiences, moments pulled out of life and given significance by context. Collections can be seen as facets of the self, a public re-definition of who we are in the moment, at once highly personal and an outward statement. Collections can also betray a fear of letting things slip past; each photograph somehow seeming muted and melancholy, as if it already has the benefit of hindsight. IN this case it seems to be the care and attention to background and emphasis, the image becomes a sigh in the clutter if the internet. The idea of ‘giving away’ parts of ourselves, or retaining them seems interesting. One argument could be that by sharing, we are incorporating, making ourselves larger and more god-like.

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  6. I know the works assembled on the blog are referencing questions of value, but I am also reminded of artists who collect things as part of what they do, such as Mark Dion, or who reflect upon their 'stuff' both in terms of their identity but also in terms of wider world questions about why we accumulate and why we identify with and why we value certain things/objects, like Michael Landy's 'destructive' reflection. Collecting and keeping, is a huge part of what we do as human beings. Much of this is indeed the crucial stuff informing our collective history, which then also might still form a huge part of what gets thrown away when we are no longer here. I randomly opened a book on contemporary art and memory and I found this quote which resonates somehow. Its from artist Rabih Mroue for a performance piece "Make me Stop Smoking". "I have been collecting worthless material for almost ten years now, taking good care arranging it, documenting it, indexing it, and preserving it from any possible damage...Today I possess what resembles an archive....that relates only to me; a kind of added memory that occupies different corners of my domestic space, despite the fact that I do not actually need it. It is an invented memory that is exhausting me, and which I cannot liberate myself from. For this reason I will uncover some parts of my archive, hoping that-by making it public-I can get rid of its weight. This will be my attempt to destroy a memory that doesn't know how to erase itself." Jenny Walden 23 August 2013

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  7. What immediately struck me was the cleaness of the images, as if to suggest they had been removed not only from their context but from the dirt and mess of everyday life and placed in a controlled environment (the blog) in the way museum objects are placed in vitrines. And yet not. Museum objects are displayed according to (on the whole) objective classification systems. Yet the criteria for classification of these images is unclear. The story of why these images are here in this order on these days is a hidden, inferred story, telling itself in the gaps and spaces. The second thing that struck me about the images was the way they are framed, often to present everyday objects as unusual, abstract and surreal, focussing on pattern, structure, colour and shape. Although the occasional text displays emotion, I feel the images as a whole don't - they feel clinical to me. Or perhaps a better way of saying it is that they feel Zen - transcending emotion than perhaps evading it. Both the asethetic and the framing could be said to be autobiographical, in that they tell us something about Jared; it is not only what Jared sees but also how he sees, processes and presents his collection (as other comments have mentioned). In response to Jenny's comments on the collection and memory, it's interesting to note that neurologists are beginning to claim that the more we store images online, the more our own capacity for memory is diminished. The blog, facebook page etc becomes an externalised memory bank in place of our own. We are controlling our memories and archiving them for both ourselves and others to see. This resonates with the suggestion that somehow in the process we become more godlike. It reminds me of a thought by Slavo Zizek who has suggested that the private has not so much become public, as it has hi-jacked the public for private use. The universe revolves around us and we are the masters of it.

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  8. Looking through Jared’s blog, I begin to think of the collection of polaroids taken by filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (collected into a book, ‘Instant Light’) which evoke poetic beauty and heaving melancholy through the quietest contemplations. In a time when life’s pace moves quickly and we can be assured our memories are digitally stored, it is easily forgotten to take the time to muse over the details in our surroundings, especially within the mundane. Jared’s daily contemplations are a reminder that these ordinary details can spark a poetic curiosity. By keeping his daily offerings ambiguous, I find Jared’s blog stirs this curiosity, often through the simplest and poignant means. I too enjoyed the random click selection and felt as though I was wandering through a room of many conversations – overhearing fragments and making up the rest. It also makes me consider images that we can all immediately relate to whether you come to this blog as a stranger or otherwise. I am struck by the recurrence of hospital corridors and chairs. Again, Jared gives little away, and repeatedly considers the possibilities within a familiar motif that touches everyone’s life at some point from birth to death. A filmic photograph of a corridor reflected in a mirror evokes memory and premonition. We discussed in the crit that a lot of art is autobiographical but with a vast scale of how much or little personal background the artist gives away. For me, Jared’s blog seems like a peek into someone’s private world, but it also a tease....an invitation into a personal moment ‘I must conquer my fears, I must conquer my fears’ cut off with an abrupt ‘and so on’.

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  9. The blog struck me as private, but also aware of its privacy. It is well designed, clear, beautiful, visually open.

    I began to think of the archives of artists such as Stanley Kubrick and Andy Warhol. The collections of material but also the care given to the documentation process itself. Warhol's archives all stored in identical cardboard boxes look like a piece of his artwork, although seem to have been largely private until his death. Work in progress and also a finished article at the same time.

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  10. This is, to my knowledge, the first time my page has been critically examined and having people’s experiences of it articulated for me to consider has been extremely interesting. Surprisingly for me I think a lot of the comments echo my own encounter and emotional relationship with two particular Polish photographers blogs I used to follow during the formulation of my first blog. Their pages regularly documented places that would be considered mundane but to me were overwhelmingly beautiful due to their almost subconscious Soviet undertones. I only have a very primitive understanding of the Polish language so I was essentially a stranger looking in but very soon I felt I was fluent in my understanding of their motives for documenting these places. I try hard to maintain a balance between distance and intimacy but enjoy it when the extremes of the two sit side by side in an almost bipolar opposite and am somewhat reassured that this hasn’t been too bewildering or off putting, unless of course I'm wrong and my P45 awaits me at our next meeting.

    http://starzec.blogspot.co.uk/

    http://www.lukaszbiederman.com/

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