British Art Show – Information (4)
The recent study day to the British Art Show during its Edinburgh leg seems now to me to have been all about information and the way it is shared.
I met with a sterling group of engaged and interesting students. Meeting students and finding out more about why and how they study is vital for me a tutor as well as being a highly entertaining and enjoyable way to spend a day. I do find that I can hear myself saying “oh, don’t worry about that, just get on and make stuff” to the point where I wonder if I have either become a bit of a maverick or happened across a near universally appropriate precept.
Whatever the explicit subject of study is with the Open College of Arts, there is always a significant secondary strand which is reflection on studentship itself. Lunchtime was set aside as a more formal time when we could pick up anything that the group wanted to discuss about their own work, but throughout the day students were discussing their ideas and studies with each other in a really impressive way.
For busy people, myself included, the possibility of working autonomously may feel like a bonus of distance learning study. I would say though that there is an increasing range of ways that you can interact with staff and students so that if you have anything that is running around your head, looking for a way out then perhaps it is time to look again at those routes to interact and find one that is just right for you.
A major strand of the curatorial focus of the British Art Show is information of all kinds which relates of course then to epistemology and the way we know things. This feels to me to be something like a battle ground on which the very nature and power of art is fought for. As I get older I am now in a position where professionals were not born when I graduated. Rather like me wearing ‘vintage’ 50’s dresses in the eighties not realising that for a lot of the people around me they were just dresses as 30 years had flown by for them whilst they were bringing up kids; so the ‘rediscovery’ of the material feels a bit odd as I kind of skipped over the bit where we lost it. Anything with an expansive and open ended scope for art’s production (which usually means opening up the field of artists being considered as artists are getting on with all manner anyway) feels humane and generative and so the eclecticism and variety of bandwidths of information presented at the British Art Show is important and positive for artists.
A stand out piece for me was Simon Fugiwara’s room. The room houses several pieces. One is a video he made of two workers from very different ends of the waste disposal industry reflecting on socio economic shifts which had radically changed their lives and the lives of their daughters. One speaker is a Mexican woman who had been brought up living on a landfill and easting waste food lifted directly from under her feet. She continues to work at the landfill but now has a house and her work at the landfill has become waged. Her daughter plans to go to University and this is something that amazes the speaker. The other speaker was born with one arm and up until recently has worked very long hours as a digital animator for big businesses. An animation of a Joseph Joseph style recycling bin floats about during the video. He is speaking about his decision to down size and reduce his working hours to spend more time with his daughter who is very small. These two very different workers are both making decisions to have a good life and give the best to their children in a fast changing global economy. The video appears to be very laid back but it is carefully edited and focussed very much on the perspective of the speakers. It tackles huge issues of production, labour, inequality and the environment using just two humans and the title; ‘hello’ underscores that. Differences are left open and shared humanity is left to exist in the gaps and pauses.
The other pieces in the room are incredibly intricate patchworks which are shaved fur coats from his ‘fabulous beasts’ series. By shaving the coats Fugiwara elegantly reveals the human labour involved in their production which would have been invisible when the fur coats were, well, furry.
This room presents a great opportunity for level 3 Sustaining Your Practice Fine Art and Painting students (or anyone else for whom this applies) to reflect on how to curate work in different media and present an ‘argument’ of sorts in a subtle and visually powerful way. I’ll be back at the Art Show later in the year as I am running another study day when it reaches Southampton – look forward to a bit of information sharing with some of you then.
Images: Simon Fujiwara, Hello (film still), 2015. Copyright the artist, 2015.