Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Where Are We Now? interview with Rosanne Robertson

Where Are We Now?

Rosanne Robertson

Rosanne Robertson responds to the pluralistic environment of the artist by utilising stolen modes of communication from the ‘real world’ and nominating them in an art context in order to explore and understand the relationship between artwork, artist, viewer and institution. Notions of experience, validity, truth and identity are explored and are often presented in familiar ‘packages’ of information presenting fact and fiction in the same context. This experimental and investigative research based work is often time based bringing the space between art and viewer into direct focus. Repeated outputs for ideas have included online and offline documentation, archived information, process, installation, imagery, video and performance. The relationship between the original and the copy in the light of new digital media, on line sharing platforms and ways of viewing is a current interest along with research into the live art space.


What's new?

I have just had a video chosen for an online video show called UHU-Tube no. 1 curated by Jon Purnell and Andre Black of Cack-U-Like and Scare in the Community. Although I am not enthused in an anti-establishment way as these two artists very much are, I do find making art outside of the institution an interesting subject to investigate. I am excited about FAIL, 2011 being shown as I made the video especially for youtube and it is influenced by the way that people view moving image online. I am interested in what it means for a work to be solely viewed online. We can share whatever we want worldwide within seconds and we chose to share misfortune, porn and kittens riding on the backs of tortoises. Does this provide the context for which an artwork on youtube is viewed or can it hold its own in these circumstances? That’s why I like this experimental show as it chooses a selection of art from the abyss and creates a new context within the bombardment of information that is the internet. The video is 1 min 30 sec which is about average for the length someone can be asked to concentrate on a youtube clip and it is ‘#tagged’ with the word FAIL- which has been a trending on line word for a while now i.e. “ I totes just burned my toast #Fail.” The video itself shows me working on a proposal for a piece that never made it to the show it was supposed to. I have been rethinking failure and the difference between making and showing work a lot- reading essays in Lisa Le Feuvre’s recent book ‘Failure- Documents of Contemporary Art’ and re looking at artists like Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Lawrence Wiener, Martin Creed, Jon Baldessari, Liam Gillick and Isa Genzken.


Where are we now?

I think it is easy to forget where we are as when a certain level of equality is reached and things become less obviously unequal it is dealt with less urgency. Things might be better but are they equal? In many business, industry and career instances and in terms of the ‘art industry’ things are very much still unequal. I find in my everyday working practice there are many female artists in my peer group, I can go and see a great number of artist led and independent shows in Manchester and beyond on a daily basis of interesting work by female artists, I can see big shows by big female names quite often but then I come to read an art theory book such as the previously mentioned ‘Failure- Documents of Contemporary Art’ and I would estimate 10% of the writers are female and 5% of the artists mentioned are female.

One show that stuck in my mind as something that shaped my ambition in 3rd year of my fine art degree was The Tate Triennial - Alter Modern. It contained the type of conceptual, process, archive and investigative work I wanted to be making but 75% of the work in it was made by men. This is probably a good figure compared to shows from further into the past. But the fact is that if it was a show that was 75% female it would probably be a themed show. As a female art student (as I was at the time) does this say to me fewer women make this type of work or that it is more difficult for women to be recognised for this sort of work? I would say based on my experience and the female artists I have been surrounded by that the latter is true. I would say the journey between art school and recognition as a respected, studied and exhibited artist is infinitely more difficult for women because of the traditional attitude towards parental responsibilities in this country. I would say it is also more difficult for women to get recognised for the type of work mentioned because of a strange continued attitude of uneasiness at women being less emotional in their decision making processes. I believe there is still a bad attitude towards women and intellectualism carried on from when women weren’t allowed in the academies, banned from making work and not allowed access to paying patrons.

If you look at Hanne Darboven she worked alongside and was respected by Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, and Joseph Kosuth for her conceptual and minimalist work using systems and process. She is celebrated by many but doesn’t hold the same engraved place in art history as say Joseph Kosuth. There are many other examples of women working at the same time not getting the same attention. Somebody somewhere along the line likes their artists to be male and I don’t know it is- the writer, the art historian, the gallery owners or the public. Things of course are changing and women make and talk about serious work and are taken seriously for it. But things need to keep going in the right direction and if our documentation doesn’t show this in a balanced way what will it mean to future generations looking back? Will people still find it harder to dig out information about female artists who shaped and changed the landscape?

What's to be done?

I think that ensuring that there are equal opportunities across the board including the ‘power’ positions. If you look at the Power 100 list by Art Review it is predominantly male and predominantly non artists. So the steering force behind the art world is made up of male gallery owners and publishers. I would guess that if this was more equal the whole of the art world may begin to equal out.

I have met female artists who are also single mothers who cannot continue their practice due to being told by the job centre that they have to take a job that in no way relates to their career path or skills in order to receive benefits to survive on. Child benefit is going to be cut massively under the new coalition government and therefore things are only going to get worse and more difficult for female artists in this position. Being an artist needs to be recognised as a career and resources need to be made available for anyone that may find it more difficult than others to advance. This includes any single parents; it is just that the vast majority of single parents are female.


Who's next?

An arts professional that really inspires me at the minute is Claire Bishop for her original thinking on subjects such as installation and participation in art. I also think that her research and writing for recent article ‘Con-Demmed to the Bleakest of Futures: Report from the UK’ is a vital resource on the subject of cuts to the arts under the new coalition government. I think she will continue to have lots of valuable and interesting things to say in the future.

A group of artists that I find an inspiration to my day to day practice currently are Louise Woodcock, Debbie ‘Elvis’ Sharp, Jennifer McDonald and Helen Shanahan. They are all visual artists, performers and musicians and work in or around Islington Mill in Salford. They form the most part of a band called Womb which also contains members Fiona Ledgard, Sian Williams and Lauren Velvick amongst others. Louise Woodcock’s work has a connection to the female body that I have never had with my own work and her direct and unapologetic approach to performance in very empowering. I find Debbie ‘Elvis’ Sharp’s approach to performance (she is also a visual artist/photographer) also liberating to watch as she puts herself out there and that is something that I have historically shied away from. I hadn’t been inspired by music as a visual artist until I heard Womb, so I find it quite unusual and brilliant.

http://www.e-flux.com/journal/view/209 - Claire Bishop’s ‘Con-Demmed to the Bleakest of Futures’.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Womb/154801944576807 Womb, Facebook page.

What are you looking forward to?

I am currently running something with Louise Woodcock called The Artists’ Bonfire and we had the first one in Manchester in January at Islington Mill. We have been asked by Ian Hunter of Littoral and the current Merzman Project to take a selection of Bonfire artists to spend some time at The Elterwater Merz Barn. We aim to spend the time focussing on economic and political collapse and revolution in the context of Kurt Schwitters and his work. We aim to discuss this in relation to contemporary art and political writing in light of the current economic disaster. There will hopefully also be an opportunity to make work and collaborate. So I am looking forward to spending some time collaborating with a really interesting group of artists in such a unique and important place.


Where Are We Now? interview with Megan Broadmeadow

Where Are We Now?

Megan Broadmeadow

My practice interweaves many disciplines ranging from sculpture, performance, video, photography and installation. Colour, humour and accessibility are core elements of the work I produce. My work is often bold and unabashed, yet has subtle and considered concepts represented within it.

I draw inspiration from history of place, culture and people. I am drawn to industry, folk tales, religion and the things that define a community, yet am also interested in what is building our contemporary society, and finding out how the past and present can sit together. I aim to engage a non-art audience through the use of familiar and recognisable forms which I hope have enough tension or incongruity to draw curiosity and flights of fantasy in the audience’s minds.


What's new?
Almost everything is new in my world at the moment. Its corny but I'm starting to understand the true meaning of liberation. I left a long term relationship, and moved back to London after a 10 year break. These physical and emotional changes have definitely impacted on my work, I feel braver, more daring, and finding a new but darker side of my practice through exploration of black humour mixed with personal experience.

Where are we now?
In general its a complex question to answer. I feel equality is the norm - however I don't know all the ins and outs. I was recently shocked to hear the story where women working for a council in Northern England learnt that they were receiving little or nothing in bonuses compared to their male colleagues. Perhaps things are not as equal as we'd like to believe - and possibly its the case that in-equality in terms of pay is being better hidden.

However in terms of visible presence, it seems to me that women are filling top roles, and positions of respect across the country, it seems less and less that we are hearing about the 1st woman to take this position or that role- could it be that is because we are conquering all our goals?!

What's to be done?
In terms of working as a self employed artist I think equality is achievable for anyone. I think the only limitation comes from holding yourself back. By this I mean I think men are better at putting themselves forward and self promoting, they are also better at asking for what they want. I think women need to not be afraid to ask for what they want as professionals - as its surprising how easily achievable it can be!

Who's next?
I've recently discovered the artist Miriam Mechita, her work lives in realm of the sublime, with seductive be-jeweled objects and textiles casting an air of unease over the viewer, especially when you realise everything in her world has been beheaded. From Headless deer with beads spurting in place of blood to the prints of detached heads of models frozen in an eternity of orgasm, her work constantly challenges the viewer to explore the line between ecstasy and torment.

I'm also excited by the rise of Phylida Barlow. She was my tutor in Sculpture and an extraordinary woman. Her knowledge of sculpture is inspirational and she can relate to any object in a humorous, perceptive and human level. After her many years teaching I am extremely happy to see her own art work being admired by people all over the world.

What are you looking forward to?
This weekend I'm performing with my all girl collective 'Ffaf' as part of International Women’s day in Cardiff. We are inviting the audience to join our special Brownie Guide meeting which will be an interactive event featuring songs, short sketches and gaining skills towards badges - all of which follow the brownie guide manual tradition in good faith!

Where Are We Now? interview with Candice Jacobs

Where Are We Now?

Candice Jacobs

I am an artist and curator currently living and working in Nottingham. Since 2005 I have co-founded and co-directed a number of artist-run projects. Many of my works incorporate sound, words and text, which are displayed after a process of manipulation. Conducting interviews with the intention of extracting information, working with situations linked to labour and work, marketing and advertising, and the re-appropriation of observations that are linked to a particular time and place, provide me with a structure where an awareness of self-doubt, futility, failure and boredom is applied in order to extract information from the process.

The Smell Of Freedom, 2010



What's new?

Herbert Marcuse, bookmarks, erasers, chairs, drawing, Arnold Schwarzenegger and British Politics.

Where are we now?
I can only comment on my own situation on this topic. I am currently one of 3 women who have a full-time studio at One Thorebsy Street, the other 12 artists are men. At Moot, I was the only woman involved in the curation of the project alongside 3 men. At university I was the only woman in our house, sharing with 5 men. Most of my friends from Nottingham are men. Nottingham apparently has the highest proportion of women to men. I went to an all girls school. I have one brother and one sister. I do not make work about being a woman, or about feminism.

What's to be done?
Gender equality will only be achieved when men start having babies.

Who's next?
Morag Keil

What are you looking forward to?
Bookmarks, The Study, Nottingham Contemporary, curated by Yelena Popova
Tarot, Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, curated by Andrew Hunt & Haywood Touring

Where Are We Now? interview with Pamela Schilderman

Where Are We Now

Pamela Schilderman

Space has become integral to my practice as demonstrated in my large-scale site-specific installations Almas and Bula Matari. In both the idea was to make the imperfect beautiful; the cotton wool of Almas was not soft and reassuring, challenging preconceptions of the medium and each of the three thousand salt crystals was scientifically imperfect.

In Oculto (designed specifically to be displayed in a dodecahedron) the space was constructed so that it maximises the sense of intimacy. Its only opening restricts numbers of viewers within it, thus mimicking for example, the solitary relationship of a reader engrossed in a book. The space reflects the air of allusiveness, secrecy inherent in the paintings themselves, in which painterly techniques such as blurring was used to tease the cognitive senses.

I wish my art to appear organic but simultaneously bear no resemblance to a specific thing or form in nature. In Punctum I hoped to create the impression of the work being alive, as if, though seemingly still, there is a sense of it growing imperceptibly, belonging to the space, filling the space.

I strive to encourage the viewer to abandon the weighted significance we attach to explanations and literal meaning. In Allusions I endeavoured to reemphasize this focus upon the visual alone through the creation of a sea of indecipherable information. In empowering the visual in my practice I hope feeling could be fore grounded over analysis, evoking a non-standard response in the viewer : the art invites the viewer to lose his or her sense of time, to become so involved that in the first instance ‘how’ or ‘why’ is forgotten.



What's new?

I am trying to prioritise making new art work this year over exhibiting and other commitments.

Where are we now?
Don't necessarily feel that this a question I am qualified to answer. Still I think we've come a long way at least on the surface. Women have the right to go out and work and need not be as dependant on men as in the past. However not being dependant is not the same as having equality. On a personal level I still think it's harder for women to gain professional credibility especially when you're young and just starting out.

What's to be done?
I think one step towards further gender equality is to have more women in high ranking jobs. An increase in female politicians is making and would continue to make a big difference in changing social consciousness.

Who's next?
Apart from me (that's a joke). I find female figures like Eva Hesse and Coco Chanel totally inspiring because of how ground breaking they were. When I think of the future though I think it will probably be a writer like Alice Sebold or Andrea levy and others like them who can reach a wide audience.

What are you looking forward to?
Seeing the Ikon's new Contemporary Art Gallery

Spirit of Women

She/curled/under a thin layer/
her silence;/protecting her
from any suffering pain./
It was pure symbolism./
Within that minuscule space/
created a prolific potential /mysterious./
She managed to keep her dreams alive/
unpolluted to the touch of human clumsiness;/
by strongly clinging to her intuition./
She fell to stand up/and smiled./
Forgiving herself/continued her way to the light.../
(Gloria Sanvicente Amor.)

gender, race and ethnicity in media cyberspace

Assemblage: The Women's New Media Gallery
Compiled and curated by Carolyn Guertin, this "international gathering of women's voices is a showcase of new media art being created on and off the World Wide Web. … The common ground here is the non-sequential--the hypertextual--use of words and images to birth possible worlds in this new art form, and to create present tense textual spaces for readers to explore."
Center for Women and Information Technology
Extensive news, announcements, and resources related to women/gender and information technology. Includes an enormous collection of web-based syllabi for women- and gender-related courses. 

*just a couple of examples other interesting links to be found at www.uiowa.edu/~commstud/resources/GenderMedia/cyber.html

Where Are We Now? interview with Jean McEwan

Where Are We Now?

Jean McEwan

I work variously with video, sound, photography, collage text and language to present and interrogate narrative strategies.
My source materials are made, found, appropriated and skewered into elliptical, associative, disjointed narratives through which I aim to explore ideas of authorship, truth/untruth and fact/fiction.

My outputs have included video installation, experimental film, documentary, performance to camera, audio visual performance, artist books and zines.

Collaborative, cross-disciplinary work and artist-led activity play an ongoing and key part of my practice. Past collaborations include projects with a wide range of cultural practitioners, including musicians, performers, writers and visual artists.
I have been practising as a curator since 2005. I was one half of 'popup', (2005-9) an artist collaboration run with Nigel Russell, which produced and curated projects and events to showcase moving image, sound, performance and multi-media work by artists and filmmakers.

I was a member of the curatorial team producing “Hatch” an experimental arts showcase event at Bradford Playhouse (2008-09) and curated my first solo project, 'P.S. I Love you' at Bradford Playhouse in 2010. I am a member of the management group for New Work Yorkshire.


What's new?
I've recently made the decision to stop doing so many workshops/teaching and community arts projects to concentrate on developing my own practice more. It has been a very good decision. Although I am poorer, I have much more time and headspace to for my work. Now that I am doing less I feel much fulfilled, calmer and happier. I have time to make work and reflect meaningfully on my art practice, and so my creative life feels much richer. I also have time to enjoy daily pleasures like walking the dog and hanging out with my husband, having a laugh.

Where are we now?
I can only speak from my own personal experience. I am hugely encouraged to regularly meet and work with many younger women artists who are confident and unapologetic in their practice. This is a very positive development. It contrasts with my own experience, which causes me to reflect on the cultural conditions which I was brought up in, and brings up issues not only of gender but also of class. Of all the women artists I meet, the majority are from middle class backgrounds, in which there is likely to be much greater support opportunities and resources available to them, at home and at school to pursue art education and progress into art as a career. I meet much fewer women artists from working class backgrounds, although I can see that slowly changing.

I come from a working class background and grew up in the 70s and 80s in a small Catholic community in Perth, Scotland. Although I was really encouraged at home to be creative, at school I met with complete apathy and there was zero encouragement, or discussion with the art teachers about art college as an option. In addition, the experience of a Catholic education (which someone once described to me as 'psychological terrorism') wasn't exactly conducive to creative self expression in a young woman. It took me another 10 years after leaving school to rediscover my creativity and to have confidence in myself to pursue art as a viable occupation. It is now at 40 that I finally feel confident in my creativity and art practice, and I just wish it hadn't taken so long. I envy younger female artists who haven't have to deal with the class/religion crap I did, but I guess what doesn't break you will make you...

What's to be done?
I feel there needs to be more work done in schools and communities to encourage and nurture working class girls to believe that being an artist is an option open to them. It's a self esteem thing. I can see it changing, but more needs to happen more quickly. There needs to be more working class women artists working in schools and communities mentoring and encouraging the next generation.

Who's next?
I take my inspiration from women who I know and have worked with. Someone I admire a lot is Jenny Wilson, a Bradford based arts professional, producer, consultant and performing artist, who works both nationally and locally. I met Jenny in 2008 when she was temporary Creative Director at Bradford Playhouse, I worked with her and another colleague, Alissa Juvan, to curate and run a regular series of experimental arts showcase nights, called "Hatch" at the venue between 2008-9, when it was going through a period of crisis and change. I found Jenny's approach and her combination of knowledge, clarity, confidence, commitment, humour and approachability hugely inspiring. She is a woman who gets things done. She has shown a lot of support for my work by coming to and also performing at events and exhibitions I have curated. One of the highlights of my year last year was seeing her perform as drag artist Mysti Valentine at P.S I Love You, a Beatles themed programme I curated at Bradford Playhouse, and delivering the best, most raucous cover version of Helter Skelter I have ever heard.

The late Jo Spence's pioneering work on phototherapy, family and illness, and her fearless feminism and socialism is completely inspirational to me. Although unfortunately she is no longer with us, her work is work that I go back to again and again, and has continued relevance for me.  As an emerging artist 10 years ago, engaging with her work and writing gave me a new class and gender consciousness.  I'm reading her and looking at her work again now.

What are you looking forward to?
I am showing some installation and book work at 'Home From Home', a Leeds exhibition which is part of the 11th International Contemporary Artists' Book Fair.

I'm also showing a photographic collaborative project I did with my mother at Malaga Fotomanias Festival at the end of March. Collaborating together was a hugely rich experience for us both and we are both going to be there for the Festival, which is going to be really special.

Where Are We Now? interview with Hayley Lock

Where Are We Now?

Hayley Lock

For the last two years I have been developing a series of works depicting characters from my imaginary world of monarchy and noble folk. Pseudo sexual characters adorn behavioural oddments through a terrifying back - story of historical events as yet untold, titled ‘Imperial Leather’. Derived from snippets of overheard conversation and appropriated images my works weaves new narratives of history and myth through a complicated and sometimes mysterious tale of heartache, lust and delusional thinking.

Introducing new characters, modes of transport, and trophies that may or may not exist within the story that as yet still remains hidden from the viewer, forcing the audience to re-invent their own dialogue within the works. Works are repeatedly revisited by my over a prolonged period of time allowing for constant reinvention to an often bizarre and outlandish end.

The repeat of the triangle, sounds, sculptures and wall - based works are significant to the story to date, revealing the souvenirs that the main character ‘Gimp’ has picked up from various encounters.

I intend to reveal the occasional short story from my ongoing book in 2011.


What's new?
I am part of an artists fellowship called Wilmore House Fellowship http://www.wilmorehouse.co.uk/ We are about to have our first shows at Exeter Phoenix Gallery and Rogue Studio Space, Manchester. I am collaborating with Caroline Wright on 'The Secret Isle Manifesto'. I am currently part of the artist group ROAM. I am currently working on the (Now that would be) Telling project, an Arts Council funded project curated by Catherine Hemelryk where I respond to portraits and objects from unusual and outstanding buildings across the UK with contemporary writers creating a backstory to the works and each venue. The houses are Ickworth House Suffolk, Dr Johnsons House London, Harewood House, Yorkshire, Brantwood House Cumbria and A La Ronde Devon. The project has been selected to front The Trust New Art programme for 2011 and shows open in succession from July 2011 to Nov 2011 running through to Spring 2012.

Where are we now?
I feel that although there has been slow improvement in the arts for women artists to be seen as equal to men in terms of quality and respectability in the last 10 years, there are still significant gaps that should be readdressed, particularly in the gallery setting. I would for example like to see more of an abundance of male curators? These are very few and far between.

What's to be done?
Gender inequality remains wide spread in the arts and I am unsure as to why female artists are not considered to be serious in their pursuit of visual enquiry and integrity. There are very few women that are invited to sit on panels that hold positions of great power in terms of input, direction and intellectual content. Perhaps there should be more awareness of what is lacking?

Who's next?
Christine Odlund

What are you looking forward to?
at Nettie Horn, March to May 2011