Monday, 23 July 2012

Beacon Bi-Monthly 11: 7 July 2012

Hello there everyone, I’m David Zelder, a published author from Lincoln.  My novel Yomping Outside is available from my website

Part of the proceeds of all sales goes to The Royal Marines Charitable Trust fund and I am currently negotiating with a film producer who wants to turn the book into a movie next year.

I was delighted when Nicola and John asked me to be the guest blogger for this full and interesting evening in Wellingore.  I thank them for their courtesy and warm welcome.

As 7.00 p.m. rapidly approached the room filled and I guess around 55 people were there breathlessly anticipating an evening of culture and variety.  They were not disappointed. As I looked round the room just before the 1st presentation I thought to myself “help” I am a writer in a room full of artists.  Is there a collective noun to describe a group of artists? Probably not, so as a wordsmith I figured either a canvas or a palette of artists would suffice!!

So how was this writer going to convey 3 hours of material and words into a précis or abstract of the evening and condense it into a manageable blog? Well as someone who travels extensively to view fine art and appreciates it whether in La Prada, The Tate Modern, The Guggenheim in Venice or La Louvre or even La Piscine in Lille I should be able to achieve some semblance of order!!.  A starting point is perhaps some quotes from artistic genius of the 20th century which put into context what we saw on Friday:-

The fact that I myself , at the moment of painting, do not understand my own pictures , does not mean that these pictures have no meaning.
 Salvador Dalί.

I am very conscious of all that has happened in art during the last seventy-five years.  I don’t ignore it; I feel I’ve tried to assimilate it into my kind of art.
David Hockney


Life is what creates the contrasts, without which art would be unimaginable and incomplete.
Marc Chagall

The latter is taken from one of my prized possessions, a limited edition book by Bill Wyman and signed by him, rejoicing in the title Wyman Shoots Chagall. As well as being a guitar player of high quality, Bill is also an accomplished photographer and was a neighbour of Chagall in France.

Anyway, I digress, so, on with the show:-

First up were

(Nicky Russell, Daniel Williams, Stuart Tate).


The group describe their activities as assembling different realities which involves participation from Reactor members and their audience.

They explore dislodged relationships, role adjustments and the avoidance of fixed roles. Their belief is that primary and secondary adjustments produce more benefits.  They explore disruptive secondary adjustments which can lead to industrial action such as strikes.

To illustrate their work they produced slides summarising their project The Greenman and Regular Fellows

The core members were interested in membership as a social construct using temporary groups and fellowship.  This produced unexpected relationships. Role adjustments were explored in detail. A person starting a new role will experience primary adjustments and their employers may well allow them to slack off to create a belief the employee is “getting away with something”. Then there will be secondary adjustments as the staff get more into their role but may well move on to disruptive secondary adjustments. 

The next experiential discovery we explored was front and back behaviour, exemplified by a hotel environment.  The receptionist may well display differing behaviour to that of kitchen staff.  The group wished to explore the relationship between this front and back space.

The group therefore developed roles that people could take on in primary adjustment and move on to secondary adjustment.  They discussed the issues of Chinese whispers in developing people.  A role was described to an individual and then they were told they would have to describe it to another person.  How would that second and additional descriptions differ from the starting dialogue?

They chose a pub as the vehicle for this project as it had so many differing spaces, each with a discrete role and function. Alternate reality was encouraged in the participants, personality and conditioning dictates how individuals react. A debate ensued on how one becomes a “member” of Reactor, which was almost portrayed as a parallel universe, or a highly secret underground movement.  Membership was secretive, restricted, and, apparently prized. Words were dissected and reassembled.  Are you a regular? Are you irregular.  Said quickly they both sound the same.  So what level of membership goes with “regular”?

Illustrative diagrams were shown with P being your present universe, S being self and A_B at the top my memory being the adjusted roles.
 Photograph: David Zelder 

 Photograph: David Zelder 

In order to explore the concepts, the group used traditional English mummers’ roles and regulars at the pub went into the back space to design some entertainment.  This led to the establishment of a hierarchical club or society.  Membership rules were established in the pub with appropriate paperwork.  The members used a self determining check as to whether they were a regular and whether they are allowed to pass through to the back space.

The group stressed they do not ask participants to play someone else, they should retain their own identity but in an alternate reality. Often things happen in a project that the group did not initiate or even know about.

An interesting Q&A session followed with one interrogator asking how membership was secured, the answer left a large question mark in the air.

An interesting and challenging presentation with the 3 participants clearly on top of their game.

Next it was the turn of

Sarah Staton

Sarah started with a video she made with Karin Ruggaber.  The short film was intended to be about lines and show the postmodern architecture of the city of Sheffield and its strange shapes and its attitude to its cultural identity.

 Photograph: David Zelder

Sarah talked about her work with the University in Sheffield and how she was commissioned to produce a sculpture for them after a speed dating session with an academic from the architectural department.  They did not have a front door that was visible or noticeable. The work had a name “Steve the autonomous machine”.  The concept she devised required living matter to be incorporated on the roof and consist of a collision of various materials. The plan was also that people could sit in it as Sarah sees sculpture as becoming an animated object through human presence.

Sarah is considering how to best incorporate organic matter into her pieces so that there is an element of planned obsolescence as the plant matter decays.

Such is the quality of Sarah’s work that as well as commissions she is regularly exhibiting and in 2011 did a number of back to back exhibitions.  One of these was in large family home in Scotland which already exuded opulence and success, but in a more classical or neo-classical style.  So Sarah and the 2 artists with whom she collaborated on the project were able to install pieces in an interesting juxtaposition of modern fine art with fine art from another era.  The exhibition benefitted greatly from its being in a private home and thus there was no bureaucracy or form filling in triplicate or 3 committee meetings to secure permission to move an existing portrait or sculpture. Better still, no health and safety officers to consult.

 Photographs: David Zelder 

Major exhibitions were mounted at Huddersfield Gallery The Lowry in Salford and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

In The Yorkshire Sculpture Park the artist wanted to get away from the browns and greens and no colour in the works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth and Antony Gormley which are permanently on display at the park.  So she introduced colour and used her furniture as sculpture ideas for the theme                   

 Photograph: David Zelder 
Sarah has a keen interest in furniture as a starting point for a sculpture “a table is to sculpture what a piece of paper is to drawing.”  She has taken table tops and used computer cutting technology to cut perfect circles out of the table then suspend them in flowing forms.

 Photograph: David Zelder 

Sarah did major permanent work at The Crucible in Sheffield, including an amazing design for the floor in the lobby plus seating , as she described “for old ladies to rest” and clever hostess trolleys for the staff to put interval drinks on for easy collection by the clients.  She was intent on adding function to form in the work at The Crucible rather than art for art’s sake.  Clearly she achieved that in one of the most iconic theatres in northern England

And last but not least:-

Traci Kelly

The talk was preceded by a short introduction to The Summer Lodge.  This is a 2 week event at Nottingham Trent University with this year 27 artists and 14 interns.

 Photograph: David Zelder 
Traci has been working on Summer Lodge and enjoyed every minute of it.

One of the first materials Traci became interested in working with was milk, fluids and work that come from the body. She also wanted to explore the politics of what happens when bodies come together then fall apart and reconvene.

She works both as a solo artist and has a collaborative practice with Richard Hancock.  They have a keen interest in live art practices. They like to show the contrast and confrontation between nature and architecture and examine how they collide together. When they collaborate, one artist makes the work and one artist performs the work.  They are looking at the materials of the body, white skin the nature of white skin and drawing attention to what they do by posing white skin next to other white skin.
 Photograph: David Zelder 

So Traci showed an example of Richard posing next to the carcass of a pig.  The design, drawn on the skin, represents patterns from Richard’s childhood memories. Traci said that Richard was more comfortable being on show whereas she found it more difficult but accepted it is a vital part of their work.  They insist the pig and the human bodies are treated the same.  If the pig comes to them shaved, the human is shaved, if the human body is oiled, the pig is oiled.

 Photograph: David Zelder 
A lot of their work is concerned with contamination, perceived or real. They experiment with live matter inserted into the body such as mites and maggots, and explore the internal body spaces.  A kind of sound track of the body.  Traci mentioned they do residences and run courses/workshops to make their practice sustainable.

To illustrate their interest in local history a haunting photograph was shown of an Iranian poet living at the time in Nottingham who was ordered to be deported back to Iran and certain death.  As a last ditch protest he had his eyes, lips and ears sewn up.

An image of poignancy that brings me to the end of this blog.

ART, in my view, should do 3 things, entertain, provoke comment and then engage the audience in thinking about the subject matter.  I think this evening’s presentations have achieved all of this.

Thank you.

David Zelder


July 2012