An Update, Sort Of

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I would like to apologise for the lack of posts as of late. Due to the merry-go-round that is mental health crisis and recovery, I have not been feeling my best this month.

In my attempts to distract myself from, well, myself, I have been continuing with my volunteering and visiting more exhibitions and art collections. Last weekend, I went to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition currently running at the Tate Modern until the 30th October. I also visited the States of Mind: Tracing the Edges of Consciousness exhibition at The Wellcome Collection some weeks back, which a kind reader thoughtfully reminded me was taking place. I thoroughly enjoyed both, and with regards to the latter I intend to write up about some of the topics covered in more detail. I’m just not sure when I might get around to this just yet – but hopefully soon.

In the meantime, I would like to share some work by a digital artist I came across a few months ago during a women’s only course I attended on surviving abuse. The artist’s name is Frizz Kid – aka Hana Shafi – and I think their work is wonderful. I’m 96% sure my unstable emotions have played a role in how hard some of these hit me, but I just think the messages within them are beautiful and so delicately done. I’ve included some of my favourites below, which I sometimes like to reflect on whenever I’m having a particularly bad day.

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More of their awesome work can be found here. In summary: to anyone who has not been feeling their best lately – I hope this week is better, and take care.

Postcard Therapy, Part I

Free

I’ve gotten into quite the habit of collecting postcards. In addition to many being too pretty and/or funny not to, I’ve found they’re often an inexpensive way to preserve the memory from a particular time, place or event. Therefore you can imagine my admiration when I discovered the therapist I’m currently seeing is also an avid postcard fan. What’s more, she likes to write down our future appointments for me on the ones she has collected, which all go on to make a nice little addition to the sleeve at the back of my planner.

After leaving one of our sessions earlier I was struck with the idea of starting (yet another) ongoing series, this one focusing on the postcards she gives me. So without further adieu, here is part one – an instalment from today, courtesy of artist and cartoonist Dan Perjovschi from The Room Drawings in 2006.

Performance In A Snapshot

Orphée (2012)
Orphée by Tokyo Rumando. 2012

Over the weekend, I decided to put my Tate pass to good use and went to see the exhibition Performing for the Camera, which ended on Sunday 12th June after a four month run. Combining two of the Tate Modern’s key interests – performance and photography – the exhibition examined the relationship between the two, taking us from the invention of the photographic medium in the nineteenth century, to digital cameras and social media. The works included dealt with a wide range of topics, such as identity politics, constructed families and improvisational snapshots. The exhibition itself was split into various rooms, each of which conveyed their own theme.

I very much enjoyed wandering through and exploring the many ways photography has and continues to be presented as performative. And although photography was not allowed in the exhibition (l’ironie!) I made a note of some of my favourites, so that I could share them with you below. So for anyone who didn’t get a chance to catch the exhibition while it was still on, here are some of the works, categorised by theme. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Staging/Collaboration
Looking at performances that exist solely to be photographed, rather than simply documenting events that would have taken place regardless.

Kamaitachi 1969
Eikoh Hosoe, Kamaitachi 1969

a private landscape (1971)

a private landscape 2 (1971)
Eikoh Hosoe, Simmon: A Private Landscape 1971

Photographic Actions
The idea of a photographic image creating a unique space within which an action can be performed or captured.

grace being painted by keith (1976 -1986)
Andy Warhol, Grace being painted by Keith 1976-1986
claudia schiffer series (2009)
Erwin Wurm, Untitled (Claudia Schiffer Series) 2009
dropping a han dynasty urn (1995)
Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn 1995
eel series, roma (1977)
Francesca Woodman, Eel Series, Roma 1977-8

Performing Icons
Photography as used to create opportunities to enact poses and characters, exploring deeper questions and ideas of identity, race, religion and gender.

african spirits (2008)
Samuel Fosso, African Spirits 2008
arthur rimbaud in new york (1978-9)
David Wojnarowicz, Arthur Rimbaud in New York 1978-9

Self/Portrait
Traces some of the ways in which the photographic self-portrait can explore notions of identity.

portrait of an artist in his studio (1971)
Hannah Wilke, Portrait of the Artist in his Studio 1971
She/She 1981/2007 by Linder born 1954
Linder, She/She 1981
Seven Twists I-VI 1979, printed 2011 by Dora Maurer born 1937
Dora Maurer, Seven Twists I-VI 1979
food for the spirit (1971)
Adrian Piper, Food For the Spirit 1971

Brief back story for this particualar photography series which I found interesting: To counter the feeling that she was disappearing, the artist, Adrian Piper, would photograph the reflection of herself in a mirror, often fully nude, while recording herself reciting the passages from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781).

bukubuku (1991)
Masahisa Fukase, Bukubuku (Bubbling) 1991

Performing Real Life
Exploring the elements of performance that inevitably seep into our factual images, particularly in the advent of the camera phone and social media.

from window 1 (1974)

from window 2 (1974)
Masahisa Fukase, From Window 1974

crimean snobbism (1982)

crimean snobbism 3 (1982)
Boris Mikhailov, Crimean Snobbism 1982

excellences and perfections 1 (2014)

excellences and perfections (2014)
Amalia Ulman, Excellences and Perfections 2014

Chapter Ten

Helen Pynor - Untitled (heart lungs)(2007)
Untitled (Heart Lungs) by Helen Pynor. 2007

While walking along a nearby canal about a month ago – something I like to do when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed – I couldn’t help but think to myself: these bad things, this violence – it seems to follow me wherever I go. Year after year I somehow end up in the same cycle.

Maybe I should stop moving.

Lundi

Copyright Glasgow Museums / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
‘The Death of Albine’ by John Collier. Based on the novel ‘La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret’. 1895

A young girl fills her bed until the mattress overflows on all sides, with streams of roses, violets, heliotropes and lilies trailing to the floor. Only once she has sealed her tomb, does she arrange herself on her bed to suffocate – dying with the flowers.

Art Attack 2.0: Clay Edition

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My first experience of creating objects and figures with my hands was probably when I was much younger, maybe around 10 or so. For whatever reason, I liked to create people and animals out of blu-tack and leave them in public places for people to find. I was always secretly happy when I would return to the libraries, shops and museums to find that they were still intact, which to me suggested that people liked them enough to leave them alone rather than squishing them into oblivion. Clay, however, is something I had never truly played around with as an art medium before. Unfortunately now that I have, I fear I won’t want to use anything else.

As soon as I rolled my sleeves up and held the thick, moist clay in my hands, my brain automatically went to work. Suddenly, as if by magic, all of the negative thoughts or feelings that I’m often burdened with slowly melted away. We felt like a perfect match – I would speak with my fingertips and the clay would mould along with me, as if to respond back with kind concern. The class I attended was also one centred around individuals with mental health struggles, so it was nice to not be so concerned with hiding any scars on my arms for example. Magic notwithstanding, the process was pretty much as basic as you could get. There were no fancy equipment or machines to help me along the way (this was art on a budget, after all). However part of me preferred this, as I think it helped ensure I learned with my hands rather than focusing on secondary materials.

When I first sat down, I thought for a moment and knew that I wanted to try and create an elephant’s head. I’m still not sure where the idea really came from, but I suspect it was a mixture of not wanting to make a pot or plate like everyone else, and being inspired by the grey clay to create a characteristically grey animal. I’m aware that for my first time, I probably should have been less ambitious and opted for something more straight-forward instead. In fact the teacher herself suggested so too, looking over worryingly as I zoned out into my own clay-elephant world. But in typical Ruth fashion, acting much like I did in my art classes during my GCSEs, I had an idea and I wanted to stick to it – regardless of how much more difficult it may be. I have a terrible tendency to compare my work to others, however on this occasion I can say that I’m pretty happy and proud of the result – especially for my first try.

Overall I am really quite, dare I say it, excited about discovering my love for this medium. I still enjoy painting and sketching too, however I sometimes struggle to remain focused which often allows my more negative emotions to creep back in. I’m aware that this doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t experience the same thing when I’m using clay – I’m sure everyone does at some point, regardless of how much they enjoy what they’re doing. But whether it’s the physical aspect of constantly using my hands, or the sense of calm that it brings me, I’m very happy I attended the class. Before I had even finished my elephant piece, I decided my next one will be a lego figure. I can’t imagine many people use clay to create lego characters and blocks, so the fact that this was the first thing to come to mind means either one of two things: 1) I am much too childish to be using this medium of art, or 2) everyone else is boring. I prefer the latter conclusion.