©Huw Bartlett 2014
For the final week I invited Actor/Artist/Bodybuilder/Documentary Filmmaker Arnold Pollock to exhibit. His was a unique situation in that he is from Manchester so would be making work from scratch or using whatever he could bring down with him. But this gave Arnold the chance to truly create something in response to the gallery space as initially the space was all he had.
Using his current interest in acting (he’s been on Corrie don’t you know!) and previous experience in documentary film making Arnold created a film that combines his interaction with Brighton and its inhabitants. He accurately describes the film as ‘… the result of pursuing every meaningful coincidence during my stay.’ Most of these coincidences revolved around, and occurred due, to his incredible charm. This charm made it possible for Arnold to swipe personal text messages off of strangers phones which are then used as scripts, acted out with new strangers.
The film also depicts local scenes which perhaps locals would normally overlook, and all pretence is somehow stripped away from whimsical beach scenes such as in the clip below and replaced with an endearing honesty.
It was the perfect way to end the residency. The film left me with a new love for my hometown and showed the true potential of CAC when someone enters it with a blank slate and only their interests as a starting point.
Also screened during the exhibition was Arnold’s documentary of him and friend James walking the Trans Pennine Trail:
© Huw Bartlett 2014
For the second week I invited Spanish photography and moving image artist Nazare Soares to exhibit as I had previously seen examples of her work and loved the experimental realness to her films. I also envisaged that the closeness of the gallery space would compliment moving image work.
Nazare revisited her existing moving image work Hic Non Est, created during a residency in Palestine last year, and reconstructed the work in response to the space. The rooms were set up as a visual diary of her Palestinian memories and experiences and the theme of the tree of life was repeatedly visually present, even in the form of an actual olive tree which transformed the space into an organic part of the show. This is one of the best things about CAC that it has the ability to shape shift with each show, if you brought a tree in to a conventional white cube type gallery it would very much be apparent that it had been deliberately brought in an artwork. At CAC the tree looked as if it could’ve grown out of the ground and perhaps the whole exhibition had come about around the tree.
Image © Jennifer Milarski 2014
” Language has unmistakably made plain that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past,
but rather a medium. It is the medium of that which is experienced, just as the earth is the
medium in which ancient cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must
conduct himself like a man digging. Above all, he must not be afraid to return again and again to
the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil. For the
”matter itself” is no more than the strata which yield their long-sought secrets only to the most
meticulous investigation. That is to say, they yield those images that, severed from all earlier
associations, reside as treasures in the sober rooms of our later insights”
Walter Benjamin: Excavation and Memory
The above Walter Benjamin quote which Nazare cites as inspiration for this piece is particularly poignant when seeing Hic Non Est shown in the CAC setting. Specifically the idea of the earth being the medium in which ancient cities lie buried, CAC is the medium in which Nazare’s show, along with each weekly Work Programme is buried and each artist is an excavator of that which already exists within the layers of the gallery.
© Huw Bartlett 2014
I have just finished an intense 3 weeks as Curator in Residence at the Community Arts Centre, Brighton. Despite a few suggestions against it I decided to start off the 3 weeks myself and invited two artists, whose work I admired and felt could benefit from the space and bring something different, to each have their own week. As I may have previously explained, the Work Programmes at CAC begin on the Monday with the ceremonious handing over of the keys to the artist and finish with an exhibition on the following Saturday.
I am particularly in love with the space and the freedom and inspiration that it provides and enjoy the thrill on a Saturday night of wondering just how differently people will interpret it. As I had already done a work programme last year (click here to see images from the previous year) I was quite apprehensive about how I would interact with the space this time, I was concerned that I would end up repeating things from last year and that it would pale in comparison. In actual fact I did end up mirroring (literally) certain things from the previous year as it felt like a progression of ideas in each room.
Whereas last year I had a physique bodybuilder performing, this year I performed myself. Following on from the confidence I had gained during the LADA workshop the previous week I knew that it had to be me and although this proved to be an extremely daunting experience, and in the week leading up to the exhibition and I constantly questioned if I was making massive mistake, but no matter how nervous I got I knew that there was no way that I wasn’t going to do it. Painting my nails pink, getting a spray tan, putting on the wig and then finally the bikini I covered up the ‘me’ aspects so that all that was left was my physical form, which could be any successful white body in terms that it is healthy, physically able, well nourished, not obese etc.
The performance itself took place over two hours and the audience where invited in for a one-on-one experience. My boyfriend was the bouncer on the door making sure that people waited their turn and I quite like the connotations that go alongside him being the one who allows others to look at me, there’s a kind of pimp dynamic and once inside the room has red lighting and a golden throne chair for the viewer to sit on, making it almost a peep show or lap dance type environment. The emphasis wasn’t on the sexual however, with farcical exaggerations of grandeur such as the ‘gold’ jewellery I was wearing, the clearly not my own hair blonde bombshell wig, the idea was more towards the failure of sexiness. I don’t have abs, so I had drawn them on with eyebrow pencil, I don’t have large bicep muscles so the bodybuilding poses that I was mimicking were exactly that, a mimicry, a parody or poor copy. The fake smile (which I almost lost quite near to the start due a twitching cheek muscle!) and everything about the performance was essentially fake.
Images © Alice Tenquist
After doing a DIY Workshop last year through the Live Art Development Agency I decided to apply for another workshop this year. The one that really caught my eye was run by performance artists The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein and Martin O’Brien.
Along with fellow participants Katy Baird, Sophie Cullinan, Ria Hartley and Emelía Antonsdóttir Crivello, the idea of the superhero as a catalyst for performance making was explored. My boundaries were well and truly pushed from the get go as we learned hip hop dances, frolicked in washing up liquid (not that I could let go enough to do much frolicking!) and recited Hamlet to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star.
I learnt a lot about myself over the three days, particularly about my attitude to success and failure. The tasks were specifically hard for me as I operate under the assumption that there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything, that I need to constantly be in control of myself and my surroundings and on some perverse level enjoy constantly telling myself that I am doing it all wrong and failing. The workshop helped me to see how ridiculous these notions are and that the most interesting situations that open up a dialogue revolve around things going wrong, almost reaching their goal but not quite and just generally failing.
The three days were finished off with a photo shoot in which we show-cased our developed superhero characters. Mine was Kyphosisa (Kyphosis being the medical term for a hunch back which I have a mild case of). She represents the acceptance of flaws and failure, showing that when we finally do this great, powerful things can happen.
The whole experience was incredibly mind altering and where I had previously been using other bodies in my work I finally realised that my own body signified the same things, generic success in the sense that it’s able, relatively fit and white. I had previously wanted to train myself to the standard of a bodybuilder and use this point from which to create work and a discourse, however I now realise there is much a more interesting space in which to do this with my body as it is now. This has prompted me to do a performance myself which I will talk about in my next post.
For this years Brighton Digital Festival I took part in Bring Your Own Beamer at The Corn Exchange. I was one of about 20 artists who were selected to have fixed installations at the show whilst in the middle of the venue the usual brining of your own beamer took place.
I exhibited my M E N projection mapped project, initially created for my MA show and shown also at my first solo show at Community Arts Centre. I particularly enjoyed displaying this piece in the Regency surroundings of the corn exchange and opted to display the work under the watchful eye of a giant ornate mirror. Mirroring (ha!) the reflective plinths that I used in my first showing of this piece.
I am a member of the Reigate Antique Society, a group that meets up once a month. Each month a different Antiques expert provides us with an exciting talk in their specialism.
For this last July’s talk we did something a little different and members were invited to talk about their own collection or something they were passionate about. I decided to speak about French Beaded Flowers as I have been enamoured with these creations since I first learned of their existence a couple of years ago.
French Beaded Flowers – A history
French beaded flowers are small glass beads strung on to a fine wire and then fashioned in to various blooms. Because they are so pliable it is possible to create pretty much anything within your imagination with the use of a small number of tools and a great deal of patience. In the days before it was possible to purchase any and every type of flower from a florists, these beaded flowers provided a practical and exotic way to decorate your home, use as a wedding bouquet, or like the piece I own, used as funeral wreath or ornament.
This is my beautiful beaded flower wreath in pride of place in my bathroom! Note perfume bottle for scale, it’s pretty big.
One of the reasons that flowers are associated with churches has to do with beads. In the thirteenth century a form of prayer using a string of beads was instituted by St. Dominic. The string, called a rosary, consisted at that time of 15 units of beads. Each unit contained 10 small beads, preceded by one larger one. A prayer was recited at every bead. The word “bede” (sp) is Middle English for “prayer.” Because of the length of the original rosary, it became customary to pay someone, usually a resident of an almshouse, to recite the prayers. These people were referred to as bede women or men, and it was they who made the first bead flowers. The craft was handed down through the centuries and came to be associated with the church and its decorations.
The art of making flowers out of beads is centuries old however there is very little documentation on the development of this art. Many books can be found of different flower patterns but only from about the 40s onwards.
According to references of beaded decorations, it is thought that the technique began as early as the 1300s in Germany when steel needles and wire were developed, and around the 1500s in Europe, predominantly, Italy and France. The peasants would collect discarded beads from the noble’s clothing and fashion them in to beautiful decorations. At one point there would be women sitting outside every door making these creations. In 16th Century Venice the poorer women would make money creating beaded flowers for churches, parade floats and banquet tables. I quite like the idea that they would be selling back to the upper classes their own discarded beads in banquet bouquets!
Different methods were developed over the years, the Victorian method, also known as the English or Russian method, and the French method. The main difference is that in the Victorian method, which is similar to modern bead jewelry-making techniques, the thread or wire passes through each bead twice or more, and the wire passes from row to row on the sides of the piece; in the French method, the wire passes through each bead only once, and passes from row to row in the center or on the bottom of the individual piece. I believe this makes the French beaded flowers more beautiful as they are more pliant and more life like.
Production of beaded flowers was no doubt advanced by the Industrial Revolution, which increased availability of glass beads of regular size and color. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, beaded flowers were sometimes used in ornate funerary arrangements, where wired beads made up flowers and could also be wrapped around a metal framework. These were perfect for use during winter months when fresh flowers were not readily available, and they were long lasting without the need to be watered or replaced. The Victorians are most likely responsible for the introduction of the French beaded flower funeral wreaths as they fit perfectly in to the elaborate mourning rituals inspired by Queen Victoria’s grief over the death of her beloved Prince Albert. This type of artistic expression of mourning would have been popular along with the jewelry items holding a lock of the deceased’s hair which we have heard about in previous talks. The mourning wreaths would be in muted purples and blues, like the one I have brought along today.
After the Second World War beadwork of this kind gained its greatest popularity, with instruction kits being sold complete with materials and patterns, and department stores such as Marshall Fields and Bloomingdale’s sold beaded flowers imported from France. Famous French beaded flower owners include Marie Antoinette and Princess Grace.
Virginia Nathanson helped introduce this craft to a new audience and codified the technique in 1967 with the publication of her book The Art of Making Bead Flowers and Bouquets. She herself had purchased a bouquet of beaded flowers in a department store and took it aprt in order to understand how it was put together and began making them herself. Nathanson advocated beaded flowers for sale through mail order because of their “indestructible” nature. Testament to this is my own piece which was brought back from the South of France and has travelled around with me with no trouble. If it ever looks like the petals are drooping you can just rearrange them.
More recently French Beaded flowers were used to make wreaths commemorating 9/11. With the help of the internet many beaded flowers makers contacted each other and all worked towards creating these large scale pieces, sending a flower or section of wreath from all over the world. These are currently on display in the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York which earlier this year.
Another exciting contemporary project which used french beaded flowers was commissioned by the Swarovski Crystal company. In order to showcase their line of crystal beads they had a collection of beaded flowers made.
Value wise I am not sure monetary value of these pieces, obviously the Swarovski ones would be worth a fair bit but as Jean rescued the piece I own from a skip! I am not entirely sure of pricing.
It seems as though the craft is gaining a lot of popularity recently with people making their own bouquets and even this Hawaiian Garland. Each flower is hand-stitched, one tiny seed bead at a time, taking over 100 hours and almost 35,000 beads to complete.
Having recently purchased a book on the techniques to arrive so watch this space for my creations! I want to create something typically ‘masculine’ out of these beautiful, delicate flowers and am currently working on a wrestling championship belt!!
Bloody fantastic exhibition! Heavy Weight History consists of Polish power lifters attempting, and sometimes succeeding, to lift politically rife monuments around Warsaw. Documented in the form of a reality TV show, much like World’s Strongest Man (one of my favourite TV programmes!) the work questions the continuing relevance of public statues, and uses the rich historical backdrop of Poland as the stage to do so. Being of Polish heritage myself I have often visited Warsaw and have specifically visited a lot of the statues in the work.
It is interesting to think about these large symbols of communist oppression, such as statues and buildings that are left behind and forced on the locals and the meaning that they now signify. I’m thinking specifically about The Palace of Culture in Warsaw, the so called ‘gift of the Soviet nations to the Polish people’, which is still widely despised by the Polish and yet is a massive tourist attraction and landmark to outsiders.