Magazine: Issue 24
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Review: Lubomirov Easton
Frances Richardson Artist in Residence at Lubomirov Easton Project Space 'Loss of the object and bondage to it' 1 February to 22 February, Thursday to Saturday, 12.30-5.30pm For nineteen days in January, Frances Richardson created a series of utilitarian objects during a residency at Lubomirov Easton Project Space that are not as simple as they first appear. As you enter the exhibition the spectator is forced to walk within the confines of four sculptures and confronted with restriction of space. The MDF and fabric sculptures seem to have a functional use, a workbench, ladder, leaning post and archway. On close inspection these objects hold illusions; although it looks soft to touch, the fabric is made from concrete canvas, a hard, durable, water resistant material. The MDF structures seem weak and unstable in comparison, at second glance they bend or have parts missing. Richardson plays with duality causing sensory paradoxes to the viewer. Perhaps the most striking piece is the archway which dominates the exhibition giving the impression fabric is pinned dangerously to the wall. It towers over the viewer like a Duchampian rainbow, toying with our emotions and previous experiences on how we perceive materials. The objects were created in the gallery; an action the artist calls "a drawing process in the space". They emerged from physical making like "three-dimensional sketches" rather than drawings on paper and described by the project space as "architectural drawings". Restriction played an important part in the creation of these architectural drawings. Richardson is interested in the contours and flows of fabric and also explored this in previous works such as 2012's "Would Only Mean Heartbreak For Me". In the current work the fabric gives the impression of having been carelessly tossed over a workbench or stuffed against a wall, this is an illusion. There is a self-imposed boundary between the artist and materials, the sculptures have no history of use nor do they have marks on their surfaces. One could argue these abstract utilities are making their own histories over time and through natural interventions. Maybe this can be seen in the fifth and final object outside; not quite noticeable at first until you look out of the window and see some discarded grey fabric collecting rain and dirt. What is that? Is it rubbish? Will someone take it? Again, the artist is cleverly playing with our perceptions and relationships of what we see before us. As the title suggests, we disregard or abandon these everyday materials and are bounded to them by their functional use. Perhaps this is another uneasy duality the artist makes us question as we walk out of the exhibition and into reality. Frances Richardson is taking part in 'Collateral Drawing' curated by Lubomirov Easton at Plymouth College of Art from 28 February to 22 March 2014
Interview: Vulpes Vulpes
Vulpes Vulpes have recently secured crowd-sourced funding to help with the startup costs for a new not-for-profit project space in Bermondsey. Since their inception in 2009 as an artist collective, studios and project space in East London they have organized over 25 exhibitions showing more than 140 different artists. SLAM caught up with them to talk about the move into a permanent space over in Bermondsey DB – The main body of what you do most often revolves around collectivism, from starting up as studio/gallery to crowdfunding. How important has this idea been in shaping what you produce, VV – Vulpes Vulpes has always been a group project since it started in 2009, but gradually working collectively has become integral to our process, especially since 2011. This approach covers every stage of a project; from developing concepts, planning and writing to the physical production of an exhibition.  Although shared decision-making can mean certain things take longer, we enjoy the discussion, criticism and compromise which exist in our group. So collectivism is very important to the way we work and also plays a role in our choices about projects and activities. We find that working collectively provides a supportive and exciting context and ultimately benefits the project over all. We feel this approach is positive and this gives us a certain strength.  We have many shared interests but we don't all have the same opinion, which makes for valuable discussions. When you collaborate you are aware the need to regulate your ego, and this in itself is a useful exercise. Although responsibilities are shared, we all have roles within a project, for example; someone might be liaising with the artists, somebody will push forward a funding application, someone will oversee technical stuff.  These kinds of responsibilities are rotated and we all try to remain capable of taking over any tasks if necessary. DB – Could you give us an overview about your curatorial process as a whole? And possibly elaborate on how projects usually take shape. VV – Initial ideas for a project come from within the group through conversations, experiences or somebody's current interest. Concepts are often quite loose to begin with. Occasionally we work with artists who have approached us with ideas they want to explore. Themes discussed in one project will often re-emerge in another. At the moment we are quite interested in having an ongoing dialogue with artists and artist groups and we are open to projects extending beyond the initial exhibition and evolving into different formats. Starting points vary - sometimes we have a certain person in mind but we may also start to write an outline of a project before we have confirmed any artists.  If the impetus has come from one of us, we'll discuss the ideas together and agree on aspects we all find interesting. A couple of us will develop it further then this will be reworked by the rest of the group. Then we'll seek out and contact artists to discuss the project and their work. We continuously revisit and refine the project - important decisions are made right up until the time comes to install the work. DB – You're intending to set up an education programme alongside the projects you're creating. What's the intended outcome for this? VV – Our education programme is being developed with a few different but related aims. We want to use these activities as a way to bring more young people into the gallery, but also as a way to interact with the local community, have conversations and through this openness, become an active part of the local area.  The overall aims could perhaps be summarised as something like - to create opportunities for learning, communication and debate through arts based experiences and engagement with the ideas and questions in our exhibitions, particularly around community, public space and learning. In terms of working with young children and youth, we want to combine the practical creative aspect (e.g. a printmaking workshop) with an honest engagement with the content and ideas. We believe this is possible at all levels, it need not be daunting or an over-intellectualised exercise.  It's great to have kids in the gallery saying what they think and feel, even, or especially if, their response is "I don't like it" or "I don't get it". Well, then why? What does it say to you? What would you do differently? We have an interest in learning theories and approaches, and are keen to investigate this through our education programme. We look forward to developing this over the coming year in collaboration with schools, art educators and workshop facilitators. DB – Do you consider what you're creating as part of a kind of social art practice? VV – This is something that we are working towards but we wouldn't say that it's exactly where we are at right now. The work that we do as a project space, as a collective, as individual artists, and as workshop facilitators and activists, are all interlinked with many crossovers between them. Collectively and within each of these elements of Vulpes Vulpes there are similar concerns to do with community interaction and participation, and an interest in the physical, social, and cultural makeup of a place, which encourages a kind of social art practice. We do believe that we have a certain responsibility to our local community (and the wider society), and should actively take part in the shaping of our environment. DB – What have been some of your highlights over the years putting on these projects as Vulpes Vulpes? VV – Moving into a new space has always been an interesting experience for us. We've had three spaces so far and each has come with its own challenges and adventures, the excitement of unknown possibilities and creation of a new environment is something that we have always thrived on. Readjusting and negotiating a new landscape affords us a practical outlet in which to implement our ideas about community, space and the urban environment, reoccurring themes which run through our projects. We have learnt from every exhibition and project we have worked on, and each has been valuable to us, and hopefully to the others involved. Midden, our first show at our new project space in October, was a particular highlight. It felt different as we were opening our first long-term space, which comes with a whole new set of fears, problems, and possibilities. We are all excited about the rhythm and stability that having a permanent gallery may bring, giving us the breathing space to consider and develop projects over time. DB – What's next up for Vulpes Vulpes over the coming year? VV – First we have Vorkurs, an offsite project focusing on education and learning. This will take place at Standpoint in Hoxton at the end of February. This project was organised before we secured our space in Bermondsey and we see it as marking our transition from East to South London, maintaining connections made over the years. The first show this year at our Bermondsey space is in April with artists Katie Surridge and Keef Winter, both artists are making new work for the arch space. It's our five year anniversary in May and we will be celebrating with a series of events and a publication. We have a group exhibition in June, and in August Vulpes Vulpes are participating in a residency. Our biannual open submission is in the Autumn, and finally a collaboration with a regional project space. All of these programmed exhibitions will be accompanied by various events and workshops, and plenty more besides, and we're really looking forward to it! Hadiru Mahdi, Anna Chrystal Stephens, Laurie Storey, Carla Wright (Vulpes Vulpes) Interview by Dean Brierley
Review No 2: Jerwood Project Space
Emma Charles ‘Surfaces of Exchange’ Jerwood Visual Arts Project Space 14 January – 3 May Like a machine and barely catching breath, Mitchell Moss reels off fact after fact about digital communication: People can work fewer days for more money - Money is data on the move - The iphone is just a computer with phone capabilities - No one uses cheques anymore - The cash economy is just for hookers and drug dealers. If the internet were a person it might be Moss. Moss is professor of Urban Planning at NY University. He believes that contrary to what was forecast, there is more concentration of people than ever in urban areas and that New York’s dense population makes it the most productive place for moving information. New York is not like Abu Dhabi where everything is built from scratch. In New York, old buildings are recycled – many to house the heavy infrastructure for the electronic cables that power the internet, which is what makes it very easy for people to move information around efficiently both face to face and electronically. Credit: Emma Charles, 2014, installation view at Jerwood Visual Arts Project Space. Photo: He makes these pronouncements in an audio interview, which forms a part of Emma Charles’ exhibition ‘Surfaces of Exchange’. Charles’ ‘…work engages with the temporal complexities of the photographic image and how this can be related to social and political value systems of time.’ This is borne out in the other part of the exhibition comprising of five photographs, which are set in New York locations and the London Internet Exchange. She ‘…explores metropolitan spaces of productivity that are hidden from the public eye, primarily focusing on the more ethereal and abstract elements of industry and corporate environments.’ Charles is interested in the places that ordinary people do not have access to but which play a prominent part in their lives, e.g. where the internet lives. Her photographs show a number of locations: a dark and dingy cave with exposed light bulbs, lengths of exposed dusty cable and wires running the length of the walls, another shows a grand turn-of-the-20th century municipal building with a foyer, a desk and a long corridor, a third shows multiple rows of processors and the last two photos are a wide shot and a close-up of the London Internet Exchange. At least it seems that it is the London Internet Exchange. There is a sense of anonymity to these photos. It’s not clear in which of the two cities these photos have been taken. The first photo could be of anywhere, the second and third are most probably New York - because of the prominent American flag in one, along with the American spelling of the word ‘fiber’ somewhere on the infrastructure in the other and the last two are most probably London…because the wide shot has a road sign pointing to London. Credit: Emma Charles, Still from Fragments On Machines, 2013, HD Video. Courtesy the artist. If I were to physically enter these photos, these clues would be the only ways of placing myself, because for all Moss’s talk of modern day, urban close proximity of population and facility of communication, there is not one human being in the photographs. There would be no one to converse with and moreover to communicate with. I would be alone. The internet is monumental in its influence; it ranks alongside the Guttenberg press, according to Moss. It is responsible for greater, faster, better communication. It brings us closer. However the eerie emptiness, silence and stillness in these photographs, belie these facts. They illustrate another side to the internet that is not highlighted as much. It has been well documented that the likes of Assange and Snowden have exposed the secrets of the digital world. As Moss says, ‘You…can’t have a secret electronic life anymore’ and now, Charles can be added to their ranks. She researches the ‘…physical framework and materiality of the internet’ and ‘…attempts to map the tangible infrastructure of our expanding digital landscape’. She too has exposed the internet in her own way. She has shown the hidden inner workings, a side that is rarely seen. Though ‘tangible’ the ‘structure’ helps the masses, urban and suburban, to keep their distance. There’s no ‘reach out and touch’ here. Her photographs show the physical reality of ‘greater, faster, better’ – a barren, dull-eyed land, where there is no physical contact with another human being. There might be an exchange but it’s only on the surface. Emma Charles, 2014, installation view at Jerwood Visual Arts Project Space. Photo:
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