Current Issue

Contents
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Introduction

Movement: through, from, between, connecting, dividing.

 

Spacetime: four-dimensional, a joining of 'space' and 'time'.

 

Spacetime can be explained anecdotally: you wouldn't arrange to meet someone without specifying a time and a place, or else you'd perpetually miss each other. All objects move at a single speed, the speed of light through spacetime, suggesting that disparate things have the possibility of a singular, consistent sameness. In each contribution to this issue, building on the previous issue's theme of adaptation, there is a sense of observation, of watching time pass, words pass; sites change, bodies metamorphosise, and illusions shift. From the still point of observation, there is a movement through and between space and time, a movement allowing that meeting point for conversation, that place of becoming.

 

At this meeting place, there is, as Soanyway magazine's description outlines, a turn in conversation. Movement, lines, space and time might also refer specifically to music. Issue Nine includes our second special insert—following Issue Two's Lost in Spoleto, this one is Making Early Music, guest-edited by Helen Herbert. In the winter 1969 issue of ARK, the Royal College of Art's magazine, there is an article simply titled 'Music' by the pianist John Tilbury, an alumnus of the Royal College of Music. This is one of very few, if not the only, collaborations in the RCA's magazine with a student from the RCM, and its inclusion is given prominence by its placement on the cover. The graphic design which heads his piece and also the magazine cover is striking and strange. It looks like a score for some kind of illegible music; behind an organised chaos of black dots there appear six staves (groups of five lines) joined by what might be a systemic bar line, suggesting it as a score for multiple instruments or voices. The dots themselves look, on first glance, a little like an abstracted redesign of a Gregorian chant, but do not seem to have any logic. The contents listing of the issue is written in the style of a vocal line beneath these 'staves'. It begins: John Tilbury a—phor—is—es a—bout the new mus—ic. There is a complete disconnection, however, between this vocal line and the notes or staves that frame it. Tilbury writes how "nothing can put people's backs up like music. It is subversive and elusive. Its elusiveness is the crux of the matter". He continues: "Music absorbs us back into reality—music is a process and we are dealing with processes not objects".

He compares the objects of art and music and writes about the "onus" on the performer, discussing art-music experimentation, referring in a cross-disciplinary way to Karlheinz Stockhausen, Cornelius Cardew, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Yoko Ono, Gavin Bryars and Samuel Beckett. Tilbury's discussions recall Soanyway's last special insert, in which Lindsay Aveilhé refers to Sol LeWitt's text-based instructions for wall drawings, citing one installed over the phone which LeWitt described, "I think of it more like a composer who writes notes, and then a pianist plays the notes, but within that kind of situation, there's ample room for both to make a statement of their own". Another relevant publication appearing at a similar time was Decorative Art and Modern Interiors (1978). Its cover does not suggest anything unexpected, yet it includes an article 'Instruments for Early Music by Today's Makers' by Fiona Adamczewski, reflecting on the early music revival of the 1960s and 70s, and its influence from and possibilities for other disciplines. Our special insert includes contributions from a range of disciplines responding to its title, Making Early Music, with discussions by and between performers, composers, writers and makers.

 

This ninth issue of Soanyway considers standing motionless in the flowing river; shifts and changes in time, and the disjunction between these sensations of motion and stillness. There are three introductory features: two current exhibitions, Irene Fenara at UNA Galleria, Piacenza, and Georgia Dickie at Cooper Cole, Toronto, and a documentation of the Diagram Research Group's recent residency at Flat Time House, London. These initiate the conversation of 'Movement—Spacetime' that occurs through the other contributions, introducing ideas of surveillance, reuse and reappropriation, and a reinterpretation of digital spaces.

ARK RCA Winter 1969 Issue 45

Ark 45 Winter 1969. Managing editor: Malcolm Winton; Art editor: Darrell Ireland. Covers originated and printed at the Royal College of Art. Photo: Gertrude Gibbons.

 
UNA Galeria - Irene Fenara "Hey there, Tiger!" and Self Portrait from Surveillance Camera Series
Irene Fenara

"Hey there, Tiger!" Installation view at UNA Galleria, Piacenza.

"Hey there, Tiger!" is a solo exhibition by Irene Fenara at UNA galleria, Piacenza, with a curatorial text by Irene Sofia Comi (20 February 2021 - 30 June 2021). Here Fenara presents a new project, reflecting on the parallels between the natural world and the production of images. Through the process of producing the works, there appears a continual movement away from the natural world, but at the same time that these works always lead back to it, constantly maintaining and referencing their place and object of origin.

Irene Fenara

Three Thousand Tigers, 2020, tapestry, wool and silk, 300 x 200 cm.

The artist's research originates from the observation that there are more images representing tigers than real ones. In our imagery, these felines are very common and ubiquitous: in the logos of fashion houses, on cereal boxes, on t-shirts... However, shockingly, only three thousand tigers are left in the wild. Working with a generative algorithm, “fed” with three thousand images of tigers, Fenara has created vast new animals and new species that ultimately retain very few characteristics of the original animal. Additionally, since a generative algorithm in fact requires millions of images to learn how to recognise and reproduce them, the use of 'only' three thousand images means the results are even further from reality, and this inaccuracy, this further removal from the 'real' tiger, is part of the exhibition's exploration. These generated images have in turn been transformed into tapestries made in India, underling the parallel between the braiding technique typical of weaving and the binary code the algorithm is based upon. Alongside tapestries, the exhibition presents black and almost disturbing pictures of tigers in night landscapes: images “stolen” from camera traps which are triggered by animals' movements.

1017, 2021, inkjet print on baryta paper, 36 x 55 cm.

In a section of the curatorial text 'What a Pity Not to Be a Tiger', with the subheading 'Poor images, poor tigers', the exhibition's curator Irene Sofia Comi describes a 1967 advertisement for Esso fuels which had the slogan “Metti un tigre nel motore":

In one of the video advertisements available on YouTube, when the engine roars, the tiger’s tail disappears inside the gas tank, to vanish at full speed on the tarmac. As it happens in Three Thousand Tigers the animal dissolves, however its image is endlessly regenerated. A process of spoilage of the “original” species and, at the same time, of constant production of new visual subjects; a process that can be found also in the theory of poor images proposed by artist and theorist Hito Steyerl. As she puts it: “The poor image is a copy in motion. Its quality is low, its resolution below substandard. As it accelerates, it deteriorates. It is a ghost of an image, a preview, a thumbnail, an errant idea”. In a similar fashion, the project Three Thousand Tigers discloses the nature of a feline star that, blinded by digital spotlights, becomes a ghostly presence. Deprived of its recognisable image — its changing form placed between now and elsewhere — it loses consistency [solidity], by appearing rarefied, but at the same time reaffirms itself.

'Three Thousand Tigers', 2021, tapestry, wool and silk, 100 x 75cm.

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'Three Thousand Tigers', 2020, tapestry, wool and silk, 200 x 133cm.

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'Three Thousand Tigers', 2021, tapestry, wool and silk, 100 x 75cm.

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Comi continues:

 

Moreover, when we talk about tigers, we usually find ourselves having to deal with cameras, both through the spectacular caricatures of the animal in the context of TV programmes and in the most noble documentaristic intentions of wildlife reportage. A reality that is also part of another strand of Fenara’s project, conceived in parallel with the tapestries through a research methodology that is typical for the artist, based on the observation of the surrounding reality through surveillance cameras. The artist steals from the mechanical eye some video frames where tigers have been captured across the globe, both in the wild and in captivity. This is a research process that employs the web and digital technologies, but that ends up finding its roots in the very contact with planet Earth. Natural “life” is reflected and regenerated into the artificial one, and vice versa. Through tapestries with vibrant colours and black and white photographs, the project Three Thousand Tigers seems to suggest the need — nowadays a latent one — of an as-inclusive-as- possible integration of digital data into our natural condition. “What a pity not to be a tiger” fantasises Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges during an afternoon conversation with Alberto Manguel, colleague and author of the memoir With Borges. Like in a dream, we don’t see the real tiger anymore, but we can feel the bodily presence it has left us.

Self Portrait from Surveillance Camera Series

'Self portrait from surveillance camera', 2019, digital print on fine-art Hahnemühle paper, 145 × 200 cm.

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'Self portrait from surveillance camera', 2020, digital print on fine-art Hahnemühle paper, 43 × 57 cm.

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'Self portrait from surveillance camera', 2019, digital print on fine-art Hahnemühle paper, 32.7 × 46.7 cm.

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'Self portrait from surveillance camera', 2019, digital print on fine-art Hahnemühle paper, 145 × 200 cm.

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Fenara's interest in theories of visual culture and the need to appropriate the tools of contemporaneity, which determine our way of seeing, becomes an opportunity to practice an observation and reflection on images. Using an instrument usually foreign to art — surveillance cameras that acquire images for the sole purpose of environmental control — with the series Self Portrait from Surveillance Camera, Fenara relates power to vision.

 

The works bear the traces of a movement, that of the artist going from the studio to the surveillance camera and then saving the image that portrays her, before its automatic cancellation 24 hours later. The artist's gaze, turned towards the lens, becomes an act of resistance to impose her own identity on the controlled world, a reversed point of view that makes us reflect on the reversible relationship between the observer and the one being observed.

 

 

The above texts are taken from the press releases provided by UNA galleria, with quotes from Irene Sofia Comi's curatorial text 'What a Pity Not to Be a Tiger' published as part of the exhibition catalogue for "Hey there, Tiger!".

 

Photo credits for"Hey there, Tiger!": Andreas Manini. All images courtesy UNA Galleria and Irene Fenara. 

 
Georgia Dickie - Jerky Out, Gnar In
Georgia_Dickie

Jerky Out, Gnar In, Installation view at Cooper Cole

Jerky Out, Gnar In was a solo exhibition by the Canadian artist Georgia Dickie at Cooper Cole in Toronto, 6 March – 15 May 2021

Although written over thirty years ago, the following observation by the writer and critic John Roberts describes very well an important aspect of Georgia Dickie’s current practice: “By creating the new from the old, by reworking that which has been consumed or discarded into new objects of delight, humour or pathos, the products of a passive relation to consumption are transformed into acts of conspicuous self- determination. By offering us metaphors of the practical remaking of our industrialised culture, they give imaginative life back to the dead world of the commodity” [1].

 

The gallery’s press release for Jerky Out, Gnar In suggested that in this exhibition, “Dickie presents a space of precarity in which boundaries are flexible, and tangled with our lived experiences”. This involves a very particular approach to space and time in the use and reuse of materials that she collects and reclaims. The components are assembled, adjusted during installation, and then taken apart and re-assembled in new configurations for new works, so that the multiple elements of Dickie’s work constantly shift and move in relation to each other over time.

Georgia_Dickie

Jerky Out, Gnar In, Installation view at Cooper Cole

There is a long tradition of using found and appropriated objects in collage and sculptural assemblage that generally involves reshaping material in new combinations in ways that fix them as new objects in the world, transforming their function and giving them permanence as artworks. Such permanence is denied by Dickie though. As she has said in an interview, “once I’ve ‘made’ the work, what follows is a series of back-and-forth journeys for the individual objects, destined to be reassembled or reintegrated back into my inventory. The borders of the work can only be temporarily defined, so the artwork’s existence itself is tenuous” [2].

 

Thus Dickie assigns new meaning and value to the mundane materials she collects and works with, but simultaneously she challenges assumptions of the fixed and permanent nature of art objects. She not only questions the values of the consumer culture that generates the remnants she accumulates for re-use, but also renders problematic the commodification of the artworks that they are re-used in.

Text by Derek Horton.

'Jerky Out, Gnar In', Installation view at Cooper Cole

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'Jerky Out, Gnar In', Installation view at Cooper Cole

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'Jerky Out, Gnar In', Installation view at Cooper Cole

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'Jerky Out, Gnar In', Installation view at Cooper Cole

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NOTES

[1] John Roberts, Postmodernism, Politics and Art, Manchester University Press, 1990 (p.112)

[2] Georgia Dickie, interviewed by Laura Henderson-Child, 2020, https://tankmagazine.com/tank/2020/01/georgia-dickie/

All images courtesy of the artist and Cooper Cole, Toronto.

 
The Diagram Research Group at Flat Time House

Flat Time House (FTHo) in Peckham, South London was the British artist John Latham's home and studio. In 2003, he declared the house to be a sculpture; still a sculpture it is now a gallery, regularly hosting a variety of exhibitions, events and residencies and housing his archive.

 

In the summer of 2020, The Diagram Research Group (DRG) was awarded The Delta (Δ) Research Placement, following an open call for artists to undertake a period of remote research with the John Latham Archive to develop a digital project for a new experimental online platform for FTHo to be delivered in October and November 2020. The title of this placement comes from Latham's use of the term 'delta' as a measure of value after the Greek letter symbolising change. The Flat Time House website quotes Latham: "It is convenient to describe a Delta unit as referring to a unit of attention". His belief was that the value of attention, and this time spent focussing on something, gave a better measure of value than, for example, monetary value.

 

DRG is a collaboration between the artists David Burrows, John Cussans, Dean Kenning and Mary Yacoob, who, since April 2020, had been holding weekly Zoom meetings to discuss diagrams, diagramming and diagram theory in relation to art, philosophy and science. They are interested in the potential diagramming has for critical thinking, teaching and creative production. During their residency at FTHo, they explored their interests in diagrams in correspondence with and response to Latham's ideas and 'Flat Time' (this is Latham's theory of time and, after declaring his house a living sculpture, he named the house after it). Each Friday, from 16th October through to 6th November, one of the four members led a discussion and presentation online focussing on a particular area or diagram from Latham's archive, along with DRG's responding diagrams. As described on the FTHo website, their main discussion point was concerning Latham's idea of "the unification of scientific and artistic bodies of knowledge" and the "primacy of time and event" in structuring the universe, rather than object and space.

 

Collaborating with digital producer Rob Smith for the new experimental platform of FTHo, the talks experimented with the possibility of digital space, with Smith coding for their project. The combination of moving and static elements on the screen, which viewers can also move about themselves, gives a different sense of interaction and access both to and with the ideas of Latham and DRG's own responses and interactions. As the discussions continue, various diagrams, images, sketches, notes, film and sound clips, become movable elements that seem to be born from the filmed Zoom discussion and arrive out towards the viewer. This seems to play with the alternate sensations of virtual worlds and digital surfaces as immediately close, proximate to our finger tips, at the same time that these spaces appear intangible, detached and distant. This investigative use of digital potential enables viewers to come closer to DRG's own time spent interacting with Latham's archive and ideas. In this way, the use of the digital space itself considers and exhibits the value of attention, attentive time, the touching of ideas and collaboration. It enables a different presentation and conversation with notions of archive and research.

Burrows

The first event 'Dwelling Place for Thought/ Plane of the Least Event' was led by David Burrows, beginning with a discussion of Latham's figure '01-10' as a diagram. As the description states, this first event "addresses the spatial and temporal aspects of diagrams and the ground or space (the Plane of Assertion) of diagrams. This is further related to the problem of whether time or space is foundational or fundamental to reality, and whether novelty and agency or determination through natural laws shapes the cosmos and human development". Through the consideration of Latham's diagrams, the event references and compares other diagrams by various philosophers and physicists (for example John Wheeler and Roger Penrose in the above screenshot).

Yacoob

Mary Yacoob led the second event, titled 'Addressing Space-Time Diagrams, Kinetics, Notation, and Flat Time', looking at Latham’s artwork the ‘Time-Base Roller with Graphic Score’ (1987) which can be seen to the upper right of the screenshot above which also shows Yacoob's ink on paper Universes in the Arrow of Time. Here Yacoob discusses "Latham’s ideas about time and event are discussed in relation to the structure of the Flat Time House archive, and the transition from a passive understanding of time to the active ordering of ‘time bases’ by the  ‘reflective intuitive organism’". The event also relates Latham’s ‘graphic score’ to alternative musical notation, and physicist's theories on the direction of time.

Cussans

DRG Event III 'The Librarian’s Outburst – Explosive Orality, Cosmic Consciousness and the Art Event/Event of Art' was led by John Cussans. (This title came from an anecdote Dean Kenning related about a librarian's outburst in one of DRG's earlier meetings.) The discussion begins with Georges Bataille's concept of the formless, and continues to consider "Latham's 20th century art-science convergence diagram in relation to a general shift in artistic consciousness from the 1950's onwards from material object to temporal event" as well as the "problems of temporal-historical consciousness within art, art history and art education". The above screenshot shows Latham's 20th Century Convergence Diagram and also Cussans with his model of Alfred Korzybski's structural differential, which was designed to illustrate the abstracting processes of the human nervous system.

Kenning

Dean Kenning led the final talk, 'Attention, Entropy and the Arrow of Time'. Kenning considers Latham’s idea of the ‘attention unit’ and this question of time, "particularly as they pertain to entropy or the second law of thermodynamics". Kenning argues that entropy, the way many physicists define and determine time, is key to Latham's work. He describes how Carlo Rovelli constructs "a relativistic model of entropy, suggesting that the relation between order and disorder is a function of what we consider to be special", and relates this "to the notion of ‘attention’ in order to think about what, in the art world, gets understood as ‘special’ and therefore ‘separated out’ for further attention in anti-entropic processes (studio, gallery, archive, etc)". In the screenshot, a letter to Latham from Noam Chomsky can be seen in the top right, and a large 'attention' timeline by Kenning.

Text by Gertrude Gibbons.

Images courtesy DRG and FTHo, coding by Rob Smith. The full talks are available here.

 
Matthew Merrick - An Optician’s Breath Clouding our Vision

Sloan Octotypes, colours and symbols that are primarily used in optometry, have been adapted to present an imagined, gradually unravelling, dystopic eye-test. An audiobook maker reads, repeats and translates a test-subject’s inner-narrative and an optician’s verbal provocations. Language and speech are intended to blend together or overlap, yet verge towards binary, mechanical forms. These interventions, inventions and intrusions upon sight and/or the imagination, create a proposal that consequentially, there are now (or will be) growing gaps between what we see, hear, say and write, resulting from of our ever-tightening, entangled relationships with machine-led communication tools.

 
Kate Davis and David Moore - Circling the Square
Circling The Square North

Circling The Square North, 2020, digitalised collage, 87 x 87 cm.

Circling The Square West

Circling The Square West, 2020, digitalised collage, 87 x 87 cm.

Circling The Square East

Circling The Square East, 2020, digitalised collage, 87 x 87 cm.

Circling The Square South

Circling The Square South, 2020, digitalised collage, 87 x 87 cm.

 
Lola Bunting - 44 Sunsets

One.

I should I have started writing this sooner, while your words were still fresh in my mind. I think we spoke about the sea, I know we spoke a lot about the sea.

 

Walking along the cliffs edge, redrawn over and over, you tell me how the houses here can disappear. The edge creeps closer and silently they slip into the sea.

 

There was a campsite you used to walk past and last time you went there it had fallen in. You describe how you looked at that empty space carved out of chalk and wondered how it might feel to lie awake there under a blanket sky.

 

You had to be careful with your step and so they kept you close.
And you would bury your shoes in the sand and hope for them not to be taken out to sea. Caught in the rip tide one curves one way, one the other, washed up one day on distance shores, never to sit side by side.

 

We waded through the estuary in all our clothes and drank vodka and coke on the inlet, carved out of the sand. I didn’t like the taste, it was just so they wouldn’t smell it on my breath.

 

You imagine the water to be inky black with trails of seaweed glinting green and wet flesh.
In fact it was pale against the dark; opaque, smooth and thick like warm soup, with the soft silky steps of sand and the feel of stiff wet denim against skin. The water reaching up to our chests as we held our arms high for no other reason than that’s what we’d seen them do.

 

The moon rose red over the sea that night, we thought it was the sun, that something had slipped and reversed the night for day.
And on that same day, the same spot, but sometime later. I watched 44 sunsets in one day he said, and the blood moon did not rise.

 

He always swam out a bit too far. That’s how I felt in the city.

 

 

Two.

 

She wrote to me about the fires and described how the sky was a smoky red haze and the air smelt of burning wood, how the smell reminded her of being in a spa.

 

‘And the falls of ash came down. Tasting the ash on my tongue’ she said, ‘That was gold and pink, like honey in the morning.’

 

She wanted to hear more about him. She wanted to know what he smelt like. She said she felt done with the city.

 

She talked about the ash clouds and yet I couldn’t see the sky anymore. The cloud here is like a blanket. The darkness is thicker than the smoke.

 

‘I wasn’t sure if this is what you had in mind.’

 

And there’s the image of the mountains draped in cloud with the birds which reveal themselves to be flex of greasy dust upon the glass.
I liked it better before I think, when you described it to me and wish I could see it again that way, thousands of birds flocking across the view finder, interrupting the slow movement of mist and forest and rock.

 

 

Three.

 

Trace the outline with your finger and lay a palm against the cool stone, not yet warmed by the sun rising steadily in the sky and threatening to break through the trees at the top of the lane.

 

A child’s handprint, fixed in the cement. From years before, when the first stone was laid. Those ‘happy’ times, those picture-perfect days.

 

You remember that she was scared of water and that one hot summers afternoon, still a child yourself, you’d filled a bucket from the tap at the back of the house, snuck up behind her and tipped it over her head.

Years later she will confide in you of all the things which scare her.

 

And still now, the hushing of the little ones who do not yet know the game. Hours before the long shadows lead the day to night and things which never should be said are spoken.

 

‘Don’t smoke away from the house’, a warning ignored, for the sake of a moment of solitude. Only the summer before a fire had spread through the bracken and raged for days, before it finally succumbed to the water pouring from the skies and sank back into the singed earth.
A cigarette carelessly thrown to the side of the path, often taken. Through the trees, to the top, to rest, for a stilled moment.

 

That’s what they said anyway. ‘City types. They don’t know the rules, or they don’t care’. That was the story and they were sticking to it. Like so many others.

 

And the record plays again.
With heavy eyelids against the minutes that creep yet further on, swaying gently from the music and the wine. And as the final notes tap out, her eyes flutter open and roam slowly round the room, finding nothing to settle on, as straight-backed gazes are averted, until they meet your own.

 
Ruoqi Wu - Riverwalk
Ruoqi Wu Riverwalk
 
Eileen Daly - Parc Monceau and Untitled (house bodies)

Parc Monceau

In Parc Monceau people run the curves
In Parc Monceau of perimeter allées
In Parc Monceau the intention is liberty
In Parc Monceau people waited
In Parc Monceau for someone visiting

 

In Parc Monceau land was bought in the 1760s to create a public place. A hundred years later, G.E. Haussmann
remodelled the avenues to allow for greater movement. These new allées followed N. to S. E. to W. axes, and
were wide enough to allow a horse and carriage to drive along.

 

In Parc Monceau respite
In Parc Monceau I am waiting for you
In Parc Monceau side by side
In Parc Monceau the fragrance is heady
In Parc Monceau the place we said we’d meet

 

In Parc Monceau step off the street if you are watching a parachute jump or having a picnic or waiting for
someone being interviewed at police H.Q. or reading a book or painting or waiting for time to pass or taking

your charge for a walk. Under what circumstances?

 

In Parc Monceau the designer of the gardens L.C. Carmontelle, conceived of the idea that no matter how many

times you visited it therein was built a sense of renewal, a generative action whereby the visitor would ‘have the
desire to .... possess it for himself’.

 

In Parc Monceau we sit together
In Parc Monceau others alone
In Parc Monceau wait
In Parc Monceau move
In Parc Monceau allées et venues

 

Untitled (house bodies)

house-bodies-structures-space-
few needs-absorb-form-effect
influence-inhabit-inhabitants-
steely-optimistic-sly-elegant-practical-
sweet-unknowable-details-juxtaposed together-occasionally-one stood out-
reflection-give away-draw the fire-reflection-
look at me-reflection-draw the fire

 
Hollie Miller - Geography of Fantasy

Shape-shifting is one of fairy tale’s dominant and characteristic wonders.

– Marina Warner (1994)

Hollie Miller

Geography of Fantasy (2020) is an epic narrative cycle in eight acts that contemplates the pleasures, trials and tribulations of the feminine condition. This self-shot film by performance artist, Hollie Miller, in collaboration with composer, Craig Scott, combines experimental sound and ‘living pictures’ in an allegorical performance installation. Miller herself is the figurative focus throughout, a one-woman play or solitary blonde moving within a garden and country house. The effect is uncanny — her gestures and movements are otherworldly and hypnotic, heightened by Scott’s responsive improvisations. Hints of ancient myth and the gothic genre are touched upon but the overall aesthetic is refreshingly minimal and pared back. No words are uttered, yet the visual tableaux, coupled with the discordant soundscape, propose an eloquent, narrative pursuit.

Hollie Miller

One possible way to read Geography of Fantasy is as an intermedial treatise or microcosm of feminist cultural history, segueing through its many lessons and revelations. For instance, Miller presents long-term, somatic engagements with Julia Kristeva’s notion of abjection (1982). Slippery, embryonic materials, and an emphasis on throwaway pieces of the body such as nails and hair, frequently recur in Miller’s topographies. But even more potent is an interest in themes of the maternal, particularly the artist’s relationship with her own genealogy. Kristeva tells us that ‘The abject confronts us […] within our personal archaeology, with our earliest attempts to release the hold of maternal entity […]’ [2]. Such ‘personal archaeology’ is positioned at the heart of Geography of Fantasy, yet is presented in a generous, archetypal mode that holds relevance for a collective viewership.

 

Literary and artistic heirlooms are also actively embedded by Miller, and provide key cultural landmarks within Geography of Fantasy. In Act III, a number of vintage evening gowns have been borrowed by Miller from her mother’s wardrobe. Accompanied by Scott’s eerie and sinewy acoustic synths, Miller could be said to perform the ghostly arabesques from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novella The Yellow Wallpaper (1892): ‘it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern […] The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out’ [3]. Here, Miller’s body channels, exorcises, and liberates those that may have been previously oppressed or imprisoned by patriarchal convention.

 

Later in Act V, Kiki Smith’s Wolf Girl (1999) and Meret Oppenheim’s Object (1936) appear to make a combined cameo in the form of a performative artefact, a mask made of Miller’s own hair. As Marina Warner, has written of Oppenheim’s tea cup, Miller’s hairy mask summons the wild within the civilised [4]. It queries human-animal hybridity and revels in gender slippages. Is Miller beauty or beast in this scenario? Mayako Murai similarly highlights the protagonist in Angela Carter’s ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ (1979); a bride who reverses expectation by making the transition to fur-covered creature [5].

Hollie MIller

Miller’s catalogue of disguises further include a flush-coloured veil, gold-leaf veneer, reptilian body suit, razor shell prosthetics, and a scene where her nipples are substituted by synthetic eyes. Such materials emphasise psychic topographies and a multi-sensorial inquiry beyond the visual realm alone. As well as working through Laura Mulvey’s famous critique of the male gaze (1975), Miller also pursues Mulvey’s feminist logic of de-fetishisation when re-writing the myth of Pandora, particularly the idea that appearances can deceive [6]. Elsewhere, Miller tugs at her epidermis in a powerful gesture of abscission, a stripping away of surface artifice.

Hollie Miller

A revision of Pandora is present in Geography of Fantasy, but so is that of Narcissus. Amelia Jones unpacks such self-representation and hyper-femininity as feminist strategies that actually subvert or ‘unhinge’ objectification through an obsessional ‘reiteration’ of the self [7]. As well as using her own body as her chief medium, Miller often deploys symmetry as a compositional technique, such as a key scene in Act II where she coils her body around a garden ornament and appears mirrored by a reflecting pool. This is echoed by Scott’s use of polyphonic chorus, again shoring up Miller’s visual arguments.  

 

The cocoon at the beginning of Geography of Fantasy offers an overarching metaphor for femininity throughout: a perpetual act of metamorphosis and becoming [8]. The conch shell and pretty pink rose caressed by Miller in Act II provoke another layer of day-dreaming and Bachelardian interiority [9]. She ultimately uses these secretive spaces of the chrysalis and the grotto to channel and open onto the feminine grotesque [10]. Hollie Miller is a brave artist, unperturbed by practices of abjection and the grotesque implications of her reveries; indeed, she revels in them and invites us to reconnect with our own embodied stories [11].

Text by Catriona McAra.

Trailer of Geography of Fantasy. A film by Hollie Miller with music by Craig Scott. Supported by Arts Council England © Hollie Miller 2020. Full duration: 27 minutes.

NOTES

[Epigraph] Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (London: Chatto and Windus Ltd., Random House, 1994), xv.

[2] Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 12-13.

[3] Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories (New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1997), 8.

[4] Warner, 385.

[5] Mayako Murai, From Dog Bridegroom to Wolf Girl (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2015), 51.

[6] Laura Mulvey, Fetishism and Curiosity (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), 55.

[7] Amelia Jones, Body Art: Performing the Subject (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 171; 179.

[8] See Susan Stewart on Mikhail Bakhtin, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham: Duke University Press, 1984), 105.

[9] Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 107.

[10] Frances S. Connelly, The Grotesque in Western Art and Culture: The Image at Play (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 116-117. 

[11] Grateful thanks to Samantha Sweeting for this idea.

 
Henry Hu - Passing Parade

"Those odd phases and periods, the stolen moments in-between, there is always this strange infolding of vacuity, a mental collapse of sorts. Uncanny, even mystical to say the least. These states of transitions, the waitings, the boring bits, seemingly the whole world suspended, when all there is left is our gaze — a little bleary, a little distorted, just enough for a fleeting glimpse … perhaps, to recognize the slow temporality of all passings, or simply, to appreciate the spell of nostalgia." 

but sound
but sound

inkjet print on cotton rag 24 x 16 cm from passing parade, 2019 1/10

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sheets
sheets

inkjet print on cotton rag 24 x 16 cm from passing parade, 2019 2/10

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whitesink
whitesink

inkjet print on cotton rag 24 x 16 cm from passing parade, 2019 10/10

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but sound
but sound

inkjet print on cotton rag 24 x 16 cm from passing parade, 2019 1/10

press to zoom
1/10
 
Jack Hogan and Sarah Doheny - Yeah I Know
 
Michael Hampton - Tom's Retreat

Application to ‘Spot List’ Nayland Shelter

Marine Terrace, Margate, Kent.

 

  Mad Tom o’ the Mississippi Delta

  hanging out in a seafront shelter;

  wearing plimsolls, wearing drag,

  counts sea gulls on the foaming crag.

 

Cast iron and timber shelter of c1910, restored 2000.

 

  Mr Sweeney, nervous wreck, fox-trots under massive stress

  to Paul Whiteman’s band (from a bakelite wireless);

 

  forks tins of Portuguese sardines & macaroni cheese,

  Miss Whiplash brings him to his knobbly knees.

 

  The Albermarle Hotel –best English and Scotch meat

  served. Garage on premises. Tom’s retreat.

 

 … does not qualify for statutory listing on the grounds of

architectural merit. It is part of a very mediocre terrace

which appears to have been built piecemeal and is loosely

derived from the Italianate style, old-fashioned by

the date of construction. English Heritage Inspector’s Advice

20 Dec 2004 Case UID: 158348

 

  Welcomes all who seek

  full or half board by the week.

  Telephone 137;

  (there’s the Dreamland Cinema for trips to heaven).

 

The front elevation is of stock brick with stuccoed dressings

and the slate roof is concealed behind a parapet.

 

Pinned to the ‘Fire Sermon’ MS, a hotel bill:

(off-season souvenir of Margate Sands),

 

where pure nothingness fills

his days, running through the poet’s haunted hands.

Michael Hampton