It has been so long….
Steve Beresford and Mandhira de Saram at BOTH AND exhibition, Burley Fisher Books, 24 November 2019. Report and drawings by Geoff Winston
As part of our BOTH AND exhibition, and serendipitously coinciding with the final day of the London Jazz Festival, Calum Storrie and I (Geoff Winston) invited two of the most accomplished improvising musicians around, Steve Beresford and Mandhira de Saram, to perform an afternoon set in the gallery.
Steve Beresford and Mandhira de Saram. Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2019. All Rights Reserved
As a free, ticketed event this had ‘sold out’ and the packed house experienced a gently challenging dialogue with Beresford on an array of electronic and analogue devices creating a mischievously quirky, ambient soundscape, the sonics of the industrial transformer punctuated by shrill whistles and more, to which de Saram responded by nudging the boundaries of violin technique with mesmerising flair. Spells of curiously…
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This from Geoff Winston on londonjazznews.com….
Geoff Winston is co-exhibitor with Calum Storrie at Burley Fisher Books in Dalston. The exhibition is called BOTH AND and runs until 24 November 2019 (now extended to Christmas). Sebastian Scotney asked him a few questions:
LondonJazz News: For people who don’t know you, tell us about your work, Geoff…
Geoff Winston: The art works I make, and are currently being shown in a two-person exhibition in Dalston, encompass editioned prints, three-dimensional assemblages and sculpture, and drawings. The three-dimensional work and prints are very much to do with what I call ‘the poetry of the quotidien’, finding form and delight in the everyday, often the discarded and rejected. They are informed by an underlying sculptural and painterly sensibility which goes back to formative years, when art, design and music turned up on my doorstep!
Some of the series of prints utilise and subtly transform photographic elements which are often visual…
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IN CON with(14)…https://neilferguson.wordpress.com/
Neil Ferguson and Calum Storrie
WAITING FOR GODOT
Friday 7th June 6.00 – 8.30pm
Saturday 8th June 6.00 – 8.30pm
Redacting texts,…applying thinglyness to “things”
…organizing meaninglessness in “things”?
Ferguson and Storrie have redacted a variety of publications from Beckett plays and short stories to free gallery handout sheets, cookbooks and detective novels.
…TING FOR DOT is an interactive event where the audience will be asked to apply their own redacting systems to TING FOR DOT texts.
Tools and text to redact will be supplied.
I wrote this some time back. Tinkered with on many occasions but still going nowhere. It was in a file with two other ‘false starts’ so that is why it is labeled ‘3’. Maybe I am posting it for the sake of posting something on this much underused blog.
So the Visitor walks out of the front door one morning – she is going to a meeting or an exhibition or for a walk. And when she opens the door there is an unfamiliar city out there. It’s not that it is some future city or something from Dickens. No monorails or organ grinders. It’s kind of like a city or cities that she knows but this particular combination of elements is not familiar. Where there should be a tree – there is a post box. Where she would expect to see the bus stop and the almshouses there is some kind of toll-booth and a trailer park. And why ‘trailer park’ rather than ‘caravan park’ or even ‘caravanserai’? Anyway, it is an enclosure for semi-nomadic dwellings. The threshold of the door is the same as it ever was, the door too is the same. The house number is the plate stolen from the power station that became an art gallery. There is still that metal boat sitting in the fanlight and this makes the Visitor think of the shadow of the glass on the wall at night. This shadow has changed recently as the streetlight was moved. [And thinking about it now…isn’t there the handle bar from a burnt-out scooter on the shelf next to the fanlight now? And, even more recently didn’t someone add a deer skull to this arrangement?]
All this makes her wonder if this new building is the first phase of a traffic management scheme. During a previous stay the bus shelter on the other side of the street was moved. The bus stop used to be to the left of the house and now it is straight in front of it allowing people waiting for a bus to stare in through the ground floor window. This is offset to a certain extent by the entertainment to be had from watching the watchers. Now that they have erected this tollbooth – or is it a border post? – that exchange with waiting passengers has been removed. Instead of a procession of drunks, addicts, religio-maniacs and schoolchildren there are interchangeable officials in peaked caps. The thought crosses the Visitor’s mind that this booth/kiosk is just a front for a surveillance operation. Drugs? Bus-lane misuse? Did she fail to notice a revolution that has split the city? Does the border between the two territories now run along the road north of the house? Or maybe the border runs north-south so that it goes through the terrace. This could get complicated. Is she going to have to deal with this difficult new situation and re-learn whole systems. How will she make a living? She is supposed to be making a study of this place. Suddenly she realises that the other occupants left the house before her this morning. How are they coping with this new world? Maybe it has all changed since they left or maybe this shift is local so they are still experiencing the city as it was yesterday. It is tempting to close the door again – either just retreat inside or try again.
Or go and write that experimental novel that the Visitor has been thinking about for years. Maybe this is the experimental novel and she has been thinking about it for so long that she has entered into it. And that reminds her of the dream she had last night:
‘I was a different sex and much younger. I lived with lots of people in a tall house with an L-shaped plan. And then one day when I was standing on the half-landing of the stair the floor began to move and I realised that the short leg of the L at the back of the house was about to part company with the rest. I jumped to safety in time to see a whole section of the building split away and then come to rest making a void a few feet wide at floor level. Eventually I worked out that the breakaway part of the house had hit the adjacent structure and this had halted its total collapse. Then later I found out that people from the next house had colonised the fallen part. I thought it was time for me to remove my belongings but then I couldn’t work out what was worth keeping.’
It was only thinking about it later she realised she was dreaming other people’s artworks. Bits of Gordon Matta-Clark crossed with Gregor Schneider.
Back on the doorstep, no chasms have opened up at the Visitor’s feet, nothing is splitting so she thinks that maybe it is ok to go out and she is just experiencing some temporary mismatch between memory and reality. Cognitive dissonance. Nothing more than that thing about dolls houses that she meant to put in her book. It went like this:
THIS EXPERIMENT CAN BE PERFORMED IN ANY CITY
GO TO THE MUSEUM
-IN PALERMO GO TO THE MUSEUM OF PUPPETS
-IN LONDON GO AND SEE THE MODEL OF THE GREAT FIRE IN THE MUSEUM OF LONDON (IF IT IS STILL THERE)
-IN AMSTERDAM VISIT THE RIJKSMUSEUM AND GO TO THE GALLERY DEVOTED TO DOLLS HOUSES
NOW FIND A SMALL SPACE THAT IS PART OF THE DISPLAY, A ROOM IN A DOLLS HOUSE SAY. THERE IS A CABINET IN THAT ROOM IN WHICH OBJECTS ARE DISPLAYED. IMAGINE THAT YOU ARE IN THE ROOM. OPENING THE DOOR OF THE CABINET AND TAKING AN OBJECT FROM THE SHELF. YOU ARE STANDING OUTSIDE OF A SHOWCASE LOOKING AT YOUR SMALL SELF IN THE DOLLS HOUSE. NOW THINK ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE STANDING IN THE MUSEUM – INSIDE A GALLERY WITHIN A BUILDING IN A STREET OR A PARK IN A CITY. YOU ARE AT ONCE AN IMAGINED MINIATURE PERSON, A GIANT, AND ONE SMALL PERSON AMONG MANY DWARFED BY YOUR ENVIRONMENT (AND BY YOURSELF). AND YOU ARE SIMULTANEOUSLY TRAVELLING IN TIME.
Actually that last part of the last sentence was added later and is still something of a mystery. She can’t remember where she was when she wrote that.
END OF FALSE START 3
I can’t quite remember why I composed this list except that it was some potential writing project on London. From the mid-1990s I think. ‘Y’ had no word…I inserted the question mark today. The formatting of the list is accidental.
Angel/ Azimuth Bell Cut Dock East Fall Grace History Intersection/Interstitial/Ice Junction Lost/lock Meander/Meridian North Obelisk Pocahontas/Pyramid/Panorama Queen’s House/Quicktime Ruins Subterranean/South Time Ur Vertical/V2 Wharf/West Xerxes (x-ray) Y? Zeppelin
Spaces strung out along a line
A series of disjointed arcades
Arcades that shift
A small room opening off the street
Accretions of space
The square off the street
The square as crossroads
A marker in the square
Accidental effect: one pillar of the arcade blocks the vista
Inside the palace:
Two globes (celestial and terrestrial) and the vestigial library
Fortified against the world but also containing it
2 at once
2 places at once
being in 2 places at once
I went to the Museum on Sunday morning with the expectation of seeing the familiar. I knew that the Museum was the last work of the architect H.P. Berlage – and I knew that there was a collection of paintings by Mondrian and furniture by Rietveldt alongside other works of de Stijl.
I wandered through the galleries looking more at the architecture than the artworks. The former was made up of elaborate geometric progressions of spaces articulated by flat planes of coloured tiles. On the first floor I opened a door into a wide corridor with small galleries opening off it. These self-contained galleries each had a pair of bench seats built into the low wall separating the room and the corridor. On one side of the central opening a black, stone-topped bench faced out into the corridor and on the opposite side a wood-topped bench faced into the gallery. One was for the ‘public’ space of the corridor, the other for the intimate space of the gallery.
Two of the side galleries had the low wall but no benches. These rooms gave access to other, larger galleries and had doors on the axes. Glancing through one of these doors I was struck by the particular delight of seeing a series of rooms opening out, one after another, like misaligned frames. (I realise now that this came to me first when I was an architecture student visiting the Netherlands and seeing the paintings of Pieter de Hooch.) In this view there was a painting in the foreground, a doorway, in the middle an elaborate sculpture on a skeletal plinth adjacent to another doorway through which I could see the edge of a gilt frame and yet another doorway. I don’t know what the painting in the foreground was but the gilt frame, it turned out, contained a Francis Bacon. But in this glancing view the particular artworks hardly mattered (to me, at least). Instead what was intriguing was the promise inherent to this view – the potential of these rooms. I felt for a moment that I should leave this potential intact and continue on my way without going into these galleries. After all, visiting the museum always encompasses misunderstandings, lost opportunities, dead ends…
But inevitably my curiosity was piqued by that sculpture on its slender display stand. What I didn’t know and what had not occurred to me was that this was just one piece in a room devoted to the work of Constant, the Dutch architect, artist and situationist. I’ve read a good deal about Constant over the years so I knew how his work continued after Guy Débord had effectively wound up the Situationist International. Constant’s overarching proposal was for New Babylon – a new kind of city based on ‘play’ rather than ‘work’. He posited the idea of the city’s inhabitants as nomads moving freely through a vast network of zones of action – a spider’s web, a matrix, a labyrinth.
Of course, none of New Babylon was built though there were many parallel projects which had impact on the architecture: the Metabolists, Archigram and maybe most strikingly in the work of Cedric Price. The room at the museum presented Constant’s work in an orthodox museological manner without ‘immersion’ – paintings on white walls, sculptures evenly placed about the room, discreet lighting, labels in Dutch and English. But this collection of objects as much as any wunderkammer embodied a fragment of a proposal for a whole world. My reaction was, I am sure about the familiar made strange…image turned into object. And it was about rediscovering the pleasure inherent to Constant’s ideas around play and disorientation. In the museum installation the architectural models have an exactness to them that is in juxtaposition to the wall works. The paintings, with their smudges and fogs overpainted on newsprint open up the possibilities of the narratives implicit to the models. Looked at in isolation the models could be read as just another unrealisable utopian project but the combination of the two forms suggests a more complex proposal. Of course how that proposal has developed is in the realm of the digital nomad. I am less comfortable in this territory…I fear I am a member of the digital lumpen proletariat. So to a certain extent, my enthusiasm for New Babylon is a form of nostalgia. And it’s an experience I could only have in the (delirious? irrelevant?) museum.
In an adjacent room to the display of Constant’s work, beyond curtained doorways, was a late 19th century Art Nouveau domestic interior. Uprooted from its original location this represented another version of time travel. But both this space and that of New Babylon easily float free of their context, colliding and merging as difficult, inconvenient artefacts in the physical world.
In the Mauritshuis in The Hague, there is one of those paintings of picture galleries. (‘Apelles Painting Campaspe’ c. 1630 by Willem van Hecht.) In the painting the works of art are stacked on shelves and hung one on top of the other on the walls. The ‘visitors’ mimic classical poses and inhabit the space as if they are models. On the left hand side there is an artist engaged in the process of painting a real model. (This is the Apelles painting Campaste of the title.) So academy and art gallery overlap. In the lower left hand corner van Hecht has shown a framed picture leaning up against a plinth. It shows a banker and his wife counting coins. The banker’s wife is leafing through a book but has been distracted by her husband. The book is open at an illustration which might be Adam and Eve. At the front of the banker’s table there is a small convex mirror – an unlikely artefact for the banker to have at his table, except that, reflected in the mirror is the head of a man in a red turban. Is this the artist of the portrait of the banker and his wife? Or is it a self-portrait of the artist of the picture gallery painting? I am reminded of Georges Perec’s story ‘Un cabinet d’un amateur’ (published in English as ‘A Gallery Portrait) with its dizzying receding perspectives in space and time.