Tag Archives: identity

Identity in the Digital Age discussed inside-out

Symposium video still, image credit: Henrietta Thomas

L to R: Jane Boyer, David Houston Jones, Aiden Gregg, Annabel Dover, Catherine Horan

We had a great discussion!

Yesterday’s symposium, Identity in the Digital Age, was a fascinating, deliberate meander thorough topics on archiving – everything from mass data to body tattoos; identity – how we arrive at one, what we do with it, how we express it, how we relate ours to others and how new media is affecting it; objects – from letters, to teddy bears to bathtubs and beyond; memory and the sinister nature of not forgetting or having the right to forget; and culture from pre-alphabet people’s ‘acoustic space’ to our own taboos and the strange, almost off-kilter, awareness of seeing them change in real time. I can’t possibly do it justice…

…you’ll have to see the video!

Henri nearly has the final Artist is Conversation video ready, so we’ll have that soon and she’ll have the symposium video ready in the coming weeks.

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Symposium Dates and Other Intriguing Topics for Discussion


This ‘Me’ of Mine Symposium:


2 November, 2013, 2 to 4pm

Ipswich Art School Gallery
1 Upper High Street
Ipswich IP1 3NE

Video still, 'Shout Blue', from 'Trampoline' (c)2006 Kai-Oi Jay Yung

Video still, ‘Shout Blue’, from ‘Trampoline’ (c)2006 Kai-Oi Jay Yung

In partnership with our four venues, APT, Strange Cargo, Kaleidoscope Gallery and Colchester+Ipswich Museums, I’m very pleased to announce the dates for our This ‘Me’ of Mine Symposium: Identity in the Digital Age.

In an age when we often interact with an object before communicating with another person, where memory is under siege by transience, media overload and the culture of the spectacle, and communication is less and less ‘face to face’ its’ no wonder we feel lost.

Join us this Fall for a discussion on the effects social media communications are having on our identity. We’ll discuss the importance memory has to identity construction, touch on the alarming rise of narcissism, and explore the relationship we have to objects in expressing ourselves.

Visit the SYMPOSIUM page to find out more about our distinguished panel members, Dr David Houston Jones, Annabel Dover, Dr Aiden Gregg and Dr Catherine Horan. They bring a wealth of experience and insight to these topics.

Seats are limited. Please go to the TICKETS page for more information or click this button Eventbrite - This 'Me' of Mine Symposium: Identity in the Digital Age to purchase tickets now. Tickets are £15 plus a £1.55 Eventbrite booking fee.


How do I read this?

A new look at art appreciation and audience participation

25 September 2013, 6:30 to 8:30 pm

Ipswich Art School Gallery
1 Upper High Street
Ipswich IP1 3NE

Still from 'Artists in Conversation at Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope Gallery' for This 'Me' of Mine, filmed and edited by Henrietta Thomas

Still from ‘Artists in Conversation at Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope Gallery’ for This ‘Me’ of Mine, filmed and edited by Henrietta Thomas

During our stay at Georges House Gallery in Folkestone this Spring, I had a fascinating critical debate with gallery visitor, Jeremy Wilson. He raised some important issues about viewing art from the perspective of the ‘audience’. I was very grateful for Jeremy’s willingness to address these issues with me because, not only did he have a chance to express some of his frustrations of the viewing experience, it gave me a chance to express some of my own views on this important relationship – the viewer and art. As a result of this valuable exchange, when invited to give a curator’s talk for the show in Ipswich, I suggested I combine it with a development of this discourse. The result is How do I read this?

Please join us for a closer look at the expanded This ‘Me’ of Mine exhibition and a discussion of how society and information delivery changes the way we interact with art. Viewing is not passive, and because it isn’t, it should evolve along with changes in art production.

Space is limited. Please book in advance on 01473 433691 or by stopping by Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich. Tickets are £8 through the museum. See the TICKETS page for more information.


Artists in Conversation: IRRATIONALITY

21 September 2013, 2 to 3 pm, during the exhibition opening

Ipswich Art School Gallery
1 Upper High Street
Ipswich IP1 3NE

Iris' Stocking (c)2011 Annabel Dover

Iris’ Stocking (c)2011 Annabel Dover

And last but not least, the final instalment of our Artists in Conversation Series. These have been engaging discussions between the artists, gallery visitors and myself on topics involved with the artists’ work; a deeper look at the work, curatorial decisions and a chance to question and discuss issues directly with the artists and curator. These topics have been “Details”, “Symbology”, “Space” and now for Ipswich, “Irrationality”. How do the artists use irrationality in their work? What consequences have they discovered by working with issues of irrationality? How have I worked with irrationality as curator for the exhibitions?

We’ll be talking with Annabel Dover, Darren Nixon and David Riley. Each artist is working with very different modes of irrationality: Annabel with the expression of emotion, Darren with the effects of media overload, and David with communications through codes. These are informal discussions and everyone is welcome to join the discussion. Henrietta Thomas will be taping as usual.

You can see our videos from Strange Cargo, Folkestone and Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope Gallery on our YouTube Channel

This is a FREE event.

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Visualplanet & ENIGMA

Visualplanet touchfoil logo

I’m so pleased to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Cambridge business, Visualplanet™ for the supply of their touchfoil™ integrated into a mirror screen display for the creation of a special work of art called Enigma for This ‘Me’ of Mine at Ipswich Art School Gallery. The visualplanet touchfoil™ is a micron thin film touch sensor that can sense a touch or multiple touches through glass. Primarily used in interactive information kiosks, like at the National Theatre in London, Visualplanet™ is joining with us to explore the possibilities for the application of the touchfoil™ in a work of art.

Read the full press release.


Enigma Demo 5, (c)2013 Sandra Crisp

Early Design Sketch, (c)2013 Sandra Crisp

Enigma will be a collaborative adventure between This ‘Me’ of Mine exhibiting artist, Sandra Crisp, creative programmer, Luis Marques, and myself. It will be a fully interactive artwork where visitors can draw gestures on the touchfoil™ screen to create a personal avatar.

Here is a snippet from communications between Sandra and me during the conceptualisation of Enigma:

——– Original Message ——–
From: Sandra
Date: Wed, July 10, 2013 1:12 pm
To: Jane
Other option- is to allow the program to generate painted/ graphic marks/ avatars- not use our imagery as such but use them instead as a basis to design various gestures, shapes to construct the program

I know there are ways of using pre-existing images because that’s how I did climate collager but it maybe more interesting if the marks are generated by the program- what do you think? Like an automated/generative drawing program
—– Original Message —–
From: Jane
To: Sandra
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 12:19 PM
Yes, that could be quite interesting. It sounds like that could be heavy programming, do you think?
——– Original Message ——–
From: Sandra
Date: Wed, July 10, 2013 1:53 pm
To: Jane

My thinking with putting the avatars on a kind of network structure or grid etc is that people can see their individual avatar as part of a group identity. It also nicely gets around the fact they can’t print them (I don’t think that needs to happen anyway for the piece to be interesting or relevant btw)
—– Original Message —–
From: Jane
To: Sandra
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 1:46 PM
Yes, think my previous email answered this too. There doesn’t have to be a paper element, just something to think about.
Yes, definitely like collecting all the avatars into a larger group identity. I have a suspicion we might find it ends up looking like a giant QR code, especially in the print form.
——– Original Message ——–
From: Sandra
Date: Wed, July 10, 2013 3:07 pm
To: Jane

Giant QR code could be coool. Partic if it is a 3D object/ cube that you can rotate in space and examine
all the avatars that make it up.
—– Original Message —–
From: Jane
To: Sandra
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 2:16 PM
Way coool. I hadn’t thought of a 3D object of avatars. It might be cool to do 3D printing, but I think that would have to be entirely outside TMoM and at a later date.
I really love the idea that a work for TMoM might spark a whole other work/exhibition – ‘distributed practice’ indeed.

—– Original Message —–
I agree, on both counts :))

Luis Marques

Luis Marques photoProgramming whiz, Luis Marques, is going to make all this happen. I was completely amazed by everything Luis was suggesting in our first meeting about the project. He has developed his work in recent years for various fields, such as software for real time performances, generative composition in music, graphical environments for electronic music performance, interactive installations, and sound design for video.

Luis is currently developing a project for Contemporary Music. At the same time, he develops its software in audio, which aims to address the manipulation and creation of sounds in real time. He also develops software for creating rhythmic patterns which is based on generative algorithms and induction of their behaviour by its user. Find out more about Luis’ work here.

Thanks so much to Visualplanet™ for making all this possible and thanks to Sandra and Luis for what promises to be a fascinating collaboration!

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Andrew Litten inspired to share work on This ‘Me’ of Mine

The existential question ‘why am I here?’ is one a search into identity never strays far from. International artist Andrew Litten, who has lived in Cornwall since 2003, has made a career based around this question.

Future Adult? by Andrew Litten

Future Adult? by Andrew Litten

“For me, as a figurative painter – the manipulation of materials and the manipulation of identity are intrinsically linked. Perhaps subversive, tender, malevolent, compassionate – pure expression, which is not political or demographic or defined by taste, is at the heart of it all. Creativity is empowering and empathy is powerful – and the need to see raw human existence drives it all forwards.”

See the INSPIRATION page to find out more.

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Do We Miss the Mark by Expecting too Much from Art?

A few weeks ago, right after we opened at APT Gallery, I met art historian and curator Ben Street at the conclusion of Three Fields, a show he curated at No Format Gallery of works by Emma Cousin, Matthew Luck Galpin, & Charles Olgilvie. We had a lovely discussion about curation, abstraction, and whether there was any truth behind the idea of a ‘centre of art’ in the art world, which Ben discussed with art history PhD candidate Nicole – another American. Ben asked me how This ‘Me’ of Mine was going. I said I was very pleased with the turnout for the opening at APT and I was hopeful for some reviews of the show. Ben commented on how difficult it was to get reviews and as curator it’s really good to have that after doing all that work. I agreed and replied, “it’s not about the attention though, I kind of hope someone says ‘this is crap’ so I can respond and engage the debate. After all this work, I want to discuss it.” My response pleased Ben, which pleased me.

I’ve been granted my wish, not from an art critic, but from a member of ‘the audience’, Jeremy. I use that term because he referred to himself as ‘the audience’, I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable with that phrase because it is very grand and seems it should be followed by an acknowledgment of the orchestra in the pit. Jeremy and I had a stimulating discussion about the role of the audience in art presentation and how often it is disregarded and dismissed. This topic is significant for me as a curator and new organisational director because it is the very issue I want to address in this work. As an artist, I’ve been concerned with this issue for a long time.

Jeremy wrote this statement in response to seeing This ‘Me’ of Mine in Folkestone:

“These thoughts are in no way a criticism of the artists, their works or the curator. All creativity is an inspired blessing and as such any thoughts here are purely ideas and observations and wandering impressions.

What initially struck me was the scale and scope of the curator’s objectives summarising this ‘Me of Mine’. A fascinating exploration, philosophical bordering on the metaphysical and indeed a subject demanding debate in the round? Indeed, the excitement and challenge generated prompted the immediate question – ‘How far was such a debate explored and extended by the exhibits?’ In short the answer was ‘Not very deeply and not very far’ but this was primarily the fault of the exhibits, but this is a fundamental challenge to art at any level. As an example take Iris’ Stocking. To what extent was perception and interpretation informed by having the delightful back story explained? The answer has to be ‘hugely so’ and this therefore begs the question of the impacts of the piece in its own rights – without the context of the back story. This question of context being a theme of the curator the juxtaposition of ideas here is beautifully complex! And yet the question of how well the works perform in their own right is troubling. I won’t waste time with banal considerations of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ here but a central function of any arts piece should be provocation. Indeed, at an intellectual or aesthetic level the audience should be challenged, enraged, amused, amazed, blown away or any other emotion you would care to mention or intellectualise and yet most pieces failed to achieve this. ‘Why?’ or ‘What’s the point?’are stunningly good questions if the audience  are provoked to explore such simple yet complex questions rather than use them as articles of fleeting criticism.

Related to the question of provocation as function is the question of dexterity of form. If the piece operates on an intellectual level when the audience is provoked to what extent might they enjoy the piece on an emotional level either due to provocation of idea or the form of the piece in its own right. Such a question is difficult but the issue of dexterity must come to the fore. Perhaps the Glass Menagerie is a useful example. Ostensibly a collection of everyday animal trinkets arranged with a minimum of dexterity on an everyday table, how can the audience be expected [to engage] on an emotional level? Sadly this challenge also applied to several other pieces. Such opening up of the artistic process to those not naturally ‘gifted’ is to be thoroughly recommended at an individual level but when placed in front of an audience different criteria are at work. If it looks mundane, sounds, mundane and feels mundane then it probably is mundane!?

And yet I finish by being confounded by my own arguments. Having been prompted to spend an enjoyable hour thinking, reflecting, arguing with myself and ultimately to articulate vague, half formed ideas I have to thank the curator and all the artists involved for a wonderful experience.”

Jeremy Wilson

My first response to Jeremy’s criticism to provocation by the artworks and their failure to do so is – this expectation is a limitation, unrealistic and a function of the ‘society of the spectacle’ as discussed in Guy Debord’s book by the same name, the postmodern world in other words. That is not to suggest however, that artworks should not strive to achieve this, but the desire for artworks to ‘provoke’, I suggest, is the result of a consumerist society. What happens if this expectation is removed and the artworks are viewed on face value – ‘what you see is what you get’, which is related to J.G. Ballard’s quote, ‘you find what you’re looking for’. If this were the expectation rather than provocation Jeremy would feel justified to like or dislike a work and not feel troubled that somehow the work was lacking because it didn’t provoke or that his own intellect was lacking because he ‘didn’t get it’. If this expectation to provoke was removed, artists would also feel less pressure to be shocking or provocative. How much art is made to this aim? And how numb have we become to this measure? I can answer that and I’m sure you can too. Without the expectation to provoke perhaps art would be made to communicate instead, which I suggest is as provocative a stroke as any contrivance to provocation.

An area of art which I find sorely lacking is the reading of art, not only by viewers but by artists as well. The notion that the art work should ‘speak for itself’ is an out-dated modernist approach to viewing art. It was an aim of Abstract Expressionism for viewers to feel a response directly as a result of the artists’ interactions with paint and canvas, a desire to elicit emotion from the viewer. The reading of art must be in tune with the times just as the production of art is tuned into its time. We no longer live in a post-war world. We live in a world of information and hyper-connectivity with media overload as a constant in our lives. I suggest because of this and as a result of this a contextual communication with art is appropriate, necessary and beneficial. However, this is not without risk. There is a fine line between too much information and not enough. Nor is this meant to suggest it is no longer possible or appropriate to have an aesthetic experience with art. I’m suggesting an openness to both the aesthetic experience and the contextual information. Art made to provoke ideas is not going to be in your face, and expectations of grandeur may not be appropriate for all works of art. A flexible approach to viewing art requires a flexible approach to expectation, or in other words, match the expectation to the art. Some of the most stunning works I have ever seen have also been the most quiet and unassuming (Vija Celmins comes to mind). Jeremy’s claim that art works should challenge the audience, enrage them amuse, amaze or blow them away is a hefty demand. I don’t disagree with this, but it is important I think to realise the depth of this expectation. He later mentions a ‘provocation to ideas’ by an artwork. Now that is a more realistic expectation and one which I agree every artist should attain in their work.

He goes on to suggest dexterity in the production of an artwork must ‘come to the fore’, to use his phrase. While I agree fine craftsmanship is important in the production of art, I question the notion that this has to be exhibited through the display of exceptional manual skills, which seems to be what Jeremy is seeking. His criticism of the ordinariness of the table and minimally dexterous arrangement of the animals in Cathy Lomax’s Glass Menagerie, I suggest is part of the sensibility of the work and it’s in this sensibility where the ‘dexterity’ lies. In a post-conceptual world (if that is indeed where we are) sensibilities, observations, linkages, appropriations, constructions and symbolisms all carry weight in being exceptional, not just in the dexterity of manual skill, which could also be called mastery. A mastery of linking observations can be a subtle thing, but its subtlety does not mean it is not masterful. Careful observation of the mundane is likely to produce a work which appears mundane. A failure to recognize the subject of the piece as the mundane, for example, will almost certainly miss the mastery in the observation of the subject. Presumably, when Jeremy uses the word ‘mundane’ he also suggests ‘mediocre’? If this is the case, where in fact does the mediocrity lie? I ask that not in criticism of Jeremy’s intellect which I found to be well above average; his willingness to bother to engage as deeply as he did also indicates a stance well beyond the mean. But the fact remains that perception remains a barrier.  Is the work and/or the presentation a mediocrity if it is perceived as such? Is it a mediocrity and possibly a failure if the depth and layers of meaning have not been recognised? Can this barrier be breached without the risk of being dictatorial? How much information is too much and when is too little a detriment? We can never know because we can never know the mind of another. Do we give up then?

I would defend Cathy’s work by suggesting she displays a mastery of form through the repetitive visual motifs in the film aspect of Glass Menagerie which she overlays onto similar shapes and forms in her table of glass animals. Also the appropriation of the themes in Tennessee Williams play have bearing on the meaning of the piece, adding a conceptual layering which mirrors the layering of light and shadow in her piece. Jeremy and I had an interesting discussion comparing Cathy’s work with Kate Murdoch’s, It’s The Little Things as both pieces use the placement of objects. Jeremy responded positively to Kate’s work appreciating and acknowledging the ‘dexterity’ involved in Kate’s careful arrangement of objects. However, the randomness of Cathy’s objects was a barrier for him. Once I pointed out the repetition of forms i.e. the swan in the film (which he had not recognized as a swan) and the swan figurines, and explained some of the concepts in Williams’ play, which Jeremy wasn’t familiar with; he felt he should consider the piece further – a gain for communication.

I was in Asda and overheard this brief exchange between Jason and his mum:

Mum: “Jason will you stop following me around everywhere.”

Jason: “I have to.”

This remarkable response from a child who implicitly understood the dynamic of his position in relationship to his mum I think holds the key to communication through art as something like this:

In a multiplicity of subjectivity (much like being in Asda or any other mega superstore chain):

From those who don’t question: “Will you stop explaining and demanding.”

Response from those who question: “I have to.”

Jeremy is not wrong to find a lack and he is not lacking because he perceived a lack. The artwork is not mundane because Jeremy found it so, nor is it exalted because its meaning was not perceived; it is what it is and Jeremy is who he is. Hopefully a willingness to question will help us to come together to breach the barriers. I think Jeremy presents the answer to his own questions by writing: “Having been prompted to spend an enjoyable hour thinking, reflecting, arguing with myself and ultimately to articulate vague half formed ideas I have to thank the curator and all the artists involved for a wonderful experience.” That’s all we wanted we wanted to provoke, so I think we succeeded.

Thank you Jeremy, for presenting the views of ‘the audience’, and a round of applause for the orchestra in the pit.

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An Important Thing Happened Last Night or the Left-handed Bricklayer

This 'Me' of Mine at Strange Cargo Photo JBoyer

This ‘Me’ of Mine at Strange cargo Photo: J. Boyer

One of the worst things that can happen during an exhibition opening is for someone drunk to walk through the door and start being disorderly. We had our version of that last night. However, while we were all slightly on edge not knowing what might happen, it turned out to be a very important exchange and I’m glad the left-handed bricklayer walked in.

Our opening – and I use that Americanism on purpose, because these viewing events are not private, the public is invited along with special friends, they are ‘open’ – was very successful with about twenty people there for the Artists in Conversation discussion and about 60 over all. Our guests were interested and engaged with the works and the exhibition as a whole. One lady said, ‘I wish all the artists were here to talk about their work!’ Interestingly, a suggestion for an exhibition which included the artists positioned next to their works, came the next day from a visitor named Jeremy; we had a fascinating discussion on the importance of including the audience in the discourse and presentation of art, but back to the left-handed bricklayer…

When he entered the gallery, he came in with a fluster of apologies for making a racket, interrupting the end of our Artists in Conversation. He then proceeded to interject as he walk noisily around the gallery, at one point actually standing behind Henri who was video-taping and saying ‘Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. Cheese.’ Brigitte Orasinski very politely said we were taping an artists’ conversation and we would be done very soon. We were all on edge.

Our left-handed bricklayer stayed for quite awhile looking at the works and talking to people. He showed me some photographs he’d taken with his mobile phone telling me he was an artist too. He used to do artwork but hadn’t done any in a long time because he’d had troubles but he would like to do some work again because he liked art. I could feel all of us wishing he would go.

In the Pub after we closed for the evening, the first thing we talked about was, ‘did you see that guy!’ I started to release my tension at his being there, but then I checked myself. I realised his being there was important, even if we did feel uncomfortable. He needed the companionship from us and the stimulation from the works. He needed some of the pleasure we all need from art. Hayley found herself liking him but wanting to get away from him in case he would say something to contradict his stories of his own life causing her not to like him any more. I really appreciated Hayley’s honest and human response.

He wrote this in our guest book:
I think the things this town is doing is superb. The friendliness and hospitality of the events and stories of all concern is wonderful I have come through a difficult time and hopefully have come through it and find these art exhibitions humble and very proud to be English in these difficult times of poverty and other situations I hope to succeed at some of the art areas as I have always love Art and always wanted to win at most things I have done hopefully one day people will appreciate my talents and I will go down in folklore in Sunny Folkestone. Yours faithfully and sincerly (name with held by me) Left-handed Bricklayer Born 5/11/61 —

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False Together

APT PV 14 Mar 2013, photo by Rosie Hervey

Left: Poof! (c)2010 Jane Boyer Right: Whilst I Breathe, I Hope (c)2011 Edd Pearman. View of exhibition opening, 14 March 2013

When I first saw Edd’s piece, Whilst I Breathe, I Hope, a shiver went down my spine. I knew this child and I knew the kind of world he/she inhabited – it was not a nice place. It was a place of mania, fantasy, denial and unreality. It was a place where everything was rosy and no one could see beyond the rims of their rose-tinted glasses, and if forced to, a belligerent, stubborn and an aggressive broiling silence set in. It was the place where I grew up. Admittedly, that is my own reading of Edd’s work, but I was interested to hear Edd’s description of Whilst I Breathe, I Hope as “a Disneyesque, hyper real child-like happiness of senseless hope…” I know what he means; I come from the land of Disney.

Jane Boyer: Your piece Whilst I Breathe, I Hope, on face value communicates hope and a positive outlook.  However, looking deeper, it suggests a positiveness which borders on mania and presents a conformity which denies the acceptance of reality; a blinkered view which would become violent if challenged. What message is in the work for you?

Edd Pearman: A Disneyesque, hyper real child-like happiness of senseless hope, wonderment and joy, beautifully naive and hopelessly unaware of the impending reality of the journey to adulthood that awaits.

Jesus, We Are All Alone, (c)2011 Edd Pearman

Jesus, We Are All Alone, (c)2011 Edd Pearman

JB: Can you describe the process in creating your pieces?  Your work uses digital technology but they are very painterly.  What is behind that relationship of paint and the digital and how do you choose your imagery?

EP: My process has always begun with collage.  I am interested in taking elements from found images or my original photographs and re-contextualising them. The imagery that I use is often figurative because a key interest of mine is the human emotional state.  Lately I’ve been using Photoshop to repaint my collages, to homogenise the sometimes eclectic imagery.   I feel that a painted surface offers its own context; it is a suggestive format, one that allows people to read the artwork in a certain way.  I am recreating the medium of paint as a motif in itself.  I am not a painter, however, these are paintings.  I have become an adept computer user partly because in the real world I am not a dextrous artist.

Omnia Mors Aequat (Death equals all things), Edd Pearman

Omnia Mors Aequat (Death equals all things), Edd Pearman

JB: What have been some of the main influences on your work?

EP: Duality has a strong influence throughout my work, each work maintains a two-fold characteristic in its content i.e. Humour and horror, life and death, hope and despair.  All initially appear to embody one intention, yet possess in equal measure, opposite qualities.

JB: Your “works utilize uniforms from national organizations as reference; for example, St. John’s Ambulance, Boys Scouts, Salvation Army etc. Through [the] depiction of them as mostly solitary figures outside of their individual institutional contexts one sees the disbanded loners as suddenly melancholy, human and vulnerable.  In other pieces, [you]  subvert the often-celebrated cool precision that uniforms tend to imply in order to suggest the other facets associated with them, chaotic, brutal or lethal.”  This quote from your artist statement suggests that you are ‘subverting’, to use your word, the power, strength and status represented by uniforms as well as the glamour and sex appeal associated with uniforms and those who wear them.  What does a uniform represent for you?

Death To Me, Death To Everyone, (c)2008 Edd Pearman

Death To Me, Death To Everyone, (c)2008 Edd Pearman

EP: Uniforms are dehumanising.  All efforts to look individual are squashed, psychologically removing one’s identity in favour of a unified group, at once protecting the individual amongst a sea of sameness but also providing one’s enemies with one huge target.   Like a flock of birds or a school of fish, there is safety in numbers, but one is not safe.  My purpose is to bring the focus back onto the individual within the group, and what a lonely situation it is to be in.

JB: Isolation is a major theme in your work, are we more isolated now or less so? Do you feel we experience a different kind of isolation?

EP: Our networks have been able to grow to unprecedented levels.  We can send a message which will reach more people than we ever imagined.  Society has gone viral. This all leads to a false sense of togetherness.  We know so many yet can rely on so few.

I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice. Follow the links here or visit the Bookshop to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. Your book purchase made through This ‘Me’ of Mine will help raise funds for the project.

Edd’s suggested reading:
Chuck Palahnuik, short story ‘Exodus’ from Haunted
Deep Water (2006) Documentry film by Lousie Osmond & Jerry Rothwell

Jane’s additions:
Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph edited by Doon Arbus & Marvin Israel

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Dr Emma Bond joins the Symposium

Dr Emma BondI’m very pleased to announce Dr Emma Bond, sociologist and senior lecturer at University Campus Suffolk, has accepted my invitation to complete the Symposium panel. Her expertise focuses on child centred research, especially in on-line and new media environments. Her research has been extensive and she has a string of publications to her credit, here are some examples:

Bond, E. (2010) ‘Managing mobile relationships – Children’s perceptions of the impact of the mobile phone on relationships in their everyday lives’ in Childhood Vol. 17 no. 4 pp. 514-529.

Bond, E. (2010) ‘The mobile phone = bike shed? Children, sex and mobile phones’ in New Media & Society Vol. 13 no. 4 pp. 587-604

Bond, E. Book review Children and the Internet. Great Expectations, Challenging Realities in Telecommunications Policy (forthcoming)

Dr Bond is also and active conference presenter, here are some conferences she was involved in last year:

Are we mastering creative assessment or is the writing on the wall? With Stuart Agnew and Jessica Clark presented at Assimilate Conference: Assessing students at Masters Level The Rosebowl, Leeds Metropolitan University September, 2012.

Life After Death by Powerpoint: students’ experiences of creativity in Higher education presented at International Journal of Arts and Sciences (IJAS) Conference Paris April 2012 with Jessica Clark.

An ecological approach to enhance quality in technology enhanced learning presented at the ALD in HE conference Leeds April 2012 with Tim Goodchild.

Rhetoric, Risk and Self-Identity – An ethnographic study of academics’ perceptions of e-learning at a UK university presented at the Annual British Sociological Association Conference Leeds in April 2012.

Read more about Dr Emma Bond here.

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What Are You Prepared to Give in Exchange?

I Don't Suppose I'll Ever Go There, by Kate Murdoch

I Don’t Suppose I’ll Ever Go There, ©2011 Kate Murdoch

Kate’s work is a delicate balance of position, association, meaning and value – not necessarily in that order or with the usual expectations.  That is the beauty of Kate’s work; she presents slights which are out-of-joint and off-kilter familiarity which causes profound questioning of assumptions.  What you think you know is not what you knew and as a result memory slides sideways.

Jane Boyer: Tell us about the significance of memory for you and what role it plays in your artwork.

Kate Murdoch: At the heart of my work is an unravelling of memories; the desire to make sense of and preserve certain aspects of the past are a driving force behind it. I work mostly with found objects and the raw material for my artwork comes primarily from the vast collection I’ve accumulated over the years; both from my own life and from those of others. I use this vast mass of memorabilia to tease out and present my memories of childhood and family relationships, conscious of the distorted effect that time can have on real, authentic memory. I’m fascinated by what the objects we surround ourselves with say about us; steeped in social and political history they are a part of our identity, providing us with a sense of self and revealing our connections to the wider world.

JB: In your artist statement you say your practice is ‘a process of selection

Birdcage by Kate Murdoch

Birdcage, ©2009 Kate Murdoch

where you place familiar objects in an unfamiliar environment in order to challenge the viewer’s response’.  What about your own response, what is challenged for you when you reinterpret an object and change the context and significance?  Do you surprise yourself?

KM:  I think my piece Birdcage demonstrates how the placing of familiar objects in an unfamiliar environment can challenge both my own and an audience’s response to it. Though the initial placing of the brass bells within a cage was something I remember doing quite subconsciously, I was surprised retrospectively by the impact of doing so. The ‘ladies’ in the home of my Scottish aunt appealed to me very much as a child. They exuded an air of decency and femininity.  Their crinoline dresses and neat, sash-tied bonnets called to mind rather beautiful, Scarlett O’Hara kind of heroines – pretty and privileged. But there was a darker side as we know and placing these female figurines in a cage, albeit unconsciously, speaks volumes I think about the hidden aspects of these women’s lives – the repression, domination and dependency.

JB: In your blog Keeping it Going on a-n Artists Talking, you speak about value, both the perceived value of an object which you have made available for your audience to take (Going for Gold) or the associated value to exchange with something of similar value (10 x 10). It could be said the value we associate with an object is in relation to the depth of emotion we experience in any given situation.  Do you feel this to be true and what have you observed about this relationship through the interactive aspect of your work?

10 x 10 by Kate Murdoch

10 x 10, ©2008 – 2012 Kate Murdoch

KM: I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer to this question but in terms of my observations of how the majority of people have interacted with 10×10 so far, then yes, I would say it is true. The emotional attachment we make to any given object can determine its worth in emotional terms as opposed to its monetary value. The very act of bartering adds an emotional reality to the process of exchange that currency somehow lacks. ‘What is an object worth to you?’ is one of the main questions posed by 10×10. ‘How much do you want it and what are you prepared to give in exchange?’

I can give you many good examples of the varying degrees of value and worth; they are contained in the stories people leave behind when they give their objects up for exchange. The woman who gave up a genuine diamond bracelet at the launch of 10×10 for instance demonstrates a really good example of value and worth. On the face of it, the value of a real diamond was high; from her story however, it was clear that the bracelet, in spite of its monetary worth, had become of little personal value to her.

An exchange made by an international student at Lewisham College has an equally poignant ring to it. He exchanged a small candle stub for a larger, unused candle. Living on a very tight budget in order to afford college fees, this student told me that he was doing his best to avoid having to pay for electricity. It was a practical exchange, then on one level – a used-up candle for one with many burning hours – but in terms of value in this case, the new candle represented a kind of life-saver for him.

“The very act of bartering adds an emotional reality to the process of exchange that currency somehow lacks.”

Kate Murdoch

It's The Little Things by Kate Murdoch

It’s The Little Things, ©2010 Kate Murdoch, detail view

JB: Tell us about your piece It’s The Little Things.  You raise an interesting point in what you ‘think is worth preserving’, tell us about some of the things you’ve chosen to preserve in this piece and why.

KM: The things I chose for this particular piece were largely an emotional response to the clearance of my Nana’s home in which she had lived for some 70 years. The items I salvaged were reminders of the many times I’d spent with my Nana as a child and the close relationship we had. I was trying to hold onto her history as well as my own through preserving them. The pastry cutters, the icing nozzles, the embroidery cottons, thimbles, darning mushroom and tape measure are all reminders of the many domestic skills my Nana taught me. The fun side of my relationship with her is reflected in the lipstick, powder and perfume which she sometimes let me play with at her dressing table. The ancient pocket Bible and the red poppy speak of the history of a woman who lived through two world wars and would engage me with her stories about the war as she taught me the rules of a waste-not-want-not life.

JB: We’ve spoken about the personal exchange and value inherent in your work; there is a sense of nostalgia for personal communication and connections underlying your work.  What are your thoughts on digital communications and the ‘faceless’ interactions which are commonplace for us now?  In a way, written communication has been reinvigorated through digital communications, but have we lost the personal connection or have we strengthened those connections?

Gentlemen by Kate Murdoch

Gentlemen, ©2009 Kate Murdoch

KM: That’s a very big question. But does it necessarily have to be face to face? Does ‘faceless’ communication lose any true sense of feeling connected with other people? I’ve certainly had a lot of face to face conversations where I’ve felt very unconnected with the person I’m speaking with – you just don’t connect with everybody – it’s a fact of life! I’ve had e-mail and twitter conversations, on the other hand where communication has been surprisingly personal and intimate when discussing certain matters.

I find forums like twitter and facebook working well for me because of my partial deafness; I find writing a more direct and clear way of communicating as it leaves less room for misinterpretation. I’m in close contact via email and twitter with a few people – mainly artists – who I’ve never actually met face to face. A lot of formality is broken down in the way people communicate via digital communications such as twitter and facebook which to my mind cuts to the chase and gets down very quickly to the core of good, open and honest communication. I know it has its critics, but I actually think you can learn a great deal about a person by the way they communicate on social media and I gravitate towards those who I believe share my own fundamental life values.

I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice. Follow the links here or visit the Bookshop to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. Your book purchase made through This ‘Me’ of Mine will help raise funds for the project.

Kate’s suggested reading:

Evocative Objects: Things We Think with edited by Sherry Turkle
Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris by Leanne Shapton
Interpreting Objects and Collections  edited by Susan M. Pearce
Contemporary Art and Memory by Joan Gibbons
The Memory Box by Margaret Forster
Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler
The Whale’s Song by Dyan Sheldon
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks
The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

Jane’s Additions:

Color Photographs by Marie Cosindas
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

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Without Any Voice

Sarah has had a great deal of experience working with children, her background in teaching art to special needs children along with degrees in psychology and dance scenography has given her a unique view of how we communicate, especially through body language.  She has a particular interest in vulnerability and this body-language communication.  For Sarah, what is vulnerable is not weak, but she sees a strength and dignity when people allow vulnerability to remain visible.  She sees faces and hands as the most expressive parts of the body with our faces becoming a roadmap to our lives as we age.  Gender plays an important role in this ‘roadmap’ for Sarah because she recognizes the difference males and females have in response to experiences. She also believes skin has a unique ability to communicate the power of touch and is important in defining self-image.

Jane Boyer: Your work has revolved around skin.  What is it you are exploring through skin and what does skin represent for you?

Sketchbook journal collage by Sarah Hervey

Sketchbook journal collage by Sarah Hervey

Sarah Hervey: Skin represents to me, the boundary between the necessary social world and the internal struggles that people have.  I’m exploring boundaries really and surfaces, I’m exploring the ideas around what we see on the surface which protects what’s underneath, but also exposes something about a person.  It started with my interest in ageing skin and how it can be like a map of a person’s emotions because the creases and all the experiences start to stay there as evidence of what somebody has felt underneath their skin.

JB: Body language is also important in your work.  Do you believe body language expresses the psychology of a person in ways not communicated verbally?

SH: Yes, it does.  I became interested in this because I worked with children who had language difficulties and children in difficult situations, like when a child is ill in hospital and they’re surrounded by very scary procedures and people they don’t know.  Their body language is very important; the body language of those people dealing with them is also quite critical.  I went on to teach children with emotional difficulties who had experienced confusing body language.  So that was of general interest for me and it was enhanced when I did my MA in design for dance because dancers utilize the body to express language in physical theatre, which I love.  It exists without any voice, it’s pure body language.  It’s absolutely extraordinary how much you can understand without anybody ever speaking.

Purple Nude (c)2011 Sarah Hervey

Purple Nude (c) 2011 Sarah Hervey

JB: Your painting Purple Nude conveys a sense of this non-verbal communication in the relationship of the figure’s feet and a very distinct line on the floor.  This relationship, in essence, is the painting.  How do you view this relationship and does it feel like a visual expression of non-verbal communication to you?

SH: Yes, I think it completely does.  When I did that painting I felt very vulnerable and I was pretty consumed with my own vulnerability for quite a long time into doing the picture itself, then I began to notice how vulnerable the model was.  I think it was just by chance he chose to put his feet behind that line, but because he has his feet behind the line he’s keeping to some boundary.

I wasn’t expecting that particular model that night and it was a bit of a surprise because I think he must have been the oldest person I’ve ever drawn or painted.  I had been thinking a lot about vulnerability and ageing anyway, I felt this was a huge opportunity to paint something I was interested in, but because I wasn’t expecting it and this was a real person and not something I’d organised, I had to really pull myself together and get on with it.  I think that’s probably why there is so much that came out in the painting.  I had to do it quickly as well, it was just one evening.

Images of assumptions, sketchbook journal collage by Sarah Hervey

‘Images of assumptions’, sketchbook journal collage by Sarah Hervey

JB: Much of the vulnerability you are interested in and you explore is based in gender issues and ageing.  Can you tell us what it is particularly about vulnerability, experienced through gender and age, which interests you?

SH: I think there has been a lot of research into why women live longer on the whole and have a resilience somehow, yet the way we are supposed to attract men is to be vulnerable, the weaker sex, so there’s all that dynamic which is interesting.  Because I have this idea about skin and how your history shows on your face, so if you’ve had a life where you’ve felt vulnerable it will begin to show.  As your body gets older you just appear more vulnerable because your skin gets thinner, your bones aren’t as strong, you find it more difficult to hold your head up straight and keep your back straight and so your body starts to cow.  The different way men and women deal with that interests me; how we feel about that is the internal part of skin, then the way society looks at you is the external part. I mean, the essence of being female or male is different and I feel it is important to struggle to understand more precisely the positions of men and women within these boundaries.  My point of view is as a woman.  I can’t understand my own vulnerability and the vulnerability of women without understanding the vulnerability of men.

In an effort to raise funds for This ‘Me’ of Mine, I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice. Follow the links here or visit the BOOKSHOP to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests.

Now is a great time to purchase through the This ‘Me’ of Mine bookshop because The Book Depository is offering great discounts on purchases, for example most of Sarah’s reading list is on sale!

If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to participate in our This ‘Me’ of Mine Companion Book head-count, see the footer section at the bottom of the page for the sign-up form and more information.

Sarah’s Reading List:

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

The Book of Skin by Steven Connor

One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity  by Miwon Kwon

The Thinking Hand by Juhani Pallasmaa

The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses  by Juhani Pallasmaa

On Kindness by Adam Phillips & Barbara Taylor

Touch Me: The Mystery of the Surface by Gregor Eichinger

Art and Feminism by Peggy Phelan

Jane’s Additions:

Alice Neel by Ann Temkin (follow the link to Abe Books)

Lucian Freud Paintings by Robert Hughes

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