Thursday, 30 April 2009

Bei Gao Studios

I've just arrived in Beijing and am holding jet lag at bay with the western food I bought en route from the airport. I'm installed in one of the Bei Gao Studios (BG3) that are run by the Red Gate Gallery.

The studios are in Fei Jia Cun, a village not far from the airport, beyond the 5th Ring of the city - that means far out from the centre. It's a quiet place full of artists' studios and galleries like the Imagine Gallery that's directly opposite my space. I'm still figuring out how the whole artists' compound scenario meshes with the local village and its inevitable building projects undertaken by men in flip flops and slip on loafers.

My studio is dusty and grungy and yet exciting precisely because it isn't pristine. There is plenty of floor space to work in, lots of random bits of furniture and the detritus of past residents to make possible the construction of an imaginative architecture within the space. The floor is concrete so it will demand a particular kind of response if I'm to survive physically but these restrictions are also stimuli.

What will I do?

Want to suggest something?

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist who has been mapping how different political affiliations are the products of very different ethical systems. This article caught my attention because I've been aware that my interest in bodies and buildings is a that the relationship between them is a metaphor for the negotiation between individuals and the systems (groups, institutions, families, nations) with which they interact.

Following research in India, Haidt
realized that "the Confucian/Hindu traditional value structure is very good for maintaining order and continuity and stability, which is very important in the absence of good central governance. But if the goal is creativity, scientific insight and artistic achievement, these traditional societies pretty well squelch it. Modern liberalism, with its support for self-expression, is much more effective. I really saw the yin-yang."

While Haidt is a liberal, he doesn't think the solution is that everyone should adopt his worldview

"I see liberalism and conservatism as opposing principles that work well when in balance," he says, noting that authority needs to be both upheld (as conservatives insist) and challenged (as liberals maintain). "It's a basic design principle: You get better responsiveness if you have two systems pushing against each other. As individuals, we are very bad at finding the flaws in our own arguments. We all have a distorted perception of reality."

So while I usually make work that speaks for the individual making his or her own niche in relation to the structure, I know a structure needs to exist for the individual to make their relation to it.

As Haidt says
Look at the way the word 'wall' is used in liberal discourse. It's almost always related to the idea that we have to knock them down.
"Well, if we knock down all the walls, we're sitting out in the rain and cold! We need some structure."

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Tattered Outlaws test installation

I arrived in Skerries yesterday to see what our installation of twelve Tattered Outlaws films look like. From the Skerries tower you can see the Martello Tower on Shenick's Island, so I'm reminded straight away that however solitary each tower seems, it is an echo of another tower. It is part of a family that share a structural DNA, however the vagaries of history may have shaped its members in different ways.

We've persuaded the council to clean out the layers of bird droppings from the tower but it's still a rough environment with scaffolding supporting the rotting ceiling and floor.

Dan has been working with Pickle to install the screens, stairs and viewing platform so that when I arrive, I can climb from the gloom of the ground floor to the viewing platform and be dazzled by the unexpected brightness of screens. Dan has designed such an elegant and simple construction that the screens seem to grow out of the damp floor like high-tech mushrooms. That's a good thing.

It was wonderful to be able to show the work to a variety of people today: for many the excitement of the project lies in the opportunity to be inside the towers and to see what the other towers look like. It occurred to be that the towers are a bit like the areas subconscious - a repository of stories with not quite understood associations, present but mysterious. Reading the towers as an unconscious helps me make sense of the place of the dancing bodies on the towers. I think the movement can communicate the less rational associations of the towers, their strangeness and the permission they, as outlaw buildings, give people to shelter the outlaw aspects of their consciousness.

We've had to dismantle the installation now to protect the screens from damp and damage until July when the exhibition opens properly. There are still jobs to do, as Dan's list suggests, but we know it can work.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Inferno - Paradiso - Romeo Castellucci

Tonight, after the curtain calls, a child splashed in the water onstage, near where the barking dogs were chained, by the mangled car where the Andy Warhol lookalike had finished the show, the blood where the white horse shifted nervously, the puddles where the cast has slit each others throats in decorous fall and rise - all between giant framing quotation marks. She picked up the basketball and I wondered what to make of it.