Category Archives: Assignment one

Tutor’s (Carla Rees) notes on Assignment 1

I wrote about it repeatedly on last course, but the best part about the OCA, are the tutors. The course work is interesting, and well-balanced, but it’s the direct advice you get from an actual, experienced, and educated artist which make this course worth taking. I feel quite detached living in Saigon, not only in place, but in community.  There’s no one I can bounce ideas off of, no one who is studying art, no one I can learn from. If there’s one thing I must make sure I get from this course is to derive all of the information possible from my tutors, and learn from it.

Carla recommended watching John Berger’s / Way’s of Seeing to help answer the question I had posed about viewpoint. Carla said “The question of viewpoint is an important one, as it provides one person’s interpretation which may or may not be a balanced view of actual events”.  I’d had heard of John Berger, but only that he had passed away at the beginning of the year. I cannot express my delight within seconds of watching the first episode.  An early 70’s BBC mini series on how our perception of art has changed. A well spoken man, in a beautifully patterned shirt, explaining his ideas so clearly, with accompanied images. He asks all the right questions, and, answers them so poetically. Everything he says is backed by tangible reasons,.. heaven.  I love love love Shock of the New – Robert Hughes, but this was equally as good.

Within a minute of episode one, John Berger shifts my perception of viewing art, he said “we shall also discover something about ourselves and the situation which we are living.” The way we see things is only one reality, our own. With the reproduction of images, they hold so many more meanings, the more people view them throughout the years. It had never occurred to me, that before photography, paintings existed solely in one place.  To view it you had to go to the place, which in itself influenced the painting’s meaning. Now that so many images exist of the same piece, the meaning is constantly changed in conjunction to its surrounding, whether it is seen in a magazine, on a wall, or on a screen. It’s place in history has changed.

“Uniqueness is consolidated by its surroundings and it’s meaning”

This is specifically pertinent in accordance to religious art when pilgrims would travel far a wide to worship Icons. Once the images could be replicated, people began praying at home, ending the age of pilgrimages.

Perception of reality is key in Deller’s work, because as a viewer, the eye can only be in one place at a time, creating one reality. Cameras can travel anywhere, and with modern media, are exempt from the confines of time and place.

Another great piece of advice was to reference to key text of ‘Place.’ I honestly had no idea the text about the work “The Battle of Orgreave” was in the book. There were so many interesting points. The idea of home in proximity to the coal mines. The inhabitant’s job and identity were so intertwined in place. The text coincides with my essay, when I associated the work with what’s happening today. The idea of time, and how little conflicts have changed. The last phrase in Dean and Millars text say:

“it revealed the extent to which the original battle had been in vain, as the march of global capitalism continues regardless.”



Part A / Assignment one // Reflective learning

What is Art?

Looking back at my initial response to this question, I looked to the professionals to for the answers. I felt because I didn’t have the education, I did not have the right to decide what was art.  Since then I have realized that you don’t need to look at the art critique’s reviews.  With research into the artist past works, time and place (history), and how the artist explain each piece with a title, we each have the tools available to respond emotionally and thoughtfully.  We can’t expect to understand anything at face value. I used to reject art that didn’t make sense right away, there’s an insecurity which is felt with confusion. As with anything, the deeper you dive, the more you will see, as long as the water is clear. I have a better appreciation for contemporary art, especially since researching new artist, such as Katie Peterson. She made connection to nature, science, and human emotions that I had never considered before.  I feel like contemporary artist now stand in the place where philosophers once stood, asking many questions, some of  which cannot be explained with words.

I’ve learnt the importance of research, not only into artists, but into art history, events, causes, and external factors which influence an artist. To understand a piece, you need to first understand the time and the place. Once that is set you can build a larger picture to illustrate the reasons for the choices an artist makes, not only in the piece itself, but also the title.  I’ve learnt that in art, the meaning of “words” is paramount, no matter how simple they sound. I need to read more to better understand history and it’s influence on art, and art’s influence on history.  It’s been a daunting experience discovering so many new artist, it shows a massive gap in my knowledge.

My learning blog is becoming more organized and complete.  The physicality of any work, other than a few sketches, has been yet to be materialized. As with any good intentions, mine deserve some attention. I want to be able to run before I walk, as I spoke about in my last course.  I want to sketch perfectly, with aesthetically pleasing hand written titles and notes. I need to practice at failing.  I need to get better at accepting I am still learning. As an artist I constantly have ideas, which I am constantly forgetting about.  One is to document the art deco and retro metal window grills in Saigon, or the way the women wear hair curlers as day-time hair accessories.  To be honest, I am enjoying the academic side of art, taking this time to do more domestic craft and sewing projects.  I am very much looking forward to being inspired by words in the next portion of this course, creative reading.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Part B / Assignment 1 // Essay – Deller’s Battle of Orgreave

Andrew Wilson wrote in the Tate’s review of Deller’s Battle of Orgreave that, “Instead of making objects, Deller is an artist who curates or facilitates the unfolding of situations between groups of people.” This is the clearest response I have found to an otherwise confusing re-enactment of the historic miners’-strike-cum-art-piece. In trying to interpret this piece, I have come across the question so frequently asked, “How is this film art?” Looking at Deller’s experiences, motivations, and inspirations alongside time and place, plus the subsequent installation commissioned by Artangle, I hope to pull the pieces together to better understand Deller’s work.  His choice in curating both artifacts and objective documents, props and actors, next to actual broadcasts and newspapers of the time, asks the question of what is real, or fabricated.

Why is a video re-enactment of a riot that took place in 1984 considered art and not documentary? Having taken two years, using meticulous attention to detail, Deller carefully choreographed an important time in history which re-defined Britain. His decision to use 200 veteran miners, alongside 800 historical re-enactors from 20 different societies, was meaningful in itself.  Art asks questions, and that is exactly what this piece does, questions such as: How did the veterans feel about re-living such a life changing event, and did the actors take on the personas of the police? Were the same raw emotions felt, or did they become friends afterwards? Could it have been a healing experience for the veterans, or could it have brought up old emotions?  Perhaps the filming gave veterans a sense of pride by being seen again, standing up for what they believed in, fighting the power and being heard without dispute. 

Deller is known as a collaborative artist with strong political and social influences. He holds an MA in Art History,  uses popular culture as center points for a lot of his work, and spent time with Andy Warhol. All of these factors can be seen to bring the Battle of Orgreave back to life.  It started when Deller was 18, he said, “The image … stuck in my mind and for years I wanted to find out what exactly happened on that day with a view to re-enacting or commemorating it in some way”.  In 1994, he created a pop art poster entitled The English Civil War (part 2), re-enactment ofthe bloody battle of Orgreave.’ In the 1997 piece The History of the World, he looked at the connection of brass bands to the acid house of the early 90’s using a mind map. From the industrial coal pits in which the brass bands played to the post-industrial rebellious drug-fueled techno era, he draws physical lines between the music, time, and place to create the project Acid Brass.  In 2001, the re-enactment, shifts from music, to a live stage set in 1984, caught on film. .

Deller uses a cross-section of media including pop art, music, and film to join time and place in his work. Although in this piece, the film is a confusing contradiction because it re-creates historical events. It is neither here, nor there, but is still relevant today. From a nationalised country built on unions, Britain continues to become ever more privatized, with the NHS next in line to the noose. We know the “facts” of the riots, but what is it we actually see in the re-enactment? It is different from photography, where the time and place is sealed in a vacuum of film. Rather, here the stage is set, the place pre-determined, and the actors rehearsed. The installation that follows the re-enactment shows actual documents and objective items on display, which solidifies the tangibility of time and place, to real and rehearsed, fabricated and factual.

The installation named An Injury to One is an Injury to All is comprised of many objects that are not clearly artefacts of the time, which begs the question, “Are any documents real, or can they be fakes?”  The studded union enamel badges on the jean jacket were precisely replicated, but what about the police shield: was it used in the original battle? It looks as if it could have been because it was placed next to an original newspaper of the time. This raises another question, “How can we trust secondary sources?”   How can we tell, even when watching live news broadcast, what is happening on the other side of the cameras?  As in the re-enactment, the audience only see a small fraction of the one thousand who were involved.

Perhaps this piece is a reminder to look closer into the news feeds and social media which impacts us today, such as the protests against Trump and the lies spun in the White House and the divide created by Brexit. What were the causes which led to these choices: a despair which is hidden from those who believed it could not happen? We live in echo chambers of information, so how do we know what is actually going on? The new yellow journalists, for example, are a particularly dangerous group of who get paid per click using eye-catching headlines spreading fear and hate, that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news. Their articles show up on Facebook’s so called “news feed.” These example show how Deller’s work is still so relevant today.

Battle of Orgreave transcends time and place. It could have been the Battle of the Beanfield, the Kent state shootings, or more recently the 2009 G-20 London summit protests. Rioters are passionate people who are often overlooked, under valued, and not heard. They are knocked down by authorities often by force, often with violence, often without cameras. As in Deller’s intallations piece, he blurs the distinction of what is real, we should question everything. In a world where the masses feel hopeless, whilst the few have all the power, we should promote peaceful resistance, and celebrate those who stand up. Maybe Deller is telling us to start making enamel badges again, to remember the past, t0 promote togetherness and differences, and to ask questions.