Category Archives: Part 1

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.


Case study ‘A Place Beyond Belief’

Case study ‘A Place Beyond Belief’
The work below, A Place Beyond Belief, is by Glaswegian artist Nathan Coley.

What’s your first response to this piece?

The simplicity of this piece must have layers of meaning, but context is needed to make sense of it.

What questions are you going to ask in order to make sense of the piece?

Where was this piece erected, and when?

History of the artist, social & environmental influences

What type of work do you think this is? It could fit into several categories. How would you define it?

A site specific piece, which deals with political or social issues.

What do you think the text is about?

The words “A Place Beyond Belief” could either be extremely beautiful, or extremely destructive, depending on your imagination. Somewhere over the rainbow, or an underground matrix of tunnels with purified air, after a nuclear war.

What are your first thoughts after listening to the monologue?

I can’t help but feel it is just as apt today, feeling the political climate of today, including Brexit and Trumpmania; fear and disbelief about today and the future.  We can only create a world around us by believing in a better by and trusting and loving our neighbours. By being white I know I am privileged, but how can we help those who have chosen drastic measures through their votes, see there are other ways out, other than fear?

What other information can you find on Coley’s website about this particular piece?

Reading the Guardian article on Nathan Coley’s 2012 piece in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, I understood more clearly the context of the site specific piece. Kosovo has since recovered from being war-torn and sits as a reminder ‘across the park – between the new government education offices, the Kosovo Art Gallery, and the half-built, half-ruined Orthodox church raised by Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s.’ It’s a cliché that history repeats itself, but it’s lessons are easily forgotten, especially when being lulled into false senses of security. Who know what political agenda’s hold, with the feeling that democracy is failing, as capitalism in flourishing at the expense of all of us, and the environment.

The second article by The Economist explains more about how Kosovo’s peace has been tied together by a thin thread, and has been under the supervision of an International Civilian Office, but has since celebrated its independence, with peace talks with Serbia,  leading towards a stability which in the early 90’s was far from belief.

Have your views on this piece changed after listening to Coley speak about it? If so, why?

Seeing Coley speak about the piece, in front of the piece, made me feel differently about it. As with the other works using scaffolding and bulb-lite words, they hold more truth where they are situated, and feel more pretentious in a gallery.  I suppose you can associate yourself with the words, more, when they are in a gallery, but they do lose meaning for me.  I feel like this type of art should be seen by the world around it, and not in the confines of a gallery, which could be considered high brow.

Saying that, hearing the world spoken so eloquently by the artist himself, I could feel the emotion which drove him to mount this words for the world to see and think about.

  • Do you think contextual information is essential to gaining a greater understanding of contemporary work? Do you think it should be an essential ingredient?
    It’s the primary reason I have been disillusioned my contemporary art, I don’t think I have ever taken the time to try to understand the art, I have glossed over the work in confused states of disdain.  I think this is the number one reason why a piece works for me or not, does the contextual information makes sence in accordance to the work.

  • I like the directness, and the positive attitude towards change. It brings poetic words into a bigger picture, which anyone can understand

  • Other, similar,  works by Nathan Coley  include:

    Imagine What You Desire / Brighton

    I really love this piece, especially since I can relate to the location, having lived there for 14 years… the contrast between the Pier like lights situated in the oldest church in Brighton. Imagine what you desire, but desire in the Church’s eyes perhaps can be seen as a sin, other than the desire to go to heaven.

    We Must Cultivate Our Garden / Vancouver

    Again, drawn to this piece, being born in Vancouver, living there until I was 20. I can’t open the link to review this piece, but I can see it’s in downtown, east end, not far from Hastings street, where the homeless population can challenge the worst poverty in developing countries. Perhaps it’s statement of leaving people to rot instead of plucking them out of situations which could help grow? Weeds amongst the flowers, not meaning the poor, but the rich who turn their back, thinking themselves better.


    There Will Be No Miracles Here

    My favourite piece.  Looking back to his previous work in Jerusalem, dealing with the three main pillars of religious belief, all believing to own this spiritual center. Although this scaffold of words is not in Israel, it is on Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute. The sign is in full view of the Burges Chapel, a private basilica where there is believed to be the un-burnt heart of  the Marquess.

    Coley says ‘There Will Be No Miracles Here’ is firmly anchored in the ancient power struggle between state and church, politics and religion, between the rational and spiritual, the visible and invisible.’


    All of Coley’s work exist in places which beg the question of change, or remain. His simple but profoundly poetic words speak of place – past, present, and future with hints of clarity, refreshingly new.

Research point

ARTIST ROOMS: Theme: Language

Artist to explore

Ed Ruscha  Pop art /word paintings

Richard Long Environmental art

Hamish Fulton Walking art

Joseph Kosuth Self-referential conceptual

Sol Lewitt Conceptual art using minimilism

Schwitters Collage

Francis Pacabia Dadaoist

Lawrence Weiner Postminimislist

Bruce Nauman Muliti media

Martin Creed Word play

Mario Merz abstract expressionism

Jenny Holzer Neo- conceptualist

Joseph Beuys  concepts of humanism, social philosophy and anthroposophy

Ian Hamilton Finlay Poet / Little Sparta

Cy Twombly large-scale, freely-scribbled, calligraphic and graffiti-like works

Since looking at site specific art at a gallery, and reading the link from the Tate website, I’ve concluded a few things from installation art.

Firstly, the idea is to make the viewer fully aware of their position amongst the art which makes them an active participant.

The art, secondly has to be big, big enough to have a lasting effect.  I like the way the author describe installation art, if you don’t experience it first hand, it’s like a joke repeated, that fails to be funny.

The art is meant to encompass your emotions and be multi-scensory. This is obvious with both Helio Olilicaca’s 1960’s-1970’s work in Brazil, wanting to liberate the viewer from the oppressive government forces, releasing them, even if it’s only temporary, through creating a safe space, with sand, hammocks, and Jimmy Hendricks. Cildo Meireles created Meireles Volatile with air smelling of gas, and a candle and the end of the hallway, stating that when your body comes into danger, your sense are heightened.

My favourite installation space is the Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern, with memorable pieces by Ai WeiWei Sunflower Seeds, and Doris Salcedo  Shibboleth.

Exercise 3 Gallery or site visit

For this exercise I went to The Arts Factory, conveniently located but us the road from my house, in a District just outside the center of Saigon, encircled by the river.

I’m often dubious of art galleries in Saigon, although I have come across some remarkable work.  The thing that gets me, is the house music played so loudly, with the shiny bar surface, and urban shipping containers, graffiti, of course. Being spoilt with London, it’s grit and layers of dirt, uncovering some of the most potent art I’ve ever seen.  Vietnam is a bit naive, a bit adolescent in many aspects; the music – the worst songs from the 90’s, the fashion – purposefully torn jeans, slashed in perfect lines; the restaurant decor – 90% industrial design and replicated French tiles. Where’s the imagination?

As hard as I am on this city, there are glimmers of hope, especially at looking through anthropological goggles.  Vietnam was only opened up the rest of the world in the late 90’s, which could explain their love for Celine Dion, and are therefore playing catchup, especially in terms of creativity.  A very Asian attribute is that there is one way to do things, you are taught by copying, exactly. It doesn’t help the fact that most of the media is highly censored, and art work which isn’t in-line with political views could be destroyed.

There was an instance where the police were asking for bribes to allow a photo exhibition to take place.. a few photographs showed people on motorbikes not wearing a helmet.  The gallery refused to pay the bribes, but opened as planned, with brown paper covering all of the pieces. It in itself was a grand statement about the control of the authorities.

The on-site piece I went to look at today was about the impact the throw away societies have on environment, and is called The Prolonged Intervention, by Le Phi Long.  A site specific installation piece on Ly Son Island, Vietnam.

At first, I thought it juvenile, another discussion about eco-warriors cleaning up the beach.The video is long-winded, with mundane conversation between clean-up crew, as they put the rubbish in colour allocated piles. Of course there was time-lapse, and scenes of sun-sets, people working so well together, smiling at their positive impact on the world, feeling chuffed to be apart of such a great and worthy story.

Once they collected the plastic they attached them onto a net, which hung over a tourist attraction, To Vo Gate, an arch of lime rock on the beach.  Wow! So inventive, so dynamic, so, so… ordinary.

I was bored and annoyed, until the reaction of the locals came up with subtitles.  Most of them were generally baffled by the act of these activists/artist. They have never considered the idea that art could bring forth social awareness. Not only was it sore on their eyes, it ruined a popular tourists destination. They cared not for meaning, they didn’t question the waste and did not want to answer to the problems. They wanted to ignore it, as many things are in Vietnam, ignored. On the other side, there were people who understood, people who want to see change, and be apart of it.

Vietnam is a very clean country, who do recycle everything, as which most developing countries.  They are miles behind on environmental concerns, considerably so with the use of plastic bags and styrofoam. It is a question that needs to be address, how each individual impacts their world through each daily choice, to refuse plastic bags, for example, or choose not to eat meat, or ride an electric motorbike. It’s a valuable statement, and one worth discussing.


On further research, Le Phi Long, is quite a remarkable artist, and has another work by the same name The Prolonged Interventions, apart of an exhibition called The Body Boutique. His surreal drawing of children affected by Agent Dioxin, Agent Orange as it’s commonly known, are incredibly disturbingly but beautifully composed.

The second part of the exhibition by Le Phi Long, is called “Invasive Deviant” where the gallery collected, or accepted donations of unwanted objects, accumulating in a pile of rubbish, essentially.  The idea was, that perhaps amongst the garbage, you may find something you’d love.  Another mans rubbish is someones treasure.


To be fair, it was mostly rubbish, but hidden underneath, I found a treasure…


A pair of perfectly good shoes, in my size.  I stuck my name and number on them, and collected them this morning.





Katie Paterson is the first contemporary artist I have come across on this course which has really inspired me.  Being influence by science and nature brings forth a tangible truth to all she does.  She connect life (humans) with space and the natural world around us in a way I’ve never conceived.

She has so many ideas, and follows through with them with such grace.  I particularly love her latest work, with trees.  One project which called hallow takes 10 000 different species of trees, some from 390 million years ago from petrified wood fossils.

The other woodland project called future library is a forest planted in Norway, which will, one book at a time, become a library, written by famous authors.

Other works by Katie include space, mapping dying starts, and also writing goodbye letters to them. She really considers the macro vs the micro, from space to the smallest grain of sand in the desert nano sized piece of sand.

The piece which the course asks us to think about is Vatnajökull (the sound of) which is essentially a glacial you can call on your mobile, and hear it speak. Site specific art work is about transporting the viewing through different medium; visual images of the landscape which it lives, a neon phone number, perhaps a familiar UK mobile number starting with 09…….., and next orally, to hear something so remote with a device normally used in cities, out of context in the sea.  Do people speak back? Can the iceberg hear the voices, if it was a conscious being? Or is it a one way line? Can anyone call this number, or does it have to be in the gallery as apart of the exhibit? Can it be a mobile experience, when you could talk to the iceberg anytime?

Like any good art, it begs questions.  It’s beautiful,  conscience, and well-considered.

Katie shifts the paradigms how we see ourselves as a part of, or apart from nature.


Make a list of the artists mentioned in Dean and Millar’s essay. Look up at least one piece by each of the artists mentioned whose work incorporates text.

Jacob van Ruisdael -landscapes with titles “view of” A View of Egmond aan Zee (1640) , A View of Egmond aan Zee (c. 1650) , A View of Egmond aan Zee (c. 1650) , A View of Egmond aan Zee (c. 1650)  looking onto place.

William Blake –  Newton (1795) demonstrates his opposition to the “single-vision” of scientific materialism:

Caspar David Friedrich – Romantic landscapes Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818). Exploring landscapes and the individual within it.

John Constable, Stonehenge (1835) – On the spot studies, mystical sites

Doug Aitken, Underwater Pavilions (2016) – site specific underwater sculptures.

Robert SmithsonSPIRAL JETTY Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah
(April 1970).  Site specific, natural installation

Joachim Koester Of Spirits and Empty Spaces ( 2012) – installation pathway in half-light through a maze that fills all the space available

Jane and Louise WilsonThe Toxic Camera and Atomgrad (Nature Abhors a Vacuum) related to the Chernobyl disaster and its surrounding area of Pripyat in Ukraine.

Roni HornStill Water (The River Thames, for Example), photographs small sections of the Themes

Alexander & Susan Maris – made with the burnt ashes of Jacques Derrida’s 1978 treatise The Truth of Painting

Graham Gussin Spaced,work engages in some way with the human experience of the infinite.

Mette Tronvoll – series of photographs of humans in their environment