The Role of Collections and Archives in Art Practice
Huddersfield Art Gallery
Thursday 30th June 2011.
The Role of Collections and Archives in Art Practice seminar was organised by Land2 member Deborah Gardner to coincide with her exhibition Re-Collect: Sculptural Responses to Place showing at Huddersfield Art Gallery until the 27th August 2011.
The aim of the seminar was to consider the implications of intervening with or responding practically to work within archives and collections as a means of reflecting on ideas of place and identity. The artists Deborah Gardner, David Walker-Barker and Louise K Wilson considered their own practice in relation to projects they have completed in collaboration with the Arts Council Collection, the Kirklees Collection, the Manchester Metropolitan Film Archive and the Ruskin Collection. Lizzie Simpson, Sculpture Co-ordinator for the Arts Council Collection at Longsides, Yorkshire Sculpture Park gave a presentation on the history of the Arts Council Collection and recent curatorial projects by contemporary artists involving elements of the collection.
Sarah Hanson, of the Henry Moore Institute, gave a presentation on her recent research contributing to the Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture 1851-1951 project, which culminated in an exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery and included objects from the Leeds Sculpture Collection. The seminar was chaired by Dr Judith Tucker and the afternoon ended with the showing of Louise K Wilson’s video ‘Euphony’ (2005).
Programme of Presentations:
Introduction by Chair: Dr Judith Tucker www.talkshow.org.uk/artist/show/Judith_Tucker
Deborah Gardner Re-collect: Sculptural Responses to Ideas of Place within Collections
The nature of art collections suggests both private worlds of storage and open, public places of exhibition. When invited to make sculptures in response to work from the Arts Council Collection and Kirklees Collection, Deborah Gardner decided to select artworks that address, in some way, a sense of place. This presentation, therefore, explores how ideas of place and the nature of collections share a purpose in describing our relationship to the world around us. Yorkshire is often perceived as the home of modern sculpture and the sculptures chosen from the Arts Council Collection, housed at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, represent a range of genres and episodes of sculpture making within Britain. The national and regional nature of both the Arts Council and Kirklees Collections reflects on aspects of cultural heritage and, in turn, enables a collective understanding of identity and history.
The presentation will discuss how selected artworks of Alison Wilding, Richard Wentworth, Christine Borland, Mariele Neudecker and others in this exhibition point to thresholds between both intimate and immense landscape and fictitious and actual places. Miniaturised mountains depict large vistas, domestic vessels allude to the sea, borders of branches and sheet metal enclose space and the soft ground surfaces of blankets speak of rolling landscape or demarked territories. Certain works focus on ideas of time passing, allowing us to consider the transitory nature of place. Gardner’s sculptural responses to these works act as an acknowledgement of a national collective heritage, but they also focus on the particularity of this region’s landscape, industrial legacy and architecture. Textiles, yarn, stone and coal are employed to build the sculptural form and, in doing so, are also indicative of the way local industries have affected and shaped the surrounding landscape.
The presentation will begin with a consideration of the work ‘Yorkshire Monument’ (2011), where Deborah will reflect on landmarks, such as Castle Hill in Huddersfield, and how they can be embodied with layers of cultural meaning and the full drama of history, yet also be significant as an everyday landmark which draws the local landscape together, helping to physically position us within our environment.
Lizzie Simpson Presentation on the history of the Arts Council Collection and recent curatorial projects by contemporary artists involving elements of the collection.
Sculpture Co-ordinator Arts council Collection, Longsides, Yorkshire
Dave Walker-Barker Objects, Collections and Cabinets
David Walker-Barker considers how collecting has occupied a parallel pathway alongside an art practice located in the study of landscape and its geological and human dimensions. Collections reside alongside artworks in the studio and have, over the course of the last ten years, gradually become integrated into the works themselves, the nature of which has changed because of this. A facet of this presentation will reflect upon a recent exhibition ‘Objects of Curious Virtue, Echoes of John Ruskin’ at the Ruskin Library and Research Centre at Lancaster University and involving ‘The Guild of George’ and the Ruskin Collection, Sheffield.
Sarah Hanson Anatomy of a Monument
Sarah Hanson’s research has contributed to the Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture 1851-1951 project, culminating in an exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery, which includes objects from the Leeds Sculpture Collection. The core aim of the project is to consider the expansion of sculptural practice happening in the stated hundred-year period, and the diverse legacy that remained. This presentation will focus on the Leeds City War Memorial as a specific case study, in order to address key issues concerning the creation of sculpture, such as variations of practice and breadth of place in which sculpture exists. Addressing the history and identity of the memorial (and investigating how such a monument is created, considering artistic, political and social aspects), allows for a better understanding of sculpture in general, whilst also highlighting how many individuals must be involved in order to create both public and private sculpture.
The Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture 1851-1951 presents objects from the Leeds Sculpture Collection and aims to show the expansion of sculptural practice happening in that hundred-year period, and the diverse legacy that remained.
The exhibition addresses 2 key issues of practice and place:
(A)Practice – aiming to demonstrate the variations within the practice of sculpture and the broad range of objects created under the term, for example monuments, medals, garden implements and decorative items,
(B) Place – sculpture itself had a complex life during this period, inhabiting many places from quarries and foundries to stonemasons and even council offices. The aim is to highlight the breadth of individuals involved in the creation of sculpture and to address and dispel the myth of the sculptor as the sole creator;
Studying the history of the Leeds City War Memorial exemplifies these aims and this inherent complex nature when practicing sculpture. The outcome of my research served the core aim of this project in a focused way, considering the place of the memorial within Leeds from its creation to the present day. The tendency of art history to credit the sculptor as the singular creator detracts from the intricate and involved nature of sculpture as a practice. The idea of ‘anatomy of a monument’ is to dissect its very components, to address each part individually, to discover those involved in its creation and evolution; from commission to installation, and throughout its life.
The research undertaken focused on documents held by two local institutions, published literature and online information. The West Yorkshire Archive Service holds original documents pertaining to the creation, unveiling and early life of the memorial. The Local History department at Leeds Central Library holds further Press & Council originals.
Louise K Wilson The Haunted Nature of a Film Archive
Louise K Wilson’s presentation will focus on the experience of researching material in a film archive: when the seductive pleasures of viewing (and listening) in proximity to the medium’s materiality combined with more unsettling awarenesses about the haunting and haunted nature of such material. Her video Euphony (2005) was commissioned by Cornerhouse especially for screening on the BBC Big Screen in Exchange Square, Manchester and was created during a residency at the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University. Over the course of the residency Wilson became fascinated by the sheer quantity of archived material, processes of conservation, the cataloguing and description of films and with recurrent obsessions and repetitions contained within home movies. For her, it was curious to notice how much material was reminiscent of scenes from Dziga Vertov’s 1929 silent film The Man with a Movie Camera. This classic Soviet film presents the day in the life of a city (actually shot in several locations) with its dazzling focus on ‘life caught unawares’. The talk will touch on the process of viewing material as well as more ‘relational’ aspects involved in the project as a whole.
Louise K Wilson is a visual artist for whom processes of research and the participation of individuals from industry, museums, medicine and the scientific community are fundamental to the making of work. This presentation will focus on the experience of researching material in a film archive however: when the seductive pleasures of viewing (and listening) in proximity to the medium’s materiality combine with more unsettling awarenesses about the haunting and haunted nature of such material.