TRIBE

 
For their exhibition at Peckham Space, Sarah Cole and the TRIBE of eleven young girls (from Southwark Arts and Culture Group) played and explored around the themes of female adolescence, feminism, group dynamics, hiding and inclusion. For the short period of seven weeks, they ostensibly formed a tribe of their own and explored its motifs, its ceremonies and its significant activities.
 

They have now turned Peckham Space into a journey of their clan – a living game of Hide-and-Seek  leaving clues and ideas about themselves, about womanhood and about their place in both secret and public worlds.

 

The installation doesn’t focus on a single visual point of expression, but has become an enjoyable space of touch, smell, taste, feel, vision and intuition, where the viewer can be simultaneously included and rejected from the ways of the TRIBE – as it is when you’re a teenage girl. 

Green/grass
The green exterior of Peckham Space and its overtly-geometric outside fuzzily merges with its inside through the presence of turf. Real turf. Their turf. Soft underfoot and smelling faintly of petrichor.

It immediately conjures all the Rococco images of grassy picnics, swings and lassez-faire frollicking that Fragonard would have loved. Except it’s South London and the frollicking in this show is being done by a small pride of fierce girls in bright, colourful full-bodied onesies and animal masks.

 

Play/play/play
Most of the ‘play’, crucial to their work, is revealed on video – a nice triple entendre. Most of the videos reveal the dance/movement performances the TRIBE did during their time with Cole: rolling and dancing on hills, cavorting on workshop floors, in public – displaying none of the usual self-consciousness of girls in early adolescence.

The video which sparked my interest the most showed one of girls drumming on cardboard box in Peckham Square at night – it was menacing, a challenge to all the forces, to fight, a reference to home (lessness) and being a woman at night in an open city square, masked in a onesie, Powerful and vulnerable.

The imagery was reminiscent of Gob Squad’s Super Night Shot (the onesie and the mask, slowmotion, at night) and it held the same playful and challenging spirit to public space and storytelling. But with the added friction of the main protagonist being a young teenage girl calling on a power uncommonly portrayed.

Costume
The onesie is an important feature of this show. I must confess to being a little cynical and my first impression of the onesies hanging in the gallery was a groan – against an item that seems to have gained cupcake status in certain female sections of the creative community.

However, in this context, it was the perfect costume to reveal the actions of adolescence, whilst avoiding the unwanted (male) gaze and unnecessary distraction of fashion with all its heavy and sexualised symbolism.

It seemed to allow the girls to play without burden, to really move in new ways and to connect with the self. Perhaps similar to the role of the burqua in certain religious circles (or so I’ve heard) – a removal of the pressure to match outsides with insides.

Music
Peppered throughout the space are points of musical connection. In the entrance, a gorgeous old record-player plays a custom vinyl of music from the group (arranged by Isa Suarez), a cuckoo clock keeps a rhythm for the show and  on the opening night, a drum kit was set up outside the gallery – free for anyone to bash on it –  a chaotic counterpoint to the ice cream truck playing Greensleaves.

When I spoke to Cole about the reasons sound and music were connections between ideas, she suggested that it was instinctive.

It makes sense to me that this, in particular, was the means by which the presence of intuition in the TRIBE was was conveyed:  the relationship to sound is personal, without necessarily being gendered, class-based or ascribed the heavy weight of society that visual or even performative works can be. It is a lighter touch to speak of identity and perfect for the in-between-ness of a group of teenage girls.

Buckingham Palace
Thanks to this show, Peckham Space has acquired a new mantel over the entrance with a fluorescent re-naming as Buckingham Palace. Lit up until 3am, Cole thinks that the outside of the gallery now ‘looks more like a nightclub than a gallery’. The duality of irony and appropriateness betwen the hot mess of bustling Peckham is so cheeky, it’s delicious.

And that same Buckingham Palace motif again switches from outside to inside, becoming a score for the small music boxes that are mounted on the walls. You can literally ‘play’ the word Buckingham Palace over and over again.

Cole was forthcoming with a lot of information about the show – the meanings and processes behind the works, but when it came to discussion about Buckingham Palace, she chose to not reveal its significance. It was part of the language that stayed solely with the TRIBE – hidden and private. Special.

Ceremony
The opening night was, in tribal terms, a ceremony: it gathered together all the people involved in the TRIBE (and those of other tribes), to come together over food  – free softserve icecream, drink, drums, music and costumes to exchange ideas, ways of doing things; to touch palms.

One reason I make this self-consciously gauche analogy of the occasion in tribal terms is because of the relationship between adolesence and rites-of-passage (and not just a thoroughfare in front of Peckham Library). In white, western, especially urban environments, we have ceased to continue those actions that acknowledge movement from one state of being to another.

The other reason I bring up the quasi-ceremonial aspect to the evening is because it presents an entirely different percption of the exhibition and of the TRIBE than the one most people will experience. Those present for the event received the full extent of their expression.

Most people will see the exhibition in its quiet, daily manifestation: a slightly kooky place with slowly-degrading and trodden grass, video works of girls twisting and birds killing, not a lot of noise, save the record overhead and the sound of traffic outside.  It will become a much more contemplative ‘village’ and some of the underlying ideas will not be translated, whilst others, perhaps sadness, death, loneliness, will really come to the fore.

Yet, this is me, a white woman from an urban setting, nativising the whole situation, which I acknowledge is problematic. Cole herself mentioned its problems, but is still seeking to discuss these ideas of Tribes (as opposed to Communities) for group dynamics. Can a bunch of girls from disparate racial, social and class backgrounds create a new tribe for the purpose of talking to each other and creating new cultures? Why did it work so well?

These are the kinds of questions that I suspect drew me to the exhibition.

As well as revealing aspects of identity and definitions of femininity, like any good exhibition, it continued asking me more questions than those it answered.

Important ethical questions, like what is the role of the elder/artist for a group of young teenagers in contemporary life? Is it to guide? Is it to draw from and adapt either the past or other worlds in order to understand this one? Or is it to only present our own experience – with all its inherent benefits and problems, and allow them to take what they will?

Adolescence is difficult for everyone. This exhibition, rather than ‘fix it’, has found a way to continue to explore it without it being painful or saccharine. It opens up the gallery and the discussion – from inside to outside, to allow for those questions and that difficult fuzzy space to hang; unanswered, but honouring the process of being allowed to work it out. Just like being a teenage girl.

 
This writing was first published on Interface (May 2013) www.a-n.co.uk/interface as the result of a Critical Writing Bursary provided to a-n by Peckham Space

Crying in exhibitions: Review of [re]locate at Bermondsey project space

I’ve seen thousands of exhibitions and some really inspiring and moving shows. I have lists of biennales, collections, artist-run things and performance showings on this blog.

The list of shows I’ve cried at is very small. It consists of  just two: Vernon Ah Kee’s this man… this woman... at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane and the new addition Tahera Aziz‘s [re]locate at bermondsey project space.

You can read about the vernon ah kee response in this post.

Background: twenty-year anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence.

Children’s deaths are never pleasant – they are a reminder about the rotten nature of humanity. And when a child’s death also exposes the cancerous way in which we protect that rottenness, it’s especially heinous.

I’m not from the UK, so my experience of this show was as an outsider who had heard only a whisper of the murder case – primarily when the killers were finally convicted not long before I arrived here. But the case and the media/culture surrounding it holds a key place in the London psyche.

The work: audio documentary
The crux of the work at the amazing Bermondsey Project Space is the audio work. It is a darkened sound space – no visual stimulus at all, but a surround-sound, multi-channel re-interpretation of the death of Stephen Lawrence.

Different characters in different sides of the room, some are more audible than others. The people at the bus stop (witnesses), the police ‘responding’ to the crime, the locals living in the area, Stephen and his friend Duwayne Brooks, people who were first on the scene and the perpetrators.

It was an intense interpretation/dramatisation/re-enactment of the events of that night, in which a young black boy was killed for his race and in which the police were responsible for the lengthy delay in bringing about justice.

As a viewer, I became a ‘witness’ to the crime with zero agency. Completely unable to change anything about the course of events playing out to my ears. Immediately I felt fear, frustration and absolute despair at the ongoing racism, violence and the negligence from the state (and their representatives).

I felt my whiteness and my complicity.
And it is painful.

The contextual imagery, timeline and books about the case shown in the second room were also really helpful for someone like me who is outside the immediate throng of the case (including the incredibly role of the Daily Mail, risking litigation and challenging the police to charge the murderers).

It’s probably not new for those who lived through it to see all the stuff. But it is still powerful.

I also felt the nature of my privilege in that case. I have the chance to view this stuff objectively, to feel the sadness, despair, rage and then walk away. It’s not my life. It’s not my (immediate) community’s life. And it’s not the kind of thing I suffer.

Despite that, it reminded me of the countless Australian death-in-custody cases, the TJ Hickey case – the frustrating and ongoing institutional racism, especially enacted on young black men in the streets across the world.

After experiencing the work, I sat for ages and watched the astounding documentary secret policeman, which exposed the phenomenal amount of institutional racism in the UK police force. It’s jaw-dropping and unsurprising at the same time. I had never seen anything like it – certainly no Australian police force, or journalist, would dig that deep or go to that length.

I left feeling completely gutted. It’s not often I leave a show like that and it felt amazing.
As a whole, it is a work that facilitates immense feelings and to that end, it is spectacular.

There are a stack of events associated with the exhibition – sadly i had to miss last night’s screening of john akomfrah‘s handsworth songs (1987), but will be there next week for the conversation on expanding the documentary from outside the field of vision.

You must go and see this work. Really.

art13

On the first weekend of March I went to Art 13, yet another art fair in London. It didn’t feature any of the super-large galleries, which I quite liked, but did include galleries selling high-calibre work, a few more-experimental spaces, some publications and a performance focus.

It wasn’t so OTT that it was incomprehensible, but it had enough muscle to present a powerful view of art from the UK – with some galleries from Europe, Asia and South Africa.

Method


Because art fairs, like biennales, can be simultaenously overwhelming and underwhelming, you need to have a clear method for maximising your experience.

I was lucky enough to be able to go over 2 days. and, I have to say, over that time I think I nailed it. I did a loose sweep of the spaces of Friday and made it a bit social, catching up for drinks with Simone of discoballbreaker fame.


New galleries
I’m not a long-time londoner, but I do visit galleries fairly regularly, so it was refreshing and enlightening to see some of these new-to-me galleries, meet some of the staff and get a feel for what kinds of works they’re showing.

Fold gallery were showing a series of small works, mostly 2D, showcasing the intimate and accessible aspects of their artists’ capabilities. I quite liked the relief sculptures by Mark Pearson, totems of bands like Wall of Voodoo* The rest of the show also struck me as something uplifting and comforting – like I could have walked into someone’s home with a series of small works on the wall. Small enamel graphic paintings, patterns, etc.

Aando gallery is a German gallery which I had seen at a couple of the (comparitively awful) Berlin art fairs during my. It was great to see their works again, especially the work of a German pair  Andreas Greiner and Armin Kiplinger – a live sculpture of evaporating water drops, forming perfect spheres of joy, rolling around on a hot plate, fed from a drip feeder. So simple and beautiful.

In my palatial home, I would have it in the hallway.
That’s just how I would roll. In my palatial home.

Zimmermann & Kratochwill
When I wandered into this gallery space from the crew in Graz, what struck me was the images of nail art. The artist Poklong Anading was using the trend to talk about unskilled labour in the Phillipines. The curious objects on the wall were relevant to the process. I also saw a previous body of work featuring the cleaning rags found on the streets of Manila and really liked the singularity of focus and the street-references.

IMT
I have been meaning to get to IMT since forever. It was great to see what they were showing and I really liked the coal eyes for the wall by Laura Pawela (above).

It was such a simple idea and, from a commercial perspective, such a great piece. Cast silicone, coated in coal (which initially I though she meant kohl) and mounted on the wall at the height of the artist. Although, I guess they could be mounted at your height, or any person’s height really. I love the idea that the works come with measurements – how high to hang them. And that their this slightly creepy, but incredibly beautiful works.

Performance

The last few art fairs I’ve been to have had lots of talks, but not so much actual performance and I don’t remember being at one that had a booth and a rolling programme dedicated to it. Even if i didn’t get to see too much of it, it was an excellent piece of planning and it helped to make the fair more of an event

I got to see about 10 minutes of the Juneau Projects (above) and their bleak futuro-romantic epic based on future centered wholly around data mining, information and post-civilsiation. They read a spoken text work and played intruments – fluoro-pimped synthesisers, surrounded by fluoro plexi-glass toys and wearing wooden amulets. It was like Children of Men, Kraftwerk and last year’s H&M range all in a blender.

I enjoyed watching it, and having something to watch. Although, the aesthetic, which is part of the current fluoro-woodsy-scando-flavour left me cold and the content slightly depressed. Probably because I’m still in denial and the truth hurts.

Ceri Hand
As someone whose work has hovered between installation, drawing, performance, etc – it’s always refreshing to know that there are galleries who are working with artists to expand that kind of practice into a way to  maybe make a living from it. It’s not easy and it’s not perfect, but Ceri Hand are one of the galleries who are continuing to have the conversation with collectors and artists to bring them together in a way that can serve both sides as much as possible.

Despite my meh kind of attitude towards photography (which is entirely subjective), the performance detail from Bedwyr Williams with false beard, smeary make-up, damsel-in-distress look was striking and an obvious entry point into what performance brings to art collections.

Șükran Moral is a performance artist from Turkey whose work at the Galeri Zilberman stand was of a female mannequin in the middle of the space; legs-up, like in gynaecology stirrups, with a TV hiding her cunt. The movie was of a naked woman coming out of a haman, being covered by an attendent. Although the word Șükran has no significance in Turkish per se, I love the that pronunciation of her name in Arabic/English is the equivalent of ‘Thank You Moral’. What a great performance name. It goes so well with the edgy pushing work that she makes.

I love contemporary Turkish art – especially that of a performative nature and a lot of women are keening, striving to break out. I saw a lot of it at TANAS in Berlin (thanks to the big Turkish contingent there) and I feel like they have a sense of freedom and energy that loads of European artists are unable to access at the moment.

Publications

Jealous
Their centrepiece was a gorgeous A0 book open to a beautiful shade of aaaah-zure blue, referring to the seas of the world: Thomas Jenkins’ Atlas.

With real focus on print collaboration, they work with emerging artists to create limited edition print-based shows and publications to extend their practices. It reminded me a little of Lucas, Micky and Diego at Big Fag Press, but a little more white-glove. They’re a great gallery/project to be involved with.

Outsiders
I didn’t manage to get back in time to see the live print-run, but Outsiders (the print-arm of Lazarides gallery) had set up ‘shop’/press in the space and were printing and handing out free posters of some of their artists.

I have a bit of a hard-on for Conor Harrington at the moment, so it was great to see a couple of his prints kicking about. I coveted. Hard.

Given that, In a recession people don’t have as much disposable income to spend on blingy things like art, having a print arm is excellent business from Laz & Co and loads of people would leave the fair with a print or two under their arm, that will eventually become an original some day soon.

There were more traditional magazine publication stands along one side of the main hall, but they were pretty light on.

I know that everyone goes on about how print media is dead, blah blah, but I think somethig extra special could have been done with the magazines – online and offline that do continue to bring art to our mediated minds: e-flux, artsy, artinfo, zines, small magazines and even art bloggers. Ahem.

Education
Mind had a stall, showcasing a series of work by Simon Sempel and giving away a free poster of his. Focusing on mental health, Mind have a project working with artists to highlight mental health issues and work with artists on related projects, insittutions, etc.

I am personally interested in what Mind are up to inconjunction with artists, because I have an ongoing belief that artists need to be embedded across most public sectors in order to provide a different kind of relationship to art.

I also think it’s important to include these kinds of organisations/projects in Art Fairs – not just for awareness, but from an investment point of view. It could be an interested area to pursue in art fairs, an investor information section that supports organisations like Mind, those embedding artists in schools and prisons, etc.

Large sculpture

Some of the projects for the art fair weren’t quite as embedded as they could be – certainly not as much as I’ve seen in other art fairs.

The inflatable and mechanical flower by korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa, opening and closing/inflating and deflating at intervals – like something out of a nature time-lapse movie. It was so simple and so captivating, I regressed to a 5-year old and just enjoyed it. Imagine waking to that as your alarm clock in your palatial home? Hello, opening flower! OK, so it’s nothing conceptually rigorous or challenging and is in EVERY art fair right now, but hey, sometimes art just needs to make me feel like waking up in the morning OK?

El-Anatsui is always a crowd pleaser and seeing a couple of his gorgeous, gorgeous works is like seeing your nan. A smile of nostalgia and comfort. He will always sell well and I am glad about that.

Obelisk by Michaël Aerts

Made from custom road-cases, this sculpture is the imagined means by which a trad art piece might be transported around the world – complete with a pulley system and modular road-cases. As a form it was fun, alluding to the globalised nature of art, the practicality to public art and gallery logistics. Also perhaps a reference to how a lot of art purchased for large collections ends up in storage in warehouse somewhere.
Overall, there was some new and interesting work to see, and there is still a market for good work for people to buy and that perhaps the commercial aspect to art isn’t quite as dull or insipid as I had previously perceived.

Death: Mike Nelson and Susan Hiller

I have the great fortune of living around the corner from Matt’s Gallery. 

This is especially fortunate when the day is wet and cold and the gallery’s private view is so full that people are queuing down the street in the rain to get into a Mike Nelson installation.

Which is what it was like a few weeks’ ago when I went.

The Mike Nelson and Susan Hiller shows are an excellent combination of contemporary British Art. I like both artists for different reasons, so it felt like a two-for-one deal – great bang for your buck.

Mike Nelson

The insane passage of human bodies that preceeded More things (To the memory of Honoré de Balzac)  is mostly due to the fact that there is so much sculpture – fairly delicate sculpture – jammed into the gallery, requiring a 6-person limit. It also has the added bonus of generating a fair amount of hype and, if I’m generous, perhaps is the real Mike Nelson at work.

Especially because the work inside the gallery is kooky but not what I have come to know from his work.

Yes, there’s his wild-west aesthetic that we all know and love, a few dramatic and poignant pieces – especially an intense assemblage work featuring an Israeli produce box, Arabic signage, American Op.Desertstorm badge and an ‘enter at own risk’ sign – but not the usual installation and spatial influence that thrills me.

The element of surprise or unexpectedness in his work is not obvious, apart from the casual ‘oh, it’s a skull’ and a little more of  ‘oh, this isn’t like his usual work’ reaction, which isn’t satsifactory. It probably means I didn’t try hard enough.

Susan Hiller
On the day of intense queuing, Channels, the Susan Hiller room, was as much a physical respite from the crowds as an aesthetic balance for the Nelson work.

A largely-empty room, with the entire back wall filled with TV sets and screens of various sizes, colours and content. Mostly graphic (not uncomfortable, I mean, plain colours, lines, like graphic design), the screen sculpture conveyed the rhythm of conversations played out – a series of interviews on people’s near-death experiences.

Green oscillators, static, black screens, blue screens and the occasional flicker give an appropriate ‘backdrop’ for listening to sound works: documentary and fractured, you can dip in and out of these stories in the way that radio functions at its best. Or you can sit and stare mesmerised as your eyes wander over the faint rhythm of slowly changing screens as you listen to the whole narrative of these people’s deaths.

The place of light in the space is great, as the audience are bathed in this pale blue light, ghostly and slightly horrific (especially if you’ve ever watched either version of The Ring).

These two works together, opposed creates a beautiful and uncanny death theme running across the gallery, which I loved. The movement from this mortal coil from two different perspectives: hers from direct but calm curiosity in the active dying moments of people’s lives, to his deserted, Death Valley, departed graveyard of symbols that allude to it.

The exhibitons are on until the 14th April, so head to Mile End and check it out and feel free to pop over for a cup of tea afterwards.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

London Gallery Wrap Up: Bank and Sandback

This gallery wrap-up is driven by the BANK exhibition at MOT INTERNATIONAL (so many caps!), taking in the David Jablonowski show at Max Wigram and a Fred Sandback show at David Zwirner along the way.

BANK at MOT

Although not a London native, I first heard of BANK  in relation to Melbourne’s own cheeky anonymous collective, DAMP and also as provocateurs in the YBA era of UK art. I have always admired what MOT are doing as a gallery, so it felt right that the two seemed to meet up.

The exhibition is a collection of images, ephemera and original FAX BAK words, as well as a sculpture, a painting and a beautiful light box. It does all seem to be flirting with the exact commerce of art that the collective jabbed at for so long, but I’m sick of artists not being allowed to bite the hands that feed them, so I’d prefer to embrace this particular quirk.

If i had a medium-sized pile of money sitting around that I could invest in art, I would promptly buy all the FAX BAK originals. Not only because they are brilliant, but because I thoroughly enjoyed laughing maniacally at their content.

I didn’t enjoy having to stifle said laughter because nobody else was laughing, but goddamn the works are hilarious. Not just for straight-up wit, but for the sheer embarrassing close-to-home-ness of it all. All that artspeak that I have been super guilty of using in press releases and blurbs about my work, all ripped to shreds.

I enjoyed looking through the table of ephemera (if slightly overwhelming) and the lightbox was quite a beautiful object, as was the large-format black’n’white photograph. I can honestly say that I really didn’t like the sculpture of the BANK team – it was a little too Devo without being Devo enough. But to not like one thing in a whole gallery of works – their not bad percentages.

David Jablonowski and Pavel Büchler at Max Wigram Gallery

I was intrigued by this show. The installations featured a lot of synthetic display-type, media-influenced materials, loads of silver powder coating and plastic shapes, combined with moving image and/or light. I’m still not sure if it was to my particular taste, although I wasn’t completely repulsed. I am a little bored with install-on-floor trend in galleries, and would have liked to see the work get up a little – but there was a bit of 80s Patrick Bateman feeling about the show, which was interesting to me.

To be honest, I actually preferred the Pavel Büchler series of acid and nicotine drawings in the back – something about the simplicity of form and oxidisation process had me. I enjoyed looking at the studies of hands and the survey of the ways in which people hold cigarettes. And I usually can’t stand work that glorifies smoking, drugs or alcohol (I think we deserve better art than that).

Fred Sandback at David Zwirner

The highlight of the afternoon was easily the Fred Sandback show.

His works are site-specific installations of wool/thread lines and geometric shapes that play with perspective, triangulation, linear planes and dimensions. He uses simple colours, often black, red and blue, to outline and alter the relationship between the viewer and the space.

I first saw his work in Vienna at MAQ years ago and it was so great to see work like this installed in a commercial gallery; to play with the space through perspective and simple movement, to have my sense of vision and spatial assumptions messed with in such a delicate and concise way – voilà.

The spiral staircase was the perfect place to install a floor-to-ceiling work and the variety of works and spaces created in the gallery was perfect, and the gallery was packed. So deserved.

London Gallery wrap-up: words

This week’s accidental London art trend seems to be work related to words and/or text.

John Latham and the APG at Raven Row.

I first saw works by John Latham at the Whitechapel library/reading room about 3 years ago. It was his series of works on books and I remember being relieved that art subverted books, whilst revering them and that writing and the written word still had a place in art.

Latham is part of the Artist Placement Group – Artists that believed in being embedded within ‘society’ – organisations, workplaces, schools, etc, etc; that the concept, process and open engagement of an artist’s life was the crux of a practice worth investigating.

Raven Row is hosting a retrospective of the Group’s work, featuring great posters and text by John Latham and his placement at the Scottish Office, some beautiful currency prints by Barry Flanagan, the impressive steel sculptures/industrial interventions of Garth Evans and TV Interruptions installation/videos by David Hall, connected to his Scottish TV connection.

As part of their public programme, they featured a performance by sound artist and improviser David Toop. The performance itself was quite an intense work that was like a freight train through my skull at some parts. I closed my eyes the whole time, as it was so immense. It featured a variety of instruments, found objects, electronica and vocal distortions.

To the degree that APG embody arts practice within society an its organisations, Toop places sound expression within the body of the audience, so that the experience is visceral and affecting.

Ian Hamilton Finlay at Tate Britain

I have always cringed at the term concrete poet. In the same way I have cringed at the term music concrète. And I cannot tell you why. There is something hard and horrible about the word concret that neither poetry nor music holds. But that’s my thing and I need to get over it.

Especially because, as a concrete poet, Ian Hamilton Finlay was quite a joy to discover. He makes words into things. He makes objects into words – plays with the relationship betweent the two.

His show at Tate Britain is a series of works/words in the main gallery hall –  installations which played upon severity of The Message (as an idea in itself). His large hanging stone ‘tablets’ The World Has Been Empty Since The Romans is in equal part reassuring and ultra depressing. Crumbling and precarious, the Words are only just held – swaying, like some kind of odd jewellery around the old building’s nave.


Then there were his monuments to plaques. These odd, flat columns/pedestals holding flat plaques – taken off the walls for which they were seemingly intended and bringing them into the gallery space, making them discreet objects and Art. Not just a salutory relationship between words and art, but more significant than that.

His display of worded tiles, prints and other text ephemera were a joyful discovery and, perhaps for the same reason I love John Latham – he is an artist embedded in the written word and beautifully designed things – tiles and nautical natures.

Lawrence Weiner at Tate Modern

Weiner’s work is one of Tate Modern’s recent additions  on the third floor. They are seen as you wind your way up the stairs and, as such, are animated through your movement. You never quite get a full picture of them, as they are visible between stairwell and from below/above. Such fragmentation speaks to the not-quite-known of most art forms and certainly of word forms.

Mel Bochner at Whitechapel

I saw this show so many times – en route to the cafe, the auditorium, other shows and by the end I kind of liked it and kind of hated it.
If I’m honest, I didn’t really like a lot of the text works – large letters, squished in and a little overdone.

However, I did really enjoy a single work about measurement – numbers, rather than words – as significant elements. The series of coloured canvases that stretched across the gallery wall, all of various sizes, and their widths painted across the work. All the works, lined up to present a continuous linear measurement of the space, according to the individual measurements of the paintings.
The paintings become valuable as a marker of a tangible fact and symbol of arbitrary ways in which we have marked that curious idea ‘space’. And as you walked through the space, it was like a Wes Anderson tracking shot, almost following you through the gallery.

As though such text and words and clarity-of-meaning were following you, peering into your soul a little and nagging you to work out what it is that you really want to say.