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.

cursebird RIP

ok, so i just started using a new stat counter for my sites and have been checkin’ out some of my keywords here.


yes. indeed.

but the good bit is that one of the top keyword searches that brings people here is “enthusiastic porn star”.

fortunately or unfortunately, not because of my sexual proclivity or proficiency, but because of this post about cursebird.

i had forgotten about that little service – the live feed of people swearing on twitter and i was a bit sad to see that it’s dead. according to richard henry on twitter.

i just wanted to say rest in peace. it was a fucking cool thing for a while there.

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

interaction, part 1: goodbye.

Excellent goodbyes

i may be writing a bit about interaction in the next few weeks. primarily because the project i’m working on sits pretty firmly in the ‘interactive’ camp of arts practice. but also because i’ve been reading a bit about the philosophical aspects of interaction have been thinking about the dynamics of human interaction – listening, conversation and relationships.

counterintuitively, one of the first things i’m interested in unpacking a bit about is the interaction of ‘goodbye’. i recently wanted to say a formal ‘goodbye’ to a stack of peeps in perth after spending much time in their tribe. sadly, and for a stack of reasons, not many people were able to make it, and i left wondering about the ritual of saying goodbye.

even though ‘goodbye’ is the end of an interaction between characters, it is also the beginning of a new interaction. it has its own set of variables and etiquette, rarely discussed in white, australian culture. the country of the laid back ‘g’day’ are also not so formal with their goodbyes. ‘see ya’.

perhaps because i move around a lot, or because i’ve spent time in cultures for which the goodbye is given (linguistically and culturally) more weight, i’m finding that casual-ness a bit unsatisfying.

in schlock pseudo-psycho terms, there is no closure.

it’s a metaphysical sentence that has no full stop. and when there’s no punctuation, there ceases to be meaning. there also ceases to be intent. and therefore no beginning of the next interaction – the one of ‘still friends, but separated by distance’ or something.

in coding/system term, there’s no } – no end to the instruction, which creates errors, which means you don’t have an interaction. in not saying ‘goodbye’, one nulls and voids the interaction at all.

ok, so that’s abstracting it and perhaps creating an analogy that simplifies things too much – human interactions are far more complex than a missing }, / or . but i do wonder if we lack consideration of the deeper sides to human interaction protocol (HIP) in the same way as we now do our other forms of interaction.

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

it’s all in a name

so, you know what else i’ve discovered geeks and artists have in common? naming stuff.

the title in an artwork has become synonymous with the work, even if it’s Untitled, it means something. Postmodernism has seen the naming of a work as its framing, and Dale Frank takes the cake of the coolest artwork titles in all of history.

Whether you think the title should explain, perform or confuse, you have to admit that the moment in which you title an artwork is a ‘thing’. It plays a part.

Talk to any geek that hasn’t named his harddrives, or other electronic devices, and i’ll show you a geek i outta hassle. Part of it harks back to that conceptual fun idea i was chatting about earlier. But i have a feeling that it’s motivated by the same relationship with one’s ‘offspring’.

Naming our stuff, or our projects, or our systems makes them personal. It customises them. And it sets up a dynamic between them and us. They belong to us, and we have power over them.

I give all my devices old-fashioned ladies’ names: Ethel, Mabel, Mildred, Betty. My hard drive’s name is Annabelle, which is not quite so old-fashioned, but is the name i would have liked to name my daughter, if i had ever chosen to have kids. a HD is close enough.

steve, my geek partner-in-crime, names his devices after breakfast cereals.

and way back when I was an apprentice in the printing industry, one of the tradesmen used to name his drives/discs after characters from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: Trinian, Zaphod, Marvin.
that opened up a whole new world for me.

see? it’s all in a name.

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sliding into the new year


rather than some binary process of ‘now you see it’ and ‘now you don’t’, the germans talk of sliding into the new year. they wish each other ‘guten rutsch’ – a good ‘slide’, which is a much better way of talking about the still-magical time of new year.

thankfully last year wasn’t quite as crazy as the year before.  but it was pretty bloody racy – i think i moved my stuff about 10 times in the year, went to a stack of different countries, met with people i’d only ever known on the interwebs and introduced myself to more strangers than i have in my entire life.

i spent most of the year pushing myself to the limit.


this year is gonna be different again. it’s my year of dynamic consistency. i have no idea if that’s even a plausible phrase, but like a good slide, i’m aiming to get my life into a rhythm that hovers between leaving and arriving. where i can start to be in two places at once (melbourne and berlin), without that resembling chaos, crisis or some kind of breakdown. i am planning on being ‘home’ wherever i am, rather than homesick – which is the plight of any australian who has spent a chunk of time abroad. i have no idea of the logistics necessary, but i’ve a decent amount of determination and optimism. that’ll get me through, right?


this year i also have a bit project that i’m heading back to australia to work on, which is all about dynamic consistency – a regular structure that involves a changing roster of people and ideas. something that’s constant enough to feel reliable, but flexible enough to avoid ghastly stagnancy.

and, other than those two big things (and a desire to go to the desert), the rest of the year is open to a stack of surprise.

here’s to another new beginning and i hope you all had a great slide into this year.

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


bruce nauman nick wilder corridor_web

oh bruce, how i love thee.

there is a massive bruce nauman show at the hamburger bahnhof at the moment and i had the joy of going to see it with a new berlin buddy david bausola.

it was so lush that i’m going to go back and a) see it again on my own and b) do a listening project there.

dream passage was based on all the works he had done regarding corridors, journeys, passages and empty spaces. of course there were a bunch of his neon works there, which were great, but i honestly think that they could have been left out and it would have made no difference.

bruce nauman_trench and four passages web

however, there were other older works from the collection that i loved seeing and felt absolutely relevant: his art make up works – i hadn’t seen them before (and they gave me an idea for future work), his text: flayed earth/flayed self (skin/sink), musical chair,

i pressed myself against the wall (except i did it backwards, for the hell of it) for body pressure and had to be told to do it on the wall, not on the paper (oops!), and then almost ruined the marquette of his room with my soul left out trying to check out the underside, so that was a bit embarrassing.

but apart from those two gaffes, i really enjoyed the show.

the space itself is MASSIVE so i just limited myself to seeing the nauman works, having to pass up works by lawrence weiner, robert morris, yves klein and richard serra. but i will go back for them.

bruce nauman kassell_web

experiencing the kassell corridor was so beautiful. visually, it’s striking, experientially, a wonderful reprieve-space, but acoustically it’s fascinating – a strange amplification that is almost binaural – the sounds are close and far away at the same time. i listened to other people in the space from the outside before i went in and listened to people outside the space from inside the green crescent-shaped crevice.

as i said, i’m going to go back and do a more formal ‘listen’ real soon.

david, the meanie, took me into the bookstore and i promptly spent €25 on two books. fuck! but they were SO cheap: a lawrence weiner for €10 and global feminisms for €15! i just had to. regardless of the repercussions.

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