PART A, Reflective Learning

What is Art?  I don’t think my views have changed substantially on this subject, having worked through this module. I have the beginnings of a better understanding about art made from found objects through learning about contextual information. I think that contextual information is part of the art itself; the experience of the viewer is altered by knowing it.

I’ve enjoyed learning about conceptual art, but do find that aesthetic still heavily influences whether I ‘like’ a piece or not. I am drawn to the clever ideas with layers, or with humour, or that relate to the future and are out of reach. I have been surprised by the strength of my response to various pieces, from disgust and anger at Hirst, to acute irritation at Dean & Millar’s essay, to utter enchantment by Longplayer. Certainly the strength of response is increased the more I study something, and the guiding questions in each exercise are helping to reawaken my research skills. I graduated in 1995, pre-internet, and the experience is now entirely different. I find myself disappearing down virtual rabbit holes looking at art and watching interviews. What I’m not so good at is writing up what I find and think, and this is largely due to time pressure. I need to plan better.

I feel I am still missing something when reading critics’ articles. I struggled with this in the Drawing 1 module as well. I occasionally read one that is in a more journalistic tone that I can appreciate, but I often find them comically pretentious.

My learning log is this electronic blog (even my exhibition ticket was an e-ticket!). I have a notebook alongside in which I scribble notes simply because sometimes I prefer to write on paper than tap away at a laptop – it’s more organic – but those scribblings are mostly all written up in the blog. This is also something I was lacking in Drawing 1. Documenting minutiae doesn’t come naturally to me – in my practice, I keep and develop ideas in my head and rarely sketch them down, usually only if they’re keeping me awake or stopping me concentrating at work. I will consciously try to do this more as I progress through these studies.

PART B, Interpretation of Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave (2001)

In this essay I will describe my personal response to and interpretation of Jeremy Deller’s ‘The Battle of Orgreave’ (2001), both the original performance and subsequent installations. I will consider the role and impact of both Time and Place on the work, and explore the contextual information around it.

I do not remember the original event, having been only 10 years old in 1984, and was not aware of it. A first glance at the picture provided in the course material, ironically, gives the impression of a right-wing march because the participants are white males (as such groups tend to predominantly be), and the shaved heads and 80s clothes they wear have since been adopted by some of these groups in the UK. Closer inspection reveals that the banner they carry is of the Yorkshire Area of the National Union of Mineworkers. This changes perception immediately, and even with only a secondary-school level of history education, one realises that this picture is likely not of the present day, and has political connotations. My personal politics are fairly far left of centre, so my emotional response to a close look at this first picture is one of sympathy and interest to learn more, especially since the title is so evocative – there is clearly a dramatic story attached.

Time plays an important role in this work. The relatively short period of time that had passed since the conflict means that emotions are in some cases just as raw, with some participants allegedly being a little too exuberant in the fighting. This was surely to be expected by Deller, having met and spoken to original participants on both sides. Subsequent political and social changes are essential contextual information to this work. Jonathan Jones commented in the Guardian, “…what we see is as much about now as then. How did things change to such an extent – and so violently – that an entire history of the labour movement … is now safe and distant enough to be restaged like a battle that happened 500 years ago?” (accessed 18/01/20)

Time, or rather the misrepresentation of time, played a role in the public perception of the original event. In Mike Figgis’s documentary of the re-enactment, MP Tony Benn talks about how BBC footage was deliberately edited to portray the picketing miners throwing stones at the police, followed by a mounted charge, when in fact the charge took place first and the miners threw stones in retaliation., 13:40 (Accessed 18/01/20)

The event made a significant impression on 18-year-old Deller in 1984 and for a long time he wanted to research and re-enact it. I think the motivation to make the work was to highlight an injustice, evidenced by Deller’s own description; “Basically, I was asking the re-enactors to participate in the staging of a battle that occurred within living memory, alongside veterans of the campaign. I’ve always described it as digging up a corpse and giving it a proper post-mortem, or as a thousand-person crime re-enactment.” (accessed 26/01/20). His intent may have been, in part, to afford some closure to those involved in the incident by inviting them to take part, some taking the role of a member of the opposing ‘side’, or to spectate from the sidelines and experience the atmosphere. Deller said of the veterans prior to the re-enactment “They’re excited I think … because no-one has spoken about these things in public for quite a long time. There are a lot of things that still need to be resolved”, 4:15 (Accessed 18/01/20). I believe Deller decided to re-enact the conflict in Orgreave for the same reason. Search engine algorithms notwithstanding, an internet search for ‘Orgreave’ reveals very few results that are not related to the battle. In this virtual environment at least, the place is synonymous with the event and holds momentous meaning in the history of trade unionism and British industry representing a pivotal moment in the doomed fight against Thatcherism.

Orgreave had such an impact on Deller that it featured in a number of his works in the years leading up to his securing the commission to realise his re-enactment vision. It appears as one of the links between Acid House and Brass Bands in ‘The History of the World’ (1997), and even earlier, in 1994, Deller was signalling his aspiration with a poster that he displayed to advertise other exhibitions “announcing the Sealed Knot’s re-enactment of ‘the bloody battle of Orgreave’ under the title ‘The English Civil War (part 2)’” (accessed 27/01/20)

There were clear stages to the conflict that took place over several areas; the original stand-off, the charge of the mounted officers and snatching of targeted individuals, the retaliation of the miners, the dangerous drive onto railway tracks and the pursuit and clashes through the village. To capture all this in a single work, Deller almost has to use live actors and film as his medium. One might consider the entire village as an installation piece for that one day; the spectators were afforded an immersive, time-bound experience.

The subsequent, more permanent, art installation at the Tate was in two rooms. In one, a collection of workings, research documents, artefacts such as clothes, newspapers and a riot shield, from both the original conflict and the re-enactment, archive TV news coverage playing on a screen, all displayed around a timeline of the clash and surrounding events. In the other the Mike Figgis documentary film plays. The description on the Tate website is objective, and makes the work seem all the more poignant. I would like to have seen it.

Jeremy Deller was deeply affected as a young man by a traumatising social conflict played out and twisted on television. He spent years processing his thoughts and ideas about it, a process culminating in the re-enactment, described by Hettie Judah as ‘A monument of sorts, the performance was at once participatory ritual, spectacle, living archive and a space to mourn’. (accessed 27/01/20). Both the film and the Tate installation are powerful portraiture of the end of a chapter of British history which particularly affected the North of England, absolutely evocative of that time and that place.

PART 1. Project 3, Case Study: ‘A Place Beyond Belief’

‘A Place Beyond Belief’, Nathan Coley (2012)


Initial Response

It looks like an advert for a carnival – ‘come and see this wondrous place you won’t quite believe’, then I notice the silhouetted church and wonder if the context is something else, does ‘belief’ refer to religious faith?

Questions to ask to make sense of the piece would be around the presence of he church, which leads to whether the work relates to its surroundings – is it site-specific? Is it a comment about religion? What is the concept behind it?

Type of work – installation, possibly site-specific, conceptual

The text is ambiguous, both the word ‘place’ and the word ‘belief’ have several meanings, both alone and in combination with each other.


Reflection on Coley’s Practice

Coley is a conceptual artist. He makes objects ‘that speak in his absence’–films–tate-shots.html (accessed 26/01/20)

He believes that it is important in this fast digital age to make things without any purpose other than to be looked at.

Ideas he is interested in are location, specific places, how people articulate their moral or religious or social ideas,–films–a-place-beyond-belief.html (accessed 26/01/20) also how communities create architecture that relates to how they see themselves–films–tate-shots.html (accessed 26/01/20)

He chooses phrases that relate to particular events and opens them up to interpretation by the viewer. In interviews he often ascribes more than one possible meaning to elements of his work. He asks questions with his work.


Further analysis

After listening to that Nathan Coley’s monologue about the piece, I understand that the word belief most likely refers to religion, or at least to preconceptions. Place does not refer to location, it refers to a state of being of human society.  The work is actually situated in Pristina in Kosovo, between the Christian church that Milosevic began to build in this largely Muslim community, and the library.

This contextual information has altered my response to the piece. I can see that it is far more political than I first perceived. My views have changed in that I feel I understand it better and am more certain that it is a hopeful symbol to be projected to the international community by a young country eager to escape the label of being war-torn. It asks us to learn from past horrors that we must stop doing damage to those with different views and values.

Contextual information is important in order to understand contemporary art on a deeper level and in the way that the artist intends. I don’t believe it’s essential in order to experience art in a valuable way- a viewer may simply enjoy the superficial aesthetics of a piece – but it supports a richer and more enduring encounter.

I think the piece has a simple beauty in the dark, it grabs attention immediately and makes the viewer wonder about its meaning.

Coley uses this theme of words or phrases picked out in light-bulbs in several pieces. Most of them have been shown in more than one location, here I assume Coley is playing with the site-specificity of the phrases and seeing their meaning changed when mounted somewhere new.

He also uses cardboard extensively. I like his commentary around ‘The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh 2004’ (2014), piece which is “a snapshot of a place and its faith”, he talks about using cardboard, the cheap material we use to keep valuable things safe. Coley likes the contradiction between the ‘nothing material…. [with] no inherent beauty or strength to it’ and, for example, richly adorned Catholic chapels where the materials have value and metaphor.–films–generation.html (accessed 25/01/20). In another interview he talks about the response of viewers being to look for their world. The cardboard buildings are not laid out to correspond with their location in the city, and people look for those they recognise. (accessed 26/01/20)

There are clear connections across his work, architecture and society are the underlying themes.

PART 1. Project 3, Exercise 2, Developing Research Skills

Katie Paterson

Vatnajökull (the sound of) 2007–08

Paterson connected a telephone line to an underwater microphone near the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland which recorded the sound of the glacier melting.

This installation was both site-specific; the glacier occupies a single specific place and cannot be moved to another, and time-bound; the glacier will eventually completely melt and cease to exist.

There is no longer any audio on Paterson’s website, but a recording is available at the following link at time of writing. The sound is reminiscent of corn popping in a pan, with a lot of reverb added:

(Accessed 23/12/19)

Paterson originally exhibited a phone, with the mobile phone number of the glacier displayed as a neon sign above it, and visitors could call the number. In fact anyone could call the number from any phone, and only one caller could connect at any one time. She has subsequently exhibited the work as a retrospective piece: I’ve made a special archive for PKM, with the neon sign of the phone number, photographs of the place and a book which lists the 10,000 phone-numbers that called. When I was compiling the book, I was astonished to find that people from far-reached places like Samoa were calling.

(Accessed 07/01/20)

Paterson’s work deals a lot with cosmology and geology and time. It is conceptual, designed to make the viewer think about the idea of the piece. Medium is clearly secondary to concept.

Those I found most interesting are the fascinating ‘Fossil Necklace’ (2013), which comprises spherical beads of identical size made from fossilised matter from all around the world, arranged in chronological order from the Pre-Cambrian period 4,570m years ago to the present Holocene, and the quirky ‘Second Moon’ (2013-14) which is a packing crate containing a piece of moon rock, shipped by airfreight all around the world for one year- sent on a man-made orbit. The position of the rock was tracked and charted against ‘user’s location’ and that of the moon and other planets in our solar system.

Patterson has also created a work that adults alive today will never see completed. In ‘Future Library’ (2014-2114) she has planted a forest in Norway, the trees of which will provide the paper for books to be published in the year 2114. Each year between 2014 and then a writer will contribute a text to be included, which will not be read until then. This, like Longplayer, directs the viewer to thoughts of the future.

Another clever piece is a lifelong project called ‘Ideas’ (2015 – ). This is simply a book with short statements that feed the imagination. The viewer is the medium.

PART 1. Project 3, Exercise 1, Place


‘PLACE – THE FIRST OF ALL THINGS’. Opening essay of the book ‘Place’. London: Thames and Hudson, by Dean and Millar (2005)

I have had little exposure to critical writing in the Arts. My previous experience of higher education is in the biological sciences; essays in this field tend to follow the pattern of hypothesis, context, method, results, conclusion. In my professional life, I frequently read technical financial papers and commercial and legal contractual documents. These are also logically constructed.

I found this essay about ‘place’ to be rambling and confused. It seems to me that the authors are attempting to attach various philosophical concepts to the word ‘place’ and describe some conflict between them, when in fact, like many other words in the English language, ‘place’ simply has more than one meaning. The concluding paragraph is far from a summation, rather it is a ‘throw-away’ statement about hoping that the reader is encouraged by what the authors have ‘gathered’ to “dwell a little upon this rich, enduring, bewildering subject”. It is quite evident that they are themselves bewildered. For example they seem to be at pains to say that place is not location, and yet they use the word in that very context a number of times throughout the piece.

That said, I found several statements interesting relating to the meaning that is not simply location;

  • ‘[Place] is a word that is used to describe our relationship to the world around us’ (page 12)
  • ‘We can use [place] to describe the relative ‘rightness’ of a situation’ (page 13)
  • Place is something more often sensed than understood, an indistinct region of awareness rather than something clearly defined (page 14)
  • Place is something known to us, somewhere that belongs to us in a spiritual, if not possessive, sense and to which we too belong (page 14)

The authors follow this last by quoting Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders (1887) which posits that one has to know the human history of a place (location) in order to belong. I disagree with this, many people feel a sense of belonging immediately in a new place (location). I experienced this in moving to a new house last year; I had no knowledge of the area, the house is brand new and yet we walked in and knew we belonged there.

Perhaps I lack a poetic soul, but the paragraph on page 14 about James Joyce writing that ‘places remember events’, with the authors going on to list historical events that are subsequently known by the place names in which they occurred – Hiroshima, Auschwitz, Chernobyl…. there are also more positive examples like Woodstock – saying that the place gives itself wholly over to the event, simply doesn’t resonate with me. My opinion is that this is simply linguistic shorthand. I’m sure the current residents of Hiroshima don’t define their city by the bomb that the US dropped on it.


PART 1. Project 2, Case Study: Longplayer

Initial thoughts:

Beautiful sounds and colours, utterly intriguing idea.


The title is a play on words that will pass many younger people by; this in itself is a reflection on the passage of time and the development of media by which music is recorded and shared.

The physical installation is visually simple, with beautiful rich natural colours that seem to glow in the low light. This complements the soft, ethereal sounds of the bowls.

The use of basic materials in a spartan setting is a clear juxtaposition to the technology required to create the audio output. The singing bowls, which will never need to be ‘tuned’, are a solid constant underneath the uncertainty of the technological future of the piece. These aspects are strongly linked to ‘time’, elegantly and subtly bringing perceptions of past and questions of future together.

The sound of the bowls is calming and creates a contemplative atmosphere for listeners. I imagine the muted colours and stillness of the physical piece enhance this effect further.

Since the musical piece is 1,000 years long and cannot be experienced by an individual in full, this naturally drives one’s thoughts to the future, to what will happen as the piece reaches its conclusion in 2199; will it be stopped or set off on another millennial loop? Will it last until then, become a cultural phenomenon? Or fade into obscurity due to lack of interest or funding? With no possibility of answers to these questions, this train of thought leads inevitably to one’s own mortality and how we use our own time. The length of the piece also influences how it is experienced; listeners who visit the live installations choose how long to stay. Online listeners may have the music playing in the background. It is always accessible.

The way the piece of music is derived by selecting combinations of the composition from each ring of the ‘score’ is reminiscent of an analogue clock; the hour, minute and second hands all use the same 360° face but move at different rates to each describe a different amount of time.

PART 1. Project 2, Exercise 2, Interpreting Video Art

Sam Taylor Wood’s Still Life (2001) is a 3m 40s film which documents the decomposition of a bowl of fruit over several weeks. The initial frame shows a fairly tight view of a flat wicker bowl on a wooden table, piled with various soft fruits in hues of gold and red against a rustic shaded wall. If not for the blue biro pen in the foreground, one might mistake it for a Dutch Masters-era painting.

This piece is a modern day momento mori, showing the viewer what past artists only alluded to. The medium of film allows Taylor Wood to add a new layer of ‘life is temporary and fleeting’ symbolism with the inclusion of the entire lifecycle of organisms in this short timespan; various molds bloom then die before our eyes. These growths unexpectedly, and uncomfortably, spread outside the bowl and far onto the table. The temporary nature of organic matter is accentuated by the plastic pen, which is untouched by the decay that moves across the frame.

‘Still Life’ is not typical of Taylor Wood’s work. She filmed a similar piece, ‘A Little Death’ in 2002 which depicts the decomposition of a hare, but most of her work features the human figure, candid or posed, the subject often a well-known actor, or herself.

Other artists dealing with decay include Tacita Dean, ‘Prisoner Pair’ (2008) is a film of two pears in alcohol, breaking down in sunlight. (accessed 10/01/20)

Kathleen Ryan explores the subject in a different way, recreating rotting fruit using precious stones. The resulting work repulses from a distance but is beautiful up close.

Bad Lemon (Creep), 2019, Kathleen Ryan. (accessed 10/01/20)

‘Serpentine Flurry’ 2019, Kathleen Ryan


PART 1. Project 2, Exercise 1, The Fourth Dimension

Thoughts on Time

Time is something I generally consider only in terms of what I can do in a measure of it. My professional life as an accountant is strongly time-bound, whether it is cyclical deadlines of month-ends or quarterly forecasts, or managing my team’s activity in order to achieve outputs ready to be collated by myself or other stakeholders at the appropriate time. Outside of work I aim to allocate time to balance Arts study, choir commitments, ‘down-time’, seeing family and friends, failing to exercise! I know there isn’t enough of it and it seems to be speeding up as I get older.

I think the only way in which I’ve considered time in relation to Art is in terms of historical periods, such as ‘What would Monet have thought of street art?’ or ‘What would DaVinci think of helicopters?’ or conversely ‘Imagine having to mix all your own paints from medium and pigment that won’t necessarily last, and not being able to just order some Windsor & Newton paint off Amazon with next-day delivery…’

I don’t recall coming across art that deals specifically with time as a subject.


PART 1. Project 3, Exercise 3, Gallery or Site Visit

I visited this exhibition because Longplayer is featured and I was excited to see it ‘in the flesh’, and I was confident that the wider content of the exhibition would likely address place and time. Sadly, the Longplayer installation was completely disappointing; a single illuminated panel of the circular score beside a block bench with two pairs of headphones, and very little information. I wish I had just gone to Trinity Buoy Wharf actually, having made the trip to London… I found myself enthusing about it to an American family who were confused by what they were looking at, even showing them the App on my phone – I don’t normally talk to strangers if I can help it. Safe to say I’m a bit hooked by Longplayer!


Eadward Muybridge: The Horse in Motion (1882)

These images were captured using many cameras, all triggered by trip-wires as the horse passed them. The work was commissioned by Leland Stanford (Founder of Stanford University) to help understand equine locomotion in a bid to breed faster race horses. Muybridge and Marey used the method to document movement in many different species, including humans. Artists such as Edgar Degas and Thomas Eakins used the image sequences to improve the realism of their own work.  (accessed 26/01/20)

The photographic sequences were released for sale in large volumes, one of which is on display in this exhibition. With a degree in Zoology, I am already familiar with them, and find it pleasing that they tie in with my Art studies also. Standing beside the cabinet, I certainly felt the historical importance of the large, leather-bound tome in front of me, representing, as it does, developments in both Arts and Science; photography and physiology.


‘A Manufacturing Town’, JS Lowry (1922)

I love Lowry’s work and was pleasantly surprised to find it included here. This piece absolutely deals with Place. Deliberately anonymous, and therefore not tied to ‘location’, it captures a feeling, a definite Northern identity and sense of familiarity and belonging. This is what I always experience when looking at Lowry’s work (although being a first generation Southerner in my family, I could be accused of appropriation…). I had not considered its relation to Time. On the BBC site that accompanies the exhibition, Sir Ian Blatchford provides the following commentary:

“… more than anything, time is always present. The factory clock is an actor in many of Lowry’s paintings. It’s there in Lowry’s ‘Going to Work’, ‘Coming Home from the Mill’, and in ‘Early Morning’. Sure enough in a manufacturing town it looms like a master above the sprawling crowds ... The industrial processes work because of time … Clocks are the key machine in industrialisation.”  (accessed 26/01/20)


‘Sun on the Pool Los Angeles April 13th 1982’, David Hockney (1982)

Until asked to mount an exhibition of his photography at the Pompidou Centre in 1982, Hockney had dismissed photography as akin to ‘looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed Cyclops – for a split second’. Curator Alain Sayag suggested the use of a Polaroid camera, and a new phase in Hockney’s practice was born. Capturing multiple facets of an image allowed him to create work that was ‘abstracted, stylized: the ideas were based on Cubism in the way that it filters things down to an essence’. Hockney said, “It worked so well that I couldn’t believe what was happening when I looked at it. I saw all these different spaces, and I thought: “My God! I’ve never seen anything like this in photography.” (accessed 26/01/20).

I just love the aesthetic of this piece. As always, one gets a little star-struck looking at an original and thinking of the artist handling the object now inches in front of your face. Hockney produced a great many pieces like this, and later moved on to more conventional film rather than polaroids, but I think the white borders add a lot to the narrative; they make each view more static, and make the viewer feel they have paused to more closely look at the subject. The later pieces without the borders have a movement to them and are less appealing to me personally.

PART 1. Project 1, Exercise 5, Finding Out More


Notes from listening to [accessed 17/11/19]


The shark was caught and killed for this purpose

The tank is a frame

The commentators discussed that modern art is more open to interpretation than before and referenced Duchamp, “a work of art is completed by the viewer”. They also referenced the influence of the 1975 Spielberg film, Jaws, on the way humans feel about sharks.

The title itself is a challenge and is poetic, but it also clashes with the physical piece and one of the commentators states that ‘this is where the art is’ and that this piece gives the viewer ‘a complicated experience’.

This is not the original shark; the first one dissolved.  The commentators discussed whether this was intentional or an inadvertent side-effect. One commented that Hirst is struggling to keep the shark intact then posed the somewhat clumsy rhetorical question ‘who isn’t struggling to keep themselves intact?’

On the subject of whether Hirst intended for the piece to be permanent, one commentator pointed out that the choice to use a real shark versus a fake one, and using formaldehyde versus Amber suggests not.

They stated that one definition of art is that it outlives us; is trans-generational. That humans have tried to stop time throughout history (I read this as meaning the effects of time).

At the end of the video the commentators stated that modern art poses philosophical questions whilst giving no answers and is not always concerned only with aesthetics, if at all.


Having more contextul information around this piece does not change my view of it; I cannot get past Hirst’s killing of animals for his art. The video also references the bisected sheep he preserved. Yet more works are referenced in the 02/04/12 Guardian article by Adrian Searle. I recently read an article on this subject that estimates his ‘body-count’ is approaching 1 million.

PART 1. Project 1, Exercise 2, What is Art?

What is art? This is a huge question and the answer has to be really subjective. Is it just anything that is made by a human? But then why aren’t manufactured goods art? Does it then become about context? The piece in the previous exercise, Fountain, is a urinal that was manufactured. Does it become art because the artist says its art?

Duchamp said he wanted ‘to put art back in the service of the mind’. I think perhaps the ‘artwork’ in that case is no longer the piece of porcelain in front of the viewer; it’s the thoughts that they are having about that object and any discussions they then have with others.

My current personal view is that art should require some kind of skill from the artist, whether that’s technical skill or vision or design. I’m often not entirely comfortable with somebody just calling a found object art when it then becomes the words around the object that make it art – those words often sound entirely false and pretentious to me. I feel like I’m being conned or given the ‘hard sell’. Does this mean I like to be spoon-fed? Or not challenged?

‘Does art need to move you emotionally?’ I’m not sure what that question really means. We have an emotional response to everything we perceive, even indifference is an emotional response. Is the question about the strength of response? If so, then this still cannot be a measure of whether something is art because everyone has a different responses.

‘Does art have to be unique?’ I don’t think so. This question can be interpreted in more than one way: just one original? Print-makers may object! An entirely new idea? That would mean that no cover version of a song could ever be called art.