Tomato Puree Pantone 18-1661

I can’t eat tomatoes, it makes my body feel horrible, which is quite similar to how it’s generally been over the last few weeks. Overloaded with all things work, PhD, China organisation and planning, workshops and super socialising, I think I got to a stage where I thought I can’t keep up, knowing full well I can and I always do. As I tick things off the diminishing to-do list on the white board in my dining room, I slowly feel back in control of this adventure and rollercoaster we call life and it really is sometimes. Hence, the intensity and relevance of today’s Pantone colour. Where to begin? I’ll start with people…people that have passed through the PhD domain…

Today, I received an email from Suzana Milevska, who was part of the ‘Cultural Translation’ conference I spoke of in the last blog post. She came across my post, writing and thoughts by chance and wanted to send me a copy of the accompanying publication in the post, which is very kind of her. I look forward to reading it. Although not specifically directed at contemporary Chinese art, theories are definitely comparable and transferable. I think I will speak to her more formally when I get back from China about her use of particular curatorial strategies and translation. I also spoke about this with Director of the IKON Gallery, Jonathan Watkins, and his Exhibitions Assistant or aid, Diana Stevenson. RJW and I will be helping to install his show ‘Negotiations’ at the Today Art Museum in Beijing in the middle of September, from the 13th to the 18th, with the opening on the final evening. This is going to be such a research and networking opportunity for us both, and completely unforgettable. I am already feeling a little overwhelmed as to what might happen…no room for jet-lag…60 artists have got to be installed in about 8 days…somehow the Deputy Director of the museum, Xiaoqian Li, thought I spoke Mandarin (Chinese)…the basics, all I know are the mere basics, I’d say the respect words and phrases. Is that going to help me install an art exhibition?

I have been following the research and work of another PhD student called Iain Irving, who is lecturing and studying at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen. He is trying to produce a definition of independent curatorial practice and comes up with some interesting theoretical frameworks as shown below…

Research-Theory Framework © Iain Irving

He questions the use of the word curating as a substitute for selecting, where…

“If curating is about risk, creativity, challenge, cultural entrepreneurship and not so much of ‘quality’ and ‘impact’, events like the Venice Biennale, is selected and strictly managed and in fact not curated.” Iain Irving

Again, I think I will contact him for discussion after my time in China. Another useful and relevant perspective for my study.

Last Saturday, I held a bookbinding workshop at Wolverhampton Art Gallery as part of the events programming for the summer exhibition ‘Stories’. With eight attendees, I was actually quite nervous…would they understand my instructions, would they pay attention to the precision involved, would they make a book in the time allowed. They were all fantastic, picked up the process instinctively and made some very beautiful hardback books. It is always interesting to see people’s selection of paper, book cloth and headbands as their personalities, in my view, come through, and through the process of bookbinding, their nature. Some photos are below (all images are © Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage).

I may have even got some future work from this at a college in North Staffordshire, but that will have to happen in 2011 courtesy of China…oh China China China…so where am I at with this whirlwind trip? Apart from extremely excited of course. Well, all the flights, long-haul and internal have been booked, accommodation slowly on its way…and events to attend coming through by email at a very fast rate. The day after we fly in, we are attending the conference Collecting Asian Contemporary Art: What, When and How?’ at the ShContemporary Art Fair in Shanghai. Later on in that week, we are also attending the launch of and archive and a new book at the recently opened (in April 2010) Minsheng Art Museum – ‘Materials of the Future: Documenting Contemporary Chinese Art from 1980-1990’ and ‘Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents’. At these events, I will get to build bridges with some of my key interviewees Hou Hanru, Wu Hung and Wu Shanzhuan, and I’m sure other conversations, meetings and happenings will occur out of these.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking and planning all things business cards so they are ready to take out to China with me, and it’s a tough process. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Firstly, what do I call myself? I have changed the signature on my email from artist-curator to curator-researcher-writer, but that’s far too long to put on a business card…PhD student? but that immediately puts me in a certain category…then there are creative entrepreneur, art contortionist, artistic wordsmith, my friend calls himself a visual cowboy…but then am I just pigeonhole-ing myself if I give myself a title? I have made one decision though, which is to have my Chinese name on it, which in pinyin is ‘ma si teng’…

…in a literal sense it means a horse thinking and reflecting on flying, which I really like as somehow it fits with me. What do you think? And isn’t a flying horse a unicorn anyway?

I thought I’d finish with something which bought a smile to my face. I only use black bic biros, they are my constant and I love the way they write. No other pen will suffice, no matter how stupid that sounds. So, when my friend sent me a link to the article ‘reinventing the bic pen’, I couldn’t help but get a little excited. Find below one out of many examples shown on the webpage. If only you could get these…I’m sold on it!

'din-ink' by Andrea Cingoli, Paolo Emilio Bellisario, Cristian Cellini and Francesca Fontana (2007)

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