Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MA FYI zine #2

Here is the second zine I've completed for my course since I've been away. It's the Instruction & Advice Issue. We've met and continue to meet such great and inspiring people and I wanted to juxtapose the good sense and inspired ideas we've been offered, with the anonymous imperatives that come from street signs, packaging and sometimes even artwork. I'm pleased with this, using my photos was a great way to express things with immediacy. I've nearly finished the third one on the Feminist Serendipity which has decided the over-arching vibe of our stay.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

MyTMyT Germany 2010

MyTMyT Germany 2010, originally uploaded by jo-harrison.

Just completed this poster for the great band My Tiger My Timing. Electro-pop-indie brilliance. They're most lovely for dancing too.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Window Dancers 7, originally uploaded by jo-harrison.

I am getting all technical and have just set up my new Flickr account and linked it to this blog! I'm the artist formerly known as Eliza Lazy, but that aka wasn't really working for me, as it was based on a joke about my workaholism which ended up getting lost and looking a bit pretentious. So now my professional identity will be very much me. I had previously thought that my given name was a bit boring, but to hell with it, it's my work that should be interesting after all!

The piece above from my flickr site which you can find here is part of a public art project for Crawley Borough Council. The recession has left lots of empty units and there has been funding to cheer up vacant units and thus the town centre. There has been some criticism levelled at the government for this, as it can be perceived as using artists as a way to distract from more urgent economic problems by being window dressing if you'll excuse the literal pun.

I understand that point but, artists need every break they can get in a very competitive world, we make things that are to be seen after all. And also very importantly, if it's done with good intentions and thought then it can be a great opportunity to use a great big space for positive ideas.

I chose to celebrate the young women of our town, this is one of 8 images created for empty commercial units. I wanted to use vibrant, dynamic, positive images of young women where they are represented dancing and expressing themselves rather than just being employed to decorate or sell things. Also Crawley is a very ethnically diverse town and I wanted the work to acknowledge this, since everyone should be represented in our cultural landscape. The images are based on photographs taken by the very talented Tony Witton who is currently exhibiting a collection of his live music photos at the Ginger Moo gallery also in Crawley.

All things feminist.

If this trip to NY (only three weeks left, will be so sad to leave) has had a recurring theme, it's that feminism is very much alive and kicking like hell. I never doubted it but it's nice to have proof! I was involved in a discussion over drinks with Mapes and Jen Nedeau (excellent writer/feminist/blogger/activist) the other evening and the subject of feminist awakenings came up. It got me thinking about mine, or if I actually had one, I never had a definitive clanging 'Hang on this isn't right - I'm a feminist' as a teenager; I did bunk off school to have the chinese symbol for 'woman' tatooed on my breast at 16, while my heavily pregnant friend had her backside tattooed by a man so creepy he should have worn a bell around his neck (thank you Scrubs for such an excellent quote, needless to say it was aimed at The Todd). Despite my feminist intentions with the tattoo, the experience kinda cancelled out the vibe. I later learned that Melanie C aka Sporty Spice has the same one on her arm...girl power?...

Anyway I digress, I feel I need to look at the notion of such awakenings now, since having been reading, studying, eating and breathing feminist rhetoric, polemic and theory for a long time I have decided upon an outlet for doing something concrete beyond hoarding all of this great information in my brain and just talking. My MA project's new title 'Under Represented & Over Exposed' will be a means to produce material that I aim to have work beyond the gallery space. Material that will tackle the problem of young women and feminist consciousness, a zine and other well-designed, humourous and informative pamphlets and non-profit merch to raise awareness, bolster self-esteem and describe the nature of how self-worth is manipulated by the world around us. I want to make things that will circulate on lapels, on pin boards, taped to books etc. and for the knowledge and messages to be absorbed as normal. I've never wanted to be 'all mouth and no trousers' as the saying goes, so watch this space.

But, I wonder, what kind of things will prompt a feminist awakening in girls and young women under-schooled in their own worth and relevance beyond what is conventionally acceptable and successfully marketable? And in a culture that derides the term feminist, and where one often hears a sentence begin with 'I'm not a feminist but....' as if it's a shameful thing to align yourself with something that promotes equality, freedom, inclusion and diversity? I felt that my teen years were a struggle to fit in, to juggle what I actually wanted to do (stay at home and draw mostly) and what I needed to do and look-like to be acceptable, but by today's standards, I think I had a much easier ride. I feel quite lucky that Grunge was around during my adolescence since it meant that to a degree, for the brief period it was fashionable (before it gave way to scraped back ponytails and bronzing powder) I was able to look bloody scruffy and go unnoticed in this, ghostly pale Collection 2000 powder and black cherries Rimmel lipstick and maybe that weird green concealer from Avon that 'evens out skin tone' were the thing, spots were neutralised and the stark contrast with the lipstick drew attention away from anything else, blemishes, other facial features, natural disasters etc. Such minimal concerns compared to the ever expanding task of grooming today's women are undertaking seem almost quaint.

I hit the big 3-0 in just over three months, and I'm only just crawling out of the abjectly self-conscious pit I fell into as a teenager myself, and that's even with all of all of the things I read, understand, believe and champion. But despite this, is it audacious to want to tackle things for younger women? Is it do-gooding gone mad? Will I look ridiculous trying to talk to 'the kids'? I'm so comfortable in my un-hippness these days is this aim laughable? I hope not, I mean I'm not quite old enough to be the same age as their parents...well. But anyway that shouldn't be an issue, after all some of the coolest brands are no doubt run by old men that wear chinos and deck shoes and are only interested in separating teenagers from the cash in theirs and their parents' wallets, so in that context the strategic aim to boost self-worth and connect like minds isn't so bad.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Art Activities Catch Up + PATTI SMITH!

I've not posted for two weeks now. So much has gone on and I kept meaning to but had lost some momentum, it started to seem like too much to write about without missing things out. But not posting anything for that reason is silly so will catch up here! Most of what we've been up to has been art-related with the odd exception. In the last two weeks we've been to three art fairs, one opening party at a local bar/gallery (which was lots of fun, especially as I got to chat with and get on really well with the artist and curator both of whom are lovely), two museums, one gallery, an auction/benefit for Haiti and a shop that sells almost exclusively artists books and zines which meant that I had to monitor my spending and drooling! (Megan Gulick's exhibtion in Jersey City)

First up, the fairs, I wasn't sure what to expect as I've never been to Frieze or Zoo or anything like that, but even despite being quite hungover on the Friday for The Armory Show (New York's equivalent to Frieze) I really enjoyed it, so many great artists (and some dreadful ones too) in one place. Seeing such a wealth of material at once was quite daunting, but I began quite quickly to be selective, I adopted an 'I know what I like' policy overall as there's so much to get through, I tried not to check the name first but tended to take time with things that caught my eye, art browsing I suppose. I was interested by the fact that there was lots of painting and the wacky/conceptual/cryptic stuff was thinner on the ground than I'd imagined. Something we noticed which wasn't about the art but rather about the attending demographic was that there was virtually no-one there who could have had a BMI over about 20, which is interesting since the US is renowned for its obesity problem. Of course I'm being facetious, it was a bit bloody posh. We noticed a prominent theme in some of the work, of birds and animals in general and chickens in particular. We took a series of photos with Sarah standing confused by chicken related material. Honestly, there were loads!

We went to X Initiative and Pulse art fairs in Chelsea on Sunday - a gloriously sunny day! The stuff at X-Initiative was hosting a lot of non-representational work and some difficult to approach work, I found it a bit difficult to engage with most of the material. There was, however a great piece by Valie Export and a De Lorean one of which I've never seen in real life. There sadly was no Flux-Capacitor but it was still exciting nonetheless. Pulse was great, a veritable smogasbord of talent, stunning painting, sculpture, photography and installation all in a warehouse space almost on the waterfront of the Hudson. Stand out artists for me were:- Alex Prager, Adriana Duque, Megan Greene, Sara Rahbar, Cecilia Paredes, Devora Sperber, Eleanor Rendeiro & Thomas Mueller.


When my man Alex came to visit we did lots of touristy things, we had some great weather for visiting the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, Going to the top of the Empire State Building and a stroll in Central Park. We also visited the International Institute of Photography and because the Tim Burton exhibition was sold out we went to the American Folk Art Museum, which is next door to MOMA and excellent, they currently have an exhibition running call 'Approaching Abstraction' which dispells the myth that self-taught and folk artists are only ever representational and literal. The work in this show is stunning, expressive and thought provoking really worth a visit if you're ever in New York. Next month starting April 6th are two new shows there:-
Women Only: Folk Art by Female Hands & The Private Collection of Henry Darger both of which I'm really looking forward to seeing.

This Monday just gone we went to a Haiti Benefit at Sotherby's where a piece of work by Sarah's friend Stuart Semple was up for auction and also Patti Smith was playing. It was wonderful, I couldn't quite believe it was happening she was stood 8 feet away at most and just in front of us, no stage, nothing. I was totally awestruck and very amused when she gobbed on their carpet!

Today visited another piece of Semple's work in a group show in Chelsea called 'Nobody gets to see the wizard. Not no one. Not no how' an interesting Oz themed collection. Semple's main piece 'Ding Dong (Thatcher's dead)' which compirises of a big black model of a house with feet in blue court shoes with big buckles poking out from underneath, along with an eerie blue glowing, is witty and, since I think that anyone with a heartbeat should loathe Thatcher (when we were little my mum used to get m and my brother Jamie to shout 'Maggie Maggie Maggie! Out Out Out! That's parental indoctrination for you!) I really like it! The other piece I really liked was by an artist called Deborah Kass from her series 'Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times' and it's called 'Forget Your Troubles', executed in a playful pop style with just the title covering the canvas it's a witty and uplifting piece.

After that we visited Printed Matter Inc. around the corner which has been on my list of places to visit since I came across a book by an artist called Kim Beck (who is wonderful judging by the book and her website) This shop deals in artist books and is heaven for any art/bibliophile like myself, I will be going back before we leave. I bought an issue of a journal called Lovely Daze. It's an artist's bi-yearly journal divided into months and full stunning photography, drawing, painting and writing. It is celebratory I think is the best word, not a trace of clever, clever, edgy, knowing, trendy, cynical, quasi-ironic bullshit. It's artists that respect eachother sharing their work with each other. I love it, it will be one of my most treasured possessions from this trip I'm sure of it.
(Kim Beck - artist)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sturdy Women

I'm continuing with gusto on this 'Ladylike or not' theme. I'm inspired by my very favourite painter Paula Rego. Her narrative paintings are populated with sturdy women who all have substantial calves and thighs. I will never be willowy or waif-like and these paintings where I omit nothing, every shapely element is included and these images still work. I do not need to shave off any 'unslightly' ounces of flesh to make them interesting or acceptable. I am thoroughly enjoying working in this way it feels very refreshing. Also the fact that I am painting on cheap parcel paper is freeing, I am not feeling the trepidation of the glaring white page.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Some painting

I've been having a wee paint, still testing the water and really enjoying it. With these images I'm looking at bodily gesture and notions of 'lady-like' or not.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Seth Tobocman

Also in Bluestockings this evening I came across an artist who's work has really inspired me. Seth Tobocman's book 'You Don't Have To Fuck People Over To Survive' is full of narrative and stand-alone pieces of work which challenge the status quo and ask questions. I like the seemingly simple, yet very effective and concise aesthetic and also the fact that all of his work is bold and will reproduce well in black and white, something which I'd decided I wanted to focus on in any zine work I'll be doing in future.

What was especially pleasing to me was that the asking of questions and making statements about the world from one person's point of view in an attempt to inspire and possibly change the world for the better is treated in an artful way. It's not that this approach is new to me I've loved the work of Barbara Kruger, Ilona Granet and jenny Holzer since I was at school, perhaps I'm just feeling more positive? I always feel that for my ideas to work well visually there must be some wildcard or cryptic element that makes it 'art', even though I love the combination of art and activism that and that the visual manifestation of ideas is crucial to any group or individual hoping to propagate their message.

Education Station

Well, despite oversleeping today we managed to cram in some good stuff. We went to a free flea market on the Upper West Side, and had a good walk getting there from 33rd St to 76th. There was lots of cool brik-a-brak, clothes and thrift jewellery that if I buy any I'll one day be able to say should anyone ask 'oh, I just picked it up for $10 in a flea market in Manhattan' and feel all excited to be able to say something like that, rather than my usual - oh I got it in Primark!

Then we hopped on the subway to the Lower East Side and went to Bluestockings feminist/activist bookshop for a talk. The talk was entitled 'Towards a Global Autonomous University' and described thus: Where once the factory was a paradigmatic site of struggle between workers and capitalists, so now the university is a key space of conflict, where the ownership of knowledge and the reproduction of labor are coined. Join George Caffentzis, Silvia Federici and other contributors to the book “Toward a Global Autonomous University” for a discussion about intellectual resistance and militant student movements.

We weren't sure what to expect and thought it may contain mostly discussion about American education, but it was really interesting and although there was a fair amount that was difficult to follow because US policy is different to that in the UK, a lot rang true, especially since we both became undergraduates after grants were abolished and tuition fees and student loans were instigated. I'm now a full fee paying postgraduate student and also have experience teaching in a university so it pretty much all applied!

Issues discussed were:-

*The exportation of knowledge as a commodity.

*The rise of student debt and the fact that to be in the running for decent paying jobs you are expected to have degree level qualifications. One of the panelists described this as a tax on workers. The student who wants to get a decent job in our capitalist society, where their labour will then be exploited for capitalist gain, must pay for that privilege. And the icing on top of this is that when beginning to search for work as a graduate it becomes only too apparent that one is required to have 'industry experience' sometimes two to five year's worth to be considered a worthy applicant. Who then get the plum jobs despite the supposedly more egalitarian education system with 50% of school leavers at Uni regardless of class? Yes, the graduates whose parents or personal wealth can allow them to work for free and gain the experience. So with this in mind, many graduates can end up in jobs they may have had, had they not attended university but with a heavy debt.
*The idea that the tax payer shouldn't bear the brunt of education that is essentially for personal gain by incrementally upping a person's salary as opposed to furthering knowledge for society at large.
*Students as a guarantee of revenue for universities. Since any amount that a student pays in tuition is not the full amount that the university will receive, the state is still subsidising the student's tuition.
*Life-long learning initiative as a new commodity for sale, the idea that we can only continue to gather new skills as an adult at a price and that rather than having been taught critical and inventive skills at a young age which can then be applied with experience and therefore gain new wisdom, it suggests our knowledge faculties go stale and need to be boosted by sanctioned courses at a price. That in our culture, the only knowledge worth having is institutionalised and expensive.
*Constant testing and the monetary value of grades.
*The lack of permanent positions for faculty staff and the increasing reliance on untenured or associate lecturers who have fewer benefits and who usually need to take other work to support such a choice of career, often studying at their own expense to PhD level whilst watching the chances of gaining permanent employment in a university drying up. This is interesting because one can suppose that students are paying more than ever to be taught by people, who from no fault of their own, may not be able to give the job their full attention. It also reinforces the fact that someone from a working class background, that however brilliant they may be do in their first degree, if they cannot secure funding for post-graduate study then they may never be able to qualify to teach in tertiary education and so a pool of talent, that might be an inspiration to those students from a working class background, goes to waste.

Three things that occurred to me whilst mulling all of this over...

One, the way that students are derided. 'Bloody students' isn't an uncommon phrase especially in the UK. In lots of cases it may not seem surprising, after all, the student life is represented and encouraged as a rite of passage for hedonistic laziness and, now that there are more people going, the less a degree is generally considered to be worth. The mocking of "Mickey Mouse" courses (Media Studies in particular has this levvied against it, despite its usefulness in understanding and deconstructing the culture that feeds us our world view...hmmm) only go to furthering the notion that students deserve the derision. I've met drunk lazy students, and students hell-bent on getting away with doing as little as possible (I've met lots of lazy full-time workers being paid for their efforts who like to do the same, if only they could get away with it) but there are a great deal of extremely ambitious, hard-working students who do not deserve the label and should spend their spare time as they see fit. Also these people were encouraged to be there by the government who may have used this tactic to alter the number of unemployed school leavers. So, when this is the accepted view of a group, sympathy for any well-founded protests about the price of tuition and diminished contact time is scarce. So does this mean that those who benefit the least from these initiatives actually end up paying for making the powers-that-be look better, when all they've done is sidestep the issue of the lack of jobs or training schemes for the young?

Two, these 'lazy' students who rely on their loans to pay their living expenses. When I did my degree the loan came to just over £3,000 per year and in Brighton barely covered rent for those of my friends who lived in student housing, so, everyone with limited funds had to work part-time to afford food, clothing, books and god-forbid a social life. Now I see that as a major disadvantage since it's more difficult to concentrate whole-heartedly on a full-time course when working part-time is a necessity. So guess which demographic ends up with a compromised future regardless of effort and ambition?

& Three, that if someone who is very talented creatively but low on funding wants to follow a career path in the arts which would most suit their skills and fulfill them as a person (something that I don't think should be considered a luxury) is lured by the compromise of using those skills once they've graduated (and sometimes before!) in the field of advertising or the marketing of products and publications in order to be able to pay back their debt and earn a living. Work which can be said to further bolster the social model that could have contributed to their limited choices.

I'm interested in this subject and welcome any comments, my ideas are a response to the talk and based on my own experience and frustrations.