Category Archives: Lecture Notes & Reviews (2006-2009)

Silvia Ziranek

I wonder if that is a real name.

Silvia Ziranek did one of the first Tuesday Talks that I attended at the Cornerhouse. Although one of the reasons it has taken until now to write a review is my inherent procrastination the other is that her lecture challenged me, to say the least.

I think of all of the Tuesday Talks, this was probably the least like a lecture, and the most similar to an artwork in its own right. Fortunately (I think) for Ziranek, the way in which she works allowed her to deliver her lecture’s contents by the same means that she performs or delivers some of her work.

Pink Shoes

Poster for a show at the Tate Modern.

She uses complicated puns, references, re-references and strange interconnectedness to explore the complexity and intrigue of whatever subject she might be commenting on or exploring through her work. In the case of this “lecture” she was mainly talking about herself and some of her previous projects. Strangely I think it worked really well like this. It has some parallel which how I want to deliver my 5 minute video presentation for University, I intend on making the video something of interest in its own right, as well as its worth for supplementing my other work. Getting back to the subject…

It would be easy for me to wash over Ziranek’s work as nothing more than a quirky and crazy brand of performance art. I think that was probably the overriding factor in my initial judgement of her. Maybe thats why writing this has taken me 6 months. I needed to arrive at a judgement that was more notable, more interesting, I needed to say something.


Ziranek image from the Cornerhouse Website.

So, what to say? Well I think I was right to think that her work is a quirky and crazy brand of performance art – but then what brand of performance art isn’t crazy – but I was wrong to say it was nothing more. Personally I really appreciate wordplay and the quirks we all live with in our own language (and that others live with in their language). But wordplay was not the essence of Ziranek’s work, it was merely part of the medium with which she delivered it.

The crux of her work, what it means, what its about, the point of it, the reason that it exists, the reason that people appreciate it. I can’t write that down, you will have to experience it. And I think that is the point. If you happen upon Silvia Ziranek at work, or if you deliberately went to see her, there is something for everyone, she touches on things common to all of us, she thrives on using her observational skills and comedic wisdom to engage her audience. She’ll make you smile, shake your head in dismay, question your judgement and possible think that you should walk out.

I had great fun though.

ps Ziranek used a kind of intervention at the start of this lecture, she had placed tiny tubes of paper glue on all of the seats in the room. Caiti has exhausted our glue supply and we’re now using that. Thanks silvia.

Is teen pregnancy funny?

Juno is about a cool and collected, yet geeky, teenager. Juno’s best friend is a decidedly more geeky, but charisma-heavy character called Bleeker (Michael Cera, Arrested Development). At the start of the film Juno quickly finds out that she is pregnant to Bleeker. Initially Juno plans to have an abortion – and with the suitably amusing scene at the abortion clinic out of the way – she quickly realises that an abortion is not for her. She decided that adoption may be the way forward, and quickly finds a couple she likes the sound of in the classified ads.

Juno Film Poster

The tirade of consequences weave an intricate tale. Despite a kind of inevitability that ensues throughout (you almost know the end right from the start) it engages, amuses and ultimately gratifies the soul. I can appreciate a different point of view, some would be marred by the fact that at the core of this is a teenage pregnancy, some would find the use of music and deliberately overworked cosmetics tacky, certainly some peoples sense of humor might not be matched to the comic elements. However for me all of these things were actually spot on.

Before watching Juno I was a little apprehensive; I thought that it may be too serious. I was concerned that the severity of the issues at hand would not be offset enough by the skill of the writing and cinematography. I was wrong, definitely wrong. It works fantastically. The sound track, the writing, the performances; it works. Funnily enough looking back I think it works because of the severity of the issues. Seeing how the dialog and the lead actress work through the issues of teenage pregnancy really brings an amazing warmth to the film and also I feel it actually allows the movie to address the issues but without being nauseatingly depressing.

So, in this case at least, teen pregnancy is funny. This is the best film that I didn’t watch in 2007. Unfortunately that not only means that I didn’t watch many good films last year, but it also means that a high standard has been set for 2008, and I’m finding it increasing difficult to enjoy anything else I watch!

I loved Juno’s Dad’s nick name for her, Junebug.


Recently Chinese artist Feng Feng (pictured) made a return visit to our University after some of our tutors visited China last year.

Photo of Feng Feng

It was a really nice change to get a completely different approach to leading a lecture and its delivery. I was the first time I’ve attended a lecture that was conducted in its entirety in a foreign language. I think that added to the lecture in a strange way, it definitely made me concentrate a little more.

The mans charisma flowed like a river, something which I guess helps you achieve anything. Except scaring someone maybe.

I found that Professor Feng certainly spoke about his own work in a different way to what I’m used to; he seemed completely free from worry about how his work was perceived. It seemed like he was of the opinion ‘my work is what it is, and who am I to tell anyone any different’, rather than a more dictatorial approach that I’m used to.

I can’t say how much I appreciate this – even if it is not reflected in my own practice.

Feng Feng also instantiated a collaborative piece of work for our University around concepts to do with the human body and although this sounded great, I’ve ended up not being involved in it. Mainly through being preoccupied with other stuff.

I did come up witha couple of ideas that would have worked though. The first revolved around an incident between me and my girlfriend when we were at the Benicassim festival in Spain. At about 3 o’clock in the morning, after having rammed a falafel and a tortilla down us and still nursing the bottle of cheap Spanish liquor that we’d smuggled past the entry guards (they don’t do it by halves in Spain, they had guns!) I went in for a rather-too-exuberant kiss. The end result of this was that I lost a small section of my front tooth! Despite Caiti’s less-than-perfect dental health I came out the looser, and I suppose I’ll have the reminder all of my life (until dentures are a neccessity at least).

My other concept was to make some observations about how bodys work. What do you need to put in? I thought it would be interesting to account for all of the calories that I consume, and how each of those came into being. I’m really interested in quite how much entery I personally consume, and how much all of us consume. The concept is no more developed than that however.

This is an extract of his statement, from his website.

We have a history once grand but not forgotten. Time washes away the insignificant pieces and also permanently marks the milestones. A pat romance, the memories worshipped with deep passion as the colors of the past fade. The storms and lightening of history leave us their marks of divine madness and violence. Let us stand back and observe it, grasp it and sense it …the magnificence, power and charm, dignity and mystery…

Incidentally I used the word “instantiated”. I’m not sure if its correct, but I liked it. According to it means:

To represent (an abstract concept) by a concrete or tangible example

Just a warning…. :o)

Gregor Neuerer; Left but a Trace

I liked Gregor Neuerer, and I thought his work was of interest. However it doesn’t detract from an element of irony in the title of his latest exhibition; at least there is irony for me having listened to his lecture! It left a trace, but it was but a trace! I found the presentation reminiscent of Paul Eachus’s lecture; in the way it was delivered. Neuerer was delivering his lecture almost word for word from a prepared text. He did however make an effort to counterpoint this with short spurts of ad libbing. Despite a less than brilliant manner in delivering his lecture, I found the content of some interest.

Architectural Yet Abstract

Neuerer’s work included places in the city (of London) where people interact in ways differently to how an architect or designer may have intended.

Strangely, when he moved into a studio in London, Gregor Neuerer began making sketches using his position in the room as a method for working. He marked pencil onto the wall, from the confines of his chair, the result being a circular form with its darkest point in the middle and then graduated shading outward. The basis and context for these sketches was complex; architectural in origin but with the primary notion of confinement in architectural space and constant revisiting of the same place- at least this is how I understood it.

At the same time as working on the drawing, he coincidentally discovered an all but identical mark on the wall, outside a tube station just about the level of the pavement. The same dark patch at the centre and graduation out to nothing. It transpired that this patch was caused by a beggar sitting in the same place each day and rubbing against the wall.

Gregor Neuerer - Left but a Trace

Great work and ideas come from strange coincidence like this. Not only was the resultant shape identical, Neuerer’s original concepts were about revisiting places. Brilliant.

Later works were more developed conceptually, so far though that – for me – gaining an understanding of what the aim of the work is, was extremely difficult. It is apparently very abstract; something the artist seemed to acknowledge and (in fact) he said he was aiming for it.

Although much of the work was “real” – and interesting to me because of that – Neuerer “faked” these black marks in other situations. Creating a similar effect, but doing it himself rather than identifying places that it was occurring naturally. I really didn’t like that. Loosing the raw reality really detracts from it.

Good things; the way his ideas came together. Despite the complexity, I think the artistic logic was good. He seemed to have well thought through ideas that were presented on almost every different “level”.

Bad; despite the simplicity of presentation, the context itself is extremely deep. This seemed out of balance some how – “top heavy”.

Overall though, I was intrigued about the work, and although I don’t think I enjoyed the work myself- in terms of learning it was certainly useful.

Cornerhouse Qualms

I’ve found a slight edge of nervousness inherent in the Cornerhouse’s Tuesday Talks – this lecture was an example of that. Although the intent is obviously otherwise the way in which the question and answers session at the end of each lecture is handled seems to stifle discussion rather than promote it. I always feel terrified about asking a question. Funnily, after the Q&A session at this lecture – which featured only 1 or 2 questions from the audience and conjecture from the lectures’ curator Pavel Büchler the first non-official question to the artist was “So… how is the smoking in Vienna?”. Although I didn’t learn anything from it, it made me smile!

Florian Dombois; Auditory Seismology

Some of Dombois’ work was outside of these points, but the main body was based on these principles.

  • Turning inaudible earth tremors into something we can actually here.
  • Comparing the same tremors from different points on the globe.
  • Dombois originally a scientist, was not interested, so turned to the arts

I was impressed with Dombois’ work – a nice idea and something unusual. I left with a good feeling. My one problem was how confined the work was, given the potential for exploiting (or exploring) the many possibilities it offers.



I was also intrigued: I’m sure many people have worked with converting inaudible signals into audible ones. There must be some interesting possibilities beyond how earthquakes can be transformed into an audible noise. It got me thinking to light; each colour in the spectrum corresponds to a specific wave length. Do a simple division on the wavelength, interpret that as the frequency of a sine wave and there you have a perfect light-sensitive sound machine. Although I haven’t researched it as yet, I’m completely confident that somebody has done this before. Still, I think it might be a fun experiment to try.

I’ve been working with my friend Zimmy to develop an audio element to his light / feedback experiments; maybe a machine like this would be perfect for that.

Paul Eachus, Thoughts & Notes on Photoworks

I went to Paul Eachus’s Cornerhouse lecture. From the Cornerhouse website;

London-based artist Paul Eachus’ photoworks and display pieces present an irrational ordering of things, an excess of visual and referential material that refuses to be pinned down within known systems of categorization. His large-scale works are fragmentary, decentred and seemingly out-of-control.

As defined by Eachus, a “Photowork” is not just photographic documentation of his physical work, despite that being how it appears. I think his argument for the the photo work (as a concept) is to do with the abstract quality that photography can bring to his pieces; it gives him the ability to force people to look at his (otherwise) physical work one degree removed from where the work actually exists. It was also argued that the framing of his photo works is integral. Deliberately depriving the audience of being able to view the work in its totality.

A Photowork

An example of a Photowork, image taken from the Cornerhouse website.

According to the artist, these two actions are extremely important in translating his artistic intentions to the audience. Despite concentrating on his explanations and reasoning for over an hour’s worth of lecture; I never completely understood why a “photo work” was necessary. As a three dimensional physical piece, I think I would have appreciated his creations far more; I felt very much like I was being coerced into seeing things from the artists point of view. I certainly would not have arrived at his point of view if left to my own devices!

The works, I thought, were impressive examples of installation and sculpture; they were emotive, instantly creating an uneasy edge on sight and with complexity till the cows come home. Intricate and meticulous. Why, in that case, does the artist insist that his work is made to be viewed in the once-removed form of a photograph? (All-be-it a very lovely, well lit, medium format photograph – but still a photograph!) The strangest thing I found was that there was one exception. He showed us documentary photos (not photo works) of one piece that was designed to be an installation rather than to be photographed and then exhibited; in conceptual terms it seemed to be identical to the photo works.

What is the photo work about? I couldn’t quite figure it out. For me; it definately didn’t add to my enjoyment of the artwork. Maybe forcing the context by using photography is a gimmick, maybe it is a master stroke that I completely missed. Possibly it gives the artist an excuse to talk at length about its implications in order to “sucker” the audience with it. Maybe it is a good career move, photographs are much easier to reproduce than a large installation! Who knows?

For me, two key points are in the forefront of my mind; Delivery of his presentation or lecture was unpleasant. He simply read a prepared document (which came across as an entry in an encyclopedia) was not engaging. Secondly, managing to talk and write about his work in such a complex fashion seemed to be more important than the work itself. Is that a good thing or bad? This guy is obviously successful, to some extent, is it just because he is painting an idealogical picture or because of the merit of his work. A balance between the two must always be drawn.