Friday 8 May 2020

Further on ‘things’ kept, and their utility / value.

Pattern Language: The House Mill (2019) turns a corpus of old objects, formerly useful but no longer needed or even comprehended, into a photo book that is also a proposition about heritage sites and remnants, and how they may play a role in new community formations.

The disciplinary context is ‘critical heritage studies’, the locus an 18th-century mill in east London, now a cultural hub and visitor attraction. Artist in residence Cecilie Gravesen focused on its surviving ‘collection of more than two thousand custom-made mechanical patterns, once used for casting replacement components to keep the Mill’s machinery working’ (p. 5). 

Workers and retired people from the local area were invited to view and discuss these objects, their interactions documented in a kind of typological conceptual style by photographer Robin Stein, chosen by Gravesen for his ‘masterly control of still life [and his] experience with the distinct language for directing hands in commercial fashion shoots’ (p. 8). 

The notion of objects redeemed in the hand was explored also by TNWK (see previous post) in ‘How to Handle Things Not Worth Keeping’:

While the artist Simon Lewandowski went one further, a while ago, in adding handles to objects )

‘Pattern language’ invokes architect and design theorist Christopher Alexander’s 1970s repertoire of approaches to designing human environments, intended to empower people to design homes and community facilities for themselves. Gravesen’s participants’ own language is also included, in the form of brief conversational exchanges, transcribed in an Appendix. 

Something here in common with a project by Alex Julyan and Bill Gilonis, noticed here nearly 10 years ago, wherein objects were conveyed from one to the other purely through description, to produce new representations: .

Cecilie Gravesen with Robin Stein, Pattern Language: The House Mill. Additional text by Dean Scully. Design by Anna Rieger. Printed at Circadian Press, Brooklyn, New York, 2019.

Cecilie Gravesen
Robin Stein 
House Mill
Centre for Critical Heritage Studies

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Coronavirus clear-out

'We would ask residents to be sensible about their waste production, and please … do not put out waste for collection that can sensibly be stored at home i.e. don’t clear out the shed, attic etc, and please delay any major DIY works' (Council website). But what are you going to do: the space you now inhabit 23/7 needs clearing out too.

Things Not Worth Keeping (TNWK) was an artist-poet duo, Kirsten Lavers and cris cheek, who did a fine series of socially, politically and conceptually searching and engaging work, usually in a public context and often based on language and inscription, from 1999 to 2007. An old website still gives a good overview:

See for example 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner', an audio portrait of a secondary school in special measures, by way of Coleridge's poem; or their response to the UK's participation in the Iraq war, based on Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's dictum,"we are taking these steps because words must mean what they say',

The latter was performed during the whole of a legendary weekend festival, 'Total Writing London' (curated by Chris Goode at Camden People's Theatre) in March 2003, probably the origin of this carrier bag, which has hung by the front door, considered as an art work, perhaps ever since being brought here, in 2004.

TNWK's Millennium Collection was about actual things and what made it possible for their owners to relinquish them

This bag turns out to contain: two expired passports, 4 cheque book stubs and a paying-in book, obsolete Polish and Hungarian currency, certificate of a tetanus jab, a mortgage statement relating to a former home.