F is for…

…frameworks. Theoretical, methodological, exhibition and curatorial…what and who reflect and respond to each other, where have I come from and where has that information taken me. Paper trails and constant mapping…

This could be quite a long post and I want to begin by telling you about a few things that have made me smile this week…things I have liked. I’ll begin by saying I’ve just returned from the hairdressers and they had a powercut…I left with wet hair. It’s been an incredibly random day. Anyway, I came across this via Twitter of all places, the work of Masters Illustration student called Man Ju Lee from the University of the Arts Camberwell. What struck me about her work was the sheer innocence of the narrative she used to describe her illustration and practice. I love the fact she never actually states the direct meaning of these chinese characters, just its overall emotive power, its inner entity…the ‘feeling’, it can never just be described through language. 美好, ‘mei hao’ in a literal sense means beautiful happy…how life should be. Right?

Man Ju Lee – “美好” is a Chinese word. It is an amazing and meaningful word for me. This word could be an adjective or a noun either and could be used in many different conditions.This word represents all of the good things. I expect my works will be like this word. I wish that my works could bring people美好.”

Illustration by Man Ju Lee

During the CCVA conference, Public Space, Art and Collective Memory a couple of weeks ago I met a Masters student at the University of Oxford called Ros Holmes. We went through the usual conversations you have at these kind of events eventually discussing our research. Having lived in China for many years, she said she knew of a contemporary Chinese artist who is very early on in his career and used Chinese characters explicitly within his practice, and in fact was trying to create a new set of characters, or radicals in this case, and terminologies. (*Too excited*)  This week she emailed me having remembered his name…Jiao Yingqi, along with a couple of article links explaining his practice one of which is called ‘Chinese Characters Reloaded‘. It would be interesting to talk to him about the concept of ‘imitation vs innovation’ and his very extreme opening statement ‘either Chinese characters die or China is doomed.’ It’s true every language has to progress through re-definition and re-categorisation, the Oxford English Dictionary is a prime example of this as they receive new words and definitions weekly. The adjective ‘achy-breaky‘ only made its way into the dictionary in March this year…

This week, I somehow ended up knee deep in terminologies, language and naming termnologies…starting with onomastics. I ended up at etymology which I’m already looking into from the translation and transference of artistic terminology from their creation in the West (largely Germany) through to the East (Taiwan and Hong Kong, to Japan to China). Looking at the known problem of modernity in translation, and the difficulties in cross-Chinese language translation and country transference such as from Japan to China. How does “Chinese” to “Chinese” translation compare? Does structure and perception change between regions? Is it ultimately modernity in translation? These seems to be what the artist Jiao Yingqi is trying to tackle. And just in case you wondered…

Onomastics – the study of proper names/their origins.
Anthroponomastics – the study of people’s names.
Toponomastics – the study of place names.
Etymology – the study of the history of words/origins of words.

I’m hoping all these terms will slowly come together. I have a distinct feeling I may have issues with the specific premise of the words I use and will be constantly defining and redefining their boundaries.

I came across a comprehensive website that acts almost like a past, present and future archive of what is out there in the way of journal and conference call outs in the Chinese arts domain called the ‘Arts of China Consortium as part of NYU, New York. During browsing the vast, vast lists I came across many conferences, including the 5th International Sinology Forum called ‘China Exposed, Imposed, Proposed. There are again many familiar and well-known names, I am just trying to work out whether or not it is beneficial I attend? It would be nice to have a jaunt to Lisbon. Hmmmm priorities. First China next year I reckon.

As for Mandarin class this week, well…it was slight humiliation time, it seems to be the case every week. “Why don’t we try and sing Silent Night in Mandarin”, ummmm why don’t I tell you now how bad i’m going to be at it. Apart from this brief musical interlude, we were taught months, years and the weather, oh and how to say the all important Happy Christmas! (Sheng dan kuai le!) I should be typing in characters…I’m getting better, it really is just such a slow process. I’m thinking it might be more beneficial for me to have one-on-one tuition after Christmas, but then there are additional costs involved (says the girl who’s thinking of going to Lisbon for a conference).  The next day was the Pg Cert part of the PhD, this time with presentations from my supervisor Joshua Jiang and David Burrows. Joshua made me verbally question in front of the group the similarities and/or differences between curators who are trained practically (fine art) and theoretically (art historical). I’m not sure whether theoretically trained curators can ever ‘feel’ or ‘see’ the same as practice-based curators. It’s the knowing and seeing process as an artist of how art is made, even the smell of a process or artistic practice that I think provides an additional curatorial facet and understanding for the curated artist. I’m not sure this even makes sense here, but I completed a Masters thesis on this topic called the ‘The Shift in Power: The Artist-Curator‘, so I should be able to verbalize it better…let me know if you would like to read a copy as bound copies sit here unread.

Jiang – “There must be flexibility in the curatorial framework to embrace the discussions of the artist and curator that are never planned…It reshapes your own curatorial framework.”

Burrows went on to discuss practice-based research as event and ontological frameworks. He referenced the work of Heidegger specifically about how we walk through a world that is already named through language, where words are reproduced and developed through repetition, and as I see it, through repetition breeds difference. In fact, when I was completing my undergraduate studies in Fine Art, I typewriter typed a phrase onto a small piece of paper and placed it within a red frame. It read “changing sentences from one to another breeds development in myself”. I swear by this phrase. It hangs on my bedroom wall…I see it every single day…you can see it below as apparently I still have an image of it from when it was in my second year studio space. Funny.

Changing Sentences (2003)

Heidegger – “What we call the world is constructed through ontological assumption produced by and engendered through language which provides an unspoken ‘context’ or background for our way of being.”

One final thought on the Pg Cert session is the conversations around codifying a new language and how the creation of new words goes through a process of translation, where language always implies a shared and plural notion of understanding – it exists for more than one person. Burrows also spoke of what got him into art – what “event” as such. This I found intriguing and very insightful. For him, it was David Bowie, and seeing the TV programme ‘Nationwide’ after the news on the BBC at about age 12, where they were reporting on an exhibition at the Tate Gallery. This made me think about my own reasons for getting into this creative whirlwind. Apart from my Grandpa being a photographer, it was one painting that I used to visit time and time again at the National Gallery as a child, and one that I still have to go and see whenever I’m in London today. It is still on display there now…‘The Execution of Lady Jane Grey’ (1833) by Paul Delaroche. I can sit in front of this piece for hours…it’s making my hairs stand on end typing about it, thinking about it, visualising it.

One final note, the New Art Gallery Walsall celebrate their 10th Birthday next year and have created this rather beautiful public project that everyone and anyone can apply to, where you create, make and send a home made birthday card to them. Super sweet…in a childlike sense…and I can’t believe they’ve been open ten years already. Time…we all know what happens…

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