Saturday, 12 May 2012

FORUM/ Archives and Collections

Hosted at Ffotogallery, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff on Thursday April 26th 2012.
Forum kicked off to a great start this month, as it coincided with the opening night of Chapter Gallery’s current exhibition, ‘The Institute of Critical Zoologists’. If you haven’t already, I really recommend you have a look. ( Curated by Ffotogallery’s Helen Warburton and Lauren Jury, the ICZ show investigates our relationship with animals through archival and photographic material that blurs the lines between reality and fiction.
The ICZ is really just one person, artist Renhui Zhao. Helen was the first to chat about the show and how it came about, offering an insight into the process of curating such a large exhibition in close collaboration with the artist. Helen first encountered Renhui’s work at Format in Derby and decided to approach him about a project in Cardiff.
The original basis of the exhibition was to present a sort of retrospective, including all the documents and archival material usually hidden away or locked in museum vault: making the invisible, visible. Helen, Lauren and Renhui were keen to experiment with alternative ways to present the work- the view-hole light-boxes in the second room of the gallery should not to be overlooked! Renhui’s practice investigates an overall concern with what is real, imagined and invented. What information do we really gain from the media and wildlife photography? The UV Plumage of birds informed the back gallery pieces which were entirely digital. Artistic simulations are present throughout the show, although it is down to the viewer to deliberate what may be real or invented.
Some pieces challenge the boundaries of the morality of food: Renhui has a particular interest in the issue of whaling, as expressed in the ‘Whiteness of a Whale’ project. His political views are interesting; the work is not dogmatic; rather, his core interest is how the media represent the subject of our relationship to animals rather than an attempt to make us feel a particular way. The work stands alone and is open to interpretation though it inevitably causes one to reflect on our relationship with other living creatures and how we share and occupy the world. For example, in one piece, what appears to be whale blood is actually human waste. As an ‘ex-activist’, he is not looking to be an ethical ambassador, rather he is still grappling with the idea of the institute he’s created. Part of Helen and Lauren’s role was a desire to develop the way Renhui presented his work and explore how he reflects his ides though collaboration.
Renhui is currently undertaking a residency at the National Museum of Wales. Lauren and Helen proposed that Renhui engaged with Cardiff through his work. The Museum, of course, is an ideal platform for this having been fascinated with the abundance of hidden archival material held in the vaults. This paved the way for Renhui to inspire a new body of work, becoming fascinated with slides, depicting bizarre exchanges between animals. The Institute of Critical Zoologists continues at Chapter Gallery, Cardiff until Sunday 17th June.
 Chapter Gallery, ICZ installation shot
Rory Duckhouse presented his recent project, ’25 people with cameras’. Rory is currently undertaking his MA in Swansea in Photography and Contemporary Dialogues.
“The work comes from an archive I bought from eBay, which had a collection of images from the 1960-1970's. The last geographical location of the archive was from the seller in Williamsburg, MA and therefore become known as the Williamsburg archive. With this series I am interested in the process of taking an image, what it mean in the present, and as a historical document. Through a series of re-appropriations, I attempt to explore the limitations of the images as informational document of events. Culturally we photograph events we deem of historical importance, however, what is the value of the images once they are removed from the contexts that deem them important. The work then becomes a metaphor for the shifting nature of the documents over time.”
The core of the work lies in an interest in archives and historical records. Rory presents photographs in which he has erased figures, in order to dislocate the person from any determinate social, historical or cultural links.  From these photographs, he retains the image of the camera, the core tool used to preserve a memory or document an occasion. How does a photograph either document or become a document of an event? What becomes of a photograph?
The image is defined by its quality and what surrounds the figures. Influenced by James Elkins, Rory explores the possibility of an objective experience of a photograph. In one particular image, all that remains of the figure are the hands holding the camera. Posing, in itself, often acts as an indication of culture and body language. A debate on context ensues; by removing the person do we still reserve any historical or cultural references? The camera itself dates the image, as does the object of the photograph: it’s size, format, quality etc. The clothing, furniture and jewellery all say something about a person and their surroundings. One person suggests the responsibility a photograph holds on a ‘document’ of that era, time, or event. Rory investigates how, through mild suggestion or fictionlisiation, he may remove this responsibility.
You can see Rory’s work exhibited at Swansea’s MA show, which opens on the 15th June- don’t miss it!
 Rory Duckhouse, 4 Minus Person, 2012
James Green trained as a painter at CSAD before completing an MA in Painting at The Royal College of Art, London. He is currently half way through his Phd at CSAD, researching through is practice: ‘To what extent does a piece of art have a mind of it’s own?’.
“The work I create as an artist often results in pieces that straddle between artistic disciplines, and is inspired by a wide range of artists and ideas, in particular artworks and belief systems of Non-Western cultures, physics, nuero-science, art history, and the daily goings-on of the Rhondda Valley. Hopefully, the result will be a subjective and visual inventory of parts of the twentieth and twenty-first Centuries.”
These cards, collectively titled ‘A Day in the Life…’ represent just a small fragment of James’ prolific practice. He began producing these pocket-sized collages around eight years ago whilst studying in London, as a creative exercise to realise ideas on a small scale. He would habitually make one or two every morning to keep active, even when ideas were running dry to keep the ball rolling. Now an ongoing ritual, these little cards are purely spontaneous and have ‘no particular grand theory’ behind them.
Nonetheless, they inevitably act as little indications of pop culture, having been collaged from newspapers, magazines and general visual debris found on his bedroom floor. By now there are hundreds of them, kept in boxes. Only recently have they begun to be dated. As a result, they have become an archive of each day of his life now documented, reading as a whole as a sort of visual diary. They are often carried around in his pocket, and sometimes given away to friends. This evolving archive has become a kind of small, intimate gallery which the viewer can hold in their hands, flicking through them just as kids used to do with their sticker collections: A collection that James plans to continue for the rest of his life- hopefully it will be much larger by then.
See more of James’ practice and his research developments at He is also curating a group show of Phd student’s work at Howard Gardens Gallery on the 21st June. 
  James Green, 'A Day in the Life', 2006-

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