Saturday, 21 October 2017

Notes on the Index

 Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America

Rosalind Krauss for October Vol 3 Spring 1977

Rosalind Krauss art critic writing about the variety of art forms in the 70s and what such different art forms (video, performance, ‘earthworks’ &c, all share. She writes about the primacy of photography in art (as compared with painting for earlier generations)

What the different art forms share is the idea of the index – something ‘standing in’ for something else. She gives the examples of physical traces – eg footprints,  medical symptoms, cast shadows.

I understood the ideas she was talking about, but the terminology was confusing.

Refers to terms of structural theorists Lacan (French psychoanalytic theorist) and Roman Jakobson (Russian–American linguist and literary theorist writing about language)

Shifter = a linguistic sign which is empty, having a floating meaning which depends on the context.
 –eg ‘this’ - when you say ‘this chair’ ‘this table’   the word ‘this’ is only given a meaning by the context.

also personal pronouns –  ‘I’ or ‘you’ change meaning depending on who is speaking in a conversation.

Rosalind Krauss compares the symbol to the index

Symbol -

 An image which can be detached from the object or idea it represents – “completely arbitrary and must be culturally learned” 

different types of symbol

Numbers and written language/words are also symbols – there is no connection between the thing itself and the word  representing it. For example:

can be cat in English or gato in Spanish or chat in French or
in Chinese

(This talk about the index and the symbol also reminded me of Magritte's The Treachery of Images)



 “they are the marks or traces of a particular cause, and that cause is the thing to which they refer, the object they signify.”

This is where I started to become interested,  I’ve been photographing these (index) images as visual sources for a long time without realising what it was called.

Just some of them below (for some reason Blogger is rotating some of the photos upside down & won't let you correct this)

Monday, 16 October 2017

Site and Situation: (not) at Home

House from Display to to BACK to FRONT by Fran Cottell, Katy Deepwell

Katy Deepwell , Professor of Contemporary Art, Theory and Criticism at Middlesex, an art critic and historian with a specialism in feminist art criticism and theory about contemporary women artists.

An introductory essay to Fran Cottell’s book, which collects together descriptions of different interative installations in her home over a period of time. 

Cooking Up the Self Bobby Baker and Blondell Cummings “Do” the Kitchen by Lesley Ferris

Critical writing with some historical background, analysing two different performance artists; Bobby Baker stages her work in her own kitchen and Blondell Cummings performed in kitchen ‘sets’. 

Written by Lesley Ferris - Arts & Humanities Professor, Department of Theatre at Ohio State University, a theatre director and scholar.

Blondell Cummings Chicken Soup –

video still 1989

Bobby Baker Kitchen Show

Bobby Baker: Redeeming Features of Daily Life edited by Michèle Barrett and Bobby Baker (2007), Routledge.   







  Fran Cottell:  “During the 1980s and 1990s I had started to think about the public/private relationships between and within the body (often represented by clothing) and or the spaces we occupy.”

Fran Cottell is the Fine Art Senior Lecturer at Camberwell.  

 “Since 2001, Cottell has used her own house as both subject and experimental site for her performative events, subtly altering this domestic environment through architectural interventions. (Camberwell website)

Back to Front installation 2011– photos by Terry Watts from Fran Cottrell’s website

The work made interventions (eg viewing platforms, peepholes) over a period of time in her own house in Greenwich and invited people in whilst going about her everyday life with her family.

Platform for visitors to stand on while family got on with daily life

Fran Cottell’s interest has been in exploring the relationships between ‘inhabited spaces’ – the body, the home, and the exterior world.  (Introduction by Fran Cottell)

She found that galleries were too public a space and wanted to explore ‘real experience’ – the interior space and the life that took place there.’

Collecting time – invited different curators and critics to put their heads through a hole in her daughter’s bedroom floor so that she could take a photo of them

In this essay, Katy Deepwell writes about the work in the context of sculpture, and cites Rosalind Krauss idea of the ‘expanded field’ – 

 “No longer an object to be looked at, the work will literally put us in another place, create another kind of environment”. 

Instead of standing and looking at one fixed object in one space, the experience can be a ‘4D experience’, being immersed in an environment or installation, happening over a period of time.

Some examples of other immersive installations for comparison:  

DreamThinkSpeaks’ Absent, Shoreditch Town Hall, 2015 

 photo Jim Stephenson

‘An intimate promenade installation inspired by The Duchess of Argyll’s residence at a central London hotel in the 1970’s’ 

14 Radnor Terrace 1974 – feminist art group SLAG – South London Art Group took over/squatted a small terraced house as a large scale installation  called ‘ A Woman’s Place’  - contemporary critique of family life. 

In 2017 Raven Row gallery reconstructed some of the work, the show was called 56 Artillery Lane in homage

Su Richardson for Fenex 1977 (my photo) recreated in Raven Row in 2017


Fran Cottell explains in her introduction how a live ‘real’ experience is more vivid and alive , something that it is not possible to deliver through a performance in a gallery.

(I enjoyed the Raven Row show very much but you can see how much more powerful it must have been in the squatted house the artists had taken over in the 1970s.)  

Also, by inviting people into her home with her family, the work ‘invites viewers to consider ‘where’ they are in the process of viewing the work: a viewer/a resident, a participant/an observer, part of the life displayed/or on display” . 

I  felt that Katy Deepwell and Lesley Ferris were both admirers of their respective artists’ work.The writing was enthusiastic and keen to give the reader a personal impression of the work, and to argue for its value. 

Both pieces admitted the work is not easy to convey in description. For this kind of live work, to get the most out of it you really have to be there. 

I also thought that the pieces played down the humour of this work, as though if something is funny, it can’t also be serious and meaningful. 

I liked Fran Cottell’s remark on her visitors. 

 “Most people reacted with humour… although some… reported back afterwards, complaining that they had been unable to sleep, after a visit, because they found it unsettling’. 


It is alive and vivid , more so that a traditional gallery installation, but not repeatable, recordable (or sellable?) 

I wondered why the book was only available as a download? 

Can a writer make a living with this kind of work if they don’t also have a day job, eg an academic job at a university?

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Symbiotic postures of commercial advertising and street art: rhetoric for creativity

Journal of Advertising vol 39 2010

Before looking at the article, it is useful to consider the Situationist concept of Recuperation.

Debord in the Society of the Spectacle said that official culture is a ‘rigged game’
‘where conservative powers forbid subversive ideas to have direct access to the public discourse.’

‘ Such ideas get first trivialized and sterilized, and then they are safely incorporated back within mainstream society, where they can be exploited to add new flavors to old dominant ideas. This technique of the spectacle is sometimes called recuperation.

To survive, the spectacle must maintain social control and effectively handle all threats to the social order.

More broadly, it may refer to the appropriation or co-opting of any subversive works or ideas by mainstream media.

 It is the opposite of détournement, in which conventional ideas and images are reorganized and recontextualized with radical intentions.’

(Quote about Recuperation from Wikipedia.)

This article is a good example of recuperation, as the authors state at the beginning
“…we analyze a set of rhetorical practices employed by street artists that not only reflect, but might also be used to shape, commercial advertising…’

Street art and graffitti can be about subverting consumer culture.

Dr D Sly

Fiat 1980s? 


Adbusters  Absolute AA 



The article suggests using the techniques of street art and graffitti to reinvigorate advertising and sell more successfully to their audience ‘appropriating street art’s authentic essence to revitalize their own commerical efficacy.’  

It was written by four professors of marketing at American and Italian universities for the Journal of Advertising published by the American Academy of Advertising in 2010.

It is aimed at professionals working in the advertising industry and is written in academic language,  based on a 3 year study with 20 artists across Italy and the USA in person and through ‘netnography’ (study of websites?) and on 60 ‘consumers’ – ie viewers of street art.

 It offers as analysis of the techniques of street art and suggest advertising can appropriate these techniques. It concludes ‘Street art can be considered as an emerging template for commercial advertising’.

They claim to use ‘visual data’ as examples in the article, unfortunately in the copy the pictures have reproduced poorly and are unclear, which is ironic considering it is about the power, persuasiveness and impact of visual images.  

I found this article depressing, but in the end concluded that advertising (capitalism) and graffitti (radicalism) will always coexist and feed off each other in a loop.