Thursday, 16 April 2015

Not so long ago... Kieran Milne shares his reflections on the recent 'Someone a long time ago, now.' Hugo Canoilas exhibition in Cooper Gallery.

Kieran Milne, Exhibitions DJCAD Gallery Assistant, Founding Member of Plastik Zine, and current DJCAD student, shares his writing about the last Cooper Gallery exhibition by Hugo Canoilas.

Someone a long time ago, now. is the first major solo show in Scotland by Portuguese artist Hugo Canoilas.

The show opens with a series of painted sheets hanging in the half lit entrance of Cooper Gallery Project Space. The sheets are lit by a series of overhead projectors shining a variety of images onto the textured and colourful surfaces, most notably a car crash.

Hanging in front of the projection of the car crash is a suspended object, a shoe hanging from a metal pipe, hanging from the ceiling and it is this object that sets the tone of the show. The shoe, in the context of the car crash is that universal signifier of the human element of an accident. An accident of birth and of existence and it is this existential nature, which pervades the rest of the show.

Hugo Canoilas, Someone a long time ago, now. Cooper Gallery, 2015. Photo: Ross Fraser McLean

Upstairs is a riotous offering of wall paintings. A comic book, I Like Your Art Much, hangs suspended above a small stool and on reading reveals itself to be a dialogue between the writer of the comic, Francisco Sousa Lobo, and the work of Canoilas. There is a playful familiarity in the comic, and the unreserved analysis of Canoilas' practice and themes acts as a visual reader for the work on display. The comic was produced especially for the show and references most of the works within its pages.

Francisco Sousa Lobo, I Like Your Art Much, 2015 

Finally in the main Cooper Gallery space there hang five large canvasses stapled to the wall, these are raw in their material nature and consist of extinct creatures spouting existential musings. They bring to mind 70s textbook illustrations and further the tension between the mortality of the viewer and the fate of these extinct creatures causing one to question our own time and place.

Hugo Canoilas, Someone a long time ago, now. Cooper Gallery, 2015. Photo: Ross Fraser McLean

Hugo Canoilas spoke with Art in Scotland TV ahead of the exhibition Preview. See him discuss his practice here:

Film Credits: Filming & Editing: Schedule D Productions. Photographer: Ross Fraser McLean. Make-up artist: Sandra Cormack. Courtesy of Cooper Gallery DJCAD

For more information about the exhibition please see the website:

Friday, 3 April 2015

New Cooper Gallery Publication 'I Like Your Art Much'/// From: Francisco Sousa Lobo To: Hugo Canoilas

Set out to be an exhibition within an exhibition, Francisco Sousa Lobo's comic book I Like Your Art Much acts as a reflexive voice and a point of departure from which Hugo Canoilas' entire exhibition Someone a long time ago, now. evolves, mirroring the artist’s critical stance on the social and political histories of the contemporary. 

Published on the occasion of Hugo Canoilas' exhibition Someone a long time ago, now., Cooper Gallery, March - April 2015. Someone a long time ago, now. is the first major solo exhibition of Portuguese artist Hugo Canoilas in Scotland and is a rich palette of visual and textual collisions between multiple collaged projections of paintings, photographs, drawings and writing, cast on each other and the architectural fabric of Cooper Gallery. Shown over two floors of the gallery the exhibition is a rare chance to engage in Canoilas’ complex visual mediation of images. For more information about the exhibition please see the website.

Someone a long time ago, now. Preview & Performance, Hugo Canoilas. Cooper Gallery, 2015.
Photo: Ross Fraser McLean

'I Like Your Art Much' is available to purchase from Cooper Gallery Publications website for £7.50 plus P&P. 

Launched in 2011, Cooper Gallery Publications produces Limited Edition Artist's Books and Multiples as part of the programme of new commissions, events and projects at Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. Cooper Gallery is a distinctive platform in Scotland for challenging and innovative practices and critical discourse in contemporary art, design and visual culture. Highlights include Tent, a hand bound, screen-printed Artist’sBook by Paul Noble, Artist Multiples by David Bellingham and a Zine exploring Lynda Morris' influential curatorial career.

Cooper Gallery Publications also develops Cooper Gallery’s innovative periodical &labels, ​with texts and articles by artists and theorists to extend and explore the exhibition programme. 
See more here.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Reading Lists/// 'Someone a long time ago, now.' artist Hugo Canoilas

To coincide with Someone a long time ago, now. at Cooper Gallery, March - April 2015, we asked exhibiting artist Hugo Canoilas to share with us ‘suggested reading’ of essays or publications that expand upon ideas related to his practice.

Reading Corner, Cooper Gallery, 2015. Photo: Ross Fraser McLean

Below is Hugo Canoilas' suggested reading...

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, translation by Richard Zenith, Penguin Classics, 2002.

Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell, Penguin 60s Classics, Penguin, 1995.

Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano, Penguin Modern Classics, introduction by Michael Schmidt, Penguin 1995.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Between Existentialism and Marxism, Radical Thinkers, Verso 2008.

Albert Camus, The Outsider, Penguin Modern Classics, translation by Sandra Smith, Penguin 2013.

Søren Kierkegaard, In Vino Veritas, first published 1845, published in Portuguese by Antígona ,2005.

Richard Kempton, Provo: Amsterdam's Anarchist Revolt, published by AUTONOMEDIA, 2007.

de Waly Salomão , Me Segura Qu’Eu Vou Dar Um Troço, 1972.

More about the artist:

Hugo Canoilas is a Portuguese artist based in Vienna. Canoilas obtained his MA from Royal College of Art London in 2006, prior to this he studied at Caldas da Rainha in Portugal. Canoilas has received international recognition for his art work since 2005 and has been featured at major international spaces including the highly celebrated 30th Sao Paulo Biennial in 2012.

Solo presentations of his work include A painting is getting its kicks, 1M3, Lausanne (2010), Endless Killing, curated by Chus Martinez at Huarte Contemporary Art Center, Spain (2008) and 10 reasons to be a member curated by Tobi Maier at the Franfurter Kunstverein (2007). Canoilas has also exhibited in international group exhibitions at major venues, most recently When elephants come marching in curated by Mark Kremer at De Appel, Amsterdam and Performance Proletarians organised by Lili Renaud Dewar and Benjamin Valenza at Magasin-CNAC, Grenoble and prior to this, exhibitions at Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, and the Institute for Contemporary Art, London among others. Canoilas has received widespread recognition for his work in major publications such as Art Review magazine, Guardian, Observer, Frieze, Metropolis M and FlashArt. Canoilas has been awarded major public art commissions in Portugal and has participated in a number of international residencies, most recently at IASPIS in Stockholm in 2013. As part of his art practice Canoilas has contributed to a number of publications including a recently published intervention in Art Review Magazine. Canoilas is represented by Workplace Gallery (Gateshead/London), Galeria Quadrado Azul (Porto/Lisbon), Gallery Nosbaum Reding (Luxembourg) and Galeria Collicaligreggi (Catania).

For more information about Canoilas' work please see:

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Student Curatorial Exhibition/// 'Hot Air:' developed in response to 'Men Gather, in Speech...' Cooper Gallery, 2015

Exhibitions Student Curatorial Team members Kirsten Mae Wallace, Eilidh Wilson, Fiona Morag McKinnon, Alison Kay and Aylson Stewart share their reflections after collaborating on Hot Air: Cooper Gallery Project Space, 16-20 February, 2015. The exhibition was devised in response to Men Gather, in Speech... the concurrent film exhibition in Cooper Gallery, Jan-Feb, 2015.

Hot Air: Cooper Gallery Project Space, 2015

After putting a call out to the Cooper Gallery Student Curatorial Team our small group of 5 was formed. Within a couple of meetings we had formed our proposal.  We worked well as a team and our idea and concept was reached quickly.

The idea was to each view art from the 3 artists that would feature in the Men Gather, in Speech... exhibition and to form a sentence that encapsulates their work.  In order to make sure that we did not make the art that we wanted to purely because it appealed to us we then passed our sentence on to the next person.  We decided not to share our sentences with the whole team because we thought that might affect the work we created.  This was a great introduction to working collaboratively because, although we were working as part of a team, we each individually created our clips.

Projecting onto balloons abstracted and tied our work together into one cohesive unit.  Without the balloons the project would not have worked so well.  I think, for all of us, the balloons worked far better than we had ever imagined.  The projection was visible through the balloons and this added an extra dimension we had not expected.  The balloons, the layout and the viewers interaction with them was for me the strongest part of this project.

“A visual exploration of consequential effects caused by the loss of information or a misread signal, in the breakdown of communication between human individuals; where wires have been crossed.”
Sentence by Kirsten Wallace 4th Year Fine Art Student

“This exhibition was extremely challenging as it was a collection of firsts for me.  I am a direct entry student in to level 2 Fine Art.  I have never; worked collaboratively, in film, made a proposal or worked as part of the Student Curatorial Team before.
I lacked confidence and knowledge when it came to collecting and creating the film clips that I was going to show in the exhibition.  This was highlighted in the fact that I failed to remove the sound in my clips.  If I had more time and experience I would have added audio to my work.  I will experiment with this further in the future.  My confidence lay in the materials and installation of the exhibition. I was an active member in bringing us together as a team and keeping the momentum going. 
This project highlighted my strengths and weaknesses.  It gave me a deeper understanding of what goes into putting on an exhibition and what needs to be considered.  Our attention mainly lay in the production of the videos and the installation giving little time for marketing, budgeting and organizing all the other parts that make up an exhibition.  The dull stuff is equally as important as the fun stuff. 
We have talked about doing this exhibition again at a different venue.  With working knowledge of how the clips and balloons work together it would give us a chance to better optimize our marketing and organizing skills.  Watch this space; it might soon be filled with Hot Air.”
Ally Kay     

“Fighting the noise, to be heard, only fills the silence with more noise.”

Sentence by Ally Kay 2nd year Fine Art Student

I saw this opportunity as means to expand my studio practice and work within the Student Curatorial Team. I am studying my masters with a focus on art practice but come from a humanities background so being given quite a specific brief to work from made the whole process much easier.
The sentence I was given really resonated with me and I looked into the struggles of my own past as inspiration. I found the process of making the video difficult and very cathartic, although was ultimately happy with the outcome.
I do feel that due to other commitments towards installation of the exhibition meant that I was not fully involved in the process and did not help the dynamic in the team. It was a steep learning curve for all of us and having gone through the experience I would definitely look more at the logistics (marketing, budgets etc.) of everything and not get as absorbed by the actual making of the piece.
All in all I greatly enjoyed the experience and would gladly do it again soon, although with the new knowledge gained.”
Aylson Stewart

“Within unity of monologue, a picture of humanity”
Sentence by Aylson Stewart

“I found taking on this project as a new means of gathering everything I have learned over the years and putting it into practice by being part of an exhibition. As a 4th year student, I thought it was important to challenge myself and see how the ideas that I am exploring in my work for degree show can be taken into different contexts.
The sentence I was given set off a number of ideas, but after having went to the opening talk with Rose English, I felt inspired to recreate a work I had made in 2nd year and incorporate it into the video.
Putting on the exhibition for me, was a great means of realising timescale. Time for mistakes and technical issues should always be factored into self-set deadlines. Also, realising the importance of PR, for me creating the poster was a big learning curve for me, helping me to realise that was looks good on a screen does not necessarily look good on paper.  Overall we worked well as a group, despite several setbacks for everyone and given the timeframe what we put together was a successful.”
Eilidh Wilson

“Routine is the ultimate form of distraction. Blind to the words that may break it.”
Sentence by Eilidh Wilson

“Throughout the past four years studying Art, Philosophy and contemporary practices, my ideas and interests have grown and developed through both critical and practical practice. It is this which was the foundation of my enthusiasm to take part in this collaborative project. Responding to men Gather, In Speech…, we decided to work in the medium of digital film. I feel that this experience has aided my personal practice greatly, for I currently work in this medium.
This exhibition was a steep learning curve for me. It gave me an insight into collaborative exhibitions, and of the problems that arise during installing exhibitions. Our team worked very well together, and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. Despite a few technical set-backs, the installation was successful and received a very positive response at the opening night. Overall, I feel that this project has provided a stepping-stone for me to continue my engagement with curatorial practice.”
Fiona Morag McKinnon

“Interdisciplinary exploration concerning the moments of human subjectivity which normally pass unnoticed; a view from a different perspective.”
Sentence by Fiona Morag McKinnon

“I was interested in this opportunity to create art work as a group in response to Men Gather, in Speech… as the call out was centrally revolved around moving image, which is currently the medium I am working with in my own practice. I have been looking for the chance to work in a collaboration for a while so I saw this as a perfect opportunity and decided to meet with other members of the Student Curatorial Team who were beginning to put forward some very interesting ideas. We had a very productive first meeting and it was apparent we were all on the same wavelength.
I was happy with the sentence I received from Fiona shortly after this meeting and found it a very helpful starting point in creating film scenes - which I wanted to draw upon beauty in the every day. I enjoy video editing and piecing scenes together but always struggle with gathering the film footage, so having this brief to work on and respond to has proven to be a useful way of working. Having set deadlines and others relying upon my input also helps.

I enjoyed the process of installing the balloons and found that we worked particularly well together during this install. The balloons looked fantastic once the projection was up and running, and it hit various angles which made for some interesting photographic documentation. I learned which parts of my own film worked well and which scenes did not. Strong colours and patterns worked very well on the balloons, as did text and parts of the body. However bright, fast paced movements in my own film was difficult to make out. We could distinguish connections throughout our films which we had not intended and overall I thought the exhibition was visually, a great success.

We had a great turnout on our opening night and I had some interesting conversations with both peers on my course and students I hadn’t met before, who each had very positive feedback on our interactive projection. At the very beginning of this process, I thought a week would be a good length for this exhibition, but soon discovered how quickly the week went by and that some people were unable to make it along in that time. I think we pulled off a fantastic original idea and worked well together under a tight timeline with some unforeseen obstacles. It has been a learning curve for me and is my first official collaborative exhibition which I was proud to be a part of and hope it will be the first of many. I am excited at the prospect of developing Hot Air further and hope that we do decide to propose to exhibit again at different locations in the future.”

Kirsten Mae Wallace

For more information about the Student Curatorial Team, an initiative developed by Exhibitions DJCAD, please see this webpage.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Reading Lists/// 'Men Gather, in Speech...' artists Emma Charles, Rose English & Abri de Swardt

To coincide with Men Gather, in Speech… at Cooper Gallery, January - February 2015, we asked exhibiting artists Emma Charles, Rose English and Abri de Swardt to share with us ‘suggested reading’ of essays or publications that expand upon ideas related to their practice.

Publication about Rose English in Cooper Gallery Information Area. Photo: Kathryn Rattray.

Below are the artists' suggested reading lists...

Emma Charles

'Slave to the Algorithm', Mute Volume 3 #4:, Spring 2013, Editor: Josephine Berry Slater

'Sci-Fi', Clog, 2013, Editor-in-chief: Julia van den Hout

Time Passing: Modernity and Nostalgia, Sylviane Agacinski, 2000

About the artist:

Emma Charles is a London based artist. She studied MA Photography at the Royal College of Art (2011-2013) and BA (Hons) in Editorial Photography from the University of Brighton (2006-2009).

Working with both photography and moving image, her work explores metropolitan spaces of productivity that are hidden from the public eye, primarily focusing on the more ethereal and abstract elements of industry and corporate environments.

Charles was recently commissioned for her solo show Surfaces of Exchange, Jerwood Visual Arts Project Space, London (2014). Recent Group exhibitions and screenings include Kassel Dokfest, Kassel; Marl Media Art Award, Marl Museum of Sculpture, Marl; Celeste Prize, ASSAB-ONE, Milan; Neither Here Nor There, FotoFocus Biennial, Cincinnati; Centralia, South Kiosk, London (2014); Aesthetica Short Film Festival, York;Night Contact, Contact Editions, London (2013); CAPITAL, George and Jorgen Gallery, London and London Calling: Tehran, 7Samar Gallery, Tehran (2012).

Her work has been discussed as part of the 2012 Brighton Photo Biennale symposium Visible Economies: Photography, Economic Conditions and Urban Experiences and published in collaboration with Photoworks and University of Brighton.

Charles was recently awarded a Jerwood Visual Arts Project Space commission, RCA Travel Bursary, Villiers David Bursary Award and Christopherson Foundation Grant.

Men Gather, in Speech... Cooper Gallery, 2015. Photo: Kathryn Rattray.

Rose English

Gates of Fear - great exploits in the world's bullrings, by Barnaby Conrad, Published by Michael Joseph, 1958

An International Vocabulary of Technical Theatre Terms in Eight Languages
Kenneth Rae and Richard Southern (eds), International Theatre Institute, Published by Editions Meddens, 1964

English Furniture Styles 1500 -1830, by Ralph Fastnedge, Published by Pelican, 1955

About the artist:
A uniquely interdisciplinary artist, Rose English emerged from the conceptual art, dance and feminist scenes of 1970s to become one of the most influential performance artists working today. She has been writing, directing and performing her own work for forty years, combining elements of theatre, circus, opera and poetry to explore themes of gender politics, the identity of the performer and the metaphysics of presence.

English has mounted performances in ice rinks; at the Royal Court Theatre and Tate Britain, London and Franklin Furnace, New York; and has collaborated with horses, magicians, musicians, dancers and acrobats. Her shows range from her site-specific performances and collaborations of the 1970s including Berlin, her acclaimed solos of the 1980s including Plato’s Chair to her large-scale spectaculars of the 1990s includingThe Double Wedding. Her internationally celebrated solo with a horse My Mathematics, 1992 was followed by a series of vignettes with horses presented by Banff Centre, Canada and Serpentine Gallery, London.

English’s performance works of the 1970’s featured in the exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolutionat the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles 2007. Her installation STORYBOARD, featured in Interloqui – a group exhibition at Caterina Tognon Arte Contemporanea to coincide with the 54th Venice Biennale, 2011. She exhibited an installation composed of elements and documents relating to her 1975 performance,Quadrille at Richard Saltoun and Karsten Schubert (both galleries), London 2013. Quadrille was shown at Freize Masters 'Spotlight', London 2013 with Karsten Schubert.

The Eros of Understanding, a solo exhibition of her performance works with horses curated by Stine Hebert was presented at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen in 2014.

English co-wrote and designed the feature film The Gold Diggers, 1983, directed by Sally Potter; digitally re-mastered and released on BFI DVD in 2009.

Her awards include the Time Out Performance Award, the Wingate Scholarship and the Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists. Abstract Vaudeville: the work of Rose English - a comprehensive monograph documenting her 40-year career to date was published by Ridinghouse in 2014.

Men Gather, in Speech... Cooper Gallery, 2015. Photo: Kathryn Ratrray.

Abri de Swardt

Still After, in After Sex? On Writing since Queer Theory, Elizabeth Freeman, edited by Halley, J. & Parker, A.  Published by Durham & London: Duke UP, 2011

Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology. Published by Princeton: Princeton UP, 1957

Virgilio Piñera, The Fall, 1944, published in Cold Tales, New York,  Published by Rizzoli International Publications, 1988

Jalal Toufic, (Vampires) An Uneasy Essay on the Undead in Film. Published by New York: Station Hill, 1993

About the artist:
Abri de Swardt (born Johannesburg) is an artist based in London. He received a BA in Visual Arts (Fine Art) and a BA Hons in Visual Studies both cum laude at Stellenbosch University, where he taught part-time in Visual Studies between 2011-2012, and in 2014 an MFA in Fine Art with distinction at Goldsmiths, University of London, as a Skye Foundation Scholar.

Through various modes of collage, his work explores fantasies of digitization and forms of amnesia in relation to the figure of the ghost, the tumblrification of knowledge and erotohistiography in ways at once occult and baroque. Acts of citation and camouflage occur within a logic of the swarm, as an aesthetics of drowning.

In 2011 De Swardt held his debut solo exhibition To Walk on Water at blank projects in Cape Town, and in 2013 had a solo exhibition Catapult Screensaver at MOTInternational Projects, London. Group exhibitions include Man Magnet Melancholy at Ffrigidaire, London; Field Work, IV Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Moscow (both 2014); Unseen Photo Fair with Cokkie Snoei Gallery, Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam; and An Experiment to Test the Destiny of the World, Ithuba Arts Centre, Johannesburg (both 2013). He has published reviews in Art South Africa and curated a performance evening Pick-me-ups & Pick-ups at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. During January 2015 he will be artist-in-residence at the Sober and Lonely Institute of Contemporary Art.

Reading Event, 19 February, 6.30-7.30pm Cooper Gallery

Amplifying this dialogue is a live Reading Event to mark the final week of the exhibition Men Gather, in Speech… on 19 February, 2015 in Cooper Gallery.

Prompted by Men Gather, in Speech…, seven Scotland-based art writers come together to present public readings responding to, reflecting on and annotating the ideas and concerns discussed in the works featured in the exhibition. This will extend the dialogue set in motion by the exhibition that explores the mode of address that underpins Western philosophy and importantly politics.

The exhibition draws upon Hannah Arendt’s often quoted phrase “men gather in speech...” which lucidly defines the human necessity of dialogue and its role as the quintessential medium of the political to re-enact and doubt the troubled relationships between “power and the space of appearance” in our present age. Touching upon the theatrical, the fictional and the digital, the exhibition offers a complex mediation upon speech, dialogue and the slow silencing of the political space that had once appeared between us.​​

The art writers presenting readings at the event are Frances Davis, Alex Hetherington, Helen Kellock, Valerie Norris, Penelope Matheson, Silas Parry and Gareth Vile.

For more information about the event please see:

The art writers contributing to this event are part of Group Critical Writing, which is a new initiative in the Cooper Gallery's programme advocating for art and critical writing in Scotland.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

'The Process of Content' Readings/// Frances Davis' text 'Complexity and Multiplicity'

On Saturday 29 November 2014, Cooper Gallery presented the Roundtable Discussion The Process of Content: on a temporality in contemporary artDrawn from the proposition that the work of Anna Oppermann acts as 'a practice of thinking', the roundtable discussion was a stimulating gathering of thoughts that elaborated and amplified the histories, politics and social reverberations of art practices in the 1970s and 80s, and the influence and impact they have on our thinking about art and culture today. ​The event included invited speakers Guy Brett (Curator and Critic, London), Lynda Morris (Curator and Art Historian, Norwich), Tobi Maier (Curator and Writer, São Paulo), Prof. Martin Warnke & Carmen Wedemeyer (Researchers, Leuphana University Lüneburg) and was chaired by Dr. Lisa Otty (Research Fellow, The University of Edinburgh). For more information please see here.

Accompanying the Roundtable Discussion was a series of readings from art writers in Scotland: Frances Davis, Kirsty Hendry, Alex Hetherington, Catherine Street & JL Williams, and Richard Taylor. This is the final post in our series of blog posts on Cooper Gallery Notes to publish the texts from each of the writers who presented their readings at the event.

Photo: Frances Davis reading Complexity and Multiplicity. Photo: Kathryn Rattray

Notes on the reading during the Roundtable Discussion on Saturday 29 November 2014.
Frances Davis read her text aloud to the audience.

"Somewhere in this world, complexity must still be valued"

This is a phrase attributed to Anna Opperman that I came across in reading around her work and practice in preparation for the event today and the following short reading takes Opperman’s conception and enactment of complexity as it's starting point and situates it in proximity to Italo Calvino’s writing on multiplicity from his Six Memos for the New Millenium.

In our contemporary era, characterised by a continuous and seemingly instantaneous flow and exchange of information through dense networks, a consideration of complexity is apt. If, as Opperman implores, “complexity must (still) be valued” then first we must ask both what its value is and how might we value it?

Written within a few years of Opperman making Cotoneaster Horizontalis, Italo Calvino's Six Memos for the New Millennium outlines six values of literature which Calvino felt would be important for the coming millennium, the millennium we now find ourselves in. In his fifth text, and the final text to be completed before his death, Calvino addresses multiplicity.

Calvino suggests that we can no longer think in terms of a totality that is not potential, conjectural, and manifold and posits the idea of an open encyclopaedia, a method of knowledge and a network of connections between, in his words, "the events, the people, and the things of the world". While traditionally, and etymologically, the encyclopaedia attempts to enclose all knowledge, Calvino’s open encyclopaedia offers a new model, a complex and continuous whole that disrupts the ideas of truth and fact, instead positing an understanding of knowledge as a mutable and non-linear concept.

In concluding he offers up the potential he perceives in this form, and in embracing multiplicity as method:

“Someone might object that the more the work tends toward the multiplication of possibilities, the further it departs from that unicum which is the self of the writer, his inner sincerity and the discovery of his own truth. But I would answer: Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combinatoria of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined? Each life is an encyclopaedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable.

But perhaps the answer that stands closest to my heart is something else: Think what it would be to have a work conceived from outside the self, a work that would let us escape the limited perspective of the individual ego, not only to enter into selves like our own but to give speech to that which has no language, to the bird perching on the edge of the gutter, to the tree in spring and the tree in fall, to stone, to cement, to plastic...”

Or to return to Opperman: Perhaps here, in Opperman’s ensembles, as in Calvino’s open encyclopaedia, we find both the value of complexity and a method through which it might be valued; a way of thinking, and of making, that reflects the multiplicity and complexity of the contemporary moment, and moves beyond the singular perspective to something larger than its whole.


You can watch a showreel of the readings by Frances Davis, Kirsty Hendry, Alex Hetherington, Catherine Street & JL Williams, and Richard Taylor via the video below:

Interested in critical art writing? Check out our developing collection of work by writers based in Scotland on the Studio Jamming Critical Writing Residency website. Group Critical Writing Residency, edited by Maria Fusco, was part of Studio Jamming: Artists’ Collaborations in Scotland curated by Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in June-August 2014.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

'The Process of Content' Readings/// Catherine Street & JL Williams' text 'The Practice of Being'

On Saturday 29 November 2014, Cooper Gallery presented the Roundtable Discussion The Process of Content: on a temporality in contemporary artDrawn from the proposition that the work of Anna Oppermann acts as 'a practice of thinking', the roundtable discussion was a stimulating gathering of thoughts that elaborated and amplified the histories, politics and social reverberations of art practices in the 1970s and 80s, and the influence and impact they have on our thinking about art and culture today. ​The event included invited speakers Guy Brett (Curator and Critic, London), Lynda Morris (Curator and Art Historian, Norwich), Tobi Maier (Curator and Writer, São Paulo), Prof. Martin Warnke & Carmen Wedemeyer (Researchers, Leuphana University Lüneburg) and was chaired by Dr. Lisa Otty (Research Fellow, The University of Edinburgh). For more information please see here.

Accompanying the Roundtable Discussion was a series of readings from art writers in Scotland: Frances Davis, Kirsty Hendry, Alex Hetherington, Catherine Street & JL Williams, and Richard Taylor. This is the fourth in our series of blog posts on Cooper Gallery Notes to publish the texts from each of the writers who presented their readings at the event.

Catherine Street reading The Practice of Being by Catherine Street & JL Williams.
Photo: Kathryn Rattray

Notes on the reading during the Roundtable Discussion on Saturday 29 November 2014.

Catherine Street presented the reading of her and JL Williams' 'The Practice of Being' over the sound of their video which was projected in the gallery. Print outs of the reading were distributed to the audience.

JL Williams & Catherine Street 
The Practice of Being

JW The Practice of Thinking 27th October 15:37

I could breathe quietly and slowly dreaming as if the
home was the only real place where the women sat at 

the dining table shamed and dreaming their hands white 

birds in the room their lips red buds red purses closed
shut tight as the men rubbed one another with
sweetened oils and the slaves walked back and forth
carrying glass jugs of wine and the poet stood in the
corner of the room declaiming that the rich are too rich
and the poor are too poor and the entire structure is
about to collapse 

CS The Practice of Thinking, 27th October, 22:07
lying awake in a cool room the cosiness of the cotton 
around as steam bursts through the window open with 
the guttural sound of the broken boiler in the pub below. 
And later an erotic train of thought but perhaps that 
leads to a kind of non-thought in the end. Many 
practices require the suppression of concentration in 
some ways. To stop at a full stop and hang and hover in 
suspense over an empty bright void precipice

JW The Process of Content 2nd November 11:31
we have to find a new way to process it is for the dog to 
say what comes next and his nose is on the bone some 
sleep calls for more sleep some for waking and this time 
talking is the only option when the door closes the small 
lines on the floor become apparent and the smell of 
melons in the room the drape of the carpet on the sofa 
the listing and cataloguing of many beings sometimes 
the memories flood in all the mistakes and I wonder at 
the notions of good and bad when really what there is

CS The Process of Content 29th October 08:05
A cooling tower in Germany or a Chinese oil platform. 
Something that’s not immediately in front of our eyes 
can be attended to by realism. But can all things lend 
themselves. Can I be in a talk about realism can I think 
about realism and these bubbles of existence sprout out 
and float up into a documentary eye that blinks sticky. 
She said it’s not enough. What you do isn’t enough and 
you’re not enough for me. You have an iridescent 
surface of a sphere or those balloons that straddle 
across the ocean. Drifting to another continent where a 
better life awaits.

JW The Practise of Thought 2nd November 11:38
Dig deeper into the soil of the mind the hot white flesh 
whose smell intoxicates the fornicator unless my heart 
dries from shedding too many hearthstones in the night I 
will dig dig until the centre is reached when you were a 
minute when did space relent I saw a black dog with his 
nose in the air the space between men is nonexistent 
we want to relent we hope for nothing there is nothing 
but the present moment it is so strange to realise the 
capacity of being when you step outside of

CS The Practice of Thought 30th October 22:54
The light itself is what he sees not the person as a 
young child maybe ten years old he stood gaunt. 
Mysteriously but purposefully striding across the grass 
towards us with white lips and taut hands in pockets.
He stood there curiously light and solid whilst another
figure faded into the background. Figure and ground
that was something that I read yesterday about a 
pyramid with a top that glitters bright against 

JW The Practice of Being 2nd November 11:59
Gutted fried the culmination of cities the slow movement 
of cities toward airlessness the hiving of men into cells 
the strange desire for folding into one another the odd 
terror of space in which the only isolation of the self 
becomes apparent the driving driving force of space the 
dust in the eye the slow decay of cities I imagine the city 
imploding in a slow silent gold silver burst the way a star 
would chewing its own skin off from the inside out
the only moral hook to hang your coat on before the 
burning begins 

CS The Practice of Being 31st October 18:23
Wits about you and flitting. Tip towards the surface and 
angle you are everything in the world that’s happened 
so far. And tip restrict aim for distinct. Distance and 
fragmenting plates join together. You are every event as 
it unfolds. Untold and unfurled resounding delight. An 
escape from representation just let it open out sounds 
are shared wholly more than the image in front of us. Tip 
light and quick move faster than the dead tonight. 
Shaking forwards towards that reflective plain and 
I’m unsure now of what is going to happen next.

JW A Mode of Being 2nd November 10:35

You walked with your eyes open and unseeing trusting 
to the space in front of you trusting that no beast would 
attack and no branch would grab and in the distance 
you could hear the sighing of a river and as you walked 
through the utter dark the cold breath of the blackest 
night kissed your eyes and your cheeks and your lips 
and your forehead and your neck and your hands and 
you walked unafraid and somewhere in the distance you 
could hear hooves crushing leaves

CS A Mode of Being 2nd November 07:04

Hart floor fang dart. Fragmented recollections and 
beats. A diversion tactic. Wrung same span lake. 
Keeping bare and scraped down I can adopt a minimal 
way of staying here. I wish you were doing something 
more worthwhile he said. A straight line of being here is 
just a case of not going away. Upside flat down dark and 
spun. Late at night till morning always hanging on until 
light spreads and keeps. Keep busy and don’t think too 
much. Stop to begin. End to start. In the vast change of 
day it comes as before. I wish you were doing 
something a little bit more worthwhile write more slowly 
now to fill the time only fifteen seconds to go now eight 
now four now one.

Written for The Process of Content: on a temporality in 

contemporary art Saturday 29 November 2014, Cooper Gallery Dundee 



You can watch a showreel of the readings by Frances Davis, Kirsty Hendry, Alex Hetherington, Catherine Street & JL Williams, and Richard Taylor via the video below:

Interested in critical art writing? Check out our developing collection of work by writers based in Scotland on the Studio Jamming Critical Writing Residency website. Group Critical Writing Residency, edited by Maria Fusco, was part of Studio Jamming: Artists’ Collaborations in Scotland curated by Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in June-August 2014.