Thursday, 29 September 2011


So it starts. I am torn between the strand of page and screen. The project is like this:


This project examines the use of the image in publications of all kinds. The brief is to assume the role of editor, art director, photographer and designer. In other words, all aspects of publication. You may also be able to link this up with your final project, perhaps by presenting your work/ideas in book form.

In this module you are expected to produce original photography, which will form the basis of your project. The production of the images will form the first part of this module. The second part will focus on the presentation of these images. If you have another idea not involving original photography i.e. found material, this can be accommodated. The literary content should be to the fore, either in terms of the text of the article/magazine or in terms of a critical review handed in with the project.

While the emphasis is on the production of images and developing your knowledge and understanding of print design, you will also need a good understanding of scanning, use of typography, fonts, and page layout in InDesign. You should also produce roughs/dummy printouts and mock-ups and know how to prepare work for the press. You should end up with a thorough grasp of the various ways in which images are presented for publication. This could be achieved through a project designed by you along the following lines:

1) Artist Book / Design Book

You should produce a partial dummy of the proposed publication. The structure and content of the book must be coherent in the sense that it can be described in a short paragraph to a potential publisher. You should be able to demonstrate an understanding of book design and show that you have examined a number of design ‘routes’ before arriving at the final structure of the publication. This process should be documented in your research file together with examples, which have influenced your decisions.

2) Modern Fiction

The titles could be fictitious and if so you must supply a synopsis of the narrative, alternatively you could redesign existing titles with appropriate photography, which show an understanding of the content of the book or play and how to position it for its intended readership. (Yes, you’ve got to read the book). You should also produce poster to promote you book.

3) DVD Insert

and associated publicity i.e. posters for a fictitious independent film made by either a well-known film director e.g. Wim Wenders, Jean Cocteau, Tarantino or yourself. If you choose a real director the images you create should reflect his/her style and technique. A synopsis of the film should be included on the back. The work should incorporate film stills in the appropriate style.

4) Style Magazine or Colour Supplement Spreads

Must have a developed theme and will be accompanied by an appropriately typeset piece of relevant and incisive writing (which should have a narrative or documentary content).

5) Music CD

Must be at least a six-page booklet with an insert, if it is a jewel case, or a six-page digipack. Should include on-body artwork and a poster. The photography should present a stylistically integrated idea, which gives a strong identity to either the music or the musicians or both.

All the above are jumping off points. Remember you are the editor, so you can choose your own project. If you have another idea, feel free to propose it. There must be a written element to your work in this module. This could either be in the text (in case of a magazine) or in a descriptive sense as supporting text. You should also submit supporting material in the form of a research file or folio (in a form you feel most in keeping with your project).


You will work on an individual or group video piece that should be between 3 to 5 minutes long. The subject area for this brief is Maps and Journeys you are encouraged to use the metaphor of journeys in the production of a time-based piece of work. The idea of the map or journey can be used as a starting point for ideas that may explore themes around architecture, landscape, territories and borders, inner and outer spaces, cities, countries, maps and also virtual worlds, such as the TV, computer or cinema screen.

You will need to consider and explore different ways of working, looking at the possibilities offered by the medium. Narrative sequence, the single shot, montage, constructed imagery and experimental uses of the medium are amongst the approaches you could explore.

You must identify a specific audience and context for your project.

Video is historically concerned with a critique of the mass media, television and mainstream cinema, often attempting to subvert or disrupt the traditional devices used. You are expected to produce work that is critical and challenging to the mainstream.

If your piece is a short film then you will have adopted strategies of using text in the form of a title at the beginning and credits at the end of the video. If it is intended for a gallery audience as an installation then you may submit your piece as a continuous loop with a title panel, which states your name, the title and length of the piece for the wall. Projects should be submitted as edits on DVD.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


I did some personal project, engaging nothing but only with my memory, life and self. However how are these works received by the viewers? I keep wondering this especially after my group summer show ‘Mirrors of Believing’ at Chapel Gallery weeks ago. I had not paid ‘universality’ when developing and creating the work - ‘Bye-bye Yesterday’. Maybe I should consider more about this and at least make some of the viewers interested and engaged with my works with some universal signifiers. Hume’s ‘Personal Identity’ is the opening text for our theory module - ‘Perspective’. I look forward to finding the fine balance between personal and universality.

I also realised that I really need to hone my skill in the realisation of my ideas. Having idea is only the beginning part of any project, the other part, more important to me, at least now, is to realise in the form of photographic representation. My weakness lies in here, pixel/dpi planning, Photoshop retouching, etc and of course shooting and printing... Some of my images in the show were not good enough in quality, due to my lack of attention to create the work in the first place. Realisation is more important than idea and I should emphasise this from now on.

Time has a quality that whenever you want to start anew, you can always use time as an excuse - the next day or minute is always new. It will kick off tomorrow and I have a refreshing mood for the new start.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Eyewitness - at Royal Academy & Kertez's Polaroids Installation Shot

Small prints, epic show.

Friday, 2 September 2011


San Zaccaria, Venice (by Thomas Struth) & Other Installation Shots

I have read several Thomas Struth’s photo books, however visiting the show in White Chapel is a totally different experience. Needless to say, the size and the precise printing quality of the works make a strong visual impact and embodied affect. The sublime was conveyed well by the size the work and space of the gallery. The edit and curation is very interesting, with 2 rooms with different themes interacting with one work to another. Struth chose some cliché vernacular theme such as family portrait and travelling photos but created strong conceptual works. His approach is very cool, engineering and methodological. I have planned a re-visit, well, hopefully.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


In ancient Egypt times, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285 -246 B.C.) founded an institute called Mouseion in the city of Alexandria. It served to worship the Muses, contained the related artefacts and even had a room especially for the study of astronomy and anatomy. This is the origin of the modern museum. Today a museum is a multi functional institute organising exhibitions and related activities including education. Museums and exhibitions have been constantly changing the role and function in art, culture and society especially in the last 50 years. An exhibition is a complex phenomenon with a great many cultural, political, and historical assumptions and discourses.

John Tagg (1970, p.70) analogised an exhibition as a map and claimed that “the conventional nature of the representation tends to be hidden in use and the laws of projection become invisible”. This essay will analyse exhibitions and include two parts. The first part will anatomise exhibitions through discussions of the historical context, the stakeholders involved and their cultural, social and political context; the second part will discuss Gabriel Orozco’s current exhibition at the Tate Modern.

The museum has developed over the last 250 years since 1759 when the first independent museum - The British Museum - was founded. It is only in the last 50 years or so that we see the transition from authoritative with absolute certainties to tentative with democratic atmosphere, when traditional neutrality, objectivity and rationality were questioned, criticised and at the most extreme, denied. Shubert (2000) set out the milestones in exhibition and museum history including Paris/London 1760-1870, Berlin 1900-1930, New York 1930-1950, Europe 1945-1970, and Paris 1970-1980. He also claimed that the Pompidou is the watershed in exhibition and museum history. Founded just after the student’s revolution, it had clear social, economic and political agendas by its location in a run-down area in Paris and its multiple perspectives and approaches to its subject in place of MoMA’s traditional single-strand narrative. After the Pompidou came the burgeoning of diversified commercial galleries and artists’ Alternative Space. These independent exhibition spaces changed the dynamics of the relationships among the stakeholders of exhibitions.

An exhibition is not just a combination of artworks or just the expression by artists and curators. The purpose of the organiser, the motivation of the sponsors, the presentation of an exhibition, the visitor’s involvement, guide’s explanation, curator’s statement, discussions in symposiums, all form the reality of any exhibition. An exhibition sometimes serves not only to create the avant garde, to comment on social issues, to celebrate cultural festivals, but to gentrify a community, present national image and influence political ideology in many cases. Contemporary art exhibitions create complex relationships among organisers, venue, artists, curators, critics, visitors, collectors and merchandiser. An exhibition is a combination of artworks and at the same time an exhibition is itself an artwork, which shapes, distributes and balances economic, political, and social status quo.

Visitors matter more than ever before. Museums make the underlying decision-making process of exhibitions public and communicate with visitors. Museums reposition from standard-setting authoritative elite art ivory tower to a more audience-driven and service-oriented institution. On the one hand, museums try to adjust to the post-modernity art and culture environment; on the other hand they correspond to the political and economic shifts. The number of visitors not only correlates with museum’s reputation and its income through ticket and other sales but also is an important criterion for government grant and corporate sponsorship consideration. The number of visitors is one of the key performance indicators for exhibitions and museums. Museums adopt many marketing tools to attract visitors and closely study visitor status to adjust its management strategy. Curatorial decisions get adjusted accordingly as well. Schubert claimed through his research (2000, p.89) that the curator interprets the audience’s educational needs and entertainment wishes, fulfils the politician’s cultural ambitions, furthers the museum and its collection by soliciting donations, sells the sponsor access without compromising the institutional autonomy while at the same time should be the guarantor of the artist’s voice.

Despite these agendas to consider and to achieve, curator still has an unarguable key role in the presentation of art exhibitions. The curator is a gatekeeper to an exhibition - “the medium through which most art becomes known”. (Ferguson, Greeenberg & Nairne 1996: 2) According to Watkin’s studies, (p.27, 1987) curation is getting more akin to a form of artistic practice since the 1980s, when the group exhibition has become an important site for curatorial experimentation. Then with the spread of biennials in the 1990’s, the curator is put in a more primary position for more visibility and responsibility. Sigrid Schade argued that the curator becomes a type of meta-artist (1999, p.11). The authorship and control of artistic visibility between artist and curator is complex. The curator is at the interface of artists and visitors. A perfect curator is to offer the best chance for audiences to engage with artist’s work and the best chance for artist’s work to be presented to the public at the same time.

In the next section, I would like to review the current exhibition ‘Gabriel Orozco’ at the Tate Modern.

I knew of Gabriel Orozco before the show from two of his photographs ‘Cat

and Watermelon’ and ‘Breath on Piano’. I was not very familiar with his career and his work but I knew that he was born in Mexico in 1962 and worked on many interesting pieces while he travelled extensively. Then I saw an advertisement in a tube with his ‘Black Kite’ poster, which was very graphic and seemed intriguing. So I went to the gallery to see the show.

The show is on the fourth floor of Tate Modern, a site normally hosts non permanent exhibitions. A warden handed me a leaflet. It was 4” x 6” in size and could unfold 12 times bigger. There were introductions of the show in general and the key works exhibited, credits of the show, show related talks and activities, and the advertisement of Tate members and another show at Tate. On the back of the leaflet, there was an exhibition map.

I saw a vividly coloured work at the first sight entering into Room 1. It was ‘My Hands Are My Heart’ consisting two photos. The first depicted two hands squeezing red clay and the second one showed a heart-shaped piece of clay in both hands. The piece was not big with dimensions of about 40 x 50 cm but the dark background and saturated coloured torso made the images stand out. The title and the image worked well. The work was very literal yet at the same time deeply metaphorical. Then I walked around the room and found the physical clay heart inside a glassed showcase.

Upon entering Room 2, I was overwhelmed by eight 2.5 metre high white papers with black texts. They occupied two major walls. It read ‘Expert on Sun’s Ingredients’, ‘Philosopher Author and Friend of Popes, ‘the Maker of Corgi Toy Cars’… From the introduction, I knew that this piece was called ‘Obit Series’ and they were obituary headlines from the New York Times. I then saw the ‘Black Kite’ in the middle of the room surrounded with people. The skull and the obituary convoluted with each other and created a poetic feel.

Following the map, I entered Room 3 naturally. It was a totally different experience coming out of the small stuffy room to such a spacious bright hall. The size was about 20 by 40 meters. A weird car was right in front of me. Then I noticed an elevator-like thing on the far right, a group of bicycle in the far left and a black ball on the ground. There were many photos of the same size hung on the four white walls in a regular line so I started to walk along the wall to look at the photos first. Each photo was about 40 x 50 cm in size and showed two yellow motor scooters. Each photo depicted different surroundings probably in the same city. The leaflet indicated that this was a project done in Berlin; he bought an East German scooter and tried to find every scooter there. Then I reached the bicycle location and walked around the bicycle assemblage. I found a white shoebox on the ground as well, before reach the elevator. Obviously it is short, the door is open and so I stepped in. I felt rather claustrophobic. There was a rubber ball called ‘Recaptured Nature’ nearby. I stayed at the wired narrow car called ‘LA DS’ for a while before headed for Room 4.

Room 4 and Room 5 were quite similar in layout with smaller size than Room 1. Some geometric drawings hang on the walls. A ceiling fan in Room 4 fascinated me. The fan was rotating with toilet paper on top flying as if dancing. I noticed Orozco used found newspapers to draw Atomist Series and even used toothpaste spit to mix with his drawing in the work called ‘First Was the Spitting’. Seeing all these work with toilet paper flying over me, I could feel that I was very near to the artist’s everyday life. There was also a chessboard installation named ‘Horses Running Endlessly’ in the middle of Room 5.

Room 6 contained 20 photographs, each of the same size, on four walls. The first one was a dog sleeping. I was intrigued by the subtlety in these mundane daily life details. The size of the images was small but it went well with the subject, like the conceptual art heritage from the 60s and 70s. The photos were either the depiction of daily life details or the manipulated performance with subtle and poetic humour and with social, cultural and philosophical significations. The edit of these images seemed carefully designed in a chronological and formal way. In the middle of the room, there was a billiard table called ‘Carambole with Pendulum’.

Room 7 was a long corridor. His work ‘Dial Tone’ was laid on a long shelf along the wall. It had thousands of telephone numbers from New York phone books. Orozco re-contextualised them by making them anonymous and printing them on a ten-metre roll of oriental soft paper. Walking along the long corridor with eyes moving along the numbers was a special experience. The other wall was occupied by his work ‘Finger Ruler’. Room 8 was installed by ‘Chicotes’. Orozco had been gathering these remnants of burst tyres from along Mexican highways for years. He laid these remains with diversified irregular shapes on the floor neatly. Walking through Room 3, I entered into the last one - Room 9, almost fully occupied with pieces of matted lint hung over wires. He collected the skin, hair and fabric accumulated from the filters of drying machines in New York. I walked below the grey lint. With the concept in mind, I felt I was like a flaneur walking on the streets of New York. There were some drawings on the wall and a few sculptures named ‘Pelvis’ ‘Torso’ etc on a table. My first quick strolling in the show finished here.

Orozco’s art career started around 30 years ago in 80s. To curate a mid-career show spanning these decades should be challenging. How to mediate Orozco’s art to visitors and how to present the chosen artworks in the most affective way in the limited spaces of 9 rooms are the keys to the exhibition. According to a talk on Orozco’s show, Orozco provided a list of candidates of his work and collaborated with the curator very closely to decide the final exhibited pieces. He also worked very closely with the curator in choosing and designing the exhibition space.

‘My Hands are My Heart’ in the opening show is an excellent choice. It is a piece created in the early stage of his career in 1991. It is a ‘sculpture tableau’ (Temkin, 1999, p.175). It is the epitome of his creative usage of sculpture and photography collapsing the borders of both media while at the same time freeing both. The signature simplicity style, down to earth approach and daily life subject are the hands and heart of his art. The striking image, his hands and body and the sculpture serves as great anchor and starting point for the show.

The spaces are organised by theme. The theme in Room 2 is death. Most of the Room 3 pieces are about moving. Room 4 and 5 are about his geometrical drawing. Room 6 is the photography and the daily sculpture encountered or manipulated. Room 7 is of daily objects appropriations. Room 8 has a single installation. The theme of Room 9 is fragility. The art works in each room interrelate to one another creating strong meaning and affective impact. For example, the death theme is greatly enhanced by the presentation of ‘Black Kite’ and ‘The Obit Series’ together. In Room 9, the ‘Lintel’ installation together with the sculpture ‘Pelvis’ etc increased the intensity of the fragility feel.

Each theme is matched to the space well. For example, Room 2 is small and hence enhanced the atmosphere of the death theme. The ‘Obit Series’ is installed all over the walls. Stepping into the room, visitors immediately get immersed in the subjects. Room 4 is spacious, the presentation directed visitors to the long walk around the space engaging with the project – finding Schwalbe scooters across the whole city of Berlin. Knowing the context from the leaflet, visitors walk like virtually on the streets of Berlin creating embodied experiences. It would not work the same affective way if the 40 photographs were installed by an 8 by 5 panel presentation. The long corridor space in Room 7 makes the visitor perceive the 10 metres long ‘Dial Tone’ longer. The single room occupation by ‘Chicotels’ enhanced the cool and spacious feel of the project. In addition, all space is utilised fully. Almost each room has a freestanding display, showing a sculpture, or a game or other art pieces with visitors’ easy access and engagement, making the best and most out of all spaces.

The sequence of the show seems clear as well. Starting from his residence location New York in Room 1 and 2, Room 3 contains most of the site-specific commissioned artworks through Orozco’s global travelling. “Schwalbe” was created while he stayed at Berlin; “Bicycle” was the Amsterdam product; “Shoebox” was originally created for Venice Biennale. Then artworks in other rooms were created in diversified locations. The show ended with the work he did in Mexico and New York – his origin and his major residence. Like classical narratives, the show has the grand opening “My Hands are My Heart”, then develop and is contrasted in death themed Room 2, outspread to different subjects and locations, and finalise by his recent Mexico piece “Chicotes” and New York “Lintel”. The ending of the show is highly political to me. As ‘Lintel’ was exhibited in the immediate aftermath of September 11, the ash-coloured lint took on a poignant significance. Many issues could be engaged such as the American war on terrorism, US nationalism, and human’s fragility. It is like another Hollywood movie ending, the trauma of the terrorism is long lasting, the war against the terrorist is still lingering on and the terror danger is still looming large.

Known for his site-specific approach, Orozco conceived ‘Chicotes’ specially for Room 8 and collaborated with the curator Jessie Morgan. Even when designed with a specific site in mind, Orozco insisted that his work is ‘never simply site-specific’ because ‘it is always meant to circulate in the world and accrete new meanings’. (Morgan, 2010, p 116) With many pieces created in different places when Orozco travelled, most of them did articulate well in this London gallery show. However, some of his works lost their original significance as the context has changed. ‘Shoebox’ was originally created for Venice Biennale in 1993. At that time as the space was small, it was tough to show his work properly. The context has changed with the location moved to spacious Room 5 and it would be impossible to have that feel in Venice in 1993. With this background, it acts as a signifier to experience the history. However knowing the artist uses a shoebox to store ideas, the gallery space and the box make an interesting analogy as well.

With 250 years of museum and exhibition development, we see art institutions become more globalised, commercialised and visitor friendly especially evidenced by this Orozco show.

The exhibition was organised by The Museum of Modern Art New York, then showed in the Kunstmuseum Basel, the Pompidou Paris, and the Tate in London. Resource sharing is one of the keys to gain international presence, influence and at the same time cost effectiveness. The globalisation trend in art exhibitions sector is obvious, though each Orozco show is customised locally, according to the exhibition catalogue standardised and published by Tate.

As an art institution, finance is one of the keys to survive and to be prosperous. The show is sponsored by Mexico Fundacion Televisa and Conaculta, who successfully project their image through the show. The show ticket is 10 pounds. Advertisement is executed reasonably well especially in London while there is a high percentage of tourists any time in the year. Merchandising is done professionally in the form of postcards, Tshirts and dozens of other products. Dozens of different books on Orozco are being sold in the shop. Even one of Orozco’s photo “Island within Island” is on sale as well.

Exhibited in Tate Modern, one of the best art institutions in the world, this show has huge popularity. It greatly increased the artist’s presence in UK. I visited the show three times in 3 months and each time there are many visitors. The education and engaging facility is first class. A Wifi guide to most of the art pieces is available through any smart phone. Numerous talks on the show are organised. A video documentary is broadcasted near the exit of the show. Tate modern has magazines, website, blog, youtube programme and podcast to make this information accessible to visitors. At the same time, these educational channels acted as marketing tools.

Tate blog has published a total of 12 blogs on this show by the end of March, 2 months since the show started. The blog site has very good visitor involvement. The blog on ‘Shoe Box’ published on 26th of February attracted more than 60 follows ups. It was a passionate discussion with many radical claims and criticiques. Tate does not delete this blog or any of the discussions at all. Tate encourages visitors to get involved into the discussion. I even received an email drafted by the curator asking me to comment on the blog. It seems that art institutions continue to lead the aesthetic and ideology in the social context while at the same time getting more democratic with the public.


Ferguson, B.W., Greenberg, R., and Nairne, S., “Mapping International Exhibitions” in Greenberg, Reeesa, Bruce Feerguson and Sany Nairne (eds.) Thinking About Exhibitions Routledge: London, 1996

Morgan, J., Gabriel Orozco Tate Publishing: London, 2011

O’Neill, P., “The Curatorial Turn: From Practice to Discourse” in Rugg, J, Sedgwick, M., (eds.) Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance. Intellect: Bristol & Chicago, 2007

Schade, S., ‘Preface’ in Drabble, B. and Richter, D. (eds.) Curating Degree Zero, An Internaional Curating Symposium, Verlag Fur Monderne Kunst: Nuremberg, 1999

Schubert, K. The Curator’s Egg. One-Off Press: London, 2000

Tagg, J. A Socialist Perspective on Photographic Practice. Three Perspectives on Photographic Practice. Hayward Gallery: London 1979

Temkin, A., Gabreil Orozco: Photogravity,Philadelphia Museum of Art: Philadelphia, 1997

Temkin, A., Gabreil Orozco Tate Publishing: London, 2010

Watkins, J., ‘The Curator as Artist’ in Art Monthly 111, London, 1987

Podcast: MoMA Talks: Gabriel Orozco by Paulina Pobocha, a curatorial assistant in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at MoMa

Tate Blog: