Sunday, January 23, 2011


Dear Blog,

It's me, Celine. This is my last post. I will continue to tidy up and add to some of the skinnier posts on this blog through the next few days, but on the whole, this blog has served its purpose and can therefore be considered finished. If anyone is interested in continuing to follow along as I make my way through my final semester of graduate school, I will be updating on my train of thought every few days on my studio notes blog. Don't worry blog, it's not you, it's me.

Last Days

Dear Blog,

Hi, it's me, Celine. My last day and a half in London was bittersweet. Wednesday I went to the Royal Academy of Art, followed by the Tate Modern to see the Gabriel Orozco show.

At the Royal Academy of Art I saw the "Aware: Art Fashion Identity" show, which I was initially hesitant to see, but turned out to be a good experience. I was hesitant because there are many shows that are basically fluff- shows arranged with little curatorial purpose other than to draw people into the museum. (Particularly when the image on the fliers for the show are so clearly meant to be sexy and seductive- see below). But I felt that it would be remiss of me to not see a show whose work is so closely related to the field of art jewelry. Although in academic discussions in the art world, fashion is rarely mentioned, this seems to me a major oversight-- after all, the way that most people experience jewelry is as an extension of fashion, and even the most academically-minded jeweler must admit that jewelry is meant to be worn on the body, and as such participates in many of the same discussions as fashion (a word that strangely connotes clothing, not sure why this is). The show covered an impressive (if somewhat schitzophrenic) range of what fashion could mean; alternately presenting runway garb, video art, performance work, theoretical clothing, and a four channel video exploring the garment industry in India. There were a few givens, such as Yoko Ono's "Cut Piece" and a large installation by Yinka Shonibare entitled "Rich Little Girls". There were also many artists who were included, I suspect, more for their name brand than for their reflection on fashion and identity (Acconci Studio's Umbruffla comes to mind, as does Cindy Sherman's Doll Clothes) This seemed an extension of a common theme; a field in its own right is only recognized as art when well known artists dabble in a craft with which they have little familiarity. Some of the most revelatory work was by artists whom I had never heard of, although this certainly does not mean that they have no following.

Also at the Academy was Haunch of Venison, a solo show of French video artist Nicolas Provost's work. This was hands down one of my favorite shows in London.

It was raining hard when the Tate closed. Luckily I had my trusty umbrella. I walked across the Millenium bridge , past the steps of St. Paul's, and over to the ICA one last time to try and catch a lecture entitled "The Problem with Contemporary Sculpture". It was sold out. I can't imagine people lining up to pay to see a lecture on the state of contemporary sculpture here in the states. There wasn't even any standing room. After walking around a bit, I found a quiet pub near Trafalgar square, where I sat quietly in a corner, gathering my thoughts and munching on a traditional English meat pie. The waitress was very kind, and could tell that I was a tourist. I wonder what gave me away. Perhaps it was the map. After dinner, I met Iain near Nelson's Column. We walked to the Houses of Parliment, which looks its most imposing and majestic at night, when rows of warm orange spotlights illuminate the building from below, exaggerating its craggy gothic exterior. Iain's connections got us past the guards, down into the heart of the building, through numbers of long hallways and huge stone rooms that echoed like the walls of a cathedral, down into a cozy pub with green carpeting. I drank beer in the Houses of Parliment. It was great.

On my last day, I visited the British Museum once more to see the small drawing show, From Picasso to Mehretu, selections from the permanent collection. It was initially underwhelming, due in part to the size of the work; all were fairly small, and many were sketches or studies for larger pieces. It is also hard to compete with the sculptural work contained in the British Museum; some of the greatest works of mankind from the last 20,000 years is contained within that collection.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Dear Blog,

It's me, Celine. Yesterday was unexpected. I went to the same cafe yesterday morning that I've been going to almost every morning since I've been here. Then went to the Slade to have coffee with the director, Susan Collins, who knows my mother from Columbia. She was a lovely person, and had a lot of helpful things to say. Unfortunately, she's also a very busy person, so our interlude only lasted about half an hour. I then went to the Camden Arts Center, where there was a very interesting show up. The curator was former Turner prize winner Simon Starling (who I think I saw at an opening once, incidentally...) and some of the curatorial decisions were both unexpected and confusing, but overall a satisfying show (I will write much more about it later-- the ideas are still ruminating). I ended up staying there the entire afternoon, going through the exhibit, milling around in their fabulous bookstore, and having a large and protracted lunch while I watched the sun slowly set over a construction site. As I was leaving, a man came up to me and asked if I was going to another gallery- I answered that I didn't have one in mind. He said that he did, so we chatted and walked there together. It turns out he was an art student from South Hampton, returning to school to get his BFA after fifteen years. He was a pleasant, friendly man, and he ended up accompanying me to the ICA for a screening of the contemporary independent film Slakistan, a story of Pakistani twenty-somethings Islamabad, graduated from college and unsure what to do with their lives. Today, I'm going to try and find a pair of lace up boots in Oxford Circus. Also going to revisit the Saatchi gallery, the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, catch a lecture at the ICA on 'The Trouble with Contemporary Sculpture" and meet Iain for a drink at the Houses of Parliment (he works in the building, how cool is that?). It's going to be an epic day. We'll see how much of it I actually get through.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Update on whole hostel-situation-thing

Dear Blog,

It's me, Celine. The hostel I'm staying in is pretty bad. Leg-gnawingly bad. I have some small, humble understanding of what it must have been like living in a tenement. The best thing about the whole situation is that there are curtains around each tiny bed, which are stacked three high, in rows down the length of a 30' x 20' room. Imagine the stress, awkward glances, and fitful movements of a long and crowded public bus ride, extended to the length of an entire night.

I also forgot that I had put an old banana in my purse. I found said banana while walking home around midnight and thinking to myself 'i smell banana, why is that?' Consequently, I smelled rather funny the whole day. I'm sure the smell is still lurking in my purse, threatening to jump out at me if I have the gall to try and pay for something.

I saw Hamlet last night, in a standing room only performance at the National Theatre. I was standing. That didn't prevent it from being wonderful. It was, I realized, the first time I've ever seen Hamlet in its entirety. I've only seen a few clips of Hamlet from various sources (Kenneth Branaugh, Kirosawa, Frasier). I'm going to try and see King Lear tonight.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Summupence.

Dear Blog,

It's me, Celine. The program is now officially over, as of one hour ago. The crew packed themselves onto a bus and I waddled away with my overstuffed luggage, down to a dingy hostel that smells of sweat and floor cleaner. I'm staying in a room with twenty other twenty-somethings, which will, hopefully, prove to be good fun. Or at least not result in me chewing off my own foot. There's standing room-only five pound tickets to Hamlet tonight, and I'm thinking of attending. It's fitting that I would be without a seat, as that, I think, is a good metaphor for where I stand (or don't stand) in things just now. Looking back on the last few weeks, I am surprised by the things that have clung to me. I think the best artwork grows in you slowly, building, changing and dislodging your thoughts inconspicuously, its vibrations resonating, building to a pitch until it is no longer possible to ignore. The best art acts upon the body like a tuning fork.

I have been returning time and again to a piece we saw on the second day here, in the Tate Modern. It was the residue of a site specific installation done in 2007 by Doris Salcedo, seen in the huge Turbine Hall where Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds is currently installed. The work was/is entitled Shibboleth. The long chasm was meant to expose the racism upon which modernism and the contemporary Western world are built. For my purposes, it was more important that I saw the repair of the building; effectively the afterlife of the piece. A large concrete scar runs along the floor of the building, the lighter gray clearly visible against the darker, older concrete of the original floor. In her installation, Salcedo tore at the seams of the building, committing an act of violence against a seemingly impenetrable body. And to me, this idea of the body is key; for the building becomes a body through its destruction and repair. I have started to grapple more seriously than before with the notion that the body I am searching for exists already in the space upon which I choose to act.

It is strange and sad that this repair was not openly acknowledged as part of the piece, that the artist was not consulted in healing the wound she had unearthed- for I believe we are asked to consider that the artist here worked as an archaeologist, uncovering that which was already present.

High tea

Dear blog,

It's me, Celine. On Sunday, we had no fixed engagements other than convening for high tea at the National Gallery cafe. It was lovely to have tea and little finger sandwiches all together before our departure. More soon.

Gallery hopping on the East End

Dear Blog,

It's me, Celine. On Saturday we went gallery hopping on the East end. It was exhausting and good fun. Class in the evening, where everyone tried to sum up their experiences from the last two weeks and talk about what they would write their papers on upon their return.

Some highlights from gallery hopping are as follows.

Drawing Room
Small gallery located in a seemingly shady neighborhood. The gallery was behind a huge locked iron gate. The gallery assistant had to come down to open the gate. Once inside, the yard was dingy and sported a huge utility truck that looked as if it had been used to cart around artillery in the second world war. The gallery was on the third floor of a small warehouse building which was also the studio space for several artists. The interior of the gallery was modest, with high wood beamed ceilings and skylights. The show up was entitled Best Laid Plans and did not seem to be curated to any particular theme. There was a double channel video projection slideshow in the back showing advertisement stills and line drawings isolating the hand gestures shown in the ads. The artist is Katya Sander.