Phoenix Brighton – MEMORIA – Alex Peckham
This is a multi-dimensional piece created in an almost dark space surrounded by a sound recording of birds and external noises. It is therefore both internal and external but when you are in the space itself holds you between the two. Dominating the environment is a huge moth which appears to be breathing – not because it is moving but because of the sound-track and the assumption that this is the only living thing in the environment.
Scattered around are different pieces including tables and chairs – set with specific objects, dried trees, flowers – in retrospect I don’t know if what I “remember” are part of the exhibition or part of my own projection into the space and the experience.
Whilst the piece represents “dynamic sound and light to reflect upon life and death” my own response was of a tranquil, restful, allowing experience. I found the piece thoughtfully expressive of acceptance – or maybe that is just me!
University of Brighton – Cathie Pilkington
Provocative and ambiguous, Cathie Pilkington’s sculptures make use of dolls in unexpected and challenging ways.
Exhibited for the first time since its debut at the Royal Academy, Anatomy of a Doll responds to Degas’ famous figures of ballerinas, playing with ideas of form and representation: is it sophisticated high art or the mechanics of a handcrafted work in progress? Showing alongside is Harmonium, which transforms a humble wooden shelving unit into the framework for fascinating individual tableaux.
Figurines, textiles, lightboxes and domestic items each tell their own story, questioning expectations of ornament, storage and display. A Royal Academician since 2014, Pilkington is acclaimed for her often unsettling sculptures that question how the female figure is represented. (brightonfestival.org/event/11032)
I had not come across the work of Cathie Pilkington before and was thrilled by the diversity of her work. The ready-made pieces collaged together and over glazed as well as the more macabre created items like the one below I found very resonant with my interests with different ways to examine the female experience.
“Storytelling, myths, norms subverted, using “female” materials objects of the home and girl-hood. Sexualised, desexualised, curiosity, dressing table, femininity? who am I, couples/ceramic maids and partners, obliterated, covered, brown – colours of the 30s-50s”.
I loved particularly this dressing-table tableau with the child in 70s browns examining herself in the mirror but surrounded by over gazed idealised shepherds and shepherdesses. Personally I remember the fascination with my mother’s whole dressing-table “alter-like” specialness – the place the ordinary face became the extra-ordinary or the private became the public.
Is the girl willing herself to become adult or more female or different?
I have over the years collected pieces of embroidery with crinolined ladies depicted as the epitome of femininity – usually surrounded by hollyhocks in a country garden. Such a static depiction retained from previous centuries always struck me as an anachronism…..
The second part of Pilkington’s exhibition was the creation of an art studio – fitted with lecture theatre like seats, mirrors and individual pieces of “sculpture” in the likeness of Degas’s “Little Dancer” but made from a combination of ceramic, fabric etc fixed on apertures. These are subversive in their depictions of the female form – not idealised – heads back to front, limbs asymmetrical etc.
I really enjoyed this exhibition which opened up a different world and a variety of methods. However Harmonium though challenging I was not all together clear about what she was referencing on the different shelves – there were elements of Louise Bourgeois but maybe that is just the use of fabric.
Fabrica, Brighton – THEY
An exhibition by respected Turkish artist Ipek Duben comes to Brighton this Spring. THEY/ONLAR, a multi-screen video installation, previously seen at SALT, Istanbul, Turkey, will be presented at Fabrica for its UK premiere.
THEY/ONLAR focuses on how Turkish society views They or the Other. Through the stories of several individuals the artist goes behind the scene in Turkish society, allowing us to glimpse her country’s diversity of ethnic, religious and gender positions, the perceptions of members of the Sunni majority, and the everyday discrimination and resistance that it engenders.
In Turkey They covers many ethnic, and religious groups: Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Jews, Rum (Greek) and Romanis. They also refers to LGBT people, women, covered women, women subjected to domestic violence.
Through their personal testimonies Duben’s subjects discuss their histories, attitudes, prejudices, hear-say and personal experiences concerning each other. But in portraying Turkish society Ipek Duben ultimately invites us to examine ourselves in our context: to listen; to learn; to understand; to be generous to, rather than threatened by the Other.
Co-produced with Brighton Festival and with the generous support of SAHA Foundation
The statement above was part of the PR flyer for the exhibition. Spending quite a lot of time watching the films I became more and more intrigued by the individual stories and what was the same and what was different one to the other and to my own experience. There was a great deal revealed about the culture and politics of gender which I could identify with as my experience from 50s – 70s . The difference was the attitudes of the ethnic groups to each other. There had been times which they clearly lived amiably side by side but more recently a sense of separateness and fracture.
I am not sure how to respond to this as a piece of artwork -clearly there is a documentary format, biographical. What I enjoyed was the way each person was caught as it were mid sentence and mid discussion – each following the previous and phasing into the next. It left you wanting to hear more and certainly becoming involved in the narratives.
In conclusion I was reminded of the Jo Cox quote “more similar than different”.