Beyond the Bookshelves exhibition at the Old College Library, Chelsea College of Art & Design, London

On Wednesday 23rd May 2012 the private view for Beyond the Bookshelves exhibition took place at the Old College Library, Chelsea College of Art & Design, London. From 5.00 – 7.00pm staff, students and alumni from a number of the colleges of University of the Arts, London as well as artists, my course mates and colleagues from previous courses and jobs, friends and family came to see the exhibition and have something cold to drink on an extremely warm evening!

guests to the private view of Beyond the Bookshelves look round the exhibition at the Old College Library, Chelsea College of Art & Design, London

As the curator, I was pleased that everything had gone to plan when installing the exhibition including having successfully managed to adhere to the strict health and safety regulations without needing to alter my layout and display plans for the exhibition. I also felt that I had overcome the restrictions that exist when using a non-gallery space which has the daily function of the library’s silent reading room by displaying exhibits in interesting ways.

view of Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground from the Old College Library, Chelsea College of Art & Design

The booklet which I wrote to accompany this exhibition which includes information on the work shown by each of the the three artists as well as texts explaining the choices I made as curator and explanations of how the exhibition came about and information on the history of the exhibition space, can be seen on the library website for Chelsea College of Art and Design under Other Guides and Publications here

You can view the floorplan map of the space as well as the list of works from the exhibition.

Just below is the edited film, included in the exhibition, which shows film and sound clips from the live performative soundwork Silent Zone, Site and Sound which I have previously written about on this blog here.

What follows in this post are a series of photographs from the installation of the exhibition and from the private view evening (which were kindly taken by Itay Greenspon).

artists Tansy Spinks and Phil Jones install Phil’s cabinet

a detailed view of the cabinet containing books by Phil Jones

work by Julie Caves as displayed in one of the cabinets

hanging paper piece by Julie Caves

objects from Silent Zone, Site and Sound live performative soundwork by Tansy Spinks

from left to right: Colonel Frank Davis – Chair of Friends of Millbank, me and George Blacklock – Dean of Chelsea College of Art and Design

from left to right: me, Professor Stephen Farthing – Rootstein Hopkins Research Chair of Drawing at Chelsea College of Art & Design, Caitlin Smyth – Chelsea Arts Club Trust Resarch Fellow and Colonel Frank Davis – Chairman of Friends of Millbank.
In the corner is artist Aaron Mcpeake who has just completed his PhD at Chelsea College of Art & Design. Aaron has displayed part of his final show in the Old College Library at the same time with my exhibition on show.

guests including Donald Smith – Director of Exhibitions, CHELSEA space and Robin Jenkins – artist and year leader on BA Interior & Spatial Design at Chelsea College of Art & Design

artists Jenny Gordon and Fiona Whitty who are alumni of MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art & Design. They now work together on Whitty Gordon Projects which involves them working on a socially engaged film project in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. I will be assisting them in their work.

One day with a Sound Artist

As a lover of art and music, I have been enjoying exploring the burgeoning contemporary art form of sound art. Sound art has been recognised since the early 20th Century with artists such as the Futurist Luigi Russolo who wrote the treatise The Art of Noises. The Dadaists for example, also experimented with noises. By now, sound art is becoming more recognised as an art form in its own right, although it is frequently carried out in an interdisciplinary manner e.g. with explorations into the environment, the human body, sculpture, film or video. Sound art was thrust into the limelight recently in 2010 when Scottish artist Susan Philipsz won the Turner Prize with her non visual sound installation. Currently, London is home to the UK’s only sound art devoted gallery and research unit –  SoundFjord which I am sure I’ll blog about soon, once I’ve visited it in person and not just online.

I was lucky to meet sound artist Tansy Spinks when I went to the Venice Biennale in November. Tansy is also a musician and works in art and design Universities, meaning that we have quite a lot of common ground between us.

I have been assisting Tansy in a sound work called Silent Zone, Site and Sound which took place on Thursday 1st March 2012 12 noon – 6.30pm in the Old College Library at Chelsea College of Art & Design.

The Old College Library is as the name suggests, part of the old college of Chelsea College of Art & Design which is evident in the wooden features and original lecterns which may not be visible in the photographs, but are on the upper level. The Old College Library is used as a silent reading room and is home to the special collections of the library.

I had been assisting Tansy to find a special space for her sound work, as she is interested in non gallery spaces (as I also am, which was outlined in this post). The aim of the sound work was of ‘interrupting’ the everyday situation with sound. The sounds were to be prompted and determined by aspects of the site, its materials, history and useage. Equipment including microphones, a looping station and mixing desk were used to create layers of sound throughout the day so that the sound work was organic.

Once we had confirmed safe use of the space, we set up on the morning of the performance. Tansy organised her performance area with writing implements and other instruments and materials that would be used to make, record and replay sounds into the space relating to paper, writing and reading. The artist also used two texts for inspiration – William Morris’s The Aims of Art and John Ruskin’s The Mystery of Life and its’ Arts, both of which are housed in the library as part of the special collections.

the sound artist's performing space set up

Throughout the day, the artist was creating two things simultaneously. Firstly, the sounds themselves, which were created using a range of techniques from writing with a fountain pen with a sharp nib making a scratchy sound or shading with pencil for a softer sound and turning pages loudly or scrunching paper up for different sounds which were all made, recorded and replayed adding to the loop. At the same time, the large notebook that the artist wrote and drew in, would become a lasting object and documentation of the performance. The pages of the notebook were split into two – one side became a log of sounds through the day that the artist kept a running note of and on the other side Tansy wrote her own text using the Morris and Ruskin books for inspiration and citation.

During the day, the silent space was still being used by student and staff as part of the library and because we had placed two amplified speakers in hidden positions on the upper level, the ‘experiencer’ of the performance would not immediately be able to tell where the sound was coming from. Overall, this experience played on the juxtaposition of sound and silence.

I felt privileged to have been present throughout the performance and to have been able to help this exploration to come together. I found the sound work to be powerful and thought provoking and it has got me thinking about a future collaboration with Tansy, that we have already started to discuss… so watch (and listen out for) this space!