Arrived in Rio de Janeiro to the warmest of welcomes from the staff at Despina; Consuelo Bassanesi, Frederico Pellachin and Pablo Ferretti.
Settling into the rhythm of the city with visits to the Museu de Arte Moderna with exhibitions by Sonia Andrade '...bills', Zanine 100 years - Shape and Strength, and a selection of Films and Video works from the Itaú Cultural Collection.
And to A Gentil Carioca to see 'Yellow Fever' by Vivian Caccuri. The artist uses Yellow Fever (its history of migration and it's fever status on the body), to explore a history of Brazil. Full of generosity and detail to the material the subject of Yellow fever becomes a carrier bag for the history and speculative future of Brazilians's resistance to and protection against this virus.
In company with the work of Apolinário (stylist from São Paulo), who translated Caccuri's speculative fictions into clothing. Both protective and performative clothing.
States of living: Architecture, Body. Object
This month's reading group included "Women vs Feminism: Do We Need Liberating from the Gender Wars?" by Joanna Williams, selected by Louise Foreman and 'Volcano Saga' (1989) by artist Joan Jonas, selected by Zsa Zsa MacGregor.
'Women vs Feminism'
Louise was particularly interested in the relationship of class conflict within feminist dialogue. Given that the project involves practitioners in their twenties, thirties and fifties the discussion allowed an opportunity to position particular questions and critiques of contemporary feminist practice.
Williams positions that feminism's as an ideology is placed beyond criticism and at times, unintentionally promotes an idea of women as vulnerable, and as victims that is often at odds with reality. Through a continuous process of reinvention, citing the #Metoo as it's most recent iteration of fourth - wave feminism. Williamson argues that this movement is taking women away from liberation and increasingly towards an illiberal future. She relates her critique as a movement of feminist practice from the political, to a cultural narrative and in doing so feminism's benefits become for the elite, professional feminist far more than the ordinary woman.
'Volcano Saga' (1989)
Volcano Saga by Joan Jonas was originally performed live, featuring media artist Jonas on stage narrating a thirteenth century Icelandic folktale about a woman named Gudrun whose adventures revolved around four mysterious dreams that required the services of a soothsayer.
Translated into film, Jonas is no longer the narrator of the events as actors fill the roles of Gudrun and the soothsayer. Zsa Zsa was particularly interested in the re- telling of myth, framed by an auto - biographical introduction. Whilst collecting footage for the work in Iceland, Jona's car was blown of the road. The video work allowed for a conversation on the approaches to multi - layered narratives, folk lore and place as well as the role of translation from live work to video.
This months reading group was hosted at the home of Rachel Grant, with homemade lentil dahl and naan breads.
About Joanna Williams
Williams is Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at the University of Kent and Education Editor at Spiked, the online current affairs magazine. She speaks and writes regularly in the media on higher education, schools, gender, feminism, children, and families.
Women versus feminism
About Joan Jonas
Born in 1936 in New York, Joan Jonas is a pioneer of performance and video art. Jonas works in video, installation, sculpture and drawing and often collaborates with musicians and dancers.
Fertile Ground is delighted to announce a residency on the island of Unst, Britain's most northerly, inhabited island.
The project is hosted by artist Tony Humbleyard at Shorestation, a residency space on the island and is one of a series of residencies over the course of the summer months. 'Walking the spaces' explores issues of sustainability, transition and the challenges of the climate emergency for remote island communities.
The project's research is framed by the Plantie Crubs on the island. These are traditional structures for planting food communally however they are currently vacant. The Plantie Crubs become a site for investigating land ownership, social history and current land use practices on the island.
The project includes: Artist Tony Humbleyard, Dancer/Choreographer Kathryn Spence, Filmaker/editor Keiba Clubb and Landscape architect Sarah Long. An archive of the work will be presented to the community heritage centre, Shetland museum and archives and through an online platform.
Many thanks to the Sponsors of this project, NorthLink Ferries.
States of living: Architecture, Object Body
It's been a busy few weeks on the project so far, with the artists Zsa Zsa McGregor and Louise Foreman meeting for the first time. The session was framed by responses to collectively reading “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction”, from “Dancing at the Edge of the World” by Ursula Le Guin, whilst creating space to share the development of work with each other.
Le Guin's text presents the theory that the first tool used by humans was a carrier bag for food rather than a weapon. Le Guin draws connections between the story of origins and the writing of fiction. That contrary of stories of the hero in battle the novel is a feminine form, because it opposes this notion. Le Guin maintains that, “the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag...holding things in particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.”(p.152)
The text offered a platform to consider applications of this theory in arts practice as one of holding 'things' in tension. Within arts practice, how is attention given to the people, stories, theories and materials the are worked with: What's in your carrier bag? The text also situated tensions in the use of historical/archival material within the research, through questioning authorship and the role of archivists as gatekeepers.
Zsa Zsa's work uses a comb factory on Hutcheon street, Aberdeen to situate connections between the Pictish stones in Aberdeenshire, where symbols of combs and mirrors were used regularly. She took an opportunity to visit the Picardy and The Maiden Stone, North West of Inverurie.
...Stone body meets flesh body medieval structure meets present structure. The Pictish stones hold remnants and residues of the past culture. My body this interacts with this residue channeling the past and questioning present and future. Channelling a communication through performance.
A choreographed visual language between my hands and the carved symbols...(Zsa Zsa McGregor)
The soap factory ‘Soapy Ogstens’ as it was known, once stood on the Gallowgate and is the point of encounter for Louise’s work. The research is following the trail of traditional processes of soap making, through the processing of kelp or 'sea ware' as it is more generally referred to. This method was used in Scotland and also Ireland.
Later industrialisation in printing techniques also allowed the packaging of the soap bar to become a site of religious, political and at times utopian messaging. Dr. Bronners Peppermint 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap and All-One-God-Faith soap was first produced in the 1960's. 'Absolute cleanliness is godliness!'*, is one tagline used. These rambling, semi - religious, semi - fictional narratives covering Bronners soap juxtapose the sites of washing. In domestic spaces or the body. What might be deemed an intimate and private space, is infiltrated with the moral guidelines of the maker.
Louise has also visited a family owned soap making company, to develop an understanding of the process. Mary Jean is family run business and uses traditional soap making processes and is based in Fochabers, we thank you Mary Jean for sharing your knowledge and hospitality!
*See pdf for details
The project will support the development of new work, showcased in Aberdeen in January 2020. This project was made possible through funding from the Aberdeen City Council’s ‘Creative Funding Award.’
Fertile Ground is delighted to announce an up and coming residency with Despina, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 2019.
Despina is an independent space committed to develop platforms for research, production and exchange in the fields of art and cultural activism. It has been working since 2013, and in 2015 it was established as a non-profit association. The space offers artists studios, and an international residency program for artist and curators. The team also program exhibitions, workshops, courses, performances and talks among other activities.
The organisations approaches include; strengthening connections between art and activism, widening access to contemporary art and fostering the participation and visibility of historically marginalised agents.
Fertile ground is delighted to announce a new project ‘States of living: Architecture, Object, Body’ with artists Alexandra McGregor and Louise Foreman. The project will support the development of new work, showcased in Aberdeen in January 2020.
Architecture reflects states of rapid regeneration and new developments are often a sign of progress for the city. Where old collides with the new, the preservation of social and cultural histories is often lost or in ruins. This suggests that architecture is far more than bricks and water; these structures reveal the histories, hopes, power struggle and culture of the society we live in today.
Taking a critical feminist approach to architectural remnants in the city the artists will be digging into local and regional archives to inform the works, investigating the recorded material and objects left behind. The soap factory ‘Soapy Ogstens’ as it was known, once stood on the Gallowgate and is the point of encounter for Louise’s work. Alexandra uses a comb factory on Hutcheon street to situate connections between the Pictish stones in Aberdeenshire, where symbols of combs and mirrors were used regularly.
We'll be doing number of reading groups and site visits with local organisations including Aberdeen Art Galleries and Museums, Aberdeen University and Aberdeen city and shire archives during the development of the work. Selected development and research will be available here.
Louise Foreman is an Aberdeen based visual artist and community worker. She uses a broad variety of materials to expand and evolve her work including sculpture, printmaking, textiles, collage and environment. Her work has a firm basis in social, cultural and political critique.
Alexandra is an Aberdeen based artist working across performance, drawing and installation. Her practice is enveloped in the feminine and seeks to unearth historic residues relating to the role and essence of Women. Feinine rite and ideology are re – examined and reshaped in order to seek out and question the present and post female. Through performative explorations with body and object women’s positions and spaces are investigated through gesture, prop and garment.
This project was made possible through funding from the Aberdeen City Council’s ‘Creative Funding Award.’