Inspirer Talk – Judy Blame

Words: Aimee Plumbley

Judy Blame is a stylist and art director, his work is tinged by his punk aesthetic. Judy explained his previous projects, ideas and things that have inspired him and continue to do so; “anything can inspire me, from a button, postage stamp to a record”.

Judy highlighted a project where he worked with Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs on customising denim jackets. The brief required Judy to marry the customising aesthetic on top of a hideously expensive denim jacket- it enabled Judy to take a very street idea and to “shamelessly” push it through a posh Paris fashion house. Judy has also worked with Commes des Garcon, and also Neneh Cherry, Björk, Boy George and Kylie Minogue.

“I’m in a position of privilege, I’m chipping away from the inside rather than just confronting the outside. There’s a thin line to my work, and I like to tread on it.” – Judy on his non-conformist attitude.

Throughout his extensive career spanning over 35 years, Judy has taken many stylised photos. However, he admits that his fashion photography is quite simple: “If Ray Petri [I wouldn’t be where I am without him] taught me one thing about taking pictures; is to think about the person first, the photograph second and the outfit last.” “You don’t need everything and the kitchen sink to take a good fashion photograph”.

Most recently, Judy has worked with the Institute of Contemporary Art to put on a solo exhibition. To coincide with this Judy decided to go back to his roots and the time he spent in Manchester in the 1970s, where one of the mediums to find out something about a band or gig was the Fanzine. Judy commissioned what he termed a “posh fanzine” called ‘Riot’ as an alternative to a catalogue. It contains pieces from Judy’s archive and also exclusive contributions from the likes of Massive Attack, Dave Baby, Juergen Teller and so on.

A member of the audience probed Judy more about the collages he has created:

“I’m not that confident about my drawing, and I’m a big fan of collage as a way of illustrating an idea… A lot of my work has a really graphic side to it when I look at something I don’t just look at it as a picture, I like to crop or edit I like to see it not on a page. I like to collect imagery and then put it all together, I’m a bit of a magpie, and I’m always on the hunt for a good idea.  I either stick it in an ideas book, or record it in some other way. For me it’s like building a visual dictionary of everything that appeals to me… Collage just doesn’t have to be made from magazines or stickers. My latest thing is bottle tops in every colour. I’m not sure how to use it yet, but I’m waiting for the collection to inspire a new idea for a project”.

When asked how Judy got to where he is today, he answered: “luck”. Judy was first noticed in the punk/club scene, as “back in the day, we all wore what we were doing at the time- like walking adverts”. Judy scavenged material to make his jewellery, and was commissioned to make one off pieces- this eventually led from one thing to another to where he is today.

“It’s not all been glittery, but I’ve enjoyed waking up every day to do what I do.”

A big thank you to both Judy Blame and Malcolm Garret for their contribution to the Inspirer series, and the Punk workshop they ran.

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Inspirer Talk – DR ME

Words: Aimee Plumbley

DR.ME is made up of Ryan Doyle and Mark Edwards. DR.ME is in fact an acronym of their names. Ryan and Mark met on their first day at Manchester Met, and have continued to collaborate ever since. At University they both decided working for a design studio wasn’t the direction they wanted to be in and instead set up DR.ME, their own personal design studio.

The session covered pieces of work they had done, and tips and insights behind the work that helped DR.ME grow.

The session opened with a film documenting DR.ME’s ‘365 Days of Collage’ project, which invited the studio to commission a new piece of collage every day over the course of the year.

Mark reflected “it started a fire in us, in regards to the immediacy and speed in which we could create collage. We could approach so many subjects in a short space of time”.

On the back of this, DR.ME approached Thames and Hudson to publish a compendium, ‘Cut That Out’, celebrating different graphic designers who are excelling in the field of producing collage. They quickly realised that the preconceived idea that collage just involves copying and pasting paper is wrong. ‘Cut That Out’ demonstrated that collage isn’t limited to one medium, but can incorporate many elements, from photography to fashion design.

Ryan and Mark admitted they did not study curation, but rather it was something they had developed naturally. This was especially enhanced by the one-day exhibitions they put on monthly during their time at University. The Waiting Room was held at Nexus Art Café, and would invite artists from across the UK to hold mini exhibitions and live screen-printings.

“We were reaching out to people we admired, and making connections whilst we were still at Uni.”

Due to their pro-activeness and network of artists they had built up, they landed an exhibition at Urban Outfitters called ‘Like What Kids Do’ after they graduated. This then led on to being invited to curate a month-long exhibition in New York with Mike Perry called ‘Wondering around Wandering’. The experience from the Waiting Room was essential in obtaining these opportunities.

DR.ME also work with musicians and design record sleeves, posters and even a music video for Dutch Uncles. Ryan reiterated the importance of having a large network and getting yourself out there, “knowing people in bands got us some of our first jobs”. It was when they were producing Dutch Uncle’s sleeve they established a manifesto, that is, everything is primarily hand-made with the bare minimum of computer tweaking as it’s “got a more truthful aesthetic”.

“Don’t limit yourself to one medium, if you’re a creative student you can do anything”

You shouldn’t have to work for free, but in some circumstances it is beneficial for both parties. This rang true in regards to the work that DR.ME produces for Midi Festival. Midi Festival lost their funding and sought DR.ME to design their poster and murals. Sometimes “you have to rely on your gut and work out whether… whether you like the commissioner, believe in them and can trust them”. In the long run, it turned out to be a fruitful relationship.

“Failure is more important than successes. You learn from mistakes, and learn not be scared to try new things.”

Ryan and Mark then turned to what inspires them as a collective studio. They referenced ‘Beautiful Losers’ as a source of inspiration. Beautiful Losers is a documentary that follows a group of friends who are making art, it showed Ryan and Mark that you can survive outside of a studio and make money. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhS3BjEuGCY

They also felt the time they interned at Mike Perry’s studio a turning point. Mike would be in his studio from 7am to 7pm. He taught Ryan and Mark how to run a studio; not just the ‘cool stuff’ but the day-to-day stuff like paying bills and creating because you have spare time.

They also credit James Victore’s ‘Burning Questions’ webcast (Link), and travelling as a way to gain and engage with different perspectives. And finally, ‘friendship’ ensure you surround yourself with good people. People who will inspire you. Not only illustrators, designers and makers, but musicians, photographers, fashion designers etc.

Thanks to Ryan and Mark for dropping in! Follow them at @DRME_Studio,and check out their exhibition in Leeds ‘Shoulda woulda coulda’ on 31st March/1 April.

 

Inspirer Talk – Sophie Lee

Words & Images: Aimee Plumbley

As we are in the midst of Unit X, Sophie Lee delivered a lecture on the evolution of her collaborative work and gave students advice on professional practice for the future. Sophie works with the medium of photography and film, and her work responds to people and context.

Sophie is a Manchester Met alumnus, and in her final year she produced a photographic series entitled ‘Plain Jane’. For a period of three months, Sophie inhabited an empty warehouse in order to focus on developing the title character, something she picked up from a film module she undertook as part of her undergraduate degree. It was an incredibly private, yet well received piece.

After graduating, Sophie struggled to maintain her full time teaching position and making art as and when she liked. Instead, she sought solace in taking up artist residencies when she could. Apart from providing space away from work, it provided the opportunity to be part of a community of artists and to network, similar to her time at University.

One of Sophie’s most productive Artist residencies was at Sim Artists in Iceland. She felt she developed from a ‘bedroom artist’ to working collaboratively, sharing space and gaining feedback for her work. Her proposal was based upon the Icelandic curriculum on how they teach art. In Iceland, the curriculum encourages a process led approach to art as opposed to a focus on the end product. The mistakes that are made along the way are valued. As a response to this, Sophie created a photo series documenting the mistakes that students made in a ceramics class.

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 “It was a really uncomfortable shift to really open up and work with other people, but I wouldn’t have been able to see a way of making more ambitious work without involving people in that process.”

Sophie went full-time last year and so far encountered two funded opportunities. These included:

  • Culture Action Llandudno: The brief required artists to run a free art school that local and national people could attend. Sophie found it easy to convey her passion for the project from her experience from working in schools and the research she conducted whilst she was in Iceland; her research was about modes of learning. Sophie conducted a workshop, contributed to the evaluation of the project, and commissioned a new film called ‘From not known, to knowing’, which drew comparisons to the journey of the creative learning process
  • Outside XChanges: This project brought together artists with learning disabilities and emerging artists. She collaborated with several artists to conduct live interviews and performative pieces, which then accumulated in to a film piece. Sophie reflected that the fee wasn’t proportionate, but the opportunity provided a space in Castlefield gallery and the opportunity to work collaboratively. The work she produced was critically acclaimed and gave her a lot of exposure. Check out the projects at: outsiderXchanges.com

Based on Sophie’s experience with Outsider Xchanges, she offered her best advice for being strategic before investing time on an opportunity:

  • Look at the organisation offering the opportunity – who are their partners? Their audience? Who are you going to be building a relationship with?
  • Look at Artists who they have worked with previously – what do their CVs look like? Are they still active or creating interesting things? This will help you to decide if you are pitching yourself in the right place.
  • What are they offering? A fee? Or, something in kind- exposure, networking, gallery space or new skills.

And on making an application, Sophie advised:

  • Be honest with yourself: does it fit in with your interests? If you’re truly passionate about the subject, it will be conveyed across your application.
  • Refer to projects you are working on, or have worked on to show that you’re active. It will demonstrate how their project fits in with what you’re doing.
  • What is the legacy of the project? How is the project going to expand your practice?
  • Keep an up-to-date portfolio; and start documenting the work you’re doing at University now!

Her current live project ‘Make Place’ is a research and development project. ‘Make Place’ was inspired by a story Sophie heard in 2015, about an Icelandic man who had been building wooden houses on an isolated island to prevent sale of the island. The houses are painted blue and yellow, and are named after each of his siblings as a tribute. Sophie was drawn to the story, because the concept that an Individual is so far from the reach of society yet seeks organisation by creating their own infrastructure appealed to her abstractly. It had notions of home and identity.  Following a visit to the site, Sophie played around with the ideas in her studio, which resulted in conversations with people who had similar interests and interpretations. This has formed a programme of public talks, as part of her exhibition. She has also commissioned a new fictional audio-visual piece which she feels is quite ambitious, in addition to her other pieces.

In the spirit of Unit X, Sophie gave these final words of wisdom:

“I’d encourage you to embrace the wealth of different perspectives from different creative courses, and the interesting students and staff all around you. Tap into that resource, you won’t regret it.”

Keep up to date with Sophie at: @SophieMeganLee

Sophie’s ‘Make Place’ gallery installation begins on 31st March until the 9th April, ArtWork Atelier: http://www.markdevereuxprojects.com/portfolio_page/sophie-lee-make-place-exhibition/

 

Inspirer Talk – Mark Price on Hester Reeve

Words: Aimee Plumbley

Mark Price is a Professor in Philosophy at Manchester Met, with an interest in visual arts. In particular, he has an interest in aesthetics, a sense of knowing is aesthetic knowledge i.e. sexuality , poetry, breathing.

“Pressure is put on young people to define their aesthetic before they’ve even grown it. Grow your practice first, then worry about what it’s called later.”

Hester Reeve has always resisted University, gallery art, auctions and the cannon of tradition and so on. The cannon refers to the traditional male artists who fathered the movement and isms, it’s something that can be pushed against.

“Art does not happen without resistance”.

Hester’s body of work includes sculptures, song, music and live performance

In the words of Joseph Boyes, Reeve’s art craft is a means of sculpting society. She works with what’s important at a specific time in place and in persons. Her conceptual persona, HRH, which evolved to highlight the contingency of language and embodiment and gender frame our politics.

“I don’t make political art. I make art Politically”

All art is fighting for or against something, whether it knows it or not.

Some of her work iscomprehensible, in terms of straight forward symbolism. Hester pulls on the phrase ‘the Cannon’. She is surrounded by toy cannons, holding a book on the history of art, it’s His story and not her story, a creative halo for those who stay inside the limits, the perimeter is real but the phallic symbol of the cannons are toys. To step outside of the cannon is to step outside the species recognised by traditional art.

When DADA goes into art galleries, punk is brought into mainstream fashion and rave culture is brought to radio 1, there is essentially a degeneration/ dilution of energies.

“A love of philosophy is key to my practice… most of my public work is about exploring the interactions between philosophy and art. I find   get caught up morally right or wrong or responsible, I’m not sure being responsible is part of or helps when it comes to art”

Hester’s work has Important links to witchcraft, shamanism, contact with demons, raising ideas to life channelling monstrous ideas from outside of normal art and normal feeling. Reeve’s work brings dead matter to life

“Most of my early work… was about activating matter, it wasn’t just about making art but how I live in the world. It’s about living in the world and knowing that everything has a chance to be vibrant and living around me… the structure and discipline of my work is about freeing up the forces that might allow that buzz to emerge”

 

“I don’t consider myself a live artist anymore… I probably was never a live artist. I don’t get cross at being called live artist or being misunderstood. Anyway, misunderstandings are interesting; if any art is rich enough they will always be interpreted and misinterpreted and all stations in between”

Not being understood is a key historical influence in Hester’s practice. Dadaism, the antiart movement, creative relation to performance and comodificationdada were all seen as cultural and political disgrace. It wanted to be in the face of society that consented the mass killing of the first world war dada-ers, and were considered to be moral monsters. Hester though suggests the monstrous might be in a superior position.

By 1910, people were picking up on the fact that whatever rationality is it’s not much in the way of survival value, it brought bombs and killing. Rationalism started a war over the death of some obscure arch duke by an anarchist not linked to any nation.

In the past, Hester’s work has been described as powerful, yet incoherent. It must be strange to be told your work is powerful, but incoherent.

‘What is this, art, or instructions from Ikea?’

Reeve’s work is not art for art critics, it’s art for the people on the streets or in the park.

Her largest work to date is Art in the park Ymedaca (academy backwards, it’s the opposite). Hester is comfortable with talking about high art concepts to non-specialists, and hosting dialogues with art in very unlikely places. Art is out in the world as opposed to a subject to be studied in the academy: to be tested, graded, commodified. She worked with groups like Hand Tool Users United, Royal British Legion, Yorkshire Men society Nudist group etc. They are not art specialists, the are members of the public. Ymedaca was a huge sculpture installation in a park. An example of what would occur in one day: an address to the rising sun, naked exercise, geometry, talks on philosophy and Plato, a symposium and so on. Reeve deliberately raises a serious set of issues about tensions concerning the way which art in the general sense is meant to fit in at University’s whose main concern is economic profit. Reeve profoundly questions our own work, our own university work and the entire economic enterprise:

“I’m not interested in my work being culturally significant efore I start…I don’t want the money for recognition, I want th money so I can make more art, and I’m definitely not going to change my work to sell things…”

Communitarian action and resistance of commodification.  Something of the scale of Ymedaca is impossible to commodify, even if you bought it where would you put it.

Hester’s work demands that we conduct our work outside of university, outside of galleries and the cannon- there are monsters outside the gallery, the universities. You should get out more and try to meet them.

 

 

 

Inspirer Talk – Sarah Perks

Words: Aimee Plumbley

The Unit X blog recently caught up with Sarah Perks at the latest Inspirer talk. Sarah is the Visual Artistic Director at HOME and Professor of Visual Art at MMU. Her research spans across curating exhibitions, producing films and writing and publishing her research. Sarah walked our students through some of the projects she has been working on, and the process that she goes through for each.

“These projects can take me into different spheres beyond visual arts… it’s quite interdisciplinary”

Solo Exhibitions

As a rule of thumb, HOME has around 2 solo exhibitions a year. Sarah’s process of selecting an artist for their own solo exhibition is based on a metaphorical “holding pen” of artists of whom Sarah has built a professional relationship with.

The current solo exhibition is John Hyatt’s ‘Rock Art’. It took just under a year to curate. Sarah had been aware of John’s solo work for some time, but from a curatorial perspective she was interested in how John collaborated with other people and wanted to explore how this would translate into a solo exhibition.  Installations include:

  • Club Big: a pop-up club that occurs in the gallery every Friday and is a celebration of collective creativity. It was born based on a conversation based on a mutual visit to Milan between John and Sarah. The queue itself to the club is a piece called the ‘Anticipation’.
  • The lead image is another example of collaboration. John asked people in the bar at Home to draw a skull, and the image features all of these attempts.

La Movida, Arts Festival

A project Sarah has been working on is ‘La Movida’. It is part of the Viva Spanish and Latin festival that celebrates a spectrum of art forms. La Movida, or the transition to democracy, refers to a countercultural movement in Spain following the death of Dictator Franco in the 70’s. There was a sudden outpour of freedom, and the boundaries that once oppressed society became a source of inspiration for creative communities.

Sarah explained that from a curatorial perspective, it was interesting to contrast this movement against the current political landscape; in a world of Brexit and Trump there seems to have been a clamp down of rights and freedoms.

To find work, Sarah starts with traditional curatorial research, like reading and referencing to identify any artists who cover the subject- who could either contribute their existing work or commission a new piece especially for the festival. She worked together with the assistant curator to identify younger artists in Spain who channelled the La Movida aesthetic, although they weren’t present at the time of the movement.

The Festival will also explore parallels with other places at the time like Manchester in the 70’s and 80’s- and will feature work form local artists. Sarah reflected that when curating a project like this, you’re essentially “creating a little world” that can live independently from its original source.

I think it’s important that when you’re curating, you shouldn’t take the concept literally. Take it some ways, and throw away the core, and expand outwards”

Home Artist Film

Sarah established ‘Home Artist Film’ five years ago. It wasn’t necessarily a response to a brief, but an original idea to fill a gap in the creative market. It aims to support with the training and development of visual artists who want to create feature films.

Notable films that emerged from Home Artist Film project include:

  • ‘Swandown’ by Andrew Kötting, which received a lot of coverage at the time as it was a critique of the London Olympics gentrification of the surrounding areas, by two men in a swan pedalo going through the canals between Hastings and Hackney.
  • ‘Art Party’ by Bob and Roberta Smith, HOME tailored a bespoke release so that it would overlap with GCSE results day. Arts Centres across the UK were encouraged to screen Art Party and host their own art parties. This was a dig at Michael Gove, who was then the education secretary at the time.

Sarah’s curatorial role exposes her to many unique opportunities, and we would like to thank her for sharing this with us. Keep up to date with Sarah’s latest projects on Twitter @SarahPerks.

La Movida starts from 31st March 2017 at HOME, Manchester.

 

Inspirer Talk – Ian Pollock

Words: Aimee Plumbley 

Ian Pollock’s work is collaborative, playful and irreverent. It is fitting, therefore, that we have Ian delivering one of our Inspirer lectures. It is in the spirit of Unit X.

As part of the Inspirer series, esteemed illustrator Ian Pollock gave a lecture to a packed theatre of students. Ian is a Manchester Metropolitan University alumnus with an extensive illustrative career spanning from clients such as Rolling Stone; Playboy; The Guardian; GQ; the New York Times; New Scientist. Most recently he collaborated with the Pixies to illustrate their album cover. With such an extensive career, it was no wonder the session overran.

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Throughout the talk, Ian detailed the ups and downs of being a freelance illustrator, from having no work to having a constant cycle of brief after brief. It became apparent throughout the session that despite his high profile success, Ian’s work is underpinned by a constant flow of self-initiated drawing and scribbling on themes as a source of inspiration.

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After the lecture, the students were invited to a Q&A with Ian. One student asked Ian about how he transitions from working to briefs to having his more personal work curated, such as Parables of Christ.  Ian answered that the two in fact run parallel to each other:

“there’s something about the illustrator in me that likes to pick a series and to see the development and progression of my work”

Ian found pursuing more personal work an “antidote to the straight, serious briefs”, that sometimes hindered his creative freedom. It is cathartic.

Thanks to Ian for giving us such an intimate insight in to his career. Check out some of Ian’s work on his website.

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Inspirer Talk – Harold Offeh

Words: Clare Campion

 

Our latest Inspirer talk was provided by artist, performer and lecturer, Harold Offeh.

Harold’s talk focused on who and what has influenced his work, projects he has worked on and the importance of identity and mythology. This was a full on, hour long performance in itself.

A big influencer for Harold is Sun Ra. Born Herman Poole Blount, Sun Ra was a jazz musician and performer from America who created a myth narrative in the late 1950s and adopted this new identity. These themes of myth and identity were of great interest to Harold and inspire his work as an artist and performer.

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Previous Projects

Harold talked through a number of his previous projects, again demonstrating the importance of identity and mythology and their impact on everyday life.

Two of his previous projects have involved working with London Underground. The first project was an interpretation of the Underground symbol called Tube Lips to celebrate 100 years of the symbol along with 99 other artists.

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The other project saw Harold working with young people from different parts of the city to see their interpretations of different areas. This project was called Transporter and marked the 150th anniversary of the Underground. As this was a celebratory event, the brief for the project was to imagine the next 150 years of the Underground, how it might change/develop, and how the surroundings might evolve around it. Such a theme allowed the young people to be involved in creating something that would be seen by thousands of people. They worked on a sci-fi theme with the idea of commuters moving through space. This theme links back to the Sun Ra influence and ties in with the idea of mythology.

Harold told the audience that he loves the sci-fi theme and made an interesting statement:

‘When I ask people to think about the future they often reflect on the present’

Harold’s next project is very different to the work for London Underground, yet still embodies the narratives of identity and mythology. The project is called Covers where Harold re-enacts images from album covers in order to deconstruct the original image. From this work, Harold was invited to do a live performance of his interpretations of the images. He would take up the pose position and attempt to hold it for the length of a song from that album:

‘My performance is always a failure as it’s impossible to maintain’

 

Harold shared a curatorial collaboration he worked on for Tate Britain called Radio City, which was a radio, sound and performance work. The Tate’s learning team invited artists to submit proposals for activities that would engage ‘families’. In this instance that is anyone under 16 and anyone over 16.

In collaboration with Marion Harrison, Harold offered the space to other artists as a residency for a set number of days to come up with and produce their ideas. This culminated in a fifteen-minute radio broadcast at the end of their residency.

Using radio and sound as a platform is more enabling as it isn’t visual, and allows for another way to disseminate ideas.

The final project Harold discussed was Snap Like A Diva. (*There is a link to a video on the site, but please be aware it contains strobe lighting)

He was influenced by a documentary from the late 1980s called Tongues United set in New York. The documentary mapped language and the lexicon of movement. From this inspiration, Harold created a collaborative, interactive workshop called ‘Snap Diva’, explaining the finer points of ‘Snapology’.

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Harold was also influenced by another documentary called ‘Paris is Burning’.

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This workshop ties in with the previous themes of mythology and identity.

‘As artists you are making your own mythology. It’s about branding. You have to market and sell your work, which is mythologizing.’

Harold told the audience that his practice has become very proliferated. Working in performance that can exist in many spaces, working with people from so many different areas, has allowed this proliferation to happen.

‘You have the potential to be strategic and playful. Think about how you position yourself, about how you want to be framed.’