Christian Jankowski at Lisson Gallery

 

Bloody fantastic exhibition! Heavy Weight History consists of Polish power lifters attempting, and sometimes succeeding, to lift politically rife monuments around Warsaw. Documented in the form of a reality TV show, much like World’s Strongest Man (one of my favourite TV programmes!) the work questions the continuing relevance of public statues, and uses the rich historical backdrop of Poland as the stage to do so. Being of Polish heritage myself I have often visited Warsaw and have specifically visited a lot of the statues in the work.

It is interesting to think about these large symbols of  communist oppression, such as statues and buildings that are left behind and forced on the locals and the meaning that they now signify. I’m thinking specifically about The Palace of Culture in Warsaw, the so called ‘gift of the Soviet nations to the Polish people’, which is still widely despised by the Polish and yet is a massive tourist attraction and landmark to outsiders.

 

 

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Inspiration at Towner Gallery, Eastbourne

From the 2nd of February until the 14th of April, the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne was host to the magical film works of Kelly Richardson.

Each room on the top floor of the gallery was dedicated to a different mythical landscape, with the large initial room showing Leviathon, 2011 introduced a sci-fi like lagoon scene, looking like something out of Avatar and Predator combined.

The epic scale of the works provided an intensely immersive experience and films became portals to these unknown lands. This cinematic transportation of the viewer perfectly captured the feeling I get when standing on a mountain top or when exploring a dense forest, the feeling that no one else exists.  The double sided hanging forest projections, The Great Destroyer,  and The Erudtition, shown below were my favourite pieces.

On a separate, later trip to the Towner I had the good fortune of seeing film-maker John Skoog’s first UK solo show. I was particularly struck by his film Reduit (Redoubt) which takes the form of dark, brooding slow shots of the home of Swedish farmer Karl Goran Persson. Persson built the house by hand and fuelled by his intense fear of impending Soviet invasion continuously fortified his home with junk and found objects. The voice over provides an insight into the character of this farmer, who was so mightily strong he would carry large girders back from town on his bike to add to his fortress like home.

I have always been drawn to film as a medium for my own work due to its ability to take you outside of yourself, and convince you of its reality. Both the exhibitions I saw a the Towner showed a different type of world. The first a mythical landscape, digitally created and the second a mythical landscape created by hand.

Fighting for Words

For three days in August I got up close and personal with a group of fellow artists in a DIY workshop organised by performance artist Kira O’Reilly . Part of the Live Art Development Agency’s DIY 10:2013 initiative to enable ‘unusual professional development projects conceived and run BY artists FOR artists’, Kira’s particular workshop was titled ‘Thinking Through the Body. Combative Manifestos’. This appealed to my continuing investigation in to what the body is capable of and specifically I was drawn to the idea of working with my own body. The workshop proved to be physically and mentally challenging.  For the duration of the workshop we wrestled, grappled and circuit trained with the idea of manifestos and words of intention in mind whilst exhausted. The parallel between the urgency of a manifesto and the urgency of trying to think and formulate words whilst exhausted was interesting, in both cases you are left with the pure and necessary. What needed to be said at that moment.

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Me getting my arse kicked by fellow artist Tom.

Towards the end of the workshop we began to think about how the skills we had learnt could be used in a performance. These ideas recently spawned in to an exhibition organised and curated by Anais Lalange at the Resistance Gallery in London. This chance to develop ideas and present them to an audience enabled me to hone in on my feelings around the workshop, namely my attitude towards sweat and not constantly upholding a perfected visage. Traveling from the workshops each day on the tube whilst still sweaty and with no make up on was, at first, an uncomfortable experience for me. It quickly became liberating and highlighted just how ingrained and ridiculous societal pressures for the way we look are, these ideas are reflected in the film, Wordout below.

The exhibition included performances by:

Joseph Mercier and Jordan Lennie – How I remember it, a recounting of  their recent performance piece Rite of Spring, a fight lasting the duration of the 100 year old, controversial piece of music by Stravinsky. They spoke of the oddness of how quickly the audience became accustomed to the violence and took sides, cheering for the men to tear each other a part. They also explained that due to the intensity of the fight they would not be repeating the performance.

Hellen Burrough and Philip Bedwell – Hellen reads The futurist manifesto of lust by Valentine De Saint-Point whilst Philip increases the intensity of a choke hold on her until she can longer breath or speak. The piece is very moving as the words are reflected in the tenderness of the embrace, which although violent is akin to lust in it’s intensity and intimacy. The fulfilment of lust is in itself a violent act ‘We must stop despising Desire, this attraction at once delicate and brutal between two bodies, of whatever sex, two bodies that want each other, striving for unity.’

A group performance combining a minute of repeated excercise with a minute of manifesto creating (completing sentences from a given few words)  dictated by MMA coach James Duncalf (who was our teacher of all things fight-y during the workshop) and carried out by the following artist – Hamish MacPherson, Laura Burns, Anais Lalange, Hellen Burrough, Philip Bedwell and Jungmin Son.

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MMA coach James Duncalf giving an example of one of the exercises, Photo courtesy of Alistair Veryard

Anais and Laura – Anais reads  as Laura restrains her. The exertion of constantly trying to battle and resist is heard in her voice and a further urgency is given to the words.

Finally Hamish and Laura fought out their thoughts around the idea of a manifesto.

The film that I created for the event was a reflection on the words that had gone through my head during the workshop, my attitude to sweat and the idea of words as motivator and catalyst. I used a mixture of words I had written during the workshop and those which had stood out to me since. I particularly liked the idea of words associated with battle, and was drawn to quotes from films such as Conan the Barbarian and 300. These films depicting hyper-masculinty and violent strength bring to mind the feeling of working out, and reflected the feelings conjured up in myself when I was wrestling with the other artists. The film also dealt with my feelings around body image and I feel the quest to achieve ‘the perfect body’ is really an inner voice calling out for warrior days, when humans could hunt and bodily contact was a way to communicate the entire spectrum emotions.

Murder in the Manor – Teaser Trailer

Above is a quick teaser trailer I did for an exciting new project at Preston Manor in Brighton called Murder in the Manor.

Murder in the Manor is an Arts Council funded collaboration between Brighton & Hove’s Royal Pavilion and Museums, the Little Green Pig creative writing group, and the website developer, Say Digital.

Check out the Murder in the Manor website for a 360′ tour of rooms of Preston Manor and to see how the murder mystery unfolds.

Jeff Keen Artist’s Sketchbook

Jeff Keen Dreams of The Archduke Sketchbook from Jennifer Milarski on Vimeo.

A film made for the Jeff Keen retrospective, Shoot The Wrx, Artists and Film Maker Jeff Keen, at Brighton Museum.
The film being shown in the gallery is closer to 20 minutes long but this version has been sped up to give a taste of what is inside.
Copyright belongs to The Jeff Keen Estate and Brighton & Hove Museum and Art Gallery.
The film was produced by Jennifer Milarski, with the help of Anne Nielsen.

Carrieres de Lumieres, Les Baux, France aka The most amazing exhibition I have EVER been to!!!

I have just got back from Provence and have to say the highlight, apart from the exquisite wine (I will now only drink clairette de die darling!), was by far a visit to the Carrieres de Lumieres in Les Baux. Luckily my mum had spotted an article in The Observer about the caves and so after convincing my partner to drive the two hours from where we were staying, wiggling up and down mountains, we arrived in, or I should probably say on, Les Baux. The video below shows the location and the stunning projections inside: Carrières de Lumières – Spectacle “Gauguin, Van… by culturespaces

As you will see it is a combination of Van Gogh and Gauguin’s work shown in the context of ‘Painters of Colour’. The soundtrack on the video is also the same as was played within the caves and had been perfectly mixed to convey the emotions through each era of the artist’s work.

The only thing the video doesn’t do justice to is the sheer scale and awe that you get from being in the space, it is literally gigantic and even before you enter the setting and the quarried cliff face is an artwork in itself! The fact that the floor and walls were being used and the way in which the paintings came to life nearly made me have a little cry! It was one of those situations where you wish you had thought of this, had been part of it, but also sheer joy that people in the world are out there creating these sorts of events. As I tend to mention a lot, I am interested in the ways in which digital media can enhance and compliment history and tradition and this was literally the most perfect example I have ever seen of this in action. You could see kids and adults alike with their interest sparked, perhaps much more so than would be the case with a static painting in a formal museum environment.

I should also mention that Jon Cocteau’s Le Testament d’Orphee, which was filmed in the caves in 1959 was also displayed within the caves, projected onto a stone wall, which provided an amazing viewing experience as the texture of the wall made the caves in the film almost 3d! And it was amazing to walk around and imagine the scenes being played out.

I shot quite a lot of film whilst I was out there so expect more from Provence to follow!