58th Venice Biennale – a quick review

This was my first time attending the Venice Biennale (better late than never!). I visited in October 2019. The event is held every two years and is described as being ‘The Olympics’ of the art world. There are pavillions in the garden area of Venice where the work is show, as well as in the Arsenale and also around Venice itself. It has a long history (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venice_Biennale).

Here are a few notes on some of the work that I enjoyed seeing. There is a massive amount of art on display, so I’m only going to point out the works that personally resonated with me.

There was a surprising amount of work that I was actually familiar with because the artist had either been featured in Sculpture magazine, or I had seen their work exhibited or seen it online through art news channels. These included: Jimmie Durham; Alexandre Bircken; Jesse Darling; Shilpa Gupta; Hito Steyerl; Alex Da Corte; Benjamin De Burca; Roman Stańczak; Ranate Bertlmann; Martin Puryear; Rosemarie Trockel; Cathy Wilkes; Christine Marclay; Teresa Margolles; Christine and Margaret Wertheim; Eva Rothschild; Enrico David; Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster; Martine Gutierrez.

‘Mondo Cane’ by Jos De Gruyter in the Belgium pavilion was very interesting as the artists had used servo mechanisms and embedded systems (such as Arduino) as the controllers to create an installation of robotic figures. Anyone who has ever experimented with this as a material will know how difficult, complicated and time consuming it can be. Furthermore, to ensure that it is robust and capable of running daily for 6 months is a feat in itself!

The front of the main building was covered with a fog that was generated from the roof. This was a work titled ‘Thinking Head’ by Lara Favaretto (Italy). There was a lot of art and technology on display. At the entrance of the Central Pavilion Antoine Catala’s nine large panels covered in coloured silicone constitute the work It’s Over (2019). Stationary for one minute and slowly morphing into something else. However I’m not sure how much of the technology was actually manipulated and made into an art work by the artist versus being wholesale shipped in from a supplier i.e. in the form a multi bank of 12 monitors with little computers to play the video across all of them! I always like to see how cleverly artists can work with technology, but I think it gets a bit lost at this level in amongst $$$s worth of commercial equipment. If it was not spectacular technology on display, then it was minimal art works. However there were some really interesting uses of technology, such as Jon Rafman’s ‘Disasters under the sun’ that uses AI and behavioural modelling to show characters that live in a world of perpetual imminent doom and danger. Hito Steyrl showed 2 large scale video installation. However I did feel that if you took away the mechanisms of spectacle such as wrap around video displays and walkways, then essentially what you have is an ordinary single channel video. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster work took the form of a VR experience in the Arsenale. ‘She opens up new temporal, spatial, and mental dimensions with Endodrome, a project that uses VR (virtual reality) to involve viewers in trance-like encounters where they can alter themselves and their surrounds’.

Sourcing and using objects and materials of a controversial nature forms the work of several artists at the Biennale: Augustas Serapinas (Lithuania) uses blocks from the defunct Ignalina Nuclear power station; Teresa Margolle who uses concrete blocks from a public school front from where a reckoning took place with 4 people involved in organised crime, the bullet holes visible in the blocks; Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel who displayed the boat in which hundreds of migrants died. The 90ft fishing boat sank on the night of 18 April 2015 between Libya and the Italian island of Lampedusa, after it collided with a vessel that had responded to its distress call. There were only 28 survivors. The people on board were mostly trapped in the hold as the boat capsized. Thought provoking indeed.

Two works by Shilpa Gupta were being displayed and she is a very interesting artist,

‘Shilpa Gupta works around the physical and ideological existence of boundaries, revealing their simultaneously arbitrary and repressive functions. Her practice draws on the interstitial zones between nation states, ethno-religious divides and structures of surveillance – between definitions of legal and illegal, belonging and isolation. Everyday situations are distilled into succinct conceptual gestures; as text, action, object and installation, through which Gupta addresses the imperceptible powers that dictate our lives as citizens or stateless individuals.’

Untitled(2009) is a gate slamming back and forward against a wall and the plaster work after months is falling apart. It mad me think of a door being slammed shut. Gupta’s other work was 100 microphones that had been rewired to act as listening devices. The multi-channel sound installation ‘For, in your tongue, I cannot hide’ gives voice to 100 poets who have been jailed through time for their writing or their beliefs. On entering the dimly-lit space visitors encountered 100 microphones suspended over 100 metal rods, each piercing a verse of poetry. Over the course of an hour, each microphone in turn recites a fragment of the poets’ words, spoken first by a single voice then echoed by a chorus which shifts across the space.

Several pavilions appeared to eschew from presenting the image of forward thinking cutting edge technology and it’s influence on the human condition in favour of the more traditional static inanimate world of minimal objects. This was evident in the some of the pavillions of the Eastern European countries, but also in the British pavillion (Cathy Wilkes) and the American pavilion showing Martin Puryear.

The works I felt resonated the most for me were by Shilpa Gupta, Christian Marclay (49 War Movies), the Brazil pavilion ‘Swinguerra’ by Benjamin De Burca & Barbara Wagner, the Polish pavilion and Roman Stanczak’s ‘inside out plane’ and finally Jon Rafman’s amazing ‘Dreamland Journal 2016-2019’ film which is best described as a ‘3D-hobbyist computer animation depicting an ever-expanding absurdist narrative’.

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Arles, France Summer 2019


I’ve long been a fan of Vincent Van Gogh, his life and his art and in the summer of 2019, I made a very special trip to Arles in the Provence region of France. I have long wanted to visit Arles and this was my first trip. In order to capture what it meant to me and to perhaps guide others to visit this special place, I am sharing my story and experience in this blog post.    

It was back in the early 1990s after visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam that I really started to become aware of Van Gogh. The first book I purchased about him was indeed the guide book for the museum..I recall visiting Edinburgh and going round the second hand book shops with my brother and buying lots of old books and catalogues on Van Gogh (I still have all of them). Since then, I have built up a nice little collection of books on the artist.


Places and things

Here is a brief description of places visited and things relating to Van Gogh that have informed my understanding of the man and his art. 


Auvers-sur-Oise 1993

A tangible connection with Van Gogh was formed in 1993 when I went on a trip to France with some friends. On the way south to the Loire valley, I suggested that we could make an excursion to the village Auvers-sur-Oise. This is situated to the North-West of Paris and is where Vincent spent his final days. We had a quick look round the village and then visited the cemetery where he is buried. After camping the night in a field nearby, we then continued the journey driving into Paris. I visited the Musee D’orsay for the first time, where I got to view a lot of Vincent’s paintings for the first time.


Paris, 1994

The next notable milestone in my appreciation of Van Gogh actually came in the following year (1994), when I hitch hiked to Paris. Whilst in the city, I ran out of money and devised a way to make some. This involved buying some coloured chalks and a postcard of ‘The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum’. I drew it on the kerb at a few places around the city. The French francs came in and before I knew it my collection pot was full! I got to know this little picture really well and it became one of my favourite images. A tourist from Sweden was kind enough to take a picture of my work and also of me and mail them to me a few months later.








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Duodecimal – The show is now open

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I got there with everything in the end. The work has been installed and the PV was on Friday 14th June. Over the last 3 years I’ve discussed and made public on this journal my process, thoughts, successes and failures. However it is now the end of the line for this open forum as I move onto pastures new.

The work is titled ‘My Job is for my people’ and explores the subject of national identity through the process of de-territorilisation and re-territorilisation.  The film is presented as a 4 channel video installation and will be on view at the Civic Gallery, Barnsley, 15th – 29th June 2019. Information about the artists and the show on the web site at www.duodecimalart.net









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The Typewriter – such a fascinating object and one that now seems to be largely forgotten about.

Samizdat was a form of dissident activity across the Eastern Bloc in which individuals reproduced censored and underground publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader. This grassroots practice to evade official Soviet censorship was fraught with danger, as harsh punishments were meted out to people caught possessing or copying censored materials. Vladimir Bukovsky summarized it as follows: “Samizdat: I write it myself, edit it myself, censor it myself, publish it myself, distribute it myself, and spend jail time for it myself.”


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Cyanotype Prints – First Experiments

A quick update to document the first experiments carried out with a new process that I’m investigating – Cyanotype printing.

Step one: After mixing up the solution, the paper is coated and left to dry. Once dry, the paper is placed in a light proof bag


This is actually the very first exposure created. You can see in the picture above the coating is green, but when left in the light gets exposed and rubbing the surface with water reveals the blue cyanotype underneath:

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Moving Image Research – Dec 2018

Transit Arts – The Territorial Sea

This month I attended another film screening that was organised by Transit Arts. I think this is the 3rd film screening event of theirs that I’ve attended. The films that I’ve seen as socially aware, political and relevant. I’m not going to describe the content of the films too much (no spoilers here).



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Moving Image Research – Audio Visual (AV) Set up Research

Drawn from my personal image collection.  The images shown here are mainly drawn from the following:

  • Visit to Berlin 2017
  • Glasgow School of Art Degree show 2017, 2018 – Tontine building
  • Glasgow School of Art MFA Mid term show 2018 (GSA gallery) & MFA Show 2018 (The Glue Factory)
  • Exhibitions at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) and various galleries in Glasgow, UK

Lots of different approaches have been used to present moving image work, including:

  • single & dual channel monitors
  • single & dual channel projections
  • self built projection screens (back and front projections)
  • self built cinema projection space
  • gallery used as a projection space
  • video display unit incorporated into the work

Some of the equipment would have been supplied and made available by the gallery. The student work is interesting as it has to be sourced independently.

AV Set ups 01.jpg

BANK 1: Starting Top left:-  1,2,3  ‘Patrol Drama’, Jamie Crew, Tramway; 4: ‘Nationhood’, Alan Rutherford, LAF 2018; 5: MFA Show 2018; 6: GSA Degree show 2018

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Gallery Visits – October 2018

Royal Ulster Academy (RUA) Annual Show

Group Show
Ulster Museum, Belfast, UK (visited Sun 28th October)


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Parallel Lines

I’ve noticed that two exploratory pieces of work that I made during the MA2 Making Days 2017-18 already exist as fully realised pieces by other artists.

The matrix below shows the work that I made on the left hand side and the corresponding work that I came across.

Work-parallels-2017-18.jpgTop right: Work by Dominic Bradnum

Bottom Right: Work by Tallur L.N.

I guess what this tells me is that you have to really go out there to find something that is quite unique and original. I thought my ideas were unique, but it is interesting to see that someone else has already been down that road.

To be honest, I wasn’t always entirely happy with the work that I produced on the making days for M2. The value was that I explored, took risks and went places that essentially guided me to the right places. The works above that I made were really just ideas, but I no longer feel the desire or need to pursue them further.

The first making day of MA3 I felt was a lot more fulfilling and there was a good discussion around the work that I made for it. So let’s hope the next making day is just as productive.

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Polish Film Poster Workshop

Over the weekend of Friday 19thOct to Sunday 21stOct I attended a poster making workshop at South Block, Glasgow. I was drawn to this workshop because of my current interest in East European culture and history during the Cold War period. I was interested in learning about film making during this period and what kind of film they made.

Some Info from the press release and my own comments / photos.


BiG Poster is an artistic collective focused on contemporary art poster and its aesthetics in context of current situation of graphic design in the world. The main element of the project is the publication of an independent magazine BiG POSTER ZIN.


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