Aesthetica ‘Future Now’ Symposium 7-8 March 2019

Stepped out of the studio for two days to attend the ‘Future Now’ symposium hosted by York St. John University.

We are currently living in a time of globalisation, expansion and media saturation. There have been considerable shifts in civilisation in the Information Age – we now communicate with each other instantly, yet with an alarming level of disconnect. Through panel discussions, lectures and portfolio reviews, The Future Now Symposium is an exploration of 21st century culture through the mechanism of art.” – http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/future-now-symposium-2019 

There are many positives about the chance to attend a symposium but there is also the impossibility of attending all the presentations and for me the additional frustration of needing to step out of the day to think after attending sessions. This is a brief note of some of the sessions I attended and the things that struck me during them.

The Keynote delivered by Cherie Federico, Publisher and co-founder of Aesthetica magazine and Director of the Aesthetica Art Prize, addressed the themes of the symposium through the work of the artists selected for the prize exhibition and Cherie’s own thoughts on the emotional evolutionary cusp we appear to be on in the world at the moment. Clearly artists are led to question and challenge the politics, with a small or a large ‘P’, of the times they occupy but I find myself in a state of profound inarticulacy. It appears to be impossible to be clear about any stance you take or belief you hold without expecting most of the responses you receive to be confrontational. To be identified as ‘one of us’ is less the issue than avoiding being identified as ‘one of them’. Thus the assumption of you holding a set of ‘moral’ values is made by association with your presence in a particular space. Cherie presented a slide with a set of words that define our times, Leave, Remain, Algorithm, Consumption, and maybe 20 more, and noted that ‘apathy is not an option’ in our febrile times.

A panel discussion led by Kit Monkman with Charlotte Ginsborg, Ludivine Large-Bessette & Rhea Storr, titled ‘Artists’ Film: Storytelling and Concept’ was an engaging conversation about working practice, motivation, audience and medium. Rhea Storr noted that her work was defined through process, that the piece she ended up with was determined through its making rather than established in advance. Ludivine Large-Bessette talked about making work in which you directed your own movie counter to the manner of traditional film in which you are confined into immersion. Discussion continued around the authenticity of approaches to ‘art’ film and the possibility of defining such a thing, with Charlotte Ginsborg noting that any term applied commodifies the object in question. There was agreement that viewers bringing their experiences to bear as opposed to the mediated experience of traditional cinema was a feature of ‘art’ cinema, and whilst sharing their working method they all agreed that making work for its own sake and not for the mediums sake was key. A very interesting session that introduced me to work I was unaware of but that did not really address storytelling and concept. The thrust of the conversation was practice based and I was left pondering whether it is even possible to make an unmediated artwork.

In ‘Rethinking Sculpture: Connecting With Objects’ Jane Bhoyroo, Producer for Yorkshire Sculpture International outlined the development of the project by facilitating collaboration between the four venues in two cities. The event, or series of events, is designed as a set of reactions to Phyllida Barlow’s ‘provocation’ that “sculpture is the most anthropological of the art forms”. The Yorkshire Sculpture International begins on 22nd June in Leeds and 23rd June in Wakefield and runs for 100 days. All the exhibitions are free and there are a lot of things to look forward to, see https://yorkshire-sculpture.org/whats-on/all-listings/ I’m particularly anticipating David Smith at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

YSI has selected fifteen international sculptors some of whom have not shown in the UK before. They have also selected fifteen local sculptors, five as associates who will work with the international artists and a further ten as engagement artists working with the extensive education and community programmes. Jimmie Durham and Tau Lewis look very interesting at the Hepworth and Nobuko Tsuchiya will be in residence at Leeds City Gallery.

Emmy and BAFTA nominated artist Nick Ryan is a multi-award-winning composer, sound designer, and audio specialist, who discussed ‘The Future of Sound Art’ in a fabulous presentation on the Friday. He began by describing his work as examining the relationship between audio, perception and matter, and talked about the lack of a critical framework for discussing sound or listening. It may be that sound, or at least vocalisation, is the earliest art. Sound suffered historically from two limitations, transience, in that it could not last beyond the event, and transportation, sound could not go anywhere except in the memory of the listener. Ryan discussed the history of recorded sound and the way our perception of sound has been coloured visually.

The lion pictured in this image from Lascaux may well be the first visual depiction of sound.

The lion pictured in this image from Lascaux may well be the first visual depiction of sound. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Lascaux-diverticule-f%C3%A9lins.jpg

He went on to show some of his work focusing on the acoustic imagination being multi-modal and the notion of co-authorship in sound art as everything we hear acquires meaning from our memories. He showed us ‘DX17’ his project with the Imperial War Museum, ‘Machine 9’ that tracks space junk and gives it a voice and ‘Tate Sensorium’ for which he built a musical instrument based on David Bomberg’s painting ‘In The Hold’. Well worth checking out at http://www.nickryanmusic.com/

A great feature of the symposium is that you can get portfolio reviews with a good range of arts professionals including some of the speakers and you can book advice sessions with ACE representatives. I did both of these and the sessions were extremely positive and forward looking.

The other aspect of the event is the networking opportunities provided between the sessions. In this regard the layout of the event – limited seats and big tables – is very well judged to encourage conversation, which, in the manner of most networking events, was mainly around the financial difficulties of practice as an artist.

A list of links to some of the projects/artists/artworks seen or discussed over the two days.

http://www.charlotteginsborg.com/ film maker, check out Melior Street

http://kitmonkman.com/about/ and http://www.kma.co.uk/ interactive and participatory art works.

https://www.ludivinelargebessette.com/ and on vimeo https://vimeo.com/106288978

http://www.rheastorr.com

http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/

https://www.dazeddigital.com/art-photography

https://frieze.com/

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/

Alex Majoli https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53W_0

https://yorkshire-sculpture.org/

https://ysp.org.uk/

https://www.henry-moore.org/visit/henry-moore-institute

https://www.henry-moore.org/whats-on/2019/03/08/phyllida-barlow-sculpture-and-drawings-from-the-leeds-collection

https://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/leedsartgallery/currently-on-at-leeds-art-gallery

https://hepworthwakefield.org/

http://www.nickryanmusic.com/

http://www.dianabell.co.uk/ The only artist who asked/talked about making.