spotlight: kate bingaman-burt

Kate Bingaman-Burt is an artist and graphic designer based in Portland, Oregon, where she is an Assistant Professor at Portland State University. She makes work loosely themed around the idea of personal consumerism.

Her blog What Did You Buy Today? explores her love/hate relationship with shopping: each day, she records an item she has purchased, be it mouthwash or french fries, in a distinctively quirky black and white line drawing. She even draws her credit card statements, tickets and receipts, documenting the whole process of consumption.
To find out more about Kate's work, visit Obsessive Consumption, or read a q & a on my love for you is a stampede of horses.

[all images by Kate Bingaman-Burt via Obsessive Consumption]

Au Revoir Urbis

Just a few weeks after I wrote about the closure of Foundry in East London, another arts venue is closing its doors. This time it is Manchester's Urbis, which will be closing tomorrow for the last time, before being transformed into its new incarnation as the National Football Museum.

Part centre for pop culture, part city museum, Urbis - which describes itself as "an exhibition centre about city life" focusing on "contemporary art and design, music, fashion, popular culture and the people who make our cities what they are" - will, for me at least, always be connected with Manchester's renaissance. It was originally designed and built in the wake of the 1996 IRA bomb that completely reconfigured the Manchester of my childhood (complete with original dark satanic mills) to the infinitely sharper and shinier Manchester of the present day. The Urbis building was a key part of the transformative process: a gleaming contemporary architectural icon at the very heart of the new-look city, or as Iain Sinclair has rather more eloquently put it "an icon for the new theology of capital and regeneration".

Like many of the others who have written about Urbis's impending closure, over the years I have had mixed feelings about it as an exhibition venue. Perhaps that's partly because of the building itself - a bold, shiny structure which always seems to have more in common with the nearby department stores and retail developments than the historic buildings that surround Cathedral Gardens, and which seems to imbue the very artworks themselves with a sense of all things corporate and commercial. Or perhaps it is something to do with the programme, or indeed with the very nature of trying to capture what Urbis CEO Vaughan Allan has described as the "still-living, still-developing expressions of popular activity... [that] can't be captured and can't be (literally) encased."

Nevertheless, Manchester's "glittering pop cultural palace" has given us some great moments in its short history, not least the excellent Best of Manchester awards, which had shown signs of becoming a genuine Manchester institution in their own right. Most importantly I think, Urbis provided an important space to explore and share ideas that we wouldn't usually encounter in the average contemporary art space - be it hip hop, manga, guerilla gardening, punk or computer games. The final exhibition, Urbis Has Left the Building, brings together many of these highlights, in a celebratory retrospective of Urbis's history, but ultimately leaves us wondering what will fill the gap.

That's the funny thing about Manchester though: it always surprises you. It may look like the end of the road for Urbis now, but in a city that's all about reinvention, you never really know what might happen next.

[Image by I-Know UK on Flickr via Creative Commons]

art is good for you

Thought for today, via Philadelphia-based designer Mikey Burton.

northern art?

The third Northern Art Prize, which the Guardian describes as “the north’s leading contemporary art award… attempting to become a northern version of the Turner Prize”, was recently awarded to Manchester-based artist Pavel Büchler at a ceremony at Leeds City Gallery.

In selecting Büchler from a shortlist that also included Matt Stokes, Rachel Goodyear and the partnership of Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, the judges, who included the artist Richard Deacon, paid tribute to the important role he has played in the development of Manchester’s art scene, stating "Büchler has been consistently influential to a huge amount of people throughout his career, both as a practitioner and teacher.” “I love Manchester,” Büchler agreed on accepting the prize. “Of all the regional cities I know, it has the least “regional” attitude. Artists there are not chippy about the rest of the world.”

“The [Northern Art Prize] is galvanizing attention on a region that is really becoming very exciting in terms of the quality of artists working here,” said Simon Wallis, director of the Hepworth gallery which opens next year in Wakefield. Yet not all this attention has been positive: Alfred Hickling, writing about the prize in the Guardian, doesn’t seem to have been too impressed with the shorlisted works. Taking umbrage with a poorly-edited exhibition catalogue, he dismisses one of Büchler’s sculptures as looking like “something that fell from behind a janitor’s ear” and characterises Rachel Goodyear’s drawings as “small, competent self-portraits in pencil that depict her enacting fantasies such as concealing a baby rhino beneath her skirt or having her bottom fondled by a weasel.” His final verdict is that “if the Northern Art prize has aspirations to become a regional equivalent of the Turner, it still has some way to go.”

What all this coverage really left me wondering is why exactly the Northern Art prize should aspire to become a “regional equivalent” of the Turner. There seems to be a disquieting tacit acknowledgement here that the most important contemporary art in this country comes out of the south and especially out of London, and that even a supposedly “national” prize like the Turner is really all about London art and artists. Although drawing attention to the quality of contemporary art being made in the north can only be a good thing, there is also the possibility that in stressing the “regional” and “northern” identity of this work, it only cements the distinction between north and south, and the related notion that some kind of geographical hierarchy exists. Ultimately I’m left asking myself if there is any real, tangible difference between “regional” and “London” art works, other than the art market and institutions that surrounds them, and if so, what that difference might be.

So what is “Northern art”? If anyone has an answer, I’d be intrigued to hear what you think…

[Image: Eclipse (2009) Pavel Büchler via the Northern Art Prize]

live now

This is fun: Live Now is a collaborative art project started by Eric Smith. After being diagnosed with not one, not two, but three different types of cancer, Eric started the project as a way to focus on the positive, and celebrate living in the moment.

The project, described as "a community of happiness", consists of quotes, thoughts, lyrics, stories and other creations in different mediums focusing on the idea of "living now", which have been submitted by a range of designers, illustrators and other creative practitioners. Just the thing to brighten up a dull February day!

[all images via Live Now]

in theblogpaper

You might already have heard of theblogpaper, which describes itself as “the first user-generated newspaper in London". Anyone can publish blogs, photos and comments to theblogpaper website, which are then rated by the community of site users. The highest rated and most discussed content is then “promoted” to a printed newspaper produced once a month, which acts as an aggregate for the site content, and is distributed for free at tube stations and the like.

The project is still in beta phase at the moment, and is certainly an intriguing and exciting idea. I’d already heard about theblogpaper, via the Manchizzle, when they got in touch with me a little while back, and invited me to get involved. In the interests of giving it a go, I submitted this little review of the Museum of Everything to the site, which made it into the third edition of the newspaper (which also includes a great piece on Banksy by my blogging compatriot runpaintrunrun). I haven’t yet got my hands on a hard copy of the paper, but you can read it online here.

However, though I love the idea of a more democratic, "crowdsourced" approach to publishing, I must confess to finding the experience itself slightly odd. I'm not sure exactly what I feel about blog posts being rated and scored: surely one of the greatest things about blogging is that it gives us the space to have individual and idiosyncratic voices rather than trying to please the masses? I would also question the suggestion that as bloggers we should necessarily aspire to be "promoted" to print as a superior format for publishing. Having said that, theblogpaper offers a diverse and intriguing range of content, and there's no doubt in my mind that any project that gives bloggers a higher profile has got to be a good thing. I also have to say that I love the idea that London’s commuters might, just once a month or so, go home reading something a little more unusual, distinctive and controversial than the same old Metro/Evening Standard fodder. I'm not sure yet whether I'll be submitting any more content, but I'll certainly be watching this space.

Interestingly, I’ve also been hearing some intriguing whispers of plans for an a blog aggregator project in Manchester. Go here to find out more...

Goodbye Foundry

This is sad: The Foundry, one of the landmarks of East London’s art scene, is set for demolition.

The Foundry has been a focal point for arts activity for over a decade: Pete Doherty hosted its poetry night, Hot Chip formed there, and the graffiti walls downstairs feature early works by street artists Banksy and Faile. It may not look much from the outside, but step through the door and you find yourself inside a pleasingly ramshackle pub and arts venue, glowing with the light of a myriad neon signs and a plethora of old school TV screens and monitors, and splattered with a rainbow of graffiti. Downstairs are galleries and performance spaces, and upstairs is the bar, which always has a lively atmosphere, with crowds of cyclists hanging out on the benches outside, and a DJ spinning some ear-splittingly weird and wonderful tunes.

But now The Foundry is due to be pulled down after the site owners drew up plans for an 18-storey hotel and ‘retail complex’ (just what we always wanted!) on the site. Hackney Council have approved plans, but ironically (though perhaps unsurprisingly) they are planning to salvage a wall painted with one of the biggest Banksy murals in Britain, depicting a six metre high rat with a knife and fork, despite the fact that the rest of the building will be completely demolished.

Read more on the Guardian website here.

[Image of The Foundry by Sarah Lee, via the Guardian]