important artifacts and...

This weekend I’ve been completely engrossed in Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry: a love story told in the format of an an auction catalogue. Created by Canadian artist Leanne Shapton, the book was initially inspired by the catalogue from an auction of Truman Capote’s personal effects, which Shapton interpreted as a kind of autobiography of Capote’s life, albeit one characterised by ambiguities and ellipses.

Important Artifacts may initially appear to be a straightforward series of black and white photographs of auction lots, with accompanying captions, but it quickly becomes clear that this book is in fact a sophisticated work of fiction that skips gleefully across the boundary between experimental novel and conceptual artwork. The four-year relationship between New York couple Lenore and Hal is sharply and vividly unravelled through a fascinating array of ephemera, relics and personal possessions that give us, as readers, the illusion of taking an intimate, not to say illicit peep into a stranger’s private world. Completely mesmerising...

[All images from Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton]

daily drop cap

Still feeling too rubbish to do anything, go anywhere or see any interesting art... so instead you'll have to make do with more things off the internet that have entertained me during my sojourn on the sofa.

Today it's Daily Drop Cap: an ongoing project by typographer and illustrator Jessica Hische. Each day (well, most of them anyway), a new decorative 'drop cap' is posted on her blog, which (via Creative Commons) anyone can use on their own site 'for the beautification of blog posts everywhere'... as you can see! Here are a few recent favourites:
[All images by Jessica Hische from Daily Drop Cap]

what I wore today

I've been out of action all week with horrible sinusitis. I've missed out on lots of fun stuff I had planned; however, at least being at home, under my trusty blanket, has given me plenty of time for reading (so far, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt and Home by Julie Myerson, all excellent) and aimless web browsing.

I'm currently being cheered by the What I Wore Today flickr group started by the illustrator Gemma Correll as an alternative for camera-shy artists and illustrators to all those fashion-themed groups where people take photos of themselves posing around in fancy outfits.Emilie Boudet

Little Doodles
Gemma Correll
[All images via What I Wore Today]

making lists

As an avid list-maker, I like the look of this exhibition about lists, currently running at the Laurence A. Fleischman Gallery in Washington D.C., discovered via the BBC website.

The exhibition includes hundreds of lists drawn up by modern artists, ranging from lists of ideas or paintings, right through to apparently straightforward ‘things to do’ lists. Amongst them is Picasso’s handwritten list of recommended artists for the historic 1913 Armory Show: amusingly, he couldn’t spell the name of his contemporary Marcel Duchamp. Other notable in the exhibition include architect Eero Saarinen’s list of attributes he found attractive in his wife (!) and Alfred Konrad’s illustrated list of what to pack for a trip to Rome and Egypt in 1962 (see above).

I'm finding further list-making inspiration at the Listography website where users can create a personal database of lists from to-do lists and wish lists through to High Fidelity-esque top tens ; and also on hula seventy's blog - a fellow list-maker, she is posting a new list every week, ranging from guilty pleasures to favourite words.

Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts and Other Artist’s Enumerations from the Archives of American Art runs until September 2010 (the chances of me getting to see it are non-existent, but luckily there will also be an exhibition catalogue).

[Image: Adolf Konrad's packing list via the Archives of American Art ]

Pot Hole Gardens

Artist Pete Dungey's miniature pot-hole gardens are a response to "the problem of surface imperfections on Britan's roads" apparently. Project participation is welcomed...

[All images by Pete Dungey]

celeste boursier-mougenot: barbican commission

From Here To Ear - Céleste Boursier-Mougenot

I love this new commission for the Barbican's Curve Gallery - a magical sonic art installation created by artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot.

Entering the gallery through a chain curtain, you first pass through a dark space with a series of video projections and buzzing sounds. So far, so conventional. But then, turning the corner, you find yourself within a very different space, where a flock of rather adorable zebra finches are fluttering between a series of sandy islands furnished with different musical instruments: electric guitars, basses, cymbals and microphone stands.

As the birds go about their activities (taking a bird bath in a cymbal or pecking bits of twig from an electric guitar) and move through the space, they create a random soundscape that blends with the tweeting and chirruping of the birds themselves. Charming, uplifting and seriously cute.

The installation is in the Barbican's Curve Gallery until 23 May 2010.

UPDATE (17.03.10) - one of the birds has laid an egg on a guitar! Read the full story here.

[Image (top) by CarolienC on Flickr via Creative Commons]

michael landy's art bin

In 2001's Break Down, Michael Landy famously destroyed everything he owned in a single, extreme artistic gesture. Now, in a new work showing at the South London Gallery, he is inviting other artists to get in on the act and dump their work in a giant Art Bin - his "monument to creative failure".

Works from a whole range of artists have already been dumped - including those by Tracy Emin, Sir Peter Blake, Michael Craig-Martin, Mark Titchner and Gillian Wearing, as well as Landy himself. Damien Hirst has also consigned two of his iconic skull paintings to the bin.

Anyone can offer up their artwork to be trashed, but Landy and his representatives make the final selection of what will go into the bin itself. However, Landy insists that there's no hierarchy of artistic value: "I don't have a set of criteria and it's not about the quality of the work, because in the artworld there's no concensus on what's good and bad."

There's something appealingly anarchic about Art Bin - both as a witty, if glib, response to the stock notion of contemporary art as just "a load of old rubbish" and as a provocative exploration of how we judge the value of art itself. Most interestingly to me though, it's also an investigation of the creative process, and especially of the notion of artistic success or failure. As Landy says: "There will be good artworks going into the bin, but it is up to the artist to decide what failure is."

Art Bin can be found at the South London Gallery until 14 March.

[Image via Art Bin website]

fourteen interventions: swedenborg house

On a very wet evening last week, I went along to the opening of a new site-specific exhibition, Fourteen Interventions, at Swedenborg House in Bloomsbury.

Swedenborg House is an intriguing place in itself: this elegant Bloomsbury listed building is the centre of operations for the Swedenborg Society, established in 1810, whose aim is to translate and publish the works of the idiosyncratic scientist, philosopher and visionary Emanuel Swedenborg. Fourteen Interventions is part of the society's bicentennial celebrations - a series of site specific and site responsive artworks, dispersed throughout the four storey building to celebrate the space, its unique history, its architecture and its artefacts: the artists involved include Jeremy Deller, Olivia Plender, Jacob Cartwright & Nick Jordan, Bridget Smith. Brian Catling and Iain Sinclair.

At the crowded private view, it was difficult to get a good look at many of the artworks tucked away in unexpected corners of this rambling building, but I did get a chance to explore the installations in the basement store room, where mysterious voices emanated from speakers concealed within archive boxes, and flickering projections of blurred images were glimpsed in half-hidden spaces at the back of shelves.

I was especially interested in the combination of visual artworks with written texts throughout the exhibition: Sinclair's commentaries on unusual and arcane objects from the society's archives underlines the point that in such a unique and atmospheric context, there's only a fine line between everyday object and artwork. In a building like this one, it can be difficult to see where site responsive artistic intervention begins and ends, and what is simply the fabric of the space itself.

Fourteen Interventions will be at Swedenborg House until 5 March.

[Image via The Swedenborg Society]