Guernica WhitechapelDear Neil,

Invitation to join the debate

Among the Whitechapel Gallery’s inaugural exhibitions is a commission by Goshka Macuga. Her installation revolves around an event where Picasso’s original painting, Guernica, was installed at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1939.

Guernica was brought over by the Stepney Trade Union Council who approached the gallery for help with their ambition to fight Fascism and to promote a Communist spirit within the working classes. They wanted to use a painting by ‘a famous Spanish painter’ to help enlist volunteers for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War.

Afterall Showroom seminar

We had a really interesting and lively seminar organised by Pablo Lafuente and Melissa Gronlund of Afterall and Emily Pethwick of  The Showroom Gallery.

I just finished reading Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton. Thornton guides us through seven different days –constructed over a five year research period. Each day is a description of one of the institutional structures that comprise the market for contemporary art: a Christies auction, the famous art school ‘crit’ of Michael Asher, the Basel Art fair, the build-up to the Turner Prize, the offices of Artforum magazine, the corporate studio of Takashi Murakami and the Venice Biennale. A glaring omission is that one of the days was not spent at a contemporary art museum, or even a particular high-end gallery.

Despite the odd inclusion of Asher’s ‘crit’, and Thornton's insistance that "the art world is much broader than the art market," her mapping of an art world, revolves around the highly visible competitive market. 

Seminar with Neil Cummings
Saturday, 28 March 2009, 3-6pm

Organised by The Showroom and Afterall
Venue: The Cockpit Theatre
Gateforth Street (Off Church Street)
London, NW8 8EH

The Showroom and Afterall are pleased to invite you to a seminar with London-based artist Neil Cummings.

In the summer of 2008 I walked as a pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela. I started at St Jean de Pied a Port in France, walked over the Pyrenees and then for a month west across Spain to Santiago. In fact, I walked on to Finisterre - the end of the earth.

People have been walking this route for over 1,000 years. Its an astonishing intersection of beautiful landscape, amazing architecture, great wine and food but best of all, lovely fellow pilgrims.

Last week I went to see a film The Class - actually its called Entre Les Murs, by Laurent Catenet; it won the Golden Palm at Cannes. It's a riveting semi-autobiographical film with teacher François  Bégaudeau - who wrote an initial film treatment, playing a version of himself - François. Its set between the walls of tough school in a suburb of Paris where François engages a class of 14-15 year olds, of differing cultures, ethnicities, attitudes and abilities in a microcosm of contemporary France.

I took part in a student initiated symposium on Collectivity, Collaboration, and Cooperation Friday 30th January at Chelsea College of Art and Design, in London.

It was chaired by Bernice Donszelmann & Paul McGee

I tried to look at how cooperation might be different from collaboration and I used Critical Practice – a cluster of artists, researchers and academics (of which I am a part), as an example.

I'm interested in cooperative and collaborative art practice, in issues of access and participation, the impact of digital technologies and social exchanges like generosity and friendship. I recognized that these themes provide tools to enable me to think through, and think differently about the conventions of art's authorship, its ownership and distribution.

 “We must try to avoid a vicious circle on which tighter liquidity conditions, lower asset values, impaired capital resources, reduced credit supply and slower aggregate demand feedback on each other.”

I read this quote, a beautifully succinct piece of prose in a paper produced by Paul Tucker, Executive Director and Money Policy Committee Member of the Bank of England, for the Institutional Money Market Funds Association Annual Dinner, in April 2008.

I was researching Auction Houses at the time and trying to keep an eye on financial markets. Of course we have not avoided the vicious circle, in fact we seem to be spiraling into a terrible black vortex.

“One hand, one million dollars, no tears.”

Is the McGuffin or plot device that motivates Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis, which I'm reading at the moment. Its an insiders account of the deregulation of the American Mortgage markets in the 1980's and the beginning of the havoc that CDO's and contempt, are visiting upon us now. Liar's Poker was presented in the 1990's as humorous, now it reads as a tragedy; Marx reversed.


Winter sun. Just past the lunar equinox. Slack tides. I walk along the Thames path into town to buy On Grammatology by Jacques Derrida. Lost the previous copy.

In front of the old Billingsgate fish market I clamber down on to the foreshore. Combing through the pebblebricks, gravel, shells, bones, pieces of clay pipe, fossils, plastic detritus and ceramic bits-and-pieces.

I notice a distinctive drift of cobalt blue Willow Pattern shards. Squat, sift and see a fragment with an image. I pick-it-up to inspect. In China there's a man on a river foreshore. I'm in a Borges story.


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