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.

Working SessionI was in conversation with Dr Dan Smith at Chelsea College of Art and Design. We were attempting to play with the lecture format and discuss notions of the everyday. We used Michel de Certeau and the Practice of Everyday Life (1984) as our guide.

De Certeau defines two broad spheres within everyday practices.

The first sphere is that of Strategy. Strategy is the realm of power. Political, economic, financial, aesthetic, legal and scientific. It’s the proper place for the excise of authority. A strategic authority confers the ability to oversee a particular field - financial, aesthetic, legal, etc. Armies and war, laws and legal codes, monetary policy and bond issues spring to mind. Institutions help dominate a particular field of strategy, like the Serpentine Gallery, White Cube or the Frieze Art Fair.

Ibn Tulun mosqueI was in Cairo in November 2008 to make a short film for an exhibition curated by Nav Haq and Tirdad Zolghadr entitled Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie at the Townhouse Gallery.

Althought I had visited some twenty five years ago, Cairo is still an amazing experience.

In some downtime I went to visit two mosques side-by-side, the majestic Sultan Hassan and Ar Rifa’r which contains the tomb of the Shah of Iran. As a tourist you need tickets to enter. There was a wooden kiosk with a lady inside. I ask for a ticket.

First, trust seeped away in the debt markets. They seized, and the repercussions caused financial and 'real' economies to collapse. Trust is the most precious commodity in any market.

I'm reminded of a project I did in 2001 at Tate Modern and the Bank of England, Capital. Capital was a series of encounters between two iconic institutions and the economies they animate; the Tate and the Bank of England.

In Tate Modern and in the Bank of England Museum, at unspecified times during the day a visitor was approached by a gallery or museum official. "This is for you" accompanied the presentation of a beautifully packaged gift -a limited edition print.


playa de cuevaMethaMaking Use, WarsawYang on a stoolBasia & CharlieLapdogs of the Bourgeoisie (still)