As part of the Keywords Investigations Course at Iniva in partnership with Tate Liverpool, I have been invited to write about the word I chose. Sublime was my keyword, its beautiful sound was the first thing that attracted me. It is a word with an ethereal existence, one that comes and goes in and out of vogue over the years as if it had the capacity to make its own decisions. It is a word impossible to define because it lives in a different dimension; an Olympus of words, a different league, an elite.
It is inaccessible and it happens to be there all the time when least expected. It is a state of mind we aspire to reach when we do not know where it is or how it is. However we arrive there; eventually.
Adrian Rifkin, the course leader, said that you know that you have had a sublime experience after you have been through it, not during. You only know it when it is too late: afterwards, after and not before. It is like water in that you enjoy its freshness, but only once it has been through your skin.
Will the new technologies facilitate the sublime? Or is a return to nature and simplicity the only way? It seems we are going through turbulent times and the sublime is rather unavailable until better times are back. Is there a need for specific conditions? Or is it just a state of mind and therefore unaffected by outside forces? These are questions that have been facing philosophers over centuries when they tried to make an attempt to describe something that can be considered as a personal and, sometimes, a rather private experience.
Whatever it means to you, I would invite you to find your way to be and to stay there: the sublime.
Curators Grant Watson and Gavin Delahunty introduce the Keywords exhibition which runs until 18 May at Rivington Place.
Keywords is presented in partnership with Tate Liverpool and the idea of the exhibition is to explore words through works of art focusing largely on the 1980s. The exhibition looks at some of the oppositional politics that emerged during that decade – politics of gender, of sexuality, of race – which at that time was a powerful motivating force for artists.
Two sessions already! My last conversation with Christian Nyampeta kept me wondering about how to ‘open up’ to the multiple hues of each and every word, even words used mundanely. I realise how there could be violence in language, the ‘violence’ that can be felt in certain words (to borrow from Pouka ‘black’ ‘white’ or absolutes like ‘no one’, ‘all of us’, ‘we’), which got me thinking that what if violence could be perceived (and taught to be perceived) at the point of words at individual level, how much physical violence could be avoided. Can peace then be hoped for, in how we use words? Adrian Rifkin introduced us to the dystopian novel/ film Fahrenheit 451 and the ideas around utopia and dystopia have been churning in me since then.
Oskar Werner in Truffaut's film of Fahrenheit 451. Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Feature
To choose one word as keyword was already quite challenging. The exploration of the word through the interaction of each and everyone is now a stimulating and almost frightening experience. I have chosen the keyword ‘Diaspora’ and in the two last sessions, I have traveled from Israel to Jamaica transiting through New Delhi, Berlin, New York and discovering the different aspects of London as experienced and negotiated by the others. What has started for me as a better way to understand the word, its depth and history, and better understanding myself and the why of my interest in this word, is now taking me places that I can’t yet imagine.
Informal image of the Keywords Investigations workshop
I have started the Keyword Investigations Workshop with certain ecological imageries of the word ‘diaspora’ as seeds dispersed across geographical landscapes. I am also exploring contemporary writings on diaspora and am inspired by Gilroy’s notion of purity, Eryksen’s study of nationhood, and Hutnyk’s narratives of hybridity and diaspora. I look forward to finding, creating and sharing visuals which could help me collate pictures with the text ‘Diaspora’.
Amidst my initial confusion with the choice of my keyword, I now find myself determined to explore it and with it, a self-exploration to figure out my attraction to the word.
This is the fourth in a series of films of Peter Clarke talking about his work at the Wind Blowing on the Cape Flats exhibition. Here he talks about the works he collectively calls the ‘Ghetto Fence Series’.
In this film Peter Clarke talks about his work, Homage to the poet Langston Hughes. It is dedicated to the American poet and social activist who was recognised for his contribution to the ‘Harlem Renaissance’ and was an important influence on the artist.
A four-colour lithograph print of Homage to the poet Langston Hughes after the original hand-coloured linocut in the artist’s personal collection has been produced to celebrate Peter Clarke’s Wind Blowing on the Cape Flats exhibition. It depicts an outstretched single hand, reaching towards a dove, suggesting a yearning for peace or solidarity. If you’d like to find out more about the edition, please follow this link: limited edition print.
This is the first of six short films Peter Clarke kindly made during the opening of his retrospective, Wind Blowing on the Cape Flats at Rivington Place. In this film, he talks about his work For Some the Pathway to Education Lies Between Thorns:
“I’ve been interested in space for a very long time, since early childhood in fact. Not only that kind of space, but also the spaces that separate people. The spaces that people have to traverse. In this particular work, what inspired this one was the fact that in South Africa, in the rural areas there’s a great deal of having to walk to school. Often children travel long distances every day. Going to school and traveling back afterwards. When I for instance spent a while in a village called Tesselaarsdal in the earlier part of my career there was one group of children who walked five miles to school in the morning and then walked the five miles back after school. So I was seeking out the difficulties involved in gaining an education. And so the title eventually came to me for this particular one, For Some the Pathway to Education Lies Between Thorns.”
“This is a lino-cut print. It is a reduction lino-cut print. What I mean by reduction is I draw on the block, cut very carefully. I’ve already decided in my mind that this is going to be a five colour block print…a five colour print…and so I cut the block and I ink for the first stage, print it, then I cut it further, ink it a different colour, printed it and so on, until I’ve completed the block. I’ve completed the block and what will remain over on the block so what has printed the darkest colour here. It is actually a very simple process, but I’ve felt with many adult artists that I’ve spoken to about print making, they haven’t the foggiest idea what I’m talking about until I actually show them how it is done.”
Each month Iniva Creative Learning post some handy tips for using the images on our Emotional Learning Cards in a variety of settings and circumstances. This month we focus on a practical exercise for using the cards as a means to better understand our emotions.
Often our difficulty around positively dealing with emotions stems from our inability to recognise them in the first place. Contemporary art contains an almost unlimited range of unusual and emotive images. As such they can help us to articulate and visualise our emotional responses.
Create your own Emotional Learning Card
Start by looking through a number of different Cards. Discuss the imagery within the Cards and think about what emotions the images evoke.
What is it about the image that suggests the emotion? Think about the colours used in the image, the placing of bodies and/or objects. Is there a story or a situation that the image suggests which evokes the particular emotional response?
Leading on from the discussion, it’s time to create your own Emotional Learning Card. Decide on an emotion you want to represent. This decision may be governed by your particular situation (i.e. if there is an issue with anger management you might decide to explore anger as an emotion).
Cut out a coloured card the same size and shape as an Emotional Learning Card. Thinking back to the discussion you had around the Cards decide how to visually represent the chosen image. Will it be through collage, drawing and/or painting? Will it be representative or metaphorical, realistic or surreal? You may want to write text or use lyrics from a song or a poem, either embedded within the image or written on the back of each card.
In making the card you have in effect “created” a representation” of that particular emotion. The young adult will have been given the freedom, in a positive, safe and creative environment to explore and examine the emotion and so will be able to recognise and better respond to it in the future. During the activity you will no doubt be in conversation with the young adult. Take advantage of this, asking questions and prompting them to articulate their responses through words as much as through the image-making.
Once the image is complete its important that it is kept and treasured- throwing it away will not send out a good message! You may want to put it in a scrap book or hang it on a wall and you may want to refer back to it at some point in the future.
You can buy our Emotional Learning Cards on our website, as well as download free resources that give suggestions for other practical activity. Visit our Store
Iniva are pleased to be working with Undocumentary (artists Jessica Harrington and Shiraz Bayjoo) for Social archive Two. Here are a few images we captured whilst documenting their first recording with Noah from Maiden shop, 188 Shoreditch High Street.
Organised by Iniva as part of Art at the Intersection: Art and Economics, a three year initiative exploring critical and creative approaches to economics. Social Archive Twois a film project where members of the general public are invited to adopt the role of socio-economic historians, recording people working and living in Shoreditch and their reflections on their economic futures.
We had a delightful time at Maiden with Noah who gave us an insightful stream of consciousness into what an independent businesses in the East End is confronted by.