Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Group Material / Collective Investigations

In 2010, at the Frieze Art Fair I attended an excellent talk by Julie Ault, one of the founding members of the art collective Group Material. Although l hadn't come across the group before, it was fascinating to hear about the projects they were involved in and the importance of their legacy.

One thing that stuck with me was the way that this ever-changing group of artists seemed to produce such a large body of work with an incredible reach.

The reason the talk came to mind was because Egidija, George and I have been meeting together as Collective Investigations for two years now and the milestone made me reflect on the experience of working as a group.

Detail of window from exhibition at the bookartbookshop.

As with Group Material I feel like Collective Investigations has reached further than we might have on our own. During this past two years we have published a huge artists' book, made and exhibited new art, held public workshops, given a talk at the Victoria and Albert Museum and been selected to have a table at Kaleid. I'm looking forward to the next things on the horizon. For me this work ethic has spilled over into my own individual practice, which also seems to be flourishing.

Workshop materials.

A couple of years ago I came across the book 'Show and Tell: A Chronicle of Group Material', which was released by Ault at the time of the Frieze talk. The thing that came across most strongly from the book was the bureaucracy and the systems that the group put in place to make the whole thing work. It seemed quite a contrast to the talk, as it exposed the extensive, but unseen machinery behind the art. What's interesting to me now (after working as part of a collective myself for two years) is that without regular meetings, talks about finance, long term plans etc, the group wouldn't have had the time, space or energy to create and to make such thoughtful and engaging artworks.

Book: Codex Between This and That


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

the false azure in the windowpane

I went to the V&A to see 'Double Space' this week that forms part of the London Design Festival. I went with the specific aim to see this installation, as we have been talking a lot together about reflections for a piece of work we are putting together for Art Language Location in Cambridge that is coming up in Ocotber. We have been having conversations about what is seen, what is experienced and what is real. Focusing in on a quote from Vladimir Nabokov's 'Pale Fire': 

'I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;' (1)

A bird tricked by the seemingly lifelike reflection of the sky in the window flies straight into it and dies. 

We will be installing work on the widow of the philosophy library, that draws on the dual nature of a widows ability to reflect the world around it and also at the same time to be seen through. It is then our point of perception that interprets this layered reflection and transparency. Pulling apart the different spaces and trying to make sense of them. What is outside the window can appear inside, through its reflection and vice versa. What we are working on has become an exploration in destinguishing the truth of spaces and how we know a reflection as a reflection and the room beyond the window as the room. Nabokov goes on to say: 

'And from inside, too, I'd duplicate
Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
Uncurtaining the night, I'd let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass,
And how delightful when a fall of snow
Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so 
As to make chair and bed exactly stand
Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!' (2)

Peter Jones - 'that crystal land' (3)

It suggests that the reflection can construct a parrelel space identical to the one that you are in, confusing the genuineness of the reflection and merging it with what is beyond the glass. 

This brings me nicely to the installation at the V&A. Two large aeroplane wing shapped mirrored pannels are suspended from a structure in the gallery. They are positioned high up in the eaves in the Raphael galleries and rotate in a choreographed pattern. The work has been created by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, it reflects everything in the room, the ceiling, the paintings and the people moving about below them. Of the work they say this: “It will amaze the visitor and enable them to appreciate the space in a totally new way, the visitor becomes part of the room for a fleeting moment. Through movement and reflections, the static display of the paintings are brought to life while inviting the viewer and the gallery to be part of the performance.’’ (4)

It is an amazing experience, a mirror that moves like a boat on the sea bobs back and forth reflecting a distorted room. It highlights parts that you may never have noticed before. The ceiling gets pulled down into the room, the floor gets pulled up into the ceiling. Its a strange phenomenon. The room all of a sudden has doubled in size but no extra space has been created. But this doubled space is not a true lifelike representation. The fact that it moves for one, but also the fact that the mirror is curved. the reflection is a distortion. It puts me in mind of the Nabokov quote. The way a window can project a reflection of the room you are in outside, these mirrors rather than project out project into themselves whats below them. Everything is absorbed but unlike the bird in Norbokov's pale fire you are not tricked into the illusion, you can see the room and the reflection in one glance. A double space that is more about the experience rather than the ilusion. Edward Barber says: "We wanted people to come in and take something away that was an experience rather than an analysis of an object." (5) 

You are experiencing the room in a new way and seeing parts you may never have seen before. The artwork that is already in the space almost becomes irrelevant. It is the room that is important and reinterpreting it on that scale is something you have to experience yourself. The reflection brings attention to yourself in relation to this space and you become central to everything. With your interpretation the room stretches out from you in and then again in the reflection 

Through this work and through the Nabokov texts I have learnt that the body is essential to the construction of this experience. It is your perception of the reflection that creates it as a space.

I strongly advise you to go and experience this work for yourself, as there is little you can gain from seeing the images. The design festival runs from 13th to 22nd September. For more information visit: You can see our work in Cambridge from 15th October to 2nd November for more information visit


1. & 2. NABOKOV, V. Pale Fire. 1962
3. JONES, P. the crystal land. 2012

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Post Nr.1

Chris, George, Egidija

Collective Investigations is an artists' collective hugely interested in experimental publishing:

all sizes of books and pamphlets and works across mediums and how they are found and handled and read and how all of that links to the past and into the future.

A few weeks ago we took a decision to make our eclectic attempts at online communication rather more systematic. We have decided to set up a blog, where we would take turns to rant about the super exciting things that we like. Our interests vary from contemporary archives to medieval reading habits, which means that the content will be varied, surprising and tremendously exciting.

New entries every Wednesday AM.

Welcome to our blog.