Best of February 2010


Brixton Market (Source: Spacesavers Website)

Rather than board up empty commercial properties, as in many urban locations BRIXTON VILLAGE (Brixton Market) is making them available to artists and residents to put on self-directed projects. Some are one-off events, others longer term. In Brixton, this repurposing initiative is led by SPA (Space Makers Agency). See also their blog.

This month, for instance, the academic and activist John Cussans presented a one-off Free School talk, ‘Our Debt to Haiti — Haitian History Lessons (Part 1)’ in a tightly packed temporary shop that was already being used for an exhibition, Andrew Cooper’s ‘The Rabbles Furious Struggle Against Inequality‘,  a collection of animated totem- and fetish-like sculptures and objects with which (during performances) viewers could enter into conversation.
Cussan's Our Debt to Haiti Talk, Brixton Market

Also taking place in the arcades of this still beautiful 1930’s building, alongside new and existing businesses, were theatre performances, exhibitions, and collaborative art and craft-making. In one otherwise disused corner shop, what may have been several generations of an ordinary family were working with paper, scissors, and glue, as if around their own living room table. On the one hand, watching them behind the large store-front windows was like watching reality TV without the TV. On the other hand, it was like being suddenly transported to a pre-TV-age when, more often than not, Saturday afternoon entertainment at home was strictly home-made, low-key, and often utterly satisfying.


FILM STUDIES FOR FREE is an invaluable archive of open-source, web-based film resources (scholarly articles, reviews, audio visual materials) set up by digital curator, essayist and researcher Catherine Grant. It appears to have begun in 2008 and it is constantly being enlarged. Included amongst the many, varied approaches to thinking about film on offer, are links that reflect on the fresh impact that phenomenology has had on film studies, particularly since the turn of the twenty-first century. This is a diverse archive united around what might best be described less as a set of theories and more as a philosophical practice dedicated, at once, to the study of the world — here, the filmic world — as it is given to us in (lived) experience and to the study of our own responses, orientations, and experiences in relation to that world. Amongst several gems is a discussion found in the essay ‘A Phenomenological Aesthetic of Cinematic “Worlds”‘ by Christopher S. Yates in which, inspired by Martin Heidegger’s “On the Origin of the Work of Art” (1935) — with its famous study of Vincent van Gogh’s 1885 painting of a pair of peasant shoes …

Vincent van Gogh, A Pair of Shoes, 1885
… Mikel Dufrenne’s phenomenology of aesthetic experience, and Terrence Malick’s cinematic and narrative uses of point-of-view, issues of convergence between “artist and viewer intentionalities” are explored. (Intentionality, as a phenomenological term, asserts that human consciousness and other modes of being are always fundamentally orientated or directed towards others and towards broader scenarios, towards some thing, never self-enclosed or non-relational.) What particularly struck me, in the second section of this essay, ‘The Work of Art as World Disclosure,’ was Yates’s discussion of the way in which, as we attend to the agency of artworks to open up worlds beyond those that we might initially assign to them we can find ourselves radically reorientated in the process. For instance (and as discussed by Heidegger in his epic Being and Time), we might find ourselves moved from a pervasive everyday human condition of relative alienation and ‘anxiety’ with respect to the world and our place in it (“the ordinary, uncanny elements of existence”), to one of ‘concern’ or ‘care.’

Barbara Hepworth, Family of Man, Snape Maltings, Suffolk

Barbara Hepworth’s FAMILY OF MAN at Snape Maltings in Suffolk, part of the unfinished Family of Man sculptural project created in 1973 which made up of nine large bronze pieces. More on this to follow — about the value of thinking about this piece from a phenomenological perspective in the light of some of the comments above, particularly those concerning the capacity of works of art to enable transitions in orientation from anxiety to concern…


Orford Castle, SuffolkOrford Castle, Suffolk Orford Castle c 1600

ORFORD CASTLE is a polygonal tower keep in Suffolk built by  Henry II from 1165 when he also transformed what was then the small hamlet of Orford into a busy port in need of substantial defenses. The structure is remarkably intact and is fascinating as the material remains of a particular model, and logic, of communal living supported — from the basement with its central well, to the roof with its bake house, watch towers, and system for gathering rain water — by well-considered methods for storing, circulating, replenishing and expelling life-related substances like warm air, water, fire, food, and human waste.



One response to “Best of February 2010

  1. really good information, well written, hope to read more from you. Regards :

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