If you're as horrified as i have been by the endless queues to see the David Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum, maybe you could walk by and try the ticket-free and crowd-free Making It Up: Photographic Fictions.

V&A has selected from its vast archives some 30 images that denies the assumption that photography captures 'the truth'. Since the early days of its history indeed, the medium has also been used to stimulate viewer's imagination or simply to deceive.

The exhibition is small but dense with narratives that entertain, betray, trouble or convey extra layers of information. Some of the stratagems used in these images are subtle, others are downright theatrical.

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Roger Fenton, Valley of the Shadow of Death, 1854-5

Roger Fenton's Valley of the Shadow of Death photos are, i've been told, extremely famous. I must admit that i had never read about them before. Fenton was commissioned to document the Crimean War in 1855. Because of the limitations of photographic techniques of the time, because of the danger of entering the battlefield with a cumbersome photo equipment, but also because of the government's wish to present the war in a light that would not upset the public, Fenton couldn't represent the conflict directly.

Valley of the Shadow of Death is a striking example of how Fenton communicated the aftermath of a battle. The photo doesn't show corpses nor wounded soldiers but cannonballs strewn over a road near Sevastopol.

It was later discovered that Fenton had taken another photograph of this scene, with only rocks laying on the road this time. Historians speculate that Fenton probably staged the scene, moving cannonballs from the ditch onto the road in order to create an image dramatic enough to evoke human casualties on the battlefield.

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Timothy Eugene O'Tower, View of Crimean War Battle Scene, 2006

Terry Towery (born 1963) aka Timothy Eugene O'Tower (1829-1905) claims to have 'discovered' this photo by his descendant Timothy Eugene O'Tower, a 19th century photographer. The photo immediately recalls Roger Fenton's. O'Tower is in fact a figment of Towery's imagination and his photos show table-top constructions masquerading as landscapes.

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Jan Wenzel, Bastler V (Tinkerer V), 2000

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Jan Wenzel, Bastler VI (Tinkerer VI), 2000

Jan Wenzel's compositions are made entirely inside a photobooth. He used to work in a booth located in the Census Office of Leipzig until, in 1998, he found an old Fotofix booth, repaired it and installed it in his studio. For each of his tableaux, he would set up the scene inside the photo booth and rearrange each frame at 28-second intervals.

The photos above are not the ones exhibited at the V&A but they are close enough to give you an idea of his work.

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Oliver Boberg, Garteneingang, 2001

Nothing in Oliver Boberg's images is what it seems. He selects a location, takes a snap of it then goes back to his studio where he builds a model of the place, carefully lights it and then photographs the scene from predetermined vantage points.

He calls the result "generic modernism". His 'locations' are banal and familiar urban scenes, yet they are alien, stripped of any human or non human life. A reality so controlled and constructed, it becomes almost abstract.

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Bridget Smith, Glamour Studio (Bathroom), 1999

Bridget Smith´s image depict sets purposely built for an activity that the photographer does not represent as such. The bathroom above (the work in the V&A exhibition was a locker room but i couldn't find any photo of it online) is an empty stage set used in the porn industry. The photo is part of the series "Glamour Studios" which catalogues architectures of desire.

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Gregory Crewdson, Untitled (Temple Street), From the series Beneath the Roses, 2006

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Gregory Crewdson, Untitled (The Father), from the series 'Beneath the Roses'. © Gregory Crewdson, 207

Gregory Crewdson works on a Hollywood movie scale with actors and a large crew but it is only after an elaborate process of digital editing that an effect of "hyper-visuality" arises in both the details and the ensemble of these Amercan suburb scenes. More than film stills, Crewdson's images are 'frozen moments', they allude to mysterious, disturbing events usually taking place at twilight. The puzzling scenes leave viewers wondering what has just taken place or what is going to happen.

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Duane Michals, Chance Meeting, 1972

Duane Michals uses sequences of photos to suggest a narrative. In this sequence, two men pass in an alleyway without incident, but the encounter seems loaded with significance.

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Clementina, Lady Hawarden, (Clementina and Isabella Grace Maude, 5 Princes Gardens) Studies from Life or Photographic Studies, about 1864

Lady Hawarden used her two eldest daughters as models who play out courtship scenes, dressed in 18th-century costume.

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Robert Thomson Crawshay, A Slow market, 1868

Robert Thomson Crawshay was the owner of an ironworks and an amateur photographer. The sitter is not a fishwife but his own daughter whom he photographed in various guises.

More images from the show:

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Jeff Wall, The Outburst. From the portfolio In a Dream You Saw a Way to Survive and You Were Full of Joy, 1989

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Xing Danwen, Urban Fiction, image 23, 2005

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Xing Danwen, Urban Fiction, image 23, 2005 (detail)

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Hannah Starkey, Untitled - May 1997 (Couch), 1997

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Cindy Sherman, Untitled 74, 1980

Making It Up: Photographic Fictions is at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, until March 16th 2014.

Related story: Manipulating Reality - How Images Redefine the World.

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On Wednesday, the Saatchi Gallery will open Red Never Follows. The exhibition features 20 contemporary artists and celebrates the 20th anniversary of HUGO. In fashion speak, the show has been called a 'pop-up exhibition'.

Judging from the programme, Red Never Follows should make for a very entertaining Summer distraction (whether you're interested in fashion and aftershave or not): inflatable architecture, virtual painting using visitors body movements, pulsating kinetic sculpture, floor to ceiling ultra violet-light installation, robot and a bit of street art thrown in for good measure.

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Marco Barotti & Plastique Fantastique

Red Never Follows is open 31 July - 1 September at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
The image i've used on the homepage is US (Christopher Barrett & Luke Taylor), Benga - I Will Never Change.

I was commissioned an editorial for the exhibition website and I was in jolly company. Filip Visnjic from Creative Applications wrote about Breeding Innovation, Julia Kagansky from the Creators Project was assigned Creativity and Lifestyle, Peter Kirn from Create Digital Music wrote about the discipline blur, Verena Dauerer from Design Journalists produced a text about global trends & innovation. That said, i didn't win the lottery with the theme i was given: Brands as creative enablers. But i do like a challenge, the result of which i was asked to copy/paste here:

From alcoholic genius Orson Welles celebrating the virtues of Paul Masson chablis on TV commercials to rapper Nicki Minaj designing a line of lipsticks for MAC Cosmetics, the idea that brands are champions of creativity can be taken in its most literal guise. It's a case of elementary mathematics, of iconic figures adding their aesthetics and/or charisma to the surface of a brand. When the temporary alliance is successful, both parties are happy, the product acquires edge and visibility, profiles are raised, everyone takes their share of the profit.

Over the years, however, several collaborations have demonstrated that the brand/creator coalition can enter into a more mutually fruitful dialogue. And in these instances, the mathematical operation generates a result far greater than the sum of its parts.

Various scenarios can emerge at different stages of a creative career. Brands can intervene early, at educational levels, partnering up for example with interaction design departments to investigate the future of money, mobility or health care. The goal is not to come up with the next killer app or gadget but to help both the brand and the student sharpen their discourse, focus and outlook at upcoming potential areas of investigation. At the other end of the spectrum are brands that team up with a creator, or group of creators who have already gained recognition (albeit sometimes a fairly marginal one.) The company will commission them to devise a new intervention, a performance or an artefact. Creators might then have free rein, either exploring further a direction they were already working on or taking the commission as a challenge and opportunity to experiment with even bolder ideas. The results can definitely be arresting. The most absurdly endearing example I've ever seen dates back to 2007 when a British style magazine asked Miltos Manetas to come up with a website that expressed the huge debt felt by artists towards Andy Warhol. The outcome is a seemingly never-ending animation of cute creatures literally saying a million thank you's to the pop art guru. More recently, Yuri Suzuki drove around London in a taxi equipped with a microphone that recorded ambient noise such as traffic, police sirens, pneumatic drills, etc. while specially designed software analyzed the frequencies of the rather unpleasant urban sound, and used them to compose and play music in real time. All in the name of a new headphone release that would not have generated such a buzz among design and music aficionados.

As the examples above demonstrate, the dialogue between the commissioning company and the creative individual(s) doesn't necessarily involve any direct commercial application. Sometimes, it is not even about long-term brand building. Instead, we are talking about two partners reveling in the freedom to experiment, take risks and surprise.

I won't conclude that one model of collaboration should be abolished at the benefit of the other. I am perfectly happy with the idea that both types of alliances coexist. The one that involves little more than Shepard Fairey slapping his OBEY Giant character onto a pack of Trusto Cereal. And the partnership that requires both parties to challenge themselves, throw their own boundaries through the window and look for new forms of expression. Whether we're talking about graphic design at breakfast or remastered urban cacophony, all directions deserve to be explored. If anything for a practical reason: long gone are the days when the artist had to be this romantic figure who starved in the name of pure beauty. Nowadays, creators need to pay their rent too and as long as they don't feel like they are losing their soul and credibility in the deal, they can use the collaboration as a platform to gain wide exposure and opportunities for professional and artistic development.

But the other reason is that most people don't feel the need nor desire to enter art galleries, theater halls and museums and that is fair enough. Art, design, music and other creative disciplines are never as powerful as when they exit the air-conditioned safety of institutional and commercial white cubes and go directly to the public. That's precisely where brands have an opportunity to step in and play a more nurturing role to young creativity. Because, for better or for worse, brands are everywhere we look, walk, eat and socialize.

I've never met anyone who said that our cities and sheer human existence were in dire need of more branding. We could, however, all do with a little more creativity and imagination in our life.

On 12 July, the Arts Calalyst organised one last evening of discussions in its Clerkenwell Road HQ.

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Ariel Guzik, Resonador espectral armónico

The Language of Cetaceans brought together two men who share a passion for whales. One is environmental scientist and marine biologist Mark Peter Simmonds who investigates and raises awareness about an issue that is far away from our sights: the threats to the life of marine mammals caused by the increasing emissions of loud noise under water. The other is artist and inventor Ariel Guzik who has spent the last ten years looking for a way of communicating with cetaceans.

The evening started with Nicola Triscott, Director of the Arts Catalyst, showing us the Field Guide To UK Marine Mammals. I had no idea there were whales, dolphins, seals and sharks sharks on the coast of the UK!

Next was Simmonds' talk. It was very entertaining but also almost heartbreaking.

We might think that oceans are silent but they are filled with noises and animal conversations. First of all, marine mammals, fish, and a few invertebrates depend on sound to locate food, identify mates, navigate, coordinate as a group, avoid predators, send and receive alert of danger as well as transmit other types of information. It's very dark deep in the ocean so hearing is the sense they rely the most on.

Nowadays, however, whales and other mammals cannot hear with each other because of all the man-made noise intruding on their habitat.

Some of these sounds are so loud, they are driving the animals away from areas important to their survival, and in some cases injuring or even causing their deaths. The intense sound pulses of mid-frequency military sonars, for example, have been linked to several mass whale strandings. But it's not just the military that is to blame. The fossil fuel industry is firing loud air guns fusillades to detect oil buried under the seafloor, undersea construction operations drive piles into the seafloor and blast holes with explosives. Add to the picture, the dramatic growth in shipping traffic that generates a constant noise.

Whales are particularly vulnerable because they communicate over vast distances in the same frequencies that ship propel­lers and engines generate. The whales are not only unable to communicate with each other but they also panic when the noise gets too loud. When they are hit by a blast, the creatures flee, abandon their habitat and with that the source of their alimentation.

NGO Ocean Care has launched the Silent Ocean campaign. Have a look at their video, it explains the issue with more clarity and details.


Underwater Noise - The Overlooked Catastrophe

And here's the video of Mark Peter Simmonds's talk:


The Language of Cetaceans - Introduction and presentation by Mark Peter Simmonds

Ariel Guzik then presented his attempts at creating instruments that would mediate the communication between cetaceans and humans. One of his latest instruments is currently shown in the Mexican Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

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The devices that the artist developed over the course of his career go from Laúd Plasmaht which uses the electric variations of Mexican cactuses to make a concert for plants to Nereida, an underwater capsule that doubles as a musical instrument to establish contact with cetaceans.

Here's Ariel Guzik's talk. It is not as fast-paced and entertaining as the one by Mark Peter Simmonds but Guzik is one of those 'crazy' visionary artists whose work involves biology, physics, music and a deep respect for the environment. His work, i'm sure, will fascinate you:


Ariel Guzik - The Language of Cetaceans. Part 1

The rest of Ariel Guzik's talk is over here!

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Only a few days left to see Glitch Moment/ums at Furtherfield Gallery in Finsbury Park! The show is about glitches or those malfunctions, bugs or sudden disruptions to the normal running of machine hardware and computer networks.

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José Irion Neto, Thoreau Glitch Portrait, 2011. Image Furtherfield

From a video tutorial on how to make your own glitched visuals to screen captures of glitches weaved in black and green, the exhibition shows various approaches by artists hacking familiar hardware and their devices which include mobile phones, and kindles. They disrupt both the softwares and the digital artefacts produced by these softwares, whether it be in the form of video, sound and woven glitch textiles.

It's a stimulating show for anyone who is already interested in glitch culture. And it's an eye-opening experience for those who have only vaguely heard of the artistic approach to tech errors. I'm somewhere in the middle. I'd never pass for a glitch expert but over the past few years, i've encountered a few artworks that make a creative use of accidents or create them on purpose.

Glitch Moment/ums was curated by Rosa Menkman and Furtherfield. One can't dream of a more competent curatorial team: Rosa is the editor of The Glitch Moment(um) book (which i can't recommend enough) and the organizer of the GLI.TC/H festival. Among their many activities, Furtherfield are running one of the most approachable and though-provoking galleries dedicated to practices in art and technology i've ever visited.

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Benjamin Gaulon, KindleGlitched, 2012. Image Furtherfield

Because i still have much to learn about everything tech & glitch, i contacted visualist, theorist and curator Rosa Menkman and asked her a few questions about the show and about glitch culture in general:

What does moment/ums - the title of the exhibition - refer to?

The title of the exhibition 'Glitch Moment/ums' references 'the Glitch Moment(um)' book I released in 2011. In this book I describe how my first encounter with a piece of glitch art came hand in hand with a feeling of shock. What had once been a first person shooter was now a broken, pixelated vortex of confusion (Jodi, Untitled Game, 2006). I was lost and in awe, trying to come to terms with an experience that seemed unforgivable. But finally, these ruins of expected functionality revealed a new opportunity, a spark of creative energy that showed that something new had taken shape. I felt questions emerge; what is this utterance, and how was it created? Is this perhaps ...a glitched video environment? But once I had named the glitch, the momentum -the glitch- was gone ...and in front of my eyes suddenly a new form had emerged.*

These days I try to understand glitches as a manifold of moment/ums, having their meaning depend on time, discourse and context from which they are perceived. First, the glitch is a break from an expected flow within a (digital) system. Here, it is perceived as an absence of (expected) functionality and often experienced as an uncanny, threatening loss of control. This moment itself then can become a catalyst, with a certain momentum - a power that forces knowledge about actual and presumed media flow, onto the viewer. What was voided of meaning, becomes interpreted and gains new meaning.

But as I wrote in the (Glitch) Art Genealogies catalogue: [the meanings of] these glitches are constantly subject to revision: their language systems emerge, their meanings shift, idioms ossify and standardize into a fashion or genre.
...and then they change again.

The glitch thus heralds a transformative power - a potential to modulate or productively damage the norms of (techno-)culture. To study glitch is to engage a study of the succeeding turns and changes of failure and functionality, revolutions and ossification. A concept represented in Antonio Roberts work 'What is Revolution?'.

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Antonio Roberts, What Revolution?, 2011

How come something that used to be regarded as a problem has been elevated to a phenomenon that is exhibited online and in art galleries?

I feel that many people have lost the ability to formulate questions - this generation has become good at researching and finding answers or creating new datasets: In university, in the library, or on google ('the internet') we are conditioned to find and formulate answers. However, I feel there is a general inability for conceptualizing new questions. Maybe this is because we don't understand things well enough to be able to formulate the questions we have or because we have been conditioned to see things in a certain way, making it difficult to shift our perspective.

Personally I think that one of the most important roles of art is to create problems that provoke curiosity - the impulse to investigate the limits of what we know and to ask questions. I understand glitch studies as a field investigating dis-functionality that can be co-opted into a desired functionality.

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Melissa Barron, untitled [screencaptures], 2010. Image Furtherfield

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Melissa Barron, numbermunchers from the untitled [screencaptures] series

And because glitch art is so seducing, i've also been wondering whether or not it has already been translated into a more mainstream commercial world?

The concept that a glitch can be designed or distributed through standardized glitch software, seems at first maybe a-typical, but has in fact become a more and more common tendency and even important tradition in recent glitch art. More and more 'new' glitch art is being modeled after authentic glitches inherent within older media, perpetuating a shift from destabilizing breaks within technology or information-based processes towards a generic and associative display of more or less 'retro' effects.

Besides this, mainstream media have a tendency to leach onto any emerging aesthetic and try and capitalize on it.

The biggest loser Australia in which glitches are used as transitions between spy cams that film 'illegal' activities of one of the contestants.

The MTV video music awards using glitches to make the sponsors (-Verizon-) look cool.

I actually created a youtube channel in which to collect glitches found in popular culture and media. It's a very loose collection of snippets of advertisements, movies, videogames and television that use glitch effects for different purposes. I think these forms of glitch are examples of the growing vocabulary of media materialities in which different glitch effects gain meaning beyond their original technological /root. Some day I actually would like to write a dictionary of glitch effects.

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Glitch Art 0P3NR3P0.NET. Image Furtherfield

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Glitch Art 0P3NR3P0.NET. Image Furtherfield

What's next for GLI.TC/H? Are you planning other exhibitions, publications or events?

GLI.TC/H is the title of a festival I co-facilitate with Nick Briz and Jon Satrom, which has been running for three years now. GLI.TC/H concepts and ideals are based on the free and open sharing of inspirations and theoretical and technological knowledge and maybe even more so on creative community building (DIT = Do It Together), poking and pushing. The GLI.TC/H happenings aim to bring like-error-minded bug collectors together IRL, to engage and share work/ideas/concerns and to foster collaborations.

So whats next? First off... we might be losing our domain in the near future due to "a personal dispute" based over the .tc extension (which is associated with the Caicos Islands). This is why the name of the GLI.TC/H festival might change to GLI.TX or maybe GLI.FK...

Besides this we are working on a GLI.TC/H 2112 READER[ROR} - a publication associated with last year's festival.

Thanks Rosa!


Nick Briz, The Glitch Codec Tutorial, 2011

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Ant Scott, Beyond Yes and No, 2013. Image Furtherfield

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Antonio Roberts performing at Glitch Moment/ums Opening Event - 08 June 2013. Image Furtherfield

* A slightly re-written paragraph from: Menkman, Rosa. Tipping Point of Failure. Exhibition Catalogue. November 2010.

More photos in Furtherfield's Glitch Moment/ums flickr set.
Glitch Moment/ums is at Furtherfield, London, until Sunday 28 July 2013. With works by Alma Alloro, Melissa Barron, Nick Briz, Benjamin Gaulon, José Irion Neto, Antonio Roberts Ant Scott and 0p3nr3p0.net.

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Judith Bernstein's Fucked By Number at the Keep Your Timber Limber exhibition at the ICA, London. Photograph: Mark Blower/ICA

Keep Your Timber Limber (Works on Paper) explores how artists since the 1940s to the present day have used drawing to address ideas critical and current to their time, ranging from the politics of gender and sexuality, to feminist issues, war and censorship.

As the title implies, there's nothing sheepish nor restrained in this show. It displays male superheroes ready to spring into action while wearing restrictive feminine outfits, muscular cavemen ogling one another and men of religion ejaculating on themselves. The appropriate opening for the exhibition is thus Fucked by Numbers, a 8 metre long graffiti of a penis firing a US flag. Numbers being scribbled around the phallus to details the statistics of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. How many died, how many refugees, how many dollars spent, how many US army veteran suicides, etc.

Judith Bernstein's work is a contemporary version of an image she first made in 1967, to protest the war in Vietnam.

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Judith Bernstein. Union Jack-Off Flag, 1967. Courtesy Judith Bernstein and The Box LA

In case the Brits feel left out by the artist's disapproval, the Union Jack-Off Flag, with the words 'Jack-off on US policy in Vietnam' awaits the visitor on the other side of the wall.

If Bernstein's drawings bring the spotlight on male urges to display power and to destroy, Cary Kwok's work looks at male vulnerability at the moment of orgasm.

I was amazed by Kwok's blue biro drawings. But i can't remember having ever been so felt so embarrassed when watching some artworks.

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Cary Kwok, Blind Date Buffet, 2008

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Cary Kwok, Cum to Barber (1930s New York City), 2013

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Cary Kwok, Muscle Toss, 2010

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Cary Kwok, Cum to Father, 2010

The drawings of Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland, played an important role in popularizing gay culture. His depictions of homosexual encounters are jolly, humorous and carefree and that's precisely what made them revolutionary. Before him, homosexuals were represented as sad, pervert, dirty and clandestine men. Tom of Finland clad them into police or sailor uniforms, leather outfits and lumberjack attires -that would later be seen on the member of the disco group Village People- and let them frolic in woods and changing rooms.

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Tom of Finland, Untitled, 1959

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Tom of Finland, Untitled (Two men at poster), 1963

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Tom of Finland, Untitled, 1962

In an interview with Charlie Porter, Curator Sarah McCrory says that Marlene McCarty has been looking at women who work with primates and their relationships that have broken beyond ethical and moral boundaries. Women who have been looking after apes and let them sleep in their marital bed, either as if they were children or in different ways. She's looking at confusion within sexual roles.

"My hominid images are all also based on true-life narratives of intense relationships between humans and apes", the artist further explained. "I'm interested in the idea of hybridization (a term used in the study of evolution to indicate those gray areas where one 'species' interbred with another). The process of evolution has been cleaned up for our basically Calvinist/Puritan Western thinking. We uphold very clear distinctions of various species (especially our own) as they've developed from one another, but what doesn't really get talked about is that sometimes one species would begin to appear alongside another and there was most probably interspecies breeding. (Example: Homo neanderthalensis more than likely bred with Homo sapiens, although most schoolbooks would simply present them as one following the other.)"

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Marlene McCarty, Group 8 (Karisoke, The Virungas, Rwanda. September 24, 1967. 4:30pm.), 2006

Keep Your Timber Limber might well be one of my favourite shows in town this Summer. I will however agree with the ever grumpy Adrien Searle when he writes that some of the artists don't quite fit into the show. The fashion illustration of Antonio Lopez seemed a bit meek in the exhibition context and i couldn't quite see the point of adding one drawing by George Grosz that shows over-fed members of the bourgeoisie followed around by skinny figures.

More images:

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Judith Bernstein, Dick in the Head Series, 2010

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Margaret Harrison, Captain America 2, 1997

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George Grosz, Stickmen meeting members of the bourgeois, 1946

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Mike Kuchar, from Prehistoric Pets, 1980-90


Curator Sarah McCrory gives a tour of the 'Keep Your Timber Limber' exhibition at the ICA


Judith Bernstein painting Fucked By Number at ICA

Keep Your Timber Limber (Works on Paper) is at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, until September 8 2013.
Small photo gallery in The Guardian.

The Life in the United Kingdom test is a computer-based test which must be passed by would-be British citizens to qualify for indefinite leave to remain in Britain or to naturalise as a citizen. It consists of a series questions covering topics such as British society, government, everyday life and employment. The test has received criticisms for its inaccuracies and for being so difficult that most native-born citizens wouldn't be able to pass it successfully. Some have even compared it to a bad pub quiz.

Kristina Cranfield, a MA (RCA) Design Interactions graduate, had to pass the test a couple of years ago. The experience inspired Manufactured Britishness, a graduation project that looks at the future of citizenship in Britain.

In Kristina's scenario, prospective citizens might one day be submitted not only to tests that require them to memorize dates and facts but they would also have to go through physical tests. In a further stage, all citizens, no matter where they were born, would have to prove their 'Britishness' by passing the test too.

Ultimately, the project asks the questions: At what point does one 'become' British? What are the criteria and who makes the final decision?

Kristina Cranfield, Manufactured Britishness, 2013

Kristina illustrated the new test with a series of props and with a film that depicts a fictional system where immigrants must undergo physical assessments to demonstrate their worth as prospective British citizens. Post-industrial locations have been turned into training zones where immigrants go through pre-learned and repetitive tasks in order to pass the new test of citizenship. They sing Messiah by Handel, show appreciation for Newton, and demonstrate a calm demeanour when dealing with social accidents and emergencies - all strictly aligned with Britain's customs, culture, and values. Are they British now?

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The film is visually stunning and the ideas behind it are provocative but, rather worryingly, not totally implausible. In any case, i asked Kristina to tell us more about Manufactured Britishness.

The project was inspired by your own experience with the Life in the UK test. You passed the test successfully a couple of years ago. Why did you decide to stretch the test to new extremes: physical assessment, citizenship that can be penalized or even revoked, and even a test that has to be passed by all citizens?

By designing this extended regime, the project highlights and criticises the government's absurdist inventions contrived for acquiring citizenship, where testing goes contrary to common sense, and where Britishness becomes manufactured, scripted and measurable.

The test continues to get harder than when I passed it three years ago. The notion of revoking, penalising and extending the test to all citizens aims to question the fictitious idea of citizenship in the first place. Suggesting new and contentious citizenship rules provokes the attention of existing British citizens, to internalise the problem, enabling one to understand their ideologies and attitudes to immigration, subjectively. Who is a citizen and what makes or defines one?

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Manufactured Britishness, 2013. Behind the scenes

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Manufactured Britishness, 2013. Behind the scenes

Apart from the existence of this test are there other trends, ideas and issues in contemporary Britain that guided some of the directions that the project is taking?

My project cuts through a number of social and political issues in Britain. I'm fascinated by British post-industrial landscapes, for example, which I have visited and researched over the last few years pretty extensively. It's very sad to see these places, like muted industrial ghosts spread around the country, for sale.

I wanted to question the future of these disused locations that have ceased bringing any value to society or the economy since the end of Britain's industrial era. In my project, these zones host new detention facilities for immigrants, in a new plan for Britain to generate mass profits.

This is a dark vision, but by forecasting such undesirable possibilities, we are forced to contemplate brighter alternatives. It also attaches a warning sign to the policies we make today, and how they might evolve in the future.

The Life in the UK test has attracted much criticism in the press. Do you want to talk about your own feeling and experience of it? Do you think that the test fulfilled its role? Do you feel more British now that you've passed it?

Becoming a citizen is an exceedingly bureaucratic and painstaking experience, which is unbelievable when we live in such a globalised world were we are all in constant motion, no matter what our origin or destination.

The Life in the UK test is only one of many obstacles immigrants face before being allowed to settle down amongst other people. To be honest, it's just another legal formality one has to go through and tick off their never-ending list.

I certainly do not feel more British after passing the test. I'm dubious whether a first generation immigrant can ever be compelled to feel that way. I think the test is more of a political tool designed to curb immigrant naturalization and to maintain the status quo attached to the whole idea of citizenship. I see this as a grossly inhumane notion and ask what's the limit - today we have detention centres tomorrow these could be akin to concentration camps.

Could you describe the scene we see in the film and in the stills of the project? The tests that candidates to citizenship have to pass?

The film features three training zones where immigrants engage in pre-learned and repetitive tasks, which are largely based on questions from both editions* of the Life in the UK test.

The scene outside the factory is designed to enforce patriotism for British culture and traditions, which immigrants must embrace and exaggerate. Surrounded by a line of imposing chimneys, they are being tested on singing Messiah by Handel and correctly flying the Union Jack. In the scene with red apples, immigrants are dropping and picking up apples to show their knowledge and appreciation of Newton, thus becoming a vehicle for national aspiration.

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The scenes from the white quarry are cruel and take the concept of monitoring behaviours and reactions to the extreme. Clothed in clinically white uniforms, immigrants must uphold a pleasant and calm demeanour during social accidents and emergencies. They blend into their sterile environment, becoming part of a lifeless, dry landscape. Hot tea is being poured slowly over the immigrant, can he remain polite?

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The scene with an emergency situation is based on a real question from the Life in the UK test. According to the test, the correct behaviour during emergencies is first to establish the name and address of the injured person and then to call an ambulance.

The blue zone tests immigrants on being neighbourly. Don't make noise; do not wear heels upstairs, wear soft slippers; identify weeds that can damage your garden; stay tidy etc.

For every action, there is a set protocol for what to do and how to live, supposedly like a Brit.

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In my film, I wanted to create an inescapable feeling of torment when going through the processes of becoming a citizen. It's like giving evidence from the witness stand at trial, where you are put on the spot, with a pair of eyes intensely fixated on you, there is no escape and no dark corners to hide.

So, to create this vision through film, the aesthetical choices were very carefully considered at each stage. The colours, lighting, locations, characters and props were all cautiously selected to communicate the pointless 'official' scheme of the future.

The films of Roy Andersson, and in particular Songs from the Second Floor, especially inspired the final cinematographic decisions in Manufactured Britishness.

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Roy Andersson, Still from the film Songs from the Second Floor, 2000

Could you explain one of the sentences in the description of the work: "In this future, we see immigrants as an exploitable material, a living currency, compelled to sustain national identity in order to maximise capitalistic agendas."? Where is capitalism in this new, extended set of Life in the UK tests?

I see British traditions and culture as having already very much exploited by commercial agendas. Sadly, almost everything in Britain seems to be assigned a price tag. Manufactured Britishness takes this perception to new extremes, extending this trend to every aspect of the nation. All aspect of Britishness, including behaviour, activities and manners will start having a pure commercial value that will then influence people's everyday lives. And this is to some extent already happening. It predicts a Britain where national identity is forcefully upheld by immigrants, in a new sort of slavery, so that it can stay a perfect and prosperous society, a spectacle to the entire world.

The project is quite provocative and I suspect that a few people might have been offended by it. What was the reactions of the visitors of the show? Both British and immigrants?

The piece was created to confront the audience with a politically contentious issues, which has seen my work met with varied reaction, and sometimes the odd raised eyebrow. On the whole, however, my audiences were exceptionally receptive to the film and I have received a great deal of interest in seeing the film extended into a full feature. I also would like to use this project as a forum for policy-orientated ideas and initiations, to challenge aspects of citizenship and its possible course in the future.

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Thanks Kristina!

*The 2nd and 3rd editions of The Life in the UK tests. The 3rd edition was published in April 2013, it is the most updated version.
Zoe Hough was the Editor of Kristina's answers.

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