(HA) The Role of The Guest Speaker in an Art History Undergraduate Course

This blog post analyses the role of the guest speaker in an art history undergraduate course context.

Guest Speaker Lecture

The guest speaker starts off the lecture by explaining their practice(s), research and what they do. This one in particular works at the National Gallery which is a rather louse job giving quite a lot of free time to the guest speaker.

What was discussed in the lecture was what she had experienced after finishing their BA which resulted in them exploring and researching topics that had interested them during their BA. When you leave things off during a bachelor’s degree- it gives you time afterwards to consider looking into it more once you graduate.

Anyhow the role of this guest speaker was to encourage students taking a bachelor’s degree in art history about the subjects and areas they can go into after they graduate. What they can do during their degree and what opportunities they can create. The guest speaker had only recently graduated with their Masters’s Degree once and they had written articles for a magazine. Their practice revolves around interception, social activism and how their time studying art history has ended up in those topics. Building upon those topics, writing for magazines has only encouraged them to further develop that practice.

She explained that when you think of the history of art – you usually think of curation and what you’ll do afterwards. This leads to her explaining the stereotype of what people think of art historian students;

Oh, you’re gonna be a curator?

Instead, the speaker explains that you can also go into research- that it’s not all about curation and there’s more than just curating in the art history world. There are also some areas of jobs that you may not be interested in but volunteering or working for a short time on some projects brings you to understand what you like and don’t like. Getting work experience and volunteering is explained as a way to open up avenues and opportunities that you could miss during or after your course.

The opportunities from these also open up your degree- showing that there’s more than the stereotype of what you can do with your degree. Her practice is working as someone who leads the development up to the exhibition staged in a museum while adding an intersectional feminist view on the exhibitions and galleries.

My views on the guest speaker lectures

Analysing the points and ideas explained about where you can go after an art history degree I would like to say that there are much more areas that are being created. Though controversial, there are many meta-verse blockchain exhibitions being taken place on many digital platforms. There is a large market for art historians growing for these platforms to curate the new digital culture that is being created presently. Some are NFT and some not- which curators or other art history-based jobs can fill the roles.

It would really depend on your views on NFTs and meta-verse to which jobs you would take- but you can entirely avoid NFTs if you don’t agree with their concepts through the new digital world of art.

With the digital revolution taking place; I believe that if we merge both what the guest speaker talks about research with this- we are in the prime time of creating primary research on new art forms happening in the meta-space. I describe the word ‘meta-space’ as an art or social space in our present period of meta-modernism; or “post”-post-modernism.

Back to the highlights of the guest speaker lecture!

She explains how people need a job in the art world and that it’s not good. Though doing things you don’t like gives you self-reflection on what you know you won’t do again. You have to sell yourself as something valuable and know yourself to do this. This section of the guest lecture goes into an alphabet activity where we go through every job that we can do.

My analysis and views on the guest speaker’s lecture

I very much disagree with the point about people needing a job in the art world and it not being good- we must have a job in this world to help the economy flow. If there is too much unemployment because people don’t work and don’t want to work then where do people get their money from? We simply cannot take from the government if nobody works as money runs out eventually. Art jobs exist for a reason- if there are no art jobs then artists and art-based practices are not in demand. How do you find out what you like if you don’t experience a job first-hand in a multitude of subjects?

We have jobs and some of them we love because we absolutely love doing them!

The second section of the guest speaker lecture

The guest speaker explains what she does; she feels that with all the experience that she’s gained that she’s quite lucky to be in that position. You don’t have to feel obliged to take any job in the art world as long as you’ve got a job. Just find something that’s relevant to your skill and interests. As long as you’re getting money and financially stable you can go into what you want to do instead of going for the first opportunity.

She does diversity and inclusion and that’s something that she wanted to do and found the job. You’ve got to take your time and wait for a job that comes for you with what you want. She says that different companies have different styles of jobs so what job you didn’t like might be different say if you worked at a different company. As long as you learn something that’s all that matters. You can also do freelance work, especially with blogging- applying creativity to the art historian practice you can do many jobs that you really don’t think about.

Excerpt

Key topics that were covered by the guest speaker were mostly jobs and work experiences or areas that an art historian can delve into after graduating from their course.

I think that this lecturer has well challenged the stereotype of the idea that people think artists and art-based jobs get really terrible jobs. How many different types of jobs you would enjoy if you simply just go out there and explore the world of art jobs. There is just a plethora of all kinds of work you can do as an art historian and their practice shows this.

Check out the interview I did with Dr Emma Roberts on her exhibition!

At The Install- How I Learnt to Reject the White Cube.

The white cube, the museum room where is simply white. The background- where the painting is unframed- looks modern- doesn’t it? Is it really modern? Have we evolved past minimalism? Is there a point where we say, “no more white cube?”. This is also for one of my assignments; it wasn’t explained during the assignment module but is still contemporary and the white cube was explored by another module. I believe that it still fits into the assignment neatly.

Before starting off this post I would like to say that this is my opinion and thoughts and nothing should be taken as fact.

Open Eye, has literally opened my eyes. I volunteered there in October and since volunteering, I have gained new ideas about what makes a “post-modern” gallery. Questioning the status quo, decolonising the gallery and last of all giving the unheard a voice.

White Cube- it’s bland. It’s a concept- devoid of life.

It’s just a white room- which does minimalize distraction. But why do we remove distractions? Why do we remove the original frames (the white cube is the frame in a white cube gallery)? It’s ugly and doesn’t fit the 21st century. We fight for the climate yet this cube denies the natural light. It uses electricity to fuel its light; which in turn burns our planet. Is this modern?

There are merits of this “cube”, however, abstract work looks amazing on it. Go spill forth onto the walls and imagine yourself in the painting. Then stretch it out, say- “the painting doesn’t end it lives forever”. Therefore you can just extend a painting- the white cube is perhaps a canvas!

I’ve witnessed art becoming more politicized and figurative and less abstract in galleries. Hence I put my believe that this system- is becoming more outdated. We put the stories of countless people and groups going through problems in this world in white cubes. But we must frame them! You must enter the frame and try and understand their concept in a new world. Perhaps, we’re at a point where- the frame is back. Now the white cube has an alternative.

It’s not galvanising!

Okay. Let’s put a group in a white cube and one in a black room. Both have shocking content inside- we record their reactions. I believe that the black room would have much more of an effect on the audience- it is a colour for the mood. Do we do colour theory only to have our work put into a gallery that is plain white? Why can’t the artist take over the background? The gallery can be their canvas- the world that transports the audience.

The construct of the white cube, I believe, is too sterilising. Can art not be for the normal person? Putting it on a pretentious wall makes it inhuman- almost as if we can say it’s higher than us. Art is human. We should treat it like that. Humans can be shocking. A white wall is not. It’s too normal now- we need to galvanise and challenge the status quo.

The white cube is boring.

We look at art- some of us think of art as art for art’s sake. It’s beautiful- can we not admire something of beauty? The white wall is ugly. It’s like a prison- paired with the concrete flooring. It’s man-made and inhumane; this is the environment you would factory farm chickens. That says a statement of art in a white cube; it’s a commercial product. The more art in a white cube; the more its value will possibly increase due to exposure.

Put the human back into art. Life into art. I argue that we humans are locked up in cages. Our skyscrapers are living prisons while we slave away at a job. In the white cube- art has been slaved to be an asset of the collector. If we look at a beautiful wall- whether contemporary decoration or traditional- it’s beautiful. It has humanity inside of it; it was made by a human. We appreciate that.

Human appreciation of manual labour and beauty,

For the “Africa Show” that I helped install. I had to paint a lot of walls, not white but multiple colours. It was a lot of effort but not one wall was one static colour- there were more. It required effort on the volunteer part and acquires appreciation. A human did that- not a machine. It’s not perfect as the white cube- it has a human error.

Those mistakes- make us human.

How do we understand another’s problems if we cannot enter their world?

If the white cube becomes the canvas for the painting but doesn’t limit the painting. How can we enter their worlds? This is especially the case for non-abstract work. If there’s an art piece of real-life trouble- how can we relate if we expand it. We must be limited to be allowed into the artist’s personal life. Confined to their space. The frame is necessary, again.

The white prison, it has its purposes- but it must evolve to survive. Minimalism won’t die- but the prison that cages art- hopefully, will.

Note

Along with this as we enter the meta-modern period we are seeing the active removal of the white cube. The meta-verse and meta-space have created many opportunities for a non-white-cube space. It’s about time this happened and let’s embrace it!

This is an opinion piece and therefore definitely something up to debate! Please if you have anything to question me on my opinion- send it in the comments and I will reply! I want you to try and change my opinion! It’s all about looking at different perspectives!

(HA) The Idea of the Separation of Artist and Art Institutions with the Idea of Contemporary Art Criticism

This blog post is about a discussion lecture (an assignment task) given in the History of Art and Museum Studies at LJMU. I will reflect on what was lectured in this post. The subject of this one is art criticism.

Art in contemporary times is presently an exchange of artist and the audience; therefore, due to the individualist characteristics of us humans- we will all perceive an artwork differently, whether it is an emotional reaction or literal reaction. I believe this depends on the context of the work and the idea of the audience who views it, especially in a political context. For example, for a climate change work of art, one may have similar views of the work with another audience member if they both believe the same political ideas, unlike one who denies that climate change exists.

Art, however, which has a political undertone that has not been highlighted in popular culture, will likely have a much more varied reaction. I have observed a linear political belief that some have – especially on social media (Twitter). In-depth, we can observe that if an idea does not align with something one individual does not simply see as ideal- it serves as something they would reject. I see it as a possibility of a sign of audiences not being educated on a topic to look at both perspectives and sides and simply absorbing information that they singularly only want to see.

Relating to my practice

I want to use one of my works as an example, especially the more “politically-inclined” work, “The Suffocation Tee“. Suffocation Tee received varied responses, mostly in approval of climate change being a problem plaguing this world. We had received a negative response which shows that audiences are more varied and not linear- though it was a response that I was disappointed to receive. It was a barrage of “facts” (quoted “fact” also known as opinions 😝) that have not been verified by sources, possibly using conspiracy theories and unverified information.

I see this as a problem due to the possibility of disinformation to create uninformed opinions about artworks – especially if there are racist (or any of the nasty isms) undertones—the exchange of artist and audience, based on the audience type with which the work is exchanged.

Coming back to my project, we can see racist undertones in the comment I had received, which I shall highlight; “cheap masks that were manufactured in [a certain country] that were supposed to protect people from the [same country’s] virus are now littered all over the place”. I will admit; that this is now on the Suffocation Tee- but that it is because the work is socially engaging, and I wished to showcase everyone’s view. We should separate the reaction from the artist- sometimes misinformed artwork ideas could help encourage new audiences to share ideas about an artist’s work.

Excerpt of this and how one can use art criticism

In the lecture, what was also discussed was how we write art criticism, we must simply ask; “is it good art or bad art? who is the artist?”. We must ask these questions while understanding who our audience is before writing. We must be descriptive and then proceed to put our personal opinion into it after the audience knows what we’re talking about. That we must also cut blubber and filter out unneeded information and proofread our text.

From this discussion session, I believe this can help validate art critiques – especially in the digital age when anyone can be a critique. But who is a good critique and this develops how we can differentiate between those who sprout blubber and those who don’t.

(HA) The Jamaica Making Exhibition and a Special Interview with Dr Emma Roberts

This section also contains an interview with Dr Emma Roberts listed at the bottom.

Tuesday 22nd February, 14:00 to 16:00, we visited the Victoria Gallery for Emma‘s exhibition on Theresa Roberts collection of Jamaican art.

Introduction

Personally, the artwork exhibited in the gallery piqued my interest. The skill and talent that went into the artwork were impressive and to be exposed to the art of a country that I have never been exposed to is an eye-opener. Gallery was laid out as a small space to emulate what Theresa Roberts’s house would be like (apart from the fireplace!), creating a personalized environment. Cosy and casual, with beautiful paintings of still life to the politicized paintings in the second room. The mixture of sculpture and many other media also shows how wide-ranging contemporary art can be and it doesn’t simply have to be the Eurocentric painting.

The personal atmosphere of the gallery creates a cosy area; for reference take- it is around the same size albeit a bit smaller than the Garstang Museum.

Besides the visit to the gallery, the interview exposed me to the impact of non-European contemporary art and the process of bringing artworks into an exhibition. These recent works tend to be picked up by collectors, so it really only takes someone, like Emma, to get them to be exhibited by making the connections necessary for that to happen.

Before the interview, Emma had told me while in the gallery that she got in contact with Theresa Roberts by accident through another person. Sometimes, life throws a bucket of good luck at you and the right circumstances. I believe with this as an example is that contemporary art history is created through unique events and through creating those connections. An artist cannot break through if the artist doesn’t promote their work, connect with others and show their work.

Interview with Dr Emma Roberts

(Josh) Did you connect with any of the artists showcased in the exhibition as a curator?

(Emma) Yes, actually a lot. With the earliest artwork only being 1964 in the exhibition, many are pretty recent artworks like 2010 and 2017. So many of the artists are still alive, so I emailed them or went through their agents to email them to contact them. Then they replied that it was really valuable to get the information straight from the horse’s mouth.

(Josh) Did some of them not reply?

(Emma) Some of them didn’t reply, but all of them that did were really nice. And they’ve continued to help like I got quotes and things from the artist who did all the very sexual images, Kristina Rowe, and since then. Oh, I should mention that she’s been happy to do the YouTube video on the outreach! To be on the art gallery website, they continued to help.

How does this help their careers?

(Josh) Do you think the exhibition will help proceed their careers further?

(Emma) Yes, I supposed I do think that. I know I’m talking myself up by saying that because while the artists are really well known in Jamaica- not all of them are known in Europe (or the UK). So, for example, O’mar McKay did the video piece- I don’t think he’s exhibited anything outside of Jamaica his whole life before because he’s still young. So far, the people I’ve been with within the gallery have received it quite positively, and it’s not in the collector’s collection. So Theresa Roberts, who gave most of the collection, doesn’t own the O’mar McKay work, but now she will probably take an interest in his work. Maybe buy some of his, so I think it will help some artists’ careers.

(Josh) What, to you, is so unique about Jamaican contemporary art?

(Emma) Hmm, unique about it? I’d probably say that it’s merging European influences and Afro-European influences. That’s what’s nice about it; the mixing of those. You can still see the references to Picasso, Matisse and Dali, but they’re thinking about their indigenous culture and the African culture that came through the slave trade. So it’s the mixing of that. In much of European contemporary art, we don’t have such a diverse range of influences behind it – it might be UK-based influences instead.

Who collects the art?

(Josh) How do you think Jamaican art will be viewed by future historians?

(Dr Emma Roberts) That’s an excellent question; I feel that it’s on an upwards trajectory. For example, 20 to 30 years of art from Haiti was really picked up, especially by Americans, especially the collecting of primitive Haitian art. However, Jamaica is a really good turning point, so I think now. I wish I had more money to hand to buy things because if I bought some stuff now, it might be worth a lot of money in ten years. Again, I shouldn’t be thinking about money. As I said the other day, I think it will be more widely collected in galleries like the Tate or by very wealthy collectors, so it’s on the upwards rise.

(Josh) Do you think not just the United Kingdom will be collecting this artwork?

(Emma) Yes, I think- especially America because they’re quite close geographically to Jamaica. Philip Thomas did his self-portrait in a shirt and tie; he’s been taken up by a dealer in America, and his work has been shown quite widely. Oh- there’s an artist not in the exhibition called Andrae Green – he got a government scholarship to train in New York. He now lives in America, and the Americans are now really picking up on his art – so I think the Tate might buy it. Other European countries and soon America will hopefully be buying a lot of Jamaican art.

How do you find the art?

(Josh) What goes into the process of finding art for the exhibition? What gets an artwork was chosen and another not?

(Emma) I suppose I was a bit limited for this exhibition because I only really had access to the collection of Theresa Roberts plus the artist in residence and O’mar McKay- the video artist. So I didn’t have access to everything else, which would have been amazing Jamaican art, but I suppose I could talk about why I filtered things out there when I did have access to Theresa’s collection. The main thing was that I wanted a variety of media, and I didn’t just want paintings because I could have just done an exhibition on paintings from Theresa’s collection. After all, she has got loads. I definitely wanted mixed media things such as photos, sculptures, fabric and as much of a variety that I could get- that was the main thing. I also wanted a good age range, so the oldest work was Albin Marriott’s carved wooden head to going right up to 2019 when the exhibition was in really full throes of being planned. So it’s a good age spread and definitely key names- I wanted Albert Huie and Barrington Watson to be there and (Edna) Manley’s sculpture of the Greek Orpheus. That was another criterium.

(Josh) Talking about Caribbean countries, would there be any other country you would want to do an exhibition on?

(Emma) I’m not really as knowledgeable about the other islands, but I would love to! For my work in my spare time, I’ve done a lecture on the art of Barbados, which was, for me, very interesting. So Barbados would be my next-in-line lecture after this, but I don’t think I’ll have the opportunity if I did. I’ve learnt a lot more about Barbadian art.

Behind the scenes and YouTube!


(Josh) Talking about lectures, do you do online lectures, YouTube by any chance, or would you consider going into doing those?

(Emma) I would be open to it- I haven’t done that yet, but where I do, I do other online lectures but not very publicly accessible. I work for cruise ship companies; on my holidays, I go onto cruise ships and speak about art history to the passengers there. They’re all broadcasted and shown on the cruise ship, and the company owns those then, so they can just show them as much as they want. If you’re not on the cruise ship or have access to the company, you can’t access them. I would be willing to do YouTube videos- one of those cruise companies is Viking, and they have a digital TV channel called Viking TV, so I’ve done two TV programmes with them. You have to know it, to see that it’s there. If you Google Viking TV, then it will probably come up there.

(Josh) How did you get the exhibition and the gallery to run the exhibition? Anything behind the scenes?

(Emma) In the second year in the history of art – you have two curating modules, and in that, we teach everybody to do a curatorial proposal assignment. Hence, what I did for myself is that I used that template of a curatorial proposal, and I wrote it out fully and sent it to the Victoria gallery. I thought that they’re not as popular as the Tate or the Walker, and they would be more open to my suggestions maybe- which they were. So once they received the curatorial proposal, they thankfully liked it, and they invited me for a meeting. So that’s how it happened.

That was the interview with Dr Emma Roberts on the Jamaica Making exhibition!

(Josh) I think that’s all for the interview! Thank you and see you in two weeks!

(Emma) Have a good week until then!

(Josh) Thank you!

(Emma) Thanks or you’re welcome! Bye!

(Josh) Bye!

Listen to this on my Podcast:

Royal Standard, Liverpool, United Kingdom – The Visit

On Thursday, we visited the Royal Standard in the Baltic Triangle in Liverpool to explore what artist studio spaces are and how they operate. We had a speaker from the studio space to teach us what goes on and how they work. Therefore, in this article, I will be discussing how I felt about this example of contemporary studio space and how it has affected me.

A cafe at the entrance with a warm environment makes the atmosphere feel homely, along with the informalities of the artists staying in the studio spaces. To the left was the access to the studio space with a rather industrial door as the building is a refurbished industrial building. Studio spaces are in these areas as they supply cheap places for artists to create their works and for other artists in a safe and secure place. The building is usually cold, as explained by the speaker, though it was hot on that day. It is supplemented by the relatively small cost of £70 to £100 a month to rent out a studio space (assuming that it does not increase due to rising land prices when the area becomes more attractive to investors).

The practitioners of the art produced in these spaces can socialize and share their ideas and artworks- though the styles and types of work made vary, we can assume that the artists feed into each other and form a symbiotic sharing of this. Therefore, artists can experiment with each other’s ideas.

It was a somewhat quirky experience there as the artist/speaker had their dog with them, which I can derive from the fact that the artist spaces are pretty open and friendly. I will further answer questions posed by Thursday’s lecture:

Royal Standard – Questions Posed through the lecture:

  • Studios as a concept: Studios as a concept are spaces provided to artists to produce artwork on themselves or with others. It gives them an area with no distractions other than creating the artwork around other artists’ studio spaces, which foster relations and developments. (to edit later: add a space with bibliographical references on historical studio spaces to compare)
  • The studio as a workspace gives the artist a secure and safe environment to produce work surrounded by like-minded individuals in similar situations. 
  • The studio as a laboratory (and how it facilitates experimentation): While being around other artists, they have the chance to share ideas and feedback on work. This allows them to open their mind to experimentation and stimulates an environment that forges outside influences on the artists’ artworks.
  • Studios as a social space: Artists socialize with each other on their breaks and are nearby (suggesting that the situation is similar in the idea of this studio being cold)- have the same issues they face there. In this, my professor suggested that this humbles them. Therefore the artists are close and friendly (and to get to the other point which feeds this point!).
  • The post-studio practice: Some studios have parties or events frequently; this is a symbiotic relationship to the point above and helps forge social relationships even more. Artists can share their works with other artists and those who attend these events. 

Excerpt

This session and external visit has taught me how conceptual art is shaped in the North West and the spaces that they use. Especially the fact that they’re using unused buildings and that it gives artists cheap rents. Though the sad part about this is that most likely- these places are going to gentrify eventually and the artists. Pushed out.

To get there: TRS is located in the Cain’s Brewery Village area. 3 Mann Street

Notes: This blog article is for the Summative Assessment: Reflective Blog assignment for my university undergraduate course, History of Arts and Museum Studies- if you are interested in it, you can apply for the course here (link only applies in 2022).