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WORD MATTERS: Spinning a Line and Crafting a Visual Language - David Bate, Laura McLean-Ferris, Professor Simon Olding, Stephanie James, Lee Triming, and Jim Hunter

Word Matters contains the transcripts and the live audio version of the seminars Spinning a Line, and Crafting a Visual Language: two text + work seminars delivered through a partnership with New Forest Pavilion on the occasion of the 52nd International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia.

The Word Matters seminars, Spinning a Line and Crafting a Visual Language, sought to explore current levels of dissemination of writing and practice, and the contribution of the individual on writing on art.

The guest speakers—which included artists, writers, curators, and academics, both working within and supporting the arts and the education sector—took an exceptionally engaged and inquisitive audience on a journey into the meeting of the written word and art, travelling through its many contemporary forms and functions.

Using language to discuss visual art is a way of representing one medium through another; it is a befitting tool for interpretation but how to best make use of this tool is what text + work aims to explore. It seeks ways with which to successfully translate art’s primarily sensory experience into another sensory, and arguably linear and orderly one: the written word. In doing so, it delves into what the role of text is, or could be, in relation to practice; we can probably agree that it need not be the systematic unravelling of meanings, or a mere description, but we might agree that it is something to take away, a portable reminder of that primarily sensory experience.

As text plays an increasingly important role in its engagement with art, this intertwining becomes the cause for debate. Questions surrounding the responsibility of the writer to the potential, present, and absent audience arise. Like the artist has a responsibility to the artwork, the writer has a duty to the text. Whether or not the written word can ever be an effective substitute for the real is addressed, and if so, how can text, already charged with the pre-presentation of the work, as accompaniment, and as interpretation, ensure that it does not obstruct it or become the cause of its disappearance.

The Word Matters seminars were held in June and hosted at the Palazzo Zenobio in Venice during the 52nd Venice Biennale. The project was supported and enabled by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and marked the first time text + work reached such a global audience. Word Matters celebrates the beginning of a developing partnership between ArtSway and the Arts Institute at Bournemouth’s text + work programme, from which we hope to develop further dialogue and debate surrounding the intertwinement of text and work.

Panel Biography

Jim Hunter, Director of the School of Art, the Arts Institute at Bournemouth, and Chair of the text+work Gallery group, graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1976. He has maintained his practice as a painter and was awarded sabbatical leave by the Institute in 2005. He used this to produce a substantial body of new work, informed by visits to Italy. His research questioned the capacity of watercolour to articulate and carry meaning within the context of contemporary critical discourse. The culmination of this research was A Short Grand Tour, exhibited in the Institute’s Gallery as part of the text+work programme, for which the text was written by Professor Simon Olding.

Lee Triming is an artist and a writer. Since graduating from Goldsmiths College, University of London, his work has been widely exhibited. He has written on the work of Chloe Piene, Lisa Prior and Craig Fisher amongst other accompanying exhibition essays, and he has been a regular contributor for Flash Art since 2000. He is a fine art visiting lecturer at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth and has taught creative writing in various institutions including Nottingham Trent.

David Bate completed his PhD at the University of Leeds and is currently Reader in Photography at the University of Westminster. His photographic works have been shown widely in contemporary galleries, most recently at the Istanbul Photography Biennale (2006). His writings have been published in journals such as Afterimage (USA), Creative Camera, Portfolio, and Third Text and is the author of Photography and Surrealism: Sexuality, Colonialism and Social Dissent, published in 2004 by I.B.Tauris. His current research focuses on memory, time, and photographic space.

Professor Simon Olding has worked extensively within the art and museum sectors since 1979, with roles ranging from specialist curator in the decorative arts to senior management roles, such as Director of Policy and Research for the Heritage Lottery Fund. Currently Director of the Crafts Study Centre, University College for the Creative Arts, Farnham, his research focuses on craft histories, ceramics, and public art. He has written extensively on contemporary crafts, and is a regular contributor to Ceramic Review. Simon Olding provided the text for A Short Grand Tour, as part of text + work, with watercolour paintings by Jim Hunter.

Laura McLean-Ferris completed an MA in Literature Culture and Modernity in 2005 at the University of Southampton. A London-based freelance writer and curator, she is currently co-curating an exhibition on the theme of domestic glitches in language and systems and is assistant curator and special projects co-ordinator for Fashion and Film Festival 2008. She has previously written art reviews and articles for a-n magazine, NY Arts and the Guardian Weekend magazine. As press and marketing officer at ArtSway she wrote accompanying exhibition texts, press releases and edited a number of art catalogues, striving to make contemporary art accessible to all.

Stephanie James is a fine artist and the Arts Institute at Bournemouth’s MA Course Leader. Her research focuses on curation and the dynamic between space and the creative process. She recently curated MEETING PLACE: Contemporary Art and the Museum, an exhibition of contemporary artists and designers at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth, and she organised Subway Special a Democratic Platform (2000), funded by the AHRB, inviting artists and writers to work with a disused underground station in London. Stephanie was the main instigator in this Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project, enabling the Word Matters seminars and the production of New Forest Pavilion catalogue.