Glasgow

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 08.52.01In September I’ll be moving up, up, up to Glasgow, to study textile conservation. It’s a two year MPhil course combining historical and scientific research with hands-on skills; it involves everything from learning how to display and store fragile textiles, to gaining an understanding of the ethics and compromises involved in conservation projects. This broad and challenging mixture is exactly what I want out of a career, and after visiting the studios on an open day, I finally took the plunge and applied last year. Having bitten my nails through the last few months, I’m still slightly delirious after recently being offered a place on the course. Some big changes are afoot!

I’ll be sad to move out of London, and away from family and friends, but can’t wait to make a start towards a career as a textile conservator and get to know a new city. I’ve only visited Glasgow for five days altogether, so there are many things I’m yet to explore. Lately I’ve been simultaneously reflecting on the places I know and love in London, and the places I’m yet to discover and fall for in Glasgow, so here are ten of each.

(in no particular order)

Ten places I’ll miss being able to stroll down the road/ hop on the Underground to visit:

1. William Morris Society and Emery Walker Trust, Hammersmith. I’m trying to make the most of the time left helping at these two gems, making lino cuts for workshops (in previous blog posts here and here) and learning how to use Morris’s original press.

wmsoc03

2. Leighton House. The recently re-opened house of the Victorian artist Frederick Leighton – worth visiting just for the ‘Arab Hall’ decorated in tiles from Syria, Turkey and Pakistan.

3. Golders Hill Park, Hill Garden and Pergola

4. Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant, Kentish Town. Wonderful curries and fresh roasted (in front of you) coffee.

5. Victoria and Albert Museum. My favourite museum to wander/ wonder around.

6. Walthamstow marshes and the Lea Valley

7. Yildirim Bakery. This little place on St James Street, Walthamstow, does excellent freshly-made Turkish breads filled with cheese, lamb, spinach or potato.

8. International Supermarket, Walthamstow High Street. I sincerely wish I could take this well-stocked, well-priced little Turkish supermarket with all its fresh tomatoes, coriander, mint, fennel, pointed peppers, birds eye chillis, scotch bonnet chillis, lemons, water melons, sweet mangoes, quinces, plums, pomegranates, olives, cous cous, pistachios, flat breads, orange blossom water and rose petal jam with me to Glasgow. I realise now how spoilt I’ve been to have it on the doorstep.

9. Camden Arts Centre. Good for an interesting variety of contemporary art and working or lazing in their peaceful garden. Just round the corner from the Freud Museum too.

10. I can’t decide. The William Morris Gallery, The Windmill Portugese Restaurant in Walthamstow, British Museum, Somerset House, National Portrait Gallery, Alison Jacques Gallery, both the Tates, the Hayward..

Ten places in Glasgow I’m looking forward to visiting for the first time:

1. House for an Art Lover. This house was designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh, who also designed the beautiful Glasgow School of Art which sadly suffered fire damage in May.

2. The Mackintosh House. A reconstruction of Charles Rennie and Margaret Mackintosh’s house.

3. The Modern Institute. A contemporary art gallery mentioned in a recent article on Glasgow’s generally fantastic art scene.

4. Centre for Contemporary Arts. The programme includes exhibitions, film, music, literature, spoken word and festivals.

5. The Burrell Collection. I’m particularly interested in (surprise surprise!) the textiles in this enormous and varied collection gathered by the shipping magnate Sir William Burrell.

6. Botanic Gardens

7. Bibi’s Mexican restaurant. I’ve never been to a Mexican restaurant, so I’m looking forward to trying a new cuisine at a highly-recommended eatery.

8. Tenement House Museum

9. The Yarn Cake and all the other Glasgow wool shops I will soon be happily foraging in.

10. Orkney and Shetland. Not in Glasgow, I know, but after moving 400 miles, another 200/400 to visit these beautiful islands shouldn’t be too difficult.

The Textile Conservation course at Glasgow has its own blog here – textileconservation.academicblogs.co.uk and Hannah Sutherland, who will also be joining the course in September, has an excellent blog that can be found here – hannahsuthers.com.

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Dieter Roth at the Camden Arts Centre

Notes on a visit to the Camden Arts Centre’s exhibition Dieter Roth: Diaries, 17 May – 14 July.

Dieter Roth (1930-98) was a Swiss-German artist known for his varied range of mixed-media artwork, often using found materials.

© Camden Arts Centre, London

The first gallery has a library-like atmosphere; on one side stand five bookcases, interspersed with lamp lit reading desks. There are five shelves on each side of the bookcases, each housing fourteen carefully dated ringbinders filled with the detritus of Roth’s life – photos, letters, medication packets, cigarette ends, bus tickets and numerous sundry scraps of paper. His one criteria for candidates into these files was that objects should be no thicker than 1/4 inch.

Roth seems to have had the understanding of an archaeologist that it’s actually the objects we use daily to the point of being unconscious of them, the detritus that usually ends up in rubbish pits and landfill sites, that reveals the most about us. These give a more honest portrayal of an individual or society than any official biography or collection of high-end artefacts, through sheer accumulation and by the very fact that they tend to be overlooked and underestimated. The piece raises the question Why keep everything?, but then again, Why keep anything?

© Camden Arts Centre, London

In the second gallery, a series of wooden boards covered in stains, notes, paint and doodles reminds me of long-suffering school desks and the kitchen table of a friend whose children have free reign to scratch and sketch over its surface. These, along with the shelves of ringbinders and the journals in a nearby cabinet, are just another kind of diary for Roth, a record of his life.

Gallery 3 houses Roth’s most extreme and ambitious project of documenting his life. He set up video recorders in rooms in his house and studios and for two years captured his daily life. A wall of television sets simultaneously show Roth sleeping, eating, washing up, making phone calls, going to the toilet, and, largely, working. The last video impassively records the empty studio on the day he died.

Later, flicking through the exhibition catalogue, I chanced upon this telling quote by Roth:

D.R.: For me, it’s…it’s like a cancerous tumour, it’s basically an illness. An illness that I have. Now.

I.L-H.: This compulsion to represent your entire life.

D.R.: Yes. That’s my terminal illness. It’ll probably be the cause of my death.

Extract of interview with Irmelin Lebeer-Hossmann, Stuttgart, 20-22 June 1979, published in ‘On Keeping a Diary’, Dieter Roth: Diaries, ed. Fiona Bradley (Yale University Press, 2012), p. 158

I wonder what Roth would have made of social media and blogging had he witnessed the current culture of recording daily life on a massive scale? The questions raised by his pointedly indiscriminate recording and archiving seem more pertinent than ever.

Is the desire to be heard and remembered a terminal illness that we all suffer from to some degree?

Dieter Roth: Diaries runs from 17 May to 14 July 2013 at the Camden Arts Centre, London. Free entry to all.