An assistant is a person (or by extension a device) that helps another person accomplish their goals

Bearspace in association with Peer Sessions, presents an exhibition project entitled The Assistant. From 14th-29th May and 4th-19th June exhibitions will pair up an emerging artist, who will create the artwork, with an established artist who will instruct them. The established artist will send the emerging artist, or assistant, a list of rules one month prior to the exhibition opening, rules which will detail how the established artist wishes the work to be created and/or installed. This blog contains updates on their progress whilst a parallel page collects discussions around the idea of being an assistant and stories shared by other 'assistants' across the arts.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Assistant 1 & 2- Reflections

To wrap up The Assistant 2010, some reflections were sought from the participants. More information on The Assistant 2011 will follow in due course.

The established artists were asked the following questions:

1. What do you think of the way your instructions/ input were responded to?
2. What did you think of the final exhibition/ work?

The assistants were asked:

1. What did you make of the instructions/ input you were given, was it a useful process?
2. What do you think about the piece of work you produced?

The Assistant 1:

Maria Fusco:
* Successive outputs may have the potential to improve upon the last.
* A desire to consume.
* We think we know what the written word sounds like, do we know what it
looks like?
* A private exposure of public workings.

Kate Pickering:

1. I enjoyed the challenge of responding to the instructions sent by Maria, they were so precise and yet there was space within those constraints for me to develop the work according to my own interests. Maria was very hands off after the initial input of the instructions, there was no back and forth conversation or negotiation, which in some ways was a positive thing, as it meant I could develop the work without further influence, which seemed unnecessary as the instructions were so specific.

2. Its hard to say what I think of the work I produced, as it seems quite different from the work I was making before, even though it ended up being a video installation and had some similar content. I think that even if it is not entirely successful as a piece of work it was certainly a positive experience to work through which may well feed into the way I work in the future. I felt really pressed for time in the run up to the show and so it was one of the quickest pieces of work I have produced considering there is quite alot going on in it, but that did focus me and meant I had to be decisive, although I wonder with more time how it would have turned out differently. Generally working as Maria’s ‘assistant’ was a really positive experience for me, I liked this form of collaboration.

The Asssistant 2:

Gordon Cheung:

1. Considering that I probably inadvertently gave him the worst possible rule: ‘there are no rules’ Blue responded with producing work that was strong. I came into this thinking that there would be an organic discursive process but the unfamiliarity of each other’s work compounded by the divergent expectations from both of us made it too great a gap to be able to bridge in the short time that we could meet. Ultimately I should have set down clear rules to enable that discussion but failed to achieve that and Blue responded very well considering the lack of detail from my side.

2. The final exhibition was as expected finely presented work with some aspects being left ‘unfinished’ which in the context of his other works I understand as being a strong concious decision for Blue such as the ‘unfinished/work in progress’ beading on the tyre and the video tape strung out and ‘uncombed’. Whether that is such a huge leap in terms of doing something new only Blue can really judge that. It does not really detract from the visual impact that he had achieved through the economy of his configurations, use of beautiful objects and relationships to the space.

Blue Curry:

1. Rather than instruct me, Gordon actively challenged the idea of needing instructions or rules as an artist. He felt that there should be no sort of hierarchy which would give one artist the right to dictate what another artist does and therefore decided not to give me any rules. I was a bit flummoxed by this as it seemed to undermine the very premise of the Assistant project. So, by not having any rules or instruction I was being ‘set free’ from the constraints that the project outlined which for me essentially meant that I would be working as I normally would in my practice. In the end I came up with my own restrictions and limitations which came out of the conversations that I had with Gordon about my working style. I felt I needed to create rules to make the work produced feel specific to the idea of the project and not just something else I was working on in the studio at that moment. The interaction with Gordon was quite useful in a general sense and I appreciate the friendship that this project has initiated, but I think he could have used this opportunity to put some sadism into action and to have challenged the hell out of me – or at least I would have!

2. My work for the Assistant was mostly uninformed by any sort of collaborative process so I was initially a bit uncomfortable with showing it in the gallery in the context of the project. I was also slightly unsure of the work itself in that it was left unfinished in an attempt to show work in progress rather than my usual polished final output. I worried that it might seem somewhat contrived in that work that is trying to be unfinished is still finished with that goal in mind. Fortunately, based on the feedback I received from viewers, none of this internal worry actually reflected in the work. The unfinished pieces were not even recognised as such. I found it interesting that how I felt about the work was closely bound up in a sense that I had failed the curatorial mission and that I had to look at the work again, forgetting the Assistant project, to realise that it was strong in its own right. Thinking about it, in the end the work I created did benefit from the process that came out of the project and are therefore a valid and representative product of it.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Screening of artists’ short films 28th May 2010

bak 2 skool (2009) The War Boutique - Video still

The Hangover (2010) Kristen lovelock- Video still

BLACK FIRE (2010) Melissa Bugarella - Video still

As part of the project, members of peer sessions were invited to submit a short film of 5 minutes or less which they had produced in response to the setting of rules or limits of some kind. These were screened on Friday 28th May at the gallery as part of Deptford last fridays.

The concept of using reduced means and imposed rules as facilitators for artistic production, via the setting of instructions by an outside party, in this case an established artist, with the emerging artist working in an assistant like role, has been key to the project. With the selected works for the screening, the artists themselves had set their own instructions, which gave an insight into their particular working methods.

Many thanks to Rachel Russell for putting the selection together.

Hyemin Son My Flag, 2007

Rosemary Little The Hollywood Collection, 2010

The War Boutique bak 2 skool, 2009

Melissa Bugarella BLACK FIRE, 2010

Georgia Rodger Music box, 2010

Sabrina You Don’t know What You Are Missing, 2010

Jihye Park I Am Getting To Know You Better All The Time, 2010

Rachel Russell Untitled (feat. Sean Price), 2009

Chinmoyi Patel 22 Chronicles of my favourite pastime no. 8, 2007

Kristen Lovelock The Hangover, 2010

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Images from The Assistant 1 - Kate Pickering

Bearspace front window and installation of vinyl lettering- Untitled 2010 Kate Pickering

Video installation- Untitled (The Only Possible Answer) 2010 Kate Pickering

Video installation- Untitled (The Only Possible Answer) 2010 Kate Pickering

Bearspace, Deptford High Street

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Interview with Blue Curry

Here is a short last minute interview with Assistant artist Blue Curry, recorded earlier in the week.

Don't forget to join us for the opening tomorrow (Friday 4th) night, 6.30-8.30!

Blue and Gordon's pre-opening discussion update

Blue > Gordon:

Sure, whenever you can make it over would be fine. These are a few quick snaps I took on my way out the door today. I would say I'm a little more than halfway there on this piece. I've suspended a large turtle shell by rope from the ceiling which is secured to the wall behind it. The underside of the shell has a bony spine which I have carved about 8 additional holes into and strung video cassette tape through .... trailing across the floor into a large pile on the other side which is a combination of the tape and 50 black mesh vests. In the pics they blend into the cassette material unfortunately. I have another 30 cassettes of video material to add to give the sculpture more mass.

Something feels awkward about the installation, but then again the room is a strange shape and the ceiling very low with interference from lighting etc. Perhaps I have done the best I can with the space. I'm wondering if this is enough for the show?! I will have one of the tyres I'm covering with beans (incomplete) on show in the gallery window I've decided. When I go tomorrow perhaps it will all be clear, but I'm not panicked if it doesn't resolve itself fully by the opening. Let's pick it apart a bit to indulge in the exhibition's premise a bit and perhaps make some good decisions to benefit the work.

Speak to you tomorrow!

install in progress

Gordon > Blue:

I think it’s looking really good so far. I can see what you mean about the awkwardness and wondered if it might be to do with the shell being close to the wall in relation to how much video tape is trailing. At the moment there is a nice sense of implied motion of the turtle being dragged and leaving all the entrails of the video tape. The implied amount of remaining space for it to be moved/dragged might be something to think about. Would having the ceiling hook a bit more centralised help?
Can the lighting be removed? Perhaps use only what you need to dramatically light and just take out anything else that isn’t required.

Can’t really gauge a sense of the gallery space from the pictures so I suppose I will have to wait to see it tomorrow but it looks from the snaps to be a strong work.

Talk to you then!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Gordon's latest update to Blue

Update from Gordon and Blue's Dialogue


"One of the first things that I suggested during our 3 hour meeting was to show unfinished work or a kind of installation of a studio in progress. The branches of ideas that come from that involved ideas to do with theatre, drama, perhaps an installation driven by narrative. But it did not seem to be an idea you was interested in so we moved on. We also spent time discussing your star-shaped tin cans and blue material as something that you wanted to explore for it’s decorative and pleasurable qualitites but that in it’s current state of ideas was too undeveloped. However it triggered a discussion that involved use of space more consciously. For example; the blue material being a farily obvious metaphor for the ocean pushed slightly ‘ruffled’ against the wall. A minimal gesture perhaps akin to Felix Gonzales Torres – beautiful, poetically succinct and even politically timely with the oil spill. If you remember I also suggested ‘attacking’ the space......spearing it with the diving spears that you had in your studio and to play on the name of the gallery - Literally ‘skewering’ Bearspace – a kind of violent minimalism. I was searching for ways to discuss heightening existing strains and themes in your work while figuring out if it really was a direction that you wanted to extend into.

The most important thing for me was to find out if any ‘rule’ that I set out was really something you wanted to do. From the outset I had no interest in ‘assisting’ someone do something that they did not believe in or wanted to really pursue.

I look forward to seeing the results and hearing more about the ideas over the course of your installation.


The creative process in the context of this project is precisely all of this discussion".

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Update on Blue and Gordon's dialogue

Another update from Blue and Gordon's dialogue on Blue's forthcoming show:

Blue > Gordon:

"Just wanted to drop you a line to tell you where my thinking is for The Assistant. I have continued working on the current work in the studio that we discussed when you were in but have changed my mind and may not show any of that work. Hear me out. I have done quite a bit of thinking since our meeting and I think that the proposition that I might show something which is not as polished as my work usually is for exhibition is the one that I have dwelt on most. I always exert a great deal of control over the way my work is made (usually involving laborious and time consuming techniques) and the precise way it is exhibited. Before I start a piece or prepare for an exhibition I am pretty clear on what the final outcome is and I work methodically towards that.

I think your 'no rules' approach is a way of trying to get me to to reconsider my approach. I have to admit that it is frustrating for me not to have parameters within which to work as I feel I won't know when I've finished if there is not something or someone that indicates or dictates that. The anxiety around not completing a work in time or not being prepared for an exhibition is intense for me, possibly unnecessary and mostly self imposed.

Based on our discussions I feel that what I have to do is to work against my instincts and destroy my understanding of what work for an exhibition and an exhibition itself can be. To upend my regular approach and thinking for a show I choose not to use any of the works I have been preparing, but to instead start working on Monday, five days before the private view, to make new work and set up the exhibition. Once I have completed the installation on Friday I would like to invite you to make any changes you see fit. This way you can chose to wrestle away from me the control and polish I surely still would have attempted to have given the final work in spite of my best intentions to leave things unpolished.

How does this sound to you? It think this approach to an exhibition would be a most challenging and exasperating experience for me - but I'm up for it if you are. Add or subtract to this proposal for the exhibition as you see necessary".

Gordon > Blue:

"Sounds fine to me.

You've interpreted what you call my 'no rules' approach as trying to make you re-consider your approach to your work. I think this is already implicit in the project that we agreed to participate in. I was meant to set a rule for you from which you was meant to adapt your work to. However from the outset I wanted to respect the artist's own sense of development and creative trajectory. To set a rule dictates a structure to make work within that I felt was potentially inhibitive and essentially a waste of time especially as I had very little experience of your work.

Our meeting was meant to map a good route from which to make work that would benefit our creativity.

That you have interpreted our meeting quite so apocalyptically in terms of destroying your understanding of how you ordinarily produce work for an exhibition is interesting......

I shall look forward to seeing the results of your conscious transformation of your creative process and decision making that will crystallise into an exhibition/installation that matches the power of the work you already make".

Blue > Gordon:

"Thanks for the response. It may seem a bit 'apocalyptic' to my regular approach, but I think that apocalypse was just under the surface and although you never emphasized a need to reconsider anything about my practice or way of producing work for an exhibition, I had long been doing so. I will still leave that window open for you to come in on the last day to make your changes to what I propose to show .... but realise now that this is probably not in keeping with your approach to the project and the creative process. At any rate, it would be valuable to have a last conversation about the Assistant sometime this week while I am working in the space if possible. I'll get down to work in Deptford in the coming days and let's see how it all goes ...."

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Assistant Part 2 - Gordon's Update

Gordon updates on the process and pitfalls of dialogue and negotiation with Blue so far:

"Blue and I met up the other day in his studio for almost 3 hours. Before the meeting I had set a rule where he was to find a myth that was important to his heritage and to produce ideas from it. He emailed back with some research but nothing particularly concrete about what sort of work might come from it and that he found it difficult to understand what I was looking for so I decided that we should abandon the rule idea and meet up to talk and to organically find some sort of common ground to germinate some ideas.

I was a little hesitant to actually set the rule in the first place as I would not personally work well to someone ‘telling’ me what to do and therefore would not expect anyone else to do something I would not be comfortable with. This was something I voiced concerns about when I was first asked whether I would be involved in the project and I was in two minds about whether to commit to this project but having seen Blue’s work I thought it might be interesting to see what might come from it. I was hoping for some creative discussions and explorations of ideas to do with art and the process of creative decision making.

This was perhaps an overly optimistic situation to occur from essentially strangers who are asked to collaborate/meet. What did occur was initially a long hour of having to define what the word ecology meant to each of us. To Blue it appeared to be a huge ‘hang up’ about being constrained and contained by a single word that might ‘lock’ down his work as being about a type of sloganistic political statement about ‘man vs nature’. For me it was just a word to describe the objects from nature that he was using such as the conch, shark’s jaw, artificial palm tree leaf and so on and it was frustrating to be entangled in semantics. The next 2 hours were a little bit more productive in terms of discussing what and where his work came from and figuring out what he might end up showing.

The meeting with Blue was ok but perhaps less productive than I had hoped considering 3 hours were spent. I was somewhat surprised that he was waiting for my ‘rule’ and hadn’t really been thinking about what work he might make for the show. But then again the premise of the project is for me to set some rules so fair enough that by his own admission he had not given much thought to ..... I guess in this context you can’t really make something until the parameters have been set. I suppose I took it for granted that as an artist you just make art from the parameters that you set for yourself and the show adapts to the work.

I think that I was too confident about the potential mutual dialogue about some of our overlapping ideas and the prospect of finding a great dialogue about making art and how we come to visualise our ideas and feelings.

I did ask for him to continue to let me know what ideas he had for the show as by the end of the meeting we came to the conclusion that he should go and see the space and come up with some ideas for what to show and from there we can continue to discuss what might be good to pursue. I had not heard from him and I am afraid that my other commitments to exhibitions have taken priority until he let’s me know what is happening".

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

the Assistant Part 2 - Update

Blue's work in progress

Update 2 from Blue on the preparations for his forthcoming Assistant show:

"I admit I'm not doing much heady thought about the assistant but rather just getting on with work that could potentially be shown. I was telling Julia [BEARSPACE director] that my response to 'no rules' and the idea that we are on an equal footing and that I'm not his assistant is to turn him into the 'assistant'.

He asked me if I would show unfinished or less polished work and I said that I don't know how I would do that as unpolished would would be the new goal I'd be working towards and therefore it still wouldn't have that authentic unfinished/unpolished look I think he was wanting to see. I would probably polish even work that is supposed to be unpolished or, in consciously deciding when a work would be in a good unfinished state to show, kill any of that energy of process that I think he was enjoying when he was in my studio.

So I'm thinking I'll keep working as I am and then during the week of the exhibition ask him to pay a surprise visit, interrupting me, and pick the things in my studio he thinks he can make an exhibition of and perhaps let him arrange the pieces in the gallery. It is true that I'm a bit of a control freak and would never just show unfinished stuff or let an installation get out of my hands ... but this idea could be a way that I actually get something out of the process. Sorry, coffee hasn't kicked in for the morning and I may not be making myself clear ... but the idea is that I have made some work and I hand the gloves over to him to make it into a 'show' in whatever form he sees it working. I guess this idea can only work if we have the time that week to do this. I like the idea that I would walk in and not have a clue what he may have done with the work. I could deliver the things that he suggests to the gallery and if he has a day that he can come in to set it up this could work.

I haven't promoted the show to my contacts yet, but if we get that going we can pull a rabbit out of a hat next week and it will all come off just fine".

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Kate- feature in Time Out

the Assistant appears in Time Out this week...

photo by Helen Sumpter - Courtesy of Time Out

Check out the current In The Studio column in Time Out this week for an interview with Assistant artist Kate Pickering...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Assistant Part 2 - Update

Blue's work in progress

Update from Blue on the preparations for his forthcoming Assistant show:

"Sorry, yes, blogging or keeping you posted are obviously not my strength.

Well, Gordon and I finally got together today to start work on the assistant and I guess the first thing that I had to get over was that Gordon is insistent that he impose no specific rules on what I do! I wanted some parameters - or expected (based on the proposal of the project) some - within which to operate, but he doesn't work that way and so therefore doesn't expect someone else to have to either. He's interested in talking about the making and letting that happen rather than directing it or controlling it (to poorly paraphrase him).

It was a relief that I had no rules to impinge upon my practice but at the same time a frightening prospect that I would have free-range to produce a show. He was surprised that I had no solid idea of what work I would put in the show, but I had locked myself off from thinking too much about it on my own and was awaiting the initiation of this joint thinking effort. I joked that I was hoping that I would at least have him to blame if things went tits up!

work in progress

So after about an hour of discussing what we each thought our roles were supposed to be in this project, we turned to the work I am currently producing in the studio. I've included a few quick snaps for what their worth to you. We had a good session sorting through what I might want to do for the show. He challenged the concise and beautifully finished nature that most of my sculptural forms take and asked if it might not to be a consideration to somehow show a work when it is in looser initial stages. For me it just felt like I would then be producing something which would be intentionally arrested in its development to be shown as a final product would therefore be contrived in my mind - but I would consider what that could mean in the context of this show.

Apologies. I feel I am missing out the bulk of 3.5 hours of conversation we had culminating in lunch at the local chippie, but wanted to tell you that my head has been set straight on what my responsibilities are in the project and am on it! We will see each other again next week to discuss where some of the ideas for work for the show have taken me".

Friday, 14 May 2010

Kate- Installing the work 2

Installation of vinyl lettering in the Bearspace window.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

the Assistant Part 1 is being installed

Kate is here at Bearspace today, busy installing her work ready for the opening of the Assistant - Part 1. Blue also popped in today to check out the space again and take a few pictures to help him in planning his install which will be happening in a couple of weeks time. Kate's show however is now not far away at all, the work she will be showing is a video piece comprised of various fragments of text and images I believe and she is busy blocking out the light into the gallery in order to project the work onto the back wall. She has also just installed a section of text as vinyl lettering in the front window. I haven't seen the work myself yet and look forward to seeing what she has come up with. There is still much more installing to go but I'm sure it will all be ready for Friday, I hope that you can come down and join us from 7-9pm, this Friday, 14th May at Bearspace on Deptford High Street.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Discussion Page Published

Those blog posts which relate to discussions on the topic of artists assistants and the role of assistants/interns in the arts have been moved to a parallel page that can be found here in order to make the structure of the blog more clear. Posts on this page now relate specifically to the exhibition in terms of Kate and Blue's progress towards their respective shows. I would definitely recommend heading over to the discussion page however as there are some interesting, worrying and amusing assistant stories and some thought-provoking opinions and positions proposed It is great to see this blog element developing in the way in which I'd hoped, opening a discourse around the work and around the exhibition (as a form of work in itself) which examines and draws attention to the artistic and social relations within which these artworks are emerging.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Kate- work in progress 3

Video stills- work in progress.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Kate- work in progress 2

So far I have created a text through writing, borrowing and re-writing texts from several different sources and perspectives, and combining them. I guess at this stage I don’t want to say too much more about the content, other than it draws on my interests and concerns but frames them in a new way, so am finding the project productive and useful through having to take risks and stepping into new territory. It seems at the moment that this is going to result in one work, quite possibly a split screen video projection, made up of these combined elements of text, that will be relayed through performance, audio and text. So I am currently spending time filming and will be about to start editing.

Foster Wallace’s influence is definately in the work, hopefully both through how the piece is put together, but also in an overt reference to one of his characters. I’ve not had any further intervention or instruction from Maria Fusco so have just been getting on with developing the work and hoping that it will do both Maria and Foster Wallace justice!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Kate- work in progress

I’d not heard of Foster Wallace before receiving Maria’s instructions, but really enjoyed reading his short stories.

I have decided to work with Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, because I liked the interlocking parts of the narrative and the way it is initially confounding and only begins to makes sense and pull together towards the end and on a second reading. It is also blackly funny and a little disturbing. I'm also interested in the way there is a subtle irony in his writing, he reports slightly farcical situations in a matter of fact way which leaves the viewer to decide how to respond to them.

However I was also interested in the Brint Moltke character in the story The Suffering Channel so at the moment I am gathering and writing texts one of which refers to a similar character to Brint Moltke, a naive artist figure. Others reference a quasi- religious experience of an art object that will remain undescribed and unseen, and an artist devoted to some kind of mission. I am hoping to combine them in a way that follows a similar flow to Philosophy and The Mirror of Nature.

How these texts will appear in the show I haven’t yet decided, it may be a video projection combining text and performance, or an installation of text in the space of some description.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Blue Curry in BBC Documentary

Untitled - Blue Curry, 2009
Assistant artist Blue Curry featured again in BBC4 documentary 'Goldsmiths - But is it Art' last night. In answer to your question BBC - yes, it is.

Again Blue was his usual friendly and amenable self even if I couldn't help but feel he was engaged in a slight uphill struggle with editors that were playing to populist prejudice and continually looking to try to tie down some reified, definitive meaning inherent in the artwork. It was as if they were looking to Blue as 'author' to decode some evasive, 'authentic' interpretation, clearly not only missing any obvious aesthetic dimensions of the work but singularly failing to comprehend that the 'meaning' appeared to be there to be negotiated within the context of the work and its audience rather than somehow internal to the work itself. A personal opinion (Chris) but if you are going to make documentaries, ostensibly for a serious arts orientated channel (this was BBC4, not BBC3), then a rudimentary understanding of the fact that art has moved on somewhat in the last 40 years or so would at least be helpful.

Anyway, rant over, it was an interesting show and good publicity for Blue no doubt, it's just a shame it didn't ultimately give us anything but yet another, admittedly slightly more subtle, tired, old trotting out of the same tried and tested tabloid take on contemporary art. You can catch the second episode on BBC iplayer here for a week or so.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Maria Fusco's list of instructions

Maria's rules were as follows:

1. Acquire a copy of David Foster Wallace's book of short stories 'Oblivion'.

2. Select three stories and read them over three consecutive days, beginning on a Monday (note they vary quite radically in length).

3. Do nothing related to this project for four days.

4. On the next Monday, select just one of the stories that you feel has the most potential as a tool for investigation.

5. Make one piece of work, each day, for each page of the story you have selected. You are free to choose the form and content of this.

6. Re-order the works you have made into a sequence which 'works with' the original story in a way that you consider to address temporal space.

7. Exhibit it.

On reading the rules Maria has sent I was amused by their precision, and thought that they seem engaging and would be interesting to respond to. The structure in terms of the time frame and the initial specificity of what is required is really appealing to me, as for some time since finishing my masters I have been wading about in my work, feeling a bit lost at sea, and also feeling, at the same time, although probably quite unnecessarily, tied to my subject matter. So I am looking forward to approaching making new work within a completely different and very ordered remit, and wondering how much I will end up bending what I do to my current concerns or whether something new and unexpected might come out of it.

I have no preconceived ideas about what form the work might take, but will allow the writing to sink in first. I don’t think at the moment I feel the need to do anything obviously different than what has been asked, so I will start off in that direction and see where it takes me.

If you're interested:

David Foster Wallace was the award winning author of several novels, more than a few short stories, and numerous articles, as well as being a college professor. David has been called one of America's most important young authors and is often compared to Thomas Pynchon, though he tended to shrug off that association. He was most widely known for his epic (1000+ page) novel, Infinite Jest, published in 1996 and critically acclaimed by critics and readers alike. Topics covered in Wallace's work are wide ranging, but he had a special interest in American culture, addictions, and excess. Ironically, because of his edgy body of work and his public persona, DFW gained a cult following and became something of a celebrity himself. He committed suicide in 2008.

The short stories in Oblivion are:

"Mister Squishy"

"The Soul Is Not a Smithy"

"Incarnations of Burned Children"

"Another Pioneer"

"Good Old Neon"

"Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature"


"The Suffering Channel"

- Kate

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Blue Curry in Goldsmiths Documentary

So, the television documentary Goldsmiths - But is it Art? went out last night on BBC4 and despite the less than promising trailer, my fears were not realised and it actually proved to be far more balanced, nuanced and interesting than expected. I found it to be both accessible and not necessarily overly tabloid or simplistic in its handling of the artists. It was particularly great for Assistant artist Blue Curry who featured heavily as one of the four main artists that the documentary team followed in the run up to his MFA degree show at Goldsmiths last year. These shows love to construct their narratives, use editing techniques to present certain aspects of peoples characters that fit into certain frameworks, there's usually the controversial one, the underdog, the outsider etc. It seems that Blue made quite an impression on them as he seemed to come across as the affable, likable one that we, the audience, identified with. Of course it helps that he is affable and likable in real life but I am glad to see that he came across well and that he got the opportunity to showcase and talk about his work, which in my opinion came across as most definitely amongst the strongest that the programme presented. I look forward to the second part of the programme which follows the artists progress after finishing their course. Part one is repeated on Sunday night BBC4 at 10pm and is available on BBC iplayer for 14 days here. Part two goes out next Monday (19th) at 9pm.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Documentary Featuring Assistant Artists Airs Tonight!

The BBC4 Documentary on the recent crop of Goldsmiths MFA graduates (including our own assistant artists Blue Curry and Kate Pickering) airs tonight at 9pm. You can find out more here. The title seems to have shifted since we first mentioned the show from the simply factually inaccurate 'This is Modern Art' to the equally platitudinous 'But is it Art?' (yawn). However, understanding, possibly better than most, the potentially tiresome lengths that producers have to go to facilitate a show, its public reception and to encourage audiences perhaps this is almost forgiveable. But enough prejudging, let's make sure that we all watch the programme and make our minds up for ourselves. The talented Blue Curry, the Assistant artist that we are working with for show 2, apparently features fairly heavily in the documentary so that is possibly great news for him. Check out the Youtube trailer above and be sure to watch the show tonight, it certainly promises to be interesting.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Rules received for the Assistant 1

Earlier this morning I received an email from Maria Fusco. Within it was contained the initial set of instructions from her to Kate Pickering for Kate to respond to in the creation of the first part of the Assistant exhibition. It exciting to finally have the set of rules in front of us after all the time spent planning, this in where the exhibition begins to make the leap from concept to reality. Kate has now received the rules as well and now has one month to create an exhibition that will open at BEARSPACE on May 14th. It will be fascinating to see what she comes up with. The rules/instructions that Maria has set out for Kate are intriguing and reflect interestingly on the practice of both herself and Kate I feel. What I find particularly interesting is the fact that Kate is an artist that often works with text, the challenge of responding to a text therefore complicates her usual practice as it seems to ask what an artwork can add to the form of the expression already set out in the piece of text provided? For me, her challenge is what she can bring to this over and above what it already constitutes, it will be fascinating to see how she responds to this challenge. The rules are as follows:

Maria Fusco to Kate Pickering - Artist director to Assistant

The Assistant Exhibition
Instructions for Kate Pickering from Maria Fusco

1. Acquire a copy of David Foster Wallace’s book of short
stories Oblivion.
2. Select three stories and read them over three
consecutive days, beginning on a Monday (note they
vary quite radically in length).
3. Do nothing related to this project for four days.
4. On the next Monday, select just one of the stories
that you feel has most potential as a tool for
5. Make one piece of work, each day, for each page of the
story you have selected. You are free to choose the
form and content of this.
6. Re-order the works you have made into a sequence which
‘works with’ the original story in a way that you
consider to address temporal space.
7. Exhibit it.

Monday, 29 March 2010

New BBC 4 documentary features the Assistant artists

A new BBC 4 documentary following MFA students at Goldsmiths is due to be screened on the 12th and 19th April from 9pm. The documentary features the year group that both of our participating 'assistant' artists were part of at Goldsmiths and although I haven't seen it yet it has Blue in the trailer and so is likely to contain some of their work/interviews with them. Although you'd think that the BBC had enough room for the hackneyed tabloid narratives on contemporary art on its numerous other channels and that we might expect something a bit more thoughtful from BBC 4, the trailer for this slightly disingenuously titled documentary seems to blow on all of the populist dog whistles (a personal opinion - Chris). However I'll reserve judgement until I view the full programme, and I guess it's great publicity for the artists anyhow. See the press release below for more information or click here to view the trailer to judge for yourself! (it can be found in a box to the right of the page).

Goldsmiths – This is Modern Art

Goldsmiths has produced six Turner prize winners in its illustrious history, notably Damien Hirst. But what lies behind the famous institution's unrivalled reputation for producing the artistic stars of the future?

This new two-part documentary follows a group of Goldsmiths artists as they struggle to create art and make a name for themselves during the run-up to their final masters' show, a showcase at which dealers and collectors jostle to sign the latest sensation.

These programmes follow the artists in the vital months following graduation as they take their first steps into professional careers, exploring the culture of contemporary art through the ambitions, influences and attitudes of the next generation of young British artists.

All are desperate to create the kind of work that will propel them to centre stage in the art world, but only a select few will succeed.

BBC Front Desk Publicity

A Dragonfly TV production

Monday, 22 March 2010

Artists Announced!

The Artists have been confirmed for the forthcoming exhibition at Bearspace, Deptford the Assistant. The exhibition will open in May but is being documented here in the run up to the show, examining the process of negotiation that goes into its production. It will explore the relationship of those artists designated 'Assistant' to the sets of instructions that they receive from their more established colleagues.

The artists have been confirmed as follows:

Artists Creating Work

Emerging Artist 1:

Kate Pickering

Kate Pickering is a London based artist and recently completed her MFA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College. Recent exhibitions include WORDS at Am Nuden Da and The Devil’s Necktie at Woodmill studios, and has a forthcoming solo exhibition at Bloc space in Sheffield. Her work addresses the beliefs and disbelief she encounters within the ‘post-ideological’ world of contemporary art. Her interest is in how the language of religion might be confused with the language of art in order to both examine and undo art world norms and assumptions. Texts appropriated from various religious sources are projected or performed, in order to mesmerise or confront the viewer.

Emerging Artist 2:

Blue Curry

Blue Curry was born in Nassau, the Bahamas. He trained as a photographer at the University of Westminster before completing his MFA at Goldsmiths in 2009. He currently lives and works in London. His exhibitions include works at Art Basel, Miami, Poortgebouw, Rotterdam, the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas and Photographers' Gallery, London, he has work in the collections of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas and in private collections in the UK, America and the Caribbean. His works mainly fall into the category of installation.

Artists Setting Instructions

Established Artist 1:

Maria Fusco


Maria Fusco is a writer, editor and academic based in London. Born in Belfast, she contributes to a broad range of international publications, is Director of Art Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, and is the founder/editor of “The Happy Hypocrite”, a journal for and about experimental art writing. In 2009 she was the Critic-in-Residence at Kadist Art Foundation, Paris and in 2009-10 the inaugural Writer-in-Residence at Whitechapel Gallery, London. A book of her short stories published by Sternberg Press is forthcoming later in 2010.

'Maria is creating a vanguard in the relationship between language and
 visual arts that is undoubtedly of significance, and suffused with
 humour, absurdity and a serious playfulness.' - Kit Hammonds, freelance
 curator and tutor, Curating Department, Royal College of Art, London.

Established Artist 2:

Gordon Cheung

Gordon Cheung is of Hong Kong origin and born in London 1975 where he lives and works. Cheung’s multi-media art capture the hallucinations between the virtual and actual realities of a globalised world oscillating between Utopia and Dystopia. Spray paint, oil, acrylic, pastels, stock listings and ink collide in his works to form epic techno-sublime vistas. He exhibits internationally and was in the largest and most ambitious survey of recent developments in art from the UK; The British Art Show 6 and The John Moores Painting 24. He was commissioned for a Laing Art Solo Award (Selected by Susan May) July 2007. 2009 solo shows include 'The Promised Land', Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, 'Art in the Age of Anxiety' Volta NYC, New York and 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse', The New Art Gallery Walsall UK. Forthcoming is Cheung's first US solo museum exhibition at the Arizona State University Art Museum in 2010.

Cheung's works are in international collections including the Hirshhorn Museum, Whitworth Museum, ASU Art Museum, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Hiscox Collection, Progressive Arts Collection, UBS Collection and the Gottesman Collection.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Exhibition Dates


In keeping with the concept of the show - laying open much of the process behind the staging of an exhibition, along with the actual exhibition itself - we are listing not just the dates that the show will be open to the public but also the outline of dates that we have to work with to get the show ready on time. This is our rough outline so far, although it needs to be fleshed out a little with publicity dates, sending out invites and releases, the organising of various things with the artists etc. More will follow, but this is the outline for now.

The Assistant 1:

  • Emerging Artist 1 to receive rules from established artist 14th April 2010Set-up: 9th-13th May 2010
  • Opening: 14th May 2010
  • Exhibition: 14th-29th May 2010
  • Take Down: 31st May 2010

  • Peer Sessions crit' group and public discussion event, featuring submitted video works in response to the exhibition context: 28th May 2010 in conjunction with Deptford Last Fridays

The Assistant 2:

  • Emerging Artist 2 to receive rules from established artist 4th May 2010Set-up: 1st June -3rd June 2010
  • Opening: 4th June 2010
  • Exhibition: 4th - 19th June 2010
  • Take Down: 21st June 2010

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

the Assistant

the Assistant

Bearspace gallery in Deptford, London, in association with peer sessions, is pleased to present an exhibition project entitled
the Assistant starting in May 2010. Each exhibition will pair up an emerging artist with a more established artist who will then enter into a dialogue in order to produce the exhibition. The established artist will send the emerging artist, or assistant, a list of rules one month prior to the exhibition opening, rules which will detail how the established artist wishes the work to be created and/or installed. The emerging artist, as assistant, is presented with the possibility of following to the letter the instructions they are given or subverting and undermining them, inserting or overwriting their own ideas and work into the final exhibition.

The Assistant aims not only to explore the practices of both artists through this process of exchange, but also to widen this examination in order to examine ideas around the arbitrary, hierarchical categories into which market convenience delineates creative practice. The exhibition seeks to explore and potentially deconstruct these classifications of 'emerging' and 'established' artist and to interrogate the role of 'the assistant' more widely by interacting with range of creative practitioners who have undertaken work in an assistant capacity.

The project seeks to question ideas around the construction an exhibition in order to examine the processes an exhibition may go through before it is finally realised, the aim is to present the secret life of the exhibition, beyond the specifically defined limits of its opening times. Exhibitions are events which often conceal moments of interest, intriguing processes, iceberg-like away from the public gaze. In order to explore such a line of enquiry this blog will accompany the exhibition, exposing the original lists of rules, information about the artists along with documentation of the process of exchange and decision making that has led to the creation of the work. It will also invite contributions from the public and a wider community of creative individuals to explore alternative experiences and interpretations of being an assistant.

Along with the exhibitions and blog, a public discussion event, a publication and a screening of video created in response to a similar set of rules will form parts of the project. Stay tuned for call outs!