Contemporary Art Conversations 2: Week 1: Memory

Publication Date 09 Sep 2015

These conversations, facilitated by artist, curator and educator, Professor Helen Baker, are an opportunity to explore topics that relate to the current exhibition by Fiona Tan. Conversations will begin with a short introduction to set the context for the discussion and are aimed at those who find contemporary art intriguing, baffling or confusing.

Contemporary Art Conversations

Wednesday 9th September 2015 / Contemporary Art and Memory

A PDF of the presentation used in the introduction can be found here.

Fiona Tan DEPOT (2015)

The spectacular new commission DEPOT, made especially for our Level 4 gallery, re-imagines ‘Jonah the Giant Whale’, a preserved whale exhibited inside a lorry which toured across Europe from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. Tan will rebuild the 76-foot-long vehicle; however, it will now contain a cabinet of curiosities, inviting the viewer to climb aboard. Drawing on Newcastle’s forgotten history as a major whaling port, DEPOT is an exhibition within an exhibition, an immersive presentation that will also include a new film installation incorporating footage from the depots of natural history museums internationally. 

The exhibition on Level 4 also includes Leviathan 2015, a new, monumental projection based on archival footage of the stripping of a whale. The title of the work makes reference to the sea monster Leviathan in the Old Testament. The word has since become synonymous with any large sea creature, in particular the whale.

The human urge to categorise, catalogue and order.

Mark Wallinger, SITE (2012)
George Legrady, Pocket Full of Memories II (2003 - 2006)
Susan Hiller, From the Freud Museum (1991- 1996)

Memories are constructed by individuals often resulting in very different constructs of the same event. What if we see or hear an event from a different perceptual standpoint?

Janet Cardiff, The Forty Part Motet (A reworking of “Spem in Alium” by Thomas Tallis 1573) exhibition image 2012

What narrative does the listener contruct? Do factual stories make more sense than fictional? What is the function of fiction? 

Janet Cardiff, Ittingen Walk 1-4 (2002)
Louise Bourgeois, Maman (1999)

What is a souvenir?

Louise Bourgeois, Untitled (2008)

"Until this time, her work was known for displaying a lot of aggression and hostility towards her father," explains Gorovoy. "But at a certain point there was this psychological pivot towards a focus and identification with the mother. She'd been a tapestry weaver and now, instead of all the hacking and cutting of hard materials, Louise was sewing and binding and joining soft materials. In the last seven or eight years of her life, she barely mentioned the father who had so obsessed her. It was all about her mother, and, as she became increasingly frail herself, it was as if she was looking for a mother to come and take care of her."

For Bourgeois, someone who had a lifelong feeling of abandonment, says Gorovoy, the clothes were "like a diary. They would open up the places where they had been worn, the people she had encountered, events that had happened. Personal memory was a very important part of her work and these were things that had also come into direct contact with the body. On some you could still smell her perfume. For her, this was psychically charged, raw material and while she never talked about death, I do think she wondered what would happen to all this stuff she had saved for so long and had so much meaning for her. Her attachment to these things was part of her life and she never threw anything out, so she wanted to use this raw material to make sculpture that would survive beyond her." 

The remains of a moment in time.

Tracey Emin, My Bed (1998)

How do we construct history?

Jeremy Deller, The Battle of Orgreave (2012)

Who can we trust to be objective?

Sophie Calle, The Hotel, Room 47 (1981)

How do we come to understand our realities?

Pierre Huyghe, The Third Memory (2000)

The difference between a monument and a memorial.

Doris Salcedo, Plegaria Muda (2011)     


Miyako Ishiuchi, Mother's #35, C type print (2000 – 2005)

We hope you can join us for the next Contemporary Art Conversations.


Speaker Helen Baker
Format MP3
Month September 2015
Keyword Memory
Related Events Fiona Tan: Depot (10 July - 1 November 2015), Contemporary Art Conversations: Memory, Archive and Global Citizen (9, 16 & 23 September 2015)
Related Gallery BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
Language English

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