Marwan El Tibi REVIEWS the exhibition + photobook torn curled folded FOR THE ALAYAM MAGAZINE
[original french version]
C’est un travail de précision, que l’artiste photographe paula roush a accompli avec Antoine Sfeir de Plan Bey et la Fondation Arabe pour l’Image afin de nous présenter “Torn, Folded, Curled”, l’exposition qui s’est déroulée du 23 au 26 Septembre 2015 au Makan à Beyrouth.
Petite histoire de photos irrécupérables…
«Torn, Folded, Curled» est le statut donné aux photos irrécupérables. Celles que l’on ne peut ni restaurer ni scanner. Le seul moyen de les conserver est de les photographier, comme l’explique Paula Roush, artiste photographe, chercheuse et enseignante à la London South Bank University.
C’est par un véritable hasard que Paula a eu l’occasion de travailler sur une infime partie des photos des archives du Journal Al-Yom, abandonnées après un long périple à travers l’histoire de la guerre civile au Liban. Pour ces photos, issues des archives impeccablement tenues par la maison Al-Yom fondée en 1937 par Afif El Tibi, rien ne laissait présager le premier traumatisme subi lorsque les locaux du journal Al-Yom sont dynamités en 1975. Celles qui ont pu être sauvées se retrouvent stockées dans un appartement de Beyrouth Ouest qui aura lui aussi son lot de misères lorsqu’en 1989, au cours de la guerre de « Libération », un obus incendiaire vint violement disperser leurs rangs.
A chaque coup du destin, leur nombre diminuait, on ne comptait plus les pertes…Torn, Folded, Curled… les archives personnelles et celles du journal se mélangeaient, d’autres albums de famille venaient se joindre au lot. Au final, c’est un amas de vielles photos jaunies et jugées bonnes pour la poubelle, laissées pour compte après un énième déménagement, qui attirent l’attention de la Directrice de la Fondation Arabe pour l’Image avec laquelle collabore paula roush. Cette fois le destin était du bon côté, il leur a donné l’occasion de se révéler, d’attirer la curiosité à nouveau et de s’exhiber en plein jour. Elles appartiennent désormais au Patrimoine…quel honneur ! Antoine Sfeir de Plan Bey et Paula Roush ont publié une sélection de ces photos couplées à des phrases du livre de Elie-Pierre Sabbag « L’ombre d’une ville », imprimées sur papier Favini Le Cirque 80g. Un charmant ouvrage de mémoire à conserver.
A short history of unrecoverable photos ...
"Torn, Folded, Curled" is the status given to unrecoverable pictures. Those which can neither restore or scan. The only way to keep them is to photograph, explains paula roush, photographer artist, researcher and teacher at the London South Bank University.
It was by pure chance that Paula had the opportunity to work on a small part of the photo archives of the Journal Al-Yom, abandoned after a long journey through the history of the civil war in Lebanon. For these photos, from archives impeccably kept by Al-Yom house founded in 1937 by Afif El Tibi, there was no indication the first trauma when the site of the Al-Yom newspaper was dynamited in 1975. Those who were saved found themselves stored in a West Beirut apartment, who also had its share of misery when in 1989 during the war of "liberation", an incendiary shell came violently to disperse their ranks.
Hala Tawil REVIEWS PAULA ROUSH RESIDENCY with THE Arab Image Foundation
Notes on the residency of paula roush
Artist and lecturer paula roush was born in Lisbon and lives and works in London. roush teaches both art theory and practice at the London South Bank University and the University of Westminster. She operates in the fields of installation and publishing, where her work is positioned in relation to ongoing developments in photography, particularly the dialogue between analog and digital. These concerns emerge in the interplay among photo collections combining found, orphan and DSLR-produced photographs, where they constitute a critical, socio-political and aesthetic investigation of memory. She aims to bridge the gap between biography, the everyday and the archive.
Between June 22nd and July 3rd 2015, roush was welcomed as an artist-in-residence at the Arab Image Foundation. She was granted access to all the Foundation’s facilities with the intention of creating works informed by her readings of the photographic collections and her practice as an artist working with found photographs in both print and installations. roush’s residency in Beirut was made possible by The Centre for Media and Culture Research, London South Bank University.
Using materials present at the Foundation, roush’s method enforced limits and guided her process. It is ultimately reflected in her work’s aesthetics, layout, materiality, format and the juxtaposition of text and image. She describes her methodology as working through fragments collected in a limited time-frame. Stepping back and distancing herself from her projects, roush ultimately returns for further investigation and reflection after an allocated time has passed. The works roush produced fed off conversations, chance encounters and coincidences occurring within the space of the Foundation. She allowed her presence to guide the production process as it further structured and shaped the resulting works.
Points of interest
- roush approached the Foundation with what she described as a safety net: an ongoing interest in traces of the Portuguese presence in the collections of the Arab Image Foundation. This dovetails with her previous works and ongoing research on the subject.
- She was able to identify 10 relevant images on the in-house database and requested to view them in their physical format.
- roush re-visited the AIF in-house database in light of the content of the binder: images evoking sexuality, relationships, and the female figure, as well as a text by Dore Bowen: The Bridge Called Imagination: On reading the Arab Image Foundation and Its Collection.
- Intrigued by the format and the interface of the database itself, paula even noted its malfunctioning “glitches and crashes”.
- roush also collaborated with a Collection Management volunteer whose duty was inputting keywords.
- The volunteer attributed keywords to the otherwise unprocessed images in the EPS binder as roush recorded the suggestions. The process began systematically, although it developed into free-association as the volunteer “began drifting into the images and thinking out loud”.
“Questionable” content: EPS Collection
- Another point of interest for roush was “questionable” photographic content, what could be described as “sleazy, sexy, seedy and inappropriate”.
- She was directed to the contact prints of the EPS collection, assembled in two binders for consultation in the AIF public space.
- Due to the depiction of various intimate scenes and the inclusion of nude photographs in the collection, concerns arose regarding privacy of the photographer, and the subjects in the photographs.
- It should be noted that the collection has not been scanned, and the identities of those appearing the photographs remain undocumented.
- paula roush managed to meet EPS, interviewing him about the context of production of the images
The Photograph as sculpture/object/image
- Upon viewing the initial images with keywords linking them to Portugal, roush became intrigued by the process of setting up and staging images for photographic documentation.
- roush then delved into the Al-Yom, collection of the personal research of the editor in chief of the national newspaper, influenced by the year 1975 (on 25 April 1974 which overthrew the regime of the Estado Novo.
- roush paired 85 photographs she had taken of objects from the Al Yom collection to sections of text from a book given to her by Sabbag on Beirut - A L'Ombre d'Une Ville (1993)
- roush also photographed the unprocessed collection of Bayroumi, a Studio Photographer from Saida, Lebanon who worked in the seventies.
- Not removed from their plastic encasings paralleled themes of privacy.
Overview on her practice as an artist working with photographic collections, most specifically the Found Photo Foundation
Discussing the method of accessing material at the Foundation: the EPS binder.
Displaying photobook “dummies”
Through roush’s work we understand the process of researching a photographic collection as a subtle negotiation of understandings. It is seen as the practice of acquiring and documenting photographs, the dialogue between digital and analog formats, the controlled environment of preservation, as well as conversations, accidents, and mere chance encounters within the space housing the collection.
«may i start?»[first line of the ‘script’ of queer paper gardens, vídeo HD, 2013]. how to write about these 21 minutes of quasi-surrealism, that takes us throughout the history of collage, with its starting point in three objects: max ernst’s collage novel a week of goodness, valentine penrose’s collage-poem dons des féminines and mary delany’ biography, the inventor of collage; we cross their universes and those of other women artists, guided by eunice gonçalves duarte performing multiple roles, as valentine did, creator of wide-ranging meanings, such as a woman in a red dress and tribal mask going on a safari, through exotic theatre/sceneries. the universes available to us are once again of intersection, in double screen, a transport us poetically to the themes underlying delany’s masterpiece, flora delanica (1772-1782), navigating through what is apparently invisible, or absent. in these paper gardens there are no symbols of authority, but of transcendence, says the narrator, at a certain point. cruising through the botanical garden of coimbra, the female character is immersed in a time machine. it is up to us, spectators, to make the cut, the selection and “reassembly” of what is more important to us, in this process of non-normative memory, that is open to many languages and queer identities. in these not so strange gardens, i review myself with shells in my eyes… feel free to talk.
maria and paula’s film is in itself a journey about several lives, narrated through a visual history with a lyricism of its own, just as valentine’s own book. The film’s voice-over provided by artist marie josianne agossou, interprets a narration that summons the lives of various women, and the representations of these through the arts in context. valentine and mary delany are evoked as well various other women, exalted in this work of archive, composition and feminist script. we peek here at a certain cinema paradiso, at the service of the arts, through the chosen excerpts of films such as rebecca, the hunger, jane eyre, and daughters of darkness. this put us in tune with the themes approached by the artists in their video-collage, that refer to the cut-up, as well as to photography and drawing, in a narrative strategy that projects issues of gender, body representation, and the role -play involved in women’s performance throughout history. and it conjures the horror women were (and are) subjected to: the horror is displayed in jane eyre, in the bad girl of sleeping beauty, or in the madness of rebecca’s housekeeper.
english translation here
Fatal women and others as such: A visit to the surrealist museum through collage
They are two artists who, as now and increasingly common place, living out of bounds, in this case in Great Britain: Maria lusitano and paula roush, who exhibit together since 2009, opted for professional reasons (a PhD for the first, a university lecturing job for the second) to leave the country, which does not mean to abandon the regular presentation of their work in Portuguese institutions. If Lusitano accustomed us to her work in video, always with a strong narrative component and anchored in personal or historical memories, from paula roush we knew her taste for the artist’s book, a practice that in the last two or three years, has come to interest more supporters among the younger generations of artists. In this exhibition, entitled Queer Paper Gardens, we find these two disciplines combined with the educational component that is now so present in the lives of the two artists: the show includes creative workshops for the public, who can experience the process of collage, the same that is at the roots of the work displayed here.
The room Cinzeiro 8 at the Museum of Electricity has the dimensions we usually associate with a gallery rather than a museum. Therefore the works, all on paper, based on images taken from some old illustrated magazine or photo albums of unknown provenance, when not ink drawings ink on paper, can be viewed with care, and even be the subject of an assembly where the parts overlap, pile and exhibit obsessively. Like a dream.
The comparison is not involuntary. Lusitano and roush sought illustrious precedents in the history of collage, namely Max Ernst and Valentine Penrose, two Surrealist artists who practiced collage in the creation of novels, and the association of unusual shapes and motifs to arouse the imagination, as it was dear to Breton followers. Max Ernst, firstly, since 1921 but especially since 1929, when he publishes La Femme 100 Tetes, created pieces where the female figure appears in the ambiguity of the stereotypes associated with the image of women by the bourgeois culture, both Eve and Lilith; this project would later develop in Une Semaine de Bonte, 1934, the work to which the artists refer specifically. As for Penrose, who was married to the British poet and painter of the same name, published (amongst others) Dons des Féminines in 1951, adopting the same kind of collage as Ernst but giving her work a feminist vision that was absent from his and the lives of the Surrealists of the times.
The artists’ collages on paper, as well as the video or the books that they show, emerge from this last work: after all, the film - video or not - comes from a fundamental process of editing that is no more than a collage of disparate sequences to obtain a significant end result. Images of women crystallized by cinema, revealing the double meaning as quoted above between the femme fatale and naive young woman, in a succession of double fast paced sequencing, stress the principle of surrealist collage, which is also enhanced by the presence of a collection of disparate chairs in ruin, where the viewer is implicitly invited to seat. In other situations, it is clearly personal photographs that were worked by artists with a view to obtaining that difficult opening to another world that Surrealism sought.
And not even a note of humor is missing, always present in any surrealist exhibition in the middle of the twentieth century: a fox teddy dressed in pants and jacket is sitting on the top of a table in the exposition. I sense the artists had fun creating these works. It is impossible not to see them with a smile, much more than with the surprise or scandal that their ancestors raised in the epoch in which they worked. As surrealist collage emerges from a specific historical timing. The project does not claim its belongings to a movement that had its epoch and its context, and is today irretrievable. Lusitano and roush know that. Their proposal is a different one: to update the freedom of artistic creation and practiced by Ernst and Penrose, a freedom that passed also by the choice of a technique that did not belong to the illustrious painting or sculpture. Moreover, the book as a means of artistic diffusion was also far from the weight of the museum or the art gallery. Interestingly, in market terms, things have not changed that much in the almost hundred years that separate us from Max Ernst; neither the work on paper, nor the video art or the artist’s book, reach the price values of other techniques. What has really changed, or at least has started to change significantly, is the status of women, and the increasing distance that separates us women from the original images that inspired the artists.
english translation here
Collage and collision An artistic collaboration around the dances and counterdances of gender, retrieves collage as a mode of associating images
One of the most interesting aspects of the artistic production of Maria Lusitano (1971) over at least the last ten years has to do with the fact that, in most cases, we do not have a name to define exactly what it is she presents. None of this has to do with sacramental question "Is this art?" or any doubts related to the type of support that she uses- typically the video. With Lusitano, we have a genre problem. Her constructions are too fictional to fit simply in the documentary field, whilst too informative to have that arty condition that rests the usual observers with the routine expectations typical of contemporary art .
Tanja Verlak WRITES ABOUT the Found Photo Foundation FOR DEAR ABY WARBURG: WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH IMAGES? PUBICATION
The Found Photo Foundation/FPF, under the patronage of paula roush, deals with visuals suitably named ‘orphan photographs’ and explores this very possibility of walking the line between temporal and spatial domains, where the empirical and the surreal grow surprisingly close. The FPF can also be read as an artistic experiment of twisting the document value of an archive beyond its proverbial linearity of causes and consequences.
As the connection to the real is often lost, the project is above all a platform of invented spaces that suggests taxonomical methods of artistic research deep into generations and the unknown.
Eva Schmidt, comments ON THE FOUND PHOTO FOUNDATION in the Introduction to the catalogue "Dear Aby Warburg, what can be done with images? Dealing with Photographic Material
How can photographic images thought lost – due to a lack of place or name- be re-found and made to speak to us again? The significance of a photographic image does not lie in the image itself; the decisive aspects are its context and actualisation as material object. Every work in the exhibition makes this obvious. Although all the works named implicitly formulate the part of the viewer, the ‘user’ through their openness and temporary nature, in paula roush’s work strategies of participation are foregounded. She tracks down photos that have become homeless. roush calls them ‘orphans’ which can be found at flea markets or in junk shops. She invites others to ‘adopt’ these ‘orphans’ in their own configurations.
The question 'What is to be done with images?' is also a question about the relationship between the archive and the presentation- the atlas, the tableau, the display. Does the archive in question represent a limited body of material, for example, the glass negatives exposed in a photo studio during the 1930s and 1940s and purchased by Cecile Hummel from a street vendor in southern Italy, or the images that paula roush gathered at portuguese flea markets and garage sales to archive in her Found Photo Foundation?
It is usually impossible to trace the provenance of these photographs which roush refers to as 'orphans'. They have become homeless, but nonetheless tell something like a private subterranean history of the time spent under a dictatorship.
Or do the images derive from a variety of sources, without being founded upon a coherent archive, as int he case of Ozlem Altin's investigation of formal correspondences between depictions of the body in motion. Are the images stolen away, so to speak, out of their original context or are their sources carefully documented, as i the case of Katrin Mayer, who also repeatedly juxtaposes them with passages of text that interest her - resulting in the creation of a new context for both image and text?
Regardless of all the differences in terms of the technique and the potential sources of the images, the art of the 'photographic collection' can be summarily described as a sort of game of Memory. When playing the normal version of Memory, it is the still hidden cards whose pictures cannot be seen. But let us assume that Memory were to consist of thousands of cards, most of which are not even on the table and some of which may even have been lost. Ultimately, Warburg was already playing this game, as Didi-Huberman at least optically establishes in the case of the Mnemosyne Atlas:"The images of an ensemble photographed on a single plane are suggestive of a card game spread out on a table.'
The artists of the exhibition Dear Aby Warburg are collectors of images; their artistic individuality consists less in a style or gesture than in the specific manner in which they...also physically open up new spaces for thinking between the images- something begun with Warburg when he started to pin photos to canvasses.
Podemos então afirmar que a cyberformance é um subgénero da categoria mais vasta da performance em rede e é precisamente à luz destes conceitos que passamos agora a analisar o projeto cctvecstasy, do coletivo Webcam Operators (2009), que foi desenvolvido em 2009, no âmbito do festival Radiator, em Nottingham. Participaram, nesta cyberformance, paula roush, no QUAD, em Derby, Marie Josiane Agossou, na Universidade de South Bank, Londres, Lina Jungergård no espaço Area 10, Londres, Deej Fabyc na Elastic Gallery, Suécia, Lara Morais e Maria Lusitano na Academia de Arte de Malmo, Suécia, e Aaron de Montesse e Anne Overaa nas suas casas. Susana Mendes Silva era também um dos membros do coletivo mas problemas técnicos imprevistos impediram a sua participação.
A performance cctvecstasy pode ser pensada como um projeto site-specific na medida em que teve lugar na comunidade online WebCamNow que estabelece a ligação em direto de webcams, em todo o mundo, sem ser necessário que o utilizador crie uma homepage ou mesmo um perfil pessoal. A plataforma WebcamNow consiste numa interface readymade e está dividida em duas áreas, a área aberta, sob licença para conteúdos adultos e que é utilizada acima de tudo por participantes em busca de experiências íntimas e uma segunda área, designada de “amigos e família”, na qual os intervenientes sabem que as suas ações poderão ser monitorizadas. Ao contrário das redes sociais e de live streaming mais recentes, que combinam videostream e videologs (uma variante de weblogs, cujo conteúdo principal consiste em vídeos), a comunidade WebcamNow não disponibiliza arquivo de vídeo, imagens ou mensagens incidindo antes na utilização de webcams para transmitir em direto a partir de ambientes íntimos (webcamming). A interface da WebCamNow inclui canais de vídeo, chat em texto e uma barra que indica quem é que está ligado a cada sala vídeo e que funciona como um
indicador de popularidade à semelhança das life bars dos jogos de computador.
Assim, após um período de investigação, o projeto cctvecstasy desenvolveu-se em torno de uma narrativa esboçada a partir dos encontros das performers com os outros participantes da comunidade. As performances desenvolvidas ocorreram em vários canais de vídeo e questionavam as condições de receção e participação próprias do espectador e utilizador da plataforma WebCamNow. Nas palavras de paula roush:
“ [Na área aberta da plataforma WebcamNow] uma variedade de pessoas hétero e LGBTQ (lésbicas, gay, bissexuais, transgénero e queer) operam as suas webcams, jogando com estratégias múltiplas: da autenticidade encenada das que instalam a webcam nos seus quartos, colocando a sua vida sob escrutínio, a outras que se mascaram em versões muito encenadas de feminilidade/masculinidade e fetichismo, atuando para um grupo particular de devotos. Nós usámos a webcamming e as ferramentas de chat de texto livremente disponíveis a fim de trabalhar sincronicamente através de salas separadas e comunicar com outras salas
de chat de vídeo.” (roush, 2010: 116)
A performance decorreu online e perante uma audiência em presença, na galeria QUAD em Derby, com sete performers em live streaming enquanto paula roush operava ao vivo a passagem entre os vários espaços. A própria audiência era filmada e transmitida via live feed num canal vídeo. Podemos, portanto, falar de um espaço híbrido em jogo na cyberformance cctvecstasy. De sala de chat em sala de chat, as várias performances são, por sua vez, objeto da intervenção da performer que se encontra no espaço físico da galeria, junto da audiência, e que manipula em tempo real a visibilidade das ações e dos espaços.
Assim, é de salientar que as zonas de contacto e os movimentos de passagem se expandem neste projeto: são as interações e misturas entre os utilizadores da plataforma WebCamNow; as fronteiras diluídas entre a banalidade das imagens quotidianas e o elemento intencionalmente performativo; as intervenções dos participantes da comunidade WebCamNow na performance em tempo real via chat; e, finalmente, os contágios entre os espaços físicos remotos habitados pelas performers, o espaço
telemático da World Wide Web e o espaço da galeria onde se encontra a audiência em presença.
Neste contexto consideramos que é pertinente referir o conceito de “performance liminar” de Susan Broadhurst que “joga com o limite do possível” tendo como caraterísticas fundamentais a “hibridização, indeterminação, ausência de ‘aura’ e o colapso da distinção hierárquica entre cultura popular e de elite” (Broadhurst, 1999: 1). Paralelamente, a noção de “audiência intermedial”, proposta por Helen Varley Jamieson, é igualmente relevante uma vez que abrange simultaneamente as audiências online e em presença que se encontram envolvidas, mental e fisicamente, em múltiplas tarefas, assumindo vários papéis − nomeadamente os de espectador, performer, autor, leitor, comentador, chatter e voyeur.
De salientar também a estética low-tech e faça-você-mesmo da cyberformance cctvecstasy e a centralidade da webcam na criação de um espaço íntimo, cheio de textura, que dá vontade de acariciar, agarrar a imagem, passar para o outro lado e habitar o espaço do corpo da performer. O olhar íntimo da webcam é quase como o olhar que resulta de um enlace amoroso, demasiado perto para podermos realmente ver. Assim, o voyeurismo associado às práticas de webcamming deve ser equacionado à luz desta proximidade, da baixa resolução da imagem e da manipulação da sua suposta estética de autenticidade. Talvez por isso o recurso à máscara seja recorrente nas práticas de cyberformance. A máscara assinala o caráter mercurial da identidade online e o misto de ficção e realidade em jogo na experiência de telepresença precipitada pela performance em rede. Nas palavras de Lynn Hershman Leeson em “Romancing the Anti-Body: Lust and Longing in (Cyber)space”:
“Antes de ficar completamente ligado ou imerso no ciberespaço, o indivíduo tem de criar uma máscara. Esta torna-se uma assinatura, uma impressão digital, uma sombra, um meio de reconhecimento. A justificação para este disfarce é similar à das camuflagens tribais: as
máscaras ocultam o corpo e ao fazê-lo libertam e dão voz às identidades virtuais. No momento em que a verdade pessoal se liberta, a face frágil e ténue da vulnerabilidade é protegida.” (Leeson, 1996: 325)
Efetivamente, um jogo ambíguo entre ocultação e desvelamento, simulação e autenticidade, intimidade e voyeurismo, perpassa as práticas artísticas que emergem das redes digitais, sendo de destacar a este respeito o corpo de trabalho performativo de Annie Abrahams no qual comunicação e intimidade, na sua miríade de declinações, se transformam em autênticos problemas na aceção deleuziana do termo.
Margarida Carvalho, A Obra “Faça-você-mesmo”: Estética da Participação nas Artes Digitais, Tese de Doutoramento em Ciências da Comunicação, Especialidade de Comunicação e Artes, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 2014
Sara Raza comments on Bowville
International artists such as Bangladeshi-American Hasan Elahi and London based Portuguese artist paula roush have been pushing the boundaries between fixed definitions of technology and art by creating tracking/ tagging devices, that bear an uncanny resemblance to the mandatory “bracelets” worn by high risk criminals or those on parole so that law enforcement officers can keep track of their whereabouts.
(…) roush has created a semi fictional alter-ego Marion Manesta Forrester, who first surfaced at London’s Bow Festival in 2004. Manesta Forrester was electronically tagged and was given a period of three days to earn her citizenship to Bowville. Bowville functioned as a fictional urban cityscape whose inhabitants were actively invited to partake in the countdown by voting for or against the protagonist. The networked performance undoubtedly resembled the reality television show “Big Brother,” which created quite an addictive storm in the UK, where 10 housemates lived in the same house and members of the public weekly eliminated a member until there was only one: the winner. Simultaneously, the piece also referred to the real and actual notion of elimination and in-voluntary deportation of immigrants, asylum seekers and political refugees. Furthermore, the fact that the performance was staged for an urban setting additionally gave voice to the city as a site of investigation, which is an on going theme interwoven into roush’s practice whereby, she actively works with the dual concept of politics and public space. Incidentally, this practice is based on a long series of performative works that examine the notion of emergency, public time and space and is a continuation of the “Exercise SOS: OK (save our souls: zero killings),” 2004 an ongoing project that looks at decontamination and consumption as politically charged armaments against institutional power formations. Ultimately, roush’s strategies re-appropriate the strategies of 1970s feminist artists, however, roush’s version has traded the issue of housework with security work. Nonetheless, the body under siege remains a feature from which one is able to trace a lineage with roush’s feminist predecessors.
Hattie Spires comments on Bowville
In an extremely timely and important intervention that took place in August 2004, the artist paula roush (msdm) set forth a proposition into the ‘real space’ of the community of Bow in East London through her project Bowville. The Bowville Investigation Bureau, set up in a disused shop on Roman Road market, served as the surveillance centre from which the Bureau could track and monitor the movements of the protagonist Marion Manesta Forresta. Pointing back to the suffragette movement, Marion’s name is a bastardisation of three members of the suffragette movement, some of whom were the first people to undergo surveillance. Considered by the local authorities for her affiliation with left wing organisations, most notably Eastopia, Marion was given the chance to earn her right to stay in Bowville without surveillance through winning the public vote. Using global satellite positioning technology, the Bureau was able to track her movements through the streets of Bowville and enforce border restrictions on her whilst she developed an increasing presence and identity with the local community in which she tried to earn her citizenship. A wireless camera fed live footage of her actions back to the Bureau where continuous research into current global acts of terror took place.
Bowville’s extraordinary ability to elicit complex histories and experiences from the local community through dialogue with the artist and the performers was in part due to its enduring topicality, partly its extended presence on the site of Bow, to some extent its reactivation of local histories and a continuation of past projects in the same contact zone but primarily due to an increasing sense of community through ‘labour in the field’. One could easily displace the notion of ‘site’ within the confines of this project for an intervention that tended towards ‘community-specific,’ ‘issue-specific,’ ‘audience-specific’ and was indeed all of these things and countless others but such easy dismissals would undermine the enormously complex issue at hand which is that the site is the interrelation of all of these. Bowville’s reactivation of local histories associated with the suffragette movement, its relation to current topics surrounding diaspora, surveillance and territories and the subsequent real-time involvement of the community that added a further layer of interpretation, all produced a functional site that elicited individual histories. The respondent’s reactions varied over the duration of the project from “it’s not Bowville, it’s Bow; you’re going to have to understand that if you want to stay here” to the uncovering of one Muslim man’s story of his migration from New York to the East End of London and his accounts of the local community’s projection of the notion of ‘Muslim’ onto him during the current climate of terror and fear. The project’s strength was located in its articulation of the clashing of psychic subjectivities and material conditions without occupying a moral high ground.
Hattie Spires, The crisis of interpretation: An investigation into the dynamics of engagement with site-specific art in the age of squanto, Goldsmiths College.
Embodying the concept of a grassroot ‘street version of the Internet’ , locative media interventions have often followed an ocular-dominated technological perspective that moves the point of interaction from the desktop PC in a private environment into the physical realm of public space. Further, continuing the trajectory of Happenings, Fluxus, and the Situationists from the 1950s onwards – whose interests in direct public participation were also pursued by early Internet art - locative media practices have aimed to engage the participation of individual, whether it is the artist, collaborator, targeted audience or anonymous public.
(…) The participatory and collaborative aspects of locative media foreground participants’ site-specific experience in local context, while encouraging them to be performers within the activity. Through their practices of walking, listening, conversation, game-playing, or living an everyday life, an individual partakes in different roles: gardener, composer, choreographer, cartographer, walker, tattooist, spectator, data-collector, storyteller, decision-maker, archaeologist, explorer; Or, simply but importantly, just an other within public environment. (...) Complex and ethical questions also arise. How do these technologies invite participation? Will the technologies be a 'restrictive collar around the neck' as in roush's Bowville, which control accessibility and communal decision-making process? Then, where and who is the community voice?
In August 2004, paula roush --author of the Arphid Recordings performances in London-- got herself electronically tagged. She created a semi fictional alter-ego Marion Manesta Forrester, who was electronically tagged and given a period of three days to earn her citizenship to Bowville, a fictional urban cityscape whose inhabitants were invited to follow her movements and vote for or against the protagonist.
Roush chose the name Marion Manesta Forrester, as a partial homage to the suffragettes- the first women to undergo and rebel against photographic surveillance, the work is also a partial reaction to the announcement of electronic tagging for asylum seekers in the UK, and a reference to Lars Von Triers' Dogville.
Bowville, commissioned by Space (London, 2004) to be part of their platform on wireless public technologies (...) was extended research on the political economies of photography as a means of identification. This work brought together the history of photographic surveillance and its present implications for social stigma and deportation, such as polices use of electronic tagging to keep non-European immigrants under surveillance. Photography served as one of the main vehicles for this project but the medium was questioned, and integrated in the form of converging multi-layered mechanisms of new and old technologies (geo-locative media, wireless video stream, archival photography, fictional biography, performance with characters) that make the unitary identification of the work’s physical support impossible. The confrontation of photography and technologies of fear was made manifest in the work’s structure, bringing together a timed performance, a publicly sited investigation bureau, a detective story sometimes mimicking the police’s own investigation methods and the participation of the public.
Moving round the corner, the viewer is immediately drawn in to paula roush’s complex, absorbing installation, Participatory Architectures (2014) which almost acts as a cri de coeur. This work is based on the period after the coup d’état in Portugal in the early 1970s when there was a surge of utopian building projects and creativity. Then after the economic setbacks of 2008, Portugal began selling these communes to developers, effectively for land clearance. Here, laid out dispassionately on makeshift tables that span the room, are poignant photographs, objects and memorabilia that resonate with disillusionment. roush’s bricks are a metaphor for construction /destruction and also challenge the government with rebellion. She creates individual collages of all forty-one houses on the Apeadeiro estate in southern Portugal, and with a bitter irony, wraps them in the same ribbon the government uses to fasten its official documents.
Annie Kelly, Bermondsey takes the biscuit Former Peek Freen employees back community project. Published in The Guardian
Bermondsey, in south-east London, was once affectionately known as Biscuit Town. Home to some of the largest biscuit factories in the country, it provided employment to generations of local families. Now it's a very different story. The biscuit factories have closed, and many of their former employees are unemployed. The only businesses that come into Bermondsey now are the large property developers buying up old factories and turning them into gated residences for well-paid workers at nearby Canary Wharf.
But a group of former employees of the Peek Freen biscuit factory, one of the last to close its doors, in 1989, have reunited to give Biscuit Town a new lease of life. They were brought together by artist paula roush, who has won Arts Council funding to launch SOS:UK, a community project that explores the local heritage of deprived communities. roush invited ex-workers back to Peek Freen and has run a series of events celebrating the history of Biscuit Town. This weekend, the factory is hosting a mock emergency food distribution.
On a cold bright Sunday at the end of October I took the Jubilee line to Bermondsey, walked a bit and found the gallery Coleman Project Space located in a pretty street, ten minutes from the station. There I was greeted by two young women dressed in customised white and yellow suits offering me a cup of tea. I sat down on one of the camp stretchers, next to a neatly folded blanket and careful to stay within the yellow and black emergency zone marked on the floor. Sitting on another stretcher opposite me were two older ladies. They nodded and smiled at me while drinking cups of tea and chatting. Next in was Ron Henocq director of the neighbour Café Gallery Project who sat down like he was home at last. Very soon an elderly couple were spotted crossing the street in our direction, quickly they were greeted with cups of tea, bottoms moved along and things began to get lively. Then to add to the interesting concoction, a well dressed man who turned out to be a local architect came in to find out more about the project. Everyone started talking at once. For a Sunday morning it was a lively affair.
Artist paula roush showed me some of the press clippings that the project had received while talking about the history of the idea and its evolution. I was surprised at the number of ‘entry points’ the project had for local people and organisations. There were the ex-workers of the Peek Freans biscuit factory, a driving force behind the project, arts students from Camberwell College of Arts enacting emergency situations and distributing food aid, local film studio Sands Films had lent rare film footage and other images from their picture library and then of course there was the artists and curators that form part of the local network of the Coleman Project Space. It occurred to me while sitting there munching on a rather delicious biscuit that here was a real, authentic and contemporary community arts project. Roush had accomplised something quite remarkable. The fusing and channeling of varied local populations into a highly original conceptual arts project. A project that has historical relevance, that highlights the political and social repercussions of urban regeneration and fosters positive and productive relationships between art and local communities. Not only that, but there was a real, tangible product that could have an impact on real, tangible people! Phew! What an achievement.
paula roush’s practice is heavily informed by post-studio’s elements of institutional critique and performative processes but has increasingly taken a trajectory from conventional institutions to other destinations. (...)
The London-based media artist paula roush is probably the first who have explored the sonic properties of RFID.
From the project page: "Arphield Recordings is a project documenting impromptu arphid sound performances produced by people scanning their oysters cards in the daily routine of access control to the London tube stations.
The methodology of field recordings (documentation of site-specific soundscapes through audio recording equipment) is, in this case, focused on the sampling of sounds produced by the use of arphid (rfid) technology (cards and readers) complemented by digital processing involving sampling and synthesis from the source, speculating on the ad infinitum convergence of arphid tags and readers into an endless symphony of sound surveillance and compliance.
The project started with the idea for an arphid mob, inviting friends to join me at a designated tube station for a semi-coreographed sound jam using our oyster cards. The main question was 'when and where' as a major impediment would always be the heavy security at all the gates. It was decided I would do some observation and this would eventually indicate the best timing and location for our arphid mob. Observing the familiar tube's access control gates, initially with no equipment and later with a camcorder, I realised that people were already engaging in impromptu sound performances. My documentation led me to discern varied patterns and even participatory scores, with mass arphid soundscapes punctuated by silences, glitches and cracks in the system, all warped up in a circadian rhythm of work-rush hours.
The first arphield recordings - documenting the impromptu sound performance of people moving through the London tube access control gates were done in Brixton, Kings Cross and Caledonian Road tube stations during march 2006 for the TAGGED one day event at SPACE Media Arts (NodeLondon March 2006), when cds with the tracks and locational tags were distributed.
The second arphield recordings- the stockwell sound/jam memorial happened on Saturday 10th of June 2006 when people in london were invited to gather in the Stockwell tube station and scan their oyster card for 30second sync periods accompanied by a podcast of pre-recorded oyster beep tracks.
Why did you decide to propose an RFID project? What was your specific motivation in this case?
Arphield Recodings was conceived as a probe into the practice of sousveillance and a more general understanding of the the arphid surveillance/equiveillance of public space and transport. It also foregrounds itself into the field of networked performance and possible notions of community, interaction, and connectedness among participants.
The emerging field of personal sousveillance - the capture, processing, storage, retrieval, and transmission of an activity from the perspective of a participant in the activity (i.e. personal experience capture) using camera phones, and wearables has been mainly focused on the visual. See the dominance of weblogs as photo- and video-blogs. Surveillance studies as well have given a proeminence to the visual. However, "The history of surveillance is as much about a sound history as a history of vision" / "we need a sound history of surveillance" / "the polyphony of sounds increasingly regulates and is regulated by us" as Michael Bull and Les Black write in the intro to the Auditory culture reader (2003).
Rael Artel, Artists in Fieldwork: Anu Vahtra, Jaanus Samma, paula roush, Pilvi Takala. Pubished Peateema Magazine
The idea of a summer resort and its current reality was the main topic of the London-based Portuguese artist paula roush's work "Mud d'artiste." It consistsof three parts: two glass jars with leftover mud gathered from the artist's body and provided with labels clearly paraphrasing Piero Manzoni's work of 1961. The second part is a video with two parallel shots showing the artist enjoying a mud bath and the exhibits of the display of the wax figures that used to take place at the same place. The third part is the webcast of the artist dancing in front of the tourist office in the main street, in front of the Parnu weather camera. In all the parts the artist had masked her head and face with mud, leaving out only the eyes .Attempting to baste the meanings, we might assume that the criminalised artist in mud mask- an allusion to a terrorrist- is commenting upon traditional curative attractions, "cultural undertakings" (waxwork exhibition) directed at mass audiences and the web-based surveillance system.
The artist's working methods deserve special attention as well. Paula's speed of reaction was amazing - the artist, working with experimental public art and issues of urban space, generated her project based on her experience in Parnu within few days. Paula's strategy is simple: she moves around with open eyes and mind through different layers of urban space, notices and picks up meaningful objects, telling human relations and unique behavioural patterns, and joins them together into one work with several ideas still loose. Incidentally, "Mud d'Artiste" created in Parnu was also displayed at tourism related exhibition "Global Tour" at W139 in Amsterdam.
Eva Schmidt, 'City Stripping', GAK: Gesellschaft fur Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen
" Stripping " means: clearing away layers, surfaces; " Stripping " means: the structure open. With the striptease the coverings are artfully removed, so that the view of the desired object can happen. In the case of this exhibition in the GAK the desired object is the city .
paula roush (London) transfers with "Frankfurtress Ghetto Blast " critical urban theory into the aesthetics of a computer game. Illustrated by the example of Frankfurt/Main,as a global player in ' the international financial world, modifications of urban geography, likewise segmenting the urban spaces into central, global interlaced and marginalised areas, and the space of flows ' of the international transactions clashing a conflict on the spatial needs of the local inhabitants, which is not to be resolved.
Three artists show at Gesellschaft fur Aktuelle Kunst (GAK), in an exhibition exposing the myths underlying the modern city. The ideology of the modern city followed human social development and the ideological position that it should accommodate all their inhabitants equivalently. In the exhibition City Stripping, at GAK, three artists explore different aspects of today's development of this vision.
paula roush brings up for discussion the geographical modifications of a cityscape by the example of Frankfurt as a global player in the international financial world. The computer game "Frankfurtress Ghetto Blast" symbolises the city's individual quarters and their inhabitants, and points out the meaning of their geographical position. The quarters get points assigned: the Citadel, the economic focal point of the city, receives 1000 points, while the Ghetto is pushed completely to the edge and is evaluated with only 400 points. By mouse-click, the photographic surfaces of Frankfurt's city centre are symbolically rearranged in its appearance. The video game is the starting point for an installation of Paula Roush, which extends a series of images into the space outside the GAK.
The work of the three artists is a small " but exemplary showcase of contemporary artistic practices dealing with the analysis and development of the city" argues Eva Schmidt.
cristina duarte, a journal of one’s own, a text dedicated to mary, margaret, valentine, alice, paula, maria and all the other women, Queer paper gardens or The wildlife of symbols Vol. V Fundacao EDP 2013
Tanja Verlak, An attempt at exhausting an archive /Found Photo Foundation, in the catalogue "Dear Aby Warburg, what can be done with images? Dealing with Photographic Material" Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen
Ludwig Seyfarth, Space for thinking between the images: on the genesis of the 'photographic collection' as an artistic genre, in the catalogue "Dear Aby Warburg, what can be done with images? Dealing with Photographic Material" Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen
Steve Smith, Contemporary Post-Studio Art Practice and its Institutional Currency, Investigative study with interviews with five U.K based artists, Louise Ashcroft, Claire Blundell Jones, Helene Kazan, Danny Pockets and paula roush, University of Westminster (MA in Visual Cultures)