History of Our World

Joseph Beuys and the Celtic World

Posted in Art, Object, Performance by R on May 19, 2010

Joseph Beuys (photographed by Caroline Tisdall).

Beuys completing the Brain of Europe drawing for his Hearth installation at the Royal Feldman Gallery, New York 1975 (photographed by Caroline Tisdall).

Beuys at Sandycove, where James Joyce lived before leaving Ireland for Europe (photographed by Caroline Tisdall).

Beuys investigating the plant life of Ireland, November 1974 (photographed by Caroline Tisdall).

Performing Celtic (Kinloch Rannoch) Scottish Symphony, 1970 (photographed by Richard Demarco).

Beuys at the Giant’s Causeway, Antrim, Northern Ireland, c.1970 (photographed by Caroline Tisdall).

Forrest Hill Poorhouse doors, c.1980 (photographed by Caroline Tisdall).

Caroline Tisdall in conversation with Sean Rainbird, 2001.

Sean Rainbird: Is there a single work in the Bits and Pieces collection that has an especial importance for you?

Caroline Tisdall: There are many themes running through the collection; lots about alchemy, humour, about plants and the transformation of energy. Interconnecting Vases [Two Vases with Precious Water 1975] is probably one of the definitive images in this collection. It was made with blood and insulin, when Beuys was in hospital in 1975 following his heart attack. He was having treatment in Düsseldorf before he went to the spa in Bad Rothenfelde.

SR: So it commemorates a private event, when his health was endangered and he was physically at his most vulnerable?

CT: It is a symbol of love, friendship and reciprocity. ‘C’ and ‘D’ [Cosmas and Damian] with the cross, the triangle and, at the bottom ‘J’ and ‘C’, which could be Joseph and Caroline. The triangle is usually a trinity symbol. In all my earlier writings, I must confess I rather suppressed the Christian angle, but should acknowledge it more now. We did talk about it a lot. Fundamental to his work was the transformation of material and I think you almost have to be brought up a Catholic to use that as a creative principal.

I am a Celt and a total pagan. We often talked about spirituality. By the 1980’s he was certainly not a practicing Catholic. … But there were many elements of Catholicism he kept, like the reincarnation of souls. He also had some fundamental ideas about death and what it means as a destination. In this collection, on an ironic level, is the Hat For Next Time [1974]. After his encounter with the Dalai Lama in 1975 he was very attracted, in later life, to Buddhism. It led to the Amsterdam conference Art meets Science some years later.

It shows in his work with Nam June Paik – particularly the works with the flame. It wasn’t exclusively a Buddhist flame though; think of his saying ‘schütze die Flamme’ (guard the flame). That connects to German philosophy and produces echoes in different cultures. He was confident talking about things which were very difficult to talk about or even taboo; Braunkreuz [‘brown cross’, the distinctive brown pigment Beuys used], the German oak. He felt himself to have grown up in a Catholic, Celtic enclave [in Cleves]. The Lower Rhine is a strange spiritual place, literally quite cut off from Germany like a bend in the river.

SR: What part does language play in this?

CT: He was very deeply rooted in the German language. His whole idea of rehabilitating Germanic imagery and symbols was because he felt that any country which cannot look at its own history is built on foundations of sand and will turn more and more to modern materialism which completely denies spirituality. He felt that was really dangerous not only because of materialism, but also because of a backlash; politically, a spin back into neo-Nazism. One so wishes he had been there when Germany was reunified [in 1989] and the whole spiritual vacuum was exposed, comparing the legacy of both forms of materialism; capitalist materialism and de-spiritualised, grey, Eastern materialism.

SR: Do these sentiments come to a head in any place in Germany you visited, or in any symbolic taboos he confronted?

CT: We went to Externstein in 1975 when he was still recovering from his heart attack. It was a day trip to an absolute taboo place, as it was one of Hitler’s shrines to the Germanic spirit. All the Germanic gods were meant to be there; one of those fat fertility goddesses was dug up there. He wanted his photograph taken with his hand over his heart. What came out was a de-politicized image. It was tongue-in-cheek but like an oath-swearing gesture. He has the confidence to do that. just like the 7000 Oaks project [1982, Kassel] which was growing in his mind at the time. The oak is the symbol that you find on the Iron Cross [a military decoration]. The Nazis had really tried to subsume it into their hierarchy of symbols. As Beuys always said, it is terrible to deny the ‘oakness’ of your countryside just because of the Nazis. If you do that, you deny your own culture, your own history. In Bits and Pieces, the earliest work is an oak-leaf drawing from 1957, a collage, the earliest I have ever seen [Untitled]. I think it is an incredible drawing, so perfect. It has his old-fashioned signature, the early sort, on the bottom right.

SR: Can his use of Braunkreuz be viewed in light of your comments about national identity?

CT: The same goes for that brown colour. That terrible Nazi thing of ‘blood and earth’ [Blut und Boden]. He actually dared to take materials like that and use them, and he reinstalled them in the canon of their ‘Germanness’.

SR: I have always been intrigued by his use of Gothic script at certain points in his career.

CT: Gothic script has its own history. If we were German we would feel sad it fell of of use because of the Nazis. Beuys wanted to undermine the misuses and reappropriate the sources. You have to remember Heinrich Böll too, doing a huge examination of the German spirit in his writing, in books like The Lost Honour of Katharine Blum and Faces of a Clown.

SR: How well did they know one another?

CT: Beuy’s friendship with Böll was very significant. You can follow it through the decades. Böll always used to apologize for being boring! Beuys always had difficulty reading his work, of getting beyond Chapter One. They knew each other well enough for him to feel how it went on after that. The Organization for Direct Democracy through Referendum and the Free International University for Interdisciplinary Research [FIU] were both collaboration with Heinrich Böll. It was was great for Beuys to have a kindred spirit like that on his level, and vice versa…

SR: At what point did he intimate that he was building a collection for you. Or did it become obvious over time that this was happening?

CT: That’s a very interesting question. I’ve never thought about it. Everything with Beuys happened in such a natural way, but I imagine that by the time whole sets of things came, like the four botanical drawings Rosemary, Calendula (Marigold), Nasturtium, Pomegranate [all 1975], he was obviously building up to something. Rosemary is obviously for remembrance. And he was very fond of my mother, who was a Shakespearean actress in her younger days. And I was born in Stratford-upon-Avon. So rosemary features in the botanical things. Then calendula, which is an incredibly important homeopathic plant. When he sent it it was an amazing orange like the sun.

The collection reflects pretty accurately what was going on while it was being formed. He then actually suggested exhibiting it, and we showed it at Paul Negau’s Generative Art Gallery in 1976. By then it had its main themes: its Celtic and botanic themes, its mystical theme, alchemy and politics. The other thing there from the beginning was his interest in language: plays on words and the examinations of puns, differences between languages and curious things about English. Like the riddle in Three Hares 1975: ‘Drei Hasen und die Ohren drei und doch hat jeder seiner zwei’ (if there are three hares and three ears, how can each hare have two ears?).

SR: What strikes me is that it is a very practical lexicon, not a set of instructions, but a densely planted approach to someone’s art. You can read a lot of these objects very directly.

CT: Absolutely. It gives you the homeopathic, the herbal, Rudolf Steiner, biodynamics, concerns with nature as a whole, the environment, the imbalance of the spirit and the material. These run through the whole block.

SR: He seemed to have a special gift of allowing a small object to speak volumes about complex issues and projects.

CT: Take the bandage, for instance, issued to German soldiers during the war [Untitled 1977]. If you put that in a vitrine it becomes monumental; it gives you the theme of the war and a whole phase of his autobiography, and in signing such an object, he claimed it’s whole history.

Bits and Pieces 1957-85, [is] a rich body of objects, drawings and multiples compiled over a decade by the artist for the writer and filmmaker Caroline Tisdall. Numbering around 300 items Bits and Pieces constitutes a comprehensive lexicon of the artist’s material and ideas.


Joseph Beuys and the Celtic World | Scotland, Ireland and England 1970-85

Sean Rainbird

Tate Publishing



Joseph Beuys

Sean Rainbird

Tate Publishing



A Line in the Water | Norman Ackroyd & Douglas Dunn

Posted in Art, Literature, Print by R on January 16, 2010

Atlantic Sunlight, Kerry
2008 · 20.5 x 33 cm · [579]

Sailing very close to Little Skellig, the rock is relegated to a backdrop by the size, noise and smell of the birds.

Tay bridge
1988 · 14.5 x 18.5 cm · [1988/3]

The Tay Rail Bridge, a replacement for the infamous bridge that collapsed in 1879, killing 75 train passengers, links the ancient kingdom of Fife with the northern regions of Angus and beyond.

St. John’s Head
1996 · 15 x 19.5 cm · [1996/9]

At 1,134 ft. the spectacular cliffs of St. John’s Head in the Island of Hoy in Orkney are the highest in Britain. The Old Man of Hoy, close to Rackwick Bay, is the highest sea stack in Britain.

Oranmore, Evening
1998 · 18.5 x 26 cm · [1998/5]

Oranmore Castle, which dominates the inner reaches of Galway Bay, was commandeered as barracks by Oliver Cromwell in the mid-seventeenth century.

1996 · 15 x 20.5 cm · [1996/3]

The remaining standing stones at Stenness on the Orkney mainland are at the heart of an enormous consecration of early remains dating back 5,000 years.

Atlantic Rain
2000 · 19 x 27 cm · [2000/4]
The islands of Inishkea stand in an exposed position in the Atlantic off the Belmullet Peninsula in West Mayo.

Rora Head, Hoy
1997 · 15 x 21 cm · [434]

Rora Head forms the northern bluff of Rackwick Bay on the Island of Hoy in Orkney.

Stiffkey Freshes
2004 · 19 x 32 cm · [2004/5]

Stiffkey, pronounced ‘stookey’, is an old established settlement on the North Norfolk coast.

Blakeney Church
2004 · 19 x 32 cm · [2004/8]

Blakeney Church sits on one of the highest points of the moraine ridge that defines the northern edge of Norfolk.

Study of Sun and Rain I, Skellig Rocks
1999 · 45 x 61 cm · [460]

In extreme weather conditions, when landing is impossible, the two Skellig Rocks, which are a mile apart, appear and disappear behind waves and sheets of rain in a disconcerting manner. The scream of seabirds mixed with the thunder of the Atlantic, the taste of of salt and the stench of rotten fish from the gannets of Little Skellig is all-pervading.

Dun Caan, Raasay’s Cap
2005 · 19.5 x 32 cm · [2005/3]

James Boswell climbed Dun Caan and danced a jig on its flat, 1,400 ft. summit when he visited the Isle of Raasay with Dr. Johnson in 1773.

In the culture of candlelight,
An inward scholarship –
Eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and fingertip
Poised close to the point of the flame.
And this is how I feel tonight
In a monastic solitude,
One who has known his life subdued
By the sensory, his name
Dipped in envanishments
And their collected moments
All left unedited,
Unsifted, in candlelight
Where the many dead
Prowl, and stars ignite,
Frost silvers shrubs and grass.
All will pass. All will pass.

I do not guarantee
My resignation to all of this.
There are the memories of kiss,
Remembrances of harmony.
These pass only from me.
There will be echoes.
I sense them from centuries ago.
There’s no such thing as
I don’t know much, but that I know.
Look at the towering night-sky.
Look at the waters, this firth
Powering birth and rebirth.
And seen from this small cell
Built for discomfort,
Penitence and prayer,
Islanded, seagirt,
infinite and celestial



A Line in the Water

Norman Ackroyd [CBE, R.A] : Douglas Dunn [OBE]

Royal Academy of Arts



Norman Ackroyd

Douglas Dunn

Royal Academy of Arts


Estate 1-127 | Peter Saville, 2007

Posted in Art, Music, Print by B on November 30, 2009


Joy Division Closer
Album cover proof, 360 x 645 mm
Martyn Atkins & Peter Saville, 1980

Encouraged by seeing Philip Johnson’s 1978 designs for the AT&T building in New York – a skyscraper with a broken pediment – Saville’s design for Closer marked a shift away from an industrial aesthetic towards to one more neo-Classical in character. Making use of what is believed to be one of the earliest forms of serif lettering (2nd century BC) and a photograph by Bernard Pierre Wolff of the Appiani family tomb in the Cimitero Mosumentale di Staglieno, Genoa, Italy, Saville echoed Jan Tschichold’s own late shift away from the utilitarian strictures of his signature work towards a form of neo-Classicism tempered by the austerity of Modernism.

Joy Division Closer
Label proofs, 438 x 230 mm
Martyn Atkins and Peter Saville, 1980

Referencing the design used by the by the classical music company Deutsche Grammophon.

Factory Communications Limited logotype
251 x 160mm
Peter Saville & Brett Wickens, 1981.

Mechanical artwork for the Factory Communications Limited logotype. The letter F can be seen in the head of the calipers, the C in the gear wheel, and the L where the calipers meet the anvil. Like much of Saville’s work at this time, these graphics embodied a mixture of romantic associations. Living in Manchester in the late 1970s and 1980s, the atmospheres evoked by European Modernist aesthetics – whether specific connotations of Futurism, Constructivism or De Stijl or simply for a post-war Europe of faded grandeur and chilly technocratic progress; city names on radio dials (Paris, Berlin, Moscow); cafes filled with radical intellectuals; doomed lovers on the overnight Trans-Europe Express to Vienna; David Bowie recording Heroes in the shadow of the Iron Curtain – seemed both a world apart from the grim, post-industrialist realities of North-West England, and also strangely familiar. For those associated with Factory, the appropriation of European avant-garde imagery was, in Saville’s words, about “changing the here and now instead of going somewhere else”.

Ribbon Swatch
295 x 210 mm

Used to specify the ribbon colour for the cover of the posthumous Joy Division album Still, released by Factory Records in 1981.


A Basket of Roses by Henri Fantin-Latour, 1890
Postcard, 105 x 150 mm

Postcard bought by Saville in the gift shop of the National Gallery, London, which inspired the use of Fantin-Latour’s still life for the cover of Power, Corruption and Lies by New Order. Rather than illustrate the album’s Machiavellian-sounding title literally, Saville approached the design with ideas of coding and camouflage in mind. He devised a system in which all the information usually found on a album (such as artist names, titles and credits) could be embedded with code that index-linked numbers and letters to specific colours. Saville combined these encryptions with the shapes found on a floppy disk – an object symbolising not only the latest in computer technology at the time but also another method of information coding. Fantin-Latour’s sumptuous painting, with its association of bourgeois kitsch and establishment taste, worked as a pointed historical counterpoint to the technological ciphers; one that not only suggested institutional deceit and chicanery in a general sense – but in the context of 1980’s Britain, could also be read as a comment on the twinning of rapacious free-market economics with the ultra-traditionalist rhetoric of the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
When Saville first sought permission from the National Gallery to have A Basket Of Roses photographed for the cover, he was told that this would be impossible, as it was currently on loan from the museum. On hearing this, Tony Wilson telephoned the National Gallery, using his journalistic credentials to reach the director of the museum himself. Wilson reportedly asked the leading question “Who actually owns the paintings in the national collection?” to which the director answered “The people of Britain”.”Well, its the people who want it”, replied Wilson.

Peter Saville Estate traces the development of designer, artist and cultural observer Peter Saville, from his groundbreaking work for Factory Records in the late 1970s, through to his most recent explorations of the role played by art and design in the highly commodified, visually hyper-literate 21st century. Peter Saville Estate is not a conventional account of Saville’s professional practice, rather it collects together work, reference material and ephemera from his archive to form an illuminating and highly personal typography of the life and working methods of one of the most influential designers of the last 30 years.


Peter Saville Estate 1-127

Essays by Michael Bracewell and Heike Munder, captions by Dan Fox, Slater Bradley, Liam Gillick, Steven Gontarski, Thomas Grünfeld, Robert Longo, Sarah Morris, Nick Relph & Oliver Payne, Sean Synder, Wolfgang Tillmans, Kelly Walker and T.J Wilcox.

JRP | Ringier

In association with migros museum für gegenwartskunst, Zurich.



Peter Saville

Factory Records

JRP | Ringier


John Pawson

Posted in Architecture, Print by R on October 22, 2009

Barn, John Pawson

Tilty Barn, Essex, 1995

Barn, John Pawson


Barn, John Pawson


Barn, John Pawson


John Pawson was never meant to be an architect. As far as his father was concerned, his life was to be defined by Eton, Oxford and the family textile business. However, touched by the incendiary spirit of the late 1960’s, Pawson left school without completing his final exams, and even though he did his best in the family firm, he was acutely aware that he would never be able to match the business skills of his father.

It was time spent in Japan that turned him to thinking about architecture, and his connections with the London art world gave him the chance to put those experiences to practical use when he came back from Asia. Pawson had gone to Japan for the first time back in 1973, to escape from the emotional turmoil of an abandoned wedding. In the aftermath, he met someone at a party who offered him a first-class round-the-world ticket for £200, which he accepted without question. Tokyo was his first stop, partly inspired by a fascination with Zen and Japan, and a notion of becoming a Buddhist.

Akira Hayakawa, a karate instructor who had taught Pawson in Chester-le-Street when he was working in the family textile factory nearby, met him at Nagoya airport and introduced him to what was anything but the Japan of the Samurai and tea ceremonies that Pawson had been expecting. Instead, he found himself negotiating a grim landscape of of car factories, endless concrete developments with power cables dangling from every available surface, brash neon-lit Pachinko parlors and claustrophobic subways crammed with people.

Pawson, however, was determined to absorb himself in the Japan of his imagination and, upon arrival, insisted on staying at a ryokan. Part of the routine was a diet of fish paste and pickles for breakfast, a damp bed and a nine o’clock curfew. Still, this did not deter Pawson from further exploring his ideas about Buddhism and his genuine attraction to the monastic life. His friend Akria humored his plans and drove him to one of the most beautiful monasteries in Japan, at Ei-Heji in the North. While his brief stay at the monastery cured him of his desire to live as a Buddhist monk, Pawson retains a fascination and respect for both the spiritual and aesthetic concepts of Buddhism, which he still draws on for inspiration today.

Image / Fi McGhee & John Pawson (1999). Barn. London: Booth-Clibborn Editions

Text / Deyan Sudjic (2000). John Pawson: Works. London: Phaidon


John Pawson


Booth-Clibborn Editions

B & R

David Chipperfield Architects, Neues Museum, 1997-2009

Posted in Architecture, Art by R on October 18, 2009

David Chipperfield, Neues Museum, Berlin_I

The current state of the museum’s central stair hall

David Chipperfield, Neues Museum, Berlin_II

In the Niobidensaal

David Chipperfield, Neues Museum, Berlin_III

The Römischersaal

In 1997 David Chipperfield Architects won an international competition for the restoration of Friedrich August Stüler’s 1859 Neues Museum in association with the restoration consultant Julian Harrap. Located on the Spree Island, in the heart of the former East Berlin, the building had initially been constructed to extend the space of the Altes Museum, built immediately to the south by Stüler’s teacher Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The original Neues design had formed part of an overall architectural concept for the Spree Island, prompted by Friedrich Wilhelm IV, of a series of art and archeological museums styled so as to promote a greater appreciation of classical Antiquity. Among these museums, and in terms of its construction and rich interior decoration, the Neues Museum was considered the most important monumental Prussian building of its era.

Seen today alongside the four other reconstructed museum buildings on the island, Stuler’s Neues Museum is the only structure still ruined from the war – a contrast that demonstrates ideas of history and decay in a compelling and powerful way, although throughout the building the degree of destruction varies greatly. Certain interiors have survived almost completely, with elaborate finishes and ceiling frescos still intact, while other building elements exist only as enclosures of a gaping void.

The power of the ruin stems not least from this exposed brickwork shell, investing the building, 150 years after it was first imagined, with the indelible presence of a picturesque ruin.

Given the evocative yet inaccessible space, the restoration of the Neues Museum followed a principle of conservation rather than reconstruction – this is, the design gives back only enough context so that the significance of the whole structure and the sequence of spaces contained within it are legible. Accordingly, the missing northwest wing and southeast bay are rebuilt, the enfilade of rooms is restored, and the stair and courtyard spaces are designed so as to maintain elements of the building’s own decay.

In this way, the new museum and it’s collection of Egyptian antiques should navigate carefully between de-historicized reconstruction and monumentalized preservation.

David Chipperfield: Architectural Works 1990-2002


David Chipperfield Architects

Friedrich August Stüler

Neues Museum



David Chipperfield: Architectural Works 1990-2002

Chris Watson, 2009.

Posted in Art, Music by A on October 11, 2009

Chris Watson at the Adam Art Gallery

Chris Watson, 2009.

Chris Watson’s work as a wildlife and environmental sound recordist is unparalleled. He has worked with the BBC recording and editing sound for many of David Attenborough’s great wildlife series such as The Life of Birds (1998), The Life of Mammals (2001), Life in the Undergrowth (2005) and Talking with Animals (2001) and has won numerous awards for these and other TV and radio documentaries.

As well as his work as a documentary sound recordist, Chris Watson is an artist in his own right and has produced three solo albums and many collaborative sound works. He constructs collages of sounds, which evolve from a series of recordings made at the specific locations over varying periods of time. Watson’s exploration of sound environments has taken him all over the world and has led to many bizarre and unconventional recording situations. He has recorded glacial shifts in Iceland, massive storms in the Baltic Sea, the voices and rhythms of the Humboldt current around the Galapagos Islands. Chris Watson’s performances take listeners to places hidden and inaccessible. It is cinema for the ears.

Chris Watson’s visit was made possible by alt.music and kindly supported by Adam Art Gallery, New Zealand School of Music and Frederick Street Sound and Light Exploration Society.


Chris Watson


Adam Art Gallery


Bearing, Darren Almond, 2007

Posted in Art, Film by A on September 21, 2009

Bearing Still


Bearing, Darren Almond, 2007.

From the exhibit Fire Under Snow at the Parasol unit, London (18 January 2008 – 30 March 2008)

Darren Almond’s diverse work, incorporating film, installation, sculpture and photography, deals with evocative meditations on time and duration as well as the themes of personal and historical memory.

Almond is interested in the notions of geographical limits and the means of getting there – in particular, culturally specific points of arrival and departure. Many of Almond’s works are filmed in remote and often inaccessible locations.

The artist followed a sulphur miner in Indonesia during one of the labourer’s daily journeys from the mouth of a crater to the weighing station to produce Bearing, shot with a high definition camera.


Parasol Unit

Galerie Max Hetzler

White Cube


Heart And Soul, Joy Division

Posted in Music by B on September 21, 2009

Heart & SoulHeart & SoulHeart and SoulHeart And Soul

“Joy Division passes beyond simple entertainment to re-transcribe musically the worlds of half-light and the intensity of ecstasy. Sometimes disillusioned or nostalgic accents intrude, for the experience is multiform and it’s complexity cannot be translated into a sole concept. A music at the intersection of luminous and dark worlds, between silence and the cry, a bridge between the past and present mystical symbolism.”

Excerpt from Licht Und Blindheit by Jean-Pierre Turmel.

Booklet layout and design by Peter Saville and Jon Wozencroft.


Heart And Soul – Joy Division

Joy Division

Factory Records


Touch # TO.37, Outside The Circle Of Fire, Chris Watson

Posted in Music by B on September 17, 2009

Chris Watson

“There are the sounds of secret languages, particular events that have been recorded as close up as possible to try and reveal something of their individual beauty, rhythm, eloquence and sheer power. Several of the sounds would be inaudible or radically degraded more than a few metres from the animal. Yet others collectively use the acoustics of their habitat to modulate the message. They exist, however, whether we hear them or not. Close up details of signals that are beyond our reach outside the circle of fire.”

Photography and design by Jon Wozencroft.

Dry tropical rain forest, Costa Rica, 0615h 9th April 1995. Kenya 0210h 1st March 1996


Chris Watson

Jon Wozencroft



Fashion Forward, David Sims, L’Uomo Vouge July/August 2003

Posted in Fashion, Photography, Print by R on June 12, 2009

Fashion Forward, David Sims, L'Uomo Vouge July/August 2003_I

Fashion Forward, David Sims, L'Uomo Vouge July/August 2003_II

Fashion Forward, David Sims, L’Uomo Vouge July/August 2003


David Sims

L’Uomo Vogue