‘Bodies That Matter’, Thomas Gardner & Irene Revell in conversation

A conversation between Thomas Gardner, MA Course Leader, and Irene Revell, Curator and Associate Lecturer on Bodies that Matter, the London College of Communication MA Sound Arts exhibition in December 2015.

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Thomas: The MA Sound Arts course concluded with a fantastic group show, which you curated. It was such a striking event that we thought it would be interesting to reflect a bit on how it came about. 

The students this year, Tomoko, David, Winnie, Miles, Rahel and Adam, have produced work for radically different situations during the year, for example: improvising with David Toop and Christian Marclay at the White Cube, performance of their work with the refurbished organ at the Union Chapel in Islington, curating their own show responding to the HerNoise archive at Café Oto. The different contexts of these events, with their different histories, power structures and expectations, placed very different and sometimes quite tricky demands on the students, which they responded to with great skill. They are obviously able to make work of very different kinds, and I wondered how you brought all this together in the final show, at Flat Time House. It seemed to fit in the space very naturally, and the work responded to the proportions and qualities of the space. Could you tell me something about the curation process that lead to this.

Irene: Its a really wonderful surprise that the group decided to organise their own exhibition at the OTO project space earlier in the year - and also notable that they chose to make the show from the work they had made in response to the Her Noise Archive - and I'm sure it had a lot to do with all these wonderful opportunities the group had already been given to work together. During our module together in the Summer Term, 'Curatorial Contexts', I had particularly wanted to emphasise the process of building a context around one's own work and the multifarious points of intersection between artistic and curatorial practices. The invited guest speakers, Lucy Railton, Pil & Galia Kollectiv, Margarida Mendes and of course Flat Time House [the former home and studio of late British artist John Latham], all highlighted this in different ways.
And so the decision to work with Flat Time House for the final exhibition flowed rather naturally from these conversations. There are quite precise art historical factors that make it apt, I believe - not least the long history that David Toop, who is of course one of the tutors on the MA course, shared with John Latham, having met him in the late 1960s, but also others closely related to Latham with a significant legacy in this area of work such as composer Annea Lockwood and sound poet Bob Cobbing. But its most importantly the very notion of Flat Time House that folds the making of work and its exhibition into one, along with the everyday work of living. The exhibition stemmed very much from this particular environment, which is at once both formal and domestic in both symbolical and practical terms. Not that the works were necessarily site specific - although all of course were developed with the specific spaces in mind. It was only Tomoko Hojo's that directly engaged with the memories triggered for her by certain parts of the furniture and architecture - and to a lesser degree Rahel Kraft whose performance work Ouiouioui took the fabric of the building very much into its structure.

Thomas: Yes, I quite agree - John Latham’s house and the many links it has with the course made it a most sympathetic place to have the show- there were a variety of undercurrents influencing the year which surfaced at that point. For example, the group improvisation classes that everyone participated in with David Toop at the start of the year seemed to translate into a skill in collective listening, which carried on even when people were focused on their individual works. I'm really interested in the interplay between the collectivities implied in ’group improvisation’ and the individual artistic identities revealed in the final works, and yours was a key role in facilitating this.

I'm looking forward to collaborating with you again next year and seeing how it all comes together in the show in December 2016.


Read more about Bodies that Matter exhibition and the MA Sound Arts course at London College of Communication.