This publication documents an exhibition and seminar curated by Andrew Bick, Jonathan Parsons and Katie Pratt held at The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum in early 2017. The seminar lectures are transcribed as directly as possible into print format, and an additional performance by A K Dolven of her vinyl record JA as long as I can marked the end of the event.
The title, The Order of Things, is taken from the English translation of French philosopher Michel Foucault’s 1966 book, Les Mots et les Choses, (literally translated as ‘words and things’). The book traces the origins of human thought through the arts, sciences, economics, and sociology. Underpinning Foucault’s discussion is the anthropological argument that human categorisation strategy – how we label things - is limited. Furthermore, our use of language fails us in our emotional response to art. Taking Foucault’s book as starting point, this book reflects on the inherent humanity in how artists conceptualise and structure their creativity.
Whilst not pictorial itself, much of the work in The Order of Things is offset by the figurative title, encouraging the audience to project the point where the artwork unites with its name. Many artworks deliberately mismatch language and image, so that the appearance or the textual content is apparently incongruous with the title. A regular theme is how a character is transformed, through repetition and context, from a squiggle to something legible and comprehensible. Conversely, other works contemplate the extent to which a symbol can degenerate before it becomes indecipherable.
The project was organised in partnership with The Cheltenham Trust and Creative Arts as Research at The University of Gloucestershire, supported by the Being Human Research Priority Area and Arts Council England.
Published by The Everyday Press, 68 pgs, 22 × 16.5 cm, Softcover, 2018, 9781912458004