Friday, 23 March 2007


A Society of Little Beings

The two objects in this image have a relationship through their formal qualities. For example, both have been made with everyday materials that we are familiar with but are not used to seeing in this form or context. The similar scale of the objects makes the relationship work: although they are similar in scale, one being small and one being tall creates just enough harmony and discordance within the relationship. Although there is a space between them they are still close enough together to be seen as having a relationship: the tall one is facing the small one and it looks as if it is watching over it or looking down on it. The square pieces of cardboard on the front of the small object relate to the cardboard used in the taller object and because they are square in shape they also reflect the structured form of the taller object. I also think that because they've been made by one person that a relationship can be seen through the language.

On Kawara: 'I am still alive'

The artist On Kawara sent a series of telegrams to friends saying : I am still alive. Although the telegrams were sent during the 1970s, I feel that this work is very relevant today in the current climate of contemporary art where the role of Relational Aesthetics is now prevalent. What I like about this piece of work is that it shows relational art working outside the normal art context i.e. outside the gallery space or studio space. A new space has been created whereby all forms of human relations and sociabilty, become a vehicle for creating art. It shows a different way of making art i.e. instead of making art in a private space, the art is actually made in the outside world. These simple telegrams were sent to people by the artist, which created a relational interstice between the artist and people in the outside world.

Relational (art)
A set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independant and private space.

Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics,les presses du reel

10 July 1921: (from left to right) Freddy Bywaters, Edith and Percy Thompson (Courtessy of Associated Newspapers Press)

For a Synopsys of the story into the case of Edith Thompson and Freddy Bywaters from the book Criminal Justice : please look in 'comments'

The relationship between the people in this image is suggested strongly by the body language. A woman between two men. The men seem to be quite content in that male way i.e. reading the newspaper, but she looks as if she is in deep thought possibly troubled. She's not looking at the camera instead she's staring into space. She is sat closer to Percy, which could indicate that this is the person she is closest to; or is she sitting closer to him becaause she feels she must. Edith and Freddy look closer in age and both are very handsome. Percy almost looks like the father (figure) of Edith and Freddy. Percy looks more mature, and Freddy and Edith look very youthful.

I also think the relationship between them and the photographer is interesting. It's almost as if they don't realise the photo is being taken, because none of them are paying attention i.e. they're not looking at the camera or smiling etc. but maybe that was the fashion in the 20s i.e. to have pictures taken but not pose for them - or maybe this was the pose?? (i.e. to look natural and unposed). On the other hand, I don't think it would be very easy to contrive that forlorn look on Edith's face, so maybe they were caught off their guard.

What I find most disturbing about the Thompson and Bywater's story, is the relationship of society towards Edith Thompson. She did not committ murder, yet still they hung her; she had sex outside marriage and they were not going to let her get away with it. It seems that she was condemned by the so called 'rightious'.


Wendy said...

Hi Gwen, the last section on your blog was interesting - and quite a surprize I have to admit; slightly different from the Gwen I was expecting! Placing it with the others certainly lends a more edgy perpspective to your work! What made you place it with the other relationships? I may have completly missed the point but is it about different support mechanisms, between two/ three things, whether people or sculptures/objects/representations? x

gwen said...

Hi Wendy
Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate them and I will be soon posting more comments myself in relation to other people's blogs.

My idea for this blog is to take each word and make a display that relates to it. I will look at the word from differennt points of view: it could be serious, humerous, ironic, bizarre and so on. I sappose the main link is the word itself and to take it to different realms. Hopefully make a display that makes people want to stop look at and read?
I read this book when it was first published and I have never been able to get it out of my head. As I see it the miscarriage of justice committed by society - dressed up in the guise of respectabilty. I also think the image is intersting her face uneasy, pensive, starring into space - she had no idea what lay ahead of her. The body language - the dynamics of the relationship. There is the relationship between the three of them, but I am more concerned about the relationshop of/with society.
By the way the book is not sentimentalised -it's documentary type book.

I see what you mean though, because the other images directly relation to art theories - but I do want to open things up to differnt realms and I will as ever be editing!! G x

Julia Tester said...

Hi Gwen, Thanks for helping with the tranfer of word to blog! Imade it.

As I said the other day, I have the novel Fred And Edie by Jill Dawson but have never read it, for various reasons. Would you like it?
Thanks again Ta for now,Julia

gwen said...

Hi Julia

Thanks so much, but I don't think I'll take you up on your kind offer. I think that book has sentimentalised it.
I would recommend reading Criminal Justice.

Thanks see you soon.
Gwen x

gwen said...

Edith Thompson and Freddy Bywaters case:

Since her execution at Holloway Prison in 1923, Edith Thompson has haunted the conscience of the nation. Grave doubts were expressed at the time about the extent to which she was responsible for her husband's murder in Ilford by her handsome lover Frederick Bywaters. Later F. Tennyson Jesse wrote a novel called A Pin to See the Peepshow based on the gruesome events leading up to the last double hanging this century. The Home Office files on the case were marked not to be opened for 100 years.

The case against Edith Thompson rested largely on the eveidence provided by some seventy letters which she wrote to Bywaters. That correspondence has been admired by some for its wit and intellegence, execrated by others for its intimations of sensuality, sexual betrayal and conjugal oppression. The truth is that the letters offer a unique insight into the workings of an overwrought romantic imagination, ultimately unable to free itself from the constraints of suburban marriage and respectablility.

Through the correspondence, and a painstaking reconstruction of the era and environment of Edith Thompson, Rene Weis argues that Mrs Thompson was innocent. In the end she was the victim of a moral climate which cast her in the role of a femme fatale who seduced a younger man and thereby brought herself, him and her husband to perdition.

Not only her death, but the manner of her death has long been the subject of rumours and bitter controversy. Dr Weis has had access to the closed Home Office files and here addresses the facts for the first time.

Edith Thompson was possessed by an irresistable zest for life. As a study of that life - and death - Criminal Jusice is an eloquent indictment of those who still campaign for the death penalty. It is equally eloquent about a society which refused - and perhaps still refuses - to acknowledge female sexuality.

Rene Weis, Criminal Justice, Hamish Hamilton, 1988

(Rene Weiss is now a Professor of English)