Open Frequency 2010: Blue MacAskill selected by Karen Ingham

Open Frequency 2010: Blue MacAskill selected by Karen Ingham Blue MacAskill, The Inner Picture, 2010. Film, video, digital. 20cm x 30cm. Credit: Blue MacAskill

Karen Ingham profiles the work of Blue MacAskill

From January 2008 to January 2009 the artist Blue MacAskill was given access to the collections of the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. Her response to this treasure trove of images and information was to create a series of digital photographs that play with notions of historicity, memorabilia and nostalgia.

A library is first and foremost a repository of knowledge but until relatively recently libraries were perceived to be primarily the domain of scholars and the ‘bookish’. National collections such as those housed at Aberystwyth were deemed to be off-limits to those outside academia. In recognition of this the National Library adopted a more open door policy and is now actively seeking to entice the public to sample its collections.

As artist in residence MacAskill’s response to challenging these assumptions of exclusivity was to focus on the photographic collections and the fascinating magic lantern slides, playfully extracting elements of the past and digitally re-appropriating them for the present. MacAskill’s photography is an important part of how the artist plays with notions of history, celebrating people who might have been forgotten, while writing them into a new context. Working across photography, video and sculptural installation, the artist researched stories and images from the past to create digital deconstructions/reconstructions. Using a montage effect reminiscent of a 3D ‘pop-up’ postcard the artist ‘cuts’ and redisplays extracts from the collection in a way that would be impossible, criminal even, using non-digital tools. In ‘Jeepers Creepers’ (2008) a group of men and their motors strut their stuff in a bizarre tableau in which one of the characters is, quite literally, stepping out of time and place.

‘Birds’ (2008) depicts a picture postcard seaside view, circa 1950’s, only the eponymous birds have been given a ghostly digital resurrection and are flying out of the frame and into an unknown future. Likewise, ‘Butterscape’, a moving image work, (2009) captures the instant a butterfly escapes from its past, leaving the archive behind. ‘Two Halves Make A Whole’ (2008) demonstrates MacAskill’s interest in the magic lantern slide show, a source of inspiration for many of her images. MacAskill’s residency with the National Library allowed the artist to act as an amateur historiographer, raising important questions about the very meaning and construction of history, which can never have a singular authoritative meaning but must, by its very nature, be subject to multiple meanings and manifestations. ‘Falling Apart’ (2008) illustrates this most subtly: historical photographic moments fading, cracking, eroding and falling apart, despite the best efforts of the archivist.

Equipped with her digital tools MacAskill offers an alternative future for this otherwise lost moment in time: to deconstruct the past and represent it as the present.

Karen Ingham, March 2010

View Blue MacAskill's profile > 

Artist's biography

Powys-based artist Blue MacAskill graduated from the University of Oxford Ruskin School of Fine Art in 1999 then went on to do a Masters in Fine Art at Wimbledon School of Art (2004). In 2006 she was awarded the Eisteddfod Artist in Residence Exhibition, and in 2008, the artist in residence post at The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. In 2009 MacAskill received a Fellowship Cultural Award, funded by EUarts, for a three-month residency in Seville.

Selected exhibitions and screenings include Studio Hache, Seville (2009), Other Rooms, Other Voices, The National Library of Wales (2008-9); Blaengar Projects, Sculpture, film, performance, The Tannery, Machynlleth (2008); Goddesses of Industry, Duwiesau Diwydiant, National Waterfront Museum, Swansea (2007); After Urban, ArtExpo 2007:  University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA (2007); FRAME, ArtExpo 2006: International Dance-Video Festival at Rivoli Teatro Municipal / ESAP / Escola das Artes - Catholic University in Porto, Portugal (2006); 5th International Hull Short Film Festival (2006); Temporary Cities - Video Art & Architecture event at the Cultural Communication Centre of Klaipeda, Lithuania (2006); Goddesses of Industry, Cywaith Cymru, Artist in Residence at The National Eisteddfod of Wales, Felindre (2006).

Upcoming projects during 2010 include a residency and exhibition at CARAD, Museum Rhayader, Powys; Builth Wells Regeneration Project, with artist Alex Allpress, and Walking With Artists, three interactive live events in Wales with nine artists, curated and lead by MacAskill. From April to June the Rhayader Museum and Gallery, Powys will show The Inner Picture by Blue MacAskill, inspired by 16-25 year olds and their lives in Powys.

About Karen Ingham

Karen Ingham is an artist, writer and curator, and the director of various research initiatives in lens-based arts, and arts, science and technology collaborations at Dynevor Centre for Art, Design and Media at Swansea Metropolitan University. She was born in England but raised in the United States, Germany and Norway, returning to England to study time-based arts in Nottingham in the 1980s. Following graduation she worked as an independent film director and screenwriter before moving to Wales where she worked at Chapter Arts Centre and the BBC before returning to her own practice. She gained an MPhil with the University of Wales in 2001 and a Doctorate in 2006 with research into historical and contemporary arts and science collaborations in the anatomical theatre.

Ingham works in lens-based arts and her practice is interdisciplinary, incorporating theory and practice. She has received support from The British Film Institute, The Wellcome Trust, The Arts & Humanities Research Council, The Arts Council of Wales and The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. She was awarded a 2006 Arts & Humanities Research Council 'Sci-Art Fellowship' for the project 'Seeds of Memory' where she collaborated with the Cardiff Neuroscience Research Group, and her installation 'Vanitas: Seed-Head', has been shown at The Waag, Amsterdam (2005) and ENTER 3 Festival, Prague (2007).

Her practice has been widely exhibited and disseminated with publications in distribution with Dewi Lewis Publishing, Ffotogallery Publications and Seren Books. Her research focuses predominantly on: biomedical discourse, 'Anatomy Lessons' (2004) and 'Re: Embodiments' (2008-10); the mind-body continuum, 'Vanitas: Seed-Head' (2005) and 'Seeds of Memory' (2006); the photographic memento-mori, 'Death's Witness' (2001); and the notion of place and belonging, 'Lost' (1998), 'Paradise Park' (2000), 'Ha Ha: Margam Re-visited' (2002 and co-edited with Christopher Coppock), and 'Unnatural Histories' (2008). Karen Ingham is represented by Millennium Images London and IRIS International Resource for Women's Photography.

Karen Ingham's research at Swansea Met University
Karen Ingham's profile on Iris (Research Group) 

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