University of Incidental Knowledge staff show & #tweetart

Westgate Studios
Wakefield, UK
28th March 2012
Private view 5-9pm
Initiated by Alice and Bob curate

The University of Incidental KnowledgeA group exhibition by the University of Incidental Knowledge course leaders: Louise Atkinson (BA Hons Comedy & Bsc Social Media), Fundada (BA Hons Foreign Language), Vanessa Haley (BA Hons Film), Debi Holbrook (BA Hons Avant Garde), Duncan Lister (NVQ Pedantics), Bob Milner (BA Hons Cut ‘n’ Paste & Diploma in Artwank), and Sparrow+Castice (MPhil Mistakes).
The University of Incidental Knowledge is a collaboration based on a higher education model, incorporating self-directed and peer-to-peer learning. Incidental knowledge is acquired through chance, through the process of doing something else such as a journey, a day job, a holiday, watching a film or overhearing a conversation. It is unexpected, unintentional, extraneous, random, accidental or found, discovered in connection with, or resulting from, a primary activity. 
It’s been quite a while since I’ve frequented the streets of Wakefield before I defected to Leeds. At that time there were stirrings of cultural activity, but perhaps too far under the radar for me to know about. I saw Leeds as the much more cosmopolitan sibling, with flocks of new student intakes arriving each year, beguiled by its Northern cheek and charm. In the intervening years, I’ve been happy to see the grass roots cultural takeover of Yorkshire cities, and in that respect Wakefield has been no different. However, whereas Leeds has always been able to fall back on its financial roots, former industrial cities have, by necessity, enabled more creative endeavours to develop as part of their infrastructure.
This brings me to Westgate Studios, an unassuming block of studio units housed above a city centre nightclub, but home to a large creative peer network who regularly host exhibitions by international artists in the venue. The artist-led, non-hierarchical ethos seems to favour creativity over bureaucracy and it shows in the projects they produce. Since opening, the studios have seen the creation of a dedicated project space for new work, a number of international residencies, an art bar known as The Prince Albert*, and the formation of new collaborative groups such as the University of Incidental Knowledge, among others.
This Wednesday sees the fruits of those various labours go on show in the form of the University of Incidental Knowledge staff show, #tweetart and the launch of the A6 part 3 zine, as part of the bi-monthly Artwalk.
*The Prince Albert has now been transformed into Peep Gallery and will be showing a selection of #tweetart at each Artwalk during 2012. For more info on submitting to the exhibitions, click here

Service Delivery Agreement

Those of you who are avid readers of my blog will know that I’ve decided to undertake a new project. I announced it in response to an exhibition premise called #tweetart and my element was to paint the avatars of the people who follow me. That number currently stands at about 880. ‘That’s quite a large undertaking’ remarked one tweet, followed by ‘Make sure you get my good side’. It is a large undertaking, which is why I revealed it on a public forum to make me beholden to the bizarre challenges I set for myself.
Louise Atkinson @legalbizzle
Unfortunately, this is not the only project I’m working on at the moment, because I literally can’t understand why I shouldn’t be able to do all the things I want to, despite evidence to the contrary. However, up to this point, the time I dedicate to art making has been sadly lacking in favour of curatorial and education projects. So I’m currently spending a lot more time in the studio and getting quicker at painting with each piece of work.

This is quite fortuitous because as I write this I am working on 3 separate #tweetart paintings so I have enough work for theUniversity of Incidental Knowledge staff show next week. Thankfully I’m course leader for (BSc) Social Media, so a series of avatar paintings is totally relevant. You see, although I may lack focus, it seems there’s an underlying ouvre that I can always rely on to bring my projects together. By the way, here’s @legalbizzle

More Tweetart

So, after deciding to commit to the #tweetart project I was very pleased that it only took me a couple of days to complete my first painting and I began the next one in earnest, with renewed enthusiasm for making art. It’s usually at this point that the realisation of the task starts to dawn and motivation begins to wane ever so slightly. What seemed like an amazing idea in the first instance, gives way to the realities of actually making the work. I would feel a bit guilty about this, but I’ve sat in lectures with internationally renowned artists who have expressed just that sentiment. I suppose it’s one of the pitfalls about valuing ideas over process; once the idea has been had, the rest is the donkey work.*
Louise Atkinson @jimrali

Anyway, to help me get into the flow** again, I decided to look at a few of the Twitter avatars of people who’d RT’d and/or asked to take part to see if I could get any inspiration. Apart from anything else it was great to see the reach of my part of the project and I started to find people who I’d not spoken to before who were tweeting about my venture.
This was how I happened upon @jimrali, whose avatar, a pixelated graphic of a man’s face, seemed like a relatively simple painting to make after my initial @peepart one. Not so dear reader. Turns out that painting small squares well enough to satisfy my perfectionist streak is the hardest thing I’ve ever done artwise (cue dead funny joke about artists and structure). So, after two failed attempts, and a couple of minor strops, I finally completed the next edition of my #tweetart project. Ladies and gentleman, I give you @jimrali.

* Of course there are many things to learn and explore throughout the process of making, but I find that it rarely beats the rush of endorphins that accompany the initial idea.
** If ever you find yourself struggling to get started on things, then watch this video.


This is my second blog post in as many days so I’m feeling quite proud of myself for that. As for art making, I’m currently wrestling with a few opportunities and exhibitions, so I’m stuck in my studio trying to trick myself into thinking that I don’t want to go outside and enjoy the early spring. One of the shows is a project called #tweetart, instigated on twitter by @peepart, with the only requirement for entering being that artists had a twitter account. I’ve been meaning to submit something for a while but didn’t have any inspiration. That is, until I decided to go meta and paint avatars as a kind of visual #ff to people who responded to the idea of being involved.

My first thought was to draw them onto board with pastel as I’ve been working a lot with this medium lately. However, it seems acrylic was the most effective way to make the images, so I picked up a brush for the first time in years and started painting.

Those of you who are artists will understand how a non-painter feels about this, after spending much of my artistic career explaining to people that I don’t paint despite the fact I’m an artist, but I’m not one to restrict myself arbitrarily. One of the main reasons I stopped painting tho, is that I’m notoriously messy, and usually get the urge to make art when I’m wearing nice things, so I’m expecting to run out of clothes without paint on them within about a month. I’m currently working on the next images for the show and hoping that one or more will be finished soon. So for now I’ll leave you with my first #tweetart contribution, a portrait of @peepart.


New book

After sending the call out for the new Artist Book Collective exhibition, ‘Bound’, I decided to create a new work specifically for the show. I’m becoming increasingly interested in female literary characters, in this instance, Penelope from the Odyssey, with a view to researching contemporary critical sources such as Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Penelopiad’ and Janine Antoni’s ‘Slumber’, as well as the original text.

Odysseus’ absence during and after the Trojan War leads numerous suitors to attempt to woo his wife Penelope, to gain position as head of the kingdom. Penelope devises tricks to delay them, in the hope that her husband will return, one of which includes weaving a burial shroud for her father-in-law, while promising to choose a suitor after she has finished.  After 3 years, it is revealed that she has been unravelling the shroud, in an attempt to postpone her decision further.

The use of weaving within the literary context as an analogy for Penelope’s faithfulness, echoes Freudian analysis of women’s creativity as gender specific. However, her cunning in maintaining her autonomy despite unfavourable odds, supports feminist re-workings of Penelope as a woman of immense power, intellect and self-interest. The book will use the weaving metaphor in form and content, in relation to the act of binding, whilst also considering the various subtexts of Penelope’s role in the Odyssey.