Treasures at the Fitzwilliam Museum

The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has a fascinating exhibition on at the moment called “Treasure Under Your Feet” which runs until 4th September 2011 in the Octagon Gallery. The exhibition consists of displays of various discovered treasure from the East Anglia region which have helped archeologists understand the life and times of our ancestors. These precious objects not only look beautiful but they are a physical and emotional link back to the people who used them hundreds of years ago.

Exhibits in the “Treasure Under Your Feet” exhibition are from local public and private collections – such as the above jewel from Colchester Castle Musuem – in addition to pieces from the Fitzwilliam Museum itself. Notable items from the exhibition include a Bronze-Age torc which was a piece of jewellery worn around the neck, a Tudor jewel, hack-silver used by the Vikings as currency and gold coins from the English Civil War which date back to the 17th century.

The Fitzwilliam Museum was described as “one of the greatest art collection of the nation” by the Standing Commission on Museums & Galleries in 1968. It houses an extensive world-class collection of art and antiquities covering hundreds of years of history from ancient civilisations to the present day.

Highlights of the Fitzwilliam Museum include an extensive collection of British and European paintings from the 14th century to 20th century, sculpture, furniture, armour, European and Japanese porcelain, illuminated manuscripts, and antiquities from Egypt, Greece, Rome and other ancient civilisations from the Mediterranean and Near East.

After working up an appetite wandering around the museum, you can stop off for a drink and bite to eat at the Courtyard Café which serves sandwiches and light lunches together with morning and afternoon refreshments. The North Lawn Café is now open until October and serves al fresco refreshments for visitors who want to enjoy the open air when the days are warm and sunny.

Admission to the Fitzwilliam Museum is free but we recommend that you make a small donation which will pay for the maintenance of the galleries. The museum is closed on Mondays but is open between 10am and 5pm Tuesday to Saturday. On Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays it is open between 12pm and 5pm.

Image reproduced from Colchester Castle Museum

John Cage at De La Warr Pavilion Until 5 June

Anybody who is familiar with the silent work 4’33” (4 minutes 33 seconds) will have some idea of the avant-garde style of John Cage.

I had heard of it but never listened, it’s just silence after all. But after visiting the De La Warr Pavilion, I found a performance on YouTube and discovered that there’s far more to John Cage than meets the eye.

Just like this exhibition at the De La Warr, look beneath the surface and you will begin to discover hidden depths of the man. As you walk into the main exhibition space you will find lesser known framed works in various media, pencil, etching, lithograph, aquatint etc; simple shapes and patterned abstracts.

It’s not until you sit and listen to the video documentaries that you begin to realise that the works, created through random but complex processes, point to a new translation of the world around us.

These are not works for those looking for energetic visual effects and quick sensationalism but if you have the time you will find art that deserves a deeper sense of thought and reflection.

A haunting, self-playing grand piano and works by a selection of artists inspired by Cage, appear throughout the building. Other events including live performances will be held throughout the season.

Image reproduced from International Review of Music
Video reproduced from YouTube / morbidcafe

Janet Cardiff at Fabrica Gallery Until 30 May

On a day when the Brighton anti-capitalist protest march was kicking off just outside the gallery, it may have not seemed like the best time to view some new artwork. But seeking sanctuary off the street in the former church, now Fabrica Gallery, had a surreal and spiritual effect as 40 angelic voices delivered the Spem in Alium (1573) by Thomas Tallis, one of the most influential English composers of sixteenth century. You can listen to an excerpt of the piece in the following video:

No live singers here though. The Forty Part Motet is a sound installation by Canadian artist, Janet Cardiff, based on the renaissance choral music piece by Tallis and sung by the Salisbury Cathedral Choir. It has been exhibited all over the world since its creation in 2001. Spem in Alium is not often performed, as it requires at least forty singers capable of meeting its technical demands. The piece is widely regarded as one of the best examples of renaissance polyphony and has been described as astonishing and magnificent, often having a profound effect on the audience.

Here each voice in the choir has been separately recorded and played through a circle of 40 speakers. Set to head height and surrounding the nave they act as representations for the human form. You can sit at the centre and take in the total effect, or freely wander along the line from one speaker (or voice) to another – when would you have an opportunity to do this at a live performance?

You can’t help but be moved by the strength of this music and the clever simplicity of the installation. Janet Cardiff is well known for her sound installations, working together with her partner and fellow artist, George Bures Miller. She has created an artwork that combines space with intimacy - a sculptural experience of the Tallis work where music connects with you in such a physical way that you feel enveloped by it.

On her website, Janet Cardiff is quoted as saying:
While listening to a concert you are normally seated in front of the choir, in traditional audience position. With this piece I want the audience to be able to experience a piece of music from the viewpoint of the singers. Every performer hears a unique mix of the piece of music. Enabling the audience to move throughout the space allows them to be intimately connected with the voices. It also reveals the piece of music as a changing construct. As well I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space. I placed the speakers around the room in an oval so that the listener would be able to really feel the sculptural construction of the piece by Tallis. You can hear the sound move from one choir to another, jumping back and forth, echoing each other and then experience the overwhelming feeling as the sound waves hit you when all of the singers are singing.”

City Connect suggests: The month of May is an ideal time to enjoy Brighton and while you’re there a visit to Fabrica to experience this installation is highly recommended. Brighton is approximately one hour from London by train. The Fabrica Gallery is within 15 minutes walk of Brighton station and the gallery is open every day between 7 and 29 May from 12pm to 7pm. Late night openings are on Saturday 7 May & Saturday 28 May until 11pm. The last day to experience this wonderful artwork is the Spring Bank Holiday on 30 May when the gallery is open between 2pm and 5pm.

Fabrica Gallery
40 Duke Street
Brighton
East Sussex
BN1 1AG
Tel: 01273 778 646

Images courtesy of Tony Foster
Video reproduced from YouTube/theprof1958

Wittgenstein – an Exhibition

A new exhibition on Wittgenstein and photography is currently being shown at the Old Examination Hall in Cambridge. The world famous philosopher was a keen photographer himself, using it as a means to exemplify many of his arguments. He carried out a lot of photography when he was an architect and primary school teacher. In his writings there are numerous references to photography, demonstrating how important he saw modern media in communication.

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was born in Vienna/ Austria in 1889. He grew up in Austria-Hungary and arrived in Cambridge in 1911 to commence his studies at Trinity College. His revolutionary views on the meaninglessness of existential propositions soon challenged many of his peers. He held the professorship in philosophy at the University of Cambridge between 1939 and 1947.

He wrote one of the cornerstones of modern philosophy, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This book describes the limitations of our own personal thinking directed by the limitations of language. The work contains almost no arguments, but rather declarative statements meant to be self-evident, needless to be defended. He explains the world as cases, which are defined by states of affairs and introduces the mathematical parameters of a truth function, determining any statement. The book funnels into the final statement: “Whereof one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence.” Having read the book myself, I must say it is not an easy read at all. After re-reading many pages I still only claim to merely understand some parts of it, despite being fluent in German. The book really makes one think, whether we can say we truthfully know anything at all.

Wittgenstein’s personal circumstances were not easy. Not only was it difficult for an Austrian to live in Britain during war-times, but his homosexuality also made an open and truthful life difficult. How his philosophical thinking and personal circumstances influenced photography are certainly worth a look and this exhibition itself is rare and thus a must-see for anyone interested in modern philosophy.

Address:
Photographic & Illustration Service
First Floor
Old Examination Hall
New Museums Site
Free School Lane
Cambridge

Image reproduced from: http://paedpsych.jk.uni-linz.ac.at