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Friday, 20 November 2015
By David Newport, Gallery Assistant

If something is okay, you will hear the response “That’s cool”, but that’s not cool. Cool is a subliminal, fleeting quality that is rare. If you pursue cool, you won’t find it. If you try to become cool, you’ll fail. Cool resides mostly among the African American Jazz musicians of the 1950s and 60s. You only have to list them to feel the personification of cool – Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, their very names shout cool.

Sun Ra: The Cosmo Man, installation view. Photo Andy Keate.

Author Robert Farris Thompson, professor of art history at Yale University, has located a more ancient source for cool in the idea of “Itutu”, one of three pillars of a religious philosophy created in the fifteenth century by the Yoruba and Igbo civilisations of West Africa. Itutu, which Thompson translates as “mystic coolness”, contained meanings of conciliation and gentleness of character, of generosity and grace, and the ability to defuse fights and disputes. It was also associated with physical beauty.

Cool is, of course, gender, race and occupation neutral. Amy Winehouse was troubled, but cool. For a time, Steve McQueen (the one on the motorbike in the movie The Great Escape) was the King of Cool. Yet cool hasn’t always had a good press. One generation’s cool can easily become the next’s dross. You know, however, when you are in the presence of cool – it’s a feeling, a magic moment when your senses dance and the hair stands up on the back of your neck.

The most unlikely people can become cool. The most unlikely people can discover cool. Who would have thought that a group of 15 to 25-year-olds calling themselves Collabor-8 could have been instrumental in planning a cool exhibition? Who would have thought that a middle-aged, somewhat lugubrious Jazz artist dressed as an Egyptian deity from Saturn could be cool? That’s the nature of cool – it appears under the most unlikely circumstances.

Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, I Want, 2015. Courtesy of the artists, Marcelle Alix and Ellen de Bruijne Projects.

If you want to find cool, why not try Alien Encounters at Nottingham Contemporary? Listen carefully to Sharon Hayes channelling Kathy Acker and Chelsea Manning, she is dangerously cool. Or, if that doesn’t please you, try the immersive experience of Sun Ra in Gallery 2. This exhibition will enhance your mood on the dullest of days and you won’t find a cooler space in the whole of Nottingham. You have until 31 December, so don’t miss it or you’ll regret it.

Cool is the new cool.

Posted by btimmins at 15:38    COMMENTS
Friday, 13 November 2015
By John Leighton, Visitor Services Manager

Craft Design Contemporary 2015 is almost upon us and we are delighted to welcome back Katie Viggers to Nottingham Contemporary. Katie is the illustrator behind eightbear – a producer of original books, prints and design-led objects – and well on her way to global aesthetic hegemony.

Without Katie there certainly wouldn’t be a Nottingham Contemporary Craft Fair (and Nottingham Contemporary’s shop might be a very different too). She was working here when the doors first opened to the public, on 14 November 2009, having put in some very long days and nights while we rushed to get the shop up and running. We started with a bang and could have been forgiven for resting on our laurels, but that’s not Katie. She had plans.

Katie saw the opportunity to run our own Contemporary Craft Fair, something different to what was already out there and one that was in keeping with what we were trying to achieve as an organisation.  She nagged, bullied, harassed and more often than not ignored her poor downtrodden line manager (me) until he caved in and green-lit plans to operate our very own event.

Craft fairs are ten a penny, especially at this time of year. Undeniably, there are a lot of talented designers and makers in the East Midlands looking for the right outlet. For us the challenge is to get the right mix of quality and range that will encourage visitors to shop, explore the galleries, and stop for a bite to eat in our Cafe.Bar.
Our shop sells work by local makers all year round, but we are limited in what we can effectively display, which really focuses our decision-making process. We choose stallholders with the same rigour that we choose products for the shop, an overriding principle that was just as important when Katie was running the show as it is today. If we had the space we could happily choose double or even treble the number of stalls, such is the quality of applications. It’s a very difficult decision and one I’m happy to say is taken by those who know better than I.

So having ensured I wasn’t embroiled in the selection process, I was both surprised and chuffed to see Katie’s name among a very high calibre of stallholders. Eightbear books and prints have been a staple of Shop.Contemporary for several years, but we’ve never been able to stock more than a selection of the entire range, and with a new title, Animal Colours, due out just in time, I can see Katie’s stall being a very popular draw for the fair as a whole.

So eightbear is going from strength to strength and Katie Viggers is on course for that first million. Behind every great woman is a great team and she would be the first to big up “team huggers”, Nas and Ziggy. I’m equally sure that she wouldn’t want to embarrass me by mentioning my small, if inspirational, contribution to her success. Everyone needs someone to hold them back -  the negative voice that’s always quick to rain on their parade, and I like to think that I fulfilled that crucial role. I’m the naysayer who forces genius to go it alone … you’re welcome Katie!

See Katie at Craft.Design.Contemporary  from Fri 4 Dec – Sun 6 Dec, when we will showcase over 30 of the most exciting designers and makers in the region. It is an ideal place to pick up interesting presents, or a treat for yourself. Plus free family craft activities, live music and seasonal food and drink in the Cafe.Bar.

Posted by btimmins at 14:54    COMMENTS


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