Studio 4: Making the Stone Stony

Studio brief

Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one's wife and the fear of war. "If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been." And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. Viktor Shklovsky, Art as Technique

The critic Viktor Shklovsky's striking words a few months before the Russian revolution in 1917 were against the attrition of routine. He wished to reanimate what he thought he'd become too used to. Technique, device and the medium-specific in art were to be the methods: tactics to retrieve what he considered to be 'consciousness'. Well, it certainly came his way that October.

Back in 1920s Europe, this idea of making the stone 'stony' sat very well with what others in the arts thought, too: German playwrights, Irish novelists and anglophile American poets, in particular. The ‘stony stone’ idea lies at the very corner of Russian formalism, almost a hundred years old now and so in a conventional way a modernist antique itself, quoted, loved and fetishized in subject readers, journal articles and studio outlines like this.

In fact, a century later, we locate much art now in an opposite way – alive exactly in the everyday, on the unnoticed margins of spectacle and sensation, temporary, jumbled and quiet. In what Iris Murdoch once called "the thingy world", objects must be allowed to have "all a life and being of their own, and friendliness, and rights".[1]  It's in such a spirit of companionship that the Making the Stone Stony studio acknowledges how our relationship with objects alters, once we think of them as things. And that's when the stuff of an art studio (wood, paint, stone, metal and clay) gets a life again, dons its glad rags to sashay back in through an art school’s doors.

To be clear, we're all for making things via their adjectives. Bottle, bottly. Lion, liony. Air, airy. Doesn't have to be material. That's how art might still recover the sensation of life from what we're all too used to... So stone is just a useful umbrella for the studio. This means we won't insist you chip away at any block, although we may well give you the opportunity at some point. This studio will therefore examine art strategies for allowing ‘things’ a life and being of their own. Whimsical, trivial, deadly serious.

You can be a painter, a sculptor, a video artist, a photographer or a printmaker – this studio welcomes everyone. We'll explore objets d’art, the everyday, live art and group work along the way. You propose an art project for the whole year, arising from or intersecting with the studio theme. You set that art project out with an aim and a purpose. You research your art project to university standards, using London as a study resource - its galleries, museums, libraries, art events and art archives.

Above all, in this studio we'll work as artists on making friends with ‘things’, outlining what rights a ‘thing’ might have. We’ll use our own interest in their context, their placement and their processes to make artworks with and from them. Knowing how to do this well is crucial to so many artists' careers as professionals. The Making the Stone Stony studio will use a November field trip to Portland Bill in Dorset to devise artworks for display in winter at the Christmas show. We shall use the situations, the needs, the time and the spaces we find on that trip as base material.

This studio's art methodology is fairly simple. We'll start on the ground with some questions about aim and purpose. We shall set ourselves rules. We shall conduct field research. We shall make in all art media. We shall publish our findings. We shall display our art together.

The challenge for art students who join this art studio is as follows. To take what you have learned so far as an individual art student and to use this to learn more now in a group context, by applying those skills and that knowledge outside the art school in a more public way. You may then use this work as a springboard for further study.

Artists to look at:

Nancy Holt, Mary Miss, Alice Aycock, Tania Kovats, The Chapman Brothers, The Harrisons, The Boyle Family, Adam Chodzko, Marcus Coates, Mark Dion, Robert Smithson, Walter de Maria, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Martin Creed, Simon Pope

Image by Rosemarie McGoldrick


Course Fine Art BA (Hons)
Tutor Rosemarie McGoldrick
Andrew Hewish
Where Central House 2nd Floor Studios
When Mondays and Thursday