Writing / Books

Things left undone unsaid uncelebrated unplanned unfinished
Author: Jes Fernie. Published by Askeaton Contemporary Arts, 2024. ISBN 978-1-7394263-0-9

This is a selection of mad, frayed, totally normal stories about undone, uncelebrated, abandoned things. They are spectacular, strange, problematic, hurtful, funny, ludicrous tales. They tell a bigger, messier story, rather than one that has been honed or finely crafted.

The book features Flemish-Irish artist Lily Van Oost, filmmaker Bob Quinn, the adventures of Americans Lawrence Weiner, Richard Serra and James Turrell in Ireland, sculptor Eilis O'Connell and writer Maeve Brennan. In writing about how art gets made, what happens to it, and how world affairs, personal circumstances, and misfortune bump up against dreams and hard graft, Fernie notes that her encounters are not usually told in a world where success and bombast are prized. Rather, she recognises and even celebrates the vulnerability, the strangeness and the arbitrariness of artistic endeavour and much of life in general: ‘Perhaps there is a catharsis that comes with this, not solely based on a sense of jouissance experienced on discovering that other people’s achievements aren’t quite as dazzling as you had marked them out to be, but also just the relief – the pure, physical, glorious relief – that we no longer have to hold things together, to hone a narrative with no sharp edges.’

Order a copy here

Trickster Figures: Sculpture and the Body
Exhibition catalogue published by MK Gallery 2023. ISBN 978-0-9928574-7-9

Catalogue for Trickster Figures: Sculpture and the Body
Edited by Jes Fernie
Texts by Francis Whorrall-Campbell and Jes Fernie

Artists: Saelia Aparicio | Alice Channer | Jesse Darling | Nicolas Deshayes | Kira Freije | Siobhán Hapaska | Nnena Kalu | Joe Namy | Harold Offeh | Ro Robertson | Vanessa da Silva

Trickster Figures brings together eleven contemporary artists whose work stretches the definition of sculpture. The exhibition includes play, touch, sound and movement as well as objects that are made to be worn. Crab shells, tree roots and shopping bags sit alongside a dance floor and a water fountain. Elements will change and grow while some will never be finished.

The exhibition is rooted in the idea that new relations to the world are under construction, involving powerful slippages between binary systems, identities, humans, animals and the environment. Bodies are implicated in this new relationship, rendering them vulnerable but also magically available for new inscriptions and ways of thinking. As the exhibition curator Jes Fernie describes, “There is a leakage, a seepage in these works. Many of them allude to bodies or systems that relate to bodies. Jealous bodies, broken bodies, fossilised bodies, vulnerable, contaminated bodies. There is also love, tenderness, glamour, and compulsion.”

The twentieth century saw British sculpture celebrated across the world, with artists from Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth to Richard Deacon and Rachel Whiteread experimenting with materials, forms of construction, and display mechanisms. Key exhibitions presented radical new developments in the field of sculpture, capturing generational interests as well as catastrophic events and moments of collective trauma. Trickster Figures extends this exhibition history by working with a broad range of practitioners to reflect on our own ‘age of anxiety’ drawing on current themes relating to vulnerability, contagion and the climate crisis.

Many of the artists in this exhibition currently live in the UK but were born in countries across the world including Lebanon, Brazil, France and Spain. Others spent their formative years in the UK but live abroad. Their relation to the concept of ‘Britishness’ is complex and often fraught. Their inclusion in this exhibition signifies a shift in the narrative of ‘British sculpture’ and forms a critique of contemporary concerns with nationalism and cultural supremacy.

“The historical or mythological ‘trickster’ is often defined as a character who disobeys the rules and defies categories and conventions. The academic and philosopher Donna Haraway refers to tricksters as ‘wild cards that reconfigure possible worlds’. I see the artists in this exhibition doing just that.”
Jes Fernie

Order from MK Gallery

Archive of Destruction Reader I
Edited by Jes Fernie, published by Flat Time House, 2022. ISBN 9-780995-723153

Designed by the wonderful Daly & Lyon and launched at Flat Time House in 2022, the Archive of Destruction Reader I considers the subject of destruction from a range of different view points.

It is made up of conversations, texts, stories, artworks, and pictures by artists, curators and writers, including Joe Namy, Marianne Wagner, Kasper König, Britta Peters, Vanessa Onwuemezi, Marysia Lewandowska, Horacio Zabala, Candice Purwin, and Joanna Rajkowska.

The publication is part of the Archive of Destruction project run by Jes Fernie.

Copies cost £8 and all proceeds go to contributors’ fees for the next reader. Order here from Flat Time House. AoD is run by Jes Fernie on a voluntary basis – your orders are very much appreciated!

House Taken Over

‘House Taken Over’ is about making art, looking at art, and talking about art - all in a domestic setting. The context is London at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

We are spurred on by a desire to create a space for the artist's voice; to bypass institutions, systems of control, and the market economy; to discuss mess, community and collective play.

With contributions from artists, writers and curators, House Taken Over features interviews, essays, recipes and experimental texts.

The book is edited by Jes Fernie and includes contributions from writers Holly Corfield Carr and Lorena Muñoz-Alonso, artists Harold Offeh and Martin Cordiano, and theatre director Ada Mukhina. It is beautifully designed by Sarah Boris.

Available to buy at the Whitechapel Gallery, Camden Arts Centre and Serpentine Gallery bookshops.

More information on the House Taken Over project here here

Murdered with Straight Lines: Drawings of Bristol by Garth England
Edited by Jes Fernie and Theresa Bergne, published by Redcliffe Press, April 2016, ISBN 978-1-908326-94-2

This book of drawings by Garth England is part of the Future Perfect programme and was published in April 2016. It is co-edited by Future Perfect curators Jes Fernie and Theresa Bergne.

Garth England was a long-term resident of Hengrove and Knowle-West in south Bristol; Murdered with Straight Lines tells the poignant story of a childhood lived through a world war and its aftermath; the development of Britain's Welfare State and social housing provision; vernacular architecture, indoor toilets and fitted kitchens.

The drawings were discovered by Jo Plimmer, engagement curator of Future Perfect, when she visited Hengrove Lodge as part of the public engagement programme. Garth died in 2014 but he knew of our plans to publish his drawings and gave us his blessing. The title of the book is a reference to the response that his teachers had to his drawings.

The book is designed by Polimekanos and funded by the Hengrove Arts Fund and the Hengrove Neighbourhood Partnership. It's sold out but second hand copies can be bought: here
I have a few copies - get in contact if you'd like to buy one.

Here's what people are saying about it:

'England's extraordinary drawings, made in Hengrove Lodge care home between 2006 and 2013 and published in a beautiful book called Murdered with Straight Lines, capture the changing city through the eyes of this post-war everyman... His work could be a Jeremy Deller readymade, a dispatch from a time before irony overload. It shows a more functional civic life than today, with abundant social housing and a new welfare state. Beautifully designed by Polimekanos, the book gives England’s coloured sketches and cartoon-strip depictions the space to breathe.'
Tim Burrows, Guardian, 2 June 2016. Read the full article here

'Interspersed with his architectural drawings are gridded illustrations of childhood memories, like an outsider art take on a graphic novel memoir. In stilted capital letters, some captions read like fragments of Romantic poetry: “Making Friends with the Donkeys in Tor Field,” “Fairyland to me, Actually Wick Hollow,” “Making Daisy Chains for Violet,” “Kindly country people filled with love galore.” England's lack of self-consciousness and reverence for the mundanities of daily life is refreshing and the specificity of his details make for a vivid 2-D Bristol. It’s the kind of document Wes Anderson could only dream of making as a film prop.'
Carey Dunne, Hyperallergic, NY, 11 July 2016. Read the full article here

'What an amazing project...very timely words about the dismantling of our welfare state. I urge anyone with an interest in the birth of British modernism and the welfare state to buy it. It's a delightful, poignant and salutary reminder of the beauty to be found and cherished in the everyday'.
David Bickle
Director of Design, Exhibitions & Future Plan, Victoria and Albert Museum

'It's an extraordinary social document, so rich'.
Nick de Klerk, architect, London

'What a legacy for Garth. I'm sure he would have really liked it and be proud to see his name on the front of a published book of his drawings. I could not put it down when I received it this morning. I read it all the way through'.
R Bill Roberts, Hengrove resident

'It is absolutely gorgeous, I can't get my nose out of it'.
Shumi Bose, architectural writer, tutor and co-curator of the British Pavilion, Architecture Biennale, Venice 2016

'The whole collection is remarkable. It's incredible how he held an almost perfect sense of proportion in his mind - I loved it'.
Tom Grieve, HAT Projects

'An extraordinary book of drawings'
David Knight, DK-CM Architects

'Really fascinating and moving'.
Vicky Richardson, ex-director of Architecture, British Council

'This is great, and moving. Garth England: the milkman who drew Bristol from memory'
John Harris, Guardian journalist, writer & critic

'It's not just a book but a whole life'.
Jane Somerville, Bristol resident

History Rising
Authors: Jes Fernie, Krzysztzof Fijalkowski and Jonathan Watkins, published by onomatopee 2015, ISBN 978-94-91677-30-4

History Rising is a study of museum display by artist Marjolijn Dijkman and curator Jes Fernie. Readers are invited to reconsider their view of history by looking at the mechanisms museums put in place to create a sense of order and hierarchy within their collections.

By distancing museum objects from their support structures History Rising forms a critique of the assumptions that are made about how things are positioned, who chooses to display them, and how the social, political and aesthetic choices that are made in the process dictate the language of display.

The book consists of visual and written essays, an interview between artist and curator, an inventory of works, and documentation of Dijkman's History Rising installations in museums and galleries in the UK. The installations and sculptures propose strange and fantastical juxtapositions, alleviate objects from the weight of history and create links with modernism, the heritage industry and the aesthetics of sci-fi.

More information on the History Rising programme can be viewed here

Design by Salome Schmucki
ISBN 978-94-91677-30-4
Hardcover, 96 pages
size: 285 x 250mm

Order a copy here

Bombyx Mori
Author: Jes Fernie, published by Firstsite, 2012, ISBN 0948252340

Bombyx Mori documents Simon Periton's commission for Firstsite, installed in 2011. The work is a four-part installation made up of three lanterns and a lamppost. Ova, Larva, and Pupa are names the artist has given to the lanterns, and Polaris refers to the lamppost. The lanterns are suspended from the magical arc of trees in the garden; the lamppost sits at the end of this arc, acting as a punctuation mark and meeting point.

The book is made up of an interview with the artist by Jes Fernie and a series of photographs by Thierry Bal and Simon Periton. It is designed by Simon Josebury.

Available to buy here

46 Brooklands Gardens
Author: Jes Fernie, Published by firstsite, 2009, ISBN 978-0-948252-30-3

46 Brooklands Gardens is a photo essay published to celebrate Nathan Coley's temporary sculpture of the same name. Commissioned by firstsite, the work was sited in Jaywick on the Essex coast, in the heart of the Brooklands housing estate.

More information can be found on the project here

Two Minds: Artists and Architects in Collaboration
Editor: Jes Fernie, Published by Black Dog Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1 904772 26 9

Interest and activity in the field of collaborative practice between artists and architects is growing rapidly. Two Minds documents and critiques this activity, focusing on new work by high profile and emerging practitioners such as David Adjaye, Jacque Herzog, Chris Ofili, Pipilotti Rist and Nathan Coley. The book includes two essays focusing on collaborations in Los Angeles and Germany, alongside a series of in depth case studies funded through the RSA's Art for Architecture scheme.

The case studies are written by Jes Fernie and are divided into three sections Groundscapes, Buildings and Things. They cover a range of small scale artist-led projects, landscape schemes and Stirling Prize-winning buildings.

A selection of artists and architects included in Two Minds: Chris Ofili, Herzog & de Meuron, Joep van Lieshout, Thomas Ruff, Mark Dion, Tania Kovats, David Adjaye, Adam Caruso, Diener + Diener, Lisa Fior, Tony Fretton, Alex de Rijke, Kathrin Bohm, Michael Craig-Martin, Antoni Malinowski and Chris Burden.

Available to buy here

Jes Fernie

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