neil cummings


19th January - 19th February 2011

I have two publications in the exhibition Aphasic Disturbance curated by Stephen Bury. The first, LOOT is from 1992

LOOTI had an exhibition of sculptures at the Cabinet Gallery, in London.

They consisted of a series of re-made objects which amongst other things included the classic Melodi Ikea shelving  - like a Robert Morris artwork, Rietveld's prototype of the Red and Blue chair, a Picasso Still Life and a Robert Gober-like door.

They were all made from recycled cardboard, and some laminated with appropriate finishes, like wood veneers or reflective plastic. I'd found all the materials abandoned in the street.

I was interested in different economies of value and how they intersect and overlap with categories of objecthood and modes of display.

For the duration of the exhibition, every day I placed the sculptures for sale in the Gallery, in LOOT magazine. LOOT was a vast, eclectic, pre-digital market of second-hand artifacts offered for to buy or sell.

The advert for of the artworks used the convention of LOOT, basically a terse material description and price. That's because every word is paid for. Each day the artworks came into contact with a wildly different collection of things, an endlessly changing exhibition.

Every week I collected six copies of LOOT, ringed the sculptures for sale with a pen - a common gesture to suggest interest in the artifacts described- and collated them into a bespoke recycled cardboard slip-case.

These gathered publications became the catalogue for the exhibition.I was thinking about curatorial practices and strategies of collecting even as I was fabricating things.

The second publication was Lost Property

ArnolfiniLost Property resulted from a collaboration with Marysia Lewandowska, London Underground and Public Art Development Trust.

The book represents a selection of things from one days property recovered by the London Transport Lost Property Office.

From the preface:

We are easily seduced into acquiring, exchanging and displaying vast quantities of material things.Things are found, polished, displayed and treasured, bought, bound or framed and collected.

The object, plucked from the generic soup of retail culture, is momentarily arrested and woven into an intimate personal narrative, "I bought this when I was in Paris". It's this narrative which marks the thing as a possession and simultaneously allows the narrator to refine and evaluate experience, to evolve a sense of difference or belonging.

The thing itself, as commodity, inheritance, gift or souvenir, has become a privileged vehicle for establishing an emotional and intellectual identity. Things authenticate experience.

This much is well known.

The dark shadow within our seamless assembly of possessions and continuous narration of `self`, is loss. The word loss delineates a terrifying space, it is the void over which all exchange and collection precariously take place, but, from which no insurance or story can ever protect.

Loss infuses accumulation with fear, everything, even our most precious belongings continuously circulate within its grasp.

Lost Property touches the wound opened between lost property, and the emotional investment implicit in personal possession.  Comprised of photographs and texts, the book mimics the dispassionate style of a museum catalogue in an effort to re-inscribe the absence all the more emphatically. The things pictured, are still missing from these pages.

Lost PropertyA temporary collection bound by this book/catalogue parodies the conventions established by museum acquisition. Although the collection is a well known paradigm of completion, the objects here are always already incomplete, misplaced, fallen from narration, and never to return.

Lost Property is a selection from one days property recovered by the London Transport Lost Property Office; on average, some three hundred items. Designed as a desirable pocket size souvenir by Stephen Coates, Lost Property was released at the moment of spectacular accumulation, Christmas 1995


For Aphasic Disturbance, Stephen Bury takes Roman Jakobson’s seminal essay of 1956, Two types of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbance, as the starting point for this exploration of artists’ books and artists’ multiples.

Jakobson analysed the similarity and contiguity disorders of aphasics, which can be defined as a loss of power of expression through speech. In the former condition, the patient struggles to begin a sentence unless prompted; sentences are ‘elliptical sequels’ that are supplied from previous sentences available and general nouns can be substituted for specific ones.

In the contiguity disorder, the patient loses the ability to make propositions; grammatically functioning words such as conjunctions and articles are dropped and sentences are reduced to singular words. These conditions are reversed out by Jakobson into an axis with a vertical for similarity/metaphor and a horizontal for contiguity/metonymy: he then extends these axes by mapping them onto a poetry/verse and a romanticism/realism divide:

A salient example from the history of painting is the manifestly metonymic orientation of Cubism, where the object is transformed into a set of synecdoches; the Surrealists responded with a patently metaphoric attitude.

This exhibition explores how contiguity and narrative operate in artists’ books and multiples, and includes works by John Baldessari, Fiona Banner, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Victor Burgin, Neil Cummings, Layla Curtis, Douglas Huebler, Kenny Hunter, Anselm Kiefer, Sol LeWitt, Peter Liversidge,  Marisya Lewandowska, Aleksandra Mir, Dieter Roth, Leanne Shapton, Jane Simpson, Sarah Staton, Daniel Spoerri, and Yoko Terauchi.

Stephen Bury was the Librarian of Chelsea College of Art & Design until 2000, then became the Head of Modern English Collections at the British Library, and now Andrew W. Mellon Chief Librarian of the Frick Art Reference Library, New York. He has published ‘Artists’ books’(1995), ‘Artists’multiples’ (2000) and ‘Breaking the rules’ (2007). 

CHELSEA space is a public exhibiting space where invited art and design professionals are encouraged to work on experimental curatorial projects that may not otherwise be realised.

Related projects include #ObjectOfTheWeek on twitter, The Value of Things and Collected.


51.49254, -0.12844

Chelsea Space
16 John Islip Street
United Kingdom

Submitted by neil on