Wednesday 31 December 2014

Bloggers Beware

Blogs and their related video based versions ‘vlogs’ remain a popular way for individuals, organisations, and companies to communicate with others. Blogs are often linked to other networks, such as Twitter or LinkedIn; new content can be promoted to followers and friends. It takes minimal effort to produce a professional looking blog and generate a number of regular readers.

The most popular platforms are WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr, and are designed to be easy to use. No programming or technical expertise is required. A variety of sophisticated applications known as ‘plug-ins’ can turn a blog into a shop front, an interactive company advert, a way for a school to reach out to alumni, or even a membership only discussion site. With over 42 million blogs on WordPress alone (2012 stats), the number of blogs available is staggering. Of course, only a tiny number are controversial or problematic but there are potential legal issues around inadvertent or intentional misuse.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration

By the 'c' side
An article and event came together in happy synchronicity this week. The resultant combination made me consider the true meaning of the word 'collaboration'. A look at the dictionary tells me:

1. to work together with another or others on something.
2. derogatory to co-operate or collude with an enemy, especially one occupying one’s own country.

The FT article on ‘the dangers of a rising C-level for the business environment’ (8/12/14) caught my eye because of its stress on assertiveness training for team members. The author takes a humorous look at the proliferation of chiefs – his ‘c’ word - in the business environment and the dangers of perceived infallibility. He outlines the importance of knowing one’s limits and working within systems, ensuring the smooth running of corporate machinery. He concluded that the real ‘c’ word was ‘colleagues’.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Family, Free Spirits and 3 Winters

 © Jagoda Kaloper-Tajder
In true Renaissance woman style, I'm worried  I'm over-intellectualising my new found enjoyment of a foreign culture. As I ponder the consonants of an unfamiliar language and struggle with the concept of strong family connections, Slavic myths and fairy-tales, and bloody wars, I can't help thinking I'm falling into some kind of mental short circuit.

I've never had the urge to create a family environment. Continuity of lines and names mean nothing to me. Familial loyalty is limited to three people who I love unconditionally but they are long distance relationships. We are who we are; and perhaps we desire that which we've never known. This goes part way to explain my fascination with the Croatian language with its multiple words for nephew, niece etc., depending on whether it's your father's or mother's family. This is such an alien concept that the rigours of cases and word endings come as intellectual relief.

Monday 8 December 2014

What about an art history podcast?

This isn't a post of note, more a note of a post. An indulgent weekend led to a moment of brilliance, or perhaps it was because I'm still riding on the crest of a wave on my recent dissertation results. Whatever it was, I'm now confident enough in my abilities to believe and acknowledge that brainwaves actually occur to me.

My idea is this. I'm going to enter the world of the spoken word and present a podcast called Renaissance Utterances. My focus is going to be on precisely what I am good at; that is to say, the history of art from a interdisciplinary point of view, with emphasis on the early modern period.

Thursday 4 December 2014

A CPD Review of the Year

CPD is an essential part of being a chartered professional of any type. So I’m pleased to announce I’ve just submitted my CILIP revalidation statement. For those of you unfamiliar with CILIP processes, when you charter you are expected to maintain your professional development by annual revalidation.

I admit that this is my first formal revalidation. It’s not that I haven’t been keeping up-to-date, just I hadn’t informed CILIP. This year has been different for two reasons; they broadened the types of valid CPD, so time spent on reading, presenting, social media etc all count towards the minimum 20 hours; and at the end of last year they launched a virtual learning environment to help with the administrative process.

Saturday 29 November 2014

What is my dissertation about?

The Elector of Saxony’s wire drawing bench (1565) is an extremely complicated piece of art and technology which remains relatively unknown outside France and Germany. It deserves to be more widely known not only amongst the general public, but also art and cultural historians too, due to its unique straddling of the Renaissance art and scientific world.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Wearable Technology: The Impact on Society and Privacy

What do I know about wearable tech? What do I know about my own privacy settings on the tech that I carry about with me? How much of my personal data am I unwittingly giving away to large corporations through apps, GPS, internet searches? With these questions in mind I attended the panel discussion organised by the Halsbury Law Exchange. I was there in a couple of capacities; partly as representative of my firm and partly as an interested consumer.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Data Protection: A Litigation View

Data protection is normally presented from a risk/compliance point of view and, indeed, it is an essential part of a firm's responsibility to their clients. Information professionals should be involved with these compliance duties and be familiar with processes and principles. However, what about the litigation point of view? Yesterday David Glen of 1 Brick Court took us though some recent legal developments but any errors in law or omissions in sense are all mine!

The Data Protection Act 1998 was formed out of the EU Data Protection Directive (also known as Directive 95/46/EC). For the first decade of its existence, it caused a stir as a new area of law but then, litigation-wise, essentially discarded. Data protection has been seen as a secondary cause, offering a peripheral remedy after remedies that libel and misuse of information offer.

David believed that this is shifting and we will be seeing a change in the future. He suggested that people are far more aware of their personal data protection rights because of increased discussion in the press. The increased willingness of the judiciary to apply the data protection thresholds is also key; Tugendhat J. has turned it into a radical issue. The final case (below) that he discussed applies the DPA's already broad issue of fairness in an even wider way.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Walead Beshty at the Barbican

Too many lectures not enough art was the verdict yesterday. With the coming of the darkness, rather than listening to words, it was time to exercise the eyes and imagination. And what better way to escape the inky night than head towards the mysterious and overwhelming blue at the Barbican?
Blue, as the National Gallery showed us earlier in the year, used to be one of the most expensive and show off colours in the colour spectrum. It is also, I find, one of the easiest ways of lifting the spirits; to lie in the green, whilst looking at the blue is a happy experience. So to see an entire curve of white and blue, was at once earthly and unearthly.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Mining Literature: Digging Deep or Merely Opencast?

I was genuinely excited about the Mining Literature event, which is part of the Arts & Humanities Festival at King's College London. The blub burbled, 'this panel discussion will explore the representation of mining and miners in literature with examples drawn from the Renaissance to the present. We will discuss the ways in which the labour, science, technology and social history of mining have dug their way into English, American, Canadian and Australian literature'.
After completing a dissertation which looked at mining as part of an interdisciplinary exploration of an art/science object, I felt a kind of relief that other people were using 'mining' as part of their studies. Because, frankly, it's a niche topic and I had no idea that others were interested.

Friday 17 October 2014

A Brief History of the Dance Floor

The things I do in the pursuit of the new. This weekend saw me watching Strictly Come Dancing for the first time; a mostly enjoyable experience in the company of best friends and some purple alcohol. Whether the colour of my drink affected my perception of the garish swirling and artificial tans, I could actually see how guiltily addictive such a programme could become. So when I saw that there was a lecture on the secret history of the dance floor at Kings College London, I signed up immediately. How, I wanted to know, had popular dance become a vast box of living Quality Street?

1234 Get on the Dance Floor (2013) filled the old Anatomy Lecture Theatre and Bollywood lived! The catchy nonsensical international lyrics, the colour, movement and rhythm and we were almost back with Strictly, which demonstrates the universality of the themes Professor Ananya Kabir was picking up. The dance floor is transnational, a home for signature moves in a potentially foreign vernacular, a sacred/key place on which you are urged to get, with an unlikely coupling up being a possible goal.

Monday 13 October 2014

Property Law Current Awareness

A guide for the grumpy!
Sometimes it's good to go back to basics and take a fresh look at a topic. In the past I've worked with property departments, helping them access and make the best of current awareness. However I felt a bit rusty last week so I've popped some sources together and I hope that others find this collection useful - and feel free to tell me about any others. My focus is UK material and I've steered clear of planning law.

There are a wealth of sources for ensuring that property lawyers are fully conversant with current affairs. From newspaper special reports, to social media, I have included an updating method suitable for everyone.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Book Review: 'Corporate Libraries: Basic Principles in a Changing Landscape’

Confusion reigns in the land of CILIP: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. What is the difference between people who are mid-career managers, experienced directors, newly qualified solo specialists, or…something else entirely? An email from the largely public and academic library umbrella organisation regarding focus groups got me thinking about why our professional body is struggling with this complicated brave new information driven world. In my view, part of this is due to the perceived differences between public and corporate librarians.

Some insights are inadvertently offered in Constance Ard’s new book ‘Corporate Libraries: Basic Principles in a Changing Landscape’ and it goes straight to the heart of why CILIP is in turmoil. I shall come on to specifics shortly. Firstly, it saddens me that this book wasn’t published by Facet Publishing because, aside from a few gripes, it is one of the most insightful and readable - and expensive - books about the changing role of library and information staff I’ve come across recently. Ard and her team of extremely well qualified contributors set out to explore the way that corporate librarians are instrumental in contributing to the aims and objectives of the companies that employ them.

Friday 3 October 2014

Poetry Inspired by Anselm Kiefer

Vanishing varnishing points
Leadenly lead us in
Heat from exertion
Icy from snow
From loss
From pain and hate
And dropped burned books
Bomb these stark shadow lines

Deadened punctured landscape
Endlessly blackly repels us
Pale and bloodless
Not seeing
Empty book
Scrawled endless

Words emerge from the soil
A blankness awaiting new life

Inspired by Anselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy Oct 2014

Für Paul Celan Ash Flower (2006)
Black Flakes (2006)

Monday 29 September 2014

The Importance of Real Flexible Working

A Very Pleasant 10km Stroll
Autumn. It's that time of year where we can renew workplace resolutions and make a fresh start with a metaphorical new pen and a nice crisp piece of blank paper. Given that law firm trainees traditionally join in early September and newly qualifieds join their departments, there is more than a mere hint of new term atmosphere. Naturally if you're starting a short course, embarking on a career enhancing degree or any type of further education, then the new term is very real indeed.

If you are starting something new, how do you remain energised and enthusiastic? And if like me you are not starting anything new, how do you capture a 'new term' feeling? I want to draw together a couple of things that occurred to me this morning. Firstly, about the idea of remaining as energised as possible for the rest of the year, and secondly, being as healthy as you can be in an office environment.

What if the sunny endorphins of the invigorating holiday you had early in the year have faded, and the year is stretching away into the dusk of a late November evening? The thought of baked puddings, custard, and sitting in the warmth with a good film feels rather inviting. The swimming, cycling, walking of the summer gets packed away along with the bikinis and beach towels, not to be thought about until the weather emerges with the lighter days of spring. But what are we missing in the midst of our inactivity?

Today it was reported that children who do at least an hour of exercise after school are far better at concentrating the rest of the time. This is just as true for adults, and it reminded me of how I felt when six months into my 9-5 desk job, where I was distracted by the shininess of my new profession by the strange twinges in my back and legs. Not only that but I was tired all the time.

The physio asked how much exercise I got and I realised that I had gone from running, riding, cycling and walking regularly to...well, nothing. Walking round with a library trolley, an early morning/late evening trot to the station, and the weekly shop was the sum total of my physical exertion. Despite my youth, my back was protesting at this change in circumstance and the sciatic nerve was screaming, not for rest, but for a return to mobility.

As time has gone on, I've kept most the back trouble under control. For ten years or so I've perched on a gym ball at my desk, causing hilarity and some rude comments. I don't care, it works for me. Further more, I've been a fan of yoga for years. Although I'll never be a flexible willowy yogi, the postures suggested by teachers familiar with the physical stresses of office life have ensured that I remain reasonably pain-free. The jogging is intermittent but I know I feel much better when I am on a renewed push.

Therefore I wanted to make a suggestion to people who are fresh out of university/college and new to the office environment. It doesn't make a difference if you ran cross-country for your school, or hated any kind of physical activity, it will prevent an awful lot of pain and inconvenience if you maintain a certain level of physical activity. Find something that suits you, whether Bollywood style dancing in the evening, or walking marathons at the weekend - most importantly, stick to it.

You don't even have to spend any money if you are broke. Free apps can shout instructions if you have a convenient place in your home/park, and Micoach can put together a training schedule for all abilities. Council pools remain surprisingly cheap and a Boris Bike is a couple of pounds for a day (keep changing the bike every half hour...). Walking around London and the paths along the Thames has the added bonus of being attractive and educational - all for the cost of a shandy 11km in!

As the nights draw in, it can be harder to maintain the exercise. But when you have a satisfying glow from a cycle along the river, or even a calm, warm feeling from an hour's yoga, you can feel the strength and optimism returning to your tired body. As a school teacher once stressed to me; Mens sana in corpore sano and there you go, you're ready for another new term, regardless of the time of year.

Sunday 7 September 2014

An unknown V&A Cabinet - some thoughts

I'm on the cusp of handing in my dissertation and to both my delight and dismay, I'm still finding potentially relevant interesting additions. As I explained to the lovely assistant curator at the V&A last week, it's as if the bench has provided the key to many doors and I'm being invited in to explore. Two items have come to light this week and I wanted to  quickly get some thoughts down on paper. The first is related to my V&A visit, and the second is a Jost Amman woodcut which I have just discovered. I will be focusing on the first below.

On Thursday afternoon we went down to the old post office which serves as the storage for one of the most interesting museum collections in London. As we were issued security passes, the AC was there waiting to escort us upstairs to a massive lumber room with the most interesting rolling shelves contents I've ever seen. As she identified the right shelf, we looked around us, taking in the stag horn mirror, a golden bed stead, 1950s sofas, and various interesting shapes covered in white dust sheets. Like an attic of sleeping beauties, waiting for a visit from someone who knows where to find them.

Thursday 7 August 2014

Thoughts on ​Art, Funding and Conflict

Storm clouds gathering
Apparently some small world events have broken out whilst I've been studying. Thankfully my work enables me retain some semblance of a connection with the news, through reading the papers and having vaguely intelligent conversations with colleagues.

One of these colleagues is an interesting outspoken individual with some strong views. A lawyer, with strong views? Yes I know, most strive to be beyond bland but there are some out there willing to stick their neck out.

We disagree on many things. Our most recent putting the world to wrongs is the Palestine/Israel conflict, about which we profoundly clash. He has familial, emotional, and I guess, client ties to Israel; whereas I am merely a relatively well informed onlooker with horrified and baffled sense of unease about the whole bloody conflict. In my view, the forces on neither side are particularly pleasant, and I feel that there are powers working behind the scenes to prolong the agony of the average person on the war torn streets.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Hunting and the Wire Drawing Bench

First half of the panel
The Ore Mountains were not only central to Saxony because of their seams of wealth, but they also provided a hunting environment rich in game, fowl and fish. Scholars are unanimous in their commentary that for the highest echelons of society, hunting, hawking and angling as sports were an integral part of European culture, and was for some, a consuming obsession.[1] If Charles Bergman is to be believed, hunting played a part in the creation of nations; ‘royalty asserted their rights to the ownership of the forests of their countries and the hunt was closely associated with the assertion of national control by European monarchs over their lands and people’.[2] 

Friday 1 August 2014

Jost Amman and the Wire Drawing Bench

You know when you're racing against the clock and you can see a deadline waving a chequered flag? Of course this is the time that I'm having some seriously interesting conversations with experts, as well as trying to piece together a totally wild iconographic programme. However I wanted to get this on here because it raises some points which I should probably investigate but I'm scared of venturing too far off the landscape point.

It's also entirely the work of one of the people who knows the bench best, Stephanie Deprouw. Although we have not yet met, we have had some wonderful exchanges, so any mistakes are mine, because of my terrible French.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Marquetry decoration on August I's wiredrawing bench

Wood; the material out of which which the bulk of the bench is made and decorated. It is essential to look more closely at it, especially with my focus on the landscape and the environment. 

Marquetry as a way of adorning objects has a long history. Evidence of its practice has been traced back to the ancient Egyptians, with the Greeks and Romans carrying on the tradition of beautifying their furniture with rare wood inlays. In fifteenth-century Italy, a method of decoration called intarsia became very popular amongst the elite. Solid timber was hollowed out then filled in with valuable metals, precious stones, ivory and rare woods. Marquetry differs from intarsia; thin layers of wood veneer are cut, collected in a design, and laid out over the surface which is to be decorated’ rather than inserted into a hollowed out base.[1] This jigsaw of different wood veneers is precisely how the bench decoration was made.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Mastering Colour and other tricks

High definition colour feels like an entirely modern invention. Saturated manipulated photos, flat screen LCD tvs and 3D cinematic experiences combine to produce a visual pummelling apparently like never before. We have become so accustomed to synthetic colour that we take it for granted, like a cake addict, we are immune to the occasional treat.

So when we emerged blinking from the national gallery basement last night, our eyes had been reset and our brains reattuned to the special nature of the colours around us. The ridiculously blue cock and the bright flags of Trafalgar Square shining in the sunshine had taken on a new significance. They seemed to be a continuation of what we'd seen in Making Colour. A colour wheel of life, perhaps.

Friday 18 July 2014

Some notes on identification: Ruta graveolens and Elector August

I'm currently looking at details which is my favourite part of art; looking for any clues to build up a better idea of what is going on. This little section concerns a mysterious procession of people towards a stunning 16th century view of Dresden.

The third and final procession of the bench is more open to interpretation than the previous two. However I suggest that this is August returning from a day’s hunting, and present the following reasons. Firstly, his position as riding ahead of the group, which was standard court etiquette, as befitted a man of high status. Secondly, his attire. His clothes initially do not appear overly elaborate, yet his long cloak has a beautifully stiffened collar and a silver chain is fastened around his shoulders by a rosette or other shape. A lace collar peeps out from underneath it. In comparison to the hunters in the various tableaux, he is extremely well dressed for riding in the forest.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Anne de Montmorency and August I

Where is the hunt?
You know me, I relish a good connection. I went looking for a geographical connection between Elector August I in Dresden and the current home of his wire drawing bench in Ecouen. It was unlikely, I admit, but I was rewarded for perseverance so I thought I'd quickly share.

Although the bench is no longer in its original location, and separated from the Dresden art and books with which it would have initially sat, its current geographic location is wholly appropriate. The country chateau which houses the museum in Ecouen was once the home of French aristocrat Anne de Montmorency, (1493-1567) Constable of France under Francis I. He spent his entire life in the service of the French kings and for Catholicism, and was well-known for his martial abilities, usually against Francis’s great rival, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.

Thursday 10 July 2014

More on the bench: Hunting for a direction

What the heck is it?
What I am about to describe has never been done so completely in English, as far as I know. The images were afforded a mere quarter of a paragraph in Gunther Heine's 1990 article about the bench. I can't say with the same surety say that it hasn't been done in French or German, but if it has, I haven't yet found it. Given my focus on geography of art, the landscape images were demanding that I take a closer look so I took a flying visit to the Museum of the Renaissance in Ecouen, to look at the those images specifically. This is what I constructed in transit so it's rough and ready.

I need to orientate you so you can piece together a map of the bench in your head. Imagine you are standing at one short end of it, looking all the way down towards the good light and the window. That illuminated end is the end with the image of the man in his workshop and the elaborate coat of arms of the Elector of Saxony. But you're not there yet, you see the monogrammed AM in the landscape. Crouch down and move to the right. Underneath the long jousting tableau, which you've already admired, there is the first square picture. There are four of these, two either side of the end pieces.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Is Negative Attention Better Than No Attention?

Ostracism, (n), exclusion from a society or group

One of the legal journals I was scanning yesterday brought to my attention a report looking into whether negative attention was better than no attention. Jane O'Reilly and her colleagues believed that employees have a strong ‘need to belong’ within their organisations. So they set out to test whether employees perceive ostracism, compared with harassment, to be more socially acceptable, less psychologically harmful, and less likely to be prohibited in their organisation.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Leonardo: Drawing the heart strings

When you're spending time on a dissertation as fabulous as mine, it takes a very special lecture to distract you. One such lecture turned up and I needed to go! I attended the second John Hunter lecture last year and this year's joint venture organised by the Huntarian Society and the Royal Society of Medicine looked fascinating.

Mr Francis Wells presented 'The heart of Leonardo seen through contemporary eyes' and as the notes said, his 'interest in the Arts is a long-standing in both music and art, particularly in the areas of the Renaissance and the act of drawing. The accuracy and beauty of the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci are of particular interest and fascination'. He has collaborated with Martin Kemp, and last year he worked with Windsor Great Library on an exhibition of the heart drawings for the Queen's Gallery. He has since published 'The Heart of Leonardo', which is presumably from where he drew most of the lecture notes. As he also works as a consultant in the fields of heart valve reconstruction and heart and lung transplantation, the scope of his knowledge and expertise is awe-inspiring.

Sunday 29 June 2014

Introduction 2: This time it's kunstgeographie

Not distracted by the view. Oh no.
When looking at art, the viewer should be encouraged to consider geographic issues, to enquire how far environmental factors impact on the society, economy, psychology which produced the piece of art or architecture. In my view, the place of art is as important as the history of that same art; after all, both have informed it equally. For example, in the heart of royal Dresden, along the Augustusstrasse, attached to the back of the Royal Mews, a 102 metre long ceramic mural dominates the street. Known as the Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug, Saxony’s rulers from the first, Konrad the Great (1127-1156) to the last, Friedrich August III (1904-1918) are shown. Originally painted between 1870 and 1876 by artist Wilhelm Walther to celebrate the 800 year anniversary of the Wettin dynasty, they were originally presented in lime wash and stucco but were made permanent in Meissen porcelain in 1906-07.[1]

Friday 27 June 2014

Where is my Parnassus on Wheels?

Books…I’m not going to tell you precisely how much I’ve spent on books this past three months. Mostly because I don’t know and doing the maths scares me silly. Suffice to say I’m doing my dissertation and to save time, I bought some of the more obscure titles to save me time and having to go to the closed at weekend libraries.

I don’t have an excuse for the latest addition to the Clare Brown Institute but it confirmed a few wacky ideas I’ve been having recently. Picture this.

It’s that mid-afternoon lull, where you have that head fug, poised within a post-tea, pre-coffee vacuum. I’m sat at my desk, struggling with a conference paper. The phone rings and it’s one of my favourite lawyers. As ever he is very enthusiastic. He started by thanking me for my help and then got distracted by things he’d read at the weekend. The first was a story about a young talented writer who died recently. The second was a book that he had picked up randomly.

Thursday 26 June 2014

'Fabric' Review: No sun without shadow

Malina Busch 'Fluorescent Blush'
This review was going to be a celebration of summer colours; of shutting ones eyes against the June solstice, leaving echoes of bright pink, rich blues, willow green flashing across the vision, leaving red spots in their wake. I wanted to waken a joyous holiday spirit found in new summer clothing; softly draped fabrics dyed in fluttering colours. Instead I've found myself unwillingly drawn to secluded gazebos hiding clandestine encounters, and surreptitiously lifting tablecloths to see who is touching who inappropriately.

Which sounds like every summer party I've ever been to, so what better exhibition to open in June than Fabric? This show was inspired by the current trend for artists, both established and emerging, working with all kinds of cloth. From embroidery, tapestry, found material, string, canvas…as well as combining it with other media. After the experience they had at the Exeter Contemporary Open, the curators followed up some old and new leads which led to this exhibition. 

Monday 23 June 2014

Introduction: From Politics to 'boozing and praying princes'

The Wettin rulers’ journey from margraves to kings was not an easy one. The most serious period of instability occurred in the years prior to August, and it was only through the political astuteness of his immediate successors that the House continued and he was able to establish a peaceful rule. The importance of religion in their struggle for power and land cannot be understated, and much of the instability experienced in the 1520's was exacerbated by the Protestant reformation. 

For instance, the devious side-changing Protestant Mauritz fought for Catholic Charles V against the collection of Protestant rulers within the Schmalkaldic League which was defeated in 1547. For this service, Charles V awarded him the title ‘Elector’ and the fortunes of the House of Wettin were further improved. Under Mauritz’s brother, August, peace within the Holy Roman Empire was fostered and he was instrumental in negotiating the 1555 compromise treaty which emerged out of the Imperial Diet of Augsburg. Modern commentators such as Jochen Votsch recognise that August was a skilled politician, achieving considerable territorial gains in a peaceful manner.[1] He was able to create a state which was ‘a model of successful internal development…known for financial stability, support of mining, science and technology, and reforms in the domains of justice and administration’.[2]

Introduction to August's Wiredrawing Bench

In the heart of royal Dresden, along the Augustusstrasse, attached to the back of the Royal Mews, a 102 metre long ceramic mural dominates the street. Known as the Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug, Saxony’s rulers from the first, Konrad the Great (1127-1156) to the last, Friedrich August III (1904-1918) are shown. Originally painted between 1870 and 1876 by artist Wilhelm Walther to celebrate the 800 year anniversary of the Wettin dynasty, they were originally presented in limewash and stucco but were made permanent in Meissen porcelain in 1906-07.[1]

Monday 9 June 2014

Passion: When Capability isn't Enough

Arousing great desire
Passion can be defined in a number of ways. It is derived from late Latin 'pati' meaning to 'suffer' and was chiefly a term in Christian theology. Its modern meanings range from 'strong and barely controllable emotion', 'a state or outburst of strong emotion', 'intense sexual love', to 'an intense desire or enthusiasm for something' or 'a thing arousing great enthusiasm'.

With these in mind, Lucy Kellaway made some interesting observations in her FT column from Monday 9th June. She stated that the fashion for being 'passionate' about your work was actually undesirable and inappropriate. She explained that 'passion' was mere language inflation and, occasionally, an excuse for work place histrionics. Instead of passion, she suggests that employers should instead call for enthusiasm, conscientiousness and motivation. This state should be left for religious festivals and sexual activity, and most definitely out of the photocopy room.

Saturday 24 May 2014

The Decoration on August's Wire Drawing Bench

The wire drawing bench in Écouen is the only remaining object of its type. Although many plain wooden goldsmith's benches can be found in museum collections, this one from 1565 is unique. Just as modern scientific instruments are functional and lack a certain mystery, these plain workaday benches are nothing like the Elector of Saxony's wire drawing bench. They have been employed as indispensable goldsmith tools since the middle ages. An engraving by Etienne Delaune demonstrates how the bench was used; the long wooden beam was equipped with a crank, pliers and pulling iron, and used for drawing and profiling metal wires.

Art markets and social bankruptcy: We didn't start the fire...

It's often about timing; sometimes dates, events, circumstances, planetary alignments* combine to make an extraordinary moment in time. From the local elections, the evacuation of people from Birkbeck School of Arts, or a period of artistic bankruptcy; all these came together for the final talk at Birkbeck Arts Week 2014. Professor Dr Harald Falckenberg came to speak to a number of us about international contemporary art trends, specifically viewed from Germany.**

Whether the lecture we got was what he precisely intended is another matter. Ten minutes in and the persistent fire alarm roused even the most stubborn academic, and we decided that the place should be evacuated. It was a beautiful evening for an outdoor lecture. Thus a previously formal academic group stood around the gardens of Gordon Square and heard one of the most scurrilous confidential insights into the murky amoral world of the art market.

Thursday 22 May 2014

Enter the Dragon and the Birds

© The Trustees of the British Museum
Perhaps I’m getting sensitive to the geography of art, or I’ve always fancied exotic places at lunch, but today I went to China. Room 91 at the British Museum affords visitors the opportunity to go on a voyage along the Yangzi River. There is nothing standard sized about the real or depicted landscapes. The scrolled horizontal ones are like a slow journey along the canal; the vertical banners offer a glimpse of a lush garden through an open window.

I want to focus on one image. It shows figures on a mountainous pathway, their voluminous clothing buffeted by the unexpected animation of a dragon to the top right. The artist is witness to the miracle from behind a rocky, wild outcrop which he puts in the foreground. The heavily shaded and emphasised tumbling rocks and foliage emphasise the reality of the locale, where the lightly sketched figures seem ephemeral in comparison. The dragon just is; scaly, snaky and hanging in the sky, surrounded by shading to make it stand out.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

From Stigmata to Golf: Praying through the ages

This was an interesting start to Birkbeck Arts Week. Given the MA Catholic reformation module, I thought it would be a on topic diversion. As the blurb said, 'in our secular world, prayer has become unfamiliar, and past cultures where prayer was more central are harder to understand. Dr Isabel Davis (Birkbeck), Revd Dr Jessica Martin and Dr Nicola Bown (Birkbeck) discuss representations of prayer in literature and art in the Middle Ages, the seventeenth century and the Victorian period. Technique of prayer; what it is and what it is like'.

Dr Isabel Davis and her band of pilgrims set out from the late Middle Ages. For the church going population kneeling was a natural, obvious, submissive posture. And yet, where did this invented and culturally specific idea come from?

Saturday 17 May 2014

Kunstgeographie: A brief guide for the perplexed

What is Kunstgeographie?

Literally translated, kunstgegraphie means the geography of art. Whereas the history of art looks at art in its historical and time-related context, the geography of art looks specifically at place. DaCosta Kaufmann sets it out clearly, 'if art has a history, it also at least implicitly had, and has, a geography; for if the history of art conceives of art as being made in a particular time, it also put it in a place'. (Towards a Geography of Art, p1)

Therefore when looking at art, you should think about geographic issues, in addition to everything else. Ask yourself what are the antecedents to a change in style? What are the particular environmental factors, societal, economic, personal, psychological, climate, materials that have encouraged this change? And why should the place of art not be as important as the history of that same art; after all, both have informed it equally, in my view.

Sie sind hier, oder ... : A Dissertation Update

'Germania florescens' 1586
It's about time I did a dissertation update, even if to just place myself on the map; probably right in the middle of 'there be dragons'.  As part of the dissertation process we have to tell our fellow students where we are and what we've been up to so this partly arises out of that presentation.

As an aside I've been blown away by the sheer spread of topics that our little group have chosen, and given that this process is being replicated all over the country by History of Art students, the prospect of intellectual endeavour is dizzying. For instance, we have the relationship of Joshua Reynolds and Admiral Keppel, Holography, 'objects as ruins in the work of the British moderns', Imogen Cunningham and modernism in flowers, the Berwick Church murals and, finally, an exploration of temporality in a Niagra Falls inspired installation. And that is just a handful of the ideas flying around.

Thursday 8 May 2014

The BMA Library: Mission Anything is Possible

Last July I went on a visit to the RCS Library and so when an opportunity came up to visit another high profile medical library, I was quite excited. CLSIG organised a trip to meet Jacky Berry at the British Medical Association for an overview of the services they offer to their 152,000 members.

The library is unmissible. As you go through the swish main reception area and security gates, arrows and a sign LIBRARY points you upward. As you head up the flight of stairs, you are met with a model of bright modernity, with low wooden shelving, open work spaces and plenty of natural light. A successful team of 13 offer a suite of services to their members, and they see themselves as 'a working doctors library' providing access to a diverse book collection - from clinical to business management. They provide journal alerts, full text doc delivery, electronic services, training to all, and they have a high profile within the BMA.  Last year they had 19328 visitors!

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Book Review: Social Media in the Legal Sector

Although I write about a variety of subjects, some of my recent posts are responding to pockets of social media illiteracy and are mostly aimed at those in the legal world.

Long before getting to grips with content, a new or prospective user needs to acquaint themselves with the technology and the appropriate platform. They need to be confident in their social media abilities, and comfortable that they are not going to destroy a hard won professional legal reputation by a misplaced tweet or a badly written blog post. Social media for business is a commitment of time and money so you need to know whether it is for you.

But if you’re not internet savvy, how do you take that first step? If I need to find out about a new product or unfamiliar social media network, I would search for a quality blog about it, read relevant trade press reviews, or ask my twitter or librarian network. This requires you to be able to identify trustworthy online sources. If you are unsure, then an expensive book published by a reputable legal publisher might be the answer for many lawyers.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Twenty Years as a Law Librarian - Admin

Remember these?
This is the fourth in this series of Twenty Years in Law Librarianship. Given it has been generated by general high level themes of my Chartership Report, such as technology, communications, and professional bodies, I decided it was time for something more prosaic

The reality is that librarianship entails a lot of admin, and although it's boring and unglamorous it is vital to the smooth running of the library service. Whether you are just starting out or reaching the vigorous middle age of your career, admin is everywhere, so it seems appropriate to salute its ubiquity.

Wednesday 30 April 2014

The Rise and Rise of the IWF

Internet Watch Foundation
The Internet Watch Foundation has been working to remove child abuse images from the internet since 1996. People worried about certain images can report them via the IWF hotline, so they can be investigated, removed and if appropriate, reported to the authorities for further criminal investigation. Over the past 6 months there have been a number of changes which have raised the profile of the IWF and I’ve been watching with interest.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Death, Romance and the Landscape

Time Passing
This piece is a rather odd collection of thoughts. As a jigsaw of unintended connections, it works as a semi coherent whole; from chance encounters with Tower Hamlets cemetery, various books on forests and a romantic landscape exhibition at the weekend. Wild wooded nature is the theme of all these and I've been thinking about how woodlands have been perceived by people at different times. There is a large physical difference between a dilapidated Victorian cemetery, South German primeval native forest, and sketches of pastoral fantasies. However they in turn have provided us, and continue to provide us, with pleasure, escape and a way of passing the time.

Adding a LinkedIn Button to Outlook Signature

If you are a regular user of LinkedIn, you may want to encourage your clients and contacts to visit your profile. An easy way of doing this is to add a button to your email* so recipients can click straight through to it. In a meeting I was asked to outline how to do this, so thought I'd post it here too.

Only set up this feature if your profile is complete, up to date and regularly updated.

First find the web address for your LinkedIn public profile. This should be a link underneath your photo on your profile page. If in doubt click on it and it should take you to your page as seen by your contacts. It should look something like

Go to Outlook and open a new email. Click on the Signature button and then Signatures…

Your existing signature will come up. Take this opportunity to update, amend or make any necessary changes to the original text.

Copy and paste the image below into the signature box under your contact details.

Click once on the image to activate it and then click on the hypertext icon – the globe with chain link to the far right. Return to your public profile on LinkedIn and copy your [] link, then paste it into the address box. Click ok. 

Click ok again and the signature box should disappear.

To test whether the link is active, create a new email and send to yourself. When you click on the image box, you should go straight to your LinkedIn public profile. 


*I use Microsoft Outlook 2010.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Effective Networking: From the recycling pile

Useful Connections
It's that time of year. The sunshine is finally strong enough to reach into the farthest recesses of the dusty bankers boxes on my office bookshelves. Looking at them blinking in the sun I realised I hadn't touched them in years. Despite a few office moves they have followed me around, so this morning I called their bluff and sorted them out ferociously. For the most part they contained old budget figures, meeting minutes, course notes, and various suppliers catalogues which I can now view online so my recycle bin is now bulging.

I thought I'd recycle some of the course notes in a different way, with one set from 2004 striking me as still very relevant and interesting. This piece uses 'Top 10 tips for effective networking' which was presented by Lesley Robinson (Oct 2004). Amazingly I still vaguely remember the seminar, partly because of the anticipative terror I experienced by the thought of having to actually talk with a large number strangers. As I recall we listened to her talk, then put her ideas into practice and it worked really well.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Twenty Years as a Law Librarian - Professional Bodies

This is the third in this series of twenty years in law librarianship. I already have covered technology and communications, both of which are fairly uncontroversial. This one is about librarianship's changing professional bodies, which made up part of my report's section on ‘professional awareness’, and could be problematic.

Our Professional Future 1998

Twenty years ago the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals was the Library Association. My Professional Development Report provides an excellent snapshot of where I was in 1999 and was submitted to prove my professional worthiness to become an Associate Member of the LA. At the time of writing it, the profession was undergoing momentous change, and they were consulting on the proposed merger with the Institute of Information Scientists (IIS). I wrote,

Saturday 12 April 2014

Strange Beauty and Augustus, Elector of Saxony

Altdorfer 'Landscape' 1518-20
It seems you can travel miles in search of a certain historical figure, and not realise that useful insights could be hiding in plain view. After a trip to Dresden to see Elector Augustus of Saxony's family home, I decided to visit to London's National Gallery 'Strange Beauty' exhibition. This is not a review because I am too late and its failings have been done to death. However for my purposes the exhibition was a success because it helped me frame some interesting art historical questions, as well as send me off in an unexpected direction.

Naturally I got distracted; in the introductory room I was able to spend quality time with the Arnolfini Portrait, where you could get up close and personal without the usual crowds (yes, I'm happy to pay to be alone with it); as well as some stunning engravings and woodcuts by Cranach and Holbein. The latter's Dance of Death (1526) showed how a tiny skeleton can imbue a scene with an emotional sense of loss - the unwilling toddler being led away was heart stopping. Another dual highlight was Dürer's Melancholia I and an engraving of a self portrait. That arresting gaze missed nothing; whilst the reflection of the windows captured the illumination of his own soul. 

The various Cranachs were, as usual, inscrutable and teasing. Finally I was getting there. Cranach the Elder spent a lot of time at the Elector of Saxony's court and was highly esteemed as an artist and diplomat. Cranach chose to depict the naked people of the mythical silver age fighting one another, against a backdrop of wild mountains and greenery. Instead of focusing on the positives of this age, where Jupiter introduces the seasons and agriculture, he shows the senselessness of men beating each other. The graceful, perfectly coiffed women with their toddlers look on. The fleshy tones and juxtaposition of violence and babies is disturbingly captivating. 

When the kunstkammer of the Electors of Saxony in Dresden was founded by Augustus, Elector of Saxony in 1560, paintings were subordinate to technology and other crafts. However, despite his practical focus, August cherished Cranach the Younger's Adam and Eve which he kept with his treasures. These slim paintings may lack either the sculptural monumentality of Michelangelo or the anguish of Massacio's Adam and Eve, but they have a power and allure of their own. The elegance and simplicity of the gestures catch them on the cusp of the fall; the calm before the storm, the moment of silence before the death and horror. You catch your breath at the inevitability of their temptation and they act as a reminder that we now need to rely on our industry to survive.

From Cranach to the second to last room where I finally captured my Elector; 'Nature and beauty' was the theme. I copied the text which explains the rationale of the pictures in this room. 

Critics have sometimes described German Renaissance art as ugly because of excessive emotion or natural detail but the images themselves present more subtle relationships between beauty, nature and artistry. Durer wrote of his constant search for accurate proportion but he also observed that the human body exists in varied shapes and sizes. Rather than searching for universal ideas of perfection German artists created beautiful images by exploring the diversity of the human form whether variations in body type the effect of ageing or the expressive power of gesture. 
They often lavished equal attention on topography and foliage since mountainous forest landscapes signalled Germanic identity and history. Albrecht invented the new genre of independent landscape omitting all human subjects. But in many figurative images too, landscape setting plays a vital part. Nature in these works is never an objective truth to be recorded. Instead the natural world becomes a subject for creative investigation.

It was Dürer's 'Illustrations of perspective from 'Four Books on Measurement' (1538) I saw Augustus. Augustus was constantly measuring everything, from surveying the land to mapping the heavens. He was looking to the art of science to work out the relationship between things. One article states, 'a 1580 handwritten catalogue lists 2,345 works in his collection from all fields - the classics, theology, history, medicine, surgery, law, mathematics, architecture, astronomy, tournaments and festivals, warfare, mining, numismatics, mineralogy, biology and agriculture'. So not so much creative investigation but early modern natural philosophical experimentation on what the earth can produce for the benefit of the Elector and his state.

Landscape was all. I don't know whether Augustus saw the romantic beauty of his wild forests and mountains, or if he saw the mineral ore, timber, and wealth that they provided. However it is the mountainous forest landscapes signall[ing] Germanic identity and history which has provided me with raw material for consideration. The wiredrawing bench is covered with images of a mysterious forested landscape and set against some of the images in this exhibition, it can only be described as 'germanic'. Altdorfer and his dramatic landscapes are going to provide some very interesting ideas.

The exhibition ends with questions and says, 'today art galleries avoid identifying aesthetic qualities with national character'. I agree, 'national character' is a very woolly and unhelpful phrase. However when a patron like Augustus commissions a work of art or technology, it is necessarily going to be identified with him and his personal interests. Where his interests are so forcefully tied to the identification and exploitation of his state's natural resources, do they produce a 'national character'? If a place is famed for its silver mines and industrial processes, and one of the tools of that process - the wiredrawing bench - is highly decorative, it is logical to assume that the images are inspired by the local landscape. Thus the work of art takes on a national character and demands an explanation in that context.

And this is what I'm setting out to investigate. 

ICLR Online Review

The ICLR was established in 1865 to “prepare and publish, in a convenient form, at a moderate price, and under gratuitous professional control, of Reports of Judicial Decisions of the Superior and Appellate Courts”. With a long standing information pedigree, excellent archive, and a selective editorial approach, I felt optimistic about their online database. I've put down a few thoughts.

The Main Site

Before logging in to ICLR Online, I looked at their main site which has a wealth of free information. As well as the latest case summaries/published cases search, it has an up-to-date blog, details of ICLR events, and other entertaining snippets. I must admit to not using the case digests in my current awareness, but I have now rectified this by adding their RSS feed onto my reader. This is going to be an extra part of my daily bulletin and I can link to the summaries.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Islam in an Age of Confessionalisation

Suleiman the Magnificent
I hadn't been to one of the Birkbeck EMPHASIS seminars in ages. Every time I go to one, I leave with my head bursting with knowledge, usually in several types of dead language. So one a year is probably my max. This one on Islam and Christianity in the Early Modern World, presented by Jan Loop caught my eye, as this topic has been on my study to-do list for a while. Hoping for a break from my wiredrawing bench, I inevitably came away with a few ideas of new areas to pursue regarding the Lutheran polemic which forms part of its decoration. It was bound to be relevant because that is how connections work...

Friday 4 April 2014

CLIG Seminar: Employment law and socia media

These notes come out of a CLIG seminar I attended on 18 March 2014 - the excellent and extremely thorough speaker was Alexandra Mizzi. Apologies for any omissions or mistakes, which are entirely mine and certainly not her fault.

Social media is being tackled piecemeal in the courts and some of these interesting cases are discussed below. It is a tricky area due to increasingly blurred lines between personal and private lives. Creating a successful social media brand is personality driven, so a personal/professional clash is inevitable.

The seminar covered the following areas: the perils of online selection, screening and recruitment; employee misconduct online looking at both company reputation and employer liability; and finally the tricky issue of social media contacts ownership. 

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Twenty Years as a Law Librarian - Communications

Early librarian communication
This is the second in my series of 'Twenty Years as a Law Librarian' blogposts. Although the first was about technology, whilst writing it I found myself constantly thinking about communications. I decided to split the two so I could expand on other areas so that, for example, in the technology piece I could explore the development of  search engines, electronic services, and library catalogues. In this I want to explore different aspects of communications, not just in the obviously technologically reliant areas, but the many other ways we communicate day-to-day.

Monday 24 March 2014

'Constellatio Felix': August the Strong's Festival of the Planets

One of the unexpected highlights of the Royal Palace was the collection of prints drawings and photographs. On the top floor, like the print collection of the British Museum, it has an air of secluded quiet, and requires a visitor to seek out its treasures. The Dresden museum has 500,000 works on paper by over 11,000 artists from eight centuries. Therefore the Kupferstichkabinett (print collection) puts on changing exhibitions, so visitors can have a tiny taste of the material they keep. The exhibition on currently is the 'Constellatio Felix: August the Strong's Festival of the Planets • Thomas Ruff's stellar constellations'.

Constellatio Felix 'fortunate stellar constellation' was the theme of one of the most lavishly ostentatious celebrations of the baroque. Augustus II staged a month long set of events to mark the September 1719 marriage of his son to Frederick Augustus to Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria. The festivals dedicated to the planets were particularly spectacular, and thankfully for us, Augustus required that the event was fully documented. Images of feasts, dances, parades, meticulously recorded the every detail of day- and night-time extravaganzas. Interspersed throughout the baroque fancies, the curators have placed Ruff's timeless planet pieces; offering balance, colour and serenity to the endless historic, dynastic and political posturing.