3rd Yr Journal – Week 3

I’ve been struggling the past couple of days to find a rhythm and grasp what the relevance of my materials have to ideas of colonialism and anthropology, the celts, christian history or art or the influence of religion and so on and so on. Until I realised that I have been getting too lost in the information and academia of the concepts I’m working with. I have also given myself too much to think about and all the subject areas are extremely vast. To try to counteract this and take away some of the intense factual ideas I’ve been working with, I have decided to forget the previous research I’ve done, block it out for a few days and focus on the form and physicality of what’s in front of me. I headed to the library and did some artist research.

Dorothy Cross’s work found its way into my life and help to shine a light over the poeticness and ambiguity of form and material. By simply saying how a form can encourage the “viewer to ask more intimate questions that are often buried deep in our consciousness” has helped to remind me of the importance and beauty of form and material and how these realisation of what a material can do come from making with the material not thinking and planning what to do with it.

“residue is a key word in the artist’s vocabulary, she has always shown tenderness towards remnants , leavings, and detritus, and her imagination returns again and again to leavings, traces, artifacts, ordinary articles packed with memories and dreams” reminding me that the artist definitely benefits from having a relationship with the materials she or he is using like being ‘tender’ towards them or rough or careless which helps me to consider the relationship I have with mine. I have realised I am delicate with them but not overly precious, suggesting that they are not only ephemeral in literal terms but also ephemeral in terms of my value to towards them.

“When she turns to the dead past, her work reactivates its shadows and its corpses through the magic of relics. She establishes lines to the past, through buildings and objects and achievements that have been abandoned”. I found this quote relevant and inspiring to my own practise as it talks of working with the past, in the present and what the relationship between the two time periods could mean. Essentially I am exploring how the past has affected the present and in doing so, I am reminding the present of the past. Like giving the past and present agency or status as if they were tangible objects or consciousnesses in their own right that have memory and opinion to what they’d like to take from the past and what they’d like to leave there. I guess this is similar to the structure of colonialism in a way as one agent takes what it wants from another agent to create a new currency of existence whether its tangible or not. But what if the past could also still take from the present or future? What is a theoretical example of this?

I’ve also looked physically at the work of Tony Cragg for inspiration on form, shape and structure. You can see evidence of this in my sketchbook.  He often works with very permanent materials and I was attracted to the pieces that although are made as permanent objects, seem and look random or impermanent in their spaces in galleries etc. I was attracted to the sculptures that looked random and almost give off the feeling that they could get away if they wanted to; this is a juxtaposition between material and form. A permanent material evoked in a transient, temporal way.

Then I developed and approached my small delicate dough objects in a different way, displaying them on blocks of oolitic limestone.

 

Experimenting with arrangement and positioning. I also added some hay and two metal drum kit cymbals to the structures.

More experimenting I did today was to make marks using charcoal onto the dough:

 

Which made the browned dough seem like tiny landscapes or lands. The charcoal gave them depth and pattern that follows the natural shapes and lines found in the baked dough. They are quite beautiful and when photographed on matt black paper appear ancient and important somehow even though they are extremely easy, cheap and uncomplicated to make. But what defines important – delicate, cheap and uncomplicated can be just as important as expensive, strong and complex objects.

I also positioned the dough shapes within some of my hay sculptures – a completely different and opposing material to the oolitic limestone:

 

The oolithic limestone also added interesting context to the work but I’m not sure what to think about it yet. “Oolitic limestone is made up of small spheres called ooiliths that are stuck together by lime mud. They form when calcium carbonate is deposited on the surface of sand grains rolled (by waves) around on a shallow sea floor.” (quote from google search). It is “precipitated from warm, supersaturated marine water. A pure oolitic limestone with spar cement. The oolites are white, rounded, and concentrically layered, in the sand sized range.” which gives me lots of things to think about, from circular objects to its layering qualities and the process in which it’s formed. It’s creation heavily involves the ocean and the movement of waves and energy and through the layering up of shells and sediment on the ocean floor you get circular textures in the stone. Layering like the layering of history being deposited on the ocean floor to create solid stone created over time. Cultural history like layers of addition and change to create the current state of a material that can be manipulated, carved, chipped and sculpted either by nature or human hands – much like culture can be. We are chipping away, manipulating and sculpting society all the time without even realising it. Society like layered earth constantly being manipulated and changed.

In a tutorial with David Paton, I was made aware of the concept of palimpsest. The concept originated from ancient Greece and Rome and describes the process of scraping away layers of animal fat from animal skin which was used to write on. Ink would penetrate the animal skin and stain it so when a layer is scraped off to remove a mistake for example, the ink was so strong that it would leave traces of the original text all the way through the layers of skin so that despite trying to remove the mistake, you will still be able to see the original marks underneath. This concept has now been adopted and used in an archaeological context to describe objects that portray visual timelines. For example, the walls of an ancient cave may have hundreds of engravings or drawings or markings on them, but they wouldn’t have all been made in the same 10 minutes 10,000 years ago. The walls have been added to overtime by different people, resulting in walls  that can now be described as a palimpsest. They are things that present time through physical change and alteration that can still be seen. This concept made clear how important layers are in my work to represent historical and time based change.

In the video above, I transfer rubble and mud that I collected from an archaeological excavation site between the dough sculptures. Here the dough acts as a vessel and kind of bowl that can hold a material. The mud from the site that is likely to not have seen sunlight for hundreds of years leaves traces in each of the dough sculptures it’s poured out of, the dirt collects around the bumps and textures of the dough like history leaving its mark throughout the social landscapes it interacts with. Transferring but leaving traces, anything that is transferred leaves remnants and traces in the metaphorical vessel that held it before.

As of this I’ve started to see the dough shapes as islands of meaning in themselves. Each having their own individual markings and landscape. I’ll never make the same one twice, hand crafted like culture and society. Little representations floating out into the sea of culture or tossed into the wild ocean by god where they go on their own journey, either sinking, breaking, disintegrating, eaten or smashed. They all have their own journey like the history of every country, continent, cultural group, family, person. Like a simple general representation of the concept of the voyage or journey that everything is forced take having been given the gift of life or presence in the world. So I made this experimental video below that I’d like to add some sort of narrative poetry to in the future to attempt to convey these ideas. Poetry like a charm or story, I’d like to create a fictional narrative for the dough pieces that maybe evokes a sense of the beginning of culture or abstract story about how time or society began. This creation of abstract symbolic scenario making or story telling is popular within native Canadian story telling where no gods or specific beings are presented as the creators but animals and nature being the ones that brought about human life, time and culture.

 

 

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CAST Residency August 2018

The month long studio residency I did at CAST (http://c-a-s-t.org.uk/) throughout August was an extremely interesting, eye opening and experimental time. The work I produced was some of my favourite work to date and I believe the freedom, lack on subconscious need to fit a mark scheme, the size of the studio space and time alone was essential to these outcomes and very effective.

Having been super interested in colonialism for the past 12 Months since a fantastically moving and inspiring exchange to Vancouver, Canada last August, I felt I began evoking the challenging thoughts and concepts I’ve wanted to communicate.

A short film also accompanied the installation, click link below to watch:

‘Locally Sourced’ video link on Vimeo

It was a very methodic and rhythmic process of plodding through thought without pressure of expectation to an end point that seemed to make sense.

The video piece was presented on a laptop at the side of the installation however, if the opportunity arose where I could put the instillation together again, I would like to run the video through a TV with better headphones. It is an experimental digital film exploring a scaled down scenario relating to the colonialism found in England. A scene on the left showing ‘up country people’ from more privileged, educated backgrounds undertaking an archaeological dig in southern Cornwall. Scene on the right of mainly local Cornish folk enjoying the annual ancient pagan festival held in Helston in early May known as Helston Flora festival. There is a juxtaposition of the two. The story is always the same, the highly educated privileged academics on the left, digging up the ancient local history of those on the right, with those on the right likely to never obtain or gain access to the findings of their history on the left. A scaled down metaphor of the structure of Anthropological and Archaeological scientific findings ingrained into social structure and lack of accessibility given to the less privileged. In parts of the video, I insert my own presence into the scenario through the sound of my voice. I did this to explore this kind of chain of research happening. By not eliminating myself from the storyboard, you are presented with: the artist studying the archaeologists and there being a direct connection between me and the archaeologists due to the communicative exchange, and then the archaeologists arguably studying the histories of the people on the right yet there is a disconnect between the reality of what they are digging for and the current reality of these people generations later. The archaeologists arguably digging in the land of the local’s ancestors yet lacking connected with the the locals of now – I something that is continuously repeated throughout this field. Also, by inserting the presence of the artist into the left scene with the archaeologists, I highlight the reality of the artist sharing the same privilege as the scientists; also disconnected from the reality of the native, local persons.

I was basically experimenting with representing social power and privilege structures found constantly interwoven into society all over the world but here specifically in Britain. And doing so in an experimental documentary kind of way.

No for the physical instillation, I’d like to start by highlighting the the materials I worked with. With a combination of hay and ship sails as the main material used in the work I can begin by mentioning the material implications of the home and away. Home being the hay and away being the ship sails. Already the essence of journey is implied. My intentions of using the hay was to communicate a sort of rural, traditional folk imagery with relevance to the working class and ‘common people’ of Britain which follows suit with the rest of the world; it’s not likely that hay or straw would spark associations with the upper classes of the world. I then explored tying the hay into bundles which naturally bared relevance to imagery within tribalism, paganism, witchcraft and unidentifiable mythical creatures. This helped stitch together loose thoughts on indigenous peoples, cultures and religions of England before it began being colonised by Europe starting with the Romans in 43 AD, and since then these cultures and religions have continued to decrease.

The sails on the other hand were sourced from a local sail maker in Falmouth who gave me a bunch of cut-offs and scraps from his workshop. After being glued together in collage fashion, they became striking, flag like and conveyed an essense of pride and power. My intentions with the sails revolve around an air of Britain’s subconscious Colonial pride; the sails representing that over sea voyage, journey and conquering that took place during colonial conquest. However, I wanted to communicate this in a kind of subtly tribal fashion. I’m not entirely sure of the reasoning and link between presenting the sails in a way that looks like stretched or hung animal skin but it’s along the lines of challenging what England would present in terms of a skin that represents them. The sail/ flag imagery representing Britain as rooted in colonialism, patriarchy and taking what is not theirs to take. Rather than presenting say an indigenous animal skin that is worshipped and honoured for giving every part of itself up for the likes of human consumption and use. Britain as a nation has no care for nature the way other cultures around the world do and these are the cultures that Britain aimed to destroy.

Finally, an element of the installation was a metal dustbin filled with carved apples bobbing in water. This may remind you of that old traditional village feit game, apple bobbing yet these 53 apples have the 53 commonwealth country outlines carved into them. With this I aim to challenge the notion and approach that the predominantly christian community that fueled Britain’s desire to conquer had when they spread their mark around the world… absentmindedly biting into whatever country they picked up next.

It was a passionate and interesting endeavor that flowed through many circles of thought. It was also a massive help and step forward into 3rd year where I will continue to manifest the same themes.

Term 1 Evaluation

Whether it was me or someone I knew travelling, distant separations and long periods of time have been a major part of my past year and this was the initial inspiration for the work I have produced up until now.  Although I have touched on other subjects and ideas, the underlying notion behind my work is that of ‘the moments in between’. This originated from obvious thoughts about “a cut in time” and “space of existence” when someone is no longer physically spending time with you. Despite new technology ‘bringing people closer together’, the facts are “you can only be with someone when you are with them” therefor when talking on the phone or on facetime, there is no real, solid evidence that you are actually connecting with them – because you are not. As of this, through image making of different sorts, I have explored the constant overlapping of interaction a mother may have with a child compared to the singular interaction of two strangers meeting for one time only. The idea of this ‘gap’ then developed through to performance art where I attempt to experience the void of getting lost and what it meant for objects being taken from the lost place. My intention was to make work that highlights these gaps in our understanding, actions, perception and conscious beliefs, then push their boundaries. I still have much to explore and build upon and have moved through many different circles of thought to get here. I recognise my work would benefit from being a more refined concept earlier on to leave me more time for scrutiny, rather than brushing over other ideas with little relevance.

New to studying fine art, my earliest work took a familiar form of painting, collage, photography and drawing but my first attempt at video art led to more video plus performance. I have discovered that the involvement of the body, essence of human and movement are of more interest to me than the arguably stationary presence and resulting flat image of say painting. I can connect to work much better if it is more sensually stimulating, then feel more in tune and involved with what I am trying to communicate. Saying this, since my first visit to the workshop, I’ve hardly left. Casting, woodwork and welding have all become the processes I’ve used to make my most recent works. I’ve never used machinery like this before and have begun creating sculptures. Some of the sculptures I’ve made however have not been developed in anyway or revisited. Working in this intuitive way has been letting the work itself evoke future ideas but at the same time I abandon work I may have only just finished. I could be overlooking great potential for development so from now I will take more care with reflection and not jump to the next thing if I haven’t considered the possibilities of what is right in front of me.

In terms of imagination, my starting point was quite simple and direct: being away from someone means physical space and being with someone implies wholeness. This directly informed the grid like paintings and weaving I touched on at the very beginning. Alongside, I made images by visually simplifying experiences and moments from photos as a form of documentation which did have more complex associations with psychology of information and perception of the viewer. Visual explanation of events was a key theme. But I found it quite restricting as the point of it was simplification and documentation of moments so taking it further kind of felt defeatist and a uninteresting. But, the relevance of the gap regained its importance and thanks to a major study of John Cage’s work, for example 4’33” where a pianist walks up to a piano in the gallery space, expected to play the instrument however captures the audience and sends them spiralling into an in between of understanding left with ‘nothing’ when he walks away having not played a single note. My imagination became angled more towards the potential of discovering and creating voids. I became fascinated with lost places of nonexistence but how they must exist if we can call them moments or places.  These complex ideas grew into video and performance. If I compare the direct approach I had when painting grids compared to the video piece I did about capturing ‘moments between the functions’ like blinking, finding the radio station and the role of the hinge in a door. I can see the evolution of form and media as well as a more concise objective and outcome; even if my technological understanding was poor.

I have thrown myself into all ways of working and am slowly discovering what media I’m most attracted to which is currently performance and sculpture. Simultaneously, I still find myself struggling to balance my practice with research; I get myself lost in theories and ideas, write masses about artists and their concepts but don’t really know what to do with it. Following this in depth reflection, I will get more focused on coordinating conceptual research with physical work.

Discovering that work like John Cage’s 4’33” performance exists and is celebrated was hugely influential, plus relevant to my ideas of void and the nothing in gaps. Prior again, a quote from the book ‘Trickster makes this world’ by Lewis Hyde about artist Rebecca Horn, fed me the first example of a ‘space in between’ when stating that there is a place neither leading out nor leading in to the door and this is the place of “the hinge”; the “in between of two identified functions” and an element so often forgotten. The hinge related considerably to my research on the theory of phenomenology which was established by German philosopher, Edmund Husserl.  Although it is difficult to define phenomenology, it “is considered to be oriented on discovery” and associates with ideas of experience and ‘aboutness’.  In phenomenology, there are theories about retention and pretention. “Retention is not a representation or memory but a presentation of a temporarily extended present.” A concept about nothing but an observation of the way our conscious experience works between the present and the future and highlights the space between them.

I can see how my ideas have been solely gyrating around philosophy and psychology with little relevance to contemporary issues or debates. Yet recently, in sculpture I’ve used found and organic materials so thoughts of climate change and our natural environment have arisen. Since watching the American Presidential debates, seeing their outcome and watching the documentary by Leonardo DiCaprio called ‘Before the Flood’, I have begun to address concerns with the lack of attention the natural world will receive in the coming years. I have so far only begun to support this within the materials I am using, location of video and performance and journal research on artists’ Tania Kovats and Richard Long. As of my lack of alliance with the contemporary world, social and political issues, I know to combine my ideas with critical concerns in the future and I predict these may have a lot to do with effect of climate change and future of our planet.

The journal has played an important part of my practise since the summer when I learnt of the universe in a box project, and it has been a very useful clarification and research tool. I note down everything from visiting artist talks, art history lectures, screenings, artist studies and some reflection. My journal is like a long string of ideas, every quote or idea I’ve found interesting is gathered here, along with informative but regrettably not as clearer reflection as I thought I’d done. I have reflected on my work and my progress however after re reading my journals, it is not organised or obvious. Discovering that most of my reflection and decision making was done in my head and whatever idea or thing that came after is what I’d write down. I see how I have often told the reader my thoughts on concepts and new ideas but only rarely looked back on previous ones. Separately, I have made a blog to present the video and performance work I have been doing and after each post I do provide a paragraph of reflection. Typing thoughts up feels more formal and precise; it’s easier to articulate myself, implying it may be useful to use an online format as a journal or for reflection in the future.

Using technology more and admittedly not having used the studio due to space, led me into all the kinds of media that a studio space wasn’t needed for like video, performance and doing sculpture in the workshops. But I have been in the workshop almost every day for the last 3 weeks and before that was planning and making videos and performances. I enjoy the freedom on the course and the easy, encouraged access to things like the workshop and have been using the library often as well. However one thing I am struggling with is the technical side of video and sound editing, I believe there is a course run to help student with computer editing software which I will join in January. I know that if I had a better technical understanding and access to professional software then the overall quality of my video work would improve. Along similar lines, over the break I’d like to improve my professional presence as an artist all together whether that’s through documentation of work, online presence, more directly and confidently contextualising my practise and being generally more aware of the contemporary world all together.

Lost in fluid surroundings

I surround myself with water collected from the ocean after filming my ‘Under nothing but ocean’ video about the ocean surrounding you and how due to the nature of the sea and its mass connection all over the world, you are effectively always lost as the same water particles of your surrounding will probably never come in contact with your existence ever again. As of this, I can conclude that this particular ‘after performance’ using water from the ocean does surround you in a similar way as the ocean does. I have taken the water particles from a bigger source (the sea) to present them as separate objects around me, the difference here however is that the ‘taken pieces from the lost in between’ were once all interconnected and were a genuine ‘piece’ from the forces of my ‘lost’ surroundings. The water particles are very difficult to obtain once released, therefor, it’s hard to ‘do’ anything with the water once it has been poured around me, unlike the solid objects from the other lost experiment I did where i could manipulate and position them as I pleased. This formulates  questions about timelessness and supports the idea of the momentary feeling of being lost that can’t be reclaimed, you can only feel it again if you get lost in another different new place and in this case it would be to collect a new selection of water.

Under nothing but ocean

 

This beautiful video I’ve made is so simple yet captivating, the constant dynamic movement of the sea effectively leaves a person continuously lost when within its surrounding waters. Because of the oceans constant movement, the same particle is very unlikely to ever come in contact with your body again there for every moment is essentially a moment of lost because your surroundings are forever brand new and you would never have experienced them in the past and never will in the future.

In the video I swim far out to sea then tread water whilst spinning around raising the camera above the water level and below at random moments. As the weather changed and the sun began to set, the water change colour and streams of light lit up the surrounding water. Due to the poor quality of my underwater camera, these light beams became pixelated and unexpectedly beautiful. You can find these about 11 minutes in. The white gap you see appear above and below the water when facing the light ties nicely into my ideas about ‘spaces in between’. The harsh whiteness is like a void of nothing or glitch without explanation. It looks like a gateway that leads into the abyss of nothing.

Although this was difficult, I purposely swam far out in order to capture no other people or land in my footage. The shots of just the endless out to sea and nothingness of the perspective under the water are cooling and a bit frightening, the complete essence of lostness and being alone. You may find this peaceful or scary depending on your perspective and experiences but there is no doubt the video comes across beautifully eerie along with the slowed soundtrack which could sound like someone slowly drowning or a conversation stolen from cyberspace.

The visuals of the video are supporting my theories of the sea, they are obviously fluid and ever changing but because of the nature of the ocean, the first shot it literally directly connected to the end shot and every shot in between! Continuous brand new surroundings and pure fluidity.

Swimmers in Nothing

In this video, the water represents the space in between and the swimmers representing our experience within it. Within water, your body is experiencing new surroundings every single second; in the sea especially. The ocean is all connected and is constantly involved in fluid movement, therefore the particles in contact and around our bodies are always completely new, challenging the notion that in the sea you are always lost.

Reflection: Visually I wish I’d have held the camera much more still and maybe removed the sound from it. To improve this video and develop it I could arrange to shoot multiple shots at different angles all videoing the same swimmers but display say 4 shots all at once on loop, maybe on monitors in a cube shape so that all the monitor screens are facing inwards and the viewer would stand in the centre essentially being surrounded as well.

Blindfolded art performance

I do explain a little bit about my project and concepts at the end of the video but I was slightly embarrassed and under pressure when I was speaking so I didn’t explain very well.

This performance was my first ever performance with an audience but a big part of the performance was the fact that the audience would be visually unaware of what the performance entailed, they had to rely on hearing as their best and automatic sense to help them process and guess what was happening behind the blindfolds. As of this, I feel I am addressing and creating a void or space between the function of seeing and action of ‘performing’ as the most obvious point of performing in general terms is for people to see it.

I also did this performance on a Saturday at 12:00 midday, I thought this added to the overall effect of the performance because some of my small audience travelled for 20 minutes on a bus to see it but found out there wasn’t even anything to see, only experience and hear for as little as a minute which they may have found a little irritating.

Reflection: I have noticed the need for humans to ‘work out’ when they are either lost or unsure of something, it is interesting how we instinctively do this thanks to our senses. But taking away the most relied on sense that is sight, forces working out in another way. What if I was to do another ‘getting lost experiment’ but I remained blindfolded the whole time so had no use of sight to help work out where I am. I like how my choice of camera angles adds and reinforces the non seeing aspect of the performance through the video so that no viewer of this video will ever know what happened when the blindfold went on. I am also intrigued by the unknown. It raises questions about whether you really know or have proof that there is someone performing behind the blindfold if you actually can not see the thing happening that you think is happening. There is a conceptual space within statement like “only be there when are there” which is something I wrote at the very beginning of this project. Also things like “only believe it when you see it”, do you believe things that you believe because you have been told them or because you have experienced them first hand?