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.

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Reality Underpass – Sculpture

Bringing together the balloon forms in all their variety and a collaboration of found items, I created this sculpture/installation. The vague idea behind this piece is the ‘slipping through’ ‘unnoticed slipping under’ ‘underpassing’ of reality in our modern world. The idea was to use sand to represent true reality that passes underneath the arches and bridges of fast pace, quickest route technology and media that are drawing us over the away from reality in it’s purest form.

The rest of the sculpture has been completely up to my hands and mind at the time of creation. I moved the material and objects around the room in search of a positioning that I felt was right, and continued this process throughout the course of the sculpture.

I do really enjoy this intuitive way of working but as long as I have all the right tools and possible materials to use at hand and all my options around me. And as a result I got the large sculpture below that uses: oil sand, plaster mold and casts, found wires, found cushioning, found wood, melted keyboards, a plinth filled with sand,  polystyrene packaging in a bag and a projector and cameras.

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The projected scene onto the sculpture is a ‘live’ video of the sculpture in the space, the video can only go on as long as the sculpture lasts and thanks to technology, because I am videoing directly what I can see onto the thing I’m seeing, the projected image multiplies and plays back into itself. It creates senses of non stop, forever and continuation, expanding on ideas of constant digital attachment that will go on forever, it’s a bit like a black hole. Also, time in the video gets slower as the video goes further into repeat, there’s something fascinating  and disorientating about something in real time being repeated and changing in sync.

Again in this sculpture I intended for there to be a feeling of system or network going on. The veins of reality pumped into the solid balloon forms and seeping from synthetic substances like polystyrene or wire. The half bitty half clear foam softening and cushioning the weight of the hollow balloon molds that have been mutated to resemble rock formations. The key boards like a control panel for all of it, melted and distorted but still controlling the system of reality and roots of modern life. The video projection ensuring its long living stability and presence, repetition and technological overcast on the flow of the sculpture and modern life.

Using sand in my sculptures and using a process of placement and arrangement demonstrates the temporary and ephemerality of the moment of creation. You cannot move the sculpture without taking it apart and breaking it’s state, the sculpture has been built using lots of different elements especially considering the sand that has been molded into a shape there and then. The ephemerality of the sculpture combined with the reliance of the projection, on the sculpture (because the projection is OF the sculpture) both bare temporal elements that reflect the state of humans on the earth. The momentary existence and blink of an eyelid that we live for in the eyes of the universe is like the building and then breaking down of this sculpture.

Since doing my recent installation sculptural work, I have realised that I need to refine my working ideas. The subject of the anthropocene, climate change, the apocalypse, technology/information world and the desert and reality and living more and using technology less is what all my ideas revolve around and that is a lot to consider, it is such a huge mass of subjects. However, from the materials I am drawn to collecting and the general outcomes of my installations and sculptures, it seems palpable to say that I am constantly creating divergence and friction between organic substance and the synthetic, mass manufactured. I see that sometimes the contrasting materials work fluidly together and other times they seem to move abruptly against each other, constantly showing their differences and reflecting the way they work together in the wider world. From this point onwards, my sculptural and aesthetic awareness will be with this notion of division and juxtaposition of organic forms and natural life and that of the bold, damaging, now so familiar world of man made products, mass production and remnants of human existence.

Live Sandthropocene

This was an extremely enjoyable but mega piece of work. There are lots of different elements to the piece that I brought all together in attempt to create a spontaneous installation. I wanted to include my ‘Live’ video and some previous sculpture I’d done like the newspaper balloon and experiments I’d done with melting computer keyboards.

I was going for the less prepared, freer, spontaneous approach to the day it took making this because I’ve been aware how much planning and preparation I seem to do with every piece so to just bring all elements together and see what I get seemed like a new, interesting way of working.

Melted Electrical Equipment:

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Notions of shrivelling and drying up are strong in my thoughts and ideas, directly reflecting the state of the human social sculpture and mind as well as the physical changes the world is facing. I thought it appropriate to deliberately destroy these pieces of well recognised technology the way I argue they are changing us. Although they link quite clearly to some sort of apocalypse, the physical presence of a melted and damaged piece of plastic like these finds an eerie, uncomfortable realm within us that concludes that this is not ok. In the flesh, the sculptures make you feel uncomfortable. Everyone knows that electrical equipment, plus fire (which is the obvious cause for the damage here) is definitely bad, with relation to danger, explosions, fumes and waste. But why do we so easily recognise this matter, opposed to realising, noticing and therefore caring that we are doing the exact same thing to the planet? The sculptures are sickly and fairly repulsive as the keys bare bubbles, dirty textures and scorched fluid edges, it may be fascinating but also uncomfortable.

Above are some photos of the impromptu ‘oil sand’, wire and melted technology  sculpture I put together inspired by ideas of the anthropocene, climate change and the crumbling of social interaction. I didn’t plan what I was going to make and it was a really enjoyable process rather than trying to match something to an idea or drawing which can get frustrating when it doesn’t go to plan.

The sand staircases in the sculpture are part of an experiment I did a few weeks ago where I made a mould that works in the same way as a sandcastle bucket. I fill it with sand and turn it over and out comes a staircase. The staircases were part of an original idea: sand is a key material seen through this body of work as of the relevance to the future of our planet if it continues to be abused and dry out due to climate change. Plus it is extremely crumbly and obviously wouldn’t be a very good material for building stairs. Imagine trying to climb a sand staircase, you would just fall through it as it crumbles into a pile – you would get no where – a bit like our future in this case.

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The previous elements of sculpture then became part of an installation after I added a projector showing the previous video I made called ‘Live’. I also experimented with lights for the first time and to my surprise, thanks to the wires I received some amazing shadows cast all over the walls.

Reflection: The addition of the lights was not intended to create these shadows but I think they were a real asset to the outcome. They have connotations with remnants and impression and trace which could all be linked to the human presence on Earth. The shadows are visually very interesting and add a sense of mystery and ghostly eeriness to the installation like this is a scene from a terrible, very serious story that has yet to happen, the tangles and ambiguous trails of sand are part of a bigger picture. Some sort of system is indicated through the improvised shapes crawling and sprawling across the floor. When I stepped back to look at the piece at the end I could vaguely trace out the shape of a human body; the paper mache balloon being the head leading down to the sand as the torso and wires to staircases as the limbs. Reinforcing the possible apocalyptic future for the human race suggesting we end in piles of sand and tangled wires leading no where.

As of all this, I have been made aware from others and consider myself that it may be too much. There is too much going on. I had feedback suggesting that either the video or the melted keyboards weren’t needed. And possibly that the floor piece would have been fine on it’s own and the wall aspects distracted from the detail it bares below.

However, I really liked the process and seeing how it developed so think I will do similar things in the future but keep in mind the risk of over complicating and crowding, sometimes less is more.