Moving Forward – January

Since hand-in last week, many things have unexpectedly changed and swapped and jumped about in my brain. After spending a fair bit of time alone this weekend and a slightly uncomfortable drawing session with a friend where I was pushed to think about what I truly desire creatively, I have come to a bit of a turning point.

I have been reflecting on the past couple of years of studio practise and noticed the gaps. Gaps meaning breaks from the studio and what I find myself doing creatively in those periods like holidays and just after hand ins… In times of rest or simply away from marked studio work I seem to always come back to a specific figurative drawing style using chalk and oil pastels. I do it and feel relaxed and under no pressure to evoke a meaning or convey a critical context. I’ve realised that this is actually the kind of work I enjoy. Therefor I have started to activate this style and new found freedom and real enjoyment of it. Play, enjoyment and honesty with my work has been on my mind ever since I had a tutorial with Hew Locke when he asked me if I enjoy making the things I make and I couldn’t honestly say I did.

******** Insert images of sketches

I also had my feedback tutorial with artist and lecturer Lucy Willow who I have known for the past couple of years and she knows my practise well. She said it was evident in that play and passion weren’t present at the moment and was confused by the way I presented the work and why I’d done it all. She was right, I didn’t really enjoy making last terms studio work and found myself over thinking it, reading too much and trying too hard to give it a meaning before I’d even made it. She told me to relax and just have fun, let the material lead me, play, put things together and not over think it. She also assured me that the meanings and contexts can come after and that the work will speak to me naturally and evoke the meanings I naturally and instinctively gave to it when it’s ready- a more positive process than the one I was following before.

The beginning of creative freedom:

I have a load of different materials and objects in my space. Most are either found organic matter or materials I have manipulated like dough and bread, hay and stuffing. I have started tying and arranging the separate objects together around metal structures I twisted and welded in the workshop. I let my hands and eyes lead me avoiding the temptation to bring in contextual references or seeking reasons and meaning for the creations and shapes.

I thought of these sculptures as potential landscapes and did some close up video documentation of their textures and shape – potentially for green screen video overlaying of me climbing them or something similar.

This pulsing and rocking element to the sculpture makes it look and feel like a create even more. It rocks on its own just from people passing or walking by it. Quite an interesting tension and characteristic.

The organic matter and objects I have brought together in the work are sourced from all over the world. With some objects from Central America, Norway, England and Canada. A fellow student and I had a conversation about the sculptures and we realised this kind of attempt I am performing at trying to link distant objects and matter that aren’t from the same origin. The trapping and tying of the natural materials around a metal skeletal form is like I am trying to bond them to a steady centre of which all of it can stand secure as one being. We concluded this similar to the current universal need for connectivity and acceptance of all people coming together in crisis, migration and globalisation.

Another reflection was about the presence of pod or bud like objects and shapes. The figurative drawings I’ve been doing have plump, round, bud like heads but exaggerated, distorted bodies. Also many of my objects are seed pods, shells or stones of a kind which all encompass an element of containment and birth or regrowth. Associating with ideas like: reincarnation, reproduction, growth, nature, spreading seeds through nature, the weather, collecting, health, food, nutrients, sharing…

Sharing is an interesting idea; when trees or plants produce seeds they are allowing their DNA and part of themselves to be spread and shared intuitively throughout the ecosystem, landscape and habitat. A metaphor for the need for humans to spread their nutrients and kindness and part of themselves with each other and the rest of nature. Like exchanges of each person or body. Humans like seeds spreading their goodness to their habitat. Figurative drawings and the seed idea now connecting.

I also found that some of the objects in my space were quite musical so I have been playing around with their potential.

I like how marks were left on the cymbal from the air dry clay on the stick ends. A collaborative sound making process that is also traced and documented on the instrument of choice. It felt good to play with someone and bounce of the intuition of the others choices and decision making when it came to deciding the fate of the object.

I am enjoying the performative elements of my work and space and making process and will continue to document my movements and discoveries. The body feels like it may become quite important.

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‘Live’ Performance 2

Simplified, refined version of the performance I previously did called ‘Live’ Performance. Advancing on ideas about the cyber, social media and digital world taking over our lives so much so that in reality it’s hard to say we are ‘living’ anymore. We are so involved with our online presence and increasingly so, for some, they are more involved with their online life than they are with their real one.

This time the character sits still, bolt up right and straight towards the camera and projector. You can sometimes see the whites of the characters eyes, watering, vulnerable and anxious, holding connotations with all emotional elements related to social media and technology. In ways, it’s as if the dark shape of the figure is the soul of the character and is having the ‘live’ video be projected into their heart, directly to manipulating their being and dissolving their reality in the dense network that runs through the wires in our houses and through the signals in the sky, beating the pulses of the modern ‘live’ world into their mind.

I think this is a good adaptation to my first performance but there is an uncomfortable, unease about the first performance that I really like and think adds to the notions it represents about our present and future social landscape and the way people feel and act within it. However, this second version displays the same ideas in a different way; here the character sits motionless and almost dead, behind the powerful rays of the ‘live’ video, really straining the contrast of the video with the actions of the character.

Live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, but NO Life.

‘Live’ Performance

Using the video I made with found footage of TV presenters saying how they are going ‘live’ somewhere or on ‘live tv’, I did a piece of performance art. The ‘live’ video is being projected on a character dressed in a suit, representing the average male character of the Western world, mooching around a messy room aimlessly searching for some sort of meaning in objects or his surroundings but can never maintain interest in something for longer than a minute before looking for something better.The character looks tired and unhappy, the tights that have been used to hold a balloon above his head disfigure the face and give him droopy eyes and a misshapen nose adding a sense of synthetic disturbia to the character. Synthetic alterations. I included a battery powered flashing bow tie to the character’s outfit, a bow tie is often worn during middle class events or for special occasions, however, when flashing, there’s a sense of learnt humour about the look, like a clown or magician. Presenting the well recognised business man as a bit of a performer or joke.

The character searches for meaning and briefly examines objects before getting bored and moves onto other ones. Although not intended, this act illustrates a loss of meaning to the man’s life, he can’t find anything stimulating to hold onto, he has no interests, impatient, no reason for living outside of working, hence the empty alcohol bottle and temporarily finding joy in his car keys (his pride and joy). On the other hand, with the objects he finds, he sometimes attempts to pop the cyber bubble above his head but continuously fails – all the objects aren’t sharp enough to pop it, we have made our lives so comfortable and supposedly safe, and the cyber balloon is getting thicker and harder to pop the more we use it.

The video playing over the top of the scene is intense, potentially equating to how often he might go ‘live’ on social media or watches ‘live’ news or videos but counteractively depicts his lack of life and living in doing so.

The piece is a comment on how a large number of the West are beginning to live their lives. Living to work and for money, using and relying on social media for attention and information. Losing the ability to entertain themselves and enjoy their surroundings, increasing the thickness of their digital, cyber bubble and losing touch with reality and life.

Reflection: On reflection, I feel the piece is over crowded but has some strong elements to it. It needs simplifying as a video piece as there is a little too much going on, however, if I were to do it again, maybe I’d do the performance in a space that I’d stay in for 24 hours where people can come and watch me to strengthen the effect it has on people. I will take elements of the performance further; like the balloon and the video and use them in different pieces.

 

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.

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?

In between objects body sculpture

Another exploration of surrounding and location. These objects attached to me with wool were also picked up during my time in the lost in between. I challenge whether being surrounded by objects located from somewhere else could mean that you are back in the place that they were originally found. If they are attached to you, have you become part of their location – you are now one with the objects or are the objects still completely different pieces of matter? If they are attached to you then they are with you until you remove them there for arguing that the possible space in between that you are recreating, moves with you and isn’t just a circle to step in and out of.

I also recorded the incredible noise that was created from walking around with it all attached to me, I don’t know what I will do with the sound memo yet but it will be supporting ideas around comparison to the original more calm noise recorded during the time I picked all the objects up.

Reflection: what if all the objects in a space were attached to me and released of their potential sound and noise, could I argue that this is the true sound of your surroundings? – when everything is experienced to it’s full potential? What is the potential of collecting many objects all from a new moment or space (location) in between and bringing them all into a new space and exploiting them of their inner sounds to create a new sense of in between. This could even support popular current issues about equal rights and freedom of speech, or even how we need to listen to and consider our surrounding more as our natural environment is in need of extreme attention as soon as possible, as if the surrounding environment is crying out for help.

Notice my walking in circles. I strengthen the idea of being surrounded and within something, or a place or contained by something. The objects I found in the lost in between are surrounding me and attached to me, but in addition to this, I walk in circles and surround another place of land, space and time with the objects from before. How does this sit within my concept in terms of where this new place sits within time and space.