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.

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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 Bubble

Recently in my journal, I discovered the significance of the balloon within my work after looking at some beautiful glass blowings in the shape of bubbles in a small gallery in Berlin.

There is no arguing that we are always increasing our involvement with technology and the digital world unless you are making an active decision to cut down. I visualised this through the idea of the bubble; everyone has their own bubble of cyber reality going on in their heads and on the net, these bubbles are getting bigger and thicker skins everyday and everytime we interact with digital media, we get more reliant on it and it become more and more important to our lives. As of this, I thought about a sculptural piece that would initially be a layer of paper mache around a balloon to get the shape and then I’d build up many many layers around this balloon to translate the thickening of it’s skin.

I decided against the layering idea because after about 2 layers of newspaper, the shell around the balloon could hold itself but still felt extremely fragile which began taking on a new context. Without much thought, I threaded in some of the wires I’d acquired from a skip then placed it at the end of a ridge of sand like you can see in the pictures, as if the sand was seeping out of the balloon.

Reflection: It was just a quick experimental piece but came to be rather relevant when I reflected on what I’d done. The thin layer of newspaper so obviously expresses the media. The thin empty, hollowness of the balloon shape that represents our digitally obsessed minds is coated by a layer of ripped up and stuck together often toxic news that feeds everyones minds the same information whether it’s true or not. Leaving a hollow inner that suggests we have nothing inside our cyber reality and thoughts, it’s just an empty space encaptured by popular media. And then there is the addition of the wires, reinforcing the role of technology in this argument. The wires weave in and out of the media feeding through the hollow thoughts of the person and entangling and encompassing them within its web like a spider catching its careless, uninformed prey.

The sand coming from the foot of this visual description is exactly what it seems – all this absentmindedness and control from the media and technology will result in a world of barren desert and sand.

 

One Whole Blink – sand sculpture

This is a stock motion video made from oil sand, a brief exploration of the presence humans have had on the planet. In the life of the universe, our existence as a species is only here for a matter of seconds. We have come and will go. In the process we built cities and life but encouraged by our rapid use of the world’s resources, we will return to dirt and dust once again.

I made this piece from oil sand, as if remnants of oil and desert are all that our future holds and all that we are made from. The crumbling, dust like qualities of oil sand lends itself to this piece, the sculpture broke down quite naturally and fell into positions I would not have been able to create myself.

It’s interesting how quickly the ‘sand civilisation’ stopped looking like a civilisation as soon as I started breaking it and knocking it. Is this the same for our civilisation in reality? It’s breaking down a lot faster than it was created? Good things always take more time than the bad. However, I think that the buildings and materials we have used to create our civilisation on Earth will be around for thousands of years to come unless the heat on the planet rises to extraordinary levels as a result of some sort of asteroid collision or major solar flare.

Reflection: The skill and technicalities of the video are very poor. I did not have a tripod therefor each shot is slightly altered and not exact. I will use a tripod for sure in the future. Also, the image quality is poor and part of the reason I changed the colour so drastically. But, the orange and red colouring was also added to give the impression of heat like the magma core of Planet Earth, it could also arguable look like glitter which is interesting because glitter is such a cheap, kitsch, tacky material that has no depth to it, no structure and no purpose apart from its materialistic attractive value. Often used when depicting magic or things that aren’t real or things ‘out of this world’. Although, I find myself easily mesmerised by the changing synthetic colours. This could be metaphorically reflecting western life; we just get too distracted by the pretty colours to see what’s going on behind.

The Wormery of Today

For some reason, I have always had a strange desire to create a wormery.

Simply because I have always imagined it to be very visually pleasing and in a way could act as a painting or drawing. The artist builds the platform and the worms make the art. It is my most recent example of challenging the notion of drawing and it is arguable better than what you’d typically imagine a drawing to be like; pencil or pen or a painting. I guess in a fairly innocent, experimental way I wanted to make an image (the wormery) that pushes the boundaries of what drawing is and attempt at making it more exciting by giving it a living energy and element of constant change. Imagine waking up every morning to a new image carved out purely by the worms, a non censored image made entirely from nature.

It was a great way of practising the skill of welding and learning a lot about the technicalities of perfect measurements, joining at angles, using different tools and machinery.

In addition to its physical appearance, I felt it was the time to make my wormery as I could link it to ideas in my work. The layering element of the sand and earth are direct representations of our planet and by involving objects or pieces of objects from our everyday lives in the layers, I am suggesting certain things about their relevance: the batteries represent our chemical useage, the glass our material use and waste, bottle cork the luxury we indulge in whilst using these resources, the pennies for the amount we focus on the economy, the watch to remind us of how little time we have to sort out these issues and the mirror to reflect on this.

Reflection:

Although I learnt a lot from the processes involved in making this piece, I am aware of its very literal translation from my ideas into the physical work and know I need to develop my concept and look deeper into object representation and language.

On the other hand, it is a very serious and important matter I am referencing here and sometimes it feels pathetic to make such a huge issue that needs addressing fast into a fairly pointless piece of conceptual art that may take me months or even years to come up with. Where as if I’d presented work as direct as this within that time, I could have opened the eyes of many people who could also help fight for the cause and therefore reduce the effects we have on the planet. It is a topic that everyone in the world needs to be aware of and start making changes to the way they live so I naturally consider the advantages of presenting something more obvious and simplistic to an audience that may not want to invest time into discovering and unpicking a piece of conceptual art that they don’t necessarily care about.

Human and Earth

This sculpture was something I created last term but it was mainly just to practise my wood-work skills. I took the shape of an abstract life drawing I did then recreated it using many layers of scrap wood, all individually sawn and sanded to mimic the curves of a human figure. At the time I became obsessed with this sculpture and it took me days to complete despite the corners I could have cut that would have been much less effort and time consuming.

Once finished and glued together I noticed my pleasure of holding it, there was something nice about gripping a heavy object around its thinnest part, it made me like the object regardless of its minimal relevance to my work.

I also became aware of its prominent layers of different colour and thickness, it reminded me of the layers of the planet, earth and sand. Simultaneously, since the evaluation of my last body of work and how interesting I found art relating to organic materials and the threat climate change has on our global, natural environment, I began realising the importance of this sculpture.

My research into the future of the planet increased and after watching the most recent series of Planet Earth with David Attenborough, I learnt that the “deserts are drying up and constantly expanding” meaning the polar ice caps as well. I had personally not given much thought to the sandy deserts of the world in terms of global warming and I found it quite scary to think that they are constantly expanding. It is a powerful and frightening concept that ‘the desert is coming’, and after watching a short film with the title ‘The Future Was Desert’ by artist Sophia Ann Maria, I really started giving the idea of sand a thought. In her film, she portrays the future as a hostile, sublime, lifeless place and draws inspiration from apocalyptic movies and ideas, using found footage and an eery commentary along with portraying our existence as something that has come from nothing and will soon return there.

I was highly influenced by Maria’s work especially due to the videos sometimes poor quality and production, it is raw and amature giving me confidence of my own to simple experiment with what little technical knowledge I have.

So, I got my hands on some oil sand which is what is used in the workshop for casting and combined my figurative wooden sculpture with a pile of it:

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Although very simple, thanks to the combination of the human presence from the sculpture and the organic earthy presence of the sand, it then gave me a platform to start thinking about the relationship humans have with the planet and there my project began.

 

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.