26th January - Visit to Chelsea Artists Books and Multiples Collection & portfolios from previous students
Today's visit to Chelsea School of Art, and in particular the Artists' Books and Multiples Collection in the Old Library, was particularly interesting as we were granted access to see a large range of books, objects and editions produced by 20th Century artists - all of which are iconic in the development of art throughout the century, and many of which are rare or of very limited edition. As such, it was a good experience to be able to handle some of these items (which were mostly artists' books or editions), providing a completely different experience than just researching them online, or even seeing photographs of their content.
Ed Rushca's "Twentysix Gasoline Stations" is a particularly good example of a publication which is more rarely found in artists' book collections or libraries. The book, literally depicting 26 petrol stations in America on the road from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City (Route 66), is known to be one of the very first 'artist's books', as this kind of low-cost mass-production was never previously regarded to be anything of any artistic merit. However, the way in which Ruscha, a well known artist on the American Pop-Art scene, distributed this form of art - on public sale in each of the gasoline stations photographed - transformed the way in which the public engaged with contemporary art. In this way, the artwork was never shown in any exhibition or gallery, but instead it existed on the bookshelves of thousands of homes across America. Ruscha introduces a new kind of value to his art, where there is very little material worth or value in its production, but an accessibly minimalist and un-pretentious quality, as a small paperback book, which brings a whole new dimension to the world of commercial art.
"I have eliminated all text from my books- I want absolutely neutral material. My pictures are not that interesting, nor the subject matter. They are simply a collection of 'facts', my book is more like a collection of readymades.....It is almost worth the money to have the thrill of 400 exactly identical books stacked in front of you." (Interview with Ed Ruscha, Artforum, Feb 1965, reprinted in Leave Any Information at the Signal, Schwartz, October Books, 2002, p24-25)
"There is a connection between my work and my experience with religious icons, and the stations of the cross and the Church generally, but it's in one of method, you know; I do have some flavors that come over, like the incense... we all go through stages... the attitude comes out of a whole style of living and then coming up with statements." (Ruscha quoted in I Dont Want No Retro Spective, Hickey & Plagens, Hudson Hills Press, 1982, p19)
I found this chance to examine some of the most iconic modern artist books particularly eye-opening as it exposes a new realm to the art world, away from the white walls of commercial and public galleries but into the bookshops. It opens an interesting investigation, however, into the value of modern art. As many of these books are printed in editions of thousands (although some, admittedly, are fare rarer), the unique-ness of an oil painting, for example, is completely lost. Yet, there is still great demand for these editioned publications which often represent important moments in Art History. As such, these works do appear more as art 'relics' or artefacts, and there is definitely a historical value to them. As for much more recent publications, however, their purpose does seem more commercial - as a way to document work, or for an affordable means to 'own' the work of a particular artist.
Sophie Calle's "Prenez soin de vous" was a book in the collection at Chelsea School of Art that also caught my attention. Despite being a book that - after a quick google search - is readily available to buy on Amazon for about £60, the quality in production of the book is special, and is particularly complementary to the content of the book - which records hundreds of female professionals' responses and investigations into a letter sent to Calle by her partner, in which he was breaking up with her. Curiously, this very personal document has not only been picked apart by the hundreds of women whose work is published in the book, but is now available for anyone to see in the book which is still being published.
25th January - Action Plan & Project development
21st January - Introduction to Pause/Rewind and choosing a project to develop
19th January - Exchange Show @ The Crossing, CSM KX - Public show & feedback... WHY WAS MY WORK BANNED?!
Above are three arrangements of the finished work, entitled "L'origine du monde" after Courbet's painting of 1866.
The middle photograph, which shows the work as it was presented in our 'Exchange' show in The Crossing, features a chair as the supporting object for all three gold-leaf boards. Although I originally intended to show the work leaning against the wall in response (and possbily even protest?) to the 'post-internet' world which we now live in, this physicality was exaggerated even further with the inclusion of brown 'school' chair. The chair instantly has connotations of the person, and in this way the immaterality of the internet and its comments are planted firmly back into space and dimension. Furthermore, the personification of the chair implies a further interaction which is inherent to the source of the work - each comment has been individually typed by somebody, somewhere in the world, sitting on their chair (or similar) and typing into their keyboard (on a computer, phone, whatever). Together with the pinning of the translucent tracing paper prints, which are intended to reflect a loyalty to the intangible but still very visible nature of the content of the internet, both the chair and the way that the boards are leaned with a sense of space and weight, add to the juxtaposition between internet and object/artefact.
As for the showing of my work in The Crossing, a publicy-accessible area in CSM (which seems to be maintained and managed by the King's Cross people), I made sure to check with a number of tutors about the suitability of my work. It seemed that the text, although I thought this would be the most problematic part of the work, would be find for public show as it was so small and not 'offensive' or 'eye-catching' in its nature as very small text printed on tracing paper. Its content, although in some places highly explicit and unmistakably misogynistic, is publicy accessible online on Youtube. Clearly, gruesome language is being used to describe both the woman in the video that the work responds to, but also about the audience in the video and their response to the public performace in the Musee D'Orsay, as well as the "art world" in general. The idea that I am trying to explore is that these comments are the REALISM of today - of 2016 - of the internet - of art. I was told that I could "gloss over" the explicit nature of the text in the piece.
The painting that I have incorporated in my work, Courbet's "L'origine du monde" is in public display in the Musee D'Orsay. How easily accessible this painting is, I am not sure - it is likely to be a at least a few gallery walls away from the entrance and out of sight of any of those who do not wish to explore the gallery deeper. The explicit nature of the original painting, despite its rich Art Historical significance, is clear, and this was discussed at length with my tutors. Clearly, it is only a painting - and my work features a (poorly) reproduced print of this painting. Of course it is a realist painting, both in its context and its technique, but realistically, it is in NO way pornographic. However, I was aware that the public nature of the exhibition space meant that children are free to walk through and see the work - so the explicit nature of the painting, at least, could be avoided to the best of my ability, without removing the painting at all from the work. Afterall, its position as the focus of the performance to which I am responding in my documentation of its documentation is crucial, and to leave the painting out altogether would remove any kind of accessibility to the viewer - the youtube comments would become almost completely decontextualised.
After further discussion with my tutors, I decided that the best course of action to take would be to crop the original painting by Courbet so that it, technically, can not be classed as "full frontal nudity". After a careful cropping of the image (which, perhaps, introduces an important element of manipulation to the work, where I am leaving my own mark as an artist on an otherwise 'archival' work), I assembled the three elements of the work ready for showing.
The head of the Fine Art Pathway for Foundation checked with Senior Management before the show in The Crossing that the work would be okay for exhibiting. Unfortunately, without seeing the work in any form, or the way in which I had manipulated the materials being used, the decision to ban the work from the show was made solely on the information that I was incorporating Courbet's "Origin of the World" painting. They had no idea that I had cropped the image - so unless someone was offended by a bit of pubic hair and a belly button, then the decision was misinformed. I admit, however, that there were no signs at the entrance to the show warning of any 'material that may offend' (personally, the text material was the most likely culprit for this offence), and that I was not there to accompany/supervise the work during the lunch hour. As a result of all of the above, the work was removed from the show during my absence. No hard feelings. There is certainly plenty to learn from an evaluation of this situation - which opens up an inexhaustible conversation about showing art in public and the controversial topic of censorship in the art world.
18th January - Preparing & Producing work for show
According to my action plan, and having purchased materials previously on Sunday (gold leaf, gold size, tracing paper), this day was used to materialise the piece that I am going to show in the Exchange project on Tuesday in The Crossing.
The first task to do in the process of creating the collection of sculptural boards for my work was to select the dimensions of MDF sheets. I already had a collection of MDF boards of variable dimensions - although some of these blocks were similar in pairs (ie some blocks matched up in dimension, but not perfectly). The photographs below show various different ways of presenting these three boards together - I decided to use 3 boards of different dimensions to exaggerate some kind of physical distinction between the three elements - if they were all the same size, for example, I feel as though they wouldn't display the kind of tangibility that I wanted to emphasise in the work - where I am trying to physicalise and make more 'permament' the online response to what was, at the time of showing, a highly controversial painting: Gustav Courbet's "Origin of the World". As such, the way these 'tablets' are curated as a triptych gives a kind of archival quality, and reminds me slightly of the way that objects and artefacts are often presented in museum vitrines or even hidden away in archive stores. I am still unsure which arrangement is best for the three tablets, and I also feel as though the aesthetic will change once the appropriated prints and text have been pinned to the wood.
The Gold-leafing process went smoothly - applying the gold size (adhesive used specifically for gilding) and leaving it to cure for an appropriate time before delicately applying each gold leaf square individually was a slow process but achieved good results. The aesthetic quality of these gold leaf sheets seemed to work much more successfully than the alternative of gold paint or spray paint. I think this is mainly down to the association of gold leaf being used for the gilding of antique or valuable wooden objects or items of furniture, as this antique-like quality certainly seemed to add a sense of value to what were previously a collection of plain, practically worthless pieces of MDF. This effect was also central to the concept of the work - where the Youtube comments left on a video documentation of a performance by artist Deborah de Robertis acquire a false sense of value, despite their near-meaninglessness both universally and more specifically in the art world.
The idea has stemmed from my interest and research into the phenomenon of constructed/engineered languages, notably Loglan and Lojban, which are modern languages devised in the 20th Century around the theory of 'predicate logic' and are designed to be as culturally neutral and linguistically unambiguous as possible. In this sense, these languages have the potential to be used across the world. The reality, however, is that our technological advances have outpaced the development of these engineered language and although their purpose was also intended to allow us to communicate better with computers, research in this field has actually meant that our computers have become so good at recognising and understand our natural languags (English, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin etc) that the exploitation of languages such as Loglan and Lojban would mean taking a step backwards. Ultimately, these languages now only really exist in discussion on very few online forums and fairly unpopulated chat rooms.
Clearly, the internet has become more than a tool for research, but a universal forum for discussion, exchange and communication - there is no language barrier online. The comments displayed in response to this performance by Deborah de Robertis therefore represent this kind of unfiltered forum for universal communication, in this case focused in on the art world and particularly a feminist response to an iconic piece of Art History and the oeuvre of 19th Century French Realism.
Deborah de Robertis Performance @ Musee D'Orsay
14th January - Developing possible ideas for work to show in Exchange Show
12th January - Georges Bataille Seminar Notes
Georges Bataille – The Accursed Share (3 Volumes) 1946-1949: Consumption
- The paradox of utility
- This volume focuses on consumption, consumerism, “stuff”
- Alternative theory of how to address consumption
- Looking back to Mexican/Incan society – historical/cultural anthropology
‘Prodigalities’ (p.63) – squandering wealth, idea of luxury, abundance, lavishness – economic waste
SACRIFICES – wasteful? Wasting resources: unproductive use
General economy instead of a Restrictedeconomy
- More Holistic approach? Includes economic values that may not superficially appear to be valuable, but have a greater significance in society eg happiness, charity, even waste
- This ‘wasted bit’ ie The Accursed Share
Kings ‘giving’ monetary wealth – but not entirely altruistic, there appears a sense of obligation from the other party. Introduces intangible sense of rank.
Ritual prodigality – Ritual giving has economic value in a general economy
Interest = self-interest? Standard western European sense of economy.
Merchants of Mexico do not follow rule of “profit” trade conducted without bargaining. Negotiation is seen as demeaning.
“Their trade was conducted without bargaining and it maintained the glorious character of the trader” (p.65)
Gift giving activity becomes so ritualised it transforms the profane (gifts) into the sacred.
Objects are imbued with an aura
[Art in the age of mechanical reproduction – Walter Benjamin]
General economy introduces an implicit, tacit contract, an obligation
Potlatch//Potluck – no bargaining involved
Sense of implicit, obliged exchange
“More often than not it is this solemn giving of considerable riches, offered by a chief to his rival for the purpose of humiliating, challenging and obligating him”
Important: this culture of gift-giving and potlach holds central the idea of the afterlife. This may also be an implication of a general economy. There is a sense of an ultimate goal, insofar as society does not self-destruct following the sacrifice of wealth and riches.
Destructive Art – Michael Landy (credit card destroying etc), Gustav Metzger (Auto-destructive art), Jean Tinguely (Auto-destructive robot thing), John Baldessari (Cremation Project), Susan Hiller
Marcel Mauss (The Gift) – p.68
11th January - CSM Museum Collection and discussion for end-of-project event @ The Crossing
7th January - Working on Ideas for Development
Despite having thought about the inclusion of either painting or sound (or both) in my project exploring language as exchange, this has almost become a barrier to my progress. Although my research into constructed languages, argots and orthography continues, I am still struggling to come up with or materialise ideas for physical objects or outcomes from my research. More specifically, I am really having difficulty coming up with a way to translate these theories of language into a visual form. In this sense, I need to start making things and experimenting with materials without reservation so that, hopefully, I will stumble across some idea that has potential to be explored.
In terms of painting, this is a medium that seems far detached from the new-age, technological and ever-evolving form of the constructed languages (such as Loglan and Lojban), and this is one of the main problems that I am faced with. The idea of incorporating text directly into my work is a possibility, but this could either become either too obvious, or too
5th January - Developing concepts/ideas
After thinking about the phrase "There is no such thing as a free lunch" and it's appearances both in Milton Friedman's economic theories and Robert Heinlein's 1966 science-fiction Novel "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", the idea of language has become more central to my conceptual ideas for this project.
Language is possibly one of the most fundamental forms of exchange that we use and experience everyday, and is also used to facilitate innumerable other processes of exchange - such as monetary exchanges, cultural exchanges and so on. In this way, language is a social construct used to both maintain and celebrate cultural identities and to allow intracultural exchanges, but also to allow for inter-cultural communication through the means of translation. There are other forms of language, however, that allow us to communicate other than our natural or native linguistics - thinks such as music or visual arts are often considered "universal languages" which, while keeping a cultural identity, are accessible to all.
While reading about the popularisation of the phrase "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" in Heinlein's Sci-Fi novel, I also came across language of Loglan that is mentioned in the book. (Pics below from Google Books http://tinyurl.com/zy2lnzz)
According to my research, the book is also known for bringing this new constructed language (literally a LOGical LANguage) into the public domain. Devised for its cultural neutrality and gramatical unambiguity, the language is based around the idea of predicate logic which is, supposedly, the most logical way for a language to work. In this way, it has potential to allow us to converse and communicate effectively with computers and technology. More information about the language is posted on the Research page.
The idea of a culturally neutral language is immediately interesting considering that the very nature of our "natural languages" (English, Spanish, Mandarin etc) to be representative and central to the development of different cultures and communities around the world. As such, our natural languages have changed and evolved throughout human history to allow for new socio-political developments but also just to become complete as a means of communcation. Constructed languages such as loglan, however, are completely designed and engineered from the beginning. It is only vocabulary that is added (generally by speakers on online forums).
To follow a research topic about something that is seemingly so un-creative and strict is I think what has drawn me to it. This does pose problems, however. This is the first time I have ever considered the direct focus of 'language' in my work, and so to work with the ideas of a language that is barely half a century old - and one that I know very little about, nevermind being able to speak it - is challenging. However, the journey of research that I followed from the origin of the Free Lunch phrase has led me to this particular area, and this is not something that I want to ignore. Moreover, the idea of language as an 'exchange' is probably one of the most exciting for me, as something that I am not only interested in but I believe has great potential to be explored in an artistic context. The contemporary but also relatively unknown nature of the 'constructed languages' seems to provide an original foundation for an exciting new piece or body of work.
Although I have this language-based concept, and am interested in exploring the potential of sound art as well as painting (potentially together), I am struggling to materialise these concepts into ideas to experiment with and develop.
4th January - Exchange Project Day 1: Book exchanges, discussion on value and commodity
This new 2-week project began with a reflection on the holiday-research primer task which involved the documentation or research of an 'exchange' which became the starting point for group discussions. After briefly discussing the definitions of exchange and their implications as a whole group, we split into smaller groups to talk about the ideas and work that had come from the primer task. Generally, the idea of money and monetary value was central to the discussions during the day, which I believe was a little predictable and superficial. Although the idea of exchange in terms of buying and selling was one of the first to come to my head during the primer task, this was something I was trying to avoid using directly as a starting point for my work, as I thought it would lead to a dead-end. After all, the idea of buying and selling, of exchanging money for objects or even trading different items for eachother more generally, is a process so fundamental to human civilization that it seems to have become meaningless. Although there is, of course, the potential to explore this slightly more conventional idea of 'exchange', from the beginning I wanted to take a slightly more abstract position in the project.
Interestingly, the first piece of work that we discussed took money, and its value as currency across the world, as a central theme. The 'one cut book' was in fact an actual cheque book, accompanied by a 'hama bead' coin reproduction of a Chinese coin (apparently about 1/3 the value of £1). The coin itself was made out of these plastic beads which had been ironed and pressed in order to stay together to create this 2D patterned shape. Ultimately, this was toy money - its size, material and colour making it almost comical. The cheque book, however, seemed far more serious and definitely has connotations of large sums of money in comparison to the plastic coin. We had an interesting discussion about the value of these items, and how the Chinese currency that the items participated in affected the value of the items in different communities.
The idea of 'currency' also came up in broader discussion towards the end of the day. Besides financial currencies where money has different values in different communities (I also found out today that some countries use 2 or more currencies simultaneously), the idea of currency being something much broader, in both a personal and global sense, was explored. Whether currency can be defined also as something metaphysical - as an exchange of thoughts, ideas and words - is an interesting question, and ultimately the word seems to boil down to some kind of exchange. Similarly, the idea of communication in this exchange is interesting, but also brings into question the reciprocity of our acts and exchanges. Do all exchanges or currencies have to be exchanged for something else? Can you have an exchange without a reciprocation?
A lot of these ideas seem to come back to the very first ideas that I had for this project - the phrase "There is no such thing as a free lunch." Clearly, reciprocity is central to this idea, where you cannot get something for nothing and 'exchange' in inevitable, universal and unavoidable.
With everybody in the group having created a 'one-cut- book' of varying sizes, materials and forms, we had a book exchange where all the pieces were laid out on tables for viewing. After seeing and maybe choosing a book that was of particular interest, and similarly with our own books, we had the decision of whether we wanted to exchange books with another artist. Perhaps the exchange was a book for a book, a book for another item - or even a service. This made me start thinking about the value of what I had created. Perhaps something I had rushed, had little emotional attachment to, but had invested my (little) time and effort in, would be of greater value to somebody else. Clearly in this sense, my book was of very little material worth, but I think that it did represent a kind of intellectual investment. In fact, the biblical background on the book was kind of a mistake - or at least a decision that I can't successfully justify - so I suppose any other owner of the book would be investing in my mistakes.
Anyway, somebody decided that they loved the "genius of the simplicity" in my "There is no such thing as a free lunch" book. So I gave it to them for free.
Exchange Christmas Project: One-cut book
Feedback and Evaluation from Ordinary / Extraordinary Crit
7th January - Reflection on 'Ordinary/Extraordinary'
Questions for reflection:
- What process was succesful in transforming the object's meaning?
- What am I going to do next? What would I do differently?
- What did I learn from my mistakes?
- Did anything I learnt from previous projects influence my thinking/actions?
- What did I find challenging?
- How much did material inform or impact my creative process?
- What did I learn from working with colleagues?
- How did the experience of making help to develop further ideas?
- How did the research influence/impact my preconception?
Thursday 3rd December - First Day of Ordinary // Extraordinary and Collections of items
My decision to think about collecting similar items that fit into the same category as objects or in themes was important as I didn't want to end up working with an array of seemingly random found objects. With a clear thread linking the items, I feel like this would work well as a starting point for the project - keeping it clear and simple - to provide inspiration for ideas and paths to explore. It was difficult to quickly think of something, or some collection of things, that was immediately obvious as something meaningful to me. Obviously at the heart of this project is the idea of subverting banality into individuality, the boring into the special and the ordinary into the extraordinary, but I feel like this transformation would be difficult without some kind of interest in the object in the first place. I suppose this is a similar obstacle to that which I had to overcome in the Place project - where a memorable or meaningful place became the starting point for site-specific work displayed in The Street at CSM. Except, the chosen place never became useful as a starting point and, instead, a new line of thought and research developed from exploring the space itself, where the work would be shown. Ultimately I came to realise that my work is not at all sentimental, and is more grounded in the here and now. Whether this is synonymous with the 'ordinary' or the 'everyday' is dubious but I feel that I definitely prefer to work with and think about things that exist in the present - which can get a little confusing as I have also started thinking about anthropology in my practice. I am a strong believer that everything is derivative, and it's almost impossible to escape the history or context of any object or idea. While this does influence my work, I don't think about making things that are historical or artifactual but rather contemporary, relevant, and grounded in the present.
For this reason, I didn't want to go far or out of my way to find a collection of 10 items to work with. Again, this was difficult as living in student halls means I have kept only the most useful, functional objects and these really weren't something that I found inspiration in. In terms of things that I have acquired since living away from home, the hundreds of receipts falling out of my wallet and filling the bottom of my bag are something that did grab my attention. Almost everything I do involves spending money, sadly, and there is something inevitably narrative about these scrap sheets of paper. They allow you to map out a whole day, week, or even month - not only geographically but psychologically, as ultimately the way we feel or the things we encounter will affect the things we do and spend our money on. In this way I did discover something extraordinary out of the 'everyday', but I still feel like there is something lacking in this relationship between the ordinary and extraordinary in the object. There is potential to explore this receipt-story-telling idea but at the same time there's nothing too exciting about the idea. The everyday is clearly pretty boring.
In an attempt to work with objects that have more interest to me, I started to think about items that perhaps I had consciously chosen to collect, rather than accidentally or unintentionally hoarding them. In this case, it was hard to think of something at all until I realised that my walls are almost entirely covered in postcards - postcards of artworks that I have seen around the
Crit Feedback and Reflection on 'Witness' Project
Phase Shifting of Bird Loops
Monday 23rd November
Today was spent mostly playing around with my own video footage, as well as found animation footage (from youtube), putting together some potential outcome videos. The first video I edited incorporated both my own video footage of the flowing river as well as found footage of the dippy bird toy, taken from an animated illustration of how this thermodynamic process works. (See research for more detail). Generally the editing process wasn't too complicated for this first edit, although I had to sample and cut the found footage at exactly the right time so that it could loop continuously without jumping or skipping any frames.
The idea of creating a video which can be infinitely looped is important in my conceptual focus of the work. Especially with the fact that I am using footage which is either computer generated (the appropriated animation), or looks as though it could be computer generated, this idea of the relationship between flux and repetition is exaggerated when we introduce the idea that these digitally-created images are (technically) identical everytime they are repeated. There is an interesting ambiguity between these concepts, emphasised by not only the choice of video clips but also this never-ending loop of two 'objects' which, in the real world, seem to be never-ending in their change but repetitive in their appearance.
Aesthetically, the flowing of the water adjacent to the spinning of the dippy bird is curious and almost hypnotic in its repetition. I have edited both of the images and altered the colours in both clips - although I am not convinced that they work well next to eachother. A contrast between the two images is important, however, and I quite like that two clips that have come from very different sources but have been places next to eachother to discuss the same idea of flux.
Sunday 22nd November
Today I planned to explore my local area in search of locations appropriate to shoot footage of running water to be used in my video/moving image outcome for the proejct. While I have researched a couple of brooks (Dorris brook/Tyburn Brook) in North London near East Finchley, and I have been recommended to explore the River Quaggy in South London, I wanted to walk around Finsbury Park and surrounding areas to see if I might be able to find some suitable locations without having to travel too far. Unfortunately I woke up late and the light was quickly disappearing so I set off towards the two Stoke Newington reservoirs at sunset, equipped with my camera and lenses. Unfortunately I did not have a tripod to bring with me, but I thought this would not be a problem as I was just exploring the locations and perhaps obtaining some tester shots which I would be able to develop in other and hopefully better locations.
Walking along the footpath which follows the New River, an artificial river which runs along the two reservoirs of Stoke Newington, led me past a tiny weir-like drop where the water dropped about 12 inches down. Visually, the drop only created a little bit of disturbance in the flow of the water - but compared to the stillness of the rest of the river, this was probably the greatest area of interest. However, the flow of the river over this drop made a noticeable difference in the sound of the area, bringing a continuous and relaxing new soundtrack to the flow of the river. Although under the shade of the trees it was now very dark, I videoed this section of river mainly for the sound. Shimmers of light and the white bubbling of the water were still visible in the video footage, although this footage was nowhere near as visually interesting enough to be included in my outcome. Nevertheless, it gave me hope that I would be able to find more falling sections of flowing water, even if I had to find a new location when it was light again.
As I continued to walk along the New River path, I stopped occasionally to film the gentle rippling of the river and its reflections which were hypnotically repetitive, despite every inch of water being continually replaced by another, and so on, in an infitite flowing of "newer waters". In this sense, the flowing and rippling of the water seemed very appropriate for the idea which I am exploring under the idea of "flux". While the water appears to be non-changing, there is never any constancy in its substance, and even the objects which are reflected and distorted in it never appear the same at any two moments.
While I was filming a certain length of river, which passed alongside an estate of flats, there were some young children playing with a ball behind a tall fence. After some unintelligible murmurs, a piercing gunshot disturbed the tranquility of the entire area, causing birds to fly away as the children similarly fled. Fortunately, I was filming the river at the time, and I had captured the moment in audio - although I instinctively stopped recording soon after the gunshot, and before the scene could return to its original state of peace.
Further down the river I came across a new housing development (much posher than the surrounding houses) which, outside of the ground floor showroom, had two huge water features on the patio facing the river and reservoir. It was entirely dark by now, but the falling and flowing water of the sculptures were gently lit with both the orange light of the showroom and their own coloured LEDs.The two water features had a connecting passage of flowing water, not unlike a river - although completely artificial, which forced the water into continuous swirling patterns, of which the peaks were illuminated by the ambient light. Using the zoom lens on my camera, I captured these hypnotic effects without their artificial backdrop.
This footage turned out to be really quite beautiful, with the water looking so smooth oily in the night light that it could easily be mistaken for a computer-generated image. The swirling and flowing of the water in this shot captures exactly the same conceptual idea that I had been searching for in the New River, of contstant change and flux despite a seemingly "repetitive" facade, but accompanied by captivating video footage. Maybe I do not need to explore other river locations on Tuesday.
Saturday 21st November: Rivers
Although I was not able to produce any work today as I was invigilating all day, spending 8 hours in the gallery was helpful in giving me to time to think about how to materialise my project concept. At first I never thought to actually incorporate visual video footage of rivers or streams flowing into my work, but after seeing how successful Cristina Iglesias' "Phreatic Zones" @ Marian Goodman Gallery London was, there is definitely potential for this to work in a moving image outcome.
In terms of the composition of the moving image work, a looped video would be particularly interesting in terms of the juxtaposition between the continuously changing, flowing body of water and a digitally repeated recording of this natural and ultimately universal phenomenon. I spoke to my friend who has also explored this idea of impermanence and transience in her work, and she has pointed me towards the work of Bill Viola to look at the use of water in contemporary art.
The idea of furthering a sense of juxtaposition in terms of flux in the real world and its relationship with the digital and manipulated medium of moving image has made me want to incorporate another image to play adjacent this footage of continuously flowing water. I have always loved the idea of including something playful and facetious into my work, and a lot of the time I come across toys which can provide an interesting way to present the original idea in a new and playful but provocative way. In the case of this project, my research into the definition of 'flux' led me to the scientific use of the word and the rate of transfer of liquids through a surface.
Somehow (genuinely can't remember how), I stumbled across some videos of an old scientific toy, dippy bird, which utilises this idea of scientific 'flux' where water is absorbed into the felt head of a toy bird. This thermodynamic process involves the evaporation of this water which condenses the methylene chloride vapor in the glass tube (neck of bird), decreasing the pressure in the system and forcing the methylene chloride liquid to flow up the tube. This makes the head of the bird top heavy so that the bird tips over on its pivot and appears to drink from the glass of water in front of it, which is also necessary to sustain the water absorbed into the felt head. This process appears at first to be a regular and repeated process, such as that of perpetual motion, but it is in fact a complex demonstration of thermodynamics which involves basic ideas of flux - and ultimately the process is never the same twice.
The movement of the toy that I would like to use in my moving image work is an attempt to represent the idea that despite the appearance that, in our experience and observation of the world, events repeat themselves and can be accounted for by a series of causal events, the universe is actually in a constant state of change: flux.
I have done a little bit of research about rivers that run through and around Central London, and the location of any streams or brooks that I can visit to shoot some footage for my work.
Friday 20th November: Developing initial thoughts
After first thinking about the idea of continual change and development in the world as a crucial fact of life and our observation of life, I began to research similar philosophical ideas of time and change in our lives. Heraclitus' work quickly became a focus, following from his famous quote that you can never step in the same river twice (paraphrased) and the broad idea of Flux Theory. (Further research on this can be seen on research page).
In terms of an artistic outcome, I am thinking of creating a piece that represents some idea of 'flux', although there are many different definitions for this word. Generally it refers to a continual process of flowing in and out, of continuous and constant change and an existential impermanence. Accordingly, I also looked into religious beliefs on this concept of impermanence as I know that this is something central to the Buddhist faith, and this proved useful in broadening the roots of my research.
I think that incorporating this philosophical side in my approach to this project has helped me to engage more fully with it, and I feel like I am now more excited to create an outcome in response to the brief.
Thursday 19th November: WITNESS
Introduction to Witness project and initial observations/ideas:
The idea of exploring 'witness' as a topic for exploration in this short, one-week-long project, seems difficult as it is such a broad theme. At first, the task we were asked to do before the start of the project ("Your activities will include observing, gathering, collecting and documenting through drawing, photography, film, sound, writing etc. As a participant in the world, you will look around and observe. You are witness to life, its narratives and poetry, its structures and its people. You will see presence, absence, traces and remnants. You will see an event or a nonevent.") felt unrealistically open, and it was immediately obvious that I would have to choose some aspect of "witness" to focus on for the project. In this way, researching the word itself was the most helpful way to explore potential further research topics, and to narrow down my focus.
The word 'witness' itself has a number of connotations aside from those general ideas of seeing and observing the world and environments around us. Its religious significance becomes immediately obvious after just a few Google searches ("openly profess one's religious faith"), and implications for the word in a legal context, as someone whose observations can serve as evidence in the courts, are equally common. Personally I am not interested in the meaning of this word in specific contexts but rather in its more general sense of human observation in the world. After reading a number of definitions of the word, the definition that stuck out for me the most was as follows:
to witness: have knowledge of (a development) from observation or experience.
The idea of gaining knowledge from observation or experience is inherently a philosophical concept and could be explored further in terms of Empiricism (as opposed to Rationalism), but what I find most interesting from this definition is the idea of a development in time. This word is written in brackets but I believe it's one of the most important aspects to the notion of 'witnessing' something. If there was no development or change in our observation, there would be nothing to see, nothing to experience, and ultimately nothing to learn. This idea of change in the world as a fundamental principle of existence seems central to the concept of 'witness' and therefore it is something that I think I want to explore further.
Besides this idea of change and development, other ideas following from the project brief can be seen on the following pages: