‘Making toast’ – initial film experiment.

After doing some research on Mark Wallinger I found my self particularly inspired by his film piece ‘Angel’, a clip of which can be seen here. In this clip you can see that the footage has been reversed, but it takes a while to tell because the main focus of the footages composition is Wallinger who appears to be talking to the camera. Once you start to notice how the people in the background on the escalators are acting in very strange ways you come to the realisation that Wallinger is actually the one acting in reverse, but because of the way the footage has been edited it appears that he is acting normally. This created huge confusion in me as a viewer, as you naturally tend to focus on the foreground it is assumed that there is nothing unusual about the film, but when you realise that you have been deceived you begin questioning every other aspect of the film itself, creating tension and anxiety in the audience as well as shock and confusion. This technique had the exact effect on me that I wanted to create in my own audience, so I then decided to create my own film using this technique to try and create an optical illusion with film. I wanted to use it in the context of an everyday situation to show how people with a mental illness perceive normal everyday life so I started planning the footage around making a cup of tea but then realised that when pouring liquid it would flow backwards and give the whole set up away. I then thought that it maybe interesting to film something just as trivial and have something else, for example running water, at the end to indicate to the audience that the whole clip has actually been in reverse. I then decided that I would simply film myself making a slice of toast but without adding any spreads like butter or jam or cutting it in half as these are things that can’t be undone and would have to be done at the beginning of the footage. Planning this was very difficult and I had to make several lists working out how it would be filmed and then how the audience would see it when the footage was reversed. I found that there where a lot of complications to this process as I started thinking about the logistics of it such as how the toast will appear not toasted before it goes into the toaster and how I am going to get the toaster to ‘pop’ up. In my first experimentation with this technique I ran the tap at the end of the clip to show the water running backward to give away the fact it is reversed footage, but in practice this did not work as I had planned as you couldn’t really see the water running. So in a later experiment I poured juice in the foreground of the shot, which worked much more successfully. After being cut this clip came to just over a minute long, which I was pleased with as this makes it more accessible to an audience and more likely that they will watch the whole thing. This also allows enough time to build up tension within the experiment, especially when very little action is happening whilst I am waiting for the bread to finish toasting, which is relieved in the last few moments when the juice behaves in a way that defies nature. Although I had to overcome many complications I feel that the final outcome of this experimentation was successful as ultimately this is meant to be about how everyday life and routines can be perceived as confusing and hard to comprehend when lying in bed facing a mental health issue that complicates simple tasks, which I feel is the same experience we get from this film clip.

Frustrated drawings

As a starting point for this project I have been trying to do as much drawing as possible, although this is not something I like to do often as I personally feel my ‘artistic flair’ comes mainly from my concepts and ideas rather than from technical skill of putting pen (or pencil, paint brush or whatever your preferred medium is) to paper (or canvas, ceramics, wall etc.). Whilst becoming increasingly stressed and frustrated whilst experimenting with the Spirograph process I started thinking about making art under certain mental states. Inspired by Tracey Emin’s book ‘One Thousand Drawings’ I began keeping my own visual diary which I drew in every time I felt I needed to get something out, the result of this created rushed drawings that where full of emotion. One night I found myself feeling rather sad and frustrated about things, and instead of following through with my normal routine of self abuse I picked up a paintbrush, found some ink and began making marks on a page in my sketch book rather than on my skin. The results are far from perfect and I found that the more mistakes I made the more frustrated and angry with myself I became. I think the outcomes of these drawings are interesting to analyse though as I can see that I have a subconscious need for repetition to calm myself down. This mimics what I have often been told to do when I find myself on the verge of panic, where I repeat ‘blue bananas’ to myself until I finally find the situation manageable and usually quite amusing. I feel that from this subconscious experiment I have found that repetition is a form of ‘cure’ (at least a temporary one) to feelings of depression and anxiety, but on the other hand I can see that repetition can also be overwhelming depending on how it is used, so therefore I may try experimenting with using repetition both to calm and overwhelm my audience later on in my project to contrast this idea of ‘pain and sleep’ and show how the link together.


Frustrated drawings outcome, each on an A4 page.


Spirograph experiments.

As I wrote about in my first post on this project, I started off attempting to make something visually confusing by using a Vaseline tin and a marker pen to create overlapping circular forms. I found that this technique was ruined by human error so I felt that it would be worth investing in a Spirograph set in order to make hand drawn but automated experiments much quicker. I started my experimentation by trying out each individual Spirograph in the set at each individual stage on A1 sheets to help me get used to the process and also for referencing so that I could see what Spirograph wheel would be suitable for the outcome I desired. So with this as a reference point I began experimenting with different ways of using the Spirographs, layering different wheels and using different colours. I feel that my most successful experimentations were those with wheel number 65 because the lines are much tighter than others creating a more confusing visual effect, which becomes more interesting when used with more than one colour. I also like the experimentations where the Spirograph is not completed entirely as this created a sense of 3D space in a 2D form. I feel that this concept could be key to my project as I read in the book ‘optical illusions and the visual arts’ about how we enjoy being visually deceived and I feel that I can do this by creating 3D space in a 2D format by not completing the Spirographs whereas the completed examples are too aesthetically pleasing to look at because of the symmetry within them. So possibly in further experimentations I should look at other ways that I can make the Spirographs unsatisfying, this could be done by missing out lines or using horribly clashing colours as I want to create a sense of frustration in the audience by seeing something incomplete and therefore taking away the catharsis of seeing a Spirograph in its complete form. I found this process very frustrating at times because despite it being an automated way of drawing, error was still common as the main template wheel would often shift if too much pressure was placed upon it, making lines spiral out of control and ruining the outcome.


Spirograph with different layers and mistake


Spirograph wheel 65 incomplete


Spirograph wheel 65 with different colours

When this happens it is impossible to continue with the drawing as the exact same set up cannot be restored because of the nature of the Spirograph. This got me thinking about how I could portray my own frustrations at the process through the outcome I choose to show to the audience. Firstly I thought that I should display only Spirograph outcomes where something had gone wrong, so the audience never gets to look at a complete drawing. Better than this I thought that filming myself whilst drawing the Spirographs would create much more tension for the audience, as they would go through the process with me and anticipate the ending of the drawing as well as the tension and frustration I am feeling throughout. I feel that this could be a really effective way of physically showing the audience how someone with a mental illness can feel on a day-to-day basis, an experience of frustration and anxiety, which dips up and down with the footage so I hope to experiment with this at some point in my project.


Spirographs in clashing colours


Spirograph experiments with different layers

Presenting written word within Art, a look at Plath, Emin and Gibson.

In my recent work I have found it of particular importance to include my own written word within my art in order to fully represent thoughts that I feel cannot be refined into imagery. As I aim to include some of my own poetry in my work I looked at how different practitioners have previously presented thier written work to a wider audience. Starting with Sylvia Plath who’s poetry can be found in books such as ‘Ariel’ which I was able to take out of the library this week. Although it is undeniable that Plath’s written word is nothing less than extraordinary in the way that she executes her pain through a 2D medium, I felt that often her writing is so obscure that it was almost impossible to access the whole emotion of the poetry without having to do further research to understand them fully. Obviously this is because of the sophistication and complexity of her poetry because it is so perfectly formed, but I want the written word in my work to be painfully blunt, left raw and unrefined so that anyone who reads it is hit with the honest brutality of it.

This is similar to how Tracey Emin occasionally presents her written word in her monoprints, occasionally including a single line from a longer piece of written text in a print accompanied by illustrations.  I think these drawings are vital for obscure text, for example her monoprint that reads: ‘I need art like I need god’ is completely changed by the inclusion of a nude woman at the bottom of the page with her arm outstretched, changing from a statement about faith to a desperate plea concerning addiction and vulnerability. When reading a book on Emin this week I came across a printed version of ‘why I never became a dancer’ which I had previously read in Emin ‘ s book ‘One thousand drawings’ where it was written in Emin’s handwriting. I found this handwritten version much more interactive because I felt that it conveyed much more of the writers emotion. I 

think this may be because the process of typing this confessional style of writing, I feel, makes it seem refined in a way, it gets rid of the visable hurry of the original text, where it seems that the writer has tried to scrawl the emotion out of her without having time to regret publicising such a personal event.


Another practitioner I decided to look at because of the way they approach the presentation of written word was Andrea Gibson, whose poetry books are often accompanied by an audio version. Although this completely takes away the visual aspect of written word it instantly makes it more personal and intimate for the audience because Gibson is able to express emotions and emohasise words as she intends us to read them. I found this approach the most effective of all the examples that I looked at, being able to put my headphones on and have the writer read poetry to me describing very personal experiences from their past made a most intimate and impacting experience that I do not feel can be created when onky being able to read written text. So I think that if I am to include my own poetry in this project I will do it through the medium of audio.


I have started thinking about how I could start doing this within my work,  and this week, after doing some really in depth research into Emin’s practice and I realised that the reason why her work is so shocking is because her audience is so huge, whereas my own work is only going to be seen by a very small ammount of people in comparison so I thought it may be relevant to findways of exploiting myself to the public. I thought I could do this by disguising my phone number as something that people would actually call (possibly offering a servuce such as a sex chat line) and then when I get a caller I would instead read my poetry to them. A very inyimate experience where words I have slaved over but never spoken out loaud are suddenly thrust into the grasp of a stranger. This is to represent the idea thatby putting my personal details about myself into the public sphere and having random members of the public call me they are probing into my personal space and I shall comoly by revealing my most personal thoughts and feelings.