Reflection of ‘POLITICALLY EMOTIONAL/EMOTIONALLY POLITICAL’ and ‘No Ordinary Disruption’ at The Flying Dutchman, London

Having found myself consistently writing during the summer months I started to disregard images and objects and found it increasingly difficult to think about the possibilities of making. This led me to my recent experiment ‘POLITICALLY EMOTIONAL/EMOTIONALLY POLITICAL’, which was born out of anxiety about making work for a show I was in from 26 -29 September; ‘No Ordinary Disruption’. The making of this work was spontaneous and my only aim was to get across my dissatisfaction with the art world, but the writing took on a life of its own as I kept adding more and more thoughts to the word document. I left the text mainly unedited as I feel that it is within this honesty that the strength of the work manifests itself. I did re-structure the ‘stanzas’ in a way that makes the first half politically engaged and the second half is focused on the emotions and the body. To present this work to an audience I screen recorded myself scrolling down the word document with the down arrow key and a metronome to guide me.

This was displayed on a small screen at the exhibition, and I made the decision to place it half way up an unused stairway within the gallery space. My aim was to create an intimate space between the viewer and the work and this stairwell was completely without light and narrow, meaning only one person could go up to view the screen at once. I felt really nervous about this piece before showing it as I know that a lot of the writing is very naïve and quite pathetic, but it was this sort of ‘teenage rant’ that I felt everyone could relate to. It was good to get this work out into the world quickly, but I think the screen was much too small and the format possibly difficult to access. In feedback from my peers and tutors I was told that the simplicity of black text on a white background was successful because it did not let the mind get distracted from the imagery in the writing. I personally think that the scroll through the text works because it conceals how long the text might be, something that would put a potential viewer off, but a screen of capital letters seems to be easy for most to digest for a couple of minutes. Ultimately I have been told I need to aim much bigger, in the next week I plan to create a multi projection installation to immerse the viewers in my writing and I also plan to work with vinyl and graffiti.

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Recent work – Happy songs

Over the months of December, January and February I found myself in a bit of a rut. A trend defined by weeks of unmotivated downtime for me is watching a lot of teen films and rom coms. In this period I began analysing the strict structure that these films follow, especially I was concerned by the portrayal of the ‘happy ending’ and the sugary sweet manipulation of the sound tracks.

I started filming different aspects of my life on a new hand held ‘flip’ camera, including moments on my own, with my family and with friends. Its discrepancy and the fact it cannot immediately connect to the Internet meant that many people did not act as self-consciously in front of it as they would do with a phone recording. At parties I started asking other people to film with it, one of the most successful out comes of this is footage from a new years party. Watching this footage back, I started thinking about the ‘state’ of my generation, as shown in the video it seems that many young people are depressed and anxious, which reflects what I have read in Franco ‘Bifo’ Beradi’s ‘After the Future’. Thinking about the teen films I had been watching really began to concern me in this regard as I realised that many young people, myself included, have grown up with the expectation of significant resolution to everyday banality. This short video set within the transient moment of change that is the new years party, depicts a specific western view of ‘millennial adolescents. Asked whether they are looking forward to the coming year the youths, fuelled by intoxication, speak somewhat bleakly about their future and past despite living and studying comfortably and some merely shrug.

I wanted a way of comparing these experiences of modern adolescence that I have experienced to those I have seen depicted in films. Having been inspired by Lenka Clayton previously with alphabetising Zoella’s vlog ‘what’s in my handbag? 2016’ I decided to do the same to songs that have been used in teen film. I was especially interested in lyrics that expressed the resolution of ‘dreams’ in some way, as I think that this is one of the most interesting yet concerning things that teen films do. A good example of this is Hilary Duff’s performance of ‘This is what dreams are made of’ at the end of the Lizzie McGuire movie. Hilary/Lizzie performs this in the Colosseum Amphitheatre in Rome after being mistaken for a famous pop singer on a school trip. In the 4 minute duration of the song Lizzie manages to conquer the ‘bad guy’, return credit to the ‘good girl’ and perform to tens of thousands of people including all of her fellow students and parents. The reason that this concerns me so much is that I used to perform similar scenarios in my bedroom mirror as a child, and watching this scene now will still reward me with a sense of awe and goose bumps.

Alphabetising these lyrics meant writing them out repeatedly and after doing several different songs, including work by the Jonas Brothers, High school musical cast and Britney Spears, I began noticing that just before the words were totally alphabetised they made strangely poetic stanzas. For example;

 

‘Do dreams make different

Make dreams

Make make dreams

Make do

Make dreams do’

 

Which was found within High school musicals extraordinarily positive final song from the first film of the trilogy; ‘We’re all in this together’.

It was at this time I began looking at Mishka Henner’s work and was particularly struck by his series ‘Bliss’ that consists of awkwardly realistic stills taken of news reporters. I began taking stills of my own videos as I found that their low resolution quality often turned the banal pieces of footage into something much more visually engaging.

I felt that this reflected what is happening a lot on the Internet already where social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook encourage us to present our lives fictitiously with photos that tend to reflect how we wish our lives were rather than how they actually are. I then got an opportunity to have a zine published by Black Wave Press and felt that this would be the best way to experiment with the comparison of my own experience of adolescence and the teen film depictions of this. Here I displayed some of my John Giorno inspired found poems next to stills taken from my own videos amongst glitter and kitsch in a zine titled ‘Happy Song.’ The zine begins and ends with poems that specifically deal with dreams, starting with an adolescent covered in glitter holding the camera towards her face and ending with a newly formed family having their photo taken on a smart phone in front of a Christmas tree.

After some feedback in tutorials on this zine I decided to make a video counterpart, I first experimented with using my own voice to read out the poems but eventually decided it was much more effective to use a robotic voice. I made as many experiments with this technique as I had carefully selected poems, after showing them back to back in a crit, I quickly realised that these were all separate sketches and need to be displayed that way, if at all.

My most recent piece of work with this footage was ‘could cos dreams – a happy song’ which consists of layered footage zooming towards the screen in the way in which film classifications were announced on VHS tapes. After tutorials with Matthew Weir, Andy Parsons and Lilah Fowler, I realised it was really important to get these works into a more physical state (beyond Youtube) and so I showed this particular piece in the Linear Gallery. I turned the volume up to maximum and made it so that the footage would only appear once a minute. It was this silence contrasted with the loud repetition of ‘dreams’ and the happy family which meant this experimental work often confronted passers-by with confusion.

I have been working a lot with this particular piece of footage of the newly formed family. I believe this is because I am really interested in the education of children and the way in which institutions support this learning at such a crucial age. Being staged in front of a Christmas tree, I think this footage also explores the conventional dreams of the happy family and happily ever after often expressed in teen films. The smart phone in the foreground also highlights our current place in technological history where everything we do is documented and momentarily distributed, creating a tension in the ‘here and now’.

I realise that my work over the course of this year has become a lot less ambitious in terms of its scale but I feel that this has been necessary in order for me to spend time working on the breadth of my ideas and influences. I don’t quite feel that this is in any way a finished or resolved piece of work as it is still very quiet and ambiguous but I believe it is a starting point for something much more ambitious.

Recent work in progress

At the moment I am working on several different experiments. Using one of Zoella’s ‘What’s in my Handbag?’ vlogs I am working through the technique that Lenka Clayton uses in ‘Qaeda Quality Question Quickly Quickly Quiet’. I don’t plan this to be a piece as clearly this is literally copying Claydon’s idea but instead I see this as a task that will develop my ideas and my editing skills. In feedback from the crit exhibition I was told I needed to start working with the material I am commenting on in a more direct way so this is an attempt to start doing that. Using Claydon’s technique heightens the importance of what Zoella is saying in her videos (looking at the public analytics of this video on Youtube I have found that it has a total viewing time of 48 YEARS, which demonstrates how widespread this information is).


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/85120585″>Qaeda, quality, question, quickly, quickly quiet</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user11733176″>Lenka Clayton</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

To make this re edit of the video I have already had to watch it multiple times despite only being on the letter E, so not only is trying to cut the exact moment she says ‘a’ or ‘and’ frustrating but also watching the same thing over and over again. This experiment also focuses on language in a way that I have never explored before but am very interested in. Language is something that I feel we take for granted all the time in society but talking to each other and expressing ourselves through language is the only way we can evoke real change in society. I feel that language in its every day use is mistreated, we don’t take advantage of this fantastic mode of communication, instead we often waste it on bitching and moaning (which builds up human relationships but after these relationships are built moaning should be abolished).

This realisation led me to start recording myself whilst walking places on my own. I have got into the habit of recording myself speaking into a microphone that I disguise as a phone. I record myself saying out loud the thoughts in my head, the things I observe as I am walking, what I have observed that day and my after thoughts of these events and what I am doing later or just how I feel. I thought that maybe by getting all these things out I would maybe then have more time when I got to my destination to talk about real things to people, to use the power of communication more effectively. I guess what I am trying to work out is if I get out all the bitching and the mundanity in my own head then I would not need to talk about it to other people.

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Emma Hart installation view ‘Big Mouth’

This experiment was inspired by Emma Hart, in particular a piece that she had in a recent exhibition ‘Big mouth’ where she had a radio playing out clips of her talking to herself. I found this piece to be funny but also really touching as I really gained an understanding of this artist even though I have no idea what she looks like etc. In this way I got to know the artist much more that a painted self-portrait. I have also been inspired by the work of Alison L. Wade, in particular her work with voice mail machines. In an interview I read with Wade she talked about how, if a voicemail machine has more than 10 messages left on it you can begin to build up an image of the person without ever hearing anything from their perspective. For years I have been collecting shopping lists which do a similar thing, so possibly now is the time to start incorporating that into my work.

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Alison L. Wade ‘Beep’

I have experimented pairing these audio recordings with webcam videos of me in the evenings sitting at my computer editing, showing the mundanity and boredom that I feel surrounds my life at the moment. This is neither interesting to watch or listen to and I am not sure where this is going but I am enjoying doing it. I am worried that it is more narcissistic and self confessional than I wanted it to be. I tried playing one of the voice recordings to a close friend and actually found it too painfully embarrassing to sit through. This is interesting as everything I said in the recording I would say to my friend, but watching her listening to it knowing that I was talking to myself at the time made it really uncomfortable. I don’t think I would be able to display this as work. No one would care as it is me just sharing my human experience and also I would find it too embarrassing (also in a lot of the recordings I talk about my course and sometimes the people on it so that would just be a huge terrible mess really). This is more of a personal project that I hope will help me to make more expressive work, or at least help me realize what it is that I am actually trying to make work about as these are really stream of consciousness recordings.

The other thing I am working on at the moment is a painting as I recently learnt how to stretch a canvas and began thinking about what I wanted to paint on it one night. These thoughts turned into a crazy dream which led me to stand in front of the canvas the next day, paint brush in hand. I had no idea what I was aiming to paint but using a strict colour pallet of only, primary magenta, yellow and blue I began painting faces. These are not realistic faces but instead are made out of block colour that creates the forms that we can recognize as a face. These paintings are reminiscent of Picasso’s painting style along side many other expressionist painters which is interesting. There is no real substance to this painting, but again this is something that I really feel like I need to work through after using these paints in so many of my recent works.

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Canvas painting (detail)

I feel that these faces have come from an internal loneliness that I am experiencing at the moment. Again this is another process piece that is taking a long time to complete, and when I am painting I begin creating narratives for these anonymous portraits so in a way this is a real expression of myself at this time. There is clearly something about these colours that interest me as well, and I feel like this comes the plastic aesthetic of them. I have no idea how I will complete this painting but I am enjoying the process and the time it is taking.

All of the experiments I am currently working on are process based and time consuming which seems to be the basis of many of my works. Reading Seigfried Kracauer’s essay ‘Boredom’ recently has also encouraged me to fully express this in my work. Ultimately these experiments enforce the diversity of my practice and interests where I am working with, painting, colour, found footage and audio.

Crit show – LSTV2

For the the second crit show I decided to develop my ideas using the platform of a Vlog parody as I felt that this was possibly one of the most successful works I have done recently. Reflecting on my ideas with a tutor I started thinking about what really interests me and makes me create art. It seems that, although this is not currently shown in my practice, what I am really concerned with personally is mortality. I think it is important to realise and come to terms with our own mortality in order to live more fulfilled lives, and I believe that the excessive technological culture that I live in distracts us from these realisations. In my work I want to attempt to capture moments of realisation – the moments where we really realise the futility of life and the unavoidably empty endings we all face. These moments, although surrounded by mundanity, can transform our perception of the world where the problems we face one day seem ridiculous the next as we slowly transform from one mind-set to another.

As the Internet is a big part of this study, I felt that it was most appropriate for me to develop the idea of a vlog parody. I started by editing this in many different ways; having audio layered over one another into a building repetitive rhythm, layering particular moments over each other to create strange movements and sounds and also choosing moments within the 22 minute video to leave in whilst cutting the rest out but leaving the footage the same length. I found the negative space that was created by using this last technique interesting, as I thought about how viewers would interact with this work when it was displayed in a space. Initially it may seem that the TV is just blank, or not working but strange snippets of noise would jump into the space – creating confusion until the viewer happens to see and hear the video at the same time.

I began experimenting with this use of negative space in the video much more until I eventually came up with a mathematical way of editing that left the content that was seen up to chance. I have realised that this is a recurring theme in my work, as I always feel much more comfortable leaving decisions about aesthetics up to chance, in this way the work can relate to the random nature of the world in a more organic way.

The moments of action in this edit were mostly one second in their duration; not allowing the viewer anytime to grasp what is really going on, which I feel reflects the abstract way that humans have to get to grips with this existence. The cuts in-between these moments varied mathematically, for instance the first second of action came in at 1.00 minute into the footage, the second at 0.57 the third at 0.54 etc. Until it gets into the very middle of the video the cuts are very spread out, with most of the video consisting of complete nothingness.

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second performance film still

To contrast and also support this nihilism in the work I filmed another performance. This time I turned the ‘LSTV’ painting around so the strange textures underneath could be seen, covered my face in white paint and rocked back and forth chanting ‘We’re all going to die’ whilst continuing to rub paint over the rest of my body. This was a performance that I had not really planned but instead felt quite compelled to make one day when I got home and realized no one else was in. Whilst recording I felt almost out of my body due to the repetitive nature of the performance and there was certainly a disconnection between what I was saying and doing and what I really felt at the time.

In the final edit of this experiment I cut this footage into the climax of the cuts, editing at a 10th of a second in-between clips. Without the black space between clips this gave the impression that the different audios and performances were happening simultaneously, and through this strangeness, for the first time the words and actions were able to be understood with an almost clarity.

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Editing construction

Because this video is attempting to deal with the concept of the 2D digital world affecting this 3D reality I decided to try and integrate this into the presentation of the work. Instead of having this video put onto the show reel I decided to show it on a bulky monitor on a plinth that was at such a height that the together with the TV it would come to my height. In some ways this made the piece more of a self-portrait than was intended. Because of the amount of time that the video is just blank, the TV set unintentionally became a mirror due to its reflective screen and ergonomic height. Before viewers had heard anything come from the TV set, this is what initially drew them towards it, creating a reflection of the narcissism that happens within the footage, but still I would rather viewers were reflecting on my work rather than themselves aesthetically.

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Reflection in monitor

To show the physicality of the digital dimension creeping into the 3rd dimension I decided to paint both plinth and TV set. I gave both layers of white and on top recreated the pattern of the canvas used as the backdrop for the vlog performance. Repeating this painting process really bored me, I did not measure it out properly and was not as particular with the dots as I was before – this meant I created many more mistakes and by the time I was half way through painting the plinth I felt so frustrated that I gave up and started painting at random. On the TV this process was a little more controlled but I still gave both monitor and plinth another layer of white to conceal the mistakes and textures made underneath – but I did not want to get rid of them completely, this layer felt like an important part of the work but in hindsight it was unnecessary. This use of white paint covering up imperfections underneath is something that is also echoed in the content of the video with the performance of covering my face and body with white paint, I only really half understand the significance of this right now and I feel like it has something to do with the nihilism that I am clearly interested in.

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Installation view

I would say that this piece has been unsuccessful, but despite this I am still (if not more) excited about the concepts that are emerging in my work. On reflecting on my work in the crit exhibition I have realized that there are far too many contrasts in this work. Firstly, the contrast between the 2D and the 3D which I attempted to make by painting the plinth and TV to reflect the setting of the footage. Secondly, the contrast between ‘nothing’ and ‘something’ – having the long tedious pauses in between flashes of incomprehensible speech or action. Thirdly there is the contrast between the two different performances, where I attempted to subvert the narcissistic mundane with a personal and real realization about mortality which creates an absurdity in the work. I feel that I need to really think about these contrasts and what is actually relevant for what I am trying to do with my work as currently it feels over crowded with ideas.

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Installation view

In crit feedback I have been told that this piece is too confusing. There were questions about why objects had been painted and what the content of the video itself was and I felt that I had to do much too explaining for this piece to have been a success. There is obviously a tendency to become bored with looking at a black screen whilst waiting for something to happen, and even if this may be integral to the ideas I am trying to get across about what we watch online it is not engaging for the viewers, and therefore it fails. I was told that it felt as though the work was giving significance to banality, which I feel demonstrates how confusing the work has become as my aim is to give significance to moments of enlightenment and almost mock the comfort we feel in life’s mundanity.

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Installation view

I have been told that I need to deal with my material and subject in a more direct way, I should think about appropriating existing YouTube vlogs rather than just creating more. Or even, to become more understanding of this subject begin dressing up and performing scripts of some of these vlogs, trying to imitate them completely. From writing down this reflection I have realized that I know what my work is about, but I am just not communicating it effectively. The lack of artists and theory’s that I feel I could link to my work or talk about in conjunction to my work shows that this is an area that I need to focus on now to hopefully create more accessible work that viewers can relate to directly, without confusion.

Post-painting

From painting the canvases for ‘Loading…’ and ‘LSTV’ I had marked a table in my house and whilst scraping it off I began making patterns and working around the different textures that I had unknowingly made. The table was covered in paint quite thick and it was possible to see the imprint of the canvas between the table and the paint, creating a piece that documents the evidence of a performance. If I ever find myself painting another large scale canvas in this repetitive process I will paint a board white to use underneath to capture these accidental marks as I was upset that I could not keep the outcomes of this piece.

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Acrylic paint on vinyl table
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Detail

I used some of my close up photographs of this removal process and the textures left behind by the paintings as backgrounds for new paintings. I experimented with painting over these colourful compositions with white to create new spaces and forms, and to possibly use for the background for line drawings. As pieces on their own I think the use of white is quite interesting for disguising or neutralizing a space, I also experimented with painting AstroTurf white in an attempt at disguising it’s materiality.

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Acrylic paint on A4 ink jet print

Scraping the paint of became easier as lumps of it formed on the sponge I was using, this created very small formations of flaky dried paint. After seeing Tetsumi Kudo’s work at Hauser & Wirth I played around with using AstroTurf as a backdrop to these abstract forms. I noticed that close up they looked like moss or even lichen, and the AstroTurf composition encouraged this comparison.

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Paint form
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Experiment on AstroTurf

Using a macro lens I photographed these forms, cropping them to look much larger than they really are. Blowing these up and printing them on A3 I arranged the images on the wall next to the paint forms. This felt quite resolved in some ways as the comparison between the 2D image that shows the details of the object in comparison to the very delicate form next to it demonstrates the objectivity of the camera. The photograph gives aesthetic insight into the object but does not give us the rational information about its size. I found this comparison visually quite successful here even though this feels rather too polite but still this piece too thinks about the natural and artificial in a new way.

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Macro experiment
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2D and 3D display

I have noticed that in a lot of my work I tend to try and use all outcomes of a process, the marks that are made elsewhere as a by product of making something always seem to interest me, and I often cannot see them as separate from the intended piece of work.

Canvas experiments

Reflecting on my piece for the last crit show I decided to experiment with the possibilities of the large scale canvas that was a part of ‘LSTV’. My first instinct was to stretch it onto a conventional frame that would be 5 x 1.8 metres in scale, but after seeing Avis Newman’s paintings in the Tate, which have been decisively hung directly on the wall, I decided it was more interesting to hang the canvas in this way. This mode of display helped liberate the canvas as it was no longer restricted to the conventions of a frame. The accidents and imperfections of my printing had much more focus here than when the canvas was stretched around the 3D installation of ‘LSTV’, allowing it to be read in the context of painting rather than an object. This flat experiment also reflects the Photoshop plan I had to make of this canvas before actually printing it, creating a dialogue between the technological and the man made when these two images are shown next to one another. Visually this also allowed the viewer to focus on the pattern of the painting, allowing for some interpretation of forms within the repetitive pattern. Looking at the MoMa’s show ‘Forever now’ has helped me think a lot about painting as it exists now in the post-internet art world, and how to use painting to further that discussion.

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I also experimented with trying to turn it into a more organic sculpture. As this canvas has not been primed it still folds but is affected by the circles of dried paint and the scale of it creates an intrusive mass. The natural folds of this unidentifiable sculpture contrasts the formulaic way that it was made, but makes it impossible to work out as a painting and becomes more about the physical materiality of the canvas rather than its history and context.

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After being told in a crit that this canvas felt like a ‘internet backdrop’ I started thinking about using this as a performance backdrop. My initial experiments with this consisted of me dressed in all black moving back and forth in the space in different ways. After watching Godfrey Reggio’s ‘Naqoquatsi’ I experimented with editing this footage in repetitive ways in an attempt to create seemingly ever-lasting moments using a loop. Experimenting with perspective I chose to show the video at a different angle to the way it was filmed in, so it may appear that the video is being filmed from below or above, exposing the flaws of 3-dimensional turning into 2-dimensional.

Using myself as the subject of a performance led me to look more into Internet culture, in particular Youtube, where the ‘vlogger’ trend is still at large. I began thinking about the idea of the ‘online persona’ and how we can now crop and edit our lives into deceptive settings. I attempted a parody at a regular Youtube vlog trend ‘What’s in my bag’. Usually in these videos the vlogger will pull an array of sponsored products out of an endorsed handbag brand over the course of a 20 minute video. My own video was 22 minutes in duration, and watching it back I noticed a change in front of the camera from beginning to end. At first I felt awkward in front of the camera and it took me a few tries to start, but by the end I was talking in a lot of depth about each of the items in my bag. In some ways this them transformed into a performance about my own narcissism.

I edited this initially by speeding up the whole video and isolating individual moments that I found funny where I had become very comfortable in front of the camera. In feedback from this piece I was told that one of the interesting parts of this editing choice was that I had left in parts that showed me as human, where usually these would be the parts that would be edited out. To develop this idea of the Internet persona I posted this online on a separate YouTube channel. Creating the YouTube channel ‘flamby’ I attempted to set up a new online personality for myself.

As an experiment I found this process embarrassing, after sharing it on Facebook I became self conscious and deleted the link after half an hour. Even though this video did not reveal what was in my bag or anything really about my personal life I still felt exposed. Potentially I would like to develop this vlog idea further and may experiment with creating more generic vlogs to build up this online persona I could create for myself.

 

‘LSTV’ and development of work from September – October

As an induction into my Second Year studio unit, in September we were given a project to respond to a piece of Art on display in London, in order to change our way of working whilst expanding our knowledge of artists. I was given Sigmar Polke’s ‘Untitled (Square 2)’, 2003, which is displayed at the Tate Modern in the room ‘Painting after technology’. Although I usually try to avoid looking at traditional methods of painting, within this composition I found an interest in the contrast between fluid and the static because of the layers of different painting technique. The free flowing paint caught under a systematically printed image, and the colour palette of this painting had a great affect on me, I found the metallic and yet dulled hues soothing and complimentary whilst simultaneously dark, generating a sense of mysticism.

Sigmar Polke, Untitled (Square 2) 2003

From my initial research I became interested in the philosophy of Metaphysics, as I found that in its theories it contains questions I have often asked myself. The basic questions of Metaphysics helped me form my first response to Polke’s work as they gave me a basic reason to make art. These questions are: 1. Ultimately what is there? 2. What is it like? To start generating work I tried to answer these questions visually. My initial response consisted of a black and white macro image of moss, enlarged onto 16 A4 pages. Onto this I projected colour footage of the moss and it’s surroundings. In this way I tried to answer the questions like this; 1. What is there? This piece of moss. 2. What is it like? It is green, growing in a wall, there are bushes growing above it etc. This idea of static and movement was clearly inspired by the layers in Polke’s painting, whilst still trying to visualize the merging of reality and then humans perception of reality. The projection onto the image made it difficult for either element can be understood at all but when they were separated they can both be seen clearly. I find this confusion caused by the layering of the objective and subjective over one another to be an interesting idea – is it impossible for human’s to objectively observe the world around us because we are a part of it?

Initial response to Polke and Metaphysics research
Initial response to Polke and Metaphysics research

I then went on to look at the works of Gustav Metzger, Stan Brakhage, Len Lye and Oskar Fishinger. The contrast between the technological and the organic is what drew me towards Metzger’s work, in particular ‘Liquid Crystal Environment’ (1965/2005). The way his work naturally transforms over the duration of it is display is something that I feel is central to my own way of making work. Not only is his work transformative, but also it is politically engaged and deals with the environmental whilst being extremely physical in its presence.

Gustav Metzger, Liquid Crystal Environments, 1965/2005

Research into Stan Brakhage led me to experiment with out of date film, making gifs with a Nishika camera, creating multiple still images into ‘moving moments’ of distorted colour. I also experimented with digitally manipulating photographs damaged by a broken camera, transforming the colours and visibility within the composition.

Stan Brakhage, Film from ‘Mothlight’, 1963
Nishika gif experiemnts with expired film
Nishika gif experiemnts with expired film

Play with colour and animation led me to look at Len Lye’s films. I was instantly immersed in Lye’s use of repetition and bright block colours. This interest then led me to ‘An Optical poem’ by Oskar Fishinger. The circular forms pulsating and transforming took me out of reality for a few minutes, absorbed me into the screen on which I watched it, creating a mental transgression into the bright and infinite technological world.

Photo manipulation from damaged film
Photo manipulation from damaged film

Len Lye, Rainbow Dance [still], 1936
The colour and forms in these animations and the influence of Polke led me to experiments with paintings. I generated these by making multiple backgrounds at once and then creating layers of varying colour palates and textures on top. After all the layers had dried I would attempt to make sense of the free flowing paint with ink drawings on top. From this I found a colour palette that I wanted to work with; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. This started off as a visual interest and then transformed into a conceptual process. Using the acrylic versions of the printer inks to talk about tensions between technology and painting.

Paint experiments with colour, composition and texture
Paint experiments with colour, composition and texture

I was then recommended to look into the MoMA’s 2015 exhibition ‘Forever Now’. This introduced me to the term ‘Atemporal’ which describes ‘The strange state of the world where due to the Internet, all times now exist at once.’ This helped me think about the cross overs between the tradition of painting and the immediacy of digital/man made imagery. I then looked at different ways of painting and began experimenting contrasting these highly artificial colours with natural marks. I would use the negative space of a burnt piece of paper as a template, transferring the paint onto the paper with a sponge to create delicate but sharp edged forms. I also experimented with layering paints to recreate the spectrum of colours that create images out of a digital printer.

Experiments with Yellow, Cyan and magenta using burnt paper as stencil
Experiments with Yellow, Cyan and magenta using burnt paper as stencil

This influence in our perception of colour and the spectrum bought me to Olafur Eliasson and his study of colour. From his work I became more interested in installation space and was reminded of my interest of audience’s participation as a key aspect of the work.

Olafur Eliasson, Your uncertain shadow (colour), 2010

To develop my work for the October Crit show I began painting in block colours focusing on the form of the circle as this allowed me to easily create patterns and illusions. Reading Aldous Huxley’s ‘Doors of perception’ was also a great influence in my work at this time, especially where he describes the effect of bright colour on our ‘antipodes’; “Bright pure colours are characteristic of the other world”. Despite this Huxley evaluates only a page later “by it’s amazing capacity to give us too much of the best things, modern technology has tended to devaluate the traditional vision-inducing materials.” I felt a real connection to this analysis of colour in the everyday as I have often thought about why we do not feel the complete awe at colour and composition that our ancestors would have done.

Pattern and form experimentation with circles of block colour.
Pattern and form experimentation with circles of block colour.

Through reflection of this research I decided to make a ergonomically scaled installation that explored painting, colour, technology, the kitsch and human experience of forced perception. This is where ‘LSTV’ was formed. This consisted of an interior and exterior made from Acrylic and pencil on Canvas, black out fabric, Wood, AstroTurf, TV monitor and a Glass mannequin head.

The exterior consisted of a pattern made from the colours Magenta, Cyan, Yellow and Black. This pattern of dot painting had to be strategically planned before it was painted, I first had to plan it digitally on photoshop before I could start physical work. This process echoes that of Michael Williams digital and handmade paintings, whom I found in the ‘Forever Now’ catalogue. I was particularly interested in Williams’ choice of always creating flat imagery because of “the fact that he usually encounters artworks on the Internet or in books, rather than in person.” I wanted to subvert this in my ideas as I wanted to be sure that the viewer was completely present to view my work and in this way it would be impossible to photograph the piece, I felt it was important that the work could only be experienced truly when you are in front of it.

Michael Williams, work from ‘Forever now’ Exhibition at MoMA, 2015
Surface of Canvas painted in Acrylic
Surface of Canvas painted in Acrylic

Again, this work was very physical, the 5×5 meter canvas was much bigger than me so had to be made in stages, using hand drawn grids to guide me to where I should print each individual circle (applied with 10x10cm sponge). These pencil marks on the canvas were not removed once the paint had dried as I felt they became part of the work, these artificial dots sit between man made and mass production and the pencil lines highlighted this tension along with the reality of human error. From afar the canvas still looks as though it may have been mechanically made, but as the viewer gets closer to see the interior of the installation this pretence is abolished.

Canvas detail
Canvas detail

The ideas of over exposure to technology dulling our minds to a point where the ‘other world’ that Huxley references throughout his Mescalin experience is no longer accessible, is where the assemblage formed for the interior of my installation. Here I combined a glass mannequin head, Plastic grass and an old TV monitor stuck on white noise. These objects are all man made but particularly unaesthetic. They are objects whose function is to be the backdrop for other man made aesthetics but when placed all together they create a very bleak assemblage manufactured from evolving technology. This interior installation could only be viewed from one hole cut out of the canvas disguised as one of the painted black circles. This forced the viewer to interact with the piece physically, circling the structure to search for the hole, and then bending down to look through the it. This was followed by a mental interaction in the viewer where the contrast between interior and exterior aimed to transport the viewer to a very different place than the room/time and place that they were viewing my piece in.

Initial experiment with 'technological' assemblage
Initial experiment with ‘technological’ assemblage

In the crit feedback the comments revolved around the effective contrast of the bright and positive exterior and dark and disturbing interior, and how this could symbolize the transformation from childhood to adult hood. The disguise of the hole within the painted canvas also created a real moment of realization within the piece, a realization that there is ‘more’ and that this piece is not static. I was also told that my piece reminded people of advertisement because of the bright colours and positivity of the exterior from far away in comparison to the point where first the hand drawn lines and the imperfections of the circles can be seen, followed by the dark and bleak interior.

I feel that this piece was more successful in its interaction with the audience than ‘ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME’ because of its much larger physical presence. Its height meant that viewers couldn’t see over it, making it obstructive and forcing the viewer to confront it. But I do feel it was also too confusing, there were a lot of things in this piece to try to pick apart, also the disguise of the viewing point made it a secret when the work is meant to be for the viewer, and many did not know that it was there. I am pleased with this idea of transformation that occurs in the work, transporting the viewer from reality to an interior of strangeness using installation and contrast. The change of physical perception is something that I am going to work with again due to the success of this piece, the hole in the canvas allowed me complete control over the physical perception that the viewer had of the piece. Ultimately I want my work to allow moments of realization and moments of change in my audience by giving them a physical space of reflection. I want work to talk about human experience, the fears of death, realizations of something ‘bigger than us’ and other overwhelming moments of realization we face in our lives. These transformative and scary moments can sometimes only be consoled with humour and the absurd, which I feel is also very present in my work. I feel I would be happier about this work if it talked more about the political and environmental and had more influence from the audience. The idea that the audience could physically change outcome of the work was what was more successful about ‘ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME’, it gives the work a sense of immediacy and ephemerality to it, whereas ‘LSTV’ forced the viewers to be more present but did not completely include them.

'LSTV' 2015
‘LSTV’ 2015
'LSTV' 2015
‘LSTV’ 2015
'LSTV' 2015
‘LSTV’ 2015

ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME : New work

Between August – September I began work on very different ideas to the content of my previous work. During a trip through European capitals I started thinking about the Kitsch and the acceptance of throwaway culture in Western Society, especially the typical plastic souvenirs that haunt us in every agreeably nice place in the world. With the rise of ‘selfie sticks’ and the increasingly advanced technology of the smart phone camera I also found an interest in the way we treat photography now. It seems that now the photograph is so accessible we feel the need to take photos of every experience to prove that it was ours, as though if we take a photo we are some how experiencing the moment more intimately than if we did not. (These thoughts were also inspired by reading; John Berger: Ways of seeing, over this period.) From watching people take photos constantly without actually LOOKING at the things they were taking photos of I started thinking about how the photograph is now how we feel present in the world around us. We have generated a dysmorphic relationship with our surroundings. Our excessive photo taking distracts us from our sense of really ‘being’ in a place, an experience or a moment. This sense of being has become objectified in the photographic data of an Iphone, an Instagram post and Facebook profile pictures. We cannot be without instantly proving we’ve been.

ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME 2015
ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME 2015

This is the foundation of ideas that formed my piece ‘ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME.” The idea was a collaboration between myself and friend KAYA FEHMI, whose photograph is included in the piece. Our idea was to have a large scale image made into badges and attached to a denim hanging so that people could see and then interact with the image, being able to take a piece of it with them, until all the badges have gone. Through this process the piece aimed to challenge the audience to enjoy it whilst simultaneously destroying it, mirroring humans relationship with nature and the environment.

For me, the importance of the denim for the background of the photograph was to demonstrate the culture of the Western

Peter Blake, Self-Portrait with Badges 1961

world. By taking second hand denim jeans and cutting them up to make a flat sheet I was taking something practical and useful and making it functionless, as I feel the buyers of plastic souvenirs do to natural recourses. The use of badges on denim also took inspiration from Peter Blake’s: ‘Self portrait with badges’, a physical representation of his painted collages.

I found the large scale making of this piece to be very physical, it became in itself a ‘mass production’ of plastic objects as I attempted to make 486 badges by hand. The badges themselves were made from plastic poker chips, electric tape and safety pins with photographic paper stuck on with double sided sticky tape. I enjoyed the physicality of this making process along with the sewing of the denim by hand. This idea of handmade but ‘culturally disrupting’ objects echoes the process of Ai Weiwei’s work, especially his sunflower seeds due to their initial interaction with viewers in the Turbine Hall.

From a collective perspective the badges create a whole aesthetic image, which is about distinguishable. The moment a badge is removed it transforms from part of a whole to a bland combination of grey and white pixels, making it as worthless as a €4.50 souvenir that loses it’s value and meaning as soon as you remove it from its surroundings.

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower seeds, 2011 

The photograph used is of the Hungerford Bridge’s ‘Skateboard Graveyard’ by Southbank. The image appropriately documents an accumulation of old and broken skateboards that have been abandoned onto the bridge support, an island of consumer waste in the middle of the Thames. So to stage the interaction between audience and piece we decided to take it there, inviting people to take a badge rather than to take a photo, to be present beyond the screen of their phones. This location did not work for this piece as it was at an awkward angle for people to interact with it, so we later moved it opposite Southbank skate park, this change of location turned the piece into an almost-memorial for the fate of the on looking skateboards.

Kaya Fehmi, Skateboard Fehmi, 2015
Kaya Fehmi, Skateboard Fehmi, 2015

The expectation of public interaction with the piece was where it failed, it seemed that people were too awkward or just plain uninterested to interact. I believe now that the piece would only have been able to create this interactive presence with the viewer if it had been much larger. It was very easy to ignore, due to its height and placement at the side of the pathway. If it had been bigger and able to stand independently it would have been impossible for people to ignore and possibly less embarrassing for those who were interested but shy. Interestingly a lot of people asked how much the badges were and were confused that they were being given away. At some points I felt that there would have actually been more interest if the badges were for sale rather than for free. Possibly at this stage it was a little over ambitious to expect people to interact physically with my work but I feel that the majority of my ideas came across successfully here and I am happy with the visual outcome and repetitive processes that it developed.

Before interaction
Before interaction
On Hungerford Bridge
On Hungerford Bridge
With sign
With sign
Post - interaction
Post – interaction
Individual badge/interaction
Individual badge/interaction
Opposite skate park/interaction
Opposite skate park/interaction
In loaction
In loaction

Photocopying photocopies

For the second unit of the drawing project I have been working with using photocopying as a means to manipulate and expose images. In my initial experiment using a close up photograph of a canvas painted with ice I found myself making 3 photo copies out the original image using a particular technique and then choosing the most ‘visually successful’ image and repeating the process with that image.

When I realised that I had subconsciously been doing this I became very excited about how this process could be used in part of a bigger sequence. So I continued with more experiments where I consciously made 3 photocopies of each image using a particular technique then chose the one I felt was most successful and used another technique. I felt excited about this because I realised that the possibilities of this process were endless, you could continue to photocopy photocopies stemming from one image repeatedly, so the piece itself could be infinite, or at least suggests its own infinity. I felt a sense of evolution when looking at the series, and thought about how it could talk about the natural evolution of our planet into present day. The photocopier here would act as a symbol of man’s modern day immediacy warping our perception of the world around us, removing us from our human nature. I felt that the way I was presenting this, as a diagonal so that each set of photocopies was seen in relation to its original, showed this. But when speaking to a tutor he recommended I think about using a grid, as the current presentation was too decorative. On trying this I found this form both allowed more photocopies to be shown in the same space, and made the transitions between images easier to read.

After researching John Cage’s printmaking techniques I realised that my process was too objective to present something so based on chance. So like John Cage I experimented with using a random number generator in order to get my head around the process before applying it in a different ways to this photocopying work. I realised that to be able to use the random number generator I would need to categorise all the different techniques I have been using to make the previous photocopies so that I could assign them a number. I found this difficult to do as there are so many variations of techniques so I had to be really concise about how this would work, making strict categories and sub categories. It was also around this time that I came across John Hilliard’s piece ‘camera recording its own condition’. This piece too aimed to expose the inadequacies of it’s own process of making.

John Hilliard - Camera Recording its own Condition (1971)
John Hilliard – Camera Recording its own Condition (1971)

At this stage I realised that I the image I was using was as important as the process itself. I had mainly been using pictures of natural forms as a visual representation of nature being warped by technology, but I felt like I needed to find a ‘pure’ (non-objective) image for this process to really work. This really hindered me as I felt like I couldn’t start categorising my techniques until I had a ‘pure’ image. In the meantime I started doing small observations of bananas and passion fruit shells decaying, focusing on making forms and patterns with them. Then I experimented with photocopying these 3D objects and moving them whilst being scanned. From this I got an image to work with to realise all the categories, I decided to get a still image of the fruit as I felt this was more truthful, but not yet a pure image as the composition was considered aesthetically.

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From this I finalised my Categories to; Wiggle, Holding away from the scanner and back down again, circular motion and left – right, and a sub category; portrait or landscape. I found an image to work with by cropping and enlarging natural textures found in Tomas Marent’s collection of Rainforest Photography. I then made a set of 9 to start practicing with this technique. I didn’t feel entirely happy with this outcome but I think that is due to my struggle of finding or realising a pure image to work with.

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I still feel that this pieces process is not fully resolved. Afterward I experimented with dragging the image across the photocopier left to right at the same time as the photocopier. I then alternated between photocopying landscape to portrait with the image. I found the outcomes of this to be much more exciting than the ones using the random number generator, so maybe experimenting with using only this could lead me to a resolving piece.

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I feel now that I need to leave this photocopying process alone and feel eager to get it resolved, but I have had an idea of possibly resolving the piece using the intaglio print process. Thinking about how I could manipulate a plate one stage at a time (using processes and co ordinates selected by a random number generator), taking a print after every action for x amount of times and using the final image to make the same amount of photocopies using the random number generator to decide what process will be used to manipulate it. Although this does not really talk about the manipulation of nature that I wanted the piece to talk about it does expose two separate printing processes in different ways.

John Cage experimentation

On Thursday morning I was set the task of producing a piece of ‘exploratory developmental work’ focusing on an element of an already established artists practice in order to contextualise the materials and processes that I have recently been using in my work. As I have recently been working with the intaglio printing process I decided to look further into the work of John Cage, in particular his print works made at Crown Point press from 1978 – 1992. What interests me most about Cage’s work is the way in which he creates and then uses systems that leave the work up to chance occurrences. With each print Cage handed the decision making of scale, materials, composition and colour, to chance by generating numbers from the Chinese book of wisdom; ‘I Ching’.

John Cage - Variations III No. 1 - 1992
John Cage – Variations III No. 1 – 1992

This was the element of Cage’s work that I decided to incorporate into my own practice, but I realized that in the two hours that I had it would be far too ambitious to try and create a system as complex as Cage’s, so I started off by deciding that I would use A2 paper, ice and acrylic paint as my materials. I then generated co ordinates using an online random number generator, I had to repeat this 3 times, one to choose the pieces of ice and then twice more to find the co ordinates on the 420x594mm sheet of paper.

After marking up the co ordinates I chose pieces of smashed ice out of a bag at random and matched them up to their given co ordinates on the page. In the first set of randomly generated numbers I set it online so that only 20 numbers from 1-10 would come out so obviously there were repetitions which I had to ignore which did not feel entirely truthful to the whole process so maybe this is something I think about when refining my own system. It also meant that not all the pieces of ice were used because certain numbers didn’t come up. Once the pieces of ice were positioned I placed a small blob of black acrylic paint on top of each one. This decision of using black was also made by me and I’m not sure it was the best choice, it would have been better if I had been restricted to a certain colour as this could have been more visually interesting.

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I tried to take photos of the ice melting every 5-10 minutes as first as the piece did transform much quicker as I had expected, as the pieces of ice were so small. I think the first photos where the acrylic paint first touches the ice are most interesting here as the way that the black seeps into the crevices of the small structures highlights the intricacy of each one. It may be interesting to see what would happen if the ice was put back into the freezer at this point.

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This piece worked as I had expected it to, but I’m not sure if there is anything particularly exciting about it at this point, the fact that the ice has been placed on the page because of randomly generated numbers doesn’t have as much impact as Cage’s work because of the fact that everything else in the composition was chosen and controlled by me. I think for this to be a successful contextualized piece of work I would have to look more into making a system that allows everything in each experiment to be determined by chance. I do still think that combining ice and paint for mark making is an interesting technique that I want to continue with but because this pieces of ice where sat on a piece of paper the marks are not as interesting as on the canvas where the water spilled out and was able to mark it’s surroundings too.