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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‘Loading…’ – For Gustav Metsger’s ‘Remember Nature’

After the October crit exhibition I had the opportunity to be directly involved with Gustav Metzger’s recent project ‘Remember Nature’. As I felt that my last piece did not focus on the natural or the political as much as I’d like my work to, this was the perfect opportunity to introduce these very important themes back into my work. Attempting to use paint in a more conventional way, I painted a leaf in my chosen colour palette of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow to create a contrast between natural tones and
artificially mass produced colour.

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Acrylic painting

Using Photoshop I made a short animation with this painting that imitated a conventional buffering symbol. I experimented showing this on a monitor and thought it would be interesting if the viewer had to see this looped animation at close proximity, reflecting the way that we interact with screens everyday.

Like my previous piece ‘LSTV’, I painted a canvas to conceal the monitor, this time experimenting with using block colour. This decision was made after many different composition experiments and then reflection on Aldous Huxley’s study that “bright, pure colours are characteristic of the other world.” Again this forced viewers to look into the piece through a small hole cut into the canvas, but unlike ‘LSTV’ this hole was much more obvious.

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Final composition plan

This piece aimed to glorify the buffering symbol whilst also demonstrating time wasted on staring at screens. I think in some ways this did come across but here I feel that the canvas was rather unnecessary and was only included because of my previous work. Possibly showing this on a more appropriate screen would have been more successful instead of concealing it as I preferred the canvas as a piece on its own.

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Installation view

‘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

How to make a Kaleidoscope in Adobe Premiere Pro

Earlier on in my project I considered looking at kaleidoscopes after watching the film ‘Media Magica’ as this film demonstrated how successfully mirrors could be used to make optical illusions. After my experiment with maggots and food and the feedback I got from it (which was mainly or disgust) I thought that it may be interesting to see how a kaleidoscope would work with maggots as kaleidoscopes are often seen as beautiful calming sequences. To do this I watched a Youtube tutorial on how to create a kaleidoscope in Adobe premiere pro, which was rather complicated and difficult to follow at times. For anyone looking at how to do this here are the instructions that I used:

  1. Apply mirror effect to your footage (which you should have dragged into your timeline) with an angle of -45 degrees and a centre point of 1525, 1080
  2. Right click on your footage in the timeline and click the ‘Nest’ option (the clip should show up in green in your timeline)
  3. Copy the footage and paste it but make sure that the timeline marker is not in the middle of your footage because it will paste the footage where the timeline marker is (both should still show up in your timeline in green).
  4. Next drag the pasted footage on top of the original and make sure they are the same length and start and finish at the same time.
  5. Then apply the following to the pasted nested sequence (the one you have dragged on top of the original nested sequence):
  • Horizontal flip
  • Crop at 50% on the left
  • Mirror at 90 degrees angle and a 1544, 540 centre
  1. Then apply mirror at 90 degrees with a centre of 1544, 540 to the bottom clip (you may also want to apply a 50% crop to the right but it is not necessary unless you are planning on changing the opacity of the kaleidoscope sequences)

All of the effects I have mentioned such as mirroring, horizontal flips and cropping can be found in the effects tab in the bottom left hand corner, and these effects can be edited in the ‘effects controls’ tab which should be in the top left corner.

I hope these instructions are helpful for anyone that is looking to experiment with this process in Adobe premiere pro, here are some of my own results from using this technique:

‘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.

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.

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Spirograph with different layers and mistake
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Spirograph wheel 65 incomplete
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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.

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Spirographs in clashing colours
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Spirograph experiments with different layers