Artists currently influencing my practice

Since showing my work at ‘No Ordinary Disruption’ last month I have been working on ways to fully resolve how ‘POLITICALLY EMOTIONAL/EMOTIONALLY POLITICAL’ is presented to an audience, as I felt as though the presentation at this show was ineffective. To help me realise this I have been looking at established artists who have presented text works in the past, these include; Lawrence Weiner, Jenny Holzer, Trevor Paglen and then artists who have taken a very different approach to presenting similar ideas such as William Basinski, Emma Critchley and Ray Lee.

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Lawrence Weiner: ‘Iron & Gold in the Air Dust & Smoke on the Ground’ (1995)

I was sent this picture of ‘Iron & Gold in the Air Dust & Smoke on the Ground’ (1995) by a friend visiting Antwerp, not only was I struck by the poetic resonance and simplicity of the words but also by their freedom from a gallery space. After some research I found out this was the work of Lawrence Weiner, often dubbed ‘The Father’ of Conceptual art. I have taken many things away from my readings about Lawrence and his work, in particular my faith in writings constructed ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS, and confidence in leaving a work just as simple text without any embellishments. I also admire Weiner’s process of rejecting commodification through the form of his work and the way in which he constructs work so that their impact continues outside the gallery or viewing space; “You are required to accept the logic in order to use the work and once you’ve accepted that logic it carries over into the rest of life.” [1] Finally, two other quotes that have helped validate my confidence with the content of my writing as previously I had thought that perhaps they would be perceived as quite naïve; “I spent a lot of my youth deciding whether I was going to try to change the culture as a whole, or whether I was going to continue to try and change each individual horrendous thing that was going on in the world.” [1] And; “Art, I think, always comes from an anger with the specific configuration that’s presented to you. It’s not terribly intellectual.”[1]

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Jenny Holzer: [no title] from Inflammatory Essays (1979-82)
I have also been looking Jenny Holzer’s work, specifically her series of ‘Inflammatory essays’ which she posted around Manhattan between 1979-82, a new one each week on a different piece of coloured paper. Holzer dotted these around the city in places where she hoped a diverse audience would get the chance to read them; “From the beginning, my work has been designed to be stumbled across in the course of a person’s daily life. I think it has most impact when someone is just walking along, not thinking about anything in particular, and then finds these unusual statements either on a poster or in a sign.” [2]  This is a sentiment that is central to my own beliefs about how my own writing should be interacted with by the viewer. Holzer’s writing style, content and use of language, other than being much more sophisticated, is really quite similar to my own ramblings. This raises the question; what is the point of me making the work I feel like making if it has already been made? This is a question I do not yet have an answer to, but I shall continue to draw on my visual and contextual similarities to Holzer, as along with the ‘Inflammatory Essay’s’ series I have also drawn inspiration from looking at the projections of her writing that are well documented on her website.

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Jenny Holzer: Projections – Washington (2004)

One thing that does concern me about both Weiner and Holzers’ work is how much they may be affected, in terms of honesty and impact, when the writings are commissioned or shown in a gallery. As both artists works quite clearly echo the function of street graffiti yet have developed in a way that carries more authority due to their scale and presentation. I feel sure that once writings like this are commissioned or backed, they are no longer a rebellion against the state and especially when they are displayed in a gallery I feel that they loose any genuine dialogue with the global environment, instead the text feels as though it has been validated by what it is against, rendering it useless. For example, I felt a much more urgency of expression and passing information in this text I spotted scrawled in spray paint onto the The Royal Court of Justice (October 2016):

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The Royal Court of Justice Graffiti October 2016: ‘they are sharks they pay judges circle of lies, they are fabricating evidence’ 

Possibly I should keep this as a reminder to avoid letting any of my writings and their presentation become ‘institutionalised’.

Trevor Paglen also uses projections to display text in his work ‘Code Names of the Surveillance State’ (2014). I have so far found four examples of how this work has been displayed previously. In his 2015 exhibition at Metro Picures Paglen displayed the work, which consists of a continuous loop of over “4,000 National Security Agency (NSA) and Government Communications Headquaters (GCHQ) surveillance program code names” [3], on three synched horizontal TV monitors. In his 2014 exhibition at the same gallery Paglen presented the same work in a multi projection installation. Here, the Alphabetised list scrolled endlessly over all 4 of the gallery walls. I have also found an unspecified image of the names directly applied onto the gallery wall but in my opinion the most successful presentation of Paglen’s collection of absurd code names was when he projected them on political buildings around London in 2014. I think the contrast between the hilarity of the names featured on the list and the seriousness of its implications is a perfect balance for a society that regularly communicates world news and politics through Internet meme’s. It is this dry humour that I also think is important to include in my own writing as I feel it gives the text more realism, a kind of comic relief. In a way I quite like viewing this piece of work, in all of its forms, as a form of absurdist found poetry.

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For me, the temporality and large scale nature of both Paglen and Holzers’ projections feels better suited to this piece of Paglens’ work as even in its documentation it stands as a powerful piece of evidence and protest. Both projections by Holzer and Paglen use white text with a black background, which is better suited to this idea of shining light on and exposing a subject. Paglens’ other works are usually quite pictorial and could easily be described as tranquil. For example the mystical imagery in his photography works such as “Bahamas Internet Cable System (BICS-1) NSA/GCHQ-Tapped Undersea Cable Atlantic Ocean” (2015) stands as a visual metaphor for the unnecessary disruption of serenity. The title of this work also presents the image as a piece of evidence, which it is, rather than an objective artwork. It is these subtler, poetic yet profound works that fuelled my interest in Emma Critchely.

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Trevor Paglen: ‘Bahamas Internet Cable System (BICS-1) NSA/GCHQ-Tapped Undersea Cable Atlantic Ocean’ (2015)

Whilst attending a talk by Emma at the beginning of October after installing her work in UCA Farnham’s gallery space Black Box I learnt that she too has been inspired by David Abram’s text ‘The Spell of the Sensuous’. It has since become very important for me to study her work and see how the ideas from Abrams’ text translate into visual art works. One of the clearest links I can see so far is to Emma’s series ‘Figures of Speech series 2’ (2012). Here Emma asked free divers to say a word underwater and then captured the form of the air bubble released from their mouths in front of their faces. For me the air bubble distorting the facial expression of the free diver talks about the decrease in non-verbal communication between all living things. This echoes Abram’s ideas about the importance and faith we place on language to understand people and the natural world, and how this limits us from reading more truthful signals that they/it is sending out. The musical scores that accompany many of Emma’s film works is something that I found affected me in a very physical way, and music is a form that I have been keen to experiment with since seeing the ‘THIS IS A VOICE’ exhibition at the Wellcome collection.

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Emma Critchely: 1/3 ‘Figures of Speech series 2’ (2012)

This directly reflects my interest in musicians such as Brian Eno and William Basinski. As always, I really appreciate the way in which music can function outside a gallery space and can affect people in daily life, it carries a purpose and one that can heighten and explore the human senses. It is this ambition and function that I want to be making myself, and the more I listen to the transient rhythm of Basinski’s ‘Disintegration Loops’ series the less I feel that this can be done with the aggressive, feeling sorry for myself, ‘poetry’ that I have been working on.

I have also very recently come across the work of Ray Lee. What excites me about Lee’s work is the way in which he uses installation to bring sound into public spaces and explores the way in which it can transform the way we interact with space. It is this idea of giving an audience a direct experience that I have always been interested in, but I have ever seen it done in such a way that allows viewers to explore the possibilities of their minds and relationship to the world. Although it was presented in a gallery space and not in the public domain, it is Lee’s project ‘Cold Storage’ (2011) and all its sci-fi implications that I am most keen to let infiltrate my own practice and future works. On Lee’s website the experience created is described as so;

“In a room modelled on the regency bedroom from the end of 2001: a space odyssey, the one-on-one audience member is invited to lie down in a cryogenic sleeping pod, a sleek metal casket-like box familiar from any number of sci-fi films (Alien, 2001, Dark Star etc). 
A calm, white clothed technician assists as you climb into the cryogenic tank. The lid is closed on you. Inside it is cold, noticeably cold, freezing. Your hands and face feel the cold.

There is not much room inside. You are lying down on your back. The casket is lit from the inside and you see your reflected image on a mirror above you. You cannot see outside the tank. It is a bit like being in a coffin, or in a medical procedure, or…
There is an uncomfortable sense of nothing happening except that you are beginning to feel the cold penetrate the outer layers of clothing that you wear. You wonder how long this will go on or if you will get too cold for comfort.
Wearing headphones you listen to a calm, authoritative voice explaining what will happen to you. You will be deep frozen and put to sleep for a thousand years. The voice continues to gently talk to you and you are invited to consider the finite nature of our life span and as you do so the light dims inside the tank until you become aware that you can see through the glass window above you.

As you see through the glass and your mirror image fades you can see that above you are an endless sea of stars. You are now in complete darkness, in the cold of the cryogenic tank, looking out into space, as if set adrift, lost in an ocean of nothingness.” [4]

Similar to the experience of a floatation tank that has so informed Emma Critchley’s work, it is this speculation of and separation from everyday life that I would like my work to evoke in viewers, an experience that can take people out of the ordinary and return to it more grounded in the fragility of reality.

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Ray Lee: ‘Cold Storage’ (2011)

Although I have received relatively positive feedback on my recent writing I do not feel that shouting horrible things through text is a successful way of creating the emotional experience that I wish too, in fact I think it is more of a therapy for myself rather than for an audience. In the next weeks I plan to experiment and finalise my text works, hopefully using multiple projections in a space as a starting point, but in the future I hope I will find a way for my works to develop into something much more ambitious, subtle and reflective.

[1] http://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/issue-6-lawrence-weiner-interview

[2] http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/holzer-no-title-p77397/text-catalogue-entry

[3]http://www.paglen.com/?l=work&s=code_names_of_the_

[4]http://invisible-forces.com/ray%20lee%20-%20projects.htm

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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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THIS IS A VOICE – The Wellcome Collection

I enjoy singing little rhythms I make up, I often whistle and I talk to myself out loud without realising, I have a tendency to mimic accents I’m exposed to over a relatively short period of time and I talk so much that I often suffer from throat infections when meeting new people. I had never thought of the sociological, anthropological and psychological implications of all of these small, mundane facts about myself until I had the chance to see the Wellcome Collections early summer exhibition ‘THIS IS A VOICE.’

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My lasting impression of this show is one of refreshment. Finally, an exhibition that does not showcase an array of impressive (to come by) artworks under the guise of education, instead THIS IS A VOICE has education, realisation and appreciation as its core intention for the viewers. The spectrum of objects, images and experiences, curated by the talented Barbara Rodriguez Munoz, guides viewers section by section through a journey that explores the origins, uses and afflictions of the voice and much more. The highlights of this show, of which there are many, were installations by Macus Coates and Imogen Stidworthy, documentary work from Louis Sarno and Katarina Zdjelar along with the specimen of Marianne Harland’s larynx and trachea affected by tuberculosis.

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Imogen Stidworthy’s installation ‘Castrato’ (2012-2016)

Marcus Coates’ installation ‘Dawn Chorus’ is one of the first works in the exhibition and it successfully transforms viewers from talkative gallery goers into experience absorbing subjects. Visitors unsuspectingly enter a dark space with multiple monitors situated at different heights enclosing them into a mysterious centre. Disorientated by the transition into darkness, at first it seems that the installations audio is coming from another part of the exhibition as the bird song is so disconnected from the glitch-y mundane, human, scenes being shown on the screens that separate the dark. In fact, the birdsong is coming from the performers occupying each banal landscape inside the screens, highlighting the eerie similarity between the vocal capabilities of birds and humans.

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Marcus Coates’ installation ‘Dawn Chorus'(2007)

Unlike most large-scale exhibitions, all sound and video work were kept to manageable lengths (excluding Ted Kotcheffs 90 minute film; The human voice). Living in an era where 10-second videos and gifs litter our social home pages and 30-second adverts dominate our TV screens, it is not surprising that our attention spans have been ruined. This is something that I think all galleries should be aware of, no matter what the subject of the exhibit. Most importantly, what this visually hungry populous wants is the whole experience, from start to finish, right now, or nothing at all. This is something that ‘THIS IS A VOICE’ accommodated, with most looping clips being only 2-3 minutes long, making difficult to comprehend ideas much easier to access and swallow.

 

The programme that accompanied the exhibition is also something worth a honourable mention. Containing all the introductions to each of the exhibitions sections, images and useful descriptions of every piece, the programme allows visitors to engage fully in the experience of the exhibition rather than feel the need to take pictures or notes, because everything is already recorded for us in the best possible quality.

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THIS IS A VOICE – installation view

For me, this is what every exhibition should be about; using an array of objects and images to penetrate a single subject. Art works cannot be solely responsible for doing this as they are often subjective, instead artworks should be used to show how scientific fact and experience can be interpreted and shared with an audience. Informative, exciting and relevant to every soul on earth, ‘This is a voice’ taught me; how the voice originally evolved ‘for the purpose of song and social bonding rather than for information exchange’, that accents can be removed and manipulated, about the voice in my head that translates symbols into sounds, and a whole new language.

Performing for the Camera

If you have studied any form of visual arts beyond the restrictive curriculum of A-levels, it is likely that you will have seen half of the images on display in this exhibition already. Between documentation of Yves Klein ‘s ‘Anthropometries of the Blue Period’ process and Cindy Sherman’s ‘Untitled Film Stills’, everything you would expect from a major Tate show, is exactly where you’d expect it to be. The familiarity of the earlier works on display was not detrimental to the exhibit, instead the amount of works was. In an era where we are being drowned in an over abundance of imagery, it is quite a lot to ask of viewers to engage with 14 rooms worth of photographic images and their stories. Essentially, this was a historical review of performance art and it’s documentation, rather than the effect of rising photographic technologies on the general populations behaviours (as I had initially, obviously foolishly, thought it would be). This is not to say that the exhibition itself wasn’t relevant, as instead it displayed the transformation of the camera from documenter of performance to creator of performance. This transition, in hindsight, does in itself demonstrate and reflect the change in societies behaviour towards the camera in the same time frame. Where previously performances were captured (almost haphazardly) so that they did not dissolve into memories, now it is more common that performances are staged only for the photographic outcome, overlooking the spontaneous experience factor of the earlier images.

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Yves Klein and a model during the performance ‘Anthropometry’ (1960)

For me the most exciting work on display was Martin Parr’s ‘Auto Portraits’, reminiscent of ‘meme culture’ the brightly coloured array of prints was a welcome sight after the hoards of very serious, black and white, high brow art images in the galleries before. Despite its humorous façade, this collection reveals something very interesting about the world in itself. The series of garish images were taken by street photographers and in photo booths in popular locations all over the world, but it is difficult to find anything representing the ‘culture’ each is from. Instead, the interchangeable format of each image exposes a worldwide commonality; tourism everywhere is simply a cheap thrill of kitsch aestheticism and ‘proof’ of experience.

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Martin Parr – Wolverhampton, England (2012) from ‘Autoportraits’

As the exhibition drew to its close, the remaining images were performances solely staged for the camera, bringing us to reflect on the unconscious modern day performances documented on every users Facebook newsfeed. So, quite fittingly, the exhibition ends on work by Amalia Ulman. This consists of prints taken from her Instagram page and some tablets that allow you to browse through all her Instagram posts. As a series the images uploaded to Instagram document the narrative of an innocent young girl moving to LA, her down fall into drugs and later her recovery and newfound appreciation for brunching. This new form of online art is something I, along with many other young artists, am getting excited about. Earlier this year the a famous snap-chat user Andrea Russett’s online following was used by director Hannah Macpherson to create the first snap chat film: http://nofilmschool.com/2016/06/sickhouse-andrea-russett-first-snapchat-movie-horrifying . Although this is a horror film and the final product is not near any league belonging to the work of Ulman, I feel that it is still a better use of online platforms ability to exploit unsuspecting viewers. My problem with Ulman’s ‘Excellences & Perfections’ series is that the Instagram following had no idea that they had been duped because what she posted is, and intentionally so, what we can find on a large majority of Instagram accounts. Although I greatly admire Ulman’s use of social media as a place of performance, as I feel it is now a much more realistic way of critiquing the world than in a gallery, the work is so subtle that it almost doesn’t exist.

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From Amalia Ulman’s Instagram series ‘Excellences and Perfections’

Ultimately this show took me on an educational journey through the historical use of the camera in art, which was beneficial for any art lover. My critique, however, is that it probably only extends to those who have a rather extensive knowledge about art and art history already. This is a shame as with the rise of smart phone cameras and the world dominating ‘selfie culture’, this is an exhibition that should have been able to inform, excite and interest anyone wandering the streets of London.

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.

 

‘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