Freeze and Thaw

After experimenting with my intaglio etching photocopies in a grid format I started thinking about how they would work as a video piece, as if each photocopy could be shown as a frame in its series, it could almost be an animation of the ice melting away. This inspiration also came from watching videos of John Cage’s print making processes, because his prints are so down to chance the videos of him making the pieces almost because more interesting than the work for me. I also found myself very interested in working with the audio that came out of documenting the ice being thrown to the ground.

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Original Intaglio print made by dropping ice from quite high onto a waxed plate.

My first experiment didn’t work as I only used the 6 photocopies that made up the left to right diagonal through the grid. This meant that the print didn’t really fade away but instead jumped from one photo copy to the next. I also experimented with slowing down the ice smashing audio here, this worked well I think as it gave the impact emphasis. I also liked how the audio softened as the photocopies got lighter, giving the impression of ice melting.

From this initial experiment I went on to scan in all 36 of the photocopies, so that the transition would be much smoother. This worked much better than I had anticipated, with 6 frames per second the black and white print fades smoothly away until the viewer is left with strange white and grey marks from the photocopier moving on the screen. I also decided to experiment with using the footage of me dropping the ice, as I liked the way that Dora Maurer’s piece ‘Throwing a plate from very high’ can be displayed alongside the photographs of her throwing the plate. As the video was much longer as it contained more photocopies this allowed me to play with the audio a little more. I decided to start the audio as I cut to the photocopies so that the audio and impact of the ice smashing can be experienced together, but the actual impact is still not seen conventionally.

I found the correlation between the audio and photocopies the most interesting part of this piece. The inclusion of me dropping the ice at the beginning made the piece too obvious, the audio with the photocopies on its own carries much more ambiguity and is much more exciting. So I then played around with only using the photocopies and manipulated audio, duplicating and flipping the sequence so that after the audio and visuals fade the process starts back up again.

I feel that this is the most successful out come of this combination of media as it for the way it visualises an impact through different ways, without ever letting the audience see this impact normally. Reversing the audio was really interesting, it completely changed the tone of the piece and I find the potential for this piece to be played on a loop very exciting. Ultimately this outcome successfully gives this sense of water freezing and ice melting I think, it explores natural cycles and changes whilst also thinking about the distortions that technology has on our society.

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.

Intaglio printing experiment

In the past week I was granted the opportunity to try out the intaglio printing process. In preparation for this I researched Dora Maurer’s work with printmaking as I had heard that she aimed to produce indeterminable outcomes from processes, which is what most interests myself. In my research I found her piece ‘Throwing the Plate from Very High” to be of most influence to my own approach to the intaglio print process, as I too wanted to catch something as fleeting as a moment of impact. My initial brainstorm in the workshop was thinking about how I could capture ice melting through this process, unfortunately this did not seem possible given that water softly shrinking would not mark the soft ground applied to the plate, but perhaps I may be able to do something with water, salt and vinegar that would arrive at a similar outcome once I have a better understanding of this process as a whole. In the end I decided that the best way for me to start using this process initially would be to mimic Maurer’s use of the process but instead of throwing the plate, drop a slab of ice onto it.

This made a much larger mark than both the technician and I had expected which was positive, but as a saw that there was still large pieces of ice intact I decided to continue smashing the remaining pieces onto the plate until there was none left. The spontaneous performance of this was quite exciting, being free to smash blocks of ice as an expression of nature felt liberating and almost therapeutic. The plate took around 40 minutes to get a good etch as I used steel with a very thin layer of soft ground. At first I found this process quite intimidating because of its complexity but once I had inked up the plate and created my first print I felt much more comfortable in the print workshop and I am eager to experiment with the boundaries that this process has to offer.

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‘Dropping ice from quite high’

Despite having got a final outcome from the plate I didn’t quite feel that this piece was resolved yet. In my other studio work I had been experimenting with a more common process of printmaking; photocopying. Using an A3 photocopier I have been manipulating colourful images by moving them sporadically whilst being scanned and working repetitively from those scans rather than the original image in order to expose the colours. I decided to see what would happen if I did the same to this black and white image, but I didn’t feel that it would be right to add more movement to the print as it was being scanned as the ‘action’ had already happened within the image. Instead I decided to see what would happen if I continued to photocopy the previous photocopy of the print as I was hoping that this in some way could visually resemble the process of ice melting.

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36 photocopies of photocopies

This is the result of photocopying photocopies of the print 36 times, although changes in the quality cannot be noticed when a photocopy of the previous photocopy are compared, the 6 diagonal copies in the middle show the disintegration of the process concisely. I am pleased with the development of this idea, what I was most interested in Maurer’s work was the way in which she exposed processes and I feel that I have achieved this to some extent here with the photocopies. The repetitive and tedious task of photocopying photocopies exposes the fact that this instant process of reproducing an image has its faults, every time a new photocopy is made the image is manipulated further away from the original and truthful image. For me this is important as I think it could be applied to the way in which society, especially western society, views itself within the natural world. Over the most recent period of history we have found ourselves progressively loosing touch with the natural world of which we are apart of, with the focus of our day to day lives slowly leaning toward technology and ridiculousness, instead of growing to understand ourselves and the world around us.