A summary of works for last semester is arranged here with the most recent first and include documentation of my installation that encompassed elements of my work made this term; the lithophone formation and sound recordings, a Portland stone carving, ‘From Yoko’ video work, the ‘Crossed Wires’ collaborative project, the trapped ‘Submerged Water Bear’ footage, a sculpture copying a natural rock form and a white, translucent crystal of selenite.
Mini Pop-Up Show of recent work
Dec 12th 2018
Kerris Garden Studio, Woodlane.
‘From Yoko to Extinction Anxiety’, 2018. Mixed Media Installation.
Acknowledgment to the Cornish Landscape, Pino Sciola, Yoko Ono & Polar Bears.
The most recent presentations of my studio practice have manifested as mixed media installations involving moving image, projection, sound and object (sculpture and/or assemblages).
The images above document the most recent installation that I’m presenting as a resolved piece of work for submission for the module FA 301. I have used footage of the polar bear that I captured at Copenhagen Zoo last April but it’s taken me over 6 months to fully process the material. The polar bear looped video sequence is silent and I have used it previously alongside other moving image sequences in my Back Lane West short residency.
This work was very much about an exploration of notions relating to permanence and transience. I was attempting to link visuals and sound that suggested nature and cyclical elements, repetition, fading, obscurity, temporality and illusion. My instinct and intuition led me to set up these seemingly unrelated video works but when they played out together in the space, the result was interestingly coherent but vague. The atmosphere in the space was calm, contemplative but slightly unsettling. I used sound, moving image, text, sculpture and assemblage to convey hints of the themes inherent in the works.
The video sequences ‘From Yoko’ and ‘Submerged Bear’ draw subtle associations with entrapment, repetition and unknown futures. There was a ghostly edge to video footage as well as the sense of the temporal or temporary states; change is pending but unpredictable. ‘From Yoko’ conveyed an element of feeling displaced or uncertain and this draws a strong correlation with the current state of our times where millions of people have been made refugees and have been forced from their homes; cast adrift with no assurances for the future.
Through projections and sound, I want to fill the spaces I inhabit with light, movement and colour to create a mysterious, peaceful but slightly eerie ambience. I aim to lull but subtly disturb the viewer by initially presenting imagery that references nature, something familiar and aesthetically gentle but I attempt to offset any comfort or sense of ease with peculiar sounds that, again, may be vaguely reminiscent but not entirely identifiable.
Last term I had a tutorial with Gillian about ways to present video projections and she suggested exploring ways to split or reflect the projection using mirrors or additional lenses. I’ve discovered that mirrors aren’t ideal because they reduce the amount of light reflected and image blur is an issue – you lose light on the reflected image.. which is fine if the room is pitch black, but this is actually very difficult to obtain. Most project spaces I’ve used or had access to have limited scope to completely black out the room. This isn’t a problem for straight projections usually but reflecting projections requires a very dark space.
From my study trip to London in October, I discovered Salvatore Arancio was using interesting iridescent panels in his installation at Whitechapel (Surreal Science).
These panels essentially act as props for presenting work in interesting ways. I need as much flexibility and versatility as I can muster when it comes to presenting audio/visual work. The spaces you inhabit dictate a great deal to how the work can be shown so having a few tricks up the sleeve helps to obtain the mood/quality/effect you want. Now I’m beginning to develop my skills in installation. It’s a lot more difficult than I ever expected and I’m finding that there’s rarely anyone available to help set up these spaces. So it’s often a fraught, lonely and confusing phase when I’m alone in a space with my work and materials, trying to figure ways to present in complementary and interesting ways. This is another art offshoot I’m learning to develop. Gallery visits help – seeing as much mixed media installations a possible is invaluable when you’re in the exhibition/presentation phase. I would dearly love to have a permanent space or studio that works for my practice – a space where I could spend weeks simply fiddling and playing and experimenting with ways to present AV works/installation. Its always cut short and this can be stressful and frustrating. I spend days painstakingly setting up a piece then have to abruptly dismantle it. It’s quite sad but I also love that transient element – blink and you miss it! The Nomadic qualities of my work allow it moves on quickly.
I received some positive comments from everyone who came to see the work (Lucy, Dan Thompson, other students and my family). Dan seemed enthusiastic about the lithophone and offered some great suggestions about carving out the base of the stone to add resonance. This is definitely worth exploring. He was also supportive and encouraging in the days leading up to the mini-pop up show and helped me set up the sound recording hardware.
The various components present in the installation
‘From Yoko to extinction anxiety:
‘From Yoko’ audio/video piece (5 mins).
The footage for this piece was taken during a walk along the coast path between Sennen Cove and Lands End. It comprises of layered clips of flowers being widely shaken by the wind, footage of the ground as I walked and the clouds whizzing through the sky.
There’s a spot called Mayon Cliff which feels quite magical and mysterious to me. There are stone remains of an ancient iron-age settlement and there’s a subtle energy about the place. It was a wild and windy day when I captured the footage. The grass, flowers and foliage were buffeted by strong westerly winds and the clouds were speeding through the sky. The atmosphere felt electric and I had a lovely time recording all the movement and energy of the place. After I made the video, I was keen to incorporate sounds from my Cornish lithophone. I wanted to try to connect elements of place and time in unusual ways. As I studied the video, I was reminded of the writings of Yoko Ono who talked about her traumatic post-war childhood experience of watching the sky when she was weak from hunger and food shortages. She told the story with minimalist, quiet expression and I used excerpts from her book, Acorn, to infuse into the footage. The text added and important emotional quality to the piece.
Overall, the video is an odd fusion of sound, moving image and text that I think conveys a sense of disconnection, hope, temporality and patience. The text adds a feeling of waiting for the difficult moments to pass; time always moves you forward to new territory but its also about repetition and cycles. The natural world is heavily referenced and I believe this reflects my anxiety about losing a connection to nature. This plays off against the polar bear looped footage. The only variable in the installation is the sound and I attempted adding live sounds to experiment with a performative layer – it worked well, but I’m not sure if it enhanced the reading of the work.
My video works are fast evolving towards a painterly type of process incorporating collage and layering until I achieve imagery that starts to tingle – when this happens it hints that something subtle is starting to manifest and communicate. The imagery I develop can be formed in response to sounds, a theme, an object or sculpture or text, poetry or narrative. Other times, the imagery may inform the sound I develop or the words I write. There is no set formula for how I practice. One element feeds or informs the next and the work generates and begins to flow until a form begins to emerge or further threads to follow.
Sound is an increasingly important component within my practice and I now aim to include recordings into my documentary practice – so I now take my camera, notebook and my Zoom sound recorder out with me to gather material.
‘Submerged Water Bear’, looped video sequence (1 min)
This footage in itself is quite simple, literal maybe, but its presence in the installation acts as an artefact to convey captivity, entrapment, repetition, melancholy and futility. It represents how life is reduced to the spectacle in our present-day world – mediated lives via technology and mobile phones. The footage was included as I wanted to hint at themes relating to extinction and the destructive activities of human beings.
The black and white projected image was split by my iridescent panels into green and pink projections in opposite directions to each other. It was quite serendipitous that the projected colours were reminiscent of the Northern lights. I didn’t set off to do this but it certainly added an intriguing layer to the installation. The colours also complimented those in the ‘From Yoko’ video so the overall composition was working quite well.
Infinity Ice: Selenite
This was a small sculptural object placed between mirrors to induce the illusion of infinity. The translucent whiteness of the crystal adds a cold, icy element to consider and references climate change and the loss of glaciers and icebergs – the natural habitat of the polar bear. Together, the polar bear footage and this object conveys the notion that infinity is an illusion or construct. Human arrogance has gone as far to deny that our actions have had detrimental effects of the planets ecosystem and this was fuelled by a belief in an illusion of infinite planetary resources.
This sculpture was formed initially as means for me to insert rock shapes into a space without having the weight concerns but as I was making it, it began to increase in significance. It is a hollow facsimile of a granite rock in my garden and I have always admired its sloping angle so I was delighted when the same quality translated into the copy. The precarious angle adds a subtle tension and the plain white surface is ideal for projecting onto (another one of its previous applications) as well as resembling an iceberg. I’m interested in the hollow insides of the form – the negative space inside. I’d like to try projecting into it eventually. The surface is rough is still unfinished. Its behaving again much like an installation prop – much like the iridescent panels but I will continue to explore how I can use it or refine in for future projects where appropriate. If I made loads of them it could start to get interesting – nature doesn’t usually clone rocks.
Lithophone sound capture
The Cornish Lithophone can generate unique and sometimes ethereal sounds. The various sounds it releases depends very much on the material used to activate it. Hands create a light, ethereal whispers and pebbles can create water droplet sounds. Wood is a deeper whisper and hollow hard objects generate most volume but can be abrupt. I also managed to create sounds reminiscent of a cat purr.
Felt beaters make lovely light pops and the longer columns of the lithopone make the lowest notes. Conversely, the shorter columns make the highest and quietest sounds. With practice, most substrates can cause the granite to release squeaks. If the granite block was larger with longer and thicker columns i think the lithophone would generate much deeper and louder sounds. I’d love to experiment further with this project.
I love the unique pattens formed by the molecular structure of the granite. The tip of each square column is like a finger print – monochrome patterns with the occasional silver shiny mineral infused.
Documenting the Installation
‘From Yoko to Extinction Anxiety’
There were a few things that I could improve but this endeavour was mainly a testing ground for the audio-visual work I’d made. If this project was going to be a more formal exhibition I would construct a central plinth from which to project and split the images and place the sculptural objects. I liked the effect of playing ‘From Yoko’ through the television but the sound quality was poor so I’d have to install proper audio hardware. Also, I’d clean and declutter the space and have seating.
Some stone carving exploration
I managed to arrange a short introduction into stone working as I was desperate to start gaining an understanding of stone as material. I’m fascinated by natural rock forms and I’m keen to find ways to work with natural found stone and to eventually release the sound of found stones in much the same way as Sciola did.
For this short project, under instruction, I managed to form an angled edge into a block of Portland stone. It took about 8 hours to form the corner so patience is essential. Portland stone is relatively soft and easier to work than granite and I hope to work with it more but I’m also keen to work with other types of stone, blue stone in particular.
The collaborative project with Sharon Phelan during my residency at CAMP. A longer version has been submitted on USB for assessment. The original version is 7 minutes.
I created the visuals in response to the audio produced by Sharon in a short collaborative installation for the last day at CAMP. The footage I used was gathered from the location and village of Aulus De Bains. We came up with a title for the project, ‘Crossed Wires’ and we began working on the components for the piece. My video footage was abstracted from films of a cat rubbing against a wire fence. Its fur was pressed against the wires and undulating as it moved across the wire. I layered about 3 clips of this, added effects and transformed the footage into fuzz balls that danced around the screen. The imagery conveyed a sense of hyper-real biological cell division, static energy or pollen dance. The vibrant but degraded coloration was almost like an animation sequence but it was film. I noticed that I work in a painterly way with video footage. I force and obscure the original imagery until it starts to resemble something new. I keep working the material until something starts to emerge that close to what I want to convey, not concerned about image degradation, often this actually helps.