Two Things About Writing on the Sculpture

Why use a single language that cannot be read universally?

Why make the words visible and readable?

English is a pretty universal language and does it matter if it cannot be read? When I look at a chinese work, Aztec freeze, a Middle Eastern artefact, am I less drawn to it because I cannot understand the inscription? The mystery is often alluring. In any case the text cannot be read at a distance. It is barely discernable this draws me in closer.

There is another thing, and that is that although the text is written in the conventional left to right fashion, and read as a sequence of phrases. However, the continuous repetition and the fact that there is no obvious beginning or end creates a difficulty in contextualising the meaning. With the circular, cyclical format of inscription, it is somewhat like dipping into a continual narrative. The meaning can be misinterpreted without starting from the beginning. The aim is to open the work out to a multiplicity of interpretations and invite closer scrutiny and time spent on the sculpture.

Online and seeing as I cannot fire the pieces, I see this as a rotating image/video of the sculpture, the camera scanning the surface of the porcelain.

Technical Planning for Video Work

 

Camera movements are key to this part of the project. However, camera movements with a DSLR are never satisfactory. Smoothness and accuracy are almost impossible to achieve unless the camera is mounted on some pretty expensive gear. I have tried handheld and tripod supported videos before. Handheld is a disaster without a powerful gyroscope and tripods are fine until you try some movement, that is when gerkiness begins.

How can I cirumvent these problems without spending hundred of pounds on a stabiliser, fluid pan tripod head and tracking dolly? The answer is simple, stop motion photography. By capturing movements frame by frame, the loss of control that comes with moving a camera at speed is eliminated. Innovative ways of using the camera are possible and dynamic lighting effects can be introduced single handedly. By considering a sequence in terms of frames, the whole can be visualised and planned for more more effectively.

Camera movements

I have all I need to accomplish all camera movments except tracking. The tripods I have are stable and smooth enough for frame by frame panning, tilting and even vertical tracking. However, I have had to order a set of tracking dolly rails from the internet. The spend is only £24 and having carried out some research: this piece of equipment appears quite adequate for the simple tasks I shall ask of it. I really could not justify larger spends, in some cases hundreds of pounds.

Camera and Subject Movements

  • Pan
  • Tilt
  • track
  • zoom
  • rotate

Hyperlase

This is one technique that I believe will prove very useful to move into areas of the pieces to give the semblance of moving towards it. It is flexible enough to move around corners and zoon into details.

Lighting

Lighting does not have to be static. I use painting with light over long exposures to create even lighting rather than using a booth or a whole battery of lights. I first came across this technique years ago through Ansel Adams, who used it in large interiors to light dark areas without the use of many lights which would have been in the way. I have used it for lighting small works with great effect. However, this is better suited for static photographs rather than moving images.

There is, though, an adaptation of this technique in that as the camera is moved in space during stop motion, the light source can also be moved to create dynamic light effects which would, I imagine, give the film the sense of being in a living environment.

 

Adapting and Videoing

 

It does not look as though I shall not have the kiln connected in time for the ‘final show’. No matter, the change in circumstances due to Corona offers tactical opportunities to develop strategies post MA. In any case, displaying fired and finished works in the studio is not really satisfactory as the images or videos would fall short of what I would consider a fair representation of the works. However, taking each component of the exhibition as a model for digital works is catalysing a wealth of ideas, time being the only constraint.

Visual artworks today are most commonly revealed in the first instance as images or films. This kind of imagery often misrepresents the reality of the works in some way and serves more as an illustration of some alluded to idea. They are entry points into the work itself which may surpise or disappoint but almost invariably present very differently. I wrote about this some time ago in another post. Therefore, to create works for online or print presentation using the physical works as far as possible, is the obvious way to go. Not in an attempt to replace their physical presence but as a way of exploring the world they inhabit and discovering new processes and meanings along the way.

The beauty of creating works that stand alone in print or online is that I am embarking on a dual approach over the next three months. One, I continue to make and finish (as fas as possible) the physical works which in turn become enriched by their online reflections. This is both an artistic and professional enrichment, extending the meaning and context of the works as well as building a platform for wider distribution and promotion.1 This ties in with the idea of creating different open levels of interpretation whilst offering the viewer a way in for their own narrative building. The temporary, possibly permanent, loss of the physical show may in the long run bring with it positive outcomes.

By not having to install a physical show, the time spent testing, packing, travelling and transporting, installing and curating the work, can now be spent representing the work variously. I will miss the excitment of the ‘real’ exhibition, of meeting people and showing the work and ideas, but there is no use in lamenting the fact. Fortune has dealt a different hand which may end up being a winning one. I will of course still document the detailed planning for a hypothetical show and its curation but parallel to this, I can create a whole new experience within the limits of the time available.

The obvious way to go is to create videos. I have decided against scanning, photogrammetry, 3D rendering. Why would I want to create a fascimily of the works when I have them in the flesh? I do not have the time to make such works, let alone develop the skills, to create something worth looking at. But why not try to create a virtual world that is powerfully engaging, perhaps more so?, I might here some one say. This question, I imagine would be asked by someone who has a higher level of skills in the relevant software than I. I am an expert in what I do, it is a time to work to one’s strengths.

So videos and photographs, drawings (digital), words and sound it is. But what sort of videos? To produce something worthwhile as a straight video I believe would require equipment and facilities I do not have. I have come to the conclusion that animating films using stop action capture provides the control I need for smooth movements, camera angles, pacing, dynamic lighting, green screening and so on.

In the next post I shall go into more technical details as to how I can approach this and what equipment and facilities I have and might need.

 

  1. At this stage I am not so concerned with promotion but it is good to keep it in mind[]

The Erosion of Words Like Memory Raises Curiosity Over Meaning

 

 

Today I started incising the sculptural pieces with the words in the previous post. As I start on this long task I know that the script will change along the way. This is only one aspect of how I envisage the surface work of the sculpture developing over time, altering in response to its making.

It quickly became apparent that there was the danger that the lettering might become the principle and overt aspect of the work. However, this is not necessarily the case for two reasons. Firstly, as I handle the heavy pieces, the inscriptions will become erroded in places affecting their legibility. This allusion to the effects of time, loss of form and meaning, may invite an a posteriori interpretation of the partially hidden or cryptic content.

Secondly, the repetition of the text over the length of the sculpture, creates at a distance, a texture that does not resolve into discernable words or their constituent characters, until curiosity draws the viewer sufficiently close for those words to play their principle intended role beyond an aesthetic one; that of context. The degradation or disappearance of a particular part of the text in one place, only to reappear somewhere else, again invites the building of a narrative that may be quite different to the original. Somehow, this brings to mind the Rosetta Stone and how the stele changes from hieroglyphics to Demotic to Ancient Greek in a three way translation of the same pharaonic decree.

The work of writing, inscribing, carving, the words creates an archaeology, a partial fossil, a cipher. These are all subliminal, at times overt, influences on my aesthetic horizon. Beforehand, I was concerned about loosing the clarity of the words. In the doing of it, I have lost that fear and am perhaps more concerned with too much clarity. Erosion and loss in the handling of the pieces during work is a precious processes that transforms meaning in a way that is not wholly under my control. Knowing this has loosened my hand in writing the words as they are converted into sculpture. The words resurrected in stone, live in the imagination.

 

Logos – Title

 

 

In the beginning was the Word,
And the Word was with Chaos
And from Chaos came Night and Day.

The Word became Flesh and walked with Chaos,
And from the war of Nature, from Famine and Death,
The most exalted Objects were produced and followed.

And the most exalted were breathed into new Forms.
The new Forms breathed from few or one,
And from so simple a beginning
Endless Forms most beautiful and wonderful were made.

Flesh became Stone and remained among Us.
And Stone became the Word.
And from the Word all things that are named were named.

And from the manifold Names comes the Word.
No one thing is without name
And no one thing that was made was made without its name.

 


 

The incorporation of text into the body of the sculpture has been a point of hiatus in its physical making. I have returned to the name Logos, it encompasses many of the ideas that underly my work, many of the contexts that have fed and informed what I do.

Logos has so many meanings, from simply subjective reasoning as in ‘speak’, ‘I say’ to logic which is nonetheless subject to our senses. It invokes the divine and the natural, the language of words and of numbers. I have triangulated the writings of St John, Darwin and Hesiod into a text that offers the possibility for different readings and conversations.

 

Binary Vision

 

 

It is clear that with the corona virus pandemic, things will change. Not least the end of the MA and final show. In view of any difficulties that might arise, I think it prudent to take a twin approach to the project proposal and how it will be delivered.

I don’t think that the show will now take place which is a great disappointment. Materials and equipment supplies may also be affected. I must also take into account the fact that the kiln may not be connected (although I hope this is a remote possibility).

What to do then. First, I shall continue making: that is the priority. Second I shall continue to plan for the show at Camberwell, describing the installation in situ, logistics, how it would work and so on. Equally important and perhaps more so in reality is how would I present the work online in the great likelyhood that the show will not physically take place.

The latter scenario presents an opportunity preparing me to show the work to a widespread audience in digital form. I could set the works up in various locations and video them there, narrating, presenting text, creating an online unfolding in a dedicated website. Many possibilities present themselves, not least the fact that I could show work in greater depth in a virtual presentation. However, I must also be realistic in terms of the time it would take to complete a complex presentation.

In conclusion the blog will now take a twin path, real and surreal, actual and hypothetical.

 

Words Without Title

 

 

I have always been drawn to the archaelogical departments of museums. Shaped, inscribed stone fascinate me. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is a comunion with past peoples, perhaps the immortality of words written in stone, or maybe it is that I imagine myself engaged in some similar activity. I feel an urge to make, to fashion, carve mould, shape. It is a fundamental need, to change the physical world, to alter it in some way, to make art. Carving is a direct link to nature. Working with a natural material and limited means is something that is within reach of anyone. It is a human thing to do. It is both earthly and divine, the extension of a transient thought, moment, place.

I see words encircling Logos. I see them appearing and disappearing, emerging as an accumulation of reading of repeated passages of text.

 

Flesh Made Stone

 

 

After setting up the work bench I tried something out that came to me as I was travelling down to the Residency in February. I am currently working on the text and will soon apply it to the sculpture components. I made the first marks with what will no doubt be the stylus I use for the script.

I have always had difficulty with my calligraphy, but somehow this form of writing suited me. I enjoyed inscribing the soft material with the wooden tool, lightly dragging it through the flesh to be made stone. It seems so appropriate to the text which ties up the two main pieces of the installation.

Thinking about the textual link between the two pieces, the third work has suddenly, as I write, become resolved. I was in two minds as to which of a number of works I would use. The answer is clear: the silent ‘What is the Difference? (I can also add the video if there is time; brings in another dimension to the overall idea)

 

Tabula Rasa – Again

 

 

Finished preping the studio for continuing work on the various pieces. Clearing surfaces and reorganising work is always refreshing and a necessary part of embarking on new ideas. Not exactly that this is a new idea, the work continues, but I need the space as the work will become quite physical. Not strenuous, rather a question of doing, experimenting and redoing. I used the term tabula rasa for a post at the beginning of the MA. Now that things are nearing the end, the new tabula is set for this and future work. What is more, I did it one day before schedule. This in itself is not important but it does confirm my estimated deadlines as realistic.

 

Clearing the Decks and Timetabling

There are only about four months left before the final show. I have a great deal to do and therefore need to organise myself so that I can fully concentrate on making and preparations. Now that the blog site is sorted after its difficulties, I am clearing the decks to complete the work.

Yesterday and today I began reorganising the studio and clearing surfaces for working. It is a long and painstaking process as many months of work has to be stored elsewhere with great care.

Piece 1. Piece 2 can be worked on simultaneously on another table and I can begin piece 3 concurrently.

Below is a list of things to do. It is by no means exhaustive but it gives me a framework around which to plan activities. As for a timetable, I feel that the best timetable is to work as hard and do as much as possible well in advance. I hope to have pieces 1 and 2 completed by mid April. Piece three completed by mid May and any collateral works at the same time. I am aware not to dispers my focus on too many things.

I have titles for 1 and 2 but not three as yet

  • Prep studio for continuing work
  • Electrician to connect kiln not possible due to COVID=19
  • vent window
  • complete piece 1
  • complete piece two
  • first firings
  • post first firing work
  • second firings
  • finishing
  • displays
  • vitrine
  • speaker housings
  • acoustic content
  • sound recording
  • sound production
  • arduino setups
  • sensor coding
  • testing
  • piece 3
  • video
  • display for piece 3
  • writing
  • symposium 2
  • critical evaluation
  • blog curation and Unit 2 assessment
  • packing
  • publication
  • marketing
  • installation

Workflow Timetable: Deadlines (approximate)

  • Prep studio – March 10
  • kiln – March 31
  • speakers – March 31
  • pieces 1 and 2: first firings – April 15
  • Symposium – April 20 for 26
  • arduinos – April 30
  • marketing – April 30 onwards
  • sound – April 30 – May 15
  • pieces 1 and 2: second firing and finish – May 1
  • displays – May 31
  • Publication ready to proof – May 31
  • piece 3 – May 31
  • critical evaluation – May 31 for July
  • packing – June 15
  • installation – June 23 – July 1
  • blog curation – ongoing until July 1
  • Show – July 9 – 15
  • Take down – July 16 – 17