Online Show: Skype Chat with Aristotle

Yesterday, I had an interesting and fruitful conversation with Aristotle about the online rendering. A final decision as to what goes in as textures (images, videos, sound, etc) could not be made until the camera movements and controls were sorted out. We explored a variety of scenarios bearing in mind that people will be using mobiles, tablets, laptops, and desktops, each kind of device bringing with it its own limitations. I had considered a maze of boxes but this would end up far too complicated for many to navigate. Lateral movements plus rotations would be hard to engineer and make clear for people, particularly those using mobile phones requiring a keyboard or ugly joystick thing on screen. It was essential to see how the whole works to be able to move forward. In the end, we settled for the simplest solution.

Seeing photographs as textures on the box surfaces made it clear that these were very effective seen in perspective as well as parallel to the picture plane. We talked about the disposition of the boxes. Considering the complexity of navigation with the maze-like formation, the best thing seems to be either a row or a column where each box can be rotated to view the different faces. I feel that it would be more interesting with vertical movement with simple arrows for nagivation, more dynamic and unusual. I think it may give more of a sense of sequence rather than narrative and imply deep time rather than a shallower chronological time. Also very important is the fact that, once a simple solution is established, it gives me more freedom to work on the textures between now and the end of June because it is a simple and relatively quick process for Aristotle to wrap the textures. One added advantage of simplicity is that I can easily pick up on this after the show to create more presentations and explore the medium productively.

This considerations were also helped by knowing that Aristotle and Jonathan were coming to the conclusion of having the Cables presentations as part of a webpage for each artist where they can put in text, etc.

The next thing to do is to sketch the idea and send it in preparation for next week’s meeting.

After Symposium 2: 2. Response to Questions Raised

The Skype Chat with post-symposium answers to Questions

Amongst the complementary and supportive comments, there were questions which I tried to answer in real-time many of which deserve fuller consideration and more developed responses than the replies that by necessity are made in relative haste in the heat of a typing frenzy. For a realtime script of the chat, here is the link. I have left out the more supportive and complimentary comments for the sake of brevity, but thank you all for your kind words and interesting ideas.

Note – Replies in italics are those made during the symposium type chat.



Leah: Have you tried using the ASMR microphone to show your voice?

Alexis: I have looked into such microphones and made plans to make one, even to the point of buying some components. It is an area that interests me. I have also got an audio plugin called Brauer Motion which simulates spatial movements. I have only just begun looking at it. It actually does many of the things I have done manually in Audacity in the past. Creating an ASMR effect manually is not difficult but time-consuming. It only needs a small amount of knowledge about editing. There is a great deal of hype about it at the moment. What it does, is exploit the possibilities that stereo offers to create asymmetrical outputs to the left and right ears. The whispering of ‘everlasting’ in the video was done manually using my voice by simply setting two stereo clips very slightly out of phase with one another and giving a panning bias towards one channel or the other to each clip respectively. The clip was very short, therefore it did not need much more work. The reverb did the rest by prolonging the sound in one ear and passing it delayed into the other giving the illusion of movement around the head. This methodology can be extended into more complicated territory which is where software such as BM comes in. I may or may not use it. I do like the hands-on aspect of playing with sound rather than relying on a plugin that automates the process.
With respect to future work, I am looking forward to creating tracks using my voice as an instrument in conjunction with sculptures; making vocal-wind instruments, and creating an album of soundtracks.


William: I’m actually very interested in the sound element as well as the images – especially after taking a look at alexis’ spotify page (and listening to the backing track here) – how is the found/ambient sound stuff integrated into your sculptural practice – is it a secondary work/a separate practice or do you see it as being fully integrated?

Alexis: I think you are referring to the beach album on streaming platforms. That is harvested ambient sound. However, I created all the sounds for the video, with the exception of Marian Anderson’s Handel rendition, from scratch using my voice and a metal bowl. I had experimented with the same clay piece shown in the video earlier, link to the relevant post, while making it. I was fascinated by the internal space responding to my vocalisations. This analogue means of altering sound is the sort of thing that I also look for in digital environments but it sounds much more natural.
There was an integration, as you put it, of the making of the sculpture with the sound, instrument and object as one. The sculpture is not conceived as an instrument but used as such. This references the ‘found’ nature of the object within the process itself. It is a means of drilling into the process and finding possibilities that extend the act of making and reification into different domains. For me, this is not about making an instrument. I try to avoid the sculpture from becoming a utilitarian object and look to maintain its thinghood. This keeps it open and mysterious, ambiguous and contextually flexible. It is akin to working with ceramic material but not making teapots.
Working with sound is not a separate practice, it may involve separate techniques but the core ideas and origins remain consonant if not identical with the other means I engage with. This is one of the things that has arisen out of the MA period, a synthesis, a reconciliation, a coming together of my different practices to form a core from which I can radiate, recombine and evolve around an axis mundi.


Betty: which is the piece you are putting the sound in?

Alexis: Two of the three pieces have sound. Logos, the long sculpture has two sound elements. One is an external output that comes from two large speakers, subwoofers. The low-frequency sound responds to the viewer’s proximity aimed at altering their behaviour, creating a moving sonic boundary in opposition, or perhaps in concert with an internal source of sound embedded in the sculpture itself. This aims to draw the viewer in as they try to listen to What comes out of the sculpture. The challenge is to balance the low-frequency fluctuating in volume in response to the recipient#s position relative to the sculpture, with the more intimate sound that originates from inside the sculpture. This is inspired by the idea of the ancient classical oracle situated within a cave. Incoherence contextualised into meaning.
The second piece with sound is Enshrinement which comprising three sculptures (model shown at the beginning of the video) in conversation with one another. They are placed inside a vitrine with listening holes. The viewer is drawn into the dialogue that takes place within the enclosed space. Conceptually, this piece explores amongst other things, the relationship between viewer and object by altering the balance of agency existing between silent sculpture and viewer with sound. The text narrative extends the idea of the alimentary canal, as does Logos, by alluding to the commons we share with other life through the three forms. It can be seen as a trilogy, a crib, a nativity, deposition, triumvirate, a triangulation.
The third piece, the three-dimensional frieze is silent and activates the space in a different way, by inviting a walk around, each angle offering a different perspective on the inferred narrative, whatever that might be. I am clear on my own ideas regarding the narrative, but it is not for me to say how it might be interpreted, that would be put ideas into someones’s head, I leave that to the work.


Kelda: It will interesting to see how you mix the sound and ceramic in an exhibition space. I remember you said you were struggling with how to make it work, at one point.

Alexis: I think I have partially replied this question above. However, more specifically, combining sound and sculpture in an exhibition setting does present challenges. I see this in two broad ways. The first is to do with the relationship between the two modalities and how they interact with the recipient in turn. The second deals with the problems arising out of locating acoustic works in a space that may or may not host other sounds, and the acoustic particulars of that given space and how the sound might disrupt the traditional expectation of a silent sculpture.
I shall deal with the second issue first. The way I have approached this issue in the case of the final (now not taking place) show, is to introduce an interactive element to the sound of the larger sculpture in which the external, ambient sound increases in volume as the recipient approaches. Practically speaking, the volume of the sound alters according to the recipient’s distance from the sculpture. This relieves the space from a constant loud sound, particularly important in a group setting. The lower level sound emitted from within the sculpture remains constant. This also creates a variable in the interaction between the recipient and work as I explained above which has consequences on interpretation. The smaller installation (Enshrinement) deals with the problem of acoustics and shared space by inviting the recipient to listen closely to the sounds coming out of the sculptures in an enclosed space.
Regarding the first case, it is hard to balance the weighting of sound with 3Dimensional work. I ask myself, is the sculpture an instrument, is the sound an accompaniment? Of course, I would say neither, but this does not fully address the actual nature of the relationship, nor what I aim for, or whether it has been achieved. The latter would perhaps be answered on showing the work. Maybe one way of answering this is whether either compositional component can exist independently of the another, which I believe they can. However, I feel that even that answer is somewhat fallacious. What really matters in the end is the process of exploring the relationship between sound and sculpture, not necessarily finding an answer… if there is one but finding new things.


Danielle: I know your intention was to use sound to effect the viewers interaction and physical proximity to the work. Have you been able to adapt this idea for VR space?

Alexis: It is hard to because the works depend on physical presence, so for the VR show I am using the works as subjects rather than being the objects themselves, will explain better later.

Alexis: In the online show I am not attempting to mimic how the works would be in a physical setting. I see this as an opportunity to represent the works differently. Proximity can only be implied, not experienced. Say, for example, the site visitor were to scroll towards a sculpture on screen and the sound correspondingly increased in volume. The interaction here would be roughly equivalent to turning the volume dial on a radio. It is an interaction that has a minimal effect on the recipient restricted to the movement of the finger on the mouse or tracker pad. There would be very little proprio-sensory displacement and the experience would be exceedingly limited. To create a more authentic experience is way beyond my digital skills. Additionally, the sense of scale is lost or at best implied. Physical correspondence with the recipient on-screen becomes an illusion of perspective rather than a direct corporeal relationship. This may work with something that has been conceived and built to be experienced with a flat-screen but what I have done cannot. Therefore, I have had to rethink how to represent the works and process. Seeing as the works will not be completed due to having to turn my attention to other means of display, and the limitation of resources during this lockdown period, I have decided to use the works as the subjects for storytelling of sorts. The works will be partially disclosed in videos, sounds, text and images that complement and support their physical existence rather than trying to mimic it.


Jonathan: Alexis – early on you said you felt you had now created a language field of sorts — has this come about through the making process? Why do you think this has emerged now and not earlier in your practice?

Alexis: Jonathan: the language has come about by integrating analytical thought with raw feelings when making, reflecting and responding, thinking about what I do and expressing it in some way, gradually codifying in myself the process.

Alexis: I think a critical factor in my being able to articulate thoughts, feeling and ideas, not to mention work more coherently, has been the blog journal. I have never, consistently maintained a journal or log of work. In the past, I have documented my practice but not to the depth that I have done so during the MA. This has had a two-fold impact. One, developed my fluency and clarity in expressing my thoughts with words. Words representing thoughts that become actions: action is how a practice becomes manifest. Two, by challenging and being challenged in a context where there are disparate practices going on, I have become more reflective about not only what I do but why. I remember your lecture video on reflection, this embodied a great deal of wisdom which articulated things I had instinctively lived by. This clarified aspects of my practice which then allowed me to continue with a greater degree of awareness.
One of my aims for this course has been to integrate rational thought with intuitive feeling and response. I feel that I have made important moves towards this aim and manifest this in the video. Embedded in the text are many many ideas that I have tried to express in a few words. That encapsulation of notions, concepts, behaviour and causes can only be done when things are fully understood. This process is common to all art forms but is perhaps most noticeable in poetry, where its simplicity of means concentrates response and meaning, giving rise to a clarity of understanding of complex things.
… I have built element by element a language of sorts by which I might describe a boundless field where before I only saw separate cells...
What I mean by this, in terms of my practice, is that before I would see my different ways of working as containers, each separate but also connected in ways that I could not bring together clearly. Now, I am able to encompass all things from within a core, giving my practice a great coherence and flexibility.


Ben: I think the fact that some of the pieces weren’t fired or finished, and still being moulded was a positive thing, allowed for more reflection on the process and the theory that created the works.
Kelda: Agreed. It’s the work in another form…

Alexis: unfired works are very different, I love them, but they are soooo fragile

Alexis: As you mention, the slowing down of things, rather than careering towards finished works for July, has indeed given me the opportunity to reflect on the process and opened out many new possibilities.


Friederike: It’s a beautiful movie. I loved how you also show how you work and the animalistic voice dances. It really showcases your thoughts in a light and straighforward manner. More intuitive then the more brain orientated work you did before.

Danielle: Yes agree. I found this video more accessible than the previous. Like you have found a clearer voice/narrative/language for explaining the vast web of ideas which inform your work

Alexis: Thank you for this affirmation of what I have aimed for, clarity and accessibility without losing depth. I remember Danielle commenting that my mid-point review was difficult to understand. This aspect of communication is something I have worked on over time. I see this as an integral part of my practice. Logic does not persuade. I can be as wordy as I like in private or in academic writing, but when addressing myself to wider audiences, what is the point if I am not communicating.


William: Also, do you see your works as being the fulfilled final destiny for these found fragments, or are they just part of a story that might be broken down and reconfigured in the future (by you or other artists way in the future)

Alexis: There are two parts to this question. I see each work as a ‘sketch’ for the next. That is why I have found this blog journal so valuable. It logs what I do not explicitly say in my day to day work. Each work is a fragment, and works are made of fragments. To reconfigure them in the future is an interesting notion. How might something be if put back together with fragments of other work, fragments from somewhere else? This surely is the essence of an exhibition: a coming together. At the moment I have enough to do and recombination is a tactic I employ from time to time to refresh ideas and see things from a different perspective, something I will continue doing. I must admit, I am not someone who does this readily, but I do appreciate its value and enjoy doing so recombining from time to time. The distant future is another country. My hope is that the works are kept intact, but I can have only a small part in ensuring that is the case, all is contingent and subject to contingency. This is a theme I have worked with in the past and may come back to with a new perspective. All this is exemplified by my work with a material that is both fragile and brittle in the form I give it and infinitely durable as substance regardless of its shaping.


AxAsh: I felt I just finished watching a short film Alexis. and it is a happy ending which just made my day. I especially like the b&w part of your video. its contrast with the colourful frames just brings two spaces and two periods. do you think “time” is an important element in your work? because it’s the BIG word finally remains in my mind after watching your presentation so I’m interested in your answer

Alexis: Time – we are all subject to the passing of time. Time is relative. What I can say about time is that I did not exist for an eternity before birth; is that state any worse after I have gone? We structure our existence according to a measurement of time; activity is fundamentally premised on it.
Time marks change, making art is making change, therefore time is embedded in art as it is in everything else. Art can at times seem a way of cheating mortality but that is a pleasant illusion. Time can only be measure by change, that is its beauty and its awesome terror.
Time is arguably the most important element in my work because, without it, it would be impossible. I suppose that is pretty obvious. And to compound my dependence on having time, I work slowly, the works take a long time to complete, that is part of my methodology. I find it hard to work fast or to deadlines, although often I have to.


Leah
It seems that watching and listening can no longer satisfy my desire for your work. Will you make some copies that can be touched in the future? I really want to touch those words and shapes with my hands.

Alexis: absolutely Leah, that is the tragedy of this virus, no physicality

Alexis: What can I say, I hope so too.


Donald: I think you should add reverb and compression to mix of your voice and the audio background so as it becomes more of a whole composition.

Alexis: I shall try that. I want the voice to be as in a natural space, but I shall experiment with reverb and binaural, although there is a little bit of it in there

Alexis: The recording has a slight natural reverb because of where it was made. I originally wanted to remove this but decided that it sounded consonant with the space in which the pieces were made, not too be boomy.
I used reverb with the first two sound clips but used very little if any for the chanting. I think it is difficult to strike a balance between a documentary style and something more ‘artistic’. Perhaps when I use the video in some other context, I might alter the EQs, delays, reflectances etc to give a bit more mood.


William: also I can’t help but notice that a lot of your video work (and some of your photos) are black and white and was curious if color is something that is deliberately avoided within your practice

Alexis: Everything is deliberate, I want to concentrate here on form, the studio besides is full of jarring and distracting details which are better out

Kelda: The lack of colour and the unfinished work compliment

William: Understood – was curious if in some way this thinking extended beyond the presentation media also, but I guess in a way this is answered in the emphasis on form here and elsewhere

Alexis: I have also worked with a great deal of colour. My early works were aaaalll about colour


Pav
Question: don’t you feel that the use of time-typical monster analogies and tribal sounds make the broader message in your project quite predictable and, perhaps, diluted?

Pav – I shall answer this more fully later, but in short not really

Jonathan – yes that will make a really interesting reflection, good challenging question and I look forward to seeing the thoughts

Alexis: Pav in addition, I deal with individual, group dynamics, embeded in the narrative

Alexis: We all have monsters inside us and it is good to let them out in a safe space once in a while. To confront our monsters is not a bad thing, it is cathartic and constructive. Many of the great stories are about monsters, they possess great metaphorical potency and help us to confront reality with a sense of proportion.
Having said this, I feel it appropriate to do something I normally do not, that is, explicate. These are sounds I have performed as part of my animal expression. The sounds are not those of monsters, it is interesting that they should have been perceived as such. We tell wordless stories with sounds. The sounds are expressions of the animal self, breath, voice, rhythm, all part of how nature is put together and our human analogue, music. It is an authentic thing, originating from myself using one of the unfired pieces, not some sample from a tribal recording. I combined the animal with the beauty of the human intellect in Handel’s music sung by Marion Anderson. Again, my remastering of a 78 over ninety years old. This juxtaposition is an allusion to the duality of the human self. All other sounds in the video are produced by me.
As for the broader message being diluted, if the message was clear, then was it diluted? The question is begged, What message? I would be interested to know. Maybe the video had a different message depending on the viewer, at least a nuanced interpretation. The video has many many embedded ideas (messages if you prefer), some more overt than others. We tend to respond to sound perhaps more readily than other forms of communication. If the sounds were predictable, perhaps other things were not. Predictability can show the way towards the discovery of new things. Predictability is easily mistaken for coherence. One layer has been removed and many remain to be uncovered.


Taiyo
Have you ever considered to exhibit them in different environment, does that influence the whole meaning too? I’m just thinking Is it possible to put those pieces into water or somewhere else.
an outside environment?


Alexis: where they are exhibited very much changes how they might be read
outside too but from experience, the outside can be overwhelming and the physical proximity can be lost. They would need to be much larger for reasons of scale, but worth considering

Kelda
an outside environment?

Alexis: outside too but from experience, the outside can be overwhelming and the physical proximity can be lost. They would need to be much larger for reasons of scale, but worth considering

Alexis: I have exhibited in many different environments, some more successfully than others. Meaning and significance are both altered by the environment in which work is shown.
One thing I have often thought of is immersing works in liquid and even making this permanent by encasing in resin. This is an interesting idea, whether anything is added by doing such a thing or whether it detracts from it remains to be seen. It certainly would be interesting to photograph such scenes. Again it is something I have thought about but never done. As I will mention in the critical evaluation, photography in many different ways is something I will definitely work after the MA. Not only is photographing work as a way of recontextualising it an interesting thing in itself, it is also a response to the restrictions placed on exhibiting (and selling) by the current and possibly future health circumstances.
I have never really been attracted to showing work outdoors although I have done so. I see it more as a thing for commissions where scales can be very large. I have done commissions, but never the size I would like them to be. This is where photography can be used to play tricks with scale.


Friederike: I personally get the message, we are just a bunch of cells, like everything around us. Different conditioning of the cells bring different outcomes. In times of Covid this is also relevant. Sometimes it can be bautyful, sometimes monstrous

Alexis: ‘The horror of creation’ (Ted Hughes)

Alexis: We are a bunch of cells, symbiotic beings, but we are also much more than that, emergent consciousnesses, spiritual beings whose material essence has traversed from the unknowing inevitability of mechanics to the complexity of self-awareness capable of the most sublime acts of creation.


Pav: impact on a range of clear assumptions in your thinking, not on dealing with the situation of the pandemic

Alexis: Pav – I don’t understand

Pav: have your reflections during the pandemic altered and modified your understanding of the world, which appears to be biased

Alexis: I am not sure whether the question proposes that my view of the world is biased or whether the world is biased (in some way). As to whether my understanding of the world has been altered by the pandemic, I prefer to hold my judgement for a more distanced view but I have a sneaking suspicion that the answer is no, or very little. I prefer to think about how it has affected my practice. I have been through a lot more than what the pandemic has offered me personally. It has, in fact, affirmed my way of working in a relatively recluse environment. The changes that have had to take place within the course have also fostered new ways of seeing my work in the context of reaching others whilst maintaining the integrity of my working environment. I shall refer to these in my critical evaluation. With regard to bias, perhaps, in the end, conscious and unconscious bias creates the haze through which we see the bias of others. After all, the act of appreciating and interpreting art can be an ultimately ‘biased’ one. And is that not what critical analysis tries to eliminate, amongst other things, the fog of prejudice? Whatever the case might be, different ways of seeing is why there is such wondrous variety of thought and making in the world.

After Symposium 2: 1. Script and Alternative

Today we had the second part of the symposium of work in which my video was shown. It was an interesting moment when I saw the video again, this time knowing that others were watching at the same time. In this and the following two posts, I shall write about the text, responses, answers, and a section of questions to myself.

The latter part comprises questions that I asked of myself while reviewing the video before the symposium. I did this partly out of curiosity, partly out of a certain insecurity that I had done the right thing by synthesising my practice into a few words. Mostly, though, it was as a preparation for what I might be asked during the symposium. As things turned out, the questions and ideas raised bore little relation to my own interrogative but saw things in a different way. That is why it is important to get feedback. I suppose that my questions were made with a certain prior knowledge of the answers as well as working by means of confirmation. The responses of others, on the other hand, may have come from entirely different perspectives adhering to other paradigms.

In this post, I am copying in the original text but only after having put in one of several drafts of an alternative text. Both scripts contain one another but I feel that the latter is more of an explication of the work based on the MA context whereas the original is a more holistic exposition comprising me, work, audience, and world. I have already gone through the resolution of my scriptwriting process dilemma in a previous post.

An Alternative Draft Script

In this chaotic world of entanglements, I find myself trying to marry the physicality of sensual things with more intangible notions.

I have asked myself as to how the material nature of what I am doing, its visceral, sensorial dimension might form a fabric or suggest a system interwoven with immaterial ideas.

I have dedicated this period to synthesising the many threads that run through my practice into an artistic form that renders inseparably the material and immaterial into a single body of work. Even so, mysterious and unanswerable aspects also reside at the core of this process. 

I have tried to outline here, some of the more pertinent influences and inspirations, whilst also acknowledging the fact that everything that has ever happened to me has had an influence to a greater or lesser extent. 

Developing a research statement has allowed me to develop my understanding of the context of my work. I looked at the relationship between artificial life generated in the digital environment and organic living. This led to an enriched understanding of how the subject-object relationship not only affects me in relation to my work but also the eventual receiver of it. This resulted in a whole new way of thinking about my use of digital means to foster interactivity between an artwork and its audience. Such aspects are impossible to successfully transfer onto online platforms; the work needs to be experienced face to face, as a physical reciprocity with the viewer. 

As I use words, text, and sound, the addition of digital means extends the horizons of my practice. And using ancient and contemporary mediums, makes me think about how new adaptations and disruptions might occur in this nascent age of artificial intelligence. I see this as a call for me to connect with the animal self.

Reflections on the digital society and biology have also heightened my awareness of how the dynamics of the individual and the group interact and affect one another. An ebb and flow reflected in the various tensions of my process. 

We have, as animals, a core dependency on the physical but we also have another dimension that traverses into the spiritual domain.

We each possess a body and running through its centre, the alimentary canal. I see this as a form of axis Mundi connecting us to our deep evolutionary past. It is also where appetites and fears gather and revolve. It is the seat of an ancient symbiosis between the animal self and human intelligence, something to celebrate in mythical terms.

I work with raw porcelain. It is visceral, shaped by touch, a direct, primitive mode of making sense of the world. As I work, I have in mind flow, process, and assimilation. But my interest lies not only in abstract notions but also in how they convert into practical intelligence and applications. 

My hands and fingers squeeze porcelain in a peristaltic-like motion. Shaping the inert material as I ground my thoughts.

When fired porcelain emerges from the kiln, the living process of making, immortalised in a pristine stone-like material, which passes crystallised, fossilised, onto the geological timescale of existence. Might it be possible to create a future palaeontology perhaps an archaeology in this way?

The underlying vessel-like architecture of my work is now, both receptacle and conduit. My work has undergone a shift, from illustration and commentary towards a more contemplative and ritualistic reification.

Perhaps it is the case that my urge in trying to reconcile my animal self through my own human intelligence is a reflection of the gut that drives the repeated search for food. Perhaps ultimately becoming the restlessness that comes from asking unanswerable questions, indicating the transcendental domains that art might encompass. 

Parallel narratives layer on one another, leaving open the possibility for diverse interpretations. Forms, sounds and marks are cyphers, traces of presence. Sounds embedded in a sculpture; text inscribed in others are just some of the ways in which I make my mark.   

Actual Transcript

My thoughts and makings come together, language and doing synthesising intangible notions with sensual physical things. And in the process, the world becomes labelled, each part of it a cypher, an unspoken word, felt, touched, held. And from those parts, I have built element by element a language of sorts by which I might describe a boundless field where before I only saw separate cells.

I bring a disparate cohort of behaviours to one single focus of intent. That is, to gather what has broken over time, and stick back together the semblance of a whole.

Driven by curiosity and fear, we have as one, cleaved from Nature; desiring to control the brute forces that we deny as part of us and debase, as one, the very essence of what we are as animals, condemned by arrogance to think ourselves divine.

From the first atoms drawn together in spontaneous cooperation, the emergence of complexity, of mind, of thought, and action, has its beginning in such simple states. And each part of me has taken from this descendancy, to endure as something reformed, in and over time.

The progression of my actions has become the ritual I had thought lay somewhere else, and celebrate a fact as mythical: that each and everyone one of us has an alimentary canal. And this we share with complex forms, that live and crawl and swim and fly, with an unspoken hunger evolved from body, into consciousness, and spirit. It is what we are, differentiated into front and back, searching, moving, escaping forwards and backwards, and this has given rise to faith, and love, and all the things we think make us different. So, is not Nature divine, as we think we are?

My hands and fingers squeeze the raw porcelain in a peristalsis that grounds my thoughts, of flow and assimilation in the primitive touching and shaping of the white visceral mass. And when emergent from the kiln, its making is immortalised in a stone-like, fossil-like passing onto the geological scale of existence……. everlasting.

I made vessels, and now conduits too, thinking of the past and pushing it forwards, so what I do will be as archaeology for mice evolved into new intelligencies.  And they will look and ponder and create another myth from my whirlings in clay and sound and fire and building. This is my hope, nothing more, for I cannot say what lies ahead.

Narratives, layered with forms and sounds and traces are open to perceptions and interpretations. Audios embedded in sculptures and incised text are some of the ways in which I make a mark, and maybe change the way in which the still forms are danced within a common space.

And I see you as a single being, not pressed by the weight of many, but loosed from the many moving to a different tic toc, tic toc. And that is why I speak to you and you alone. And if you listen, I will listen with you, and if you turn away, no matter for that is natural, and it is wise for me not to judge but to try to understand. And what is left unanswered transcends into the realm of art.

The Kiln, the Kiln, Oh the Kiln

Things have changed again. The kiln has been connected. But this does not mean that the works can be completed in time for a hypothetical final show.

All the interruptions, changes in direction, blockages of the past months have rendered it impossible to finish the work in time for July. Let me explain why. There are only four to five weeks left. The timetable I had originally set out was tight but it did allow for a certain amount of contingencies. However, it did not account for a lockdown lasting three months at least. Had everything gone to plan, the kiln would have been functioning by the beginning of March – we have been isolating since then.

The lockdown, decoupling of the final show from the assessment, and the online alternative, meant that I had to redirect my energies in other directions. These have taken precious weeks which cannot be recovered within an end of June, beginning of July deadline. As it is, I have had time to rethink and become more reflective than I would have otherwise been in the adrenalin rush of the preparation for the show.

Right now, I would have to first learn to programme the controller and carry out two test firings as indicated by the user manual would take up several days, and that is just the start. I would need to make at least twenty firings: two firings per load, one low and the other high, in between inspecting, repairing and altering if necessary the pieces. If each one takes three to four days, that is sixty to eighty in total, two months minimum. Add another twenty days for finishing, mounting and fitting the audio equipment, a total of one hundred days. This was possible after the low residency – Now, impossible. I might get to finish some pieces but as for assembling and installing them, that is out of the question if I am to do anything for the online. So, I shall have to be content with showing on the blog the planning for the show as though it were taking place. Here is a list of what I need to set out in the plan.

  • packing
  • logistics
  • risk assessment
  • installation of works
  • ideal location and setting
  • modes of interaction
  • supporting material
  • deinstalling

This post is not so much an apology as a form of catharsis for the frustration I have had to endure for the lack of the physical show. A presence where the work would be seen by many and by those that are normally difficult to attract to shows such as agent, dealers, collectors and perhaps even galleries. This is such an important part of the final show. It is not just an examination event but a showcase in London which be difficult and expensive in any circumstance. What is more, my work very much relies on physical interaction with people. I imagine that people will visit the university site when it is up in the absence of the show. However, I think that my work does suffer a great deal by not being experienced in a real setting. After the online show is up, I may get the opportunity to set up some shots of the work in a suitable location for the showcase.

Whatever happens, I have a clear idea of how the works will be when finished and just as important, I now have many new ideas which arise from my original plans and from the new situation. For example, photograph the works or part of the works and develop images that form works in themselves – somewhat akin to my approach to the online show – using them as ‘subject matter’. Another example is installing the work at the abandoned church near the coast – a spectacular setting.

WITD – Resuming and Continuing

30 May
30 May

I have resumed physical work after making the symposium video. The sculpture is nearly completed in its raw stage waiting to then be finished in detail before the first firing. I have regained a rhythm and resolved how the underneath works with the parts above. A layering of scale and detail, manner of making and process.

It will have to be dried very slowly to minimise cracking and mitigate those that will appear after the bisque firing.

It is clear to me that the process, the making and the outcome are one and the same thing. There is no separation, there is no instructional illustration, I imbue myself into the work mentally and physically. I also have to keep a certain distance, which is not easy, to reflect and to evaluate: that is why the work takes time, particularly since I have not worked with this complexity in this way. While I work I reflect in one way, when I rest, I reflect in another. The first is absorbed, focused, unseparated, the second detached and emotional or perhaps more accurately psychologically.

I do not finish a session. It is best to leave things unresolved or when things are going well. This is a tried and tested methodology: the brain continues to work when the body turns away. I think about other things and do mundane jobs so that the process can become unconscious, uninterrupted by doubts, fears, ambition, and attachment.

I should finish this stage in the next few days and move onto the defining of forms and selective finishing of surfaces. Then the slow drying to minimise cracking which will have to be dealt with after the first low firing.

Tutorial 8: 13 May 2020. Jonathan Kearney

This final tutorial was a summing up of the processes I have gone through. We did not discuss any particular aspect of my work in detail, it was more an affirmation of what I have done and where I might go.

Jonathan was particularly interested in the process of rebuilding the blog after the catastrophic data loss in February. He wanted to know what I had gained out of the event and subsequent resolution. I can say that the experience enabled me to become better acquainted with what I had written over the previous eighteen months. Until then, I had written a lot, around ninety thousand words. Much of it exploratory with some posts having become irrelevant, but there are pieces of writing which when I look back I say to myself, did I write that? Yes, much is in reductive form, but the blog will become an important source of material to expand on in the future. There are several research papers in there, but I prefer the freedom afforded by the essay form. Whether I go on to do a PhD or not is an open question, but I shall definitely continue to document thoughts, experiences and ideas in this blog. Although not organised as a coherent entity, due to the nature of the entries, there is enough material for a thesis already. I have found this the single most important element in the course.

We discussed the final show and how the loss of the physical presence has been a great disappointment for me. The work I have been working on needs to be experienced in the flesh. No amount of digital representation can substitute for this. Also, the pieces cannot be finished in time due to the virus lockdown. Consequently, for the online show, I have decided not to represent the work but rather some of the ideas behind the work. Jonathan understands this perfectly well and looks forward to the day they are exhibited in a real space. Nonetheless, having to think of alternatives has offered new insights and ideas that may lead to future opportunities. It is clear, is that a detailed plan of how the show would have been prepared, installed, and displayed, is part of the assessment notwithstanding the decoupling of any show including the online one from the assessment process.

We also discussed the symposium video, and how hard it is to create a narrative that encompasses what lies behind the work and the eight-term process. Jonathan’s input helped clarify my way forward in creating a synthetic script, supported by images that complement and not necessarily illustrate the words: what is left out is as important as what is put in. The symposium is a representation of the work done, the critical evaluation (CE) is a moving on, a description of how the process so far has set a foundation for future trajectories. The CE is a very important document because it clarifies the ‘what next’.

Symposium Script 2 – Final Resolution

I have struggled with the script for the symposium video. What I have done, is write two very different drafts. The first, dense, allusional; the second, descriptive, easier to understand. Which way should I go?

I have felt all along that it is important that the narration should be my own authentic voice. As I read out the second draft, for a test recording, I felt it stilted, it did not flow. I felt, as I read it, that I should be changing what I read as I went along. The silent reading the words on the page was fine, but when it came to speaking them outloud, it just did not gel. I had originally rejected the first draft, which incidentally took me minutes to write rather the days. I rejected it because I felt it was too personal, too much about my relationship with the process and not enough about the process itself.

After discussing this with Jonathan during the latest tutorial and Janet. it became evident to me that the first draft was my voice and said far more despite it containing less overt information. I was able to put the case for it much more persuasively, because I believed in it more.

This means that the imagery in the video becomes doubly important. Images not only illustrate, they add another layer of descriptive information not picked up in the audio. As Donald rightly said, there are ten minutes of information in the video, 5 of images and 5 of audio. Combining the two can convey far more if looked at that way.

Interestingly, not only did the second draft take much longer to write, it ended up being nearly nine hundred words which I had to reduce to 672. The first draft was a mere 402 words. I have incorporated some of the second draft into the first and edited it a little. The final word count is 555; it takes me four minutes and twenty seconds to read slowly. This gives me time to read even more slowly, introduce pauses and have an intro and credits with ease.

I mentioned above, that the original draft was too much about my relationship with the process and not enough about the process itself. It is clear too me that the two are inseparable, I am part of the process and it is part of me: that is how it should be. As far as I am concerned, that is a aspect of being an artist.

I have learnt a lot from all this. It has drawn out the essence of my practice. Statements will change, context and purpose alter, but the core will in all probability remain constant into the future. This does not mean that I am locked out from other work or contexts but quite the contrary. I will be able to understand future briefs, commissions, contexts and audiences in the light of my core concerns and be flexible enought to deliver an authentic response without feeling that I have not been true to myself. Conversely, I will know what engagements to set to one side. And should those ideas contained in my process change, that is all part of the process itself and I shall be aware of exactly what is going on… somehow, I think this unlikely.

Symposium 2 Script Outline

I have written and rewritten the script for the symposium video and it is now in the final stages before recording.

I have found, no, am finding this extremely difficult. It is hard to summarise all I have done and thought into five to six hundred words. Each time I write something, another thought occurs. What is the purpose of the symposium, what is important to say and what to leave out?

I need to give an idea of what the work is about without closing down on interpretations. The script has to read easily and be as light of touch as possible. Each word has its weight and each phrase its meaning. It is a fine line between the literary and the prosaic. How much to I leave to the viewer and how much do I have to explicate? Is what I say engaging, clear, inclusive?

These are all questions that I have wrestled with. I have found it difficult to keep things open and not get bogged down in detail that I think essential as explanation. I know that images are all important and create another layer of understanding, but there also needs to be a sequential sense to them and to not divide the attention between the narration and the imagery and loose focus.

As I write, I try to imagine what is happening on screen. I try not to say things that can be easily infered while including other ideas that enrich the video. I know that someone can replay the video but it is in the first viewing that the impression is made and sense is grasped. Replays merely open up new avenues of thought, but should not create the overall sense. If this is not present in the first viewing, then I have failed.

The video should draw together research done and the emerging practice. How can I do this without coming out with a simple list of, ‘I did this because… and I did that resulting in this…’, and so on. The time during the MA is more than that, it is a building of a new world view expressed in process and outcome leading to an expansion and deeping whilst implying a continual beginning.

I see the symposium as an important synthesis that presents the work and practice as it is now whilst indicating what might be its potential and future. Together with the critical evaluation, it sets a trajectory: it is key that this should be set correctly.

What to leave out, what to say

One of the hardest things I find is how to imply something and not just fill the space with information about my work. It is a learning curve that prepares me for what is to come after the MA.

Ideas for New Work 1

As the MA nears its end, the inability to prepare a physical show at Camberwell has come as a great disappointment. Presence was something I was working towards and very much depend on for conveying the essence of what I do. As I have already mentioned previously, an online show in no way substitutes for this lack. Physical work is what I am about as will be made obvious in the symposium. However, in working around this negation, not challenge, erasure, not threat, my mind has filled with other possibilities for the future. I do not see them so much as oppotunities as latent additions. They have arisen from designing the online show, observing responses to lockdown and restrictions. But they also arise from the work itself, filling in gaps that I have often thought about. Ideas that once seemed caprices or sidelines to my main activity now looking like interesting and viable augmentations to my practice.

My aim over the next few weeks is to compile lists of ideas as they occur in a cluster of posts:

  • large format and/or pinhole and lens based photographs;
  • essays, some based on some of the ideas arising out of the blog journal;
  • learn cables and create online shows/presentations;
  • video works – portal – planetary body – parade;
  • prose poems stand alone and/or accompanying work;
  • book/magazine/pamphlet/zine type publications for online and print;
  • develop the use of instagram as an alternative means of communication.