Logos: 1/3 of a Proposal

The second of the triangulated series for the project is a large scale porcelain work roughly three-and-a-half metres long. The original conception was for the form to be supported or suspended at head height. The opening directly facing the persons face as it whispers from deep inside. But as she comes closer to make sense of what she hears, low-frequency, omnidirectional vibrations/sounds, emanating from two large speakers held high over the work, get louder with every approaching step. The two sources work in opposition as they affect the viewer’s choreography around the installation.

As with Enshrinement, working with a small version in the same material allows me to see alternatives and rethink things artistically and curatorially. I had originally rejected the idea of placing the sculpture on the ground or low plinth. Seeing it now, it could work in such a position. This might be a viable alternative if spatial or curatorial conditions preclude suspension but I still prefer the for the work to be supported off the ground. This would be closer to the intention of creating a more direct object-subject relationship; an encounter in which the sculpture is more active with a greater agency.

I am confident that the sinuous form reflects some of my initial inspirations: an alimentary canal-like structure as a raw core, divested of its body; a cast of a cave complex with its associations with prehistoric cave dwellings. It has cast off the rudimentary protean bodies of Enshrinement, presenting something more alien and primitive more animal which is nonetheless human but not in a mimetic way. It is formalised, rendered more ritualistic by the inscriptions covering its surface, ritual and biology in close proximity.

Words covering the surface of the form (not on this small scale maquette) are barely readable at a distance. The viewer has to come closer in order to be able to read the text, a synthesis of St John, Hesiod, and Darwin carved repetitively into the sculpture’s circumference. It is hard to make out where the repeated text begins and ends possibly fostering misunderstanding, reinterpretation, reconstruction. The stability of the sculpture is subverted by its suspension and the disorientating sounds and text. Again, I attempt to shift the agency of the still sculpture a little further towards it. Like Enshrinement, Logos explores relationships: object-subject, the individual, language, the animal, the sacred. The viewer is invited to make their own inferences, connections and associations, participating in the making of a narrative that takes certain points only as beginnings.

Playing on the tendency to see meaning, intention and agency in things, ambiguity offers the possibility for poetic interpretation. Evolutionary ideas lie beneath each work but not made explicit. First in the formal vitrine, now in this secular sacred-like environment. The third work moves further away from the human, delving into a more Darwinian world exalted into an aesthetic object.

Tutorial 8.2: 19 June 2020. Jonathan Kearney

Earlier today, I had the last tutorial with Jonathan, an optional one, that helped towards preparing for assessment and closure.

I went through how I have navigated the changes imposed on my work by the pandemic. We agreed that I had confronted problems with optimism and a willingness to search for alternatives. This has resulted in finding, not only some very viable ones for current circumstances but ones that are full of potential and consistent with my trajectory: they augment the scope and depth of my practice.

Jonathan agreed with my rationale to prioritise the hypothetical delivery of the project proposal. Not only because this is a crucial part of the assessment but also because it provides material for after the MA. I can only do what I can for the online shows and not what I would have wished.

I described my current work, making maquettes, and how this has led me to consider a new approach to my work. Not only do these serve as sources of invention and making, they also would invite people to look further and want to see the large works themselves. This is just one example of the new ideas that I have outlined in previous posts and stands for the way I have adapted to a new environment.

Miniatures have a sense of reality that is different to photoshopped images. The images of miniature settings have a grittiness, a detail, that puts them in the real world and perhaps that is why they can be disconcerting. As I look at a diorama it is as though I am seeing the real world but either know that it is not or I see little telltale signs that something is not quite right. At it is that not quite right that gives them a sense of otherworldliness.

I made the two caskets in The Future and the Past in One Place as a ritual and photographed them as an experiment prior to finishing the maquette for Enshrinement. I was interested that Jonathan was drawn to the flaws in the maquette images that gave a heightened sense of reality such as the marks on the polycarbonate glass panels of the vitrine and the out of scale fibres of the cord holding the caskets closed. I have made these models with what I have been able to find around the studio. It is these limitations, compromises, these out of place things that are unsettling and tell us that we are not looking at the real thing. A good example of this is Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber’s dioramas of decaying interiors as part of a website dealing with the ecological crisis.

I explained the rationale behind Enshrinement, the first of three works for the final show and that this is one way forward: to curate works, exhibitions and venues on the small scale. Not only do they stand as works in their own right but they can also act as compelling proposals for shows in real places, and help me understand how a sculpture might work before its completion and how to might be altered or taken further.

We went over the blog curation and discussed various ways in which Unit 2 can be presented. Mine is complex and it is hard to separate the blog into the learning outcomes. We looked at various mechanisms for presenting Unit 2, whether on a single page or with nested pages to tidy things up a little. The idea emerged of creating a sort of landing page with images and explanations of the content and how the learning outcomes have been achieved, maybe choosing one or two posts that demonstrate all the criteria for each of the learning outcomes as flag bearers. This is not an easy thing to do as many posts cover several criteria but I do like the idea of a landing page. And the Symposium video is critical: it forms an introduction to Unit 2 that contextualises the whole.

Finally, I mentioned to Jonathan how the course had been a process of synthesis and how the methodology I have elaborated that can be applied to different ends in diverse contexts. It is customary to be sad when the course ends but I am not: it is the beginning of so much more. As such I do not feel it has ended going away with so much that I have learnt and done.

Enshrinement: 1/3 of a Proposal

This is the first of three triangulated works for the project proposal. Dealing with language, the animal self, belief and ancestry, each work confronts a particular aspect of human communication: with one another, the divine, and communication at its most basic. The ideas behind the work have evolved during the MA as a slowly gestated synthesis. As the works have become crystallised in their present form, they start to speak fully to me. And yet, this is only the beginning as the work of completing and installing has yet to come. This is only a model, and as such does not relate to the body scale.

Enshrinement makes use of the vitrine, unlike the other two works in the show, and as the word implies, it is a preservation of an action, a notion. But what is being preserved and why? The transparent casing forms a barrier between the viewer and the forms. The porcelain pieces were made primarily through touch. The viewer is unable to touch them. This is a negation of the most intimate of senses. I am separating bodies from one another and from the environment. I cannot touch the forms and they are sealed from the outside world. This goes against the majority of contemporary movements where the viewer is allowed maximum contact with the artwork. But what I am doing is not raising the status of the work or protecting it. I am opening a door and inviting curiosity as to why. This becomes clearer as the viewer approaches the vitrine.

I am looking to intimate human form while reducing it to its most fundamental core around which all else is built. The sculptures are still. That stillness is preserved in the reliquary-like context. This stillness is now a precious thing in a world predicated on movement and rapid change. They are intended to be as chrysalids frozen in formation, transitionary beings. They have no head, limbs or features, only a single opening from which sounds emanate. This sound is faint behind the ‘glass’. It is normal that the viewer moves around a still sculpture, the shapes of her movements influenced by the sculpture’s subtle passivity. The sculpture’s agency exists only at the viewer’s behest because she tacitly enters into a contract with the context in which the still sculpture is found.

At strategic points, the vitrine is perforated as a bank cashier’s screen. From these, sounds can be heard coming from within the forms. The viewer is invited or compelled to come closer. The viewer becomes a listener, an eavesdropper. The sculptures are possessed of a new agency, not one dictated by motionless form, colour and texture but an active one involving a linear modality. (The Greeks painted their sculptures, who made carvings speak?) The listener is now made to lean in, bend over, kneel even.

However, the sounds that come from inside, conversation, composition, interaction, call it what you will, cannot be heard in their entirety. The points for listening are separated, each voice whispers, softly enunciating its babble. Only one part of the trialogue can be heard clearly at any one time. The thread of the conversation taking place inside is not disclosed. It may be confusing, ambiguous, open to misunderstanding.

Separation is not only something physical, but it also occurs with each word we use. The world is whole and infinitely divided by the labels we give each part. All we can do is try to reassemble the few parts we can give names to and construct a fiction that we can understand and get along with. A story in which no one person can tell of all the names and their kin.

I see many things in the forms and how I will house them. I hear many ideas in my head. I feel many things around me, sense the past and imagine the future. There is no single picture or idea or single path to follow. I leave the way for the viewer to sense, think, feel, and take part. And, link up in some way, perhaps bringing us a little closer.

In the next post I shall be describing the construction and installation of the work plus some ideas for the future.

The Future and the Past in One Place

As the course draws near its end, some avenues close while others open. The preparation for demonstrating the project proposal is a lengthy process. Seeing as the pandemic has made it impossible to, a) finish the final works, b) install them, I have had to balance conflicting ideas causing me a fair deal of reflection and concern.

The installation itself is a complex triangulation between three works. The only possibility I have found to show a) the viability of the proposal and b) my commitment to its existence, is to create three alternatives: two maquettes and a composite image of the third. I have completed one maquette which I shall post after this together with explanations of how it would function in reality.

All this has taken me away from presenting finished work online as I would have wished. I cannot concentrate on the project proposal delivery and the online Raum Gallery and Cables shows simultaneously. What I am currently doing, reflecting on what I have done, and not done, during the course, and working on the hypothetical show is something I feel is of great importance in terms of future shows and generating new ideas. And therein lies my twofold frustration: as I work on the demonstration of the project proposal, a great many ideas come flooding in; ideas that I can barely talk about, even much less do something with – and – many of these ideas would be ideal for online shows. Time is the most precious commodity, hopefully, I shall have enough of that for the Cables show.

In the midst of all this, I have taken the time to complete the work in the above image. A ritual of sorts encapsulating the sealing and preservation of ideas. The seal is to be broken, and what is contained, once again grasped and worked with. Inside the two caskets, are two early maquettes for Oracle now become Logos. Oracle is not forgotten, it waits to be reincarnated in some other form. But this is not only about the past, the future too is contained within those boxes. This is a tactile-visual metaphor for the state I feel I am in at the moment, unable to touch the new ideas and re-envigorate old ones in a new light.

I have already outlined some of the ideas in Formulation of future plans to continue my personal and professional development. The delicious trouble is that these ideas keep on coming. Great times lie ahead.

By the way, I have always been fascinated by boxes, caskets, urns and other such containers. I have never been able to work out quite why. There are many reasons I can think of: a wish for order, keeping things safe, the allure of the hidden and surprising. But none of these explanations satisfies me at anything other than a superficial level. There is one idea, though, that comes up as I write this post, and that is, a box is a container for the past. This is not a morbid fascination for nostalgia but more an understanding that we cannot touch the past other than by seeing the thing that contains it, whether that be written history, archaeology, palaeontology or any such signifier of what the past means to us. The real past is kept hidden, and its story can only be told by the tokens that are handed down by time for us to ponder on and decipher. And so the box represents the future that we cannot grasp. When a body is placed in its casket, it is done as a symbol or intimation of immortality. It is a denial of the possibility of annihilation. I see a box as creating a sense of preservation, permanence, transient finality… hope.

Blog Journal Summary

The blog journal has been crucial in the development of my practice at a personal and professional level. I started the blog never having consistently kept a journal of any kind. It soon became clear how important it is in fostering new ideas and creating a coherent narrative. The journal has facilitated my navigation through the complexity of my practice and will continue to do so long after the MA. The voice that I have developed during this time is coherent enough for me to use in different contexts without it losing its integrity.

My commitment to the course has meant that I have consistently kept the journal to a far greater extent than I would have done before starting. I have written over three hundred posts, each one carefully reflected on. Over the sixty weeks of the MA, this averages out at three per week with a little under one hundred and forty thousand words. There are many things I have written that need rethinking. This in itself is a useful exercise. There are also posts that offer a rich source for future work. They are rudimentary and need to be edited and developed but the important thing is that they are there: the nature of this blog has been to record thoughts and ideas in the moment. And I am surprised at some of the entries.

I have experimented with different styles and voices from verse to prose, from notes to more formal writing. But despite the variety of forms, there are underlying characteristics and interests that come through, giving the whole some sort of holistic structure. When I look back at early entries and how the posts have developed in time, I can see the emergence of something coherent, flexible, that can continue to move and breath: that is why Jonathan refers to the blog as a living document. The blog reconstruction after the serious loss of its database has also sharpened the vision of this journey and helped draw a trajectory that has enabled me to figure out ways forward. I have gained an insight into the profound changes that have taken place in my thoughts. This has not only given rise to a cogent methodology but also a clearer view of contextual ecology in which I find myself and what I want from it.

The blog is an instrument I never considered as powerful as it has turned out to be. Sketchbooks and written diaries have never been for me. Digital technology has provided a means of recording more congenial to my personality and the external structure of the MA has given me the framework in which to keep a blog journal consistently. Assessment, conversations, competition, knowledge, collaborations are all part of this. As this structure falls away, a life long habit has been formed. The blog has become an important, permanent part of my practice.

Finally, as an afterthought but a very important one, is the knowledge that someone will read posts and that that person or persons will be curious and critical of what they might find. This public exposure inevitably will have had a sharpening effect on my writing skills despite the blog being an informal sketch come notebook.

Formulation of future plans to continue my personal and professional development

Over the next year, I see myself engaging in a number of activities arising directly from the MA:

  • continue experimenting with:
    • methodology
    • techniques
    • ways of communicating ideas and proposing work

  • deliver the project proposal (PP):
    • different iterations of
    • responding to submission requests
    • expanding on each component with new works

  • continue the blog journal as a:
    • place for reflection,
    • living document
    • sketchbook
    • source of ideas


The journal provides a rich source of material that I intend to develop as a series of writings in different formats including;

  • Essays
  • Academic papers
  • Short fiction
  • Poetry

The idea is to start by publishing in academia.edu and work my way from there towards other forms of publication, from zines to journals, monographs to reviews.


In the past, I have not only used photography as a documentary medium and exhibited works that have arisen out of a separate methodology to that of the rest of my work. Until now, I found it difficult lt to integrate this into my main area of activity.

The MA process has enabled me to see how photography can be fully integrated into my practice. I intend to experiment with techniques and approaches, developing photographic works that use my three-dimensional pieces as subject matter. In response to changes that have taken place in the arts, I have researched and identified a possible demand for works that reinterpret my sculptural work thereby increasing it accessibility albeit from a different perspective. which is not as physically accessible at the moment.


During the making of the Symposium 2 video, I developed an idea from an experiment I did earlier in the year, using a ceramic form as an acoustic chamber. I included some of this in the video’s soundtrack. I intend to experiment with different forms and how they affect a variety of sounds. I can use such recordings to compose music tracks for an eventual album. This could also be extended to performances featuring the voice and sculptures.

At the outset of the MA, I set myself the challenge of integrating sound and sculpture. I was looking for a way of avoiding the former becoming an accompaniment and the latter an instrument. Arising out of the project proposal, the way of shaping sound with sculptural chambers that I am working with is an exciting and fertile area that resolves my initial question regarding the bringing together of the two modalities and integrates them much more closely than I have done before.


The online show collaboration with Aristotle has been an enjoyable and fruitful experience. When he first brought Cables to our attention, I thought that this was a time consuming and most dreadful programme. I have tried Blender, this takes too long when physical modelling is so much more satisfying and quicker. I have tried architectural rendering programmes for mockups, why would I use these when I can draw? Again this takes up time I could be working more satisfyingly. But curiosity got the better of me. I looked into it and found that it is in fact fairly straightforward. Yes, like all these things, there is a lot to learn, but the information available is clear and to the point and the actual workflow could not be easier considering how powerful this node-based multimedia visual programming software is. It has opened out a direct and engaging way to present work. It also begs to make work for online in its own right. This again is another positive outcome of the coronavirus lockdown.


The research statement was critical in developing ideas that subsequently led me to consider the relationship between sculpture and sound and how the whole can be seen as functioning in terms of the object-subject relationship between it and the recipient. Further research turned this into a series of videos for the Research Discussion which centred on object-subject relationships, the living-presence response and an eventually touching on Thing Theory. Although I do not agree with much of what Thing Theory has to say, it is a very useful way of describing certain behaviours regarding artworks, particularly the question of function and purpose, or whether an artwork needs to be useful or merely purposeful. All this paves the way for developing a research proposal and question for a future doctoral study. which might also lead to a wider consideration of how physical still sculptures made for real space are received and perceived in virtual space. Such a line of research can also be approached as a series of discrete short papers as outlined above.


I will, of course, continue to develop the sculpture in its own right. As I explained in the Symposium 2 video, the physical nature of working with resistant, plastic material is an essential aspect of my life. Building a body of such works is an exciting prospect and combining it with all the possibilities I have outlined and have yet to conceive of, fills me with a great deal of energy and joy for the future.

Other Explorations

No doubt there will be other things to explore: each step brings with it a different horizon. I have experimented with new techniques, equipment and software during the MA. Some are not for me, others offer rich opportunities. Then there are things I would have liked to have done and did not. I shall leave that for another post…

Mitigating the Impact of Coranavirus on the Delivery of the Project Proposal

All the thinking, conversations, experimentation, making, and reflection that has taken place during the MA, has been instrumental in developing a methodology able to mitigate in large part the effect of coronavirus. Its impact by making the completion of the project proposal by the end of year impossible is by no means the end of working on the pieces. The process I have engaged in means that I am in a position not only to finish them after the last term but also to install them with their corresponding multimedia components and curatorial assets.

For now and over the next few weeks and months, as the works are finished, they will be sited in some wonderful locations I have identified near to my studio and documented using a variety of means. This will pave the way for future shows, including the one for UAL graduates proposed for sometime in the future.

Having said all this, the lockdown has also brought with it positive outcomes that I have written about elsewhere. These include an introduction to Cables, identifying a possible demand for non-documentary photography of work, and recording a music album that brings together the voice and sculptural forms. I feel that there is coherency as I go about my work that makes continuity and equal progress possible outside the context of the MA framework, knowing that my thoughts are held together by a strong and flexible core backed by well-defined skills.

Residency 2020: Trying Out Drawing on New Laptop

Towards the end of the Low Residency, I accompanied Janet, who had a meeting nearby. Jonathan was in the same building at a symposium. I could not join him. I sat down in one of the large plaster cast rooms and thought about trying out the new laptop with its stylus. I have hardly ever drawn on a tablet or with a stylus preferring pen, pencil on paper. If I have ever drawn on the computer, I have done so with a mouse. I feel the simple constraints of the mouse give it a sense that is its own, rather than trying to replicate the tablet-style. I recognise its value for others, but for me, the workflow of digital drawing is too full of stop-starts that limit my fluency and thoughts. The one thing having tried this method that I do like is the fact that the drawing is embedded in the computer, making it a neat way of bringing drawing into the digital ecology.

Instead of drawing the plaster casts, I was inspired to jot down ideas for the final show. Three, two ones that I would follow through and one which I may develop or not depending on where I have time and space – unlikely. The drawings are crude but work as memory aids.


Residency 2020: British Library, Qatar Foundation Project

On Tuesday afternoon, following the V&A visit we trundled off to the British Library where we were hosted by Matt (Lee) and his team manager Sotiris at the Qatar Foundation project. We were taken through the various stages of digitising books, maps, manuscripts and photographs amongst other things. Many of the items were administrative documents from the British Empire and the East India Company.


Each stage in the process is treated as a distinct process with its particular practitioners. The process begins with the retrieval of the item from the stores. The condition of each item is recorded before being passes onto the conservation department. Here Camille, a bookbinder, introduced us to the process, from passing the item as ready for the next stage to carrying out the minimum conservation intervention necessary to ensure the integrity of the document. There is a difference between conservation and restoration. The former attempts to halt any further degradation in the item. Restoration, on the other hand, is a process whereby the item is brought back to its original condition as far as possible.


We were shown a book that had some invasive, non-reversable conservation/restoration twenty years ago sealing manuscript pages between sheets of paper using heat. I was surprised they were doing any of this twenty years ago. The idea of conservation has been around for at least forty years. I remember the conservation courses at the Institute for Art and Restoration in Florence, a great deal of importance was put on making all interventions both reversable and visible. There was no attempt to hide the repair or make it look like new. The repair would be discreet but clearly visible.

Another thing that also surprised me was that no one used gloves to handle the material. I realise that a lot of the material is only of research value but the manuscripts themselves were handled with bare hands. Now as everyone knows, hands are greasy and perspiration is acidic, both enemies of perishable fibres. I imagine that the low level of handling is considered within a certain threshold and that very little harm can come to the papers, particularly in proportion to what they have already gone through. But nevertheless, this seems to me to go against all the principles of conservation.

An interesting things was the fact that Arabic bindings do not have a spine and are stitched so that they lay out flat. This may explain why the grain of the paper runs vertically rather than horizontally; in order to keep them rigid and flat rather than floppy. Western folios on the other hand have spines and the pages are laid in such a way that they open out more that they would otherwise. This has difference has a consequence both in the durability and conservation of Arabic pages that have been bound in Western-style with the grain lying horizontally. In short, they do not open easily or widely and are more prone to damage. Arabic books were often rebound in this way for aesthetic reasons rather than practical ones.


After the conservation comes foliation. This is the counting and marking of each leaf in a manuscript. This is different to pagination as it records each sheet, the verso and recto, as one. During foliation, any previous such record is added to the information retained on the item so that confusion does not arise when coming across variant foliations done by other workers.


Once this has been done the book, or what have you, is digitised using scanners, medium format cameras, and strobe flash. The images are captured and post-produced in Capture 1 software. The item is set up using modelling lights and the photograph is taken to a resolution of 400 dpi. Two formats are used: TIFF for archival up to around 90 MB and JPEG2000 for web use, obviously to save space and enhance web page loading times. When photographing, difficult pages are held back gently using clear acrylic ‘fingers’. The pages are opened as far as possible and not flattened physically or digitally. The result is that often the image of a page is curved. Sometimes some of the characters remain unseen near the guttering. It is acceptable to leave unreadable 3 or 4 characters.


When something has been photographed it is passed onto Quality Assurance. This person makes sure that the images are in focus and complete and that there are no fingers showing or any other imperfection. Each worker is expected to complete about 600 images per day and the overall quota for the month is around 25,000 items; books etc.


After the Digitisation stage the books are passed onto the SIPs (Submission Information Packages) specialists who collect all the metadata regarding the item, collected before and after digitisation and puts it into a data base ready for ingestion into the library’s Digital Library System (DLS). This also includes cataloguing the item.

Finally, when all has been done, the item is returned to the library stores by the same archive and retrieval personnel.


The security is tight and valuable manuscripts are stored in vaults. The air is maintained at around 21 degrees in the store room where books await to be processed.

During our visit, Gordi showed us a collateral part of the project which entails recording paper watermarks which under normal lighting remain hidden. This is done by photography the paper in different lights, using racking angles to catch the contours, and these are superimposed. This helps in identifying the provenance of the paper, and therefore also the age of the item.

Dan kindly offered to photograph our cyanotypes for us to compile a book which will subsequently be filed in the British Library collection. This raised the hope of setting up a residency or series of residencies in the future.