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 navigation, 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.

Virtual Space Work Flow

We have been having Zoom meetings every Tuesday during the lockdown, as a means of keeping in touch and supporting one another. The sessions have mainly focused on the online show. Today was particularly interesting because those of us who have started to work with Aristotle were asked by Jonathan, if our experience so far could help others in planning their virtual space. Just before that, I had had a quick conversation with Aristotle over a particular. It then became clear what, at least, my workflow needed to be as I outlined my suggestions.

Based on the principle of taking care of the big things and the details will follow (I alluded to this in the previous post) I outlined these four points:

  1. Decide the nature of the space and build it.
  2. Place objects for textures, their approximate positions, sizes, proportions.
  3. Work out the controls, camera movements, actions.
  4. Place the textures (work files) on the object surfaces.

This simple work flow deals with things in a way so as to not make alterations too complicated.

If the space’s surfaces such as walls are to be textured, these should be added at the first stage. However, what is important is to create the unwrapped meshes. Attention should be payed to images that are complex or need tiling so that they fit well when wrapped. Placeholder files can be used but it is better to use the files intended in the final rendering. Fortunately, I do not have to think of this seeing as my space is as simple as could be, i.e. no space.

The good thing about this workflow is that the final work does not have to be ready until the end. This has the added advantage of dictating how the work will be. It is akin to creating a site-specific work out of my work. Ok, it is not quite the same as curating a physical show but there are similarities, constraints.

Things becoming clearer

I now see that I was falling into the danger of putting too much in, creating both visual and navigational confusion.

For this reason, I have decided to stick to three 3D objects, one for each work: WITD, Logos, and Enshrinement. Each face of the cuboids/prisms would show a different aspect of each work. A lot now depends on the controls and principally the navigation. Is it possible to approach and rotate each object independently?

I think having sorted this out in my head. The whole thing has become relatively straightforward, meaning I can get on with the work. There are only ten weeks left… that is not long.

Online Show Spaces 3

Things are moving quickly with planning the virtual show. I sent Aristotle sketches, and as I did so it seemed to be that the work was being suffocated with the idea of placing it in a circumscribed virtual environment. This is the sort of thing I might do when preparing a site-specific proposal for a physical show.

Often, circumstances dictate that I keep preparations for a show as fluid as possible. That fluidity can be an important part of the curatorial process. The online environment is not the same as a physical one. To fix things is to diminish their potential in what could otherwise be an unbounded conceptual space, perhaps analogous to the mind’s eye.

I have been concerned that the work would be ‘coloured’ by fixing it in the virtual context built around it, and to an extent a priori when it need not be so. As I am referencing the work rather than representing it as it is, I feel more comfortable not ‘contaminating’ the viewer’s interpretation by something as non-existent as a non-existent scenario. As far as possible, I want the context to be coming from the work itself and not a stylistic construct.

Aristotle reminded everyone in the forum that less can be more. This aphorism works both ways, for him and myself. The last two sketches – chalk and pencil – showed the works delineated by the confines of architectural boundaries. Despite this, I had the sense that the objects themselves were floating in space. ‘These boundaries need not be there’, I thought. The boundary of the screen is enough of a disruption of reality.

I want the viewer to feel that they are moving in a metaphor for three-dimensional space as they encounter the works; floating together with the objects, the direct spatial relationship between the viewer and the object being reinforced. To this end, I have thought of designing a ‘virtual gallery’ in which only the works exist in a relationship with the viewer: space, or rather the sense of it, created by the illusion of linear perspective alone.

The physical show at Camberwell would have offered the visitor something concrete and real. The virtual show is conceptually a very different experience that cannot replace the physical one. This is something I want to take as an opportunity rather than a trade-off, physical shows can come later, but this involves someone who can do this work.

There is also a practical dimension to this approach. I do not yet know what I will be showing. To fix the content of the show at this stage is to negate the fluidity of the process. It makes things simpler for Aristotle and a straight forward placing of objects in ‘space’, transformed according to a linear perspective, I believe will help make the dialogue much simpler and the process more responsive: I can give more consideration to the placement of each work in relation to others and the overall sequencing of ideas unconstrained by architectural concerns. This gives the online show a raison d’etre in itself, not just as a substitute for the loss of the physical one.

Online Show Spaces 2

Following my initial thumbnail sketches – see post – I decided to clarify the idea. First roughing out an idea in white chalk.

Chalk on black board

I then transferred the sketch to pencil on paper. The arrangement of images, videos and plinths (each carrying different views or videos of work on its facets) is at yet undecided as is the number of works. Clearly, I am going to have to be selective but I do hope that the idea of three separate yet connected ambiences is doable.

Pencil on paper

I then uploaded the pencil drawing onto the drive folder set up by Betty for everyone to input their ideas.

Online Show and Spaces


Today on the Skype meeting we discussed more in detail the curation of virtual spaces. I am still not so sure how this will pan out. The collaboration offers some challenges in that there are very distinct paradigms coming together in one virtual space. How one will affect the other is still to be seen.

It is difficult to visualise how the show will work when I do not even know how the space will be designed. I am making some sketches on paper to send to Aristotle. This is very much a one step at a time process of heuristic feedback.

  • Lighting – I have no experience of working in this way. How does ‘Unity’ function; how will virtual lighting affect the work? It is difficult to envisage and design a space with no knowledge of the software, little or no experience of this sort of thing, and without real control of the aesthetic/curatorial process. At least with the show in Camberwell, I knew what the spaces were like and what was and was not possible. This is not the case with the online show. I hope this does not prove too much work for Aristotle.
  • Dimensions and Numbers – With respect to the physical show, I had a good idea of what I was exhibiting. The online show has thrown everything up in the air. I feel well adapted to the change but I have no idea of how work will behave in the virtual space and how it will be perceived. What are the characteristics and properties of the space; how ‘large’ can it be without loosing sense? Is it one space or can there be several interconnected chambers? This latter point is something that I am not yet clear about: in Skype chats, things can get a bit muddled. All should become clearer once the process of preparing spaces begins with a few one to ones.

Jonathan did hint that the online show could also be a simple, elegant website in the style of a gallery site. I have this in mind for after the MA as a website. For the show, this solution would be much simpler but essentially it would put everyone’s work together cheek by jowl so to speak. Curatorially that would be a bit of a mess. I think Aristotle’s idea at least gives each one of us a degree of curatorial individuality within the constraints of keeping the whole thing together by means of, as Jonathan put it, small things. Things such as the consistent use of a single font to describing the work.


A Moment of Change


I have variously written about changing direction in previous posts. These reroutings have been about process and content but always with a physical outcome in mind that has absorbed and embodied the notions and feelings that have led to its emergence. The virus has imposed a change of circumstances that has made me rethink how I can work what I have done so far into an online experience.

Sample virtual rooms as indicators by Aristotle

I have also written about how the online presentation cannot substitute for the physical presence of the work. So I have adapted my thinking to this new set of circumstances by shining a light into gaps that would have remained out of sight in a gallery show. I see this adaptation as enriching my practice by explicating in some way the content of the work.

However, yesterday’s Skype meeting resulted in something more profound in terms of outcome. I needed to ask questions of Aristotle in order to fully understand both what is required of me and what is actually possible: it can be so easy to get carried away.

It has taken a while to digest the implications of what Aristotle has developed and so generously made available to us as a group. I have communicated with him since, and have come to realise that this is the moment of changing direction in the way I express my ideas. I am by no means rejecting any of my current way of working, but for now, I need to concentrate on how things will develop online and envisage how I shall present it online. This will necessitate a different way of thinking and content form.

The online environment offers a very different way of communicating and importantly, I will not be present, at least in reality. You see, just saying that makes me think that I can have a presence. Perhaps more on that later. I see this online show as an opportunity to develop a new strategy to reach out in different ways and people, and start developing a methodology for:

a) working with others – so far my work has been a solitary endeavour
b) putting together complexes of ideas in a synthetic way
c) transmission
d) to be more in line with platforms, institutions and so on.