IDEAS

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AD7803 Interrogating Practice Proposal

 

February 2017

Initial Proposal

I have set out to address issues of ageing and memory, and am concentrating my work on the subject of my mother and my relationship with her, I will continue developing this theme. I am interested in her deterioration of memory and how my shared memories with her have held a different significance as her recollection has faded and altered with way we communicate.

Accrete time perception is critical to us living in the modern world; our expectation of communication is that it will be based mostly on exact facts and correct accounts of real time. The passage of time into old age inevitably affects the ability to remember current information; time perceived is not accrete and accounts of events within the past few hours are often not factual. However, there is an interesting element to accessing remote memories and recounting information factually from many decades ago.

It has always been important for me to reflect with my mother on our shared past, she has always been able to affirm, and help me reference the past and offer wisdom with sensibility going forward into the future. The change in this relationship seems significant, and the process of change feels poignant and complicated and tinged with sadness.

In an attempt to describe this personal process of change I have previously explored various darkroom processes that describe transitions from one form to another, which I have recorded. These transitions concentrated on the change to images with time and light and chemistry that evokes change to photographic material within one process or another. I would like to move my practice forward with the development of particular techniques concerning moving image. The mechanism of capturing images, the fundamental camera work require to create a piece of photographic art is not something I am practiced in. I will be concentrating my work on the techniques of cinematography. I will attempt to create a chip, which is one scene from different points of view, looking at the use of composition, light, angles colour and speed of frames. I will also continue to explore the use of sound.

I envisage a short moving piece, possibility interjected with animated frames. I would like to use a simple audio of conversations or monologue from my mother or possibly tacks that I record of her singing hymns. The sewing, machine and it’s mechanisms with be key to the photography, the cotton thread moving around as it unwinds, the needle puncturing the fabric with the up and down action, the bobin loading….. etc. One scene, several angles, including long shots of my mother sitting at the machine within a room. Light will change as the natural daylight fades, I will enhance this notion with LED panels. Props; I may well use the sewing machine, the dressmakers dummy, garments, fabric and patterns.

Much of my inspiration for the look of this work has come from William Kentridge and I have taken particular inspiration from his drawings onto old books. There is a narrative and sense of time passing and an element of nostalgia. I always like the way he incorporates sound (singing). I will look at the work of Peter Green Way and specific relevant films for subject matter and camera technique.

Importantly there is a melancholy within my theme, a sorrow, which I want to be able to subtlety, underlie the pictures.

“Photography is an elegiac art, a twilight art. Most subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched with pathos.” SUSAN SONTAG, On Photography, 1977.

Final Proposal & Evaluation – AD7801 Establishing Practice

Revised Proposal and Evaluation

I have set out to address issues of ageing and memory. I had hoped to concentrate on my work on the subject of my mother, which I have done. I was interested in her deterioration of memory and how my shared memories with her have held a different significance as her recollection has faded.

I have explored various darkroom processes that describe transitions from one form to another, which I have recorded. These transitions concentrating on the change to images with time and light and chemistry that evokes change to photographic material when exposed to light of one form or another.

During the first stages of this project there was an incident: a fire that destroyed my mothers belongings and the buildings that were on her allotment. Gardening has always been a central activity for my mother in her life. She has dedicated much of her life to her garden and has become over the years quite accomplished with in horticulture. The fire destroyed her gardening belongings her workshop, shed and greenhouse.  The fire also destroyed all of her gardening belongings. This incident gave me a platform on which to investigate memory and recollecting through photographing her and the burnt debris and interviewing her about what had happened, what she had lost and what she could remember of what she had before.

This opportunity was presented to me and fortunately my mother was cooperative and allowed me to photograph her on the site within the burnt out greenhouse in a very similar way as I had done at the end of the when all I was attempting to take a portrait of her amongst her belongings in the place of interest(green house).

The photographic material I have gathered I have used to explore darkroom processes, and believe I have achieved to capture the transitions in a way that prompts questions about memory, to look at change in recollection of form and detail.

I have produced 4 final clips. These versions differ with various audio tracks. Having shown the work to a variety of audiences and had critiques and tutorials, I realise the different interpretations are mainly influenced by the audio tracks. Initially I wanted to produce the work without sound. To just have the transition between the image forms as the main interest. However, I was encouraged to record conversations with my mother with a view to use these recordings as a backing track to accompany the image change. The interviews worked well, the small interesting and lively anecdotes were perfect for the subject.  There was some need for editing, but not a lot, the natural breaks and the conversation fitted well with the transition in the clip. Having considered the sound and how it may be further added to, I considered using the ticking of a clock. To be used as a rhythm in the background a gentle reminder (although quite literal) of the passing of time during the interview, and within memory. This element will support the transition from the clock through the fire damage to the final version- burnt and photographed hanging with just the metal surround remaining.

The version without sound I believe works and is engaging to the viewer. One has to be patient and to concentrate, the changes I’ll subtle through the transition, it’s hard at times to see and quite slow and difficult  notice at points.

Using just the voice-over audio alone with the clip gives the viewer extra information and interest.  As soon as I added the voice audio and played the clip to various people, I was interested to note that at times people looked away from the piece, concentrating only on listening to the words being said.

Using the voice/ticking audio adds an interesting element to the piece with a fade in and out of the ticking giving a rhythm and the subtle element of time in the background gently passing.

The first version with the clock ticking audio has caused the most reaction. Interestingly the clock becomes an annoyance, the ticking is too loud and overbearing (literal…..”it’s a clock ticking!”). I was aware of this potential to add a ‘too literal’ element- pointing out the obvious! However, I’m quite interested in the feedback.  The ticking clock causes offence in this piece in this version, people are put off as often they are when a clock is ticking too loudly- time is quite clearly passing and this obvious ticking of time passing for some is to worrisome and distracting.  It causes an anxiety, an emotional upset an annoyance or irritation.  Often we do not like to be reminded and faced with the overwhelming sense of time passing.  Especially by the mechanism of a clock, it is measuring, constant notifying us of units of time literally  ‘ticking away’.

Ideas forward

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Sewing (Sketched story board draft)

Going forward with this project, I envisage a short with interjected with animated frames. a similar simple audio of conversations or monologues from my mother. I would like to look at using tacks that I record of her singing hymns(singing along with songs of praise?)

The sewing ,machine and it’s mechanisms with be key to the photography, the cotton thread moving around as it unwinds, the needle puncturing the fabric with the up and down action, the bobin loading….. etc. I imagine one scene, but several angles including long shots of my mother sitting at the machine within a room. Light with change and the natural daylight fades, I will enhance this notion with LED panels

img_0166

Props, I may well use the dress makers dummy, garments being made and patterns.

Much of my inspiration for the look of this work has come from Kentridge and I have taken particular inspiration from his drawings onto old books. There is a narrative and sense of time passing and a element of nostalgia. I always like the way he incorporates sound (singing).

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‘Tango for Page Turning is a film fragment made for the theatre piece Refuse the Hour (2012-13). This and its companion piece, the 5-channel video installation The Refusal of Time, arose in part out of a series of conversations between South African artist William Kentridge and American historian of science Peter Galison on matters including the history of the control of world time, relativity, black holes, and string theory. Music for both projects was created by Philip Miller.

In this fragment, Joanna Dudley sings a shattered rendering of the French song Spectre de la Rose by Hector Berlioz, from his song cycle Les Nuits d’´Eté, based on the poetry of Théophile Gautier. The words are a jumbled-up, random combination of words which originate in the English translation of Spectre de la Rose. Using Dada-ist techniques of cutting up the poem into word fragments and mixing them up in a hat, Miller re-assembled the words into a new version of the poem. The dancing figure on the pages is drawn from Dada Masilo, who both choreographed and danced in Refuse the Hour.

Translating his distinctive charcoal drawings into hand-made animated films that show signs of erasure and reworking, South African artist William Kentridge crafts allegorical, gestural narratives that may be read as specific to the political and social realities of South Africa, at the same time that they function as powerful observations of the human condition. He is one of the most famous artists in the world, and has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and San Francisco, two Documentas and three Venice Biennales.’

Artist Research Dryden Goodwin

‘Breathe’, was originally commissioned and produced by Invisible Dust, part of a programme of artist and scientist collaborations. Curator and Director of Invisible Dust, Alice Sharp linked Goodwin with Professor Frank Kelly, an expert on lung health at King’s College London and an advisor to the Government on air pollutants.

“When you start to tune in to the act of breathing, when you watch someone drawing breath – you notice how the body changes, the chest expands, the skeleton shifts with the inward rush of air, the muscles of the torso, face and neck, flex and twitch. The act of breathing embodies the animation of life. When making the over 1,300 drawings of my 5 year old son for ‘Breathe’ (2012), I felt I was literally ‘drawing’ breath into his body, the process of repeatedly drawing him, encapsulating for me a sense of nurturing and sustaining. I wanted to induce a heightened consciousness about the act of breathing, it being the first sign of animate life and the last register at the moment of passing. This is my son – but the faltering rhythms seemed to become representative of all our vulnerabilities, the tightrope walk we’re on, a sense of vulnerability and fragility between movement and stillness, ranging from regular and even breathing when content and at rest, to laboured and anxious after exertion or when under duress, to the tension of the held suspended image when breathing appears to falter or stop. Most of the time we are not conscious of this action; breathing is a constant involuntary exchange between us and the environment we are in, an interdependent embrace, the external internalised, then our actions both individual and collective, emanate out to effect our environment.

I wanted to create a moving image that reflects not only on the direct environmental challenges, but which also reflects upon a wider concept of the universal hope and aspiration embedded in the preservation of life. At certain points the drawings breakdown and become sketchy and diagrammatic, minimal and abstracted, even x-ray like – almost shrinking to the pulse of a few dense lines – like the beating of a heart – or reduced to the head alone before the torso reemerges filled with the intake of air – following the pathway of the airstream from the nose, mouth and lungs to the thorax and the limbs. It struck me that the atmosphere surrounding the screen, can be perceived as sustaining and ventilating the animation.

Although evolving from a response to the potential harmful effects of air quality, how the air as well as sustaining us can carry with it diverse, altering and potentially harmful residues, I became excited about how the fragile drawn lines and jittery movement could become a carrier of further information and urgency. A vulnerable figure of a child emphasises this notion of powerlessness and passivity, a call to action, that we are all (as well as those people who find themselves in positions of power and influence) custodians of the environment and the world we live in, we have a collective responsibility to be active in some way, to push against the variety of malignant forces that surround us. ‘Breathe’ is a portrayal of my son’s vulnerability, an attempt to translate into a visceral experience the personal and individual to become public and universal.

Originally positioned high up on St Thomas’s hospital on an eight metre high screen, across the Thames facing the Houses of Parliament, one of the Western world’s most powerful institutions. As we have moved forward in time and ‘Breathe’ gets shown again, my son metaphorically looks out at an even broader scape, the vastness and sense of disruption of the multiple challenges in this increasingly destabilised and changing world. A moving image that in some small way I hope, contributes to a sense of urgency and need to focus our attention and collectively react, the desire to build for a future transformed; more equal, more responsible and a more humane world.”

Dryden Goodwin, August 2016

Sound

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I have produced 4 final clips. These versions differ with various audio tracks. Having shown the work to a variety of audiences and had critiques and tutorials, I realise the different interpretations are mainly influenced by the audio tracks. Initially I wanted to produce the work without sound. To just have the transition between the image forms as the main interest. However, I was encouraged to record conversations with my mother with a view to use these recordings as a backing track to accompany the image change. The interviews worked well, the small interesting and lively anecdotes were perfect for the subject.  There was some need for editing, but not a lot, the natural breaks and the conversation fitted well with the transition in the clip. Having considered the sound and how it may be further added to, I considered using the ticking of a clock. To be used as a rhythm in the background a gentle reminder (although quite literal) of the passing of time during the interview, and within memory. This element will support the transition from the clock through the fire damage to the final version- burnt and photographed hanging with just the metal surround remaining.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-07-18-40 No sound-

The version without sound I believe works and is engaging to the viewer. One has to be patient and to concentrate, the changes I’ll subtle through the transition, it’s hard at times to see and quite slow and difficult  notice at points.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-07-18-16 Just voice-

Using just the voice-over audio alone with the clip gives the viewer extra information and interest.  As soon as I added the voice audio and played the clip to various people, I was interested to note that at times people looked away from the piece, concentrating only on listening to the words being said.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-07-18-30 Fade ticking into voice-

Using the voice/ticking audio adds an interesting element to the piece with a fade in and out of the ticking giving a rhythm and the subtle element of time in the background gently passing.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-07-18-16 Loud ticking overlay voice throughout-

The first version with the clock ticking audio has caused the most reaction. Interestingly the clock becomes an annoyance, the ticking is too loud and overbearing (literal…..”it’s a clock ticking!”). I was aware of this potential to add a ‘too literal’ element- pointing out the obvious! However, I’m quite interested in the feedback.  The ticking clock causes offence in this piece in this version, people are put off as often they are when a clock is ticking too loudly- time is quite clearly passing and this obvious ticking of time passing for some is to worrisome and distracting.  It causes an anxiety, an emotional upset an annoyance or irritation.  Often we do not like to be reminded and faced with the overwhelming sense of time passing.  Especially by the mechanism of a clock, it is measuring, constant notifying us of units of time literally  ‘ticking away’.

Final Piece -Burnt Clock (Memory)

The sequence of images below represent the final intended presentation of this video piece. The large guilt frames are typical of those used to mounts portraits, one might commonly find in a family drawing room, study or reception area in a home. These portraits would be of ancestors and family members in times past. The video piece has been edited in the portrait aspect, in-keeping with the typical presentation of portraits of family and loved ones in domestic homes.

final-presentation

I have included a rotated version of ‘Burnt Clock Memory’ in the USB for the purposes and ease of viewing, however this is not what the final presentation would look like. If this project were to be expanded my intention would be to include many frames within a walled, room-like gallery, each frame containing a two minute video clip depicting memory sequences using the animation and filming techniques I have presented here. This potential presentation would create an all-consuming environment of small conversations and slowly changing visuals that show the transformation of things, objects, people and possibly actions/events. The video clips would show ‘photographs’ transforming in this slow animation from one form to another less obvious one. The typical representation of something that has been captured photographically would mutate very subtly into a less clear form of its actual self.

Using various darkroom techniques and materials does itself present photography in a changed for from that of the true form. Also the process, whether it be cyanotype’s, sepia, collodion, salt, Van Dyke even the use of liquid light, these processes transform the usual photographic representations of light and form. Recording the change from a typical and usual black-and-white image into a traditional processed form and recording the slow transition from one for the another has been fundamental to my description in the piece of memory, shared memory and memory loss.

sylv-and-clock-gh

These are the three major images that I have settled on to create my video clip having experimented with other photographs taken of my mother in the greenhouse before and after the fire.  The photograph was taken towards the end of the summer 2016 just a few months before the fire destroyed all of her belongings and entire greenhouse content. I believe this is a strong image but the interesting thing for me, that central to my use of the images is the clock. The clock, which I have used as a symbol for memory loss. As it happens I was able to salvage the surround of this object and use it to represent the change in recollection of memory and how that has and can often change over time. In conversation with my mother after the fire she mentioned the clock and we used the photographed to support her recollection of the greenhouse and her effects that were in, which are now all lost. I sat with her while she recalled an anecdote about the clock, this was interesting as during the interview, she talked about the clock in the present, “it doesn’t have a face any more.” I had to remind her that the clock does not exist any more. Her concern was to replace it and she has already found a suitable clock for her future green house. The clock is a very appropriate object for me to focus on and I feel I use it well as a metaphor for time changing the recollection of event and things.

Artist Research Bill Viola

Bill Viola views art as the ability to get outside yourself by going inside oneself. He stated that the work of an artist is a transformation. During his year and a half in Japan he studied with a Zen Buddhist teacher who taught him to “stop thinking” because when you are empty, that is when you can do something. If you are full, that can’t happen. Half the work an artist creates has to be a gift from an unknown place and half comes from tapping into one’s talent. If an artist thinks a work will be great he/she is doomed.

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Bill Viola:

‘I saw these beautiful shafts of light. I wanted to stay there.

‘My uncle realised I was down there and then I started pushing him away.

‘Finally, he grabbed me and pulled me out. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be here.

‘The thing that happened was so brief, but it stuck right in, deep inside me. It was really quite powerful.’

Viola’s works casts light on fundamental human themes and experiences such as birth, death, love, anger, ecstasy, suffering and fear, and almost reflect Renaissance paintings in their scale and intensity.

His wife and long-time collaborator Kira Perov shares a similar fascination in core elements.

‘Water is an element of mystery. It represents the cycles of birth and deaths, and transformation,’ she says.

‘We don’t normally dwell in this state.

‘So to examine and to expand it … we’re giving people the gift of time so that they can reflect. ‘

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His work Small Saints came out of work he created for the 2007 Venice Biennale which I was lucky enough to see and even wrote about in a previous blog. In Venice, three video screens were placed in a 15th century chapel in the altar niches where paintings once hung. The videos consisted of a “water wall” that people would walk through. The water fell like a sheet of glass so you could see right through it. He used two cameras to shoot this work. As figures come toward the viewer the image is obscure and black and white. The viewer is unaware that water is even there. As figures slowly walk through the water and emerge on the other side, the image shifts to colour The black and white portions are shot with the 1970s camera and the colour portions are shot with a camera that costs about $150,000. Viola discussed how he prefers the older camera; it has great sentimental value for him and he loves the quality of the film it produces. The two portions of the work come together to create a world in which the dead transition to the land of the living, but soon realise they can’t stay and have to go back.

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I am particularly interested in BV and inspiration for presentation ideas…

Sound, the sound tack in this piece is central to ones experience and interpretation. The melodic and familiarity of it is comforting and seem to hone ones concentration on the visual element.