Corridor placements #6-#8 (12 November – 8 December)

Placements #6-#8 take place in the same site: a small section of the top floor corridor, it has three doors (one leading to a turret staircase, one on towards a couple of rooms and the staff room, one to one of the main corridor with staff offices). It also has a large window space onto the East Quad and a banister which links the space to the floor beneath (so the whole window is accessible and the corridor is in fact a bit like a mezzanine floor).

Because of the three doors I always had a sense it acts like an interchange, a hinge, a joint towards articulating different flows through the department, but also to provide access to the one social space the department has (it has a sink, a microwave, kettle and hot drink supplies plus fridge plus ‘casual seating’).

Placements #4 and #5 also took place here (see the previous post on this set of investigations/interventions here).

I investigate the layout and the door and view aspects of the link corridor for a few days. I locate myself in the corridor space a couple of times when my office colleagues aren’t in and my office remains locked. A few people pass, some comment, most of the people passing however are students on the way to the tutorial room next to the staff room.

 

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Sketchbook page: notes on different views and routes in link corridor

 

What interests me in particular is the reinforced glass of each door: it provides a view through the door, you see the other side, possibly also who approaches, departs. You do see it however with an overlaid grid which provides a curious sense of vision: a cage, a prison door, yet the glass clearly is to facilitate anticipation, movement.

 

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View through reinforced glass into staff corridor

Over a couple of days I photograph each view through the glass, experiments a bit with what views are active at what distances from the door itself, how the view shifts and alters by turning, walking towards the doors. Doing so clarifies the purpose of the what I would like to achieve: I want to play with the expectation of what is behind the door, to alter, disrupt, question that if you walk through the door that you know what you will find behind it.

> it plays with the routine nature of walks/ routes made along the corridors: the layout is familiar, the route is purposeful. Most of it happens without explicit attention to the route, the path, the walk between A and B.

> it also plays with the importance of distance and proximity. For some of the doors the view barely changes between far away and close to the door, for others it reveals entirely new views when you turn towards the door or step closer.

The photographs I take contain a mixture of approaches that explore the above: one is a long exposure shot of moving towards the door, another one is a composite of three images overlaid to mimic the turning towards the door. Two are views of the door being open, two are shots of a close up of being at the door and looking through. Another reveals myself looking through the door.

– these make seven images for six locations. I don’t not install the long exposure image.

Placement #6 lasts 10 minutes on Thursday, 30 November: I place two images in two different doors. I walk away. Return soon after and remove them. — The questions it poses for me are about audience and authorship: what is this visible placing to achieve? for whom?

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I go away with these questions and devise a performance schedule. The aims: to place something for a while, without explanation or authorship and to remove it fairly soon: it emerges, is visible but remains a passing feature. If I want to explore the expectations of knowing what is on the other side of the door, I devise the following:

Installation a: the view is the assumed and experienced view behind the photograph. Thus the photograph provides a small instance of distanciation, mediation, a viewpoint along and within the already experienced viewpoints of moving through the door. The photograph however places it outside the routine, it disrupts the routine (albeit it slightly).

Installation b: the same photographs are employed but on different doors. Thus the view is familiar but not the view behind that door. Also: the photographs as tool are already encountered (potentially) and thus provide another layer of routine/disruption.

I want the photos to emerge at the end of one day, be present during the next day and to be gone in the morning of the other day, so that they are in situ during one entire workday, and that their installation/removal isn’t particularly visible, i.e. I do not want to leave much trace of authorship in this process.

The final point is difficult to enact: I am far more nervous than I had anticipated. I am nervous for a variety of reasons: part is excitement as I think the photographs and the series of interventions is good, I am curious what it will do during its unfolding; the other reason is the more familiar one of my intervening in the space in a role that isn’t explicit but also not commonly employed in that space.

Placement #7 is set up over a period of sixty minutes at the end of Monday 4 December and remains in place until 9:45am on Wednesday morning. The one that is the strongest one in my mind, the one which shows the grid and is gridded again by the actual glass is the most difficult to place, it is also one where my actions are most visible along the corridor. I try several times, abandon it. On one occasion I hide around the corner, am discovered by someone who knows what I am doing, laugh, have a chat, place it finally when hardly anyone is left.

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Placement #7: gridded twice, close-up

I want to leave them alone and do not appear the next day until around lunchtime. On walking towards the staff room I see someone investigating the photographs on the door (the one I placed last), I smile, move on, resolve myself not to talk about them, hear two people talking about them just as I enter the staff room. One of them asks me if I know anything about the photographs, I say nothing. She continues: are these yours? I feel I could have stayed silent but not when asked so directly, so I say yes. She and her colleague talk about how much they like them and what interesting intervention it is.

I leave them for the entire day and in the morning show them to a colleague who is based elsewhere – I let her go up on her own, investigate them. Then I turn up and remove them. Noone notices us.

There are no photos placed during the workday of Wednesday, 6 December.

Placement #8, the same images but in different order (except for the staff corridor view which still looks out onto the staff corridor), installing them on the evening of Wednesday 6 December. The department is busy with people but all are elsewhere, late in the day, around 6pm I set up the photos anew, don’t talk to anyone about it. But we find a clothing label elsewhere in the department and someone asks if that was me too. We laugh. During the day I walk past a few times, don’t notice anyone around, don’t feel much of a pull of the images (or field of authorship). I leave in the evening and return on Friday morning (not very early) and remove them without anyone being around. Once I removed them I see people moving about: they had been in a meeting in another part of the department, so it was good timing.

Some installation shots of placement #8:

With my office colleague I discuss this series in more detail:

  • the unknown encounters that people may have with the images
  • if I in a few months conclude this, will there be a memory of it
  • she suggests that people may want to talk about it, hear about it in a seminar
  • I realise that I have no longer a problem with being known as the one who did/does this

 

What next?

  • I yet haven’t used the motion image: should I place it singularly?
  • there was also an idea of setting them up as a straight set on a wall within the link corridor
  • I took a couple of images of the installation but didn’t fully record it visually (I felt it was going to add to much of my own presence to it), but: I do have a few images that in themselves will work again as a further instantiation, moving along (akin to how placement #3 and #4 worked).
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Later, I lie down

The gap is actually not one (left) leaning right but both lean towards each other.

The one on the right has faded stickers on it. The three above glued on, then torn. The bottom one also glued, its removal yet untested.

The left cabinet, in turn, was presented with some handling issues in the past: the bottom handle no longer has no crossbar. The top one is mended with tape, broken right in its pressured middle.

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Later, I lie down; in the far corner, behind the sockets (charging), facing the cabinets. My head is closest to the corridor it can be still inside the room. An ear on the floor I not only hear everyone passing, I feel them too. (I feel uncertain about that). Their footsteps resonate from floorboard to floorboard, through the dividing wall (not weight carrying) to my ear, my head, the rest of myself.

It’s the quietest it has been.

I have retreated furthest into the fabric of the corridor yet. I lie still. Hardly breathe. It goes on like this for quiet some time.

Quiet some time indeed.

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A little later still I try to retreat further still. To see if I can retreat so far as to dream with my ear on the floor.

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I cannot.

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With each footstep beside and yet outside my ear my attention goes to the door. There is something special about the door. It is closed. Not locked. Yet noone will look for me here. There exists no relationship between a knock on the door and my speaking. It is not me who is sought by an expectant knock. I lie here, quite safe knowing that few will test the unanswered door.

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Then she knocks.

Corridor placements #1-#5 (20 September – 12 November)

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my new desk / for future work

[I am categorising this under the parallel project: much in this is also about myself as drawing tool; I am in part thinking of narrowing the focus to this institutional site, but much over this still needs to be explored further, decided on later]

When I begun to draw within the institutional place to which I returned, I soon became interested in its spatial layout – the corridor, the boundary between office and corridor floor tiles, the soundscape of who moves from where to where etc.

All these questions struck me early on as questions which were kind of off. With this I mean: the space is functional, it is there to provide office space, work space for its staff and for postgraduate students. I was and am neither (anymore), which also means that I don’t quite have access to an allocated space but was indeed offered one informally. This space was to be used, dealt with as found, one’s working self to adapt to the existing space: office desks and chairs and other furniture that in most cases had been occupied by previous colleagues.

I am tempted to say that an investigation into the functioning of the space wasn’t desired, wasn’t necessary, but perhaps that is not quite right (and I will return to this): in most cases, the adaptation would extend to moving a chair along; possibly bringing a piece of furniture from a different room, requesting a better chair but not much else.

When I arrived to try and use it as a working space for myself – notably for some of my own, new, academic (or perhaps more fittingly: hybrid) writing, I felt I disappeared, retreated far into the furniture, the walls even to figure out how I could make use of this space, be part of it, if I wasn’t in any categories of people who ordinarily use this space (staff, students).

I watched and listened. Stood in this corner, in that. Moved along the corridor in different speed. Sometimes stopped, turned around, moved back and retraced that route again.

[this institutional space has also been explored for the first assignment of Digital Image and Culture as Office at Night, here]

The first drawing I did for this course featured the edge between corridor and office.

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I am not sure what sparked the idea to use this to place somewhere else. I think it was in part ongoing discussions with other students re installation and site-specific work.

So, soon after I did the drawing I photocopied it several times. And began to place it.

Placement #1: on corner of teaching lab, Wednesday 20 September. I intend to leave it for only 30 mins. Placing it makes me incredibly nervous. My nerves intrigue me. I want to understand them a little better. It is my nerves which make me pursue this. I extend the installation from day to day. I go away for a week and leave it hanging. I remove it the day I place #3, Thursday 12 October.

Placement #2: another photocopy, this time folded up, Monday 9 October. Placed next to the floor plan on Level 5, outside my temporary office. I pass it by frequently. I like its aesthetics. One day, E. leaves the key for me behind the floor plan. I pick up the key and see the placement has been removed. Its tape on the sides is still present, the folded paper however gone.

Placement #3: a photographic print of the view of placement #1, placed on the lower step along the corridor, Thursday 12 October. People will not pass it by but step over it.

Placement #4: I am uncertain how to proceed as #3 does not photograph, record well. At some point I discover that the corridor in monochrome works. I photograph, print out on A4 and layer the prints by turning them both inside. I place it against a window. You can see it isn’t a blank page, it is however not clear what it is. I place it on Monday, 23 October. I walk past it. On Monday, 6 November it disappears while I am in the department, within two walks past it, an hour appear, it is removed along with the tape. I check if it may have fallen down but find no trace. I had thought of a replacing of it. I feel I am being discovered. I am uncertain how I feel about that.

Placement #5: I had printed out two copies of the two sheets that constituted #4. With #4 being removed. I place one of them in an adjacent door frame, only long enough to photograph it and remove it after. I let it rest for a while.

It is 4 December and placement #3 remains in place. I have set up a plan for a round of a situated performance for placement #6-8 to happen over the next few days.

Below screenshots from my posting about this project and some further installation shots too:

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Parallel Project: my self as drawing tool (#1)

This post serves as a first collection of some thoughts re the module’s parallel project.

I would like to explore and develop a better understanding  and practice of the role my own body has a drawing tool.

Initially, in the first notes I sent to my tutor I had mentioned the role that walking has for my drawings, the whole body movement, often along familiar routes (in my case) and the marks this generates (what marks? where? how? — what role does indexicality play here? what role for representation?).

When is an office not an office? My physical presence in institutional corridors and office spaces (while attempting not be institutionalised)

I explored this over the first few months of the course in relation to the office environment into which I brought myself not primarily as a (former) academic researcher/ writer but as an artist; intent on utilising the space as artistic enquiry (and thus also subverting the purpose of the space and possibly the expectations of others and myself for my being in that space). A large part of the drawings of the first course part were either conducted in that office environment or refer to material gathered in that space.

I wrote this early note on FB regarding this project and the physical sensations (being nervous, agitated, secretive, expecting to be challenged) that any act of ‘being a drawing self’ incurred:

Gesa Helms added a new photo.
9 October at 13:39 ·

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i am sitting on a staircase i never investigated before. i am not sure it was part of the department when i was here before.
i am waiting on the key holder’s lunch break to end.
i came in to do a couple more drawings, which i did.
i am fascinated by the nerves these drawings cause me.
i spend a mere thirty minutes inside the open door of the office and am exhausted after that. very similar to the first time i drew here and to when i investigated a little the first year lab where i learned teaching first.
on the way to fetch some coffee i realise that the sensation has some similarities with how i felt when i first entered House on my own. there, the nerves however would not subside but turn to nausea and quite distinct out of bodiness within half an hour. for most of the fortnight in House i would leave it after thirty minutes, either to the garden, a cafe or back to the rental flat.
here, i can remain longer, it doesn’t make me feel sick, in fact it subsides as soon as i move back to the desk and switch to other work.
i had a similar sensation too when i stopped for the first time on Oxford Road in February to take pictures. i was altering the flow of movement with my stop, i broke it, some roadworkers noticed it. but i remained with it and over the next few visits explored it a little further.
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i am amazed how quickly my body knows that it is stepping out of line and reacts to that.
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now two students wait on the staircase just below me for their tutorial. they discuss the courses they have just started, still out of breath from the staircase.

Ebba Högström and Angela Last
Comments

Gesa Helms i kind of know from other work that these nerves, the adrenaline make me focus, concentrate, look closer, get to the core of stuff… with the material i got from House i am amazed what i managed to gather amidst all that fear. one effect however also is that i am so invested in the material, think it is great, can’t quite step far enough away from it to assess it calmly as i paid so much for it.

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· Reply · 9 October at 13:45 · Edited

 

>> these nerves were significant the first few times; they have subsided since; in early November I stayed until after five in the office and then proceeded to draw some sections of the corridor; not many people were around but a few moved past, I wasn’t too distracted or nervous about it.

<< so, the question it raises is again one of transgression, notably: stopping, being still in a corridor where others generally move through on their way from a to b (it is similar to my sense of the final project for DIC, the line, when I stopped on Oxford Rd to watch, stand still, take photos).

 

I set up a small project of placing objects and iterations of this object across the department, mainly the corridor along which I am based too. Two of the five have been removed by others, one still remains in situ. I am intending to continue with this project, calling it Temporary Occupations and have a sense what a closing point will be. I haven’t set up a post for it yet but will link to it once it is in place (currently it features on the IG sketchbook, each item being documents as placement).

Early on in my office presence I also noticed the noises of the corridor, people often have their doors ajar, some sit so that they watch who is passing the open door, but one doesn’t always see who is passing. And yet: the noise and sound travels; I started to recognise people by the way they walk, begin to have a sense who is visiting who in their office and also am similarly aware of people noticing me, noticing what my office colleague and I talk about : so while the sight is blocked, limited, the sound extends far and is difficult to limit. I started doing a couple of sketches to explore the soundscape (e.g. a transcription of different sounds on paper) but haven’t explored this further so far.

 

Below a couple more thoughts on walking (outside this time) in relation to a drawing methodology:

Gesa Helms
22 September at 12:11 ·

ha… and with that post from earlier this morning i now know too a little bit more of how online/offline publics, memory and my embodied self move between the street and FB timeline… I had a sense that I was moving towards a bit more explicit methodology. 
i think with Napiershall St, that almond saffron rice dish and Graham i have arrived at that as a definite methodology that holds movement, writing, visibility and their relationship to private/public violence together. 
– I am marking this here (where else).
it’s a thing. it’s a definite thing. and it’s workable, which also means it can have other mediated forms from now on.

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Gesa Helms … it was only when writing that one that I realised that yet again I was moving along a street and definite route, again a familiar route, again a route that was repeating and through that movement various things were coming together and able to be held together and in relationship to each other: then and now, here and there…. that is very much the sense I had from various things related to the Line and other work too but not quite so clear as this time’s repeat was showing me….

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· Reply · 22 September at 12:13

 

Gesa Helms
22 September at 08:59 ·

(it’s a bit of TL;DR, if you are in the mood for that… it’s not all that funny though as it revisits the violence of the #pondpiecenotes, so the CW is about domestic abuse, controlling partners)
(I am firstly however collecting many highs and allies on the way before plunging into the tar)
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after meeting Gordy on Wednesday and talking at length about the mansplaining post from earlier in the week… like… proper geeking out over it, in proper excitement… I was walking home and later on that evening remembered something… it comes with a walking route.
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let me talk about the walking route first:
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last week, on one of its iterations I was walking behind a man who was addressing several other men along the road, shaking hands, an As-Salaam-Alaikum met with another Wa-Alaikum-Salaam; and so it went on; listening to them, sensing a bit of their connection and some of the energy in the handshakes, the greetings, I remembered the day of my 26th birthday: I would spend it in Mamdouh’s flat, not far from the University and over the course of the afternoon he would cook the most amazing, fanciful rice and lamb dish i had eaten up to that point (and rarely encountered again in the years since). later on in the afternoon my friends, his flatmate, our office colleagues would turn up and it was one of the most enjoyable birthday dinners I have had.
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so, with this sense, taste and scent, I passed again Napiershall St and looked out and over to my old flat. I, as on previous occasions, would always remember how nice that flat was, how much i enjoyed its location in town, and with that, how much i enjoy having the pool where it is in town, and with it easy access to that stretch of Gt Western Rd, which as a thoroughfare wins out over Dumbarton Rd any time of day and night.
for the first time, however, that morning when I was walking behind the greetings in Arabic I thought that in fact, that year in that flat was a good year. while I had always liked that flat, the year in that flat was one of the most difficult ones.

 

Reflection on assessment criteria for assignment 1: the gap

This post reflects on the assessment criteria for this first assignment submission of the gap.

Technical and visual skills

Throughout this part of the course I focused strongly on the role of the edge of the paper and image, and how this edge affects the whole image, its composition but also the relationship to negative space both within the image and beyond. The simplification of materials was arrived at after a series of processes and experiments and thus demonstrates awareness of potential outcomes and applies decision-making. I stepped back from traditional drawing media to employ the paper edge (both when it meets another paper edge or in fact enframes the overall image) plus a light source as media alone.

Quality of outcome

While opening a series of investigations (multiples, overlays, rescaling), I focussed in on the role of paper edge and shadow cast and pursued this with a choice of media (photocopy paper, inkjet printer, scalpel, tape) congruous to the object and earlier investigations (notebook and mechanical pencil in an office environment). I have the sense that the research process was systematic, focussed and yet open to new insights. Setting up the assignment blog post to link explicitly to its preparatory posts was a good decision also to communicate the work and relevant insights, discussions concisely while also offering more detail when needed.

Demonstration of creativity

Throughout this first course section and assignment preparation I wondered what constitutes, discussed this with course colleague and other students and artists and sought out to reflect on my own working practices that involve cut outs, video clips but also found objects, scenarios and short performances as well as a writing pad.

I was relatively cautious (and thus slow) not to brush these aside but let them remain. That my assignment piece has no drawn marks made by pencil, brush or similar seems at once risky but I am also confident that this object works as a drawing.

Presenting it as a considered digital image is another deliberate choice to indicate the site specificity but also previous working practices and the interest in bringing these into drawing.

I am excited to have discovered this alternative form for the filing cabinet in life size which both works as representation but perhaps more importantly it also presents, acts in fact in its entirety as a new object in its own right.

Context

This assignment was largely researched visually and practically by pursuing different lines of investigation which were arrived at by observation and experimentation. It drew from influences across a diverse range of artistic practice (architecture, film, drawing, photography); these were explicated as they became more visible in my own research — most of the artists I reference are once I had encountered before.

Gillian Wearing (2008) Pin Ups

– as part of the ISelf Collection display of The end of Love at Whitechapel Gallery.

I didn’t know of this series at all, I see it first from the side that opens into the photographs and the letter, I turn round and see the painting of the letter writer, only then do I read the name of the artists and move back and forth.

The presentation is really fascinating with the angled and hinged wooden panel, inside some photos and a hand-written letter of the aspiring model, the airbrushed painting on the other side. In this article she talks about the search to find someone who actually does airbrushing with paint rather than on the computer and how she turned to sci-fi illustration to find someone to do it. But also about the gap, the distance between aspiration, the image to aspire to and the situation.

I like how in the painting the model is confident in her airbrushed beauty; she looks out at us, the world. The airbrushing has an interesting effect: it doesn’t seem sexualised, needy, seeking but present and confident. That Wearing mentions how she turned to sci-fi illustration to find someone able to airbrush with paint (rather than on the computer) is possibly relevant. The description notes also mention (without detailing how) that Wearing and the model collaborated on the final image. I am intrigued how Wearing addresses this thematic without sneering, without exposing the aspiring model but instead standing beside her to expose the subject matter but not the person.

The photos below document my initial approach to the work plus a copy of the letter that was available in the gallery.

— along with the Fiona Banner’s Standing Nude, there is much in this concerning gaze, a female gaze, agency but also means in which traditional nude painting as well as glamour shots and poses are appropriated, reworked, possibly subverted, turned into some else.

Assignment 1: the gap

This post contains the documentation of the assignment submission for Part 1, entitled the gap. The assignment consists of a 170cm x 150cm wall installation of 36 printed A4 sheets, attached to each other and the wall with clear tape.

The assignment submission as such consists of one digital photograph of the installation in situ:

 

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the gap, installation, 150x170cm, inkjet paper, tape and blanket click image to see large size file]

 

The development of the assignment is documented in four related posts, which provide more detail to this summary post.

Also, a reflection on the assessment criteria is supplied in a separate post, here.

Two course projects were particularly significant for the development of the assignment: the one on using space provided a means of producing a series of works which in their wallspace configuration opened up towards a more detailed investigation of the paper edge and what takes place in the space (the wallspace in this case) beyond that edge [see original post on the project here]. From this arose an interest in developing a piece of work which in fact relates different items through their spacing on a wall – so, rather than working in series to conceive of the pieces as equal (not as part of a consecutive, developmental process) and to investigate their spatial configuration more akin to a photographic series or set in a gallery space. The project on rescaling opened up the question of how scale functions in the relationship between object and viewer, in particular as to the effect of upscaling, or, in fact: of providing a 1:1 scale for a large object [see original project post here].

The object in question is a pair of metal filing cabinets situated in an institutional office space. More precisely, the initial investigations revolved around the shadow space between these two cabinets, with one leaning slightly towards the other. As contextual influence for this I turned to Gordon Matta Clark’s large-scale architectural work involving abandoned buildings, see a post here)

Inspired by the installation work of contemporary photographers such as Noemie Goudal (such as Les Amants, 2009) and Alexandra Leykauf (such as Spanische Wand, 2013, discussed in a Digital Image and Culture blog here), I took to printing out the filing cabinet (at 132 cm height) in life size on my office inkjet printer. The rationale for the medium being that throughout Part 1 I had investigated office materials as a means of drawing (notably: mechanical pencil and thin-papered notebook as sketchbook). I am recreating the cabinets to scale but of a different matter, a different representation.

When trying to assemble the sheets, I realise that the column that contains the middle space, the actual gap, remains indeterminate in its extension: without a ruler I cannot determine where the left cabinet ends and the right one starts. I realise that this gap in the re-production is significant and presents a transformation of the initially observed shadow gap. I keep it and focus my attention on it.

Two obvious routes for further development arise for me: (a) to resituate it next to the actual filing cabinets; (b) to focus in on the details of the installation: its edges, gaps, extension into three-dimensional space, also as it interacts with the air humidity and begins to curl up.

Below I am also including a series of images as sample across the work process.

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