response/ revision to the gap (assignment 1)

I write this post towards the end of the module, after having posted the materials for assessment. The submission for A1, the gap is still a photographic print of the installation installed above my bed.

In autumn last year there was a plan to install a new set of filing cabinets as prints from my inkjet printer in the place of the actual filing cabinets; moving them to the other side of the room. With varying intensity I pursued this plan over the ensuing months. It stalled as I still felt I had to record the actual gap in more systematic ways: once I would move the cabinets, it would cease to exist. And still, something made me hesitate to proceed. And so the months passed, we went on strike, we went on fieldtrips, it ceased to be important, I left the corridor for this work. Now almost a year has passed and I still haven’t installed it.

I realise before the summer that something else facilitates this non-actioning of the plan: it is the resonance that not only one of my crit group friends identified in the photograph but my tutor also: the shape of the gap as photographic print becomes a vulva, becomes suggestive of female genitals in the way it curls and slopes around an imaginary absent hole. While I kind of sensed that there was an erotic charge in the photograph, I took it to be the red surface of the bed covers.

In the tutorial, Doug suggested that I should consider if this connotation has a place and if so, give it that place; and if it doesn’t maybe I should reposition the piece, remove it, so as not to add more confusion to the piece.

I conceded back then, and still do, that it does have a place. I like that connotation and like how it hovers around the idea of body as drawing tool; of place, of agency, of the kind of relational concepts at play between two filing cabinets. At the same time, it also meant that re-installing it was not going to be easy. I realise during the summer break that between myself and office inhabitant the installation is fine and would be fine, with a range of connotations. But it is not fine as a public office off a corridor and next and opposite to a number of colleagues. The idea to make the installation public was foreclosed with this. It still hasn’t opened, it may still do; but possibly only once I reposition that charge.

When I discuss the connotation with people who have seen the actual installation above my bed they are surprised (as I was): the environmental context, the wider and open edge of the piece do not focus in on the shape of female genitalia. It remains unfinished, in a sense. And in a sense it also foreshadows in this way the questions over site, audience and what constitutes the actual work that have been so productive for this course.

Erika DeFreitass’s Mourning Gestures

— her work is about pre-mourning, anticipatory grief over loss (of her mother). she is a performance artist and ten years ago started to work with her mother as subject. one of the things she has done is the photograph of herself under a blanket sitting next to her mother on a sofa, she then proceeded to use clay to mould the gaps between their bodies, to make visible that separation…. while undecided how this works for me aesthetically i really like her use of exploration and gesture and how she moves across media.

loss was never at the fore of my mind over the assignment 1 work, the gap. it always stood for something more related, more connected, mysterious and rather tangible: it was an up, rather than a low, for which it stood.

“In the past our bodies had become so present,” DeFreitas says of her previous work with her mother, “and with this new work [at Y+] I was really interested in making that which isn’t present, present.” Arranged around the gallery is the aura appeared a few minutes before(2018), a series of clay molds of the negative space between her own body and her mother’s. The sculptures themselves look like bone, with some parts smooth and others rugged, as if aged. The negative space between bodies is turned into an object, marking time and occupying space. Here, an absence becomes a presence.

Over 10 years earlier, right there, between here and over there (2007) took on a very different approach to these molds. Rather than enveloping her mother to eliminate the negative space between them as she has done in the photo series, DeFreitas chose instead to solidify this irrevocable gap. Created while sitting next to each other, the pieces of clay were placed in the middle of different parts of their bodies, such as their limbs, and subsequently shaped to contour the area between them. When made physical, the gap invited the audience to witness the shape of the bond she shares with her mother. This tactile approach to memorialization imparts that, no matter how close one is to another person, there will always remain a physical separation.

Project 2.1 The Gap, continued: more filing cabinet

[this is kind of the project 2.1 Space, depth and volume, but I took it slightly elsewhere
  • Composition as theme for the first assignment then opens questions for the role of scale and edge for this. The plan to install a new print of the cabinet in the site and instead of the actual filing cabinet will allow to investigate this further as well as the earlier questions around technology, representation, the gap as a rich theme to investigate further through a series of clearly defined projects.
>>the new installation is relatively finite again: I will install as it was before; then observe what it does to that space and how it changes whiten that space:
  • What happens when moving the original filing cabinet out of the way?
    • Does it free up space?
    • Does it remove a use?
    • Does the use alter or shift?
  • What happens when the installation takes its place?
    • During setup?
    • When it is in situ?
    • Who is affected?
      • L. as main user
      • People who enter the office
      • Myself.
  • What constitutes an end point to this?
Besides this plan, there are other things: if this folds forward throughout the course, what else is in this work?
>> the object as a redundant one. L. doesn’t use it other than to store things on top.
>> does the object animate? That question arose when I revisited it for the first time on 9 February (after a couple of months, I think my last drawing in the room was done on 6 December).
Or, perhaps:
A better question is: what space does it inhabit? What is my relationship to it? To that effect I produced the two photos here; or in fact: three photos, as the first collage is also part of it:

1. Collage of drawing and inverted filing cabinet (flashed)

Collage of drawing plus photo, annotated in Evernote for further development

2. Myself once, the filing cabinet doubled

The two photos that I took of my feet and the bottom drawer function differently in space:
One uses the illusion of the drawer as a drawing within a notebook, lying on the floor, and me looking down on it; the other has me standing in front of the drawer, the drawer occupies the whole top frame.
Seeing these two side by side they work incredibly well in playing with the scale, perspective, the viewing position but also the question as to what constitutes the drawer.
I think the keys may confuse? — but maybe there is a role for a different object? [for the image I processed further, I edited the keys out]
>> this in Lr, two rows; but then in Layout app I made into a square again… like this, it reads both as row and as column. I edited the keys out, rather roughly.
I like the quality of the notebook: it feels so light, moveable; perhaps it resonates with my dress; while the cabinet is so solid… that is what I noticed too when doing the working back to light exercise (exercise 1): there is so little form, variation of form, that the exercise becomes rather technical (but also not easily achieved on that scale).
Next steps:
— do some short animated clips of myself in front of the drawer (same outfit: black jersey dress and black shoes), as well as with the notebook. Perhaps also produce another drawing in the notebook… flick pages between clips? Film me kneeling down to turn the page, to open and close the drawing? What is in the movement in front of the drawer where I effectively bend down for the dress to enter the frame?

tutor report for A1 : the Gap

Attached the tutor report for the first assignment submission.

It is based on a face-to-face tutorial in mid-December, and the subsequent notes from both myself and my tutor, Doug.

– I am currently in the process of following up the references and recommendations, also in preparation for the second assignment work, and will write another post as reflection on the tutorial.

(I had taken a few weeks to prepare my DIC module for assessment but then due to personal circumstances asked for a deferral of it until the July assessment (I have most of the assignment pieces are revised, but not yet printed, and the logbook needs some more work).

Gesa Helms feedback_part_1_GH

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.


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.

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:


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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