[this is reposted from a FB post, which also included a bit more of a discussion of those who were there, those who settled, unsettled.]
I kind of didn’t expect to find what I found. I was looking through the course notes to see what needs adding before submission.
I had glanced through the research point but kind of found a whole set of landscape sketches in a sketchbook underneath and glanced some notion about passion and place and kind of read on, didn’t stop.
now i looked and recognise her work, if not her name: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, who died in the mid-1990s, who designated for her proper name to be used for her work after and for it to be known by her name.
She painted her dreaming, the dreaming of Yam, of Kame, it is part of her name as much as she was the guardian for the women’s dreaming in her Country Alhalkere, next to the settlement of Utopia, a couple hundred kilometres away from Alice Springs.
It is such a weird way that First Nation art that was hugely successful (and exploited) through Western art markets appears in the course: it is not named. It starts with a quote by her which names her dreamings (and as such can be contextualised). And yet: it wants to own it as pastoralist longing to a place. (I am thinking of Jarman’s Journey to Avebury, but I am often thinking of that, so this is neither here nor there).
I am not quite sure what else I can say: the work is stunning, it almost lifts off the screen, the canvas, the ground. Of course it does: so much transmits through this work, it is replete with place, with dreaming, with belonging, with a life lived (she was 80 when she started painting, produced about a painting a day for the next 8 years).
The link to the exhibition site is here. Yam, 1989 is one of her dot paintings.
A rather poor copy of Jarman’s Journey to Avebury is here on youtube:
The discussion on FB makes me also recall John Wolseley’s drawing practice in the outback. Trying to trace his work I come across this Drawing as Performance article in Fusion Journal.
I have conducted a few more experiments: mending the tears, recording the panel after a few installations, shooting another, fairly long take while moving the poles and the installation.
I have the sense that I have clarified a number of questions from the initial set up for me and that I am close to completion. Currently, I see the work consisting of a number of elements:
a. the conversation between my father and I, another one in which my mother comments the video (the latter I still need to record and add to the video).
>> this is included in the key video work (the hornet tree (1)) as audio recording, I also feel the typed manuscript belongs as piece to this too.
b. two stills, combined as a diptych, which show side by the side the front and the back view of the work from within the garden and from the road, across the beech hedge.
c. the video piece of how the panel moves and falls away (the hornet tree (1))
d. a series of video elements from a longer, performative engagement with the panel. There a few key sequences in this: the set up of fixing the camera; the swapping of the poles, the pushing upwards of the lower panel. (the hornet tree (2))
>> At this moment, the last piece is the most exploratory. I have the sense that in some way it extends beyond the initial installation; also perhaps in a way then functions similar to the diptych and too the manuscript. For the tutorial I think it will be most productive to present these pieces all as part of the work and its recording; it will also help me to clarify if
e. the installation in situ as experienced by myself, my parents, and any passer-by on the road.
is part of this and key, rather than merely the recording.
I have the sense that the questions these elements raise are important for moving forward, both in terms of the parallel project (what is the work, what is my role in the work, who is the audience, and what notions of materiality, a gap, a movement are part of this)
I may try to place all of these on one website as a visual display of different materials plus a statement text. That seems at the moment the most fitting way of organising the material.
a. the typed manuscript
> this remains in German, I would like to keep it that way but probably offer a transcript somewhere.
b. two stills combined as diptych
in order of preference, yet seeing them here together, all three may actually work:
> there is something happening here with the view from the road remaining the same: as if the scenario from there does not change, as if all the change happens in the other direction only.
I set it up just after 9am. The capture of the sun and its shadows is good. The openings that were distracting yesterday work interestingly: mainly is dark spots within the light tracing paper; later you begin to recognise the shapes. So it offers an extended perspective, dimension to the material.
There are some hornets flying too, not so many though.
I ask my mother to come and have a look; she says: I watched it from the patio, I reply: but you need to stand underneath. Oh… look at all the shadows. We stand for a while, then I go and ask my dad to come and look at it.
I tell him what I like about it: how the folds catch the shadows differently, how the opening add a different dimensions. He: wow, that is interesting. All that I can see is that it isn’t straight. We continue to talk about it and our different views of it. I ask him to come to the road with me to look at it. We discover that from the road the shadow shapes are also visible. And that it acts as an extension of the sky below the horizon line (but here the gaps between the two rows are a little distracting). I tell him about how I plan to proceed. I mention that I would like to video it but need a stand to do so. He offers his step ladder, lowers it from the first floor of the flat in the barn. I begin to fix the phone onto the ladder, it takes a little while. Something happens during, it repeats. I am able to record it: Look:
what is the work? the installation? stills? moving image?
the blown out highlights on the stills are good.
what about front and back lit side by side?
what is the sound for the a/v? there is some machinery in the field which is persistent, how distracting is this?
what are other forms to address the gap — hah: a gap, of course!
can I stitch it? what about suspending it as my dad suggested?
what is the role of the insects in this? what is the key time of day (sun position, movement, level of clouds, wind)
the tracing paper as material is fragile, it moves easily, the video demonstrates this (that this is the fourth time the sail falls over and down, only once the paper tears as it falls onto the ladder, all other times it remains intact)
the materiality of the paper is important
I also have the sense the exchange with my dad about what constitutes the screen and if this is correct is important too: it goes precisely towards some of the discussions we have had elsewhere about authoritarianism, of allowing difference and different views.
It is quite hot again and I haven’t seen anyone on the cemetery all day. While not the best time, I go at around 4pm. I cover the basin with the tracing paper (it is slightly wider than 60cm so a slit remains. Again, I do not tear off a length but leave the roll attached. It seems to make sense to me that way as I yet don’t know what this will be.
I fix the other end with stones, the stones (pumice it seems) are too light not to blow off and I need to find many to provide some kind of hold. I also fill a watering can and place it on the corner.
I take a few photographs, a short video, and observe it for a little.
Someone enters the gate, walks past and I am not keen on any explanation for what I am doing, so I pack it up. Or perhaps: it is not working yet. My dad arrives and is curious, I explain a little. He: yes, but didn’t you want sun, there is no sun. I show him the video with the reflection. We stand a little around the basin and spot a water beetle. I start to film it and my dad tells me a story of some insects that live in a puddle. I record the story alongside the water beetle images. It is a really good story, and ends up a nice clip too.
The two moving image clips are more successful here. I haven’t uploaded the one with my dad’s narration, the other one is here:
I am not sure this works: I have some images, interests, about covering the basin, leaving a small strip as opening. Of pouring water back into it. Of submerging a sheet at its base.
What for though?
I realise that I would like to leave something unexplicable at the site for others to find; but not sure I can enact this. There are two more basins, so people could use other basins; these are all people I mostly haven’t met since I moved away 25 years ago. >> The question of audience seems crucial in this one.
b. a large screen up in the apple tree
The images are in succession of work: first one construct, then another (the second in fact more slack than the first one)
While trying to climb the tree with a ladder I notice the noise and see the insects: wasps that are keen on the ripening apples. As the tree is dying off, the trees have blemishes, begin to rot easily, so the tree is whizzing with the sounds of what I first take as wasps. Later we come to the conclusion that they are hornets.
It offers me the title of the piece: The hornet tree.
I hope that the hornets will also during the morning and will interact with the screen as shadow theatre actors.
I discover wooden poles that are long (four, five metres) leaning against the tree and decide to attach paper onto two of them (after I fail to find even a good spot to securely lean the ladder too.
I ask my father to have a look and how to see what we can do with the tracing paper. He wants aluminium poles; he despairs over the folds. ‘There is nothing we can do to straighten that’. We attach the tracing paper more neatly and add some masking tape in the middle to fix. We hold it up, it is slightly shorter now. He gives up. It doesn’t work for him. I am less sure that it fails: the folds are interesting and I want to see what happens when it begins to cast shadows. So once I am finished, I take down the poles with the tracing paper attached and store them indoors over night to install in the morning to catch the light on the other side of the tree.
He suggests another hanging mechanism: to hang a metal pole horizontally from a string in the tree and hang columns of the paper down from from, possibly to fix them at the base. — It seems a good suggestion. What it will do is to reorganise it from rows to columns (again: to play with verticality/horizontality).
I realise that I am testing, and that he doesn’t see the point in what I am testing. I remain undecided that the folds and the slackness of the paper constitutes failure. It is a strong element within this, and does influence it significantly.
it alters the line of sight
it introduces different elements of materiality (its fragility, its slackness) of the tracing paper to the set up up.
it makes it less taut more responsive to the wind
The tracing paper is visible too from the road, which is in the evening light interesting as it seems to shift down the horizon line a little:
I continue my experiments with tracing paper in my parents’ garden. For earlier posts see this and this.
Before today’s session, I write some more thoughts:
The weather is so warm that I struggle to even contemplate moving to the far end of my walk (let along with paper, stands, etc.). So: what constitutes a site? Is the cemetery a suitable site? The abandoned veg garden patch?
>> what constitutes environment?
What is the role of the tracing paper screen?
— to orientate, to isolate, to pick out and alter the sense of depth in a landscape view.
… the screen could sit at different heights; what does the height do?
how to engage with it?
what to isolate?
the proximity and distance of the interaction between viewer and screen.
— if the screen is pierced: what happens to front and back? What role does a see-through have?
What about installing a CCTV, a TV in a outdoor site?
Today, I organise my materials for the screen installations: tomato poles (150-230cm), a hammer, tracing paper (20mx60cm), masking tape, various drawing tools, a craft knife.
I go to the vegetable garden (dried up almost entirely) and look around: there are various metal and wooden posts and poles to act as demarcations. I start with one (about 80cm in distance between). The paper starts at ground level, some weeds in front, some behind, roughly E-W direction. It is fairly overcast, no sun more common than sun.
the folds in the paper
the plants in front
a soft hue of the evening primrose behind as it touches or is close to the screen
very weak change in hue between grass (fairly yellow) behind and larger shrubbery (more green)
the tall evening primrose behind brushes up against it, has its movement restricted northwards by the screen.
What is the relationship of this screen to a TV screen?
i.e., what in this is about mediality?
Doing nothing as approach.
>> I am impatiently waiting on the sun to test the shadow cast.
I hold back from
cutting the paper to size (instead I fold the whole roll around the washing line pole, it holds up remarkably well and tight)
I also stop myself from cutting into the paper: of revealing and making open front to back and back to front.
a screen along the beech hedge, as part of the beech hedge?
a screen high up in the dying apple tree (it is in the garden but visible from the road)
Then the sun comes out and the screen turns into a simple and effective performance:
It develops a large and complex shadow shape of the large plant behind it and, where the plant touches the paper, the hue gets transferred, and where the sun hits a light green leave that yellow green creates a spots of colour quite vibrant through the tracing paper.
My dad walks along and I tell him and show him what I am doing; also telling him that I don’t know yet how this can work and what may be in it for me and for others.
PS: I don’t recognise the plant, or merely half-recognise it. My dad tells me it’s a Nachtkerze. Of which I don’t know the English translation. When I do translate it I am surprised as it is one of the key natural hormone regulators, I may want to keep that in mind for anything further.
I went to the two-day workshop organised by the OCA tutors Melissa Thompson and Dan Harrison. Day one was outside at Phytology in Bethnal Green, day two indoors at the South London Botanical Institute in West Norwood. This post is about the first day.
The group composition for each day was different, except for three of us who attended both days. The first day was focussed on ideas, the second on process. Each day had a brief talk introduction to the site/ project by someone from their.
Phytology is a stunning site and project. A high metal fences on the outside and the greenery inside hide it from view, the site is open on Saturdays over the summer, has a number of paid staff and volunteers. Its heart is a raised bed of medicinal plants that grow in East London. It is a former bomb site and has existed for six years.
Both days we did an introduction round, on Day 1 this was extensive and really good as a way to see people coming to the workshop, most of us on the Creative Arts pathway and some way into the degree.
We then on day 1 were given a series of short instruction for 5 minutes exercises went off to do these and reconvened for a discussion of these, a shared lunch and talk from the writer-in-residence and then repeated with more exercises and a final closing discussion.
I loved the format of the exercises: they were brief, time limited and I realised that I work really well with time as external limitation. They were fairly similar and so I could continue with a theme throughout, drawing in a range of different responses. I won’t reproduce all of them but a good few:
The exercise instructions (left for morning, right for afternoon):
observe growth: a series of video clips seeking buds that haven’t died off on a bush in this dry weather
observe and document a non-human being and find your relationship between it and you: I turn round a snail and draw its underneath. I feel slightly intrusive doing so, also want to make sure it isn’t drying out. I carefully turn it back round once I have finished; later someone else stands in the spot and I want to call out to her not to step on the snail (but I don’t)
Five minutes in the life of…. the sun (how humble of me):
I look up and start finding it everywhere above me, sometimes hidden behind a cloud though
Make a series of interventions into the site… alter, interrupt, cut, help, assist, edit, underline
– the edit and underline intrigue me. I start with underlining some leaves on the trees in still photography:
I then, on the fourth, find a blue band on a twig and it sways strongly in the heavy winds. I make a video clip of it:
For the afternoon, I did these, in a similar part of the site (I never got back to explore the medicinal plant section
Spend five minutes recording movement and flow:
I stand and wait
in five minutes
I look up from the screen
Find and use an alternative tool: the parallel striations in a mark as base for a rubbing (front and back)
Start an intense relationship with a plant. What questions will you ask: I continue from the first exercise in the morning to investigate the state of plants in this drought. I take a video clip.
The discussions were really useful, I liked the interest and methodology, what the two tutors brought to this and all participants as well as discussions over how this can be continued. I will write some more about my own working methods and what it brought up for me at the end of the second post on day 2 of the workshop.
This is the book I bought after seeing the Joan Jonas exhibition at the Tate Modern: it was easy to fit in my hand luggage but also, the 28min video work – the single subject of the book – , while not in the Tate exhibition seems highly relevant to my own interests and pursuits.
[this post is strictly non-linear; it also attends to series of different white balance when photographing sections of the book for reference]
The publisher (Afterall) gives its summary as:
In Joan Jonas’s 1976 video work I Want to Live in the Country (And Other Romances) the artist investigates a geography of displacement and irrefutable desires. The work veers constantly between two locations, the coastal landscape of rural Nova Scotia and a windowless New York City studio. Describing Jonas’s approach to video as a drawing tool, an endless mirror and a framing device, Susan Morgan takes us through the exterior and interior scenes that comprise this work and considers how Jonas has used performance and video since 1968 to explore ways of seeing, the inherent rhythms of ritual and the archetypal authority of objects and gestures.
> relevant are the intercutting of indoor/outdoor scenes, the combination of Super8 film (outdoor) with video (indoor), the staging of the indoor setting and the role of performance; the function of drawing tools and how video works as a drawing tool (which is something that arose in the last tutorial discussion).
The book structure is interesting: the middle section contains a set of colour stills (32 in total) of the video; the text is written as a long-form essay, interspersed with short sections which describe a number of interior and exterior scenes. I have another book in this series, One Work, which takes a single piece of work as basis for the whole book (it’s Jeff Wall’s Picture for Women), and really like the series proposition. The book covers a fair bit of ground: Jonas’s coming to video and performance, her early influences, notably her motivations, methodology and repeating and evolving interests. The cutting, the repeating, the mirroring, the use of voice, the doubling of herself in the frame as image and performer. Also, the wider field of video art as it develops as an accessible means to work with the temporality of film (and here, a closer reading of the relevant sections in Kittler will be useful to compare).
It discusses the importance of transitions between cuts, the role of fragments (how scene, viewpoint, audio, sequencing relate directly or obliquely to each other in her films):
she continues how the video is constructed in relation to the set, the moving frame, the video frame , the frame of the glass table (within the scene), the space (ibid) — I think it is such careful attention to the fragment within and across that interests me (and also then: what does it produce, create, as after all: it leads to a single continuous role of film, screened in chronology, so a very definite unified object and piece of work).
It continuous (in the closing pages of the book) to talk about the role of audio, notably: music as drifting in and out in fragments and then the voiceover.
A quote by Yvonne Rainer (whom I know too little about) interrogates the desire of the audience of a narrative frame, a story – which in Jonas’s case is not linear.
Can an audience learn to abandon its narrative expectation once that expectation has been aroused by narrative elements in the work? What kinds of clues tell us, the audience, when to read an image – or a series of images – narratively, when to them parataxically and when to read them iconographically? What constitutes continuity in the movies and what kind of clue tells us to ‘begin again’? Why his urgency in our acculturated and suppurating brain that propels us to find connections between what we simultaneously see and hear, between what we have just seen and what we are about to see? What constitutes unity in film? Can the narrative and the other-than-narrative exist simultaneously in the same shot, creating a kind of strobe effect with regard to meaning? (p. 90f)
Morgan continues ‘Jonas delivers that strobe effect in I Want to Live in the Country (And Other Romances).
Drawing in John Cage, Jorge Luis Borges and Anna Halprin, Morgan closes with a final exterior scene (possibly the last scene of I want to:
Short note by Jonas plus a series of film stills (Jonas 2007, 80ff)
More sections from Morgan 2006:
> importance of video as accessible medium to work with the temporality of film; also: how TV became key in reworking and exploring the relationship between performer and audience.
> video as producing a sense of double reality: Jonas as image and as performer (and she explores this effect of doubling, mirroring, often through the use of a live video feed, the monitor in numerous of her earlier works)
> shyness and interest in performing.
The role of friendship circles as audience (similar to Nan Goldin’s Ballad): it was friends that were performed to and who critiqued the work. The art world as a workshop: to work for each other. I have the sense that some of the DiY education stuff and the current focus on friendship, sociability and care in contemporary artist-run spaces tries to recover some of that.
The readings and interests of my father filter into the artwork too: a translation of a number of books by the Nearing’s were a frequent source of (re-)reading and discussion for alternative modes of living in my childhood.
This and others as interrogation into the role video as medium/ methodology; also: how drawing enters the performance.
Joan Jonas 2007 Timelines. Museu d’Art Contemporani Barcelona, Barcelona.
Susan Morgan 2006 Joan Jonas: I want to live in the country (and other romances). Afterall: New York.
— the previous assignment is based on an unintentional video recording; I looped it, changed pace and added a different element at the horizon line. Part of this new element is an audio screech, a glitch in how the segment got sliced in the post-production process. The screech is not the same across the repeats of the 1mins and something length of the video either.
This technical aspect formed the focus point for part of our tutorial discussion: intention, control and the things that the processing (and the different elements that are brought to it) bring to the piece of work. I mention glitching, and mention earlier pieces of a/v work which employ them purposefully. Doug mentions psychogeography as a drift, almost akin to an analogue glitch, and from this, the glitch, along with some other elements folds forward to the remainder of the course.
I will try and take note where and how it occurs (and again: accidental? can it be facilitated? forced?).
a. accidental camera snaps (still/moving): these are common, my camera roll frequently shows me images that I did not take, it took it. I often keep them, often let them inform the work that I am doing. I set up a new album for these.
b. manual glitches when taking photos: these are either focusing on a different aspect or due to the light meter misreading the scene. I currently use the iphone’s own Camera app, which has minimal controls (afaik, only one for exposure).
The photo that is the most recent result also suffered from a FB glitch: I posted it, the post disappeared (like several ones over the past week; but unlike all previous ones, this did not resurface 24 hours later).
c. scanning glitches: for a small piece of commissioned work I am producing drawings and scan these later. For some of them I use not my own office scanner but an older scanner. It has the habit to produce a series of glitches between it, Preview and Photoshop. Two of them are stable and saved. The more elaborate one is actually my handling fault: I remove the original before it has finished scanning. It produces a most elaborate glitch.
d. transfer between incompatible software glitches: for a previous body of work, I deliberately converted image files into audio files, resaved them and reopened them in Photoshop. It produced rather elaborate glitches; and there will be more processes like this: actively shifting data around to re-arrange its internal structures.
— these are slightly different in how they come about and what their relationship to object/viewer/author is, so I will keep an eye on them and see to what extent they can inform and animate questions over authorship/agency/materiality.
Aim: Drawing in a favourite or inspiring place can be very rewarding, but a great deal of translation goes on – in terms of scale, for example, as well as the information from other senses than the visual which is harder to convey. Creating a site-specific artwork enables the artist to manipulate the participant’s experience of the actual environment, rather than presenting a simulacrum in two dimensions for the spectator to reconstitute imaginatively, or a remnant left over from the artist’s own experience.
For this project, I worked pretty much in tandem to project 4_1: found images: over a series of visits to the site I explored both found images, found drawings as well as what constitutes my intervention (and what kind of intervention am I interested in; in that sense, this project continues on from the reflections of the earlier one: what is my role? what is the role of temporality/ fleetingness? and what is the kind of intervention/ mark that I am interested in.
— Part of this interest arises in critical discussion with Andy Goldsworthy’s work. I have known it for quite some time and whenever I am pointed back to it I find it problematic: in these sense that it is so geometric, intent on instilling order and I cannot shake the thought that while there is a claim over modesty and careful intervention, it is still all about the hand and genius of the artist. So I felt rather prickly when I thought of collecting and organising elements from the site to reorient any visitor/audience engagement with it.
The way I proceeded with this was by exploring the use of the tracing paper further.
I explored during two visits both its verticality and horizontality and how it engages with the site.
The first through a series of piercings, fixings and drawing marks by which the tracing paper re-draws and re-configures a patch of clover. The second through using the (albeit narrow, 30cm high) paper to act as a screen to filter and separate lines of vision, in a sense taking further the way the tracing paper had been activated in the previous assignment, Green.
The first process over all is rather strongly interventionist: it fixes, it redraws and repositions; the resulting intervention (even on this small scale, 30x40cm) is rather stark, rigid (even tearing a few opening, the flaps moving in the wind doesn’t change this too much). Moving the tracing paper off the ground and re-placing it (across some charcoal, along a bench) provides some interesting effects, but overall this isn’t a process that seems to lead towards a form of intervention that I am interested in.
The second process, using the tracing paper as screen, is more promising, even though it requires better support than the flimsy bamboo sticks that I fixed together, and quite quickly the small dimensions of the paper within the environment are starkly apparent. And nonetheless: there a lines of view and perspectives around this which are interesting as an installation.
A good part of the previous course section took effectively place in an outside environment and made use of techniques that this fourth section, environmental interventions covers. as part of the tutorial we thus discussed to continue first off and build on the previous part.
So, for this first project, I returned and continued at the site of Other Green, the sloped grass meadow on a loch side, with its couple of maintained paths and picnic benches.
I looked for found images and was interested in the flight lines of crows as well as some grasses floating towards the shoreline.
With both sets of observations, recordings of drawings I am interested in their fleetingness, the necessity to consider the drawing line as unfolding over a particular time — either by standing and watching with my eyes or by using a recording device (audio and/or video) to capture what is the drawing gesture within these as a still photo, or a similarly still drawing on paper will not capture the fact that these occurrences are in fact drawings.
— that fleetingness then also speaks towards the question, again, of how much/little constitutes an intervention/ a piece of art. This question has come up in earlier parts of the module (around the question of writing as drawing; the photocopier performances; the very short-lasting corridor placements etc).
— also: what are appropriate/ contemporary means to engage with the environment: what is there about voice/ agency (of whom? myself the artist? the subject/object? the environment?) (this links forward to the next project here)
— neither of these two sets of observations leaves anything: there is nothing for any passer-by to glean from this process ‘out in the world’, instead, it, as video recording functions rather traditionally as: capture, remove, process, circulate elsewhere. As such: it bridges the gap between analogue and digital but really just works as capture/removal (which is a very limited process, possibly not something that I am very interested in).
These are the two sets of found drawings:
a. two recordings of the group of four rooks that linger around the field: