parallel project thoughts:

I have been working in parallel both for the A5 submission and the parallel project. They seemed a bit variable, for which part the work was going to be. I explored, as timelines, a rather complex installation within the link corridor of the institution, which would consist of a video projection of the videos here; a ceiling and a floor tracing paper installation which featured a game of hopscotch. It didn’t quite come together in a sense but it led me to the following demonstration, which also includes a 40 minutes audio recording about the drawing work within and beyond the institutional space with a colleague and friend.


— I demonstrated the ink/lens/diffuser project and seemed to have myself inserted into the departmental space in a different form altogether.

I went and explored this, first as printout/ collage:


I think this idea will constitute the parallel project: it seems to fit on many levels. It also seems to fit in terms of questions over presence or absence. I like the first and last one of them best, chromatically, but also how it transcends the frame.

My suggestions for taking this further are:

a. to experiment with print scale — this is A4, it can possibly be different, both in terms of the cutout and the overall dimension: much smaller, but also: what about a life-size print

b. do I want to stand and perform this in situ and have it recorded with a camera?



timelines: two simple observations

— of course all moving image material primarily works with the temporal within the visual/auditory, so, per se: a video clip will address this part’s remit of exploring different uses, processes and practices around temporal dimensions within a drawing (see early thoughts on this final part here).

There are two recent clips that I took (one a set up small performance; the other one an observed occurrence), which however get to some of my interests in this.

The first one uses the focusing capability of the tracing paper to move from opaque to transfer not of shadow but of hue (which happens when contact between two materials is made). It uses my finger as the orchestrating device to achieve this.

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tracing paper as focussing lens

A post shared by lena draws (@draw___lena) on


The second one observes a shadow of a young child playing hopscotch, just at the margins of the frame:


Drawing in both of these is achieved rather differently, the second one is a strong shadow cast by a lunchtime sun; the former the slow movement of my finger pushing the tracing paper against my dress, until it focusses in on it and transfer the image and hue, it then releases again. Both are a single sequence, the second more easily looped (and indeed, the child played for a considerable time before and after this video); there is something about pace and rhythm in both of them that fascinates me and speaks not only to the course section but also the wider questions around the parallel project: of body as drawing machine, of different sites/ scales in which this can be enacted; on the question of control too.

depositing (intention 1)

in the shop i move the tracing paper into my tote bag, close by, to pull out without much effort. i resolve my niggling thought that i may just be littering if i place tracing paper on drawer surface and potentially leave it there.
— i turn into the street, the guys from the council were quicker than i was: cuckoo aka drawer is gone. no littering for me today it seems

Timelines: tracing some tracing paper

One of the lines to investigate is the re-use of the paper I used for the Hornet Tree installation. I recorded it with a short video clip, just before I disassembled the poles and rolled it up:

As the banner tumbled over a few time it eventually tore in parts and I spent some time stitching it (rather than applying more masking tape).


There are also other tracing paper that have been used:

  • the small screen from other Green in July
  • a few strips of paper with drawing marks on that I used for lens/ink/diffuser in the institutional space


What am I interested in?

  • what role does the previous use play?
    • it is used: visibly with marks, tears, folds
    • in memory: there is a record in terms of writing, video, photography; but also as experience: in my memory; in my parents’ too; for those to whom I have talked; and those who have seen it circulating digitally.
  • what about the paper being blank (Hornet Tree), torn, with masking tape, thread
    • what traces of the installation as drawing remain? — the folds, the tears.
    • I can investigate these either by documentation: moving image clip; stills; or by describing in words and transcribing these/ recording these.
    • is there an expectation for a drawing to be visible for it to exist?
  • what about the function of the screen?
    • in monochrome: different depths, clarity, focus
    • on contact to transfer colour too.


Crucially: how can this be engaged with, again? I.e., what other form or potential use resides in this material (again). The theme of part 5 is timelines, proposing a series of investigations about the role and experience of the passing of time in an artwork (production/viewing/engagement) — I wrote a few first thoughts here.

So: what does an investigation of this blank paper yield? what would it be of interest?

Two investigations so far:

a. photocopying the tracing paper in the institution yields eventually this:


left: open lid; right: closed lid (maximum bleed through) of all three strips of tracing paper from lens/ink/diffuser on A3 paper, photographed side by side


  • this works side by side but also with the different white balance on the paper (which is in both cases the same): it is almost a day and night commentary
  • I can see this functioning as a photographic print but can’t just see how else this can be developed
  • in terms of materiality: the tracing paper is fixed: both through the lens, graphically, but more so even in the opacity of the photocopy paper: the key function of the tracing paper (to trace, to see through, to act as focussing lens) has been closed off, concluded: it in some ways presents as far as to translucency a final state.
  • there are however other forms this can be kept open, developed further: folding, cutting

b. unrolling and refolding tracing paper

I mocked up some lines of tracing paper (not yet wanting to ‘spoil’ the original), rolled it up and took for a walk with me. Unpacked it and started to unroll, fold, bend. It seems arbitrary, random, too forced. What I discover though are a few things:

  • once folded (the folds changing the property of the paper, marking it opaque), the paper can stand up. If the folds are quite small, the paper becomes surprisingly solid (loses the fragility that threatened to tear and undo the installation even at very low winds)

    I included an extra photo – which on FB I called a cuckoo: the wet surface of a discarded piece of furniture: I possibly want to resite the folded paper on  top of it.

  • it reveals again its functions as focussing lens and transfer of hue when in contact with another surface (my finger in front, my patterned dress underneath)
  • the strip of paper that I rest against my bag mimics and models another bag shape next to my functional one.


Some thoughts as to where next:

  • combine different strips of tracing paper: what does the merging of the different sites do?
  • a folded or rolled book structure with a print inside, or at least something that ‘rewards’, ‘refers’ to elswhere : that this isn’t just empty
  • withholding such reward, reference > does this undo what this is? How can I test it?



Experiments and Sketchbooks for this module

I and we, in the tutorials, keep returning to this:

  • What constitutes the working practice, the experimentation that I do for this course and in general.
  • It arose in the first tutorial with the suggestion that I would develop my own projects and pursue these to work with the course materials. A number of projects arose from this, namely
    • Corridor breaks
    • a brief round of lens/ink/diffuser within the institutional space (which moved out side as the use of the tracing paper, with more extended experimentation)
    • walking and drawing Green
  • The experiments seemed too brief for Green (Assignment 3) and we talked about it at length then of what I am foreclosing,
  • I was deliberate in recording my experiments in more detail for Hornet Tree (Assignment 4)

I agreed with the sense that I was restricting what I was doing within the institutional space (it was indeed part of the process of leaving and moving outdoors), and that I could see that also having resulted in a relatively tight form of working, experimenting.

I also however had the sense that I do experiment rather extensively and went to look for evidence of that:

  • on my camera roll as still and moving image
  • the video clips are currently difficult to publish here (unless I want to go through vimeo or instagram), so many of them don’t get posted (and I think I will for the remainder of the degree purchase a wordpress subscription that allows video upload; for a different project I have such a subscription and I like the easy of upload and integration)
  • I am not so good at writing up summary posts, so a number of experiments don’t get published;
  • these experiments however also do not exist in physical sketchbooks as much is photography and moving image;
  • the site where I extensively experiment is Facebook however, the main sketchbook album has 300 posts; these are practice rather than reflective: they use still, moving image, text and recording as a practice that is performative and/or writing-based.
  • There are a few more specific albums (one on digital/analogue; one on found objects; and one with a rather small public in which I discuss some of the more personal themes as they move into a wider public setting).
  • I also have an evernote account where I have a few notebooks which also function as a private account for notetaking, experimenting.


I am planning on downloading the key albums off Facebook and turn them into a PDF (most likely) or possibly even print them (less likely) and submit alongside my other sketchbooks (which aren’t many, I think to date 3 of the thin paper moleskin ones).

This is the facebook post that I write about my first round of revisiting the album in which I experiment for the purpose of making it accessible outside my rather limited Facebook public:


I almost didn’t revisit the photocopier (still not having worked out what has come to an end there) but by lunchtime I felt so flat that I needed a pick-up after a morning of training schedule finetuning which didn’t quite alleviate the ghosts of the night before. They were good, the new photocopies of the tracing paper, and they are different too to what was before, so all is good. Soon after I felt really flat again, too undecisive whether to turn left to the pool or right, home, I just sat on a bench for a while until decision arrived.
I have started to download my main sketchbook here (the untitled album, which I started when I started the Drawing module). One of the most interesting conversations yesterday concerned what we respectively understood as experiment. I told him of my FB albums, he said: yes, I like how you reflect on things. I: No! They are not reflections, they are doing stuff. Not all my text is reflection, a lot is performance, a lot is drawing, a lot is writing as practice. I am not sure he was convinced. I reiterated this line in the minutes that I just sent off and started to download. 2 months are done of 12, I also realise that I set up a number of extra albums in the process: my digital sex gender thing that is bat run twice; the found objects on streets albums, and much in the close/open also functions for the more private/unworked out stuff… I will have a look which ones of these will go to assessment, or will just be circumscribed.
but: for once I am at ease with my FB data, it provides me with the evidence of my argument, and some really good examples, of what I clarify in image, post, gif, sticker and sometimes a series of further comments. it does what i claimed it did: experiment, sketch. it also provides me with a memory plaything to model, subvert, believe in.

Image may contain: text


I continue to discuss the questions around my sketchbooks in my next post here.

Geerz/Shalev-Geerz (1996/ unrealised) The Geese of Feliferhof

I saw this earlier in the summer, a colleague seeking someone to write an essay on this piece of work. I have kept returning to it:

Four flagpoles, four flags, to be raised and lowered daily on the grounds of an Austrian army barracks. The proposal one a prize and was chosen to be realised, yet never did become realised.

— I think that latency in this proposal makes is so relevant as to what is at the heart of the proposal itself: a gauge, a yard stick as to the state of the military: whether it would enact the routine, make the piece of art exist. Or not.

The initial phrases on the flags were chosen by the artist, they were to change annually, the later ones selected by the army personnel themselves.

In English they translate as:

  • Courage is punishible by death
  • Treason will be decorated
  • Barbarism is the soldier’s bride
  • Soldiers we are called, too

Irina Nakhova (1984/2018) Room 2

Russian artist Nakhova recreates within the Tate Modern one of her ‘total installations’ that she set up during the 1980s in the Soviet Union, where she was not an ‘official artist’ but an unofficial one: she describes this as her art having been free inside her apartment; she and her circle of friends were free to do what they wanted but would never be shown or seen ‘in public’, officially.

The installations existed for about a fortnight each, then they were dismantled to allow for the other things that need to take place in her home to take place.

She describes the sense of disorientation when ‘visiting’ her flat as she recreated it in the gallery. It feels claustrophobic to her.  She also talks about feminism and macho art critics who would show people, men, around her apartment. The original footage is really interesting.

Interests for me:

  • duration: both of when it existed but the distance/memory enacted in its re-creation.
  • it is clearly not true that there was no audience/ no public for it: friends visited, artists visited, it is documented and now gets a Tate installation
  • the blurring of space by covering it over and crawling inside.


— this was discussed on the OCA discuss forum, thank you, Stefan for bringing it to my attention

planning ahead: assignment 5

My tutor suggested in early July that I could and possibly should try and go for the November assessment, submitting all materials by end of September. I hadn’t considered doing so, felt much was still missing, and notably, with the part-time teaching post and some family commitments that remain uncertain, I felt I had limited time to give extra to the course.

However, the idea grew on me, notably, as he rightly said: much of the later parts focus on things and approaches that I have already started to explore. So, with me concluding part 4 within five weeks amidst a busy schedule now puts this plan a distinct possibility.

So: here my forward thinking: Part 5 Timelines.

It consists of four projects: (a) a busy scene, (b) an artist book, (c) a finer focus and (d) a project which alters the temporal perception/expectation of the viewer. I like how it unpacks time as dimension and want to try to repackage these:

a. I observe a changing scene: the scene changes, I observe and decide quickly, possibly alter (William Kentridge comes to mind)

b. I use the linear temporality of a book that has a beginning and an end, the pages unfold and this hence takes time on part of the viewer to unpack (a flip book does so in speed; a concertina offers the chance to do so in extension)

c. the time taken to produce the drawing requires the viewer to look carefully: detail. — the wild carrot drawings that I did at ECA in 2010/11 took that approach, and much of the large-scale drawing work since: step in, step out; look closer

d. is in some sense a wild card: ‘to make the viewer use time differently’… I am firstly thinking of my videos: the loop of Green: it repeats until the viewer decides to break it off; or the dark screen and emerging audio of Hornet Tree (is something still happening?).


— A lot of my projects take considerable time: they iterate, mature, smoulder. So, the terrain of this part is very familiar. So is also working with movement and change as project 1 suggests, the artist book a familiar form too.

I started to think forward to this project during the final stages of the previous assignment: with the tracing paper having been torn and used in a number of iterations, I explored its folds, reattached it a number of times and eventually stitched it with yarn. At the end of the installation I packed the tracing paper and took it back to Glasgow with me. The coursenotes mention simple folds as a way of making an artist book. I am tempted to use the remainder of the installation for this. (but that is not the finer focus project that I think I should really do).

What I have not done throughout the course is to produce detailed, observational drawings. This is something where I still feel I am uncertain if I am skilful enough. Photorealism never interested me as a drawing skills. Careful observation: yes, definitely. And yet, I would tend to distil and pursue some of the conceptual underpinnings of what it was that I sensed rather than going by surface structures.

As an assignment piece, and as a final development stage before the Parallel Project concludes, I have raised the possibility to revisit my series of Corridor Placements from earlier in the academic year along the corridor. I have recorded these and having moved out of the corridor now I feel that I can revisit them, from a distance and see what is in that placement, that installation as a temporal dimension (as they unfolded; now solely as memory; but perhaps also in a different form as a new presence). I had remained uncertain as to the conceptual underpinnings of that project: I started to do, to fold forward; then made it about my presence, which as soon as it emerged disappeared completely: there was no further project after I signed my employment contract in February. I later found a more empirical, observational focus: the exploration of different timelines, assumed expectations, the confounding of these. So in many ways, the corridor placements were seeking a different space along that corridor. At occasions, they found it, then they moved on, away. It is this which I find remains the intriguing aspect in the project, however latent it was in its unfolding. This aspect became more fully formed during assignment 3, when I left the corridor.

— These my initial thoughts, I will revisit the post and link forward as they unfold (over the next two, two and a half weeks — eeek)


Kwame Akoto-Bamfo (2018) Nkiyinkyim Installation (permanent exhibit), Montgomery-Alabama

i saw this on my feed yesterday afternoon. it stuck for many hours. — some thoughts (which are around representation but then also about what themes to work with):

— the rust, the rust: it is weeping, seeping onto bodies long dead and we watch and watch.

— the comment thread. it is agitated, people are offended. some of them realise that that is the point.

sculpture, in particular its cast in metal, figurative variations, often leaves me cold, or, more so still: push me away. i think it is flesh turned into metal and the tradition with which it comes which stands almost diametrically opposite to what interests me in a now that is fleeting, temporary. here it is similar. and yet: it is the cheap metal chain’s bleeding that first catches my eye: that what binds is bleeding, the people it binds often with mouths wide open, in agony. i type without looking again.

the rust, the bleed: a simple effect of how iron oxidises when left to the elements, a simple: if a, then b. it is what makes this work more than a statue, it is living moving thing. it continues. it is not cast in metal but bleeds and bleeds and bleeds. knowing one’s material to choose it for this is important.


my next set of thoughts: i can’t begin to understand how it must be, feel, express for Kwame Akoto-Bamfo to dedicate his time, his heart, his skill to create these figures. To build the cast, the figure, to chain it and to admit it to visibility and the elements. I can’t begin to fathom what dream, what intent, what pain and passion he pursues and draws on. — For me, even working with far more singular traumatic events as source material, as I have done for a good part of the course so far has been trying, has been hard; and for each project I would be so relieved that it was completed. Some of them were cathartic, at other times I realised I was making things so much harder for myself by seeking to process those subject matters. But of course, there were moments that compelled me.


These thoughts come at a time when I am thinking about the subject matter for my body of work. For the past three years I had assumed it would be my mother’s childhood home (House), so much material around it exists (some of it in this flickr set and a related website), enough time has possibly passed to address it and develop it for a public setting. Throughout this Drawing module I moved to a different set of concerns and a working practice that is closer to the ground, the process, the enquiry again: to let the tools and methods lead me to the substantive concerns. This work, as well as the earlier work that already concerns the House are often processed and presented in a form of play, with a tenderness and some humour, they play for lightness, a slight sense of touch, that if it catches you right may open a door to the stuff it also contains. It is that translation, that holding together which is the act that costs so much but is also rewarding.

Over the past few weeks I have come to the conclusion that I will not, as a substantive topic, revisit House and prepare for it to be rebuilt as an exhibition in a couple of years. Instead, I will let the themes of this current module, its exploration of control, agency, a gap, a movement, a boundary transgressed (and the various tools with which I have begun to interrogate these themes) guide me — there will be enough of the other, more difficult stuff, contained in them already. This clarity has been good to arrive at. These figures through which the Middle Passage is a thing of today, bleeding on and on, not just in an outdoors space at a Memorial in Alabama but on my phone on the way from the airport to my home, have clarified some of the above.

I read some more: Akoto-Bamfo had been denied a visa to the US for the opening of the exhibit in April 2018; an interview with him about the work is here. His own website here.

the recording of: assignment 4, The Hornet Tree

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.

c. Hornet Tree (1)

— remains as before:

Hornet tree (1) from ghelms on Vimeo.

d. the deliberate performance around the install, Hornet Tree (2)

Hornet Tree (2) from ghelms on Vimeo.


e. the installation itself

> it only exists in our memory, all of the above can speak to parts of it, or can it not?