James Richards at Chapter

Spending  an extended time with a piece like I did with the James Richards in Venice, I built up quite a personal connection to it which I hadn’t really received from other works before. Usually I’d have that kind of connection from a piece that really struck a chord with me, and I don’t know if the exhibition as a whole necessarily had that instantaneous reaction in me. I think the sound piece definitely did, but not so much the film. The duration with which I was with it definitely had an effect on my connection to it.

For a piece you spent so much time with to then be in a different space, I was naturally curious to experience it in a wholly different context. I don’t really think the film piece was changed that much – the main elements were the same, the set up etc. The sound piece however was completely different. The entire set up was completely opposite to the Chapel: the room was set like a stage with spotlights and the walls were black. There was no visual stimulus really, and this did enhance my listening experience somewhat, and the sounds were a lot louder so the physical nature was different. I don’t think it worked as well in that space however – it was more theatrical and showy, and I don’t think that was the character of the piece. In the chapel it was sacred almost, a multi-sensory experience – what I saw in the chapel affected how I heard the sound. And just because it’s a sound piece, doesn’t mean you should rob all of your other senses.

I felt it was a lot more powerful in Venice. Also in Chapter only people who seek it or would naturally go to an art gallery would experience the piece. In Venice people would hear it as they went past and it would lure them it, and I think this was one of the best things about it – it engaged with an audience that wouldn’t necessarily ‘like’ art.

It really emphasised to me how important the location of work is.

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‘One Two Three Swing!’

I didn’t make any effort to see this exhibition, but I happened to catch it on the last day and I have a lot of thoughts about it, though not all good.

I thought the work itself was pretty cool – how often do you see a load of swings in the Tate Modern? The orange bars extended to the outside of the building too, so I liked how it wasn’t bound by the constraints of the building. It was interactive and fun, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Art can be fun, and that was a strong point of this. I felt a childlike sense of excitement going on the swings, and no one judged me for being 21. (It was liberating, as it’s only really socially acceptable to go to parks when you’re an adult if you’re a parent or a drug dealer.)

Now, you may think it was just some swings, but think again. These were three person swings! To swing in solitude is easy enough, but trying to swing in sync with others is surprisingly difficult. The swing requires you to coordinate your movements with your swingmates, and you communicate through physical movement and feeling.

So I was really enjoying the piece, and was pleasantly surprised by that. But then I made the mistake of reading the description, and never before has a paragraph of text ruined something so much for me. It explained everything away like a gcse art project! There was some spiel about ‘oh yes, the stripes on the carpet are the colours of banknotes – is it gravity dragging us down, or our failing economy?’ or something along those lines. I thought what a load of old poo. It felt like they were saying unless you considered these things, you aren’t engaging with the work properly. Or like in a school project when you’ve done all of this research and you desperately need people to know every theme in your work to validate it for you. It also felt like it was trying to make comments on society, brexit, blah blah blah in a weak attempt to be politically relevant.

Why aren’t you allowed to simply enjoy art anymore? Why can’t you enjoy the experience without being asked to feel the crushing weight of the economy as you do so? I think enjoying the communal experience of having fun in the Tate Modern was wonderful, and that should have been enough.

I think I’m so riled by this because the description really ruined it for me and it didn’t have to. It was an innocently fun piece, and by including all of this in an attempt to add intellectual gravitas, for me they actually reduced it to something quite immature. It just reaffirmed my belief that if an artwork needs to be validated by a description, it fails as an artwork.

Meredith Monk – Turtle Dreams

I discovered Turtle Dreams at an event about the voice (part of a programme of events about James Richards’ exhibition at chapter and his biennale work). It’s very odd and everyone I’ve shown it to has hated it or thought it was ridiculous, apart from Chris from G39 who showed it to us and also loved it.

Obviously I recognise that it’s a bit off the wall, but when I watched it for the first time I thought it was brilliant – it was the first piece I’d seen in ages that really excited me. I think it’s one of the few video pieces that justifies it’s length – a lot of the time I get bored with video art and I’m just waiting for it to end, but I’ve watched the full 28 minutes of Turtle Dreams several times in full and still would watch it again.

I’m not sure why it has such a hold over me. I love the way Meredith Monk uses and exploits the voice in all of her work, but I think the combination of movement, sound, and turtles sets this apart from her other work somewhat. The repetition and slow build of movement and sonic variation draws out the excitement and builds tension.

I can’t really explain what is is or what it’s about, because I don’t entirely know. And I think that’s the main reason it resonates with me so much – I’ll never ‘figure it out’, and I like that. To watch it is an experience, it really takes you somewhere else and triggers a lot of thoughts and ideas. And you don’t have to get some deeper meaning to appreciate it, you can just enjoy the sweet turtle dreams.

 

Visual Indeterminancy

robert-pepperell.jpg

I really like Rob’s work – this lecture helped me to understand further why I value art and how to measure ‘success’ in an artwork for me.

Robert Pepperell’s paintings explore the visually indeterminate – that which we can’t quite understand visually. The work has to be vague enough not to be known, but literal enough for the eye to have something to cling to. For me, the paintings move and change, different parts demanding my attention every time I look at it.

turner the slave ship
Turner – The Slave Ship

William Turner, one of Britain’s best loved artists, was ridiculed by his peers for the indeterminacy of his paintings. But that’s what makes them so intriguing and allows them to hold our attention for so long. Rob showed us a lot of artists who have exploited this throughout history – they would deliberately include things in their paintings that didn’t make sense, and they still don’t make sense.

This reminds me of music as well: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0948p5s

So many composers have used codes or strange references in their music, and people even 100 years later are obsessed with trying to uncover their secrets.

ART AND THE CONSCIOUS MIND – Lecture 1 – What is the conscious mind?

  • Two main attributes define us as humans: we make art (which is universal to all cultures), and we’re conscious in a way no other animal is. We have the unique ability to reflect on our own awareness. The two are probably linked. No one knows why or how we are conscious.
cupid-and-psyche-sir-anthony-van-dyck
‘Cupid and Psyche’, Anthony Van Dyck
  • The painting is of the Allegorical figures, Cupid and Psyche: Cupid loved Psyche, Venus was jealous and poisoned her, then Cupid managed to revive her. These characters represent the two states of consciousness: the life and vigour of consciousness, and the lack of lethargy and lack of vitality of the unconscious state. There is no world for Psyche – waking into consciousness is the transition of nothing into everything.

DIFFERENT VIEWS OF CONSCIOUSNESS:

  • William James – consciousness is about attention – it’s a selecting agency. One thing has prominence and the rest is suppressed.
  • Freud – consciousness is a sense organ, but rather than sensing the external world, it senses our internal physical states.
  • Daniel Dennett – consciousness is like a computer operating system that controls our actions.
  • Crick and Koch – consciousness takes things from our memory and tells/informs us how to act. A way of seeing.

HOW DO WE SENSE?

The brain has no sensation in it at all, yet we sense everything through it. When we see red there is nothing of redness in the brain, only the association of the quality of ‘redness’ to a stimulus.  The brain is colourless, senseless, soundless, etc. So how do we receive these sensations?

This is what stood out to me most in the lecture. My practice is concerned with the senses and how we use them, so this was a revelation. This shows to me that the way we use our sensorium is not innate, but learnt – and it is possible to change and expand it.

Circle Line – Installation Research

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The most influential artists who work in sound/film installation to me are Susan Philipsz, John Akomfrah, James Richards, Samson Young, and Janet Cardiff.

I’m keen to have separate speakers, of perhaps headphones sets around the space in order to create an environment the audience have to navigate around. Maybe using spoken word – we didn’t use any in the final film soundtrack, so perhaps this would be a way to include the interviews etc we recorded?

Bruno Sanfilippo – Upon Contact Reworked

I stumbled across this album, ‘Upon Contact Reworked’, by Bruno Sanfilippo in collaboration with 6 electronic composers and artists: Francesco Giannico, Olan Mill, Leonardo Rosado,  Jorge Haro, Quivion, and Hior Chronik. The album begins with Sanfilippo’s original piece for solo piano, ‘Upon Contact’, a minimalist piece of stillness and contemplation. There is quiet inbetween the notes, pause for thought. I don’t know if Sanfilippo wrote this knowing that he was going to hand it over to others for reworking, but it certainly lends itself well to it if not. The next 6 tracks on the album all revolve around ‘Upon Contact’, but each artist recreates it in a wholly different way.

Some use environmental sounds and found recordings, some have employed mainly electronically generated material. The way in which each artist has developed their reworking makes us notice different parts of the original piano piece.

A lot of the ways in which the artists have worked echo what I’ve been doing with the sound for the film. I’ve been using found footage, but editing it to change it beyond recognition. It isn’t ‘music’ in the sense of something you listen to to enjoy, but I’m working with the intention of it adding suspense and giving the images more presence.

I think the way the artists have worked together echoes the way we have been on the project as well. Each artist was given a brief, and then created something of their own of it. The results were then combined to create a collection. I think this album is so successful in that you can’t tell this. Each artist has created something unique with different affects, yet all of their interpretations flow together as a cohesive album.