Made in Roath: Vantage Point

Image result for men with ven

At the start of the summer, myself, Annie Fenton and Will Treasure (maker), and Jasper Smith (ceramics), decided we wanted to do a group exhibition for Made in Roath. The main motivations were 1), an opportunity to show our 2nd year work to a wider audience (after all of the effort) and 2) a chance to exhibit before the degree show.

The summer process was a lot of ADMIN and I HATE ADMIN with a burning passion. But it was useful experience – I got a chance to redo my cv (much needed) and prepare an official proposal for the first time. It was also rewarding to see all of the exhibitions I’ve shown in over the past year together on a page. We proposed a group show, inspired by the Windswept Baby exhibition by Bethan Lloyd Worthington I saw over the summer. In the exhibition, she invited writers to choose a piece from the V&A’s collection and respond to it through text. She then in turn responded to both the original piece and the text in the creation of another artwork. I felt like that with the pieces the others wanted to show, mine didn’t fit curatorially with them. So inspired by Windswept Baby, we proposed a show where I would respond to each of their pieces with a sound piece.

We got in but the space they offered us wasn’t really suitable and we couldn’t find an alternative in the remaining time. We were joking about doing an open car instead of an open house, and then realised: open van! I’ve been wanted to play with unconventional spaces for curation, and it seemed to solve our problems. And thus Vantage point was born. (VANtage point, it’s a van pun).

The whole exhibition process was challenging, in that we had so much else to do for 3rd year. Will made a cracking series of posters, playing with perception in the mirrors – that really made me think about how the run up to the exhibition can still be creative, and if you do interesting things in that stage then people are already interested from that.

I had issues with my pieces for the van. I decided to only make one piece in response to Annie’s weave, as I thought I could best enhance the features and materiality of it. I wanted it to be a spoken word sound piece, with recordings of the weave being woven in the background. This didn’t happen however, because my MP3’s that I had lent out were not returned to me in the state I had hoped. So it ended up being a text piece alone on a handout. This was kind of disappointing, but it was still received well. People said it helped them engage with the work on a much deeper level, which is what I wanted. It supports ideas I’m writing about in my diss too – on non visual histories of objects and ideas of curation and connection.

This exhibition has led to several things. Firstly I’ve submitted my piece and Annie’s to the Sammelwerk online zine. I’ve been thinking more since on art writing and journalism, and I want to explore that further. Writing is something I enjoy, and are arguably ok at, so I should exploit that. I also think I do want to exhibit still etc, but I want to leave it a bit. I need more time to develop what I’ve learnt and thought recently to create a new body of work and ideas.

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weave – my text piece.

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Sound Engineering Week 1

To learn more about the medium I work in, I’ve started a sound engineering course with Saffron for Sound in Bristol. Other than feeling horrifically car sick, I had a really good time and learnt a lot. It was good to talk likeminded people, especially since we’ve all come from different backgrounds and have a different take on sound.

Week 1 was mainly about hearing and acoustics. I learnt a lot about the physical properties of sound, and different things that can affect it. Sound waves are essentially vibrations, so they need a vibrating body to ring. That’s why instruments always have a body of some sorts: the wooden body of a string instrument, the metal body of a flute, etc. Sound travels through air molecules to reach our ears and enable us to hear.

90% of sound engineering is the room you are in. Reflection, absorption, and diffusion all affect how we hear. Reflection (or reverb) creates echoes. It’s caused by the sound waves ricocheting off of reflective surfaces, bouncing the sound back. Hamilton Mausoleum has one of the longest echo times in the world:

The Royal Albert Hall, built for music performance, is one of the worst spaces for performance because of it’s huge echo caused by the domed ceiling.The problem hasn’t been solved, but the installation of large ‘mushroom’ diffusers (that absorb the echos) has improved it greatly. You can adjust the space you’re in to improve the acoustics and tailor it to what you want.

Different materials vibrate in different ways and have different affects too. Sponge, for example, absorbs sound – a good choice to absorb an unwanted echo, but not for an instrument’s vibrating body. Metal and wood are both good materials as they resonate well.

One of the most interesting parts of the session for me was learning about how we affect the sound we hear. Psychoacoustics studies how we receive sound and how it can be affected by our mood, bodily state, ideas, upbringing, etc. Biologically as well, sound differs from person to person. Women have a slightly better reception of higher sounds due to evolving to hear babies better. Our physical size, shape of our ear, etc all affects our hearing too – even our hairstyles.

Echo is something you tend to want to cut out when recording – it distorts sound, prevents a clean, editable track. I think it could be very interesting, however. I recorded a sound piece on the stairwell in 1st year, exploiting it’s echo qualities. What if the echo could create some interesting effects in the recording process? Positioning the mic in different locations from the source of the sound? Or playing tracks in the echo space?

Final Book

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Here is the finished score! I’m quite pleased with how it turned out, but I also think there’s a lot more I can do with this. That’s how I feel about both of my final pieces – I’ve been ambitious and tried new things etc, and now  I’ve taken the positives and negatives from them and can expand further in future.

  • I think the choice to use only line was the right one. Colour would have confused the images, and it’s not how I interpret the score so would have been dishonest and inaccurate.
  • The format of the book works well. It reads and handles well, which is what I wanted.
  • I was very neat and measured with some sections, and more expressive with others. Unintentionally this reflects how I made these sections – the more expressive lines match sections that were more recorded stuff from Venice, whereas the rigid structures were the parts I constructed myself from scratch. It’s interesting how I hear them differently.

I want to explore the book as an object more. I’ve struggled this year finding a medium to display visual work in, and I think books are the perfect one. I think they’re more grounded in reality than video etc. You can hold them, leaf through them etc. This tactile experience of books is what makes them stand out to me I think.

As for the set up of the exhibition, I went for something humble: a shelf for the book, and a hook for the headphones. The piece is meant to be an experience, and I think having flashy curation would diminish that. I think in hindsight, I might add a stool/chair. The piece is 20 minutes long, and if people want to fully engage with it then maybe having a place to sit would encourage a longer interaction.

Making the Score

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I was torn with the score. I didn’t know whether to go for purely line drawings, or add aspects of colour – some of the scores I researched were purely b/w, some colour. B/w seemed the natural option, but then colour could depict parts in more detail maybe?

I went for b/w line drawings in the end. The way I work is always in b/w, and I never think of sound as colour, always as shapes and lines. To use colour would be a dishonest depiction I think. Restricting it to line ended up allowing me to use line more creatively too – like I learnt in circle line, restrictions can make you more creative etc. I made the score from sketches I had done whilst making the piece, and listening to it over and over and interpreting it.

Constructing the Book

Finding the right form for the book took quite a while, but it was worth the time – I think the form suits the score well. I’ve chosen to do a 9 page concertina book with a cover. Each page will depict a minute of the piece, and it will flow from left to right, then flip to the other side. I chose to do a paper cover as the contents of the book it quite delicate – I didn’t want the cover to overpower it. I think the less formal cover keeps a ‘working’ essence to it as well. The score will be very linked to my ways of working, so I don’t want to stray too far from that.

The construction was really difficult to work out, because for the amount of pages I had it would open so the edge was facing inwards. This disrupted the flow of the book and the score, so after a lot of thought I worked out a solution of removing a page – I thought my piece was closer to 20 minutes, but it’s only just over 19 so losing one page doesn’t matter.

Above is the model I made for the book. Again, as I said previously about being precise and caring over craftsmanship, taking the time to plan it out and try different formats meant my book form is exactly as I wanted, not a ‘that’ll do’.

The actual book form itself went really well – I really cared over it, and it looks neat and professional as a result. Now I need to fill it.

Noise Fest – LINE

I was commissioned by Teddy Hunter to make another visual projection for her event ‘Psych and Noise Fest’ last weekend. I took it as an opportunity to try out some visual work for a change – I wanted to experiment with creating tactile or sonic sensations through visuals alone.

I wanted to try filming materials very close up to the point of ambiguity – in the spirit of Rob Pepperell’s visual indeterminancy. I thought that these zoomed in shots would create a sense of intense tactility, and I think they succeed in that. However, I realised quickly when I started filming that following the lines in the materials was a vehicle for exposing the materiality of them. It created a framework in which to follow, like we did in circle line.

I don’t know how well it went as a piece in itself. The editing isn’t great, nor is the filming – the camera moves very shakily, and things looked good in premier pro but got compressed and look awful now. It was still very worthwhile though. I learnt a lot from it and got some interesting images I can use in future. I know now as well that if i want to pursue video further I need to progress a lot skillwise.

Pacing is also essential I think. ‘The straight way was lost’ worked well because it had rhythm – the image changed regularly, dictated by the slide projector. This piece was all too slow I think, which suits the event it was made for but doesn’t work as a piece in itself. I think rhythm and pace in visuals is something I need to consider and practice more.

Handmade Books

I’ve made two books in Tom’s workshop, a handmade paper multi-signature case-bound book, and a custom concertina book. The two were very different in their construction, but the actual book construction required precision for both. Actually using a ruler and measuring things for once was surprisingly enjoyable, and I was incredibly proud of what I’d made. I want to make more books in the future so will keep this up, but I think a greater sense of care and precision is something to incorporate into everything I do. Listening back to the Venice piece now, I think there are a lot of little bits I could have done to a higher standard, and with better technology I should be able to do that.

The handmade paper book is the ‘Tea Book’, because the paper is made with tea leaves . This isn’t particularly high concept – I like tea, so I wanted to document my devotion. I really like the quality of the paper and how it came out, but I don’t think paper making is that relevant to my practice. I want to do more things just for enjoyment though, so I will probably do this again in future. Although frustrating, the binding gave great results, and I would like to try making sketchbooks like this. I’m so particular with sketchbooks – I’ve bought the seawhite A5 travel sketchbook for the past few years, but making my own could be even more appropriate to what I want. It could make me work more in a sketchbook too.

This is one of the biggest issues I’ve identified with my ways of working. On art foundation I worked really effectively in sketchbooks – I know it’s  really valuable way of working for me, and I haven’t engaged that much with them so far in my degree. I need to get back into them to sustain a continuous practice, and making my own books might encourage that.

The concertina book is a format I really like. I like the flow of the pages, and the extra compartments etc we made could be very useful in making sketchbooks too. I want to work more with book construction, and we learnt ideas and techniques here that could lead onto more.

I think I want to make a book of a graphic score for one of my final pieces, and I think a book will contain it better than a long sheet etc. I think a book is similar to headphones in that it requires a decision to engage with it – you need to open the book to see it. I think maybe a book and headphones would be a good combination for this. Only one person can experience it at once, so it’s more personal.