Text as Objects

When I went to print the posters I had a mare with the printer and it printed everything double sided. Initially I was annoyed but then I realised this could have been for the best. Now there was no front or back – the texts had become objects.

Following on from what Sean said tried imposing these texts into the public realm. I wanted them to be slightly hidden, so people would discover them by chance. I decided the library was the best place to try on campus – it’s very busy and people interact with it so there would be more chance of people uncovering THE ART. I knew I didn’t want to put it in the art building because everyone puts weird stuff there all the time, to the point where no one bats an eyelid anymore.

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I put the text pieces into different locations in the library where I hope they’d blend in yet still be noticeable. I’ll go back later in the week to see if anything’s happened to them and if so what. Part of me doesn’t want to know if or how people interacted with them. I feel like my part is done – they’re off into the world, now they can go on existing as they please.

I did have a few issues with it in hindsight. Firstly, I was just putting more text into an already word heavy environment. The library is a bombardment of information, users become very good at filtering out everything they don’t need to see. Moreover, people can just look away even if they notice the text. This is where I think sound would be more appropriate. I need to find a way of disrupting people’s use of an environment and making them pay attention. If there was a quiet sound piece hidden in a bookshelf for example, only audible from nearby, then when people walked past it would be a personal interaction just for them. A bit like the Janet Cardiff audio walk, I feel the one to one connection between artist and audience through the art has more of a profound impact on people.

I did a small experiment on Instagram which yielded interesting results.

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As people scrolled down the text distorted and changed. I could tell a lot of people took note because there were a lot of comments, likes etc. I’ve looked into several artists in the past who use social media as their art site, but this may be worth looking into further as a platform.

I definitely want to move more back into sound now. You can close your eyes; you can’t close your ears. Sound can be more subtle, yet once you notice it it becomes inescapable. I think to continue working with sound is the best next step, but also retaining an interest in words. Maybe combining the two at first – like the Janet Cardiff Audio walk, give someone headphones and instruct them how to navigate a space, leading them to the hidden texts perhaps?

I am still interested in the ways I can present text, however. How do different materials lend context to words? How do different environments change meaning?

Now field is starting I’ll try to incorporate my current line of practice into the project whilst continuing to work on my Wales in Venice work and some zines I have planned.

 

 

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Text as Posters

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I tried out the text as posters, keeping the font in capitals for the previously mentioned reasons. The font type used was deliberately chosen – I found a font called ‘Heledd’ and I will exclusively only ever use this font now.

I wanted to add some colour, so I went for a grey with a hint of teal mixed in – I only wanted a hint of colour. I’ve been obviously influenced by the James Richards ‘DON’T WORRY WHAT HAPPENS HAPPENS MOSTLY WITHOUT YOU’ with this. The layout is a cross between the tote bag with that on and the way Whitechapel Gallery title their books.

I also tried flipping the text, disrupting our ability to read it. There was a page in the Michael Dean book where the text was flipped on the next page, like the ink had leaked through:

I’m not sure which outcome I think works best yet – I will see what they’re like printed.

Recording Booth – Sculptures

As well as recording instruments, I tried playing sculptures and objects. The most successful ones were a metal bowl I found last year, and my aluminium cast sculpture I made.

I played both percussively, but a revelation was had when I used my old violin bow on them. The quality of sound is completely unlike anything I’ve created before. Especially if you begin listening just after the bow has struck, you hear this pure ringing tone. The quality of that sound is so clean and clear, it sounds like recalling something. Like in the James Richards piece, the little whisps of ringing sounds and tinkling sounded like your memory was being jolted.

I think I might combine this sound with the text I’ve been working on in some way, in a sort of Pavlovian bell ringing fashion.

 

Recording Booth

After speaking to Neil  I found out there’s a recording booth for Speech and Language Therapy students, so I booked it out for a morning to get some decent recordings. I’ve been recording a lot of stuff at home for my Venice work I’m doing alongside for G39, but the background noises were annoying me when editing so I thought it high time to upgrade! I brought various objects and sculptures, my violin, my accordion, every whistle and tinwhistle I own, and I got Abi to bring her saxophone.

I wanted these partly to create a bank of sounds I can work with in general, but also to explore how we play instruments. Pekka Kuusisto’s interviews where he speaks about standardised ways of playing etc (refer back to previous posts) really got me thinking about not just standardised music, but sounds in general and the distinction between instruments and objects. When does an object become a sound making thing? Because all objects have sonic properties. Again with the theme of disruption, I wanted to disrupt the way of playing and listening, as well as upsetting the correlation between what we see and what we hear – seeing an object and hearing a sound we don’t expect broadens our understanding of that object.

Abi was brilliant and really explored the whole of the saxophone. I worked with my violin and accordion in the same way:

When editing and cleaning up all of these tracks the moments of silence really stood out to me. Like John Cage’s 4:33, the moments of ‘silence’ are really moments that you notice every sound that is constantly present. I’m going to try editing every pause or moment between deliberate sounds together to make one artificial silence.

As for the recordings themselves, they definitely aren’t ‘pieces’ as such. They’re the building blocks for other things I think, but I can work with them, and the ideas gained from the act of making them, into more established pieces.

Presenting Text

I printed out the text pieces I had made to see how they would be different physically. They do now have more presence as an object in the real world. Yet I find them too austere – too much of the human presence has been removed. To try and bring some back in, I went down to letterpress some of the text.

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The technique was definitely a valuable process for me. Printing with Martyn’s constellation lectures in mind (looking at the impact our actions have on the meshwork of all things), I was far more wary of how much waste I was producing. By my direct involvement with the process I was more aware of the quantity of materials that was being used. It made me work more carefully and thoughtfully.

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I went for ‘A LOSS THAT WAS INCONCLUSIVE’, in all capitals as I think it seems less like a word and more like a symbol this way. I do like the typeface and I think it carries the text well, but it would be difficult for me to change it as not many of the sets have a full alphabet of letters.

What I printed on definitely impacted the text. The tracing paper, especially the half prints, acted as a metaphor for the meaning, but the cartridge paper had more presence as an object.

I think the most successful print formats were the two above. On the left I printed the words twice over each other, the resulting image faintly readable but not quite. I think the layout works well too – one strip of ink in the middle of the rectangle. If the page was full then the ‘loss’ wouldn’t be supported or make sense. On the right I rotated the card as I printed, making a border out of the text and leaving the centre blank. I think this layout is really effective – the subject is conventionally in the centre and framed by the lesser, but the roles are switched here. Again, a visual metaphor for the text.

I want to try out different sizes next. The letterpress creates a very small and personal size, but how would a silk screen or woodblock come across?

Words in Sound

Reading words is one way of understanding them, but hearing them changes how we process the information. I tried using google translate as an impartial voice as my own  intonation etc was already influenced by the context etc. I wanted an interpretation of the words as words, without meaning.

Firstly I recorded ‘A LOSS THAT WAS INCONCLUSIVE’, followed by the 20 word experiment. The ‘A LOSS’ became clinical almost in it’s spoken form. The way it was said didn’t correspond at all to the meaning grasped from it, an example I suppose of how the voice can grant or take away authority from text. The ’20 words’ however gained meaning from the voice. The intonation and stressed on different words made it sound like a story, when it really is all nonsense.

I then edited the 20 words clip, firstly by lowering the pitch. It’s reduced to a very bass-ey frequency, yet still audible. Then I distorted it further to the point that you can’t distinguish the words. The result is very unnerving. The quality of the sound is that of a phone almost (another piece of technology embedded in the voice) yet you cannot comprehend the message. I did the same but with a higher frequency, this time less sinister but still impossible to understand. I envisage these being presented on a telephone, so the audience would pick it up and that would be playing down it. By not being able to understand quite what is being said, you focus and actively listen more, which is enhanced by the act of picking up a phone.

Following on from some experiments I did on art foundation, I started actually translating these texts through google translate. I would choose a language and keep re-translating the phrase until the meaning stopped changing. I experimented with different ways of displaying these afterwards, also working with the original phrases.

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I think typed rather than handwritten, these phrases have a much greater presence and command more attention. I laid out the translate ones like a conversation (which is what it is really). It’s yet again a way of disrupting the text: continuously translating it until the meaning is lost. Some of the outcomes were similar, some completely different. I don’t know whether to keep the final translation as a text on it’s own, or keep the conversation that created it as a whole, or perhaps just stick with the English.

 

 

Making Sense of Words

I’ve been looking at a lot of text based art recently,  the main feature of it being how it doesn’t make explicit sense. Text is used in such a way that it triggers a response or some sort of understanding, yet it doesn’t say anything in concrete. Phrases are ambiguous and subtle.

James Richard’s text piece, ‘DON’T WORRY WHAT HAPPENS HAPPENS MOSTLY WITHOUT YOU’ is used on the Wales in Venice bag, but took it’s original form in print, then sculpture.

The text was originally used as a poster for Richard’s degree show, but then was turned into a sculpture in collaboration with Matt Keegan:

‘The works in It’s Over There are gestures that initially read as straightforward but in actuality demand sustained reflection because of the fundamental nature of each work’s inquiry. This is no more true than in Matt Keegan & James Richards’ steel wall sculpture, whose laser-cut out form spells this telling statement: Don’t Worry, What Happens, Happens Mostly Without You. The pithy text, animated by the haunting shadow it casts on the wall, points outward like a sigh of relief or even resignation. The work speaks to the viewer directly, and asks him or her to decipher the message. But as with all of the presented works, no clear resolution is provided; for clarity is somewhere beyond, tied up in the performativity of objects, representations, and ideas unfolding before our eyes.’

Obviously the presentation comes into play here, but the text itself is what really interests me. It echoes the way sentences are constructed in the sound installation. Thinking in this way, I tried making sentences from words in the word bank I had collected.

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All the phrases read as being quite tactile: ‘Physical Mutation’, ‘Mutation of the Body Touched’ etc. That in itself is something to look into further: how language can be used to stimulate responses in other senses.

My favourite phrase was ‘A loss that was inconclusive’. The words were already pretty much next to eachother, I just had to rearrange them to make sense. This sentence is exactly what I was trying to create: it does make sense, but loosely. You can’t quite grasp it. You think, what loss? What was inconclusive? It’s a sentence that immediately generates questions in you and gets you thinking. Next I will work with different ways of displaying this text.