Werner Herzog – Into the Inferno

I watched Werner Herzog’s ‘Into the Inferno’ recently, and two main features interested me in terms of my practice. Firstly, the way the lava shaped itself and moved reminded me of Robert Pepperell’s teachings on visual indeterminacy. Any frame could have been paused and an interesting image would be left on screen.

The main things that caught my attention though was the soundtrack. Most of the volcanoes they were filming were in South America, Africa, or Indonesia specifically. Yet every time there was a clip of the lava etc, they had Christian choral music playing. I found this a strange combination – the music was mostly serene and calming, yet it was played with this destructive footage of volcanoes. I think they complimented each other well, though. The people watching this documentary would mainly be a western audience who are familiar with this kind of music to some degree. Sacred music from other cultures wouldn’t necessarily be recognised in the same way, as people aren’t as familiar with them. The use of it with the footage heightens the sense of awe we experience of the volcano.

This could be something worth playing with – using existing music or footage that you wouldn’t expect together, and creating new contexts for them in their combinations. I think thinking of existing music as a tool to create with as well is an interesting angle – music carries both it’s inherent emotional impact, but cultural connotations etc as well which could be interesting to play with.


Venice – Sarah McMenemy

I found this book by chance in a little shop in Bristol, and had to get it. It’s an accordion fold, so similar in format to some of the books I’ve been looking at. It has a little box, and then the whole book folds out. I like how the book continues from one side to the other by not having two covers – this creates a natural flow from one side of the paper to the next. I like the idea of having the open continuous form like this, but I think I still want it to be within a cover. If it’s got a hard sleeve like this one it will be too formal I think. I want it to be almost sketchbook like, as the content is a representation of ways of working.

I do like the pop up structure of the book and the construction. Though not appropriate for this piece, I want to make more books in future and this could be an interesting way of doing so.


Special Collections

I went to the special collections section in the library to see some physical copies of artists books and get an idea of construction etc. Due to copyright issues etc I can only post about the ones I could find online, but the whole collection was amazing. The way you can fold and construct paper to change the way you navigate a book can heavily influence your experience of it. The most interesting one I found was Tsunami:

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On Boxing Day 2004, a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the Indian Ocean, killing more than 230,000 people in 14 countries. To commemorate the victims, West Bengali scroll painters Joydeb and Moyna Chitrakar created a ballad and a stunning picture scroll in the tradition of Patua, a form of narrative graphic art, transforming the tragic news into an artful and poetic fable. The fine folks at Tara Books, who brought us such handmade gems as The Night Life of Trees and I Like Cats, turned the Patua scroll into a book — but it’s no ordinary book. Tsunami is made entirely by hand and silkscreened onto handmade paper. It unfolds like a scroll and even features a hole from which to be hung on your wall. Its thick pages exude the rich smell of the authentic Indian dyes used in the screen-printing process, breathing even more mesmerism into the project’s extraordinary feat of bridging the fodder of newsrooms with the ancient art of Patua storytelling.

This was a beautifully made book. From the handmade paper to the concertina fold, it felt like an object to be treasured. I really liked how the images flowed across the pages. I want to do something like this for my graphic score – a continuous drawing with no breaks. This could be a good format for that.


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.

Graphic Scores

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When making the Venice piece, I made a lot of sketches an drawings to help construct the piece, graphic scores if you will. I used to draw graphic scores of places, music etc a lot and I think it’s worth getting back into it. I found it a useful way of a) organising and planning what I was making, and b) exploring how sound translates to visuals etc. I’ve realised recently how interested I am in this translation of the senses – vision to sound, touch to vision, etc. I also wanted to document the Map of Venice I made for G39 in some way more than just the piece at the time, and a graphic score seems the perfect way.

To help me visualise the layout I want to use, I’ve been researching graphic scores again. I think as a musician, interpreting graphic scores is an exercise in interpretation, but as a writer/composer, the creation of one is an exercise in representation/understanding. I like the individuality of graphic scores – no performance from them will be the same, and no reading of them will be taken in the same way. I think they have the capability to express more than pitch and time as western musical notation does – they can express so much more. Possibly their most valuable asset is their ability to rewire our brains to see sound. They could act as a tool for this?

I really love Roman Haubenstock-Ramati’s scores – the use of line and colour really expresses musicality I think, yet there is still a structure to them that you can work around. I haven’t worked with colour really for 2 years now, but it’s so linked to sound that I think it’s worth exploring. I like his combined use of shape, line, symbols and text as well – perhaps it’s worth considering using text in my score as well? It could express the language I used in the piece?

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.

Final Sound Piece: Venice take 2

I had intended to create a new sound piece for the exhibition, but life and a bread knife got in the way of recording new violin stuff which is disappointing, but life goes on. I remember hearing artist Neasa Terry talking about her work in the Rejoinders show at G39 when I had my crit. She spoke about how she had planned to do xyz and make work from it etc, but it didn’t work as planned and life happened and you can’t plan for these things. So I’m not so disappointed that the recording didn’t work out. Also I remembered that making the huge sound piece for Sightseers nearly drove me over the edge because my equipment is so bad, so I’d much rather make this piece once I’ve got some swanky new kit thanks to the Helen Gregory Memorial Fund trustees.

I’ve decided in the end to exhibit my Venice piece again for this, for a few reasons:

  • It’s the most ambitious piece I’ve made since my art foundation fmp, and I’d like to present it again now that I’ve had time to reflect on it further.
  • This time a year ago I was in Venice, where this whole thing began. I’d really like to round the whole experience off now, ready to move on with what I’ve gained from it.
  • In G39 my piece was on wireless headphones, and people naturally looked around the exhibition as they listened – it became a soundtrack for it almost. This worked well curatorially I think, but I want to let my work be heard in a different way. It will be displayed with an mp3 so free movement around is still possible, but I’m making a book for it as well which can be looked at whilst listening. The book is a graphic score of the piece.

I did a lot of sketches to help me visualise the piece whilst making it, and audacity is a very visual way of editing too. I want to display that element of the piece as well, and I think by doing so it will a) round off this experience for me, and b) generate a lot of new ideas to lead on from it.