Monthly Archives: October 2014

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When the veil of reality grows thin

Happy Hallowe’en!

In long legends from across the British isles, Hallowe’en and the old Celtic Samhain festival which preceeded it, have marked the death of summer and the start of the cold winter season. All Hallow’s Eve was the night before the start of the winter season on 1 November; the night is in between summer and winter, not belonging to either but connected to both.  This liminality gives it potency, and is thought to connect the ‘ordinary’ reality to otherworldy realities. Due to this, people thought the veil between worlds becomes thin – thin enough for spirits, demons or the dead to come back through into our plane of existence.

This is why there are so many customs which are in fact old divination techniques – apple bobbing, throwing chestnuts into the fire and so on – as perhaps the veil becomes so thin you can see the future clearly. Ignoring the commercial nature of our modern Hallowe’en and the dentist’s joy of trick or treating, there is a real primal fear underpinning the Hallowe’en legend: darkness, winter and the fear of the unknown.  No-one really knows if spirits and ghosts exist or if what people feel are just experiences of something else which science cannot currently explain. Reality is what we construct around us; so we interpret the unknown in the only way our brains can process.

So…perhaps you should lock your door this evening and light a candle in the window.

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To mark the day, here is a poem. Samhain by Annie Finch

In the season leaves should move
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn die to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
til they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother’s mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty.
“Carry me.” She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.

A question of topology

Long, busy day today.  A combination of last night’s insomnia with so much to take in has fried my poor brain.  There were a lot of interesting thoughts generated however, so I will get these thoughts down before piling myself onto the sofa.

First off was the continuation of our context seminar which we started last Thursday, and the final few people finished off today.  It was a really good discussion, I found having such different opinions and perspectives really fascinating – and it is great having so many different international perspectives.  I wrote down a few key points for me to consider:

  • Who is your audience?    I want to work with anyone – I don’t want my work to only speak to artists and intellectuals.  Can I make it engaging for anyone?  I am not trying to be an activist or to start a campaign, but to start a discourse or philosophical discussion about ourselves and our place in the universe.
  • What is craft; what is traditional craft?   How old does something need to be to be a tradition?  There is an adage, “If you do something twice it is a trend, three times is a tradition”.  How do people currently interpret such traditional or heritage crafts across the sphere of art and design.
  • History of craft: consider the history of the crafts you work with and contextual knowledge, not just using it for construction.

I also thought about my current mini-project “dimensional stitching”, and that I would like to consider other ways of constructing 3D objects from the 1D line.  From line to form. New making idea: create a series of surfaces using linear materials, experimenting using different techniques (thread, wire, sticks etc).  This will be something I’l add to me 10 week off-site work plan. For some reason I can’t identify yet, I quite fancy stitching with rocks and pebbles – but not sure what this has to do with my proposal yet!

After that we had a lovely talk from two MADM alumni who graduated in 2012 and have been having exiting and very different careers so far. Very interesting indeed!  Sounds like a challenge though – and that the key thing on graduating is having a clear idea of who I am and what I stand for.

Last up after all of that was a group crit with Maiko, our first which was actually starting to look at the objects we have made. I showed the group the last two pieces I made before the start of this new mini-project, responding to the end of the Getting Making workshops.  If you have been reading along, I am sure you will remember the wormhole like thing I made the other day.  The first question was, “what next with it?”.  It’s an interesting enough form – I told the group it was a bit makeshift, and was asked if it was mathematically accurate. Maiko said why not make one (if you really can make such a thing accurate).  I was not at all keen on the idea, and tried lamely to explain that I didn’t want to be a scientist that made art. The group don’t see any issue with this – perhaps I have seen too many bad / cheesy attempts at representing science in art, or perhaps it really is just a matter of self-doubt.  I have a real neurosy over the different aspects of myself, and this is the first time I’ve run up against it in the course.  To be expected of course – and encouraged.  One of my ambitions of the course is to leave knowing more what makes me, me.  It just seemed a bit wrong to just make a wormhole.  The best I can do to explain this is that it feels like copying – all I am doing is making an object which already exists (even if only mathematically) without any design effort; like making a clay apple. Nice, but it’s just an apple.  Saying all of that however, I did like the idea of making a room sized wormhole sculpture!

So, what to do then?  Well, the development coach in me says that the feeling of doubt and insecurity should be creatively explored.  By trying something that I currently feel is firmly ‘not what I want to make’, l can explore the properties of this and learn something really valuable. I could think of it like an opposite I suppose. I will two new test objects – a wormhole type object (which at least looks mathematicaly consistent) and a second version which it my interpretation of it. I have also thought of a new method of construction which should look neater than the scrappy twisted paper!

This is a good popular science article on what wormholes are from Scientific American; and this is a mathematical representation.

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ANT xx