Suil air ais, ceum air adhart…

Suil air ais, ceum air adhart… which in English means: looking back, moving forward.

Recently I have been listening to a lot of music from one of my favourite Scottish Gaelic singers, Julie Fowlis.  I find her singing very beautiful and emotionally expressive. In particular, she sings a type of traditional Gaelic song known as Puirt-a-beul, or ‘mouth music’.  Puirt-a-Beul originates from a time when instruments were scarce, so the singing alone became the instrument itself – it is rhythmic and dynamic – pure vocals driving the music, so you could work a repetitive beat to the words.  This music is how I currently feel about my project after reflecting on yesterday’s session and a useful chat with our tutor Maiko. This is an obscure comparison even for me, so I will explain, but if you are new to Gaelic music (which I suspect most of my followers will be), here is an approachable example of Julie singing a Puirt-a-Beul set. It isn’t unaccompanied, but you will still get the idea.

So how is this relevant?

Well, a few things happened today which has driven my thinking. Firstly, I went into our weekly seminar still feeling very “Lost at Sea” this morning after yesterday’s session.  The session through up some very interesting questions and ideas; also I had already arranged to chat with Maiko (to get her to stop me panicking), so I got the chance to air my newly re-arranging thoughts into order with her.  First, my more considered reflection from the Getting Making workshops and everything which happened today.

  • I looked back on the whole series of items I have made to look at what has connected my ideas.  I’m working on instinct, so what is that instinct telling me?  The key connections seem to be stitching, threads, a sense of dimensionality and in a number of pieces aspects of deconstruction.
  • Although the works fit with my project proposal, do they fit with my context?  They fit philosophically yes, but I’m doing a Designer / Maker course, not anthropology.  So for the at & design context, I’m not so sure they do fit. In fact, I’m not so sure I haven’t just tried to just hack a bigger art context onto my ideas.
  • I clearly don’t really understand my context yet, nor do I have confidence it is the right one.  I need to continue to consider this in light of the direction my making is going.  Don’t over think in isolation!
  • I’ll repeat for emphasis – don’t think too much!
  • Maiko made the very good point about me doing a design course, not philosophy, so “what do i want to portray though our experience of objects, or through the experience of making?”
  • Don’t just consider cultural or societal differences, look to what unites us as part of the human condition – perhaps my question about changes in the digital age is just a small part of the bigger picture, not the big thing in itself.
  • Try not to look inwards all of the time, step back and look outwards to other people, other artists and references for your wider context.
  • I may not be as confused as I think, I just need to give it time for thoughts to settle and not panic. Don’t beat yourself up.
  • You can oscillate your level of focus – from very fine details, out to the biggest context for your work and back again. I think I may have been trying to do both at once.

What will I do differently / what will I do next to improve?

  1. I have decided to follow my fingers as it were, and take the strands of work which I have found most enjoyable to make and most resonant materials from the series of Getting Making workshops.  These will drive my next set of mini-projects and experiments.  If this means I stray from my project proposal so be it; I will re-write it.  I intend to experiment with the strands of DIMENSIONALITY, DECONSTRUCTION and VIRTUALITY.  I will explain more about what I mean by these in later posts.
  2. I am going for the moment, to focus right down on using only threads to express my ideas.  This has been the biggest material consistency so far this term, and what I keep coming back to. I don’t mind not using fabric, but it pains me to think about giving up using thread – hence a good sign I should be using it.
  3. I have been thinking from proposal to object, not context to object. I am going to try to switch mindsets.  At least I will when I re-assess my context.
  4. I will review more of my artists references in depth, and see exactly what it is about their work which connects to me.  Perhaps actually reading all of the books which I have borrowed from the library as well.

If you are still wondering, the connection with the Puirt-a-Beul singing is simply: this music to me encapsulates beauty through repeated use of a single vocal instrument.  No bells, whistles or expensive set ups needed, just the singing.  Can I achieve the same purity of material by making using thread to create different scenes which pull at different aspects of our perception?  Simplicity through the beauty of complexity.

Enough thinking for one day!



7 thoughts on “Suil air ais, ceum air adhart…

  1. tomtheangler

    I felt your comment using threads to pull at different aspects of our perception aiming to create ‘simplicity through the beauty of complexity’ is akin to the creation of music. In essence creating beauty through the complex combination of single simplistic notes. Which if not in harmony will just become noise.

    1. antalbot Post author

      Very interesting thoughts thanks tomtheangler. Perhaps I should experiment in creating both harmony and noise and see what different emotions are invoked!


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