Monthly Archives: November 2015

A new way of working

I’ve given myself the rest of 2015 off! Well, sort of.

My plan is to release myself from any requirement to think about the final show, or my future vision, or even the outcomes of my project until after Christmas. This means I can have December to have a rest and try out some new ways of working and see how I get on. I want to do two things:

1. Play with my concept, explore it a little more as a fundamental question (rather than as something to make things by). I am going to start by going right back to the idea of how place and identity are linked and by asking a simple yet complex question:

Consider for a moment, your sense of self, that which makes you who you are. If you try to describe this as a place, what would it look like? What can you see, hear or feel around you? 

2. To make some samples without thinking too much about them theoretically. I want to see how I can let a material lead the development. I am starting from the map. I’ve spoken a lot about the concept of the map before, but materially speaking the map is most commonly a physical thing – a piece of paper, backed on cloth (old-school), just a piece of paper or a digital image. There are also mind made maps – a sequence of images, visual or sensory clues perhaps, which guide us from A to B (such as that Poy and I made manifest in our collaboration project). I am going to start from here and see where I go.

I started on a couple of what might best be described as material sketches, and it was interesting looking at what I made without the explicit focus on the form/new techniques I have had in mind over the last few months. The first thing I turned too was patchwork and stitch: a skill that much like my calligraphy, I just do without thinking about it. Now that was unexpected.

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Feedback tutorial with Maiko

This is what I took away:

  • Try making without thinking so much
  • My research paper was good, so use the learning found in it to help guide your making
  • Proposal seems to have been re-focussed to try to make it more objective – you don’t need to do this. It is ok for work to be subjective and about your journey as other people can still relate to this. Recall the context you uncovered in the research paper. It is fine to keep updating it though, the Unit 1 Submissions wasn’t a final draft.
  • Consider talking to others about how their sense of self is shaped by a sense of place – more than just words, you remember things with all of your senses (although everyone remembers differently)
  • Try to do a mini-project which is material led, this doesn’t have to be part of the bigger context, just something to help me work differently
  • Re: Unit 2 / future practice, it’s time to start thinking about your future audiences and channels – if you want to exhibit etc, who is your audience and where would you want to sell / show your work
  • Consider other definitions of locality – locality can be within a person (you make your own place within your self). My work has always been about place: the human narrative, history, impressions and memories overlayed onto a physical space is the key within my project, it’s not just about experience of a space


Bridge over troubled waters

There is a gap which needs to be bridged between finishing up Unit 1 and starting Unit 2. There is sunshine on the far side of the bridge, but sharks are circling beneath it that will eat you if you fall. Coming out of the assessment, I had thought I knew what I wanted to aim towards for the final show, something which would push forward some of the elements of my practice I want to develop and would also tick the required boxes for finishing the MA. After getting my Unit 1 feedback and our Unit 2 Briefing, I’m now not so sure.

I really need some help from the tutors here. I know we have a post-assessment meeting on Monday, so I thought I would step through my key pieces of feedback & concerns first so I can use my 30mins as efficiently as possible. I don’t want to ramble and waste the opportunity to get some direction.

1. Your recent proposal appears to have lost the element of identity in relation to space/place

Well this was the opening point and the most worrying, because my proposal certainly hasn’t done this, so did the tutors miss it? or have I not been clear? I think I will send Maiko a copy of my un-edited project proposal introduction which at 900 words (for a proposal with a word limit of 1000) was way too long and hence cut in half. Something has clearly been lost in translation.

2. Gap between theoretical work and development of practical work.

Hmm….well, yeah that’s undeniable really….

3. Lack of confidence

Easy to comment on, incredibly hard to fix. How are you supposed to get more confident? Maybe if I sold something, or had someone independent tell me I had some promise? Maybe if I genuinely believed I was any good?

4. Not letting the material take the lead / concepts ‘wedged’ into objects

Well, this one will always be a slight point of contention with me, as concept always, always comes first – the object doesn’t even need to exist and you could still have a perfectly valid art work. However, that being said, I do want whatever object/work I make to speak honestly about itself and (ideally) this should echo my objectives without me saying much about it. Figuring out how to do that is the crux of it really.

5. Role of textual language in my work 

Hmm. This is my big dilemma of the moment. See point 8.

6. Not enough ambition / risk, work all too safe 

As per my last post, I agree this is a reasonable and fair comment. However, I have no idea what to do in order to be more risky. I don’t know what classes as risky and what is just stupid – and I still remember trying stuff and being told off for making things with no relevance throughout last year. I worry about falling into the same trap.

7.  More in depth experimentation 

I am keen to do this and want to confirm that in Unit 2 I can do this as experimentation on all points: about the concept, the material, about the experience of the concept through my making, or through the process of viewing or both or some other as of yet undefined thing I could do. At the moment, I want to focus on the idea of the artist as cartographer – looking at the edges of the map as a way into understanding the limits of our own identities. The heterotopia is a place which exists simultaneously outside of all places, a place both real and virtual, but which is a place from where we can view ourselves in our entirety, understanding our past, present and future selves as they superimpose to form the fleeting, momentary construct that is our identity. Ok…so I know how to use the words, but I’ve got to make this physically manifest somehow. This part I am excited by.

8. Unit 2: working towards your practice 

For my future practice, I know that I want to position it as contemporary drawing. I know that I want the core of what I do to be around my abstract calligraphy and drawings (either on paper or textiles or both). I do quite like the idea of making object based poetry as well and I really do fancy making an artist’s book. What I am really not bothered about is making objects as objects. (Is that heresy for someone on a Designer/Maker course?). I am bothered about the material and process obviously – I believe this is critical – but I have no interest in making stuff just for the sake of it, or making stuff which “does something”. I don’t like the idea of social engagement either (I’m much too introverted for all of that frivolity). I quite like the idea of making art installations which have a sense of materiality about them (i.e. playing with the concept of a drawing in real 4 dimensional spacetime), but these will need to have an alignment of medium and message. I do like the idea of immersive, large-scale as well (immersive or interactive??) and even little ol’ terrified me has had ideas for what I could install in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

The problem is how I reconcile all of this future vision with what I have been doing for the last year. How on earth do I move forward? Can I really find a way to do this all as one coherent concept? Is that even possible with the hole I have dug myself into?

Is that what Unit 2 is really about?

Unit 1 Assessment Feedback

We got our assessment feedback today. I feel like I really want to write about it – to process it – but can’t figure out what to say or what to think. The unit was essentially just pass or fail, and having passed (yay!) that’s great. Once HB gets home I will be seeking out that bottle of rather nice Pinot he sneaked onto the wine rack last week. Celebrate your successes and all that. On second thoughts maybe I won’t wait for him….

What I’m not so sure about is the written feedback. I can’t tell if it’s incredibly critical and condemning of my work or if its really helpful and hopeful that I can improve. Maybe it’s both. We have a chance to discuss it with Maiko on Monday so that should give me some time to reflect on it properly, but my initial reaction was to have got upset about it.

I think I’m just really tired, it’s been a really long term, and I’m frustrated that the tutors still don’t get what I’m trying to say with my work – neither in my project proposal nor in the work itself. I wonder if they are trying to say its actually me who still doesn’t understand what I’m trying to do. The other thing that frustrates me, is when they say “be more ambitious, take more risks”. What does that actually mean? What do I need to do to take more risks? I must be missing something as I just don’t know what they mean by risky. Should I know? is that what my problem is?


At least they liked my blog  🙂

Orientation and map making workshop

We had the chance to drop into a workshop the lovely Bridget was running for the first years this morning, the aim of which was to essentially make a giant context map for the whole MADM cohort. I was taking part primarily to observe and document the process, seeing how the mind mapping process was approached by the participants and how we went from blank page to completed map.

The first stage was creating a physical map by standing people in groups according to their future vision (get a job, run a studio etc.). We then started to join people according to what materials they use in their practice.

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One of the key things I noticed was the fluidity of the map – what Bridget was doing was essentially changing the projection method and watching what happens. The links and points stay the same but the arrangement of the network moves. This is something I will be very keen to look into more.

The second half of the exercise was to create a mind map using cards/pictures for the context of the entire class. This was very interesting to watch and see the overlaps of everyone’s work. I did feel a little isolated sadly though, as my work still seems to drop of the very edge of the group – even more so in comparison with the first years as they seem to be very design / product heavy. This is something I have to just accept as it is more critical than ever for us to be true to our own practices – and do the work we want/need to do for ourselves.

This was the resulting map:
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Overall very informative and fun, as always with Bridget’s workshops. Lots of thoughts to take away.

Assessment time!

It is finally here! After 435 days at Camberwell our very first formal assessment has arrived. I don’t like rushing around in last minute panics, so I spent the whole day getting everything prepared and ensuring my table reflects my overall narrative. The tutors arrive for marking tomorrow…

In the end, I decided that the links shown from my work and my references are actually continuous, and even though I have iterated my proposal a few times (I am now on v2.2) it really is the same thing at the root which I have been searching for. I grouped all of my work by process – as the making process has become a core of my work, something I am very pleased I understand properly at last. We have to curate our samples, and since I have done rather a lot of them over the year, I had to choose what to drop out. Things like the #100cubes project (badly made), the daily squares (ill-conceived idea), some of the ritual baskets (materially confused). What ended up on the table was essentially either samples of basketry/weaving processes, or mark-making/drawing based on psychogeography. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!!

I am surprisingly pleased by this fact, as I had been worried I wouldn’t find the narrative in my journey. And there it is staring me in the face. Here is a wee snapshot of my submission…

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The one thing I added to the table which wasn’t exactly in the requirements list, is a vision for my Unit 2 work. After the pearls of wisdom from Sandya last year, I have wanted to have a clear and focussed idea to move forward with. This I finally have, and I am very excited about being able to get into depth with this idea ready for the show. More in a future post about the project in detail….

Thoughts on a year of learning

I’ve been putting together some bits and pieces for the Unit 1 assessment which is now only a week away. This has been a great opportunity to reflect on the last year (and a bit) as a whole and see what I have learnt in that time. Reading back though my blog from when I started last September was quite something. At least the quality of my blog writing has definitely improved!

I wanted to capture some of my key learning points, things I think I understand now which I didn’t before:

On motivation 

  1. You have to OWN IT
  2. You must follow your own path – you can be inspired and collaborate with everyone, but you must walk alone.  It doesn’t matter what your colleagues do or don’t do, you direct your own learning.
  3. I see people I admire and am fascinated to listen to and others who I don’t get inspired by at all.  This is fine – we do not have to click with everyone and everything.

On the art process 

  1. Intent: something made when you know why, what and how, can be so much more powerful than making on the go. Improvisation can still be intentional, but winging it will always show.
  2. You cannot separate your process from the object being made
  3. An object must be understood as more than a thing in itself, it must be placed within its whole system – its surroundings, history and context all change the way the viewer will interact with the object
  4. The making process is at the heart of turning concept into reality; process and material go hand in hand
  5. You can declare something ‘ordinary’ (such as a humble sheet of paper), but in the act of drawing attention to this aspect of its nature, you change that nature, generating an extra-ordinaryness about the object
  6. Fundamentally, I think I look at the world differently – or perhaps I just see things I would have otherwise missed before.
  7. However important I think the concept of an art piece is, I also value craftsmanship and quality; I think both need to work together.

On materials

  1. Just because something is there, it doesn’t mean you have to use it; just because something isn’t in front of you, doesn’t mean you can’t find it
  2. What is everyday to you may be brand new to someone else
  3. Even the rain means different things to different people
  4. I finally understand the agency that the material itself has in generating meaning
  5. Designers do not create meanings – they create form; it is users who create meanings