Monthly Archives: May 2016

Symposium II

I remember very clearly the Symposium held this time last year, watching the then second years floundering under the pressure of presenting and responding to difficult questions. How quickly the world turns and it was our turn!

I went in the first group, a mix of people doing more functional, art based work with personal and poetic based content. It was a good grouping and I think all of the presentations in the group went well. I was pleased with how mine went, I did what I set out to do, although it is hard to tell how it went down with the tutors. I didn’t get any direct questions either – there was only one question about communicating emotions to the audience asked to all four of us. Perhaps no-one had anything to say to me, or couldn’t engage with my topic? Not sure.

The rest of the day was very intense but ok, most of the presentations weren’t too bad – most people had been a little more interesting than just a straightforward chronological catalogue of what they had done. As with last year, those who clearly do not understand their project nor their context stand out a mile. Also painfully standing out were those who are doing the course ‘just because’ and have no intention of building on it later. Perhaps people should just be more honest: saying that their MA project is just a one-off to build skills and they are going straight into an ordinary job afterwords. It would be much easier than experiencing a mauling under questioning. Overall, my main takeaway was about use of language, and how easy it is for someone to make sweeping statements and assumptions about people using their choice of words. You must be aware of how people will interpret the messages you put across. Also, there is no such thing as “Eastern” or “Western”!

First assessment box ticked!

Show: T-6 weeks
27 days until show build

How to build an installation

So then. It is decided that I am doing an installation for the show – large scale for me, although perhaps small scale in absolute terms. I must consider there will be a dozen other students showing in the same space!

I have been going back over my research notes looking at the range of things which are possible, trying to see what resonates with the fundamental concepts I have come out with for what the installation is seeking to do. My thought is that I am using the map yarns in a way that each thread unravels a fragment of identity formed or remembered – a story, a choice, a path, a longing. The binding of the threads together perhaps can then offer a glimpse of the fleeing whole sense of self.

There are many artists working with fibre installations, and each offers a different perspective on how their materials can be transformed spatially, texturally and through form. How do I want to create an expression of my different experiences? Do I want to represent the size of impact each place had on forming my identity?

I also need to consider the number of map yarns it will be possible to make in the time we have left, and how many I would go to in an ideal world. There are not an infinite number of places in my life, so which places am I choosing? Those which have made the strongest impact irrelevant of time span?

My plan now is to do some testing which plain paper yarns in a space in the studio – check what a hanging installation could look like, what the lengths of my yarns will look like on the floor and options for building the individual strands into one whole. Oh and continue to make endless amounts of map yarn!

Show: T-8 weeks

So the show prep begins

We had our first return visit to the show space today since our brief glimpse last term. It gave us a chance to have a look around with a more discerning eye. Where are the windows? Where are the fire doors or signs which cannot be blocked and so on. It is not nearly as nice a space as the usual Designer Maker final show space – over in our other building. Yet another annoying consequence of having building works dumped on us without notice (the first being our nice studio getting demolished). Anyway, we must work with what we have, and so that work begins.

There is a lot of co-ordination to be done, but people seemed keen today to get started. We did some measurements of the room for example, and talked about a few things which need to be done. Hopefully the importance of the show will not be lost on anyone and we will have a more successful organisation that the last small pop-up show.

My thoughts are still about hanging from the ceiling, which although not quite as high as I remember it, is still about 4m high – so I can get a good amount over head height if I need to. The challenge might be a hanging system as I don’t think we will be allowed to screw anything directly into the ceiling (why have they kept old wallpapered ceilings in an art college???). I need to look into where I get wires which can be screwed across the wall, and how to go about hanging from one of those.


The Voices Within

A fascinating talk at the Royal Institution last night, on The Voices Within. Lead by psychologist Charles Fernyhough, the talk questioned what it it means to think, what it is like to have a thought. His research leads a new field in developmental psychology around cognitive development, and how language and thought are related.

His main premise is that thinking itself is most often a verbal process – a type of speaking by, and listening to, the multiple voices of our consciousness. Thinking by its very nature is linguistic. He introduced this idea by showing us a model for how language development / thinking occurs through childhood and into adulthood.

First comes the social dialogue. Children are taught to talk in relation to other people. Their parents say hello to them, as to do other people – so develops the ability to hold an external conversation. From here, children begin to have conversations out loud with themselves – a sort of problem solving by talking to yourself as you would someone else – which the psychologists call private speech. As we get older, more of this private speech becomes internalised, and condensed, into what is known as inner speech. These are the voices which are always in your head.

The phrase ‘internal monologue’ is well known, and each of us have experienced such a stream of thinking – perhaps when reading the paper going over a scenario, practising a speech and so on. However, research has shown that if people are asked to pinpoint the nature of their spontaneous thoughts at a random time of day, most of our thinking is in fact a dialogue: a dialogic interaction as Professor Fernyhough put it. This is us talking to ourselves, where ‘me’ is the speaker and ‘me’ is the interlocutor. The second me could in fact be a representation of anyone – we might imagine ourselves talking to a loved one, or the boss etc – but critically we are still having a conversation, talking, listening and hearing all inside our heads: this is the stuff that thoughts themselves are made of.

In a great article online here, there is info on the importance of this inner speech to our sense of self itself: “inner speech plays an important role in self-awareness and self-understanding. People who lose their capacity for use inner speech due to brain impairments have reported memory problems as well as a reduced sense of identity.”

Overall, it was the best talk at the RI I have been to, and Prof F was an eloquent and captivating speaker. I have been thinking about how this idea of language and self like together in relation to making a final decision about how to display my poetry for the final show work. I like the idea of bringing out the aspects of self as a conversation – a more refined, developed form of the steam of consciousness poems perhaps – although not so far that it reads as a screenplay.

Show: T-9 weeks



Group crit with Maiko

We had a catch up with our course tutor just as our last ‘off-site’ break begins to end. I have reached the point of being very tired with everything now, and struggling to find motivation to keep going – but it is only eleven weeks to the end of the course now.

I shared my ideas for a large scale installation, in what was a very positive overall discussion with the group.


They all seemed to like the overall concept of an immersive installation, even if the consensus was that I could continue to strengthen and improve the specific presentation of my idea. They offered comments about each of the components: the map string itself was received well, and we had fun stretching one piece of yarn out across the studio to its full length. Questions were raised about why I had initially thought to keep it under tension – why did I want to do that? What about using its more organic form straight from its making? There were also some ideas on making the installation exploiting the different places I am transforming into yarn. Each place is different so could have a different form.

On the poetry, the question remained as to what I wanted people to be able to take from it and how best to get this across. I could still go back to the idea of the book of poetry, or Maiko suggested poems for each of the places being constructed from the maps. There is also my ongoing research on the stream of consciousness and using this as the source material for comprehending one’s sense of self. Do I make more use of the stream of consciousness idea but in an alternative form to just writing words on the wall?

Show: T-9 weeks