Category Archives: 03 Camberwell MA Work

Highlights of the degree show

Almost a week has passed, since the exhibits came down, the walls were repainted and the lights turned off on our final degree show. It was a great experience, although I am glad it is all over. I promised you all some potted highlights, in case you didn’t make the show!

Do you know who you are?

If you turn and look back
Do you see the places you passed on your way here?
Each dwelling, carving it’s nature onto your identity,
However fleeting the pause.

Shadows, built from real and imagined places,
Embedding themselves into your self.
You may not even have noticed it happening
Until you were already gone.

The absolute identity does not exist;
The self is nothing but a haunting of memories, experiences and fiction.
Each pause is an unravelling,
A fragment of identity found or remembered;
A choice, a path, a longing.

You should not have come here looking for yourself.
You will find nothing.

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In total there was 221 metres of map string made from 32 individual maps, carefully chosen to represent specific places significant to my own identity. The book of poetry sits alongside offering a glimpse as to the nature of the memories belonging to each place, each thread.

And lots and lots of visitors!

Thanks again to everyone who helped make the show possible, particularly those who generously offered their help in sourcing or offering vintage maps. You all got a mention in my book 🙂

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And then, it was all finished.

So that’s it. All over – the show is down and the studio is being packed up and emptied. After today I won’t be back on site as a student in Camberwell again.

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I realise I have been so wrapped up in the chaos that has been the show, that I haven’t blogged on how it has gone. This post will be coming soon! For now though, that strange mixture of relief, happiness and the slight melancholy of leaving is all I can think about. Yesterday was the last day of the show and as the final visitors walked around our whole class gathered in the 32C sunshine behind our studio for an improptu bbq. A jug of pimms, fresh watermelons and a host of terminally undercooked sausages made for a light hearted, friendly farewell to the year.

The mood today is different. Reality sets in as the grade results letters and feedback are passed around. Sadly not everyone is so cheerful as last night. The show is all being packed away and many people are wondering what’s next – knowing the world of real work awaits, and the likelihood is most of us might not ever see each other again.

I’m sat in the shade waiting for one last chat with Maiko, before I disappear into the world outside of college again. It has been a long but fulfilling road of personal development to get here. For someone who had not even a GSCE in Art (I used to consistently get 2/10 for homework), I am pleased to have made it and – even if it wasn’t the qualification I was after – its nice to officially have an MA to add to my collection of degrees. [Just for the record, this is it; I am not doing another one].

There will be time for ideation and business planning later, for now I think it is time for a wee rest.

Statement of current practice

The last piece of written work needed to go in this week too – a critical evaluation of all of our reflection over the course of the MA. It really hits home that this is all nearly over now, and time to move onwards and upwards hopefully! We were asked to put forward a statement of our current practice – a design principle or artists’ statement for us as we move on. This was a rather pleasant task to write I thought. So here we are:

Artists’ statement:

My work explores our concepts of self, by looking for our encounters with ourselves as we travel through life, where we can glimpse some fragment of truth about who we are. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-existing identities, we can see how these strands are built from places which become part of us through our lives. Shadows of real and imagined places embed themselves into the self, an interconnection of experience, memory and fiction. These shadows haunt us as we pass through the spaces of the world, generating belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation. My practice is based upon exploring these shadows, searching for a sense of belonging which cannot be found. When so much of our individual experiences of people and places are filtered through our cultural psychology, what happens when you have no place you feel is home?

At its root, my work is a conversation between language and memory. These are the tools which facilitate the relationship between our internal and external worlds – the bridge between the physical world and our world of personal experience. Language allows us to communicate with each other, to talk to ourselves, and to identify ourselves. I engage with the language of poetry as a way to access the communication of our inner self, both as a raw, immediate art form in itself, as well as exploring the possibilities of the visual poem through the materiality of ink, paper and fibres.

Many of the processes I use in my work are based on the creation of structure through transformation, layering and repetition. My interests are now aligned to my methods: using a material which is conceptually elegant to make a constructed material which encapsulates both its own inherent narrative as well as my own. I have combined the use of this material language with a working process which allows the fibres space to demonstrate their properties. Installation as an immersive experience is a natural expression of a concept based around ideas of personal place.

Show Build week

So the final push begins! So far this week has progressed like I expected it to – based on all of our past pop-up shows – with only a handful of people doing the work for everyone else. I still find it astonishing how most people are still finishing their show work in the final days before the assessment – so they are in the workshops all day instead of helping with the show build. This unfortunately means everything ends up left until the very last minute and then is rushed. There has not been enough emphasis or care by many of my fellow students on the fact this is a group show. We are assessed on this exhibition as a group, and the show itself could act as a lever for our future career: it is sad and unfair that we will all suffer if our show isn’t put together well.

No amount of careful planning or organisation on my part can help if people don’t respond to e-mail calls for help, or simply vanish from college on the days of the build. I spent all day Tuesday helping to sand the walls (left in a really terrible state by the BA students) and brush the floor clean. My own work needs very little installation, so this was all group effort rather than self-interest. I did get some very much appreciated help from one of the BA lecturers though, who brought me in a mini tension wire perfect for the spot in the ceiling my work will hang from. (Look closely!)

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I left the work today to those making furniture for the space (shelves, plinths and so on). I will go in tomorrow to see the state of play and hopefully, by the end of the day, get my piece installed and ready for assessment.

I don’t want to put it up too early if it is going to be damaged by everyone still moving big bits of wood about.

We’ll see!

15 days until the show

Installation dry run II

The second stage of the installation testing was with the real map string, checking out how the quality of the real material (colours, textures, lengths) affect the nature of the display.

I tried out three different experiments with the hanging, using the closest height I could find to the show space. I found a ceiling about 3m high which is only 50cm or so lower than the space, so not too bad an approximation.

TEST ONE

Hanging as planned loose strings around a central core of 10 strings (those of “home”). I didn’t do much manipulation of how the strings fell, or how they unravelled on the floor.

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Pros: Like the organic vibrancy of the main section, which shows off the loose strings really well. The way each string has a different layout, as per each different memory which is being invoked, I very much like too

Cons: Top doesn’t work for me, nor do I think the core works very well. I really don’t like the floor layout, just too incoherent and confused.

 

TEST TWO

Making more of the core, and trying to rearrange the way the strings lay on the floor

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Pros: Interesting link to material history – ropes etc

Cons: Everything else. Don’t think this works at all.

 

TEST THREE

Going all the way into rope territory, twisting all of the map strings together into one laid up rope.

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Pros: Rope texture is lovely, and the gathering of the string at the bottom I think works really well.

Cons: Looses the natural organic interest when it is all twisted and you begin to loose part of the beauty of the map string – similar to how the construction of the weaving works.

 

Overall reflection 

I think it was an incredibly useful exercise in working through the tests with the real material, despite my concerns over the delicacy of using the strings. There was really no way I could risk doing this type of thinking live, under pressure, during the show build itself.

As a solution, I will do one more test, using a combination of the rope in test three (for the top section), the middle loose, natural hanging from test one (for the middle section), and the bottom from test three.

What remains now is how I intend to seal the ends and hang the rope in the show space. Current thoughts are twining all of the ends together and using wither a butchers hook against an eyelet on the ceiling, or somehow tying the ends of the rope onto a tension wire. Bridget suggested getting a sample of rope ends to test first before trying in the real space. I also need to figure out how to make something to rest my book on next to the installation, so people can see it better than if I lay it flat on the floor.

 

6 days until show build
22 days until the show opens

 

Installation dry run I

My first step (which was actually a few weeks ago now) was to gather a series of mock threads using a thick paper yarn to resemble the finished length map threads. I tested with 13 threads which was the number I had made at the time.

TEST ONE

Bunched at the top and tied to a tension wire, then just dropped – no untying or manipulating.

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  • Nice organicness to it
  • I like the way there is a number of different centres to it – does this imply a meaning where there is a home?
  • Nice to have a long stream from the back – but how practical is this in our show space
  • Does this look ok with a limited number of threads?

 

TEST TWO 

Taking test one and untangling, spreading apart roughly around the centre

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  • Don’t like this – looks untidy and overly-constructed.

 

TEST THREE

Bunched together as one strand completely

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  • Don’t like this either, although this may be not helped by the tightly coiled nature of the test threads – the real thing won’t twist quite like this

 

TEST FOUR

Making a core strand made up of maps of “home” twisted using the same technique as the individual yarns are made

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a) the stranded core is a lovely object in its own right, resembling a laid up rope. I could display this by itself?

b) adding outer threads to the core then dropping from the tension wire as per test 1. This core looks very good, but perhaps needs to be bigger?  Do I want more than one core, or will this be distracting once the threads are in colour?

 

TEST FIVE

Using double the number of threads – in this case testing with 26 threads.

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  • would this suit a second inner core? (another strand of self which is rooted in a set of places)
  • wrapping the inner core around the other threads works really well. Would this work with the heavier map paper yarns?
  • Which places should I pick out for the core – places which cannot be forgotten, places which cannot be lost – forever etched onto the facets of our self.
  • Would this piece look better with a book of poetry alongside?

 

TEST SEVEN

Is straight down the only option? What about hanging at both ends?

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  • would allow a more immersive display, people could walk around it
  • interesting where the shorter strands drop out of the main set of yarns
  • may be a good way of seeing the yarns close up
  • But is there any meaning associated with the second hanging?
  • Would you be able to tie this in a way which doesn’t look odd?
  • Does this type of hanging need significantly more threads to look good?

A slight change of plan

I had decided some time ago about presenting a book of poetry alongside my final show installation. A few posts ago, I talked about making a handmade book of single line calligraphic poetry which would offer a glimpse of the fragment of identity being invoked for each of the map strings. I even posted a picture of my lovely multi-coloured book model!

Well….on a lovely, rainy walk with my other half, I was talking through the ideas behind the book. He asked, perfectly innocently, channelling Maiko from afar, how the words would link to the actual material map strings I had made. A thought appeared in my head – which said how the premise of my whole installation is about experiencing my handmade material. A material which speaks for itself without the need for any intervention.  I had only a week ago said during my symposium talk that:

My journey has brought me back to myself
Looking for my shadows in the memories of the places I have been
Creating a language built of material,
a material which speaks so loudly for itself, it offers its own story,
a material poem perhaps: a physical manifestation of the memory of place …

There is after all no difference
Between a poem carved with metal and ink and a stream of words pulled out of the back of your mind
or the material poem itself, a thousand square miles of remembered places cut, twisted and condensed into a single piece of paper yarn

So a new idea: a slight change of idea, was born. Instead of just putting in the isolated lines of poetry in a fancy book…..(which I must admit was slightly risky to take on having never made one like this before)……I would instead present the lines of poetry in a book alongside the material they were inspired from. This would give a sort of taxonomy of the map strings as individual identity fragments before they are combined into a single encounter in the physical installation.

My book therefore becomes a taxonomy of maps and of identity.  A taxonomy is a classification.  It is not like an atlas (a book of maps or charts); the taxonomy does not collect, it classifies.

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I asked myself while doing the photoshoot for the book, why I should not just present the string loops as they are for the show, why bother with a hanging installation? I was pleased to know the answer to this inside my head already. I want people to experience the “encounter” with myself as more than just an observation of a taxonomy, to instead become a part of the work within the room. Each separate string is just a fragment of identity which does not exist in isolation. The installation brings together each aspect of placeidentity to combine to offer a glimpse of the whole sense of self.

Instead of a handmade book, I have created a shiny professional art book which suits this idea much better.  Having spent all weekend doing the photoshoot and editing, it’s now on order, so that part of my show work is now done too. Can’t wait to see the finished copy!

8 days until show build
24 days until the show opens