Category Archives: 03.8 Unit 2 reflection

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.

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

 

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

Waiting for the post

I have ran out of maps.

More are coming in the post, but for the moment, making has stalled while I watch for the postman to come by with a big parcel for me. This has given me the day to think about other things – and question just how many maps I actually want to go to (so far I have 25 done). The ‘other things’ however, are also starting to get quite important, with only three weeks left for any work needed before the show build / assessment begins.

I have decided I do want to put a book of poetry alongside the installation. This isn’t going to be full on long, wordy poems, but rather a single line – a glimpse – of the memory being invoked for each of the map strings I have made. This will offer an insight into the nature of the memories being described for those who wish to know more about the work.

Of course I will have to make the book myself, it will not do to just buy something off the shelf for a exhibition of this nature. I have made some small books before, so I know the basics of bookbinding and some of the formats available. This afternoon I looked back at some of the samples I have made before, as well as some new ideas in long overlooked books off my bookshelf. And ho! I have made an uncharacteristically swift decision! I am pleased that the impending doom of the final show is at least pushing me to make required decisions so swiftly.

Some photos of the finished book model (using bright paper colours for testing the construction but skipping the outside cover). I think I will go for A5 size – twice as big as the model in the photos below. Three reasons for choosing this structure:

  1. It has such a lovely feel to it both stood up and laid down, simple yet with an air of elegant complexity. The book is after all not the main feature of my installation
  2. It allows for hidden pages, things which cannot be quite seen. I know exactly what is going on here, but I’m not going to spoil the surprise!
  3. It offers what seems to be at first glance a continuous stream of text from page to page (on the red paper in the model). Since identity is a fluid stream of discrete moments, I like this symbology.

 

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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