So. It is now official….the maps are done! 32 in total, all looped and ready to install.
11 days until show build
27 days until the show opens
So. It is now official….the maps are done! 32 in total, all looped and ready to install.
11 days until show build
27 days until the show opens
I am currently feeling oddly optimistic about my final show plan. Perhaps because I have I think at last found a coherent way to bring my ideas into a manifest piece.
My plan is to show three pieces and some accompanying words in some form (book/essay perhaps). At the moment I have the ‘making plans’ for the first two pieces underway. The third piece is still undecided – I have two different ideas which I may need to do some tests on first before picking one. The accompanying book is a whole other ballgame…this is going to need some thought, but is at least a nice way to break up the stress of making so much yarn on my fingers!
So the map weaving continues. I finished what I think will be my final tests, based on the original idea for the map weaving – i.e. one large textured surface. As opposed to imposing some preplanned form onto the structure, I let this one be naturally shaped by the tension and making of the piece – so that this becomes shaped by my memories and experiences of the places.
Firstly, I re-did the weave of the sea maps:
Then, I completed a new piece (which will be shown at the pop-up show) based on my mountain memories, the ups and downs of life, the building of character…
I was really happy with the mountain map, it has come out with a lovely mix of colours and textures based on the qualities of the original maps: 9,230 square miles of UK mountain range. The shape of the weaving was done strictly on the grid (to keep the link with its origin as a grid map) but the tension changes gives it its lovely organic form. This is what I will do now as a much larger piece for the final show.
Now I know what I’m doing process wise, I can start planning out my pieces in detail. There are a number of key questions to ask now:
I know that I want it to be clear that the work is weaving, but not to make it explicitly a textile/basket form – i.e. so it just looks like a tapestry. This will be best served by covering up the fringe edges – either by process or by framing. One more test required here!
As to the shape, I need to decide what each of the pieces will be first and then plan out their shaping method and colouring pattern.
Lots to do!
I’ve had two ideas for the final show based on my initial map weaving sample. After talking to Susan, I decided I had just enough time to do a quick test of both ideas before the work-in-progress show in March.
First idea test is now complete, and I showed this at a group crit this morning. With this test, I wanted to pick out one aspect of place identity, and let the form of the weaving be interpretive, based on my response to the place shown on the map, and my feelings of how that place infuses my own identity. This seemed to be completely lost on everyone, and the focus was more on the shape (“is this some sort of sea creature?”) than on anything more conceptual. They didn’t seem to get the idea that the piece was made with all one aspect of the map which I had deconstructed, nor the significance of the data on the label. Disappointing, but I have to remember a) this group is not the audience I am targeting with my work, and b) it was meant as a test and I did ask for the feedback after all.
This brings me to the question as to whether my second idea may be ‘easier’ for people who aren’t inherently conceptual to engage with. Do I want to broaden the appeal of my work a little and make it more accessible? I don’t want to dumb down, but I don’t want it to be completely uninterpretable either. If only I get anything from it, that slightly defeats the point of the artwork. This beings me back to the low relief sculpture I mentioned in the last post. Removing the challenge of form (I would be weaving on the map grid) would mean I can focus solely on texture and colour….
I’m going to see if I can get a final test of this second idea done before the WIP show…but with only a few days left spare, I’m not sure if that’ll work in time!! Then it will really be time for a final decision and to start making the summer show pieces.
Catching up on new making and a couple of days of tutorial ups and downs…
After doing the colour experiments a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to try doing a bigger piece which would show me what a larger piece of the paper weave would look like. So, last week I made a piece which incorporated the narrative materially into the weave; I based it on the idea of ‘origins’, and used of-place materials which spoke of one aspect of my place identity. Although this sounded like I knew what would come from it, looking back now it was clearly an early-stage, slightly unplanned experiment. Looking at the finished piece, there is something in it…but it’s a long way from being anything resolved. And perhaps not a final show worthy idea after all.
After making this piece I tried to figure out what I didn’t like about it. More than anything else my choice of materials is perhaps the biggest question: paper, map, wheat and white willow. I know I wanted “English” materials, but this set doesn’t really fit together very well. Let’s not even discuss the fact that the paper is actually Japanese. My favourite pieces have all been ones which have had a single material propagated throughout, and this is a long way from that. Still, I thought there was something interesting in it….but I’m no longer sure quite what that was.
I had a catch-up with Maiko yesterday and unsurprisingly, she didn’t like it, and seemed unnervingly happy that I wasn’t pleased with it also. In fact, Maiko didn’t really think there was anything in any of the paper weaving samples I’ve done. Perhaps I see alone see something lovely in the coloured weft weave in particular, but that isn’t related to my current project. Something to file in the new ideas book I think?
So what next? Well, before I went in for my tutorial I imagined a mini-Maiko on my shoulder asking “Why? Why?” and went back to my project objectives:
I am investigating the concept of self by examining the subjective reality we construct as we experience the world. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-exisiting identities, I am looking at 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, generates belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation. My project is based upon the process of weaving, as it echoes my ideas of universality and locality: a single cloth constructed from countless individual strands. Within the fibres, I am seeking an expression of the complexity of our existence. Fragments of past, present and future co-existing for a fleeting moment, never to reform.
And this brought me back to the idea of using map weave and the ideas around the heterotopia – in Richard Long’s words where the sculpture and the place are one and the same. I was quite enjoying the deconstruction and reconstruction of the map back over the holidays (and the echo in constructing and deconstructing the sense of self). Time to revisit the map mini-project!
This was my new test piece done using plain 2-ply paper in place of the more time-consuming handmade map yarn:
I really liked the vibrancy of structure in this piece and could envisage a really large, topological (topographical?) low relief sculpture made completely of maps. Something echoing the ups and downs of the evolution of one’s own sense of self across a lifetime?
When I showed Maiko these she went straight for the thread made of north sea blue, and seemed fascinated by this as an object in its own right. Unlike the restricted loom weaving, there is a lot of potential in this idea and we had a lively chat about some things to consider. Maiko suggested I had come full circle, arriving back where I started the course process-wise but with a different idea of making and the development of my ideas. [I certainly hope I have moved on after all this time and effort!??] I definitely had no clue about materiality and the agency of object (and process itself) when I started. I think this idea, although not yet fully resolved, can contain all the lessons I have learnt about making over my time at Camberwell.
Today, I followed up this chat with a tutorial with Susan J from the Book Arts course. We last met last June before the interim show – so much has come on since then! Really great chat and lots more ideas to think about. Nicely different yet complementary to the comments from Maiko. Importantly she reiterated that there is still time to experiment. I can a have a “plan for the show” right now without needing to know exactly to the mm what the final object will look like. She said not to pin everything down too early, there is still time!
So a summary of my reflection from both discussions:
The map experiments I have been doing brought me to look back at one of my favourite / most inspirational quilt artists, who also works with ideas around place – in particular cityscapes. I took the opportunity to look into any other people working in this sort of area.
Eszter is a Hungarian fibre and textile artist, who like me had a former life as a scientific PhD researcher. Her artist’s statement picks up a number the features of place that I am working with:
My starting points are ideas that reflect our relations to traces and settlements of past cultures: the layers of existence. City plans appear as motives, signs, traces, ruins, the silt of the past. As the urban structure develops, widens, thickens, clots and creates subsystems in history, the cities that live within us undergo an endless and continuous evolution. The exploration that appears in most of my works also determines my working process: on the one hand research of civilisation history and on the other hand experiment to find the right techniques for my expressions.
I have loved Eszter’s work since the first time I saw her display at a quilt show. I could look to incorporate more of the actual materials of place and people (newspapers or things related to identity perhaps – family photographs? old letters?)
Yu-Wen Wu describes herself as an interdisciplinary artist and has a range of fascinating work through drawing, installation to video. I like the way she uses abstraction, but still has the traces of the data it is built upon. A couple of her most relevant works are below.
In the broader context her work explores systems–its universal connectedness, interdependency and the persistence of change. She distills the transitory and migratory nature of our natural and built environments. Her investigations incorporate the visual language of data transforming them into abstract narratives
“Random Walks is both process and metaphor for the larger “random” paths of life. Here is structure and serendipity reflecting journeys and transitions. Throughout the years walks have been mapped in the language of informational notations with albums, video footage and drawing installations. They are manifestations of outward and inward journeys, rhythm and embodied topography.”
“Mapping the Stars is part of a larger project based on constellations, constellation maps, and musical notations. Since ancient times constellations narrated the deeds of heroes and villains. They became a part of religious beliefs and at times influenced the decisions of nations.
The series Mapping the Stars is based on the charts of ancient Chinese star maps. The musical elements are from the score of Chopin’s Nocturne.”
Of the artists I found, Gail’s work most formally links identity and place. Her work is an exploration through mapping, which looks at identity and relationships as well as the physical terrain. I also noticed the way she describes mapping as both the material and process – exactly as I hope for my project to do.
Mapping is both a form my work inhabits and a strategy through which it evolves. As I work, the messiness of real life mixes with abstract information. The autobiographical and the geographical fuse, and the border between interior and exterior dissolves. Reconstructing places, personal experiences, and memories, my pieces become visual diaries, encoded narratives, even a type of portraiture. More than just a record of physical trips and places, these works symbolize passage and transition and plot the uniquely personal directions that our lives have taken. They translate an impersonal diagram of routes into an examination of identity and the ways one can define oneself in comparison to another.
Gail’s material choice is often more playful and occasionally uses soft textiles such as felt. She suggests that this offers a striking counterpoint to the conceptual aspects of the work. Some of her other works function clearly as psychogeographic maps or journals, some layering images of various places, networks, diagrams, and architectural plans to evoke the complexity of travel.
I have resisted getting sucked into writing and not doing things, so my project proposal remains untouched since November. In my head however, I have started to re-frame what I am looking at, and how I want to address my research question. My research question is still looking at the interconnection between our sense of self and sense of place. I want to make work which acts a reflector – asking us how we encounter ourselves in the places in which we are. Can we unravel our own journey through life to get a better understanding of ourselves?
The key aspects I want to bring into my making process is locality – from my research I saw how you can generate place through action and agency (through dwelling or movement). I stated before that I wanted to use a process and materials which embody a sense of locality – I need to look deeper into all of the meanings locality can have. Locality can mean much more than just ‘from a particular place’ when you consider that in your mind you make your own place within yourself. This is how our identities can act as a map of ourselves
What my project is not…
My work is not about space, it is not about our experience of space nor how the human body interacts as we move through it. Places are not the same as ‘spaces’; places are saturated with a human narrative: our experiences made manifest though material demonstrations of human practices, marking these places out from other purely abstracted spaces. Neither is my work about life in very specific places or cultures (like capturing the vibrancy of a local community) or about discussions on biological and cultural identities (feminist politics, race, religion, migration and so on).
People define themselves through the filter of their experiences. How people navigate through their surroundings can shape their identity and create psychological associations with places. There is always a familiar ground on which we begin which branches out through our lives into different places, each following its own path. These paths create our different responses and the different facets of ourselves. They interact with the paths of others and with the very fabric of the world itself as we pass through it. We each exist as the root, with the different paths all being part of us and our sense of self. If we look at once at all of the branches from which our lives are made, we see a map of ourselves (=identity). You create your own map. Look at it, you understand it, because it is you, it is your story.
I am going to continue experimentation with the ideas around ‘mapping’ and the connections between identity and place. All maps are a mixture of objective truth and subjective representation – an edge – as such are an ideal place to generate work from.
As well as my material experiments which I will continue for now, I also have a new, grand idea about testing a new art process – using my psychogeographic rambling as a way to change the projection of the map. By changing the frame of reference we begin to see things we would not otherwise have seen. More on this later!
Following on from the map patchwork I did the other day, I was wondering what to do in response. I began playing with the leftover maps which had all of the hexagons – my meaningful places – cut out. There was something sad, sorrowful about the remnants. The leftover places which were devoided of all meaning through my act of cutting.
I decided then to take this idea and repeat it with another map, purposefully looking at the negative spaces as opposed to the ‘meaningful spaces’. This was the result:
I like the depth, the sense of overlapping stories being layered upon each other – hidden and partial histories revealed. Something gained in absence which is obscured in completeness.
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.
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:
Overall very informative and fun, as always with Bridget’s workshops. Lots of thoughts to take away.
Looking back over the last couple of weeks making and essay research, I have begun to develop more of a focus on exactly what aspect of “place” I want to explore. In my last reflective post I said:
“I could look at place its most grandest incarnation – how we make sense of our place in the vast unknowable depths of the universe? Moving past the awe and mystery into tangible, physical understanding.”
Meaning: looking at a sense of place beyond borders, beyond cultures. So! I have started a new set of experiments. Going back to some of my experiments from January, I am returning to the idea of basketry – and weaving more generally, after the delight I found in the frame weaving we did with Alice Fox last week. I am also returning to the idea of hand making paper yarn using old out of date maps (which I first tried in March and promptly abandoned!). I like the symbology of using an old map as a physical record of a point in space and time which no longer exists – as our memory of place also does. We take our interaction with places and twist and warp them through our own mental filters, creating our own personal map of the world.
This was my first construction test:
Test 1: Steel cable, paper yarn, handmade vintage map yarn (1976 Bartholomew Map Dorset)
A few obvious things to change to make this better (including getting rid of the commercial paper yarn and making my own finer map yarn), so test 2 is now underway.
Although there is an obvious connection between map and place, this seems like a good time to explore fully the extent of meaning about working with maps.
Cartographic language is intrinsically linked with identity and the spaces we inhabit. Every map is framed within our representation of the world, defined by ourselves, our communities, our nations, our planet and beyond. Mapping allows us to locate ourselves in the world both physically and psychologically, the map of ‘imagined’ just as potent as the map of the ‘real’. Maps can be a simple scientific tool leading to familiar or unknown destinations, or to home or displacement, be turned upside down and inside out, connect to an interior mind or an exterior world.
Every map however is a projection, a representation. Maps produce new realities as much as they document existing ones. Projections are constructed, configured and underpinned by various assumptions about people – about place. A map, like a place is seen from the inside, with all of the inner workings of its visual field laid bare. But how can you know the full extend of any territory without surveying the entire space from beyond its borders? How can we know the size of the universe without stepping outside it?
Tom McCarthy [Mapping it out, 2014], described the Kafkaesque challenge of seeking to free yourself from the boundaries and see yourself from the outside as cartopsychosis: “I propose this is the truth not only of geography but also of identity tout court – that is, of Being. We live in the gaps, the oblique, morphing interzones between perspectival regimes that themselves are anything but stable”
A slightly less oblique view comes from Maddy Rosenburg, Curator of the Central Booking Art Space in New York, who said the following about art-maps: “We are accustomed to looking at maps in attempts to find direction, our relationship to a physical interpretation of the land. But that land can be more than a city or country, it can help us to navigate our bodies, to understand our environment beyond its physicality into the realm of cultural space, and to grasp an understanding though the visceral. Cartographers can tell us more than just the routes from one point to another, they can map terrains of landscape or psychological space, that amorphous state that adds up to a sense of a place beyond mere cataloging. They can also reduce all to the basic, the pure essence of line and plane. We may glide across the surface but there always seems to be a rumble below it, roaming around a skin that is, as skin is, porous and organic.”
There are a lot of different approaches to working with maps and map forms across applied and fine art. I searched for some people looking at the map as a way to explore place, predominantly sculpturally. First up, Shannon Rankin. Her work explores the relationship between physical place and intangible experience. She describes her use of maps by the following
“Maps are the everyday metaphors that speak to the fragile and transitory state of our lives and our surroundings. Rivers shift their course, glaciers melt, volcanoes erupt, boundaries change both physically and politically. The only true constant is change.
Using a variety of distinct styles I intricately cut, score, wrinkle, layer, fold, paint and pin maps to produce revised versions that often become more like the terrains they represent. These new geographies explore notions of place, perception and experience, suggesting the potential for a broader landscape and inviting viewers to examine their relationships with each other and the world we share.”
Her work is an array of different sculptural and diagrammatic works using manipulated maps. These were some of my favourite pieces from her portfolio
Second is one of my essay references Chris Drury, who uses maps as a way of making comparisons between places and as a way of exploring a place through which he has walked in a more reflective way. He uses maps in various ways, including cutting the maps of two places into strips and weaving them together to give both places a common context.