Tag Archives: serendipity

Michael Schwab lecture: figure and experimental systems

A fascinating MAVA lecture from Michael Schwab, which had a number of key elements related to what I am currently thinking about. He started by discussing what he has coined as ‘second order artifacts’, objects which an accidental intervention has changed to show a different material commodity.

  • A new logic, both visual and material appears
  • Thinking happens which is different from just looking at an image
  • You are not meant to see these interventions, they are on the limit of invisibility
  • The intervention is not intentional – something else has caused this effect

He went on to discuss the figure, using a lot of examples from art history. The bits I picked out in particular were what he was saying about the relationship between the mode of production and the representational image. Particularly relevant in my quest to understand concepts of materiality.

  • You can achieve an effect which is more than just a gesture, where it shows aspects of the method of production
  • Isolate the elements you are focussing on and add the dynamics of the mode of production to it; this starts to stimulate
  • Something particular happens if you are neither here nor there

I very much liked the last statement – it captures well my own expression of the specialness of boundaries and edges. There was a bunch of interesting stuff on gestalt psychology vs systems theory which I will leave to my notebook. The next topic, on experimental systems was also fascinating – with a really interesting depiction of how unpredicted events create new forms and allow your research to develop. A graphical view of serendipity perhaps?


Key takeaways from this:

  • The epistemic things are those we don’t know what they are. Working with them turns them into objects
  • Looking at the potential of a material can offer a result you didn’t expect – a surprising event you can then act upon
  • The process from not form to form operates in an area of not understanding – there must be an aspect of the unknown in what you are doing
  • How do you stabilise these unknown objects and turn them into a new form?

This is perhaps a way into exploring my idea (newly articulated) as a capture of experiential moments. Exploiting and encouraging serendipity, looking at how the random elements in the forms change what you have created and, perhaps most difficult of all, embracing the unknown.

Mirrorcity at the Hayward gallery

I am a strong believer in the power of serendipity. I used to give lots of talks and lectures on the principles of innovation, and one of the top tips was to create situations for yourself in which serendipity can happen. You can’t force coincidences of course, but you can be the right place, or with the right people, or critically you can have the right mindset, for the magic moments to work.

It was with this mind that I casually strolled onto the south bank yesterday, killing time and looking for a cup of tea when I stumbled upon a rather striking exhibition just opened at the Hayward. I really like the Hayward Galley; it always has really interesting stuff on and seems to be one of the more approachable galleries for the ‘man on the street’. I do seem to have a liking for their big, unusual installations. I think perhaps they feel more engaging, more real to me than stuff like paintings – which just make think of men in tweed coats drinking Port and discussing the merits of Picasso. I really do have some issues over school art education!!

Anyhow, this exhibition was MIRRORCITY which was badged as from ‘fiction to reality’. With my research question practically in the exhibition title, I just had to drop in! IMG_0132.JPG

The brief is that:

“MIRRORCITY explores the effect the digital revolution has had on our experiences. MIRRORCITY shows recent work and new commissions by key emerging and established artists working in the capital today, who seek to address the challenges, conditions and consequences of living in a digital age. JG Ballard believed that reality had already exceeded the visions conjured by science fiction by the end of the 20th century. Drawing on the digital era we now live in, the artists in MIRRORCITY respond to and address this new perception of the world. Artists have always created alternative realities but recently they have been exploring where the digital and the physical space crossover and fold into each other. The exhibition considers questions specific to our time such as: ‘How can we navigate the space between the digital and the physical?’ and ‘What is the effect of advanced technologies on our lives?'”

I thought it was a great exhibition. I think I will need to go back and look at it again, to be able to take it all in. What struck me? Well, the feeling of alternate perceptions, realities a little strange and in some cases just bizzare. They sucked you in and made you want to look – that’s the power of a good installation.

Key artists I resonated most with:

— Lindsay Seers – wow, her video installation was so captivating I could have watched it all the way through a second time. She was looking at the presence of the past as a alternate reality, lost histories, how in the current age our emotions and feelings are stored online in public view in perpetuity. Just one text message could alter the course of history. Just brilliant.

— Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq – work in blackness, sheer and shiny – where precision and simplicity give an otherworldly presence. Meditations on light and it’s absence. I need to look up more of his work, I loved the effects as they captured some of the feelings I want to in my own proposal.

— Emma McNally – maps which are not quite maps, and look so detailed and so precise, but all come from her imagination.

— Ursula Major – also interesting, I really liked her mix of 3d objects plus interacting videos which cut out and changed a random points. She also had a projection which looked something like evolving coloured fog. Creepy but enticing – I am keen to use this type of effect. Didn’t quit get the 3d objects so well though, mostly as I had no idea what they were.

— Susan Hiller – brain numbing video installation. Not sure I quite understood anything, but it felt like being in an episode of the outer limits. Weird and amazing.

Also picked up some very interesting books (photo below). A reminder to self, I must ask Maiko if I would be allowed to have a tutorial with Jonathan K, to ask about guidance on incorporating digital imagery my work.