Gesa HelmsWednesday morning I say what it is that I will be doing:
– a series of performance pieces/ drawings
– a couple of workshop/event things and
– some documentation of the above.
That is it. The spatial praxis/ production of space/ site-thing will be part of it as building out and up from the encounters that constitute each. It will be utopian in its concrete practice. Nothing more, nothing less (I would love to call it Beziehungsweise Revolution/ relationally: revolution, but that title is already taken, unfortunately).The documentation will be either in book or in moving image form.Each segment/ section will address or: can address a particular question/ enquiry.I am uncertain if the talks will be part of it or generally merely context. I think that is part of the wider question of what constitutes the site/ the work, i.e., really: if we talk an expanded field of drawing, do we need to have a sense of what is not part of it? what is absent? outside? and, why would that be useful. In that sense, I will have a consideration of distance/closeness in this too, and at that point it loops back into the overall thematic of drawing/contact.The first four events in drawing/contact are intimate and in hindsight, retrospect. I am testing how these relate to the theme and what they do medium/discipline-wise. I am trying not to be too wilful with them, to let them hover for as long as they need to. In some ways, these take inspiration from the events around the line, and reworking the line for the workshop in July into a photo essay and presentation will be great. The drawing/contact encounters are different though as they transgress media/ reach. They are possibly less concerned with secrets and veracity but more curious about the contact, the stuff enacted, where and when it reaches, etc.In this, then, the line, the Gap, and the wider corridor thematic are aufgehoben in the best dialectical sense: they are concluded and superseded into a qualitatively new question (I remember how for each time that aufheben needed translation I was stuck, as stuck as I am now as there is no equivalent in English).
Most of my past few weeks were spent doing two things:
a/ to explore the notion of archiving (on site/ in notation); and
b/ to work through the questions around engagement.
I want to unpack the latter here in more detail as part of my submission of SYP2: Resolving my work: PDF zines for circulation as WIP.
The project plan of SYP always included an analogue element: perhaps a artist book/box to circulate in a limited edition; perhaps a performance/event on site or adjacent to (besides its already existing digital form, perhaps edited, perhaps transposed to a different platform from the padlet site).
The idea of an assemblage, an artist box, a limited edition originates with the idea of a large Research drawing or perhaps a large drawing that concluded the body of work. I have spent many hours on site/ about the site to work through the elements, strands, connections and dissonances only to find that such drawing remained elusive. There was however a list of objects that could transpose the site to elsewhere (even fit into a box to be posted; to be non-precious too). Some elements were: larch essential oil, a cone, a feather, an instruction for a drawing machine, a notation of burning birchwood and crows flying overhead.
Again, the materials seem too… perhaps too literal or too romantic, too much trying for immersion when earlier I had deliberately trying to distance myself from that and a simple sense-transferal from here to anywhere.
In my sketchbooks of the original site, the staircase, I find two instructive participatory processes that I have experimented with: a zine around a hatch atop of the staircase, and an instruction for a viewing device. The latter was posted to three friends/colleagues and returned.
Along with my current sketchbook notes and the instructions to touch that I developed as part of For Cover, these in turn became the following:
An expandable collection of PDFs, with printing and folding instructions, relating to variable elements of my practice as research: site, object, method. I modelled two and am attaching them here along with some relevant visual documentation.
#3 Detach:: presents a series of instructions around the notion of distance: to process a single line, phrase or in entirety
In my crit group on 2/10 I offered my For Cover portfolio for a crit (I had last put some work, a mix of padlets and the instructions materials, to the group in early Spring this year). I had asked alongside two questions: how about archiving and how about engaging? We talk for a bit over an hour and I take notes. I copy these notes here and want to draw out a number of points as to the questions over contextual distance, what constitutes the work and where the work is.
The discussion quickly moves towards the platform, padlet, and how much everyone hates it: how clunky and intrusive it is, how it stands in the way of the work; but then really, how it mediates (my words) and poses those questions of navigation and access, of ensuring completeness or the worry that something may be missed.
There is the argument that it scaffolds the work too much..
Much after the discussion, where I am still surprised by the force of some of the dislike being put forward, I realise that the notes also tell me something different:
that the work is rather beautiful
that the distance to the work becomes uncomfortable to endure
that the work and the site cannot be touched while the work implies it should, could, perhaps even ought to
and then there is the wider sense of how padlet as corporate platform seeks to manage and facilitate that distance: of becoming more and more corporate; of inviting us to add more and more; of presenting every changing interfaces and post modalities to remind us of innovation
so the platform is an intrusive mediator: of wanting to be known for itself, not just an invisible interpreter
it also points (this image contravened against our policy) to the fact that it can and does remove items it dislikes (without notification, without recourse, without me knowing what the item actually was); so my presence and the works presence remains precarious: it may disappear sooner than even my institutional access disappears.
I come away thinking that padlet may after all be the right platform for this work if the work is interested in that distance (see SYP tutor report 1).
I also come away thinking that the work is effective here to encourage access to the audience’s emotional registers around longing (and its frustration of lack of access)
So, the work is present but somewhat out of reach. There is an institutional frame that governs part of this, it catches some of the frustrations.
There are a couple of themes that continue right throughout my work (certainly from DI&C onwards across Level 2 and 3); immersiveness is one of them: the sensorial, an expanded field of drawing, the stepping into work that I make and the relationship it seeks between work and viewer/reader/participant around closeness and distance.
For the production of the BoW this was significant at a number of turns, e.g. when trying to devise what constituted drawing/contact, what the role of lint and the quotidian was, the sites and the reach/resonance of these and how to resolve the BoW.
In the Research (as practice) it was engaged with methodologically: moving-with explored the bodily registers of immersion (or lack thereof); of making mobile artists, viewer and work; the glossary circled around tools, obstacles and sites to explore the relational entanglements at the centre of the work; the Herz/Stein concept explored tactility, bind and release in material close-up.
For SYP I am trying to explore the exhibition checklist as PaR enquiry to get a better handle on (or perhaps a position to the side of) distance as key tool for how this practice moves onwards.
I am collating here the various posts that trace the engagement with immersiveness as concept up to now (at the point of submission for assessment of BoW and Res, and at Part 2 of SYP).
A draft post which looked like this has existed for almost a year. It arose around the conversations during BoW tutorials around immersion, the sensorial and audience engagement with site and work.
The discussion linked forward and into BoW 4 and 5 and Research 4 also. How to invite, entice, lure the viewer into the work, inviting them to step forward, and then to get a little lost, not quite knowing where they stepped into.
In conversations that ensued, I wondered if the work needed to be seductive to achieve this: the luring was close enough to entrapment, of overwhelming with the (visual) senses. And I realised that I myself stepped right back at that moment.
Pippilotti Rist’s (2005) Homo Sapiens Sapiens video installation at Garden of Earthly Delights (you lie back onto floor cushions, the projection happens on the ceiling in a round shape), came to my mind and that my work was not like that (and didn’t intend to).
I was surprised by my strong reactions here and further discussions with my Research tutor clarified some of the links about it (immersion = seduction = overwhelm = entrapment). It also clarified for me that HD video on large/multiple screens is not where my intention of the kinds of work I want to make lies (I think it’s been a no for some time, being invited to spend £10k for a digital back for a MF camera) — I am too little photographer for these approaches.
The works I turned to were these three — I have known them for a long time, they are datable, and dated as late 20c British contemporary art. I find myself however returning them at frequent intervals:
Bethan Huws (1991) The Lake Writing or The Lake Piece, 24 works on paper, ink, each 297x210mm.
None of them is immersive in the way immersion is currently understood as a multimedia surround environment where the view steps in. Huws’s photocopied handwritten notes on walking around a lake are in fact anything but: it is formally sparse, daringly challenging the notion of the artist’s hand (or tech) and yet affording a slow stepping into a sensorial and experiential register which affords precisely that transfer, transporting the viewer/reader around that lake with her, if they let themselves be seduced by 80gsm photocopy paper spaced on a white gallery wall (that I was told the visit was animated by a large open window that moved the sheets on the wall on a summer afternoon in London, helped further). Wearing’s silent disco before there was such a thing is of a similar register, here we don’t know what she is dancing too, the noisy VHS recording clipped to youtube dates it further. Starr’s eddies on Kings Cross station translated to her whistle tune recorded on vinyl is similarly introverted, marked by an innocuous act in public space (like Wearing and Huws also).
They are all fairly ordinary approaches towards making and then the act of transferring, translating moves the terrain and makes them extraordinary with simple means compared to the immersion at play today. They also are playful (both in production and in presentation), there is a trickster at play, a playing with the expectations of audience and curators. They are also quite introverted works, I come to realise now: they are solitary activities, contemplative, a couple a bit performative, while the headphones kind of temper the level of exposure.
None seduces, none overwhelms, yet they stay with me as a way of translating, relating environmental experiences of making (with/in) site that are effective and relevant to how I am engaging with site. I hope these will provide further inspiration as I move towards SYP and the concerns over audience engagement.
Oh, yes: the link to the haptic and the erotic in Marks: it lies again in the autonomy and ability to negotiate coming close and pulling away: of diving in and dissolution and then to surface and step out. The choice for one or the other is key here (what that means for the initial idea of letting people peer in and they get a little surprised what they discover remains to be revisited).