Part 3

Contextual Practice

Tags: foundation, foundation unit 3

Week 24 – 24/2/2020

Tutorial feedback with Adrian:

- Project proposal is well written, very close to finishing!

- I can read W. G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, which incorporates psychogeography as a writing approach. There is a film about this book that I can watch, and Tacita Dean is in it.

- I can watch this film called Robinsons in Space from roughly the 2000s.

 

Project progress:

One of my project aims is to explore how a piece of work can be a medium of connection between the maker and the audience, as well as the interaction between present perception and past experience. Reviewing crit feedback from Part 2, I have found interesting comments on my previous works, that they reminded certain people of certain things. I decided to interview these people to find out what possibly influenced them to connect to my works in such ways, perhaps their childhood lives, family background, personal interests etc.

I interviewed three people today, but as I had not previously recorded who commented what, I was unable to trace who gave some of the comments. From now on, if anyone, my peers or my tutors included, gives me feedback on my work, I am going to take their names, especially because my project is largely centred around specific and personal experiences.

I also brainstormed some ideas today for a sound piece that combines existing and original sounds. In my Space-Time project, I had previously layered multiple audios in Audition and it will be great to work with Audition further and experiment with effects such as crossfade, amplifying some parts etc. but what could potentially be good to develop would be layering sounds spatially, which entails having multiple audios playing in different parts of a room. I plan to start on this by borrowing a few phones from my peers and writing short bits of piano music to be played at the same time as found sounds from nature that I have already collected.

Week 25 – 2/3/2020

The main task for today was to brainstorm ideas for my Park proposal. I am still interested in wind chimes, but I think making this piece with an original audio will give me greater room to explore the interaction between created and environmental sounds. Large stereo speakers would look too obstructive among the logs, so I am considering using smaller round speakers instead and placing them on the ground rather than on top of the logs. I could work with wind chimes in a separate piece of work and I would really like to handmake them, possibly using clay, which will require permission to use the King’s Cross workshops.

The idea of installing speakers in an arc/circular arrangement really intrigues me after reading about the relationship among natural and manmade forms and music through the geometry of spirals in the book Design and Nature II.

As I was reading about Antony Gormley’s Land, Sea and Air II, I was also encouraged to think about how to “embody the elements” through the material and physical form of my sculptures. I envision this piece of work as having a sense of purity and connectedness to the earth but at the same time I don’t want it to be too blended into the environment.

5/3/2020

I continued writing my piano music today and finished the 8 bar phrase that I was aiming for. I wrote in F major as it is the relative major to a D minor phrase that I had previously come up with and I thought it would be interesting to see how the relationship between these two keys manifests when they are layered. Because I don’t have a piano currently, I wrote all of this on the piano app on my phone. To make things easier, I wrote the right hand first and then added the harmony on the left hand. It was a very new experience for me, since at some points I was imagining one hand while writing the other, i.e. the layering of sound was occurring in my head.

I recorded the tunes initially using the piano app, but I have contacted a friend who has a digital piano who has agreed to let me use it for recordings. I plan on borrowing a microphone from the Central Loan Store next week for this.

I experimented with layering the two tunes spatially instead of in a digital program. In addition, I split up the F major tune into right hand and left hand, following a more traditional methodology for surround sound, so that there was a total of three layers. I carried this experiment out by playing each “channel” from a different device in three corners of a small space. I would like to explore how this method influences the way the music is received by the ears.

So far the melodies I have written are intuitive and I am not sure what they mean. I have considered writing something that reflects something in nature, but I think that would be too literal and would limit the experimentation. To make the music tie in with nature, I can take this experiment further by adding wind chimes, which has a link with the wind audio I did for the Room project but has a different kind of relationship with the weather in that the chimes make music with the wind but not of the wind.

Feedback from Fritha:

- There is no need to try and reflect something in nature with the music I am writing, rather I could focus on the emotional effects it creates and how that could manipulate viewers when placed at the Park. For instance, the D minor tune feels quite suspenseful.

- Research into the effect of music in building emotion in film, TV etc.

- If possible, record directly by connecting the piano to a device. It will give a better sound quality that using a microphone.

Revised Action Plan (Week 27 - Easter Week 2)

Details

Week 27 – 16/3/2020

Even though I had just rewritten my Action Plan for the next four weeks, I need to replan again as it has been announced this morning that all teaching will be online from today and seeing as the uni has taken such serious measures, I think it is wise to work from home from now on. This means I will no longer be able to make three out of the five pieces I originally intended to make, including the wind chimes, the pinhole camera and the pebbles performance.

This is what is left on my Action Plan that I can still do (what's not crossed out in red):

Annotation 2020-03-16 193503.jpg

Over the next few days, this is what I have prioritised:

- Rewriting the plans for Week 28 – Easter Week 2

- Writing up my mid-project evaluation

- Getting started on the landscape drawings from Whitstable, which I plan to do in A2

I will have to come up with alternative ideas to replace the three things I won’t be making, especially the wind chimes. I did several drawings of my hand last week in preparation for the wind chimes, because I thought it would be more meaningful to design the vessels with reference to some kind of natural form. I intended to explore the coming together of the human and the natural experience through the process of making wind chimes. I find it interesting that I intuitively began observing my own hand, because hands can symbolise so much – it is the centre of the haptic experience, and with our hands we learn, we make, we carry items, we hold items that cause us awe, we foster relationships with others through physical touch. This is a thought that really intrigued me and I would really like to follow through it.

Work from Home Action Plan (Week 27 - Easter Week 2)

Details

24/3/2020

Since I haven’t bought the paper for the A2 drawing yet, I decided to get started on the pebbles today, which are directly related to the landscape drawings anyway. Within the confines of my bedroom, I placed the pebbles on different spots, including my windowsill, on the keys of my piano, and next to the displays on my desk, and did some sketches with biro and pastel. I honestly haven’t found this very inspiring, though I think it may be more appropriate to use photography instead as the lens will help create a centre of interest and draw the pebbles into focus.

Combining the pebbles and the hand gestures I had originally drawn for the wind chimes, I have begun to consider more the functions of the gestures and how they relate to our experiences e.g. holding the pebble from below to admire it, pinching it between two fingers to examine it and clutching it in my palm to carry it – which is leading me to think of the hand itself as a vessel. I think it will be useful to spend some time doing more observed drawings of these instead and I can also incorporate materiality and texture into them.

I think it was quite important that I studied some Scripture today though it hasn’t directly influenced any piece of work for this project. It helps to situate my project in the wider context and answer a question that is fundamental even to the mere proposition of such a theme – the connection between humans and nature. Most importantly, making the link between my faith and my work makes my personal input to this project more authentic.

26/3/2020

Following my idea from two days ago, I did some planning in my sketchbook for the drawings of holding the pebble in my hand. I experimented with several combinations of drawing materials and I think charcoal, oil pastel and acrylic all had quite a textural feeling to them. I have always liked using watered down acrylic and layering the paint up to create a fleshy quality, but here I preferred charcoal. I first sketched out the basic form of my hand using willow charcoal, then added the details and intensified it using charcoal pencil. I think it draws the focus upon the many creases formed as the flesh of the hand adapts to its gesture. Such intensity is unrivalled anywhere else on the body. Using oil pastel has worked well in further amplifying the variety of colours present in the pebble. The oil pastel-charcoal combination successfully brings out the individual qualities of the hand and of the pebble that I want to highlight, as well as add a bit of fun to an otherwise quite traditional drawing. I have found that reversing the combination doesn’t work as well. I would say it’s still haptic and emotional, but much of the sensitivity is lost.

31/3/2020

My main task for today was to edit those “meteorites” photos on Lightroom. It was relatively straightforward as the background is white and I already knew that I wanted to whiten the background and bring out the texture and movement of the pebble, but it was more challenging for the other photos in the series because it was difficult to capture a moving object with manual focus in the first place, as well as that any slight difference in colour is hugely visible when all the background are white. I found that copying settings from one photo to another hasn’t worked for this particular series, so it is taking me much longer to edit them individually and so this task will have to drag onto tomorrow. A few of them are indeed difficult to work with and rough transitions are visible from editing, so I may eliminate them during the final selection of images.

I visited Athanasios Argianas’ exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre back in February but I didn’t really understand his work then. I listened to his Purr album again (it’s available on Apple) which has the song that was played at the exhibition. I began to pick up on the nuances in the music and understand that the music is probably more about the effects of the musical elements on their own rather than any symbolic ideas. I found it particularly interesting that by widening and narrowing the intervals, a spatial quality can be felt. Previously, I felt unsure about continuing with composing for my sound piece as I thought writing random melodies without actual meaning leads to a lack of substance in the work as after all I was envisioning this to be my final piece. I discovered today that in his song Pivoting Music, a constant A is produced from the recording of his cat’s purr and in my opinion, it acts as an “anchor” for the whole song. Perhaps there is still space for improvised or intuitive playing but I just need to find something that can act as an anchor for everything else.

26/2/2020

I paid a site visit to Waterlow Park this morning to find potential spaces I might want to install my work for the Park project. I ended up sitting on a bench which overlooks the park and the cityscape in the distance. As I stared out at the scenery and began to read a previous journal entry, I entered into deep thought about my current season of life and reminiscence about my life in Bath before coming to London. This is an example of the dialogue between present perception and past experience (my personal history) – I began contemplating what these two places mean to me and for me. I have realised the same place can be related to differently depending on one’s status and role. As a university student, I am settled in London. I don’t feel like a visitor, but I don’t feel that I am rooted here either because my home is somewhere else. Whereas I feel more connected to the paths I have walked in Bath than this park, even though at that time I never truly felt included into the city.

Concerning the Park proposal, I have discovered an arc, constituting of an arrangement of five logs on either side, situated on a flat grassy area. I think it would be interesting to install some kind of sound on each side such that they interact with or echo each other. This would also be a good way to layer sound spatially – perhaps I could install different layers of the same composition using multiple speakers placed between the logs. I need also to consider how this composed sound interacts with the existing sounds at the park e.g. birds chirping. Alternatively, I could install wind chimes between them, which will give a less controlled sound that responds to the environmental changes.

4/3/2020

After writing my Park proposal, have identified multiple issues with showing a sound piece at an outdoor exhibition, most notably the risk of theft of speakers. There is a also a problem with power supply as there is none at the park. I have considered just showing a physical piece at the park and leaving the sound piece for the Lethaby submission, but I really don’t want to compromise this opportunity.

Tutorial feedback with Fritha:

- If I want to show the piece as an installation, I will need to encase the speakers in strong metal boxes with a padlock and fix them to the ground. I should also buy the speakers, instead of renting them to avoid any issues with the company, as the risk of theft is still very high. I can potentially store the speakers overnight at Lux and leaving them out on the grounds when the park closes is not advisable at all.

- If I install the speakers at a high place e.g. on the ceiling of the pavilion, any theft would be more noticeable.

- The location that I have chosen, which is the log arrangement next to the play area, may not be very popular among park users. If I want to make an engaging sound piece, it would be better to show it next to a path or the lake.

- Alternatively, I could show it as a performance, playing the audio at regular intervals and pick a day when there are likely to be more visitors. Then I can take the equipment home and will not have to store it at the park overnight. Since this is temporary, I could just get a group of helpers to hold the speakers, which will save me the hassle of having to fix any structure.

- The speakers that I get will have to be battery powered.

Following the tutorial, I visited Waterlow Park again and decided that I am going to show the piece around a tree by the middle pond, where the footpath and bridge intersect. This way, I can show it somewhere with more footfall, but keep my original idea of doing it in a circle to achieve a better “surround sound” effect. This location also allows me to potentially do something that responds to the lake. I have chosen to do it on the Saturday of the exhibition.

I also continued working on a charcoal sketch from Whitstable today. As there is a lot of detail especially in the wave patterns, it was quite difficult to depict that with willow charcoal and I may have to use a charcoal pencil instead. However, I have discovered that showing the density of the waves using very short or even dotted brushstrokes is quite effective. I may upscale my drawing into an A2 and work further with the textures and rhythms of the scenery.

Week 26 – 11/3/2020

So far the works that I would like to make for the project are:

- Music and sound piece (for Park)

- Clay wind chimes

- Landscape drawings

- Pinhole camera

- Performance with Whitstable pebbles

The pinhole camera and pebbles performance are the newest ideas. I’ve been exploring music and environmental media but I feel the need to integrate them now under the overarching theme of journey. Therefore, it would be good to make a pinhole camera as it has the element of searching and new images are constantly forming. It will also potentially link to research around psychogeography. I also plan on reading the book Atlas of emotion: journeys in art, architecture and film.

I have also arranged a slot with Fritha during the next performance workshop to carry out the pebbles performance. I think I’m going to pass the three pebbles around that I have collected on my trip to Whitstable and gather people’s responses. In our discussion, we have agreed that there is something unique about handling a pebble as it is. I was previously inspired by Antony Gormley’s Fruit to enlarge the pebbles and make plaster casts out of them. I really admired how Gormley uses scale and curved forms to generate a bodily presence and I was hoping to apply this method to create a spatially and haptically significant encounter with the pebbles. However, I have realised that making them out of plaster would undermine the uniqueness of the geology of the pebble, which signifies a journey that goes back thousands of years into geological deep time. The richness of that journey could perhaps be better expressed by passing around the pebble and in the delicacy of the action. It would be more environmentally considerate if I am able to return the pebbles to Whitstable when I finish the project and this will also add a sense of completeness to its journey.

I plan on prioritising the wind chimes as they will most likely require the use of workshops before Easter break. Today I went and consulted the casting technician Cat about materials for the chimes and this is the advice I received:

- Consider the vibration of the material. What sound I want will determine what material I should choose. Generally, metal will make a more chirpy sound that most chimes make.

- It is possible to make a mould and make the chimes out of plaster, but it is unlikely to make a sound.

- I can use clay as well but it will make a more solid sound. I could use buff clay (grey) or terracotta (red) and I will need to book a slot at the King’s Cross workshop to use their kiln and will also need to find fresh clay, as the clay at the Archway workshop is recycled and has too many impurities in it. Porcelain is not advised as the chimes will very likely shatter in the wind!

I am excited that all of these ideas employ the environment in very direct and simple ways. I have felt encouraged after reading Weather as Medium by Janine Randerson, which proposes “environment as media” and “celestial media”. I think engaging with the environment as such will give me new insight on my question of humans’ inherent connection with nature. As I read, I have also noticed multiple ideas that align with biblical views on man and nature. I am going to start cross referencing scripture and books to further my own response.

Mid-project evaluation 18/3/2020

Week 28 – 23/3/2020

How has my project changed?

My project has changed in practical ways with new limitations. I have discovered today that my return to Hong Kong has affected my access to research sources and materials beyond what I thought last week. I was expecting to have a wider variety of affordable electronics to choose from in Hong Kong, but during a brief search on Alibaba yesterday, I actually found it harder to find the audio chips I was looking for. I could only find ones that are used in birthday cards that come with small speakers, which I am guessing are poor quality and unable to project very far.

On the bright side, even though I have opened up my definition of “journey” to contain more than the effects of places on my personal experiences, going places is still important to this project and by coming home I now have more raw material to use. I’m currently in quarantine but once it is over, I could take a few trips to interesting places in Hong Kong for some more primary research.

How/can you adapt your planned works (the pebble performance, the wind chimes, pinhole camera) in response to the resources you now have available to you?

I have yet to find alternatives for the wind chimes and pinhole camera but I could investigate the potential of the pebbles in a domestic space in my own home. I could display the pebbles in different corners of my home to explore ideas surrounding collection and how my journey interlaces with the pebble’s (therefore it would still be useful to research the geology of Whitstable even though I’m no longer writing a description for the performance).

Given that the Park exhibition is now cancelled, I have two extra weeks to make work. I much prefer getting started on the A2 drawing first, then see what I can do afterwards with the wind chimes and pinhole camera. This extra time will allow me to work sequentially rather than laterally, which I believe will lead to more depth and development with each piece.

The current global crisis is impacting the environment/climate, does this affect the way you are thinking about your work and any of the areas of exploration in your PPP?

I have never intended to be political in my work even though it may be read that way. It’s not a bad thing if my work raises the viewer’s awareness. I just don’t consider any global crisis to have a direct impact on my work. This project specifically comes from a place of appreciation for the beauty of Creation, my love for going places and factual knowledge of geography.

On a different note, I analysed Hedda Sterne’s Bomb Magazine interview, which gave me much more insight into her Victoria Miro exhibition. The exhibition press release gave more of an overview of her artistic career rather than an introduction to the paintings and drawings exhibited. I have found several of her points from the interview contradictory to what her work shows, yet it was a very compelling read and the paradoxes make great starting points for the drawing I am starting, e.g. having an emotional sensitivity to the formal elements and materials while drawing attention to the objective and universal. Reading this has given me a clearer idea about what kind of abstraction I am interested in exploring – the kind that moves fluidly between the individual and the universal. Perhaps this is where I can find medium for the connection I am looking for between myself and my audience.

25/3/2020

I haven’t been able to find a detailed explanation of Whitstable’s geological evolution today, the only thing I found out was that North Kent is mostly made up of London clay. But I moved on and got started on the photography. I am impressed by how many good shots I got within the confines of my room. I did run into some problems initially as my lens did not give as small of a depth of field as I was hoping it to. This meant that the many objects on my desk, which I wanted to include in my shots, turned out to be distracting from the pebbles, but I was able to work around it by adjusting distances and angles to make it seem like the pebbles were still placed next to the other objects.

I also played around with stacking the pebbles. This was successful because the balance and stillness increased its intensity and showed intentionality, hence strengthening the focus.

I (intentionally) dropped a pebble onto the two other stacked ones and captured them colliding and spinning. This resulted in a beautiful surface created by the rotational movement of the pebbles. Photographs like this are normally very unpredictable, and in this one, the pebbles were all squashed on one corner of the image, so I had to crop in a lot. It was a great decision, which puts the focus solely on the surface of the image. Though the image has now become quite grainy, it remained sharp because I captured it in raw format.

Another experiment I did was spinning the pebbles in air and capturing its movement over 10 trials. Again it has the rotational movement, but I think I should develop these as a separate series because they are distinctively different in that the imagery reminds me a lot of meteorites as well as an embryo. I think there is a deep cosmic feeling which I can explore further in my processing of these photographs.

Easter Week 1 – 30/3/2020

I took a step back from what I have been working on today as I felt the need to review and reflect what ideas I have explored and what new discoveries I have made through making the first photographic series with regard to environmental media and abstraction.

- The photos don’t look abstract but I don’t think they are figurative either because I am not showing the pebbles for the pebbles themselves. However, in a way, the pebbles themselves make up part of the work and engaging directly with the pebbles was significant in the process leading up to these photographs. The meaning of these images is in the unexpected journeys that I and the pebbles have taken, which responds to my idea of the “interwovenness of geological and personal history.” Pebbles are signifiers of their rich geological history and what I have done is handpick and pinpoint them.

- The environment that these pebbles have landed in (my home) is constructed through separate images in the series.

- The “elemental media” mentioned by Weather as Medium, applied to this work, would be geological information. I find this paradox interesting: researching the geological history of Whitstable has informed my understanding of these pebbles, hence Randerson’s statement that elemental media “compose and recompose our world”, yet it was these pebbles, these very bits of “world” that informed geological history.

- By playing with manual focus and aperture, the haptic sensitivity of the images is enhanced and I really enjoy the delicacy of the shape, form, colour and texture of each pebble. A sense of specificity is brought out when the unique form of each pebble is emphasised through stacking them in perfect balance. I was indeed absorbed in the image making like what Hedda Sterne said in her interview. Interestingly, one of the definitions of abstraction in Merriam-Webster is the “absence of mind or preoccupation.” Funnily enough, I began to understand why Hedda Sterne was so sensitive and yet considered herself to be objective. Revisiting the idea I had to “have an emotional sensitivity to the formal elements and materials while drawing attention to the objective and universal”, I now think that sensitivity to formal elements is drawing attention to the objective and universal. What is subjective is the reason why I am being sensitive – which is my experience of handling the pebbles and my knowledge of geography.