Note taking- description-interview
Methods mark II a new what, how, why
Currently I am working on a series of four paintings of dancing boys. The images that I am using as source material, are photographs I took over a year ago; of my former flatmate and boyfriend dancing wasted and topless in my bedroom. The images had been languishing on my hard drive for a while. The photographs appealed in the sense of movement contained within each image, especially when viewed in aggregate.
I have stretched incredibly thin linen on to cardboard boards (each 55cm by 80cm), and used paper mache to fix the materials together, and then primed the boards. There is a possibility to either make a foldable screen out of all the boards combined, thereby enhancing the aspects of "motion" and "film stills". Or conversely to push the paper mache further and make each painting in to some sort of geometric shaped sculpture, with each image existing on it's own as an object.
I have been interested in going back to figurative painting. Traversing both on a personal level, and to an archaic art form. Especially since the boys poses are formally quite traditional, in that they reminded me of the quick five minute poses drawn in a life class, where the body can exist at its most contorted and exaggerated. Looking at the work of Sophie Calle, I have been thinking about the autobiographical elements in my work, and so I wanted to work from personal imagery. I have been attracted to ideas around homoeroticism, gay culture, and up-front sexiness in art, particularly current art practice, and video artists like Adham Faramawy. Last night I watched "Paris is Burning", a late 1980's documentary chronicling the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities. This tapped into my thinking about "the disco", and giving everything to that one night of glamour.
this is going to be a description of work underway.
and as such it is to a greater extent unknown, but by describing it in miniature i hope to reduce a metastatic mess into some sort of sense, something which, by giving to you, i can give to myself.
What this is so far is around 6 hours of filmed interviews with three people, the widow of a farmer, a farm foreman and a RAF pilot, footage of the interior of a victor nuclear bomber cockpit, footage of the area surrounding these peoples homes; this land is extremely flat, filmed in winter and framed in a generally symmetrical way, dominated by large expanses of sky, and photographs of a military record, declassified in 1993 regarding the fatal crash of an experimental handley paige victor bomber.
In March 1962, in a small faming village in Lincolnshire, England, a region notable largely for its low population density and eastern position in England, and as a result of these, a high concentration of Air Force bases, just after lunch an experimental nuclear bomber jet plane crash landed into a farmhouse. In the crash landing the farmer and his wife were blown clear enough to survive, though broken, and their farm foreman dragged them clear of the wreckage. I have so far produced video interviews with these two subject/witnesses and a (slightly later) pilot who flew these jets for the RAF throughout the cold war and the Falkans conflict. The interviews with the witnesses tend to focus largely on their own farming history, the history of their families on the land and sudden breaks into global narratives, such as their farm being staffed during and just after WWII by German prisoners of war. And, of course, the sudden break into the scene of a cold war experimental bomber into their bucolic rural lives. The Pilot goes into much greater detail about the spaces of the plane, the position of it within the british defence force, function as a part of the development of nuclear arms and its role during the Falklands conflict. The overall sense of this is vague and being worked through. it will structurally form scenarios which wander around the threshold of the particular or local and the global sublime, as their lives are fragmented by a body of the military industrial global machine.
I am looking to establish a structure for these weavings. I have conduced the interviews quite casually, by leaving the camera rolling and allowing the conversation to flow where it will, this obviously necessitates a great deal of editing, and it is through the edit process that structure, tone, and the stories themselves with emerge.
After contacting the first source, the woman, Mrs Burtt, who survived the crash itself, there has been a steady and serendipitous spread of contacts and sources which took place over a very short period; an old friends father flew these planes, the farm foreman who saved them was across the street when I was interviewing the Mrs Burtt, the local air museum had just taken delivery of a cockpit from one of the planes. Many of these serendipitous links have led back to myself; my grandfather worked on the victor engine design team, I grew up in the same house as the farmer, an old school friends father is the pilot I interviewed, the uncle of the farmer started a radio play with my family name. I am unsure at the moment how integrated I want my own subjectivity to be writ large through it. Though, this could give me an avenue to interrogate the documentary form.
I’m currently working my way through the content to establish links of tone, subject and points in the story, to link together the wider context with the particular events and personal story. I am trying to establish an overall structure that these can drop into, or refresh points which will return it to a basic ground, most likely this will be in images from the military investigation.
I am interested in working on this for a range of reasons;
As an exercise into documentary form, creating sense and a contextualised story from a set of subjective stories. and in creating something utilising documentary forms and techniques which operates as an exhibitive object. From this position, my understanding of documentary form is something which develops a non-fictional edifice using material gathered from sources external to the documentary maker, addressing formations of information allowing sets of subjectivities to address a wider context. I want to develop my techniques for wandering around the threshold where these global meta-narrative, e.g. the cold war, the european wars, mechanisation of the countryside and automation of the military, can be read in the particular. I have a general interest in events as ruptures and in the particular tones of voice characteristic of statements borne from being witness to ones own story. I’m also, as an aside, sorta into creating an archive method for recording these stories which are at the end of their availability, as the generation who lived any particular time period die, and their subjectivities which oppose official methods of archiving the history, particularly, now, of cold war era stories of scale and nationality become exclusive purely by persistence.
A series rock / fossil / archaeological objects in which a mélange of organic and inorganic even technologic bits and pieces have left their impression. In total they look slightly anthropomorphic. Sized between 30 and 40 cm high, they vary in width, and are coated in a thick dark grey magnetic paint, with slight discrepancy in color and texture as to create a faux rock look. Each having several homemade and found, kitsch refrigerator magnets applied at random to their flatter plains and facets.
They are made of ceramic, using a combination of molds from actual rocks and sculpted objects. Then I will press found pieces into the clay before it is cured. After firing they will be painted. I will make custom magnets with basic consumer DIY, home craft tools then stick them on randomly.
Material choices relate to the first hard disc drives, which were comprised of thin ceramic disks coated in magnetic paint. Magnetic storage in real-time transaction processing computers could then be achieved. I am interested in employing these materials as a way to make strange surreal time-unspecific objects that cue a reference to an infinitely older and younger slower and less controlled yet equally entropic, form of geologic data/memory storage. The kitsch magnets will reveal the materials and by content they will take note of a current cross section of information and images - fossil-esque impressions will serve a similar function.
A number of short love poems, each approximately three lines long.
The poems are created from fragments of text from a Victorian guide/book entitled The Language of Flowers. Just one of many didactic texts on flower meanings/symbolism throughout history, there is no one definitive guide on the subject; meanings vary depending on culture, language, time period etc. The meanings are often not straightforward or limited to one word, and sometimes have non-sensical origins. Why does European sweetbriar mean I wound to Heal when Yellow Sweetbriar means Decrease of Love?
I find this possibility of a secret romantic language, one that is so mysterious and fickle, quite captivating. I am also interested in the idea of a multiplicity of (universal) emotional languages, and how they might be expressed or explored. Looking at how text and writing can factor into these often ephemeral codes, I wanted to try and create new meaning out of fragmented or found text within a certain set of parameters.
"Exercise Book" or "The Fourth Notebook"
A 20min film in black and white, which may be re-edited in the next three weeks to be around 30min. The first shot is of a metal sculpture on which a cockatoo sits. The camera pans around this tableau, the cockatoo following the lens of the camera. The next scene shows a male dancer slowly rotating his torso. The camera tracks his circular movement and pans back to take in the whole space, which is a black theatre box that also contains two large canvases with black shapes stamped onto them that hang from the ceiling like theatre backdrops. The rest of the video uses the camera to track the sculpture, the bird, the dancer, the backdrops and the space. Laid over the top of the video is the voice of a woman reading a French text. If you don’t understand French you might still be able to comprehend the odd word, but the rhythm may become more important than deciphering meaning and your body might acclimatise to the particular pace of the speaker. If you do speak French the text might seem a little odd, with meaning coming adrift because sentences are built around the technique of ‘clanging’ where words are associated based on sound rather than concept. At some points the movements of the dancer and certain words in the text meet through the poses of particular animals described in the text such as rat, bee and chat, concepts which are translated and enacted by the dancer through static poses.
The film originated in a letter written in 1919 by the Russian dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky and collated in a book called "The Diary of Nijinsky"; a text that documents the experience of someone entering the early stages of schizophrenia. This letter, called ‘Letter to Mankind’, was read out and recorded as a simple means of creating a score. I worked with a dancer to transcribe/translate this score into movement. The attempt to translate this text became a conversation about the impossibility of translation, and the need to avoid a translation that had a singular form, instead working with ‘attempts’ at translation; smaller exercises or approaches that might present multiple ways of accessing the text. These attempts were developed into choreographies—some simple, others more complex– that were then filmed in a theatre space. I am in the middle of trying to thread together, through editing, the final form of the work that might find some answer within itself through structure, time and rhythm.
The piece was an exercise in translating something from one form (text) into another—in this case movement.
This work is a series of 36 ink portraits mounted to a wall in grid arrangement of 6 X 6. Each portrait is on a piece of 8 x !4 white paper and mounted with no visible fastening device. Every portrait consists of a human figure from the neck up with a word written in various orientation on each paper. Some portraits have ink wash as a background with more graphic lines over top while others have a blank ground or wash borders varying in saturation with line brushwork of the figure overtop. All portraits are executed in black ink with varying levels of saturation. Each portrait is painted with a brush with little variation in thickness of line and texture, making them considerable as drawings. The method of the artist was to start with a word or name and then continue the portrait based on the name. This makes it conceptual. The figures vary in race and sex. Sometimes the names seem suited to the sex and sometimes the names aren’t even names at all but ideas of a word association to the type of person that that person may be. The reason why these portraits were executed was that the artist had an idea to convey content and form to a viewer. The artist wished to further his technical abilities as a portrait artist and wanted to use ink as a way of practicing. The reason why these were not done in another medium was due to economic circumstances (the price of material) and therefore these portraits can be read as evidence of social status within collective society.