Future Now

FUTURE NOW SYMPOSIUM YORK ST JOHN UNIVERSITY

I decided to attend this two day symposium led by Aesthetica Magazine for several reasons; it had a diverse panel of speakers from the contemporary art world, they were presenting 1-1 sessions with both Arts Council England and Portfolio Reviews with a panel member, and an artists who I’d just sent the work of (Jasmina Cillic / Baltic) was also speaking. It presented talks and sessions which were directly relevant to consideration of professional life in practice post MA Creative Practice. My thinking had already turned to the sustainability of practice beyond LAU. The two years I had dedicated to delving deeper into my practice and extending its boundaries, learning new skills was a big investment of time alongside juggling two other jobs and being a parent of a primary aged child. I intended to work toward the investment paying off both on a mental/emotional level and a work/life level where I could follow professional opportunities as an artist which became fully embedded in my working life.

So the Future Now Symposium ticked a lot of boxes in relation to Continuing Professional Development.

1-1 Session

This session I had had a lot of synchronicity to it. I was paired with Griselda Goldsbrough. She is on the panel of the Aesthetica Art Prize, heads up the arts development programme for York Health Service and York Museums and Galleries. I talked through my most recent sound installations and projects and the final project I was currently working on. We talked a lot about life post MA and how that could be sustained particularly in an arts practice (sound) which is often on the periphery of contemporary arts. Yet she had both had examples of commissioning sound artists to work on hospital related projects within the NHS and talked of how that worked. She also gave me some pointers in relation to other sound artists working in community settings as a reference point as to how sound could be used. We talked a lot about funding and about criteria’s funders such as the Arts Council & Welcome Trust are looking for when assessing applications. We have since swapped various emails regarding projects and I do feel we will keep in contact professionally.

Artists Film – The Evolution of Moving Image Talk

This was an interesting talk which for me highlighted the pathway from artist to gallery show and who is involved along the way. On the panel was Head of Film at Manchester Met University, Gideon Koppel, Jasmina Cillic, Naomi Varga, RCA graduate and winner of Aesthetica Film Prize, Stuart Brisley, artist working with moving image, Alessandro Vincentelli, Curator of Exhibitions and Research at the Baltic and Phoebe Roberts, curator at Art Angel.

The talk was touched on many aspects of artists engaged with moving image. It was particularly relevant at this time for me as I had begun making my own very small films of moving image and had begun thinking where they would sit, in which context. The talk spoke of how much time visitors spent watching and being engaged with film show in a gallery context as opposed to the commitment of viewing in a cinema setting. Naomi Varga spoke of her pathway to winning the Aesethica Film Prize and subsequently being approached by Art Angels for future funded projects. Art Angel are one of the biggest commissioning bodies in the UK and extensively research their work and their artists work before funding a project.

The network of how artists can begin to work on larger projects suddenly began to unfold. The in-between areas of how to work, not in a commercial selling of products but of being able to work on project/exhibition basis on a larger scale.

How to Get Ahead as an Emerging Artist

Speakers: Griselda Goldsbrough, Javier Pes (Artnet), Carla Rapoport (Lumen Art Prize), Jacqelyn Jobert (Anise Gallery), Rachel Ara (Artist), Rebekka Kill (York St James).

This discussion centred around how Art Prizes can really catapult an artist onto the next elevation of their career. That winning one prize puts you in the mind of other prize givers and/or funders, even showing you have entered a competition shows potential funders where you are aiming for in your career. As part of this discussion, all panelists talked of the importance of a relevant, newly written and work focussed artists statement.  It was very interesting to hear from Rachel Ara, currently in residence at the V&A on a digital residency. Her work uses and explores data specifically and she creates both installations and print based work. Her background is in technical coding. Interestingly it was the fact that she had won the Lumen Digital Prize the previous year which had propelled her forward at the age of 54! She’d been working away on her practice for years until that point yet it was the art prize which made her name and work known in the contemporary arts culture. However she did highlight the often not discussed subject of finances and how artists are paid (or not more commonly). Her V&A residency gave her a 12,000 a year salary for want of a better word – I guess fee would be used yet interestingly this ‘fee’ is no where near what a current market salary would be for that level of professional working. So even at that level there is a discordance between how one can support oneself, a family, life etc against having a career as a professional artist.

Carla Rapoport spoke so eloquently about her reasons for setting up the Lumen Art Prize – she spoke with a great deal of honesty and humanity about her need to create a platform for artists who were emerging, at the beginning of their careers and wanted to start a prize for this section of artists who hadn’t got gallery representation. She spoke of how to write an application, not to use ‘art speak’ or too much theory, to remember that you are writing for another human to read and therefore all the wording needs to be clearly communicated, as if spoken verbally, to make it personal and not use gallery text. All of which is interesting in the light of writing for academia. I have found specifically trying to tailor my ‘voice’ in written work the last two years to to somewhat ‘stiff’ and not specific to how I ordinarily communicate. It’s a paradox that an art institution teaches in a particular way, that perhaps a gallery adopts this, and yet the contemporary arts culture does not fully require this level, they are looking for the human, for the personal. Perhaps this is an area which can be explored further in practice led Masters and Phd practices. Carla’s final words of advice really came down to this; why does the artwork exist?, What reason occurred to bring it into existence?

Advertisements

Rehearsal No. 2

This was the second time we had all met together to work on the collaborative piece of performance we would shape. The last meeting was the end of May and it had been 4 weeks since our first tentative steps were taken. I had mused on the ideas and concept I’d initially brought in, themes of renewal, repair, of seascapes and heartbeats. I had wondered what elements of sound would bring these themes together to form a coherent whole. Whether the elements of sound, movement and performative actions would convey the right level of contemplation, intimacy and depth that I felt the themes had.

Leading up to our 2nd rehearsal in Leeds Beckett’s studio space I’d begun to think about the circle itself. Was it big enough for two people to perform in, did it show the interplay of relationships, the weaving in and out, was it a constraint? I added another circle into the sketches and thought perhaps that would add a further space to come in and out of. I envisaged Maria and Steph to perform in both those spaces yet what I’d not expected was that they would invite me in to use the space with them. We met outside the space today and talked outside in the park before trying to work it out in the space. It helped. We were all exhausted for differing life/work reasons and so sitting talking through ideas really helped take some pressure off over taxed minds in which to let ideas develop in time. So we talked of other circular spaces and when they suggested I draw one of the circles and fill it with salt with them it seemed natural to add a third circle into the final performing space.

Through our talking we got to map out the stages of the performance which had a structure as follows;

  1. The room is bare except for lines of tape on the floor. Audience will enter the space and find a seat. The first soundtrack will play while this is happening.
  2. We enter the space and begin to mark out our circles (3 in total) and to then fill in each circle. This may or may not have a mic input to external speaker.
  3. I leave the space and set up sound for later.
  4. Maria & Steph perform (on floor and walking along path) and meet at the edge.
  5. I trigger soundtrack for Maria & Steph to move in the final section.
  6. We all then take our section of tape and pull it off the floor to reveal marks underneath.
  7. We all leave the space.

We spent 4 hours today walking this through, shifting ideas back and forth – trying things out. Discarding some, retaining others. It’s an interesting dynamic to work in collaboration. I found it a process of both inputting then stepping back, testing ideas brought in, seeing if they worked. Trying to find the subtle sensitive balance between fulfilling their needs for the project, my needs for the project and what we were conveying, what the audience received.

It is however a slightly improvised piece and may shift on the day. We also decided that the space we performed in was also to be a working space and therefore we would have feet marks outside the circular forms, a laptop and string we used may be left lying around, marks of our process would be visible, there would be transparency.

 

 

Quest

In a quest to find the sound of our heart, in an electromagnetic frequency sense I got in contact with two cardiologists through a friend working in the NHS.  Although for some time I’d been recording my own heartbeat through the use of a contact mic, the signal was low and the sounds are a reverberation through muscle, skin, tissues, bone. I was aware also of the use of the Doppler for recording foetal heartbeats. An echocardiogram uses a doppler to hear the whole heart cycle and to listen to each heart valve, the right rhythm indicative of a healthy heart. It is one of the most common tests for electrical activity. What I was trying to ascertain though was could a printed ecg heart wave rhythm be translated into different frequencies. When the sinus wave peaked did that correlate to a particular pitch? Could we hear the sound of our hearts in a different way?

I started to look into the shape of an ECG waveform:

ecg

positive deflection – when the electrical activity of the heart travels towards a lead.  negative deflection – when activity travels away from a lead.

The electrical activity of the heart flows in many directions at once – the wave on a ECG represents the average direction.

Height of a wave – amount of electricity flowing in that direction. A regular sinus rhythm 60 -100 beats per min (82bpm). Ultrasound – above 20Khz (20,000Hz).

Reflecting on ECG waveforms and recording my heartbeat gave me the rhythm translated as a sound wave. On further conversation with both cardiologists I discovered that the Doppler is velocity based and the signal will be different from the ECG, ie the doppler is listening to the speed of blood circulating around the heart, the ECG is recording the electrical signal. It’s the electrical signal I want to map the sound of. They suggested I need a physics expert and that’s where I’ve reached a stopping point. It may be that this can be translated into a bigger project, to begin mapping the body and it’s sonic capacity in different ways. To work in collaboration with a team. It may also be a non starter.

heartbeat wave

This mini research however and the notion of measuring velocity and thinking of volumes of liquid set me thinking of the capacity of the heart, it’s holding capacity, it’s significance as a vessel, or set of chambers, not only in a physical sense but in a metaphorical one.

A holding of expectation, a carrier of emotions, a signifier of feeling.

Early Micro Beginings

It’s Practice 2 – the final journey through the MA Creative Practice. It’s the only project for which there has been no external exhibition to work towards (outside the University degree show). It started not as an outward facing project but of an interior one. One which would culminate over time. I intended to let the project unfold organically and see what it would be like to not over research. There were elements from previous projects to envelope in. The minimalist manifesto I’d written last year would form the backbone of the way in which I worked, pairing elements down, using less.

In the earlier stages of the project I found myself not only listening more, but watching too. Watching people move in public places, along the coast, seeing what I could see when I slowed down enough to watch. This led to a series of short very mini clips of film which I found sound for. There seemed to be a good serendipitous relationship between finding sounds in my piano whilst watching these moments. short film series.

On the back of the research for the dissertation and an intense period of writing and reflection on the use of sound within an arts practice I moved my practice forward by entering into the darkroom for a period of time. It felt like the most succinct environment for an incubation of a new project. Time in there stood still. Lingering in the wet rooms of Vernon Street made play possible again after the long writing and research. I chose to work with both cyanotype and photogram methods. I find both of these methods of contact printing experimental, tactile, fluid, unknown. The material I’d chosen to work with primarily was salt, metaphorically for it’s cleansing and preserving properties and sonically I thought I’d find some interesting sounds from working with it in a sound recording capacity. It also is a constituent of the body and therefore felt resonant with exploring an embodied sensory phenomenological essence of this project.

 

Salt scan copy
Detail of Salt Photogram

It lets the light through well and gives structure and form. I let myself play around with these crystal forms for some time, exploring how much light to let through and which light sources I would be using. It wasn’t immediately obvious what the material was and therefore the references were ambiguous and they had an visual element of how it may appear when looking through a microscopic lens.

 

Having worked with a very small radius of space and time since the early days of the MA through parenting and work constraints and hence learning to work with the micro elements of life, small things, small moments, captured time in minutes, it felt resonant to produce more work at this level. There were no grand gestures, but smaller incremental changes, acute visions in the mundanity of life. This really has been a constant in the realms of MA work I’ve produced.  In previous sound installations completed this last two years I have used found environmental sound, breath, microphones in small places in the natural world, a sort of a quieter walk through the world yet with an active ear.

salt lines photogram
salt lines photogram
salt line photogram
salt line photogram

I began to record some qualities of the salt falling on salt, salt falling on different surfaces, salt being moved around on wood and then the idea came to explore the possibilities of working with dancers. I began to wonder what this material would sound like under moving limbs and what shapes maybe left by the human interaction. This was the next chapter to explore and I got in touch with Beth, leader of the MA Choreography at Leeds Beckett University.  She was very supportive of my initial ideas and said she’d speak with her dance group to see if there was initial interest. This is explored in the next post…

Heart Matters

heart

 

It is only really at this point in the final project Practice 2 module that I am beginning to pull together the floating fragments of my aims. To clarify what I am trying to achieve. I realise on reflection that doing the creative work brings together the why more organically. However, I have been stuck in my mind as usual trying to think it out instead of feel the way through.

Over the last couple of months time in the darkroom has gestated prints using sea salt both in cyanotype form and as photograms. It’s structure and luminosity have brought this mineral to light. It works well using light as a medium and will at some point be worked into the final program in the shape of some visual media.

I’ve turned to film also as an exploratory medium in trying to express some of the ideas I’m working with. In these exploratory months I’ve filmed the sea, the movement of waves in and out, a walk along the tideline and I’ve filmed people, people moving in an arts space, responding or not to the space and each other and where they find myself. For each of these mini films I’ve made some short soundscapes to accompany the way the visuals move. Most of these have been piano based and using few notes as per my minimalist practice of working.

There have been recurrent themes: sea, movement, salt, minerals, relationships between human and land/sea, relationships to each other.

More recently I have returned to an earlier recording method I had employed, that of recording body sounds to include that of the heart beat. There is a theme of heart, rhythm, electrical fields, bodily substances which are underlying this project. The embodied sound, the physicality/materiality of sound. I began to wonder how would an ecg reading translate to an audible signal.

Luckily I was put in contact with two cardiologists and was able to ask them some technical questions. They suggested using a doppler, yet this measures velocity not electrical activity. The process I am trying to get to may well be harder than first imagined. I perhaps need to speak with a physicist? Perhaps I can score the heart rhythms to create musical notes?

And now I have a harp in tow. My aim over the next few weeks is then to combine the heart beat sounds, with those of perhaps harp strings and add them to the recordings of the dancers moving across salt? (this should be in prep for the next two weeks all being well)…

 

Approaching Nocturne Film

Clare has released this final cut of the Approaching Nocturne event back in June at Studio 24. It is a good use of both soundtracks (mine and Ben’s) and shows both the dancers and the choir in performance. Also a good overview of the visual art. Although already critically reflected upon in Practice 1 I wanted to include a link to it here as I hadn’t previously got adequate footage of the event as on the day I was so concerned with sound EQ (note to self, remember to always have a filmmaker in with you!).

 

 

6 Music Live Radio

Today I witnessed a live BBC Radio production outside of a traditional radio studio. Based in Ferens Art Gallery, Hull and as part of the Art is Everywhere weekend in conjunction with the Turner Prize 2017 Maryanne Hobbs of 6 music broadcast inside the gallery space.

It was fascinating watching the set up. From a tech point of view she broadcast via a laptop and a mic which was so portable and which moved with her according to when she was interviewing guests or speaking to the audience. On a table next to her was an artist Sam Winston who was drawing in relation to the music she played…relevant in a how do we visualise sound/music way. There seems to be more of this theme around in contemporary music and art platforms currently. Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival ran a drawing in response to sound workshop during November.

On the opposing side to her desk was the sound/mixing desk and a small area for the string quartet playing plus two keyboards for Philip Selway.

The audience were allowed to roam in and out and producers and BBC staff moved around taking photographs.

I include it in research methods for the reason of analysing radio as performance. I loved the informal nature of the production. It combined watching performance, dialogue, live art with a broadcast. It made me think of using this format in a production and most certainly added to my interest in creating content for radio shows, perhaps in a sonic art way as the shows produced by Resonance FM. More recently I’ve listened to many Radio 3 and Radio 6 shows combining elements of word and sound in their shows, thematically linked to a specific set of ideas, genres, or concepts.

Radio also for me is one of the formats/mediums in which the ‘intimacy of sound’ can be harnessed. I find there is a particular resonance when the theme of the radio broadcast, the voice of the presenter and the particular time of day synergistically mould together to create a sonic world in which one can find oneself ‘in tune’ and spoken to directly. Almost on a one to one.  Or perhaps one can feel a part of something greater, when there’s an awareness of many listeners tuned in at the same time. This naturally is enhanced by social media’s role in being able to communicate directly with the DJ and therefore a community is created.

Radio as performance. One to consider. I was musing on the journey back home how to conduct a radio show as a soundwalk as a live event, not pre-recorded (aside from some of the music to be played)…is this possible?