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?

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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?

 

Loop Reflections

Ableton Loop Music Makers Summit 10-12 November 2017, Funkhaus Berlin.

I have returned from a weekend in Berlin at a summit/conference which was both inspiring and engaging. Primarily although I haven’t been using Ableton specifically for sound editing purposes I liked the look of the speakers in the programme and it became the perfect reasoning to opt for a weekend in one of the most creative European cities on research purposes!

It’s been over 20 years since I last visited this city and I have very fond memories of being well looked after by friendly democratic East Berliners in a large squatters block. I recall the starkness of the architecture and the particularly bleak weather. In essence not a lot had changed. The industrial urban-ness of the city remained and much of it seemed to have become a large canvas for the painting of graffiti.

The Bauhaus designed Funkhaus was something else altogether. The former DDR home of German Radio broadcasting and production was both austere externally yet rich and acoustically warm internally. Totalling 50,000sq metres it’s size is impressive alone.

Ableton’s programme was diverse and impressive covering areas of music production, creative methodologies, new sound technologies, music in eduction and providing workshops, sound installations and performances there was a lot to absorb. I highlighted 3 primary sound people I wanted to listen to: Kate Gately, Catarina Barbieri and Jenny Hval.

Kate Gately. Talked in a Q&A format and showed a film of her recording sounds around the city she lived (LA). The primary interests for me in the context of my own practice was listening to how she records and then how she translates those sounds to her sound/music production.  She spoke of her internal processes and the struggle in trying to find her ‘voice’ sonically but that she built up her studio over time in way which works well for her. (i.e.: she processes sounds standing and edits sitting down in two different workstation areas within the same room). I really find this level of unravelling anthers practice useful. I can find when in the sound booth working on my own sound projects that it’s an isolating experience where I am constantly questioning what I’m doing, or researching how to achieve a particular sound effect etc. So in some sense knowing other’s who are at a professional level further on than I still ask similar questions of themselves is a form of relief…

Catarina Barbieri. Was a joy to listen to and to hear. Her words really resonated when she talked about minimalism in her intention with the modular synth music she makes. She spoke of using only single note(s) and creating patterns of permutations from that one note. She spoke of minimalism in Eastern music structures (particularly Indian classical) which struck a chord with me. She talked of how often Eastern traditions would begin by trying to tune into the sound which was already in existence as opposed to ‘creating/plucking/playing’ a sound/note from silence. It reminded me a lot of having sat in many traditional Ragas musical performances whilst travelling in India years ago and how the sound did seem to drift in and drift out without there being a particular start or end. I think I have been trying, albeit in a more basic way, by my overuse of fade in’s and fade out’s on my own pieces…!

Hearing her music played live was really special and enhanced by the huge speaker stacks of the auditorium and general high level of audio kit. The sound was very polyphonic, rich and hypnotic. From a performative perspective, they had cleverly set up a camera to access how she was using the synth and this gave an added performative dimension to a production which otherwise would have been quite still.

Jenny Hval. I listened to her in conversation with Frances Morgan (The Wire) where she spoke at length of some of her inspiration for writing and of what her creative process looks like. It was refreshing to hear her eclectic recording ideas, for instance she spoke of having ideas whilst driving, recording them into her phone and putting those spoken words straight into her music, unedited. Other aspects to note which were of interest were her performance ideas, her use of an iPhone onstage as both recording and performative tool.

 

 

Reflections on Residency

research and residency at Casa deli Artisti, Canale di Tenno, Trentino, Italy

It’s been 4 days since the return from Italy and the MA Research Trip/Residency at Casa degli Artisti in Canale di Tenno. There is a lot to reflect upon.

Initially I really had thought I’d not be able to follow through in going. It would be the first time I’d left my daughter for that length of time and for that distance. In the months leading up to it I confess to having had several nights waking up in panic at whether it was the right thing to be doing. Yet it also felt like too good an opportunity to miss and perhaps time apart would be a healthy experience rather than an anxiety driven negative one.

Photo 22-04-2017, 16 35 42

So on 22nd April I found myself sat on the plane with others from the group heading into the unknown. If I’m being totally honest it was the unknown I was craving. The stepping out of the ‘usual’ the sense of adventure, the ability to be someone else, to have some autonomy, to take a risk and most of all to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ a different place. I’d been to parts of Northern Italy previously on occasion so had some sense of what may lie ahead but never had I been up in the Dolomits or indeed on an MA trip.

Photo 23-04-2017, 08 28 23
Casa degli Artisti

In advance of going I had read a little about the area. I was curious in a psychogeographic way what the place may ‘feel’ like and how far I could wander off the beaten track. I had these thoughts in mind in advance. I also had some pre-conceived idea of what kind of work I may do out there (which turned out to be quite different when there). It was tricky knowing what to take in terms of materials & equipment. As much as I wanted to record and edit sounds out there I also didn’t want the ‘burden’ of taking my heavy laptop or indeed my printing tools. So I chose the bare minimum. My Zoom recorder, a set of cow bells (more on them later), some grey & white drawing paper and a selection of 5 acrylic paint colours (white, bronze, silver, purple & blue) & some pre-prepared cyanotype paper.

We arrived after a 10 hour journey on Saturday evening. It took a while to find between us and the coach driver who had never been to the house before. It involved leaving the coach in one of the lay-bys and walking up cobbles with noisy suitcases late at night. The place seemed deserted, there was no sign of life. Inside Bianca & Fabio, researchers at University of Trento greeted us (with they 13 month old baby). Everyone was fairly beat by then but a few of us went to have a sneak peak of the house and the exhibition space.

It was old. The next morning we met Manola & Juri who run the Dolomit Learning team and gave us a sense of the area’s history. It was with them we would potentially spend the next two days getting a feel of the place and going down to Riva del Garda on the shores of the Lake. At this stage I’d begun to play with some of the Cyanotype paper with remants used from the garden. I’d figured it was the only sunny day forecast and needed to make the most of it.

 

I hadn’t yet had a really clear goal in mind except I wanted to explore Lago di Tenno, a glacial lake higher up fro the house. We went as a group that afternoon and it was far less remote than I had envisaged. It was disappointingly quite touristy and accessible. For some reason I had in my mind a sense of needing to scramble through the wilds to get there but it turns out there was a path and a coffee stand next to it. The water was a stunning colour though – turquoise. And the sounds of what it turns out we think were crickets was overriding. I went off to record some of their incessant clicks.

After a couple of days it struck me there was an inherent Tension i was feeling between wanting to be part of the group and wanting some solitude and to be on my own. This began to form the start of the working process for me. By the time I got to Tuesday I was in need of retreat and passéd out on going to the 2nd of the tours, instead choosing to stay at the Casa and work/walk/wander. Two others stayed and did their own version of retreat. It was also the day I really felt I was missing my daughter and began to muse on what and how do we keep connected when far away. In the situation of working with the group I also began to reflect on relationship dynamics. How we work alongside each other, what each other’s personalities were. Some of this internal dialogue began being reflected in the stories of the area Manola & Juri had told us of the people in the region. The conflict and the understanding of those who lived in the Alpine regions alongside those who lived at a lower level nearer the Lake.

During all of these days I was picking up snippets of sound recordings. Of general village atmospheres, of water in the lake, of yachts, of church bells (which chimed every hour), of mountain sheep & goats, of local dogs, of conversations, of night time acoustics in the stone walls and tunnels. It was this inter connectedness of sound and form which formed the basis of the installation I chose to do for the final show day.

In the garden I’d found many larger stones, some of which I’d used to hold down the cyanotypes earlier. They seemed perfect to use for their symbol of stability and for the fact that everywhere are stone patterns and the entire village is in itself a homage to building in stone. Everywhere I walked was on a myriad of stone patterns, all the walls were made using stone formations. So I chose to begin painting these stones with symbolic forms representing connection and relationship. Alongside this I began drawing out sections of the stone walls and the ‘spaces in-between’ as a metaphor for our interconnectedness. I was going through a kind of stripping back, of deconstruction, of simplifying thoughts to their most purest form.

Ever action felt very intention and not wasted. The rubbings of white chalk on grey paper over the stones was in itself a small meditation on the animals who walked into the lower part of the house to feed. The hung cowbells on the wall was a symbolic gesture to the co-existing relationship between human and animal. The painted stones left exhibited on stone stairs against a white wall were intended to be a symbolic gesture of how we move through & around our own human relationships. The water in a bowl from Lake Tenno was a reminder of how we rely on water for our survival. The sounds playing directly from the recorder were a way of sonically tying these relational aspects together.

What struck me most about all of the time I spent here was that for the first time I have brought an emotional content into my work. I think it is what I have wanted to do for some time but never felt at ease doing so. It was in essence only by going away, by leaving home that I found some kind of voice to be able to do that. Posting this content out and even having to talk about it to the exhibition guests felt like an extremely vulnerable place to be yet almost a necessary place.

Now back home I am hoping I can tune into that voice I found to continue to weave it through my future work in Studio Practice and indeed through the remaining MA and beyond.