Research 5: final piece: submission

This post contains the Research Dissertation to my tutor to conclude the Research module.

I have also posted

This concludes Research just very tightly within the 2.5 years that I had for it (including a 6 months extension). I will post another bit of reflection on this Assignment 5, along with a series of changes and additions to the Research part of this blog to align it more closely for assessment (in November 2021) and to make space for a Research folder that will link to the currently blank links in the dissertation.

Here the dissertation. Any thoughts and comments: I’d love to hear them, send them along.

I look forward to wrapping up BoW over the next ten days also and then to turn towards engagement for all of this.

Research 5: reflection and analysis of entire module

I am compiling a series of assignment and tutorial reviews, shorten them and add a final paragraph at this point of concluding Research.

1 review

I reviewed a fair bit of work: live performances in different registers; I watched a series of films too and explored their cinematography, script and framing devices; I have read key pieces of fiction writing that I identified as key for my interests and a fair amount of academic work too. Attending the SAR conference mid-March was really important: both to test out my own work (though any feedback was largely self-derived and little came forward from audience) but also to see where my work relates to and can be situated within. I wrote a couple of these up on the blog, but there are a few other artists still key to what has influenced my thinking about performance, intimacy, site and drawing. I have also had my proposition to move the line from online video work to photo essay and to consider its methodology as walking methodology accepted for a conference in Northern Greece (Walking Arts Network).

What I have arrived at with the articulation of the research proposal is a clear sense of what BoW consists of as a work programme (a series of performances in different registers, audience/participant compositions); I have also settled on a focus for the Research: the concept that I currently call near space, that I seek to investigate in contemporary performance/ drawing practice; which investigates some key themes for BoW: relationality, presence/absence and site. This feels important and useful and allows a focus that fits and can be refined further.

2 review

With the glossary I arrive at the first satellite object and begin the exploration of an appendix, additional objects that are part of Research and thus the notion of this project as Practice as Research starts to take more explicitly shape.
In doing so it also at once, exhibits some of the key methodology of the whole work itself: of how to pull things close and also let them go or push them away.
We talked about Laure Prouvost’s Legsicon, Katrina Palmer’s Endmatter and how there are a variety of ways of how my different materials can become a glossary, including the photos, links to texts and other things.

The objects of research at this point are significantly different to what eventually become research objects (we discuss relational tables within GIS and diagrams).

3 review

The tutorial for this assignment took place soon after submission and just as pandemic lockdown was taking hold. My social life had quietened in its analogue form and the distance modality was pushing hard on the laptop camera and microphone. The tutorial, its discussions and insights sat as excess in a world that had begun to get stilled (with some anxious twitches).

We discuss the proposed site of the staircase, its objects and arrive at the padlets that designate at that point three case studies, and that these may be research objects rather than BoW. Questions arise as to how these fold back into the research, how they relate, as well as how the Herz/Stein series acts as warp right across. The glossary elucidates the different aspects here.

4 review

After a thirteen months break we pick up and start with the concepts of the previous BoW 4 tutorial, immersiveness and audience engagement and how these relate to the Research draft. Concerning the draft then the structure of it, its different voices and positions and how it organises excess are key at this point: the role of the academic voice, of research materials, of a research folder on the blog; and then to ensure excess is managed and that the research questions are addressed. We pick up fairly effortlessly after that 13 months break between 3 and 4; we cover initially some of the discussions around immersiveness and audience engagement that arose in BoW 4 and then cover the following:

5 review

Tracing the first proposal through this moment of conclusion shows at once what has remained constant, what has become more defined and clarified and what was abandoned during that time. The consistency of enquiry, concern over engagement, voice and excess strike me, along with the fruitful exchange and support in the tutorial arrangement, the persistence of focus even as my material and site altered drastically not just once but twice. Relational enquiries with other people, 1:1 or in group settings did not take place, I tried a series of small exchanges at a distance, but the main focus moved to drawing/contact with materials, sites, atmospheres. The BoW shifted further while the methodological focus of Research was merely adjusted to also allow for the final BoW series, albeit it taking in Laura Marks’ Touch provided a key conceptual development for both, BoW and Research. I became confident in articulating PaR as methodology and integrating existing research experience with my growing skills as a creative arts practitioner. This feels a considerable achievement and I look forward to engaging this during SYP.

Reflections and alterations on the initial research proposal (part of Research 5)

The initial research proposal, my tutor’s annotations to it and the tutor report report for Research 1 are here:

Revisiting these after more than two years point to a series of continuities:

a. the question of voice (and the balance between a reflective, narrative one vis-a-vis an authoritative academic one) was already raised: how of tighten and how to make more authorial my argument. I valued these discussion as much as they clarified to me why I left an academic appointment to seek a creative arts setting, this being an academic degree qualification of course didn’t make the engagement obsolete but it helped sharpen and hone the kinds of voice and registers that I was seeking with my research and practice enquiries and engagements.

b. the suggestion of a glossary arised early on (partly in response to a) and enabled the long and rather fruitful path of how to create objects for Research, of how to conduct PaR and what kind of artistic ‘objects’ I am interested in.

c. from the start I took the critical reflection between BoW and Research serious and frequently returned to these. I feel this is a part where I successfully drew on my existing research experience as well as a rather well-defined artistic practice to be able to move between process and objects and to help develop these as strands with both Research and BoW holding objects and processes accordingly.

The research questions necessarily narrowed: there were no workshops, there were less and less 1:1 enquiries (even though I had found a way of how these could be made fruitful for drawing/contact). This was to a good part due to the pandemic and contact restrictions. And while I experimented with a series of participatory processes (a DIY zine for the staircase site; a series of viewing device instructions posted out), these towards the end call themselves ‘Instructions to touch’ yet are surreal, time-based portraits and narratives rather than engagement. However, with the question of engagement being at the heart of not just SYP but also how I conceive of this work, I look forward to moving this towards processes that involve others, closer and at a distance. The review of other artists’ practice was also less of a feature than initially planned and the work became very strongly one of a process-enquiry of my own practice, of the objects emerging and developing within this and this practice-as-research would yield insight and learning to fold onwards.

With the decision to actively conduct research in this enquiry, the creative writing as theory fiction as auto fiction, retreated somewhat in order to make space for methodology and findings. The case studies became research material, sited outside the text and along with other objects became part of the satellite objects, the appendices that surround a 5000 words academic text in the field of creative arts.

The initial proposal, a few months into the project, draws on earlier work and the development of this, it also features a series of academic practices (conference talks, academic papers, powerpoint presentations as well as diagrams). I wondered at that stage not only what would be considered new work but also the extent to which this academic practice should be part of BoW. Eventually, none of this become part of the portfolio, neither of BoW nor Research. For the latter, I over the course of the module developed a research practice which is firmly located within the creative arts and articulates as PaR, that this is building on an social science research career is not hidden but it is also a distinct development on from this. It is possibly this which I consider the most important learning from Research.

Site (ambition of), immersiveness and lint in the BoW

These are the two key themes that arose from the BoW 4 tutorial for the final resolution. As Walnut tree approaches resolution I revisit the BoW materials and come to the view that these are now complete and effectively concluded. They orientate around each other, contain site/practice and are my response to the drawing/contact brief. Much remains unresolved, open but this is very much the nature of my artistic practice as research, so all else will either be addressed in Research, in SYP or at a time later.

I am adding the sketchbook notes here for now, I may type them up but perhaps they will also suffice for my discussion and response to making the BoW address both the (ambition and scale of) site as well as the notion of immersiveness that organises the relationship between work and audience (and/or participants).

The task from BoW 4 were as follows:

  • Exploring the material forms (notably: video, perhaps writing, perhaps audio) that unpacks site and practice further – substantively (as in how the work relates to itself) and practically (as in how the work can be encountered)
  • Revising artist statement to clarify process and intent of the work
  • Tapping out which work is part of this process and how
  • Clarifying the role of screen and the relational principles between the work: how to negotiate different scales between ambitious site and quotidian lint

I spend a little more time considering the role of lint within the works that are proposed and come these:

Performing a potential blanket (Walnut tree of touch)

[pretty much a placeholder right now]

As part of the Walnut tree of touch (a potential blanket) I am exploring temporary fixtures, wooden pegs and paper clips, to create shapes and forms from the sheets of print and how these can be inhabited. A first set of images is done in low lighting and haphazard, I would like to add some outdoor explorations to this and will try to amend in time for the crit on Wednesday. But the idea is already contained in these rather poor images:

update (5/5/21): the weather being rather wild puts another iteration of this, outside and in daylight on hold.

Walnut tree of touch (a potential blanket): resolution

1. In situ installation (a Phoenix 350 sewing machine, folded down, the front drawer is open, revealing an assortment of sewing utensils as well as a small b&w photograph featuring a woman sitting at a wooden desk in front of some garden bushes, possibly currants; a pile of double-sided printed cyanotype on Moleskine sketchbook paper, double-sided; a stone holding these in place)

2. Proposed site of the above installation

Option 1: central to first image in centre of meadow, images 2-4 are views from the proposed table site:

Option 2: at the side of the meadow, near a pine, looking onto the meadow (images 1-3) from table location:

3. Instructions to touch (a potential blanket)

There is a text or audio document to go alongside (possible the text printed and wrapping the pile, or in a digital setting, the audio would play:

(1) Go to the walnut tree outside. Find a walnut shell that has been picked open by a crow. Take it indoors, wash it, let it dry. After a few days, open your sketchbook and place the shell on an empty page, fold the previous page over, hold it taut. Take first a marker pen (in a soft pink), then a thick and soft graphite stick and trace the opening of the shell. If you want to, also trace the edges and folds further down until the whole shape is transferred. Remove the shell and close the sketchbook. Have a look a few days later at how the opening has folded into the sketchbook.

(6) Look out for some replacement stones, ones that are smooth and you can bind together. Along the field with the empty seed heads, make your choice and lift one from the ground, it may be half-buried. You may find it’s an almost perfect heart shape, it may not require any other stone. Place it in the bag you brought with you and then in your pocket. Once home, forget about it for a couple of days, then place on your windowsill. Think about a precious wrapping for this singular stone.

(16) Remember the process of unbinding the sketchbook, mixing the chemistry after dinner and coating a first side once, after an hour a second time with the chemistry. Switch off the light, after an hour place the sheets (10 for 10g+4g) into the light-proof bag and go to bed.

(17) Over lunch, on any day throughout October, place your prepared sheets onto the tree, watch for wind, sun and rain. You can vary the exposure time and you can also discover that you don’t need to concern yourself all that much with mistakes here and there. Continue to print in this manner until the leaves are shed off the tree. Show your dad your prints at regular intervals.

(10) As your father and you move his mother’s sewing machine (manual, with trestle and no zigzag stitch) to your room, tell him about that photo of your other gran, in their garden, on a desk, revising for her driving license. Look it out and retrieve it from

(11) Remember the stone from autumn, find it on the desk and place it on the pile of prints.

(15) Sit down to write these notes at the furthest desk in the woods. The shoes are wet from the grass, you pull the hood over as it is slightly not warm enough (like most days, really). There is the usual bird chorus, then after a while another sound rises to your consciousness: further out, beyond the furthest field a cuckoo. The first of this spring.

(12) After that meadow exploration I navigate the hedge and fence and step up to the patio, I kneel down next to him as he washes tools in a bucket filled with water and vinegar. I tell him softly that I may have resolved the work.

(13) There is a walnut tree in your garden. Yes, I took some leaves from yours in autumn. Yes, mine is about to get new leaves.

(14) I write the process from the day before on the Trafo, cross-legged, in an early sun. I take a leave and hold it against the sun and the firs. It layers effortlessly.

(8) I tire after a first attempt a few days earlier and prepare to walk off. I return and explore the meadow with a view as to siting the table. I wonder: are we looking at the table or looking from the table. 

(18) The start of this, I realise, is a wrong lead, another project, not this. Really, perhaps this project starts with a hastily packed bag for a short emergency visit and a navigation of European Covid travel towards an ICU hospital bed some 36 hours later. I write this record eight months later still.

Walnut tree of touch (to blanket)

The prints of the autumnal walnut tree have so far remained unresolved. They featured in a number of posts and small explorations but have stayed in in a folder.

Previous relevant posts for this series are:

For a crit group session on Wednesday 5/5, I proposed to explore these as the work is too relevant and significant to stay out of the actual BoW.

I go through a series of enquiries and a development process that is detailed in this sketchbook note:

The main points here are:

  • Discussions with my mother and a colleague over quilting, making a blanket alongside the other blankets (nb that Decke in German means blanket but also ceiling or cover, translating Trafodecke merely as blanket is too cosy) clarify that
    • a sense of context, a see-through is as important as
    • a sense that the blanket can become undone, the individual parts remain unchanged, undamaged.
    • an exploration of sculptural form beyond a blanket, e.g. a trunk, a cave, a cape are important too.
  • I make a sheet clipped with paper clips of 2×6, closed and explore one evening
  • I place the sheets in a tree and watch them move, sway, fall off

I realise too that I am thinking of an installation that includes a potentiality for the blanket: a pile of sheets held down with a heart-shaped stone I found one day on top of an old manual sewing maching placed on the meadow at the forest edge, along with a text that includes instructions around this work, and a series of performative video pieces that explore the potential blanket.

  • the prints were done when my dad moved from ICU to ward to rehab following a severe stroke in late Summer and that process is contained in the printing (him and I did some performance work around the walnut tree in the preceding autumn).

So, for the work a number of things are important:

It should hold the significance of the material and context well: tender, soft, with depth.

It should also hold the relationship of drawing/ contact, of the haptic and the visual and of closeness and distance.

How do these relate to the other parts of the BoW and where does it slot into the ‘site’ that is Stromverteilen?

As remaining development work this means:

  • a series of performances around sculpted/modelled constructions from the sheets (I order both wooden pegs and large paper clips to build temporary structures)

>> a temporary placeholder (with poor images) is in this post:

  • to write instructions for the work
  • to try the sewing machine (currently located in the upper floor hallway in the house)

>> these instructions and a first photo set of the machine, the prints and the location is written up in this post:

  • to do a performance on the meadow with all elements once my friend T. comes and visits me in ten days.

The development of this overall material and various experiments are caught in these images:

Immersiveness (1) : faking it

I take these two yesterday afternoon. The first, the Douglas fir skywards an idea after a long series of not very successful ways of trying to get at that skywards patterning. The second, the larch (budded) is a motif I have similarly often revolved around, set up with the 5×4 pinhole camera, patiently waiting for the right light, the right view and what it looks from the other side, across the fence, from the meadow.

I send both in two whatsapp chats last night, one not looked at yet. As much as they are short playthings, they are also more, much more. Their scale and subject matter condensed, a response to my months of exploring and refusing immersiveness, of scale and ambition.

This morning I mention them too, along with: let me send them. I call them fakes as she reminds me in a chat message later. I barely retrace how I came to call them fake. But it is here: in the playful refusal of immersion, in the hint of seduction. They are sincere in their fakery all the same.

The skywards rotation was initially planned as having a different filter, a different pace, a loop, possibly a monochrome range too. I will explore these, but side by side, they also belong, perhaps: like so:

Immersion (fakery v1)

The spacing between (and probably that black too isn’t right but it’s a quick imovie work around… seeing them side by side is perhaps wrong too, they may be sequential and separate after all:

I need to send a reminder, like: do look at the videos. They are lush.

Nomadic thought and transversalism (research folder)

Research folder, expanding on this paragraph in Research dissertation:

Interested in contact implies a curiosity about the fabric that contributes to our articulations of corporeal selfhood (as author, subject and audience). At once immediate, sensorial and tactile it also asks wider questions concerning relationship and presence. These concerns around agency, voice and autonomy are informed by older materialisms (notably: a critical materialism of social praxis) and are curious about new materialisms and its rearticulations of the non/human subject (Marks 2002, Braidotti 2011, Springgay & Truman 2019, Hilevaara & Orley eds 2018).

(Helms, 2021, dissertation draft, 28 April 2021, Introduction)

(a) new materialism, non/human subjects: nomadism and transversalism.

In the draft I carry a different line around new materialisms and the human body with me for a while, Rosi Braidotti’s nomadism is dropped in but not explicated. It is the link to what before was the interest in hybridity (originating from that interdisciplinary conception of drawing), cyborgs and non/human agency.

For the dissertation text I am drawing the theory closer around Laura Marks and Stephanie Springgay and Sarah Truman, all else will largely go to research notes on here.

Nomadic subjects in Rosi Braidotti (2011) as a theory of subjectification for our times: feminist, materialist; furthermore, while informed by post-structuralism, she (and others) break with Lacan’s lack as key psycho-analytical feature but draw on Spinoza (via Deleuze/Guattari) to centre desire and the generative features arising thereof for such subjectification.

Figuration is key for Braidotti, there are also references to earlier publications by Laura Marks.

Here are a number of key points relevant for the dissertation (all Braidotti 2011, Nomadic Theory)

Key articulations of what nomadic thought/theory is concerned with:

“Conceptually, nomadic thought stresses the idea of embodiment and the embodied and embedded material structure of what we commonly call thinking. It is a materialism of the flesh that unifies mind and body in a new approach that blurs all boundaries. The embodiment of the mind and the embrainment of the body (Marks 1998) are a more apt formulation for nomadic thought than Cartesian or other forms of dualism. ” (Braidotti, 14)

“Nomadic thought rejects the psychoanalytic idea of repression and the negative definition of desire as lack inherited from Hegelian dialectics. It borrows instead from Spinoza a positive notion of desire as an ontological force of becoming. This achieves an important goal: it makes all thinking into an affirmative activity that aims at the production of concepts, precepts, and affects in the relational motion of approaching multiple others. Thinking is about tracing lines of flight and zigzagging patterns that undo dominant representations. Dynamic and outward bound, nomadic thought undoes the static authority of the past and redefines memory as the faculty that decodes residual traces of half-effaced presences; it retrieves archives of leftover sensations and accesses afterthoughts, flashbacks, and mnemonic traces.” (Braidotti, 15)

“Nomadic philosophy is the discursive practice with the highest degree of affinity to the mobility of intelligence: it is both physical, material, and yet speculative and ethereal. The dialogue itself is a movement of exchange between two consenting antagonists, such as friends, opponents, or traveling companions. ” (Braidotti, 16)

“It is particularly important not to confuse the process of nomadic subjectivity with individualism or particularity. Whereas identity is a bounded, ego-indexed habit of fixing and capitalizing on one’s selfhood, subjectivity is a socially mediated process of relations and negotiations with multiple others and with multilayered social structures.” (Braidotti, 17)

Nomadism in contrast to the flaneur’s gaze:

“Back in the metropolis, the ponderous yet lazy gaze of the nineteenth-century flaneurs theorized the art of walking as a leisurely literary stroll round town. This endowed the continental urban landscape with the mystery and seduction often reserved for faraway places—a domestic variation on the exotic. ” (Braidotti, 28)

Figuration is key for Braidotti, there are also references to earlier publications by Laura Marks.

“Figurations are ways of expressing different situated subject positions. A figuration renders the nonunitary image of a multilayered subject. Feminist theories since postmodernism demonstrated that the definition of identities takes place between the polarized duality of: nature/technology; male/ female; black/white—in the spaces that flow and connect in between. We live in permanent processes of transition, hybridization, and nomadization (…). And these in-between states and stages defy established modes of theoretical representation. The figuration of nomadic subjects, however, should never be taken as a new universal metaphor for the human or posthuman condition. As I argued in the companion volume, Nomadic Subjects (Braidotti, 2011), we need to provide, instead, accurate cartographies of the different politics of location for subjects-in-becoming.
A figuration is a living map, a transformative account of the self—it’s no metaphor. It fulfills the purpose of finding suitable situated locations to make the difference between different locations.” (Braidotti, 34f)

Tracing transversalism, which has been in my vocabulary for quite some time is a bit more difficult. The work from early 2000s+ by Gerald Raunig et al. sits closer towards institutional analysis, translation studies; and while informed by Deleuze/Guattari, it turns towards institutional critique rather than the subject, affect and non/human agency.

I have no access to my notes on Erin Manning’s Minor Gestures; nor Stefano Harney & Fred Moten’s Undercommons where much of this was explored and fed into my research/thinking around the Drawing 2 module.

Springgay & Truman’s Chapter 2 in Walking Methodology (2019) however assembles and outlines key lines and arguments: around trans theories and Braidotti’s (2006) transpositions that are ‘playing the positivity of difference’ (52), emphasising the non-linear and nomadic and that explore ‘regulated dissassociation’ of bond which are usually assumed cohesive.

<< these are the arguments that link to the BoW discussion around immersiveness vis-a-vis a notion of fragment, distance and detachment and a moving in and out of closeness and distance, i.e. how I draw on Marks’ erotic for the work).

So, for Springgay & Truman in this review of trans theories intensities and movements are key rather than fixed beings or things. They reference Abraham Weil (2017) on ‘entangled linkages, or transversality’ (53).

Furthermore, they mobilise Harney & Moten (2013) on ‘hapticality to think about how walking constitutes a politics-in-movement’ (12).

Chapter 2 in Springgay & Truman on Sensory inquiry & affective intensities in walking research thus provides not only the arguments around the use of nomadism and transversalism but also in doing so spells out the relevance of the sensorial and how this can be explored beyond notions of immersiveness.

(links to explore: Immersiveness, hapticality and the erotic, new materialism and register shifts (why I am not focusing all that much on matter after all))

Orientating Research blog towards assessment

The Research module consists of several elements. This post is a first attempt to orientate these towards resolution and assessment.

a. Research outline from A1

b. The dissertation, consisting of:

  • main body of text
  • different voices articulating alongside the main body of text, notably: research practice and notes sitting aside
  • Appendices to the main body: key points to the research practice and clarifications over key works and positions

c. Research padlets

d. Other padlets transecting across BoW and Research

e. Art works originating within the research process

f. Research folder on blog

It is this latter, the research folder on the blog that I need to organise and orientate. I have the blog so far mainly used to provide a number of things

  1. assignments, reflections and tutorial notes
  2. critical reflections across BoW and Research
  3. practice pieces and enquiries, many of these are part of BoW, some are part of Research; these often have a performative nature, are often not contextualised nor annotated but instead use the blog as performance/presentation platform
  4. some reflections on works and processes that do not directly relate to the intersection between BoW and Research, some of these are for Research

I have not so far used the blog to provide contextual studies or reviews or reflections (like artists, works, exhibitions, etc.), I did this in the past but for these modules much less so, and little that is writing for such purpose for Research.

Research tutorial 4 made clear that the current organisation of excess, appendix or satellite objects does not provide enough space to explore key debates, artists, works nor indeed conceptual considerations for my own practice within the 5k word limit of the dissertation.

Here, the Research folder on the blog will take this role, and it will hold a series of reflective and contextual pieces along with more theoretical and conceptual discussions.

Currently there are four key posts to write:

  1. Theoretical significance of nomadism and transversalism (and possibly some new materialism also) which underpins the dissertation but is not covered in depth. (The dissertation will discuss in turn Marks and Springgay/Truman in more detail)
  2. Key writers and artists: Spahr, Kapil and Krauss are alluded too, so are Calle, Goudal and Matta Clark; these need more discussion (and possibly just a list of relevant context as appendix in the dissertation); there are also: Bethan Huw’s Lake Piece, Gillian Wearing’s Dancing in Peckham and Georgina Starr’s Eddy & Whistle whose works keep returning to my mind. (Jonas and Palmer will in turn feature in more detail in the dissertation).
  3. Different voices in the dissertation
  4. Managing excess in Research

I will then also reorganise the categories and tags to account for this new section.

Tutor report for Research 4

I have the tutorial for Res 4 soon after submission and today post my notes to Rachel. We pick up fairly effortlessly after that 13 months break between 3 and 4; we cover initially some of the discussions around immersiveness and audience engagement that arose in BoW 4 and then cover the following:

  • Audience relationship and notions of immersion
  • Voices in the document
  • Unpacking and strengthening academic voice
  • Priorities and what to unpack: the role of the blog
  • Using the conclusion to go back to aims
  • Managing excess

The two key items to take are around the various voices within the document and how to organise these successfully.

The other one concerns one of the rules that I declared (initially in the introduction, for word count then as appendix: that the document, the Research project, manages excess). Rachel poses this as question and I include this section:

Managing excess

The Appendix with Rules: Can this come earlier, these rules are significant. As foreword or prelude? I also suggest to have it as opening quote to start with. Rachel asks: so does this essay manage excess (does it succeed?)? I describe how it manages excess through the various satellite objects and a designation of different voices. I then wonder if excess is already being managed by me naming it, by planting that idea in a relational context, in a dialogue and that the other then wonders if there is more, if there is more beyond the parameter of the project. So that it effectively introduces in dialogue a fantasy object that leads the other to seek around and beyond, and to go away with a fantasy (57mins: transcribe in toto).

Will Self: Digital essay on Kafka’s Wound, a hyperlinked essay.

Arno Schmidt’s Bottom’s Dream

[While listening again, I hear that Rachel also asks whether the project is successful, I didn’t hear that in the first conversation. I will come back to this: of what is success in this, what failure? Perhaps questions of control are always both: tight boundaries provide safety but exclude and simplify massively; and vice versa. Does it depend on the actual relational contact in which this is approached and negotiated every single time to give a sense of whether it works?]

A series of key points for what is next arise from the discussion, I will unpack these further in a next post but they will principally concern

  • clarification of voices across the document
  • strengthening and tightening of academic voice
  • use of Research folder on blog to take all excess and allow me to unpack key issues without worry about the word count

These are relatively modest in scope, I hope the first two won’t take more than a week, the second one requires some reorganisation of the blog which I so far have not really used as a Research notebook, the notebook only every functioned explicitly for the practical work; how extensive this work is going to be is after an initial set of 3-5 posts pretty much up to me though.

The full report is attached here:

Draft portfolio for BoW 5

As part of my preparation for Research 4 I populated a padlet that starts with a first encounter of the site of Stromverteilen and then spreads out (towards the bottom right of the site) to encompass different processes, enquiries and experiments to lead to some of the more defined works and series within this BoW. Crucially, I also include some of the textual concepts and experiments here and thus treat moving-with as textual as much as visual and conceptual.

So far the material around Herz/Stein is entirely absent. I am thinking of dropping in small elements either around the mid-diagonal or right across the whole site.

I also note a few other absences (like some of the finished objects and the still remaining large ‘drawing to provide access into the site of Stromverteilen).

I think the processes around the actual transformer station need a bit more around the care and maintenance work (I currently have only some images for this). It feels more substantial, as if that site is centrally engaged in that task.

click on image to visit Stromverteilen padlet

Research 4: submission of a working draft

I submit a word document with embedded audio and ten appendices to my Research tutor.

There are a few notes to accompany this submission:

  • Case studies, a/v materials and word count. The dissertation word limit is 5000 words. The Research handbook suggests a study with primary research, which I took serious and present the work primarily as Practice as Research (PaR), it features also forms of narration that fall between theory/fiction and creative writing. The word count even for a simple primary research study is severely limited. My desire to trace divergence with different formats runs up against that limitation even more.
  • My solution to this are several strategies:
    • A series of appendices was early on discussed, as satellite objects, I take Kate Zambreno’s (2018) Appendix Project as inspiration.
    • I move some of my theory discussion into a video narration
    • I present three case studies (verge/weed, Dreaming the staircase and Stromverteilen), they each relate to large work series with BoW, the latter, Stromverteilen, effectively becoming an overall container. Each of these series have an attendant padlet space which operates as object for the Research. I currently present the written narrations for each case in the dissertation but also include an audio file narrating these. I would like to consider these quotes rather than part of the word count.
    • To a lesser degree this also applies to a few sections from my research folder where I quote my own notes.
  • The above gives some space to explore the research findings relating to the questions, this still feels cursory (I offer a series of routes through enquiries along with two longer discussions of reach/resonance and near space as key findings). I include a list of resources and materials in which I provide more insight into the research processes and the BoW.

Of course the above restrictions budge up against my existing writing practice across these registers: research articles of around 8000 words or in fact a PhD thesis where a 5000 words dissertation will always feel superficial and limited. And yet, I feel this working draft does work, it provides a frame and focus onto the questions that animate the PaR and it offers a series of original insights. What forms and publics these may seek beyond the assessors is a different question, which in part can also be attended to in SYP.

The early discussions around the glossary as well as satellite objects and excess has found a form and expression that seems fitting to me. It allows for different registers and media to circle in different orbits around the text.

There is a lot more in the reference (both artistic works and academic writing) that is not expressed in fullness, Friedrich Kittler’s work remains salient and solely features in a footnote. Relating Laura Marks sensuous theory to Kittler seems promising and is not articulated in writing (though perhaps in practice).

That this is completed almost 12 months late feels like a considerable achievement. I pressed pause at the start of the pandemic, then a combination of winter wave and family illness pushed me further away from the academic work while generating far more practical work (while all the same the loss of distance to and detachment from seemed to ever increase).

I am excited that it is at this stage, I look forward to the discussion of some of the findings and ways to hone and sharpen the written contribution for the Research module.

There are two things remaining ahead of the tutorial:

  1. I want to provide too an update on my BoW padlet ( to account for the works that have developed alongside the writing of the text.
  2. Stromverteilen as padlet has developed from a single (and naive, first encountered) site to effectively function as portfolio for the whole BoW (

I am not currently attaching the draft to this post, if you are interested in reading: send me a message and I am more than happy to send along.

glossary (for Res 4)

I start the work on Research 4 (draft) by turning to the existing (almost full) draft that I submitted for Res 3 about a year ago and investigate both the research questions and the extent to which these need to change as well as the glossary. The glossary currently exists and a .png file, an object but not a glossary as text.

In the previous Research tutorial we discussed:

  • how the glossary maps out the terrain of the dissertation and research and presents a research object in its own right; and
  • that I should investigate the relationship between the research padlets (verge/weed, stair:case) and the glossary object as a matter of research itself to feed back into the dissertation.

I am starting this process now before writing through the draft sections. Over the months I had updated and revised the dissertations sections as the project was shifting, and am in terms of structure fairly clear what needs to be cut, what reordered and what added.

A similar clarity exists as to the glossary terms: I revise, after having done a rather long list of potential new ones; I cut the ones that for the whole project no longer bear all that much relevance; and alter some terminology. I am clear about the four sections (new conceptual contribution; obstacles; series solutions; methodology; and that these will be the footnote added to the object). Some terms may combine or diverge (bridge/edge are contained in new Sorge/care; smallness of things becomes lin; a/drift covers some of the earlier barriers.

It may be necessary to abandon the title concept drawing/contact: it seems too vague now (and I have a similar sense over how I used performance in earlier submissions). Tentatively, I propose reach/resonance to cover the relational of drawing/contact, it seems to contain the movement better too as well as the role of site. I may delete site/practice and practice/site too: perhaps it’s also too generic and unnecessary.

I am considering including keywords as appendix as short, more traditional paragraphs for each term of the glossary.

Here my revised one, the original one below:

Glossary object as of February 2021
Glossary object as of February 2020

PS: distance (none at all)

as I sit and write the earlier post I seem to be forgetting one key element, I turn left and right, half-trace it, it dissipates again, eventually, I convince myself that it is all there already.

Only, it isn’t: the key condition of working (or perhaps: living) under pandemic conditions, here or in the earlier there, is marked by distance, the total lack of it: all is immediate, all seems an ever-running live feed, I can’t step to the side, pause, rewind. In turn, all becomes now, immediate, what is gone is gone and I barely get to anticipate.

In all previous work the stepping to the side was the key movement, the key move and gesture in order to step up closer again. This side step is gone (while still everything seems to pass by).

This condition of distance jostles for attention as much as the ever-evading module work and the distance of contact restrictions. Trying to give each of them a presence in this body of work is what this second half of the work is concerned with.

The maraprilay padlet was an earlier attempt, so was the distributed distance tracing of absent sketchbooks.

distance/contact (after BoW4)

I stumble upon a note from 14 months ago. I want to post it, it seems so resonant of now, then I find a note that I already did post it, here:

And when I find the image I immediately remember the loop I did back then before eventually heading back to the pub, after all.

Today, or yesterday, or the past however many months, the note on the same topic reads as follows:

Distance: the module seems to ever evade me, the whole project constantly under threat of slipping away, of me letting it slip away. Of it falling apart under my hands (es zerrinnt mir in den Haenden). I am anxious as the weeks pass that it will never get done. So, all the while the project is so interested in contact and touch, it is the distance that organises it.

In/out of reach as modality to know the project.

(and that an arm’s length is a good measure for closeness is something a colleague offered some time ago also).

It is of course the modality of the pandemic also, and in that the project begun an enquiry, the enquiry shifted, ruptured (like one of those register shifts I set out with? just more violently, more abrupt, entirely not initiated by myself), and I at once wanted to let it be unsettled, wanted to recognise that register shift as significant while also seeking a response that would not simply try to anchor the project in a before, nostalgic state. In doing so, an almost completed project got opened up and out again, my personal circumstances altered by care relations as much as what the pandemic introduced as travel distance and the combination of these proved almost too much for the lightness of touch, of contact that the project had been exploring.

Today I read back over my Research draft and settle down to reorganise it for the third time.

Submission of BoW 4 Core

This post orientates the works assembled as part of my BoW 4 Core submission and points towards key reflections around these.

The disjuncture of the previous 10 months means that the blog is somewhat discontinuous and I only start in late autumn to gather material and reflection here, after having completed a number of fairly extensive works. I have since Research 3 assembled much of my work in padlets, using the canvas layout effectively as interactive mindmaps and concept maps.

As part of this submission I set up a padlet which will serve as a work space to map the works, the key texts and the timeline (both for Research and BoW) (click on image to open padlet):

a body of work: core padlet outlining work to date

Currently it is organised chronological, pointing towards the works that informed up to Research 3, the pandemic interlude and then a series of works that took place since September and which I orientate my BoW around. It details key elements of these autumn works and key themes, linking to other padlets, to blog posts as well as a couple of videos.

The work is vast as it now covers 25 months as well as two ruptures at a point I was ready to submit BoW 4 and Res 4 back in March 2020.

Two of the autumn works are resolved in different ways.

1. Im Walde 14-23

2. Stromverteilen (series)

Two other works are part of the autumn works cycle:

3. Walnut Tree of Touch

4. Drei Nuesse

Given the amount of material, I propose a tentative priority:

1. Am Walde

2. Stromverteilen (as series)

3. Instructions to touch and related posts around tactility, handling collections and touch at the centre of the work (Drei Nuesse and Herz/Stein are practice-based series, and I realise now too that Stromverteilen, despite its scale and reach also has these elements strongly present).

4. Distributed Distance and Herz/Stein summer school

>> these latter point towards the small-scale, repetitive processes, the fluff of the work that I initially intended to make accessible as a self-assemble artist book portfolio and which I am now trying to reconfigure to allow for the idea of near-space, touch and contact to function under pandemic conditions.

5. Verge/Weed and stair:case from the Spring padlets function as extensive sites/practices

6. Drei Nuesse is a practice-based proposal, where I created fragile toned strips of exposed paper, they mirror bookmarks from earlier in 2020, but I am uncertain about the objecthood of this series.

7. Walnut tree of touch is resolved but not further assembled beyond the 36 double-sided prints. The intention is to sow these as 6×6, with spacing between and hang into a room. It has relatively little material assembled around it as I focused on the practice series and tried to make them work for a digital/distributed/distance format.

Leading up to this submission I spent considerable time around the small tactile practices once Im Walde was concluded. I then turned to Stromverteilen to explore what was in this considerable thematic besides the Parcours video and the blankets as residues. In this process, the work expanded and seems to hold considerable promise in the different strands (akin to the original staircase site). So the padlet and blog contains several recent posts trying to explore the themes and different forms in it. This also means that I have not spent much more time with either Walnut Tree of Touch nor the Drei Nuesse.

I have a sense that the autumn works address and explore the drawing/contact and relational near-space and the practices of moving-with; that this work can live digitally is without a doubt to me, enough of my practice moves between analogue and digital and is interested in the transitions and translations thereof. This is not the problem that the pandemic posed to me. The problem is more ontological as to the extent to which tactility was being pause, shifted, reconfigured and I realised that my work tracks along a present, works with memory and envisages a future; in order to understand this significant shift, it needed to pause as the sudden rupture and closing off of sites in March meant the work had suddenly ceased to be contemporary and I didn’t want to add a mournful nostalgic front to the whole project. That the pandemic is still with us however also means that the shift is longer term in nature and the rupture will remain as significant moment informing the present and near future. This in turn means that I can begin to make it part of the work and seek forms of expression, engagement and interaction within this shift.

I anticipate that a good part of these thoughts will fold into SYP; some of the ontological shifts and what it means for my practice will inform the draft of Research 4 and any notion of an appendix as satellite objects of the body of work. I will turn to these after this submission and have begun to mark a few observations in the reflections and post published for BoW (without necessarily needing to discuss these here in detail).

Sorge/Strom (as part of Stromverteilen)

Over the process of making the Trafodecken across several late autumn weeks on top of the transformer station, I realise that my role in this durational project is one of care and maintenance work (much later I discover that the employees of the electricity company are also charged with a monthly maintenance check-up of the station. We never meet until they send me a message late in January).

I am presenting the material simply in gallery form. There are alongside a series of short videos (turning pages, revealing cones and plugged feathers, insects moving on the blankets, the viewing device surveying vertical lines).

This work presents the practice thread that also features e.g. in the earlier sketchbook materials and Herz/Stein, Drei Nuesse. I remain uncertain about the form (other than galleries, slides and/or a/v works). I don’t think the purpose is to pull out individual photographs to print as objects — Yet, this remains part of the review/discussion.

Sorge (Care)

Across five weeks I go almost daily, often twice daily to check in on the blanket, the wind, the rain, the needles and the resin. The wider site had become a destination for about a months earlier, so the 12 mins route from one side of the village to the other village edge (I leave the village towards the swimming pool, walk up along the woodland to come to the holiday flats that mark the village edge a little further north) has become a commute. Noone asks but if they did I would have told them about my outdoor office.

I am most uncertain about the effect of the wind, the blankets are loosely tied to the station but the two rows mean the gap in the centre easily catches in the wind. I pull on the sides, tighten the string and at one occasion roll the paper up and tie it down on the northerly corner to secure it against a storm. The first paper is heavily marked by this process, for the second paper the weather was calmer, marked by periods of frost and clear sky, or perhaps I only secure the paper more firmly?

Across this period I patch some tears, hide marks I feel ambivalent about and also feed some of the documentation back in to the process.

I also observe the insects on top of the blankets. In fact, I observe mostly, besides the pulling the blanket into place.

The initial impetus for this work resided in the idea of rubbing and marking the tracing paper (much of my earlier work was interested in this, I (re-)discover Ingrid Calame’s large scale works), but once in place, I find the marking too strong, the graphite rubbing too violent, and so I step back. Later, with the heavy rains and the puddle patterning on top I discover the translucency of the Copic inks (dropped from the refill, the pens don’t work with moisture). These seem perfect to add and keep lightness in the process.

Here are a number of images around the maintenance work

Strom (Flow, also: electricity)

My maintenance work around the transformer has a resonance nearby. The house next to it is being refurbished. It becomes a welcome stopping point, a frequent conversation: we chat while he works. He discovers how faulty the house’s electricity is and spends the weeks while I mark wind on the transformer station with rewiring the house, trying to find and resolve faults. I joke that I can sit atop of high voltage while he fiddles about with residential low voltage.

I seek permission to draw the broken sockets across the house. I don’t really get it initially, then when I do I don’t find time and by then the most exciting messy sockets are already tidied up. So there exists only one afternoon of hastily drawn sockets and wires in the front porch, drawn from outside. They can be worked further, I can also draw the box with the distribution switches (I am sure there is a technical term for this) or the newly fixed sockets) (This was around the time that Hayley Locke did a couple of workshops around Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, I somehow fantasise of using the cutout shapes for the quickly drawn sketches).

Originell/Verboten (as part of Stromverteilen)

The Trafo sits right at the edge of the village and is adjacent to one of the most popular walking routes out of the village and into the woods. So, most days, there is a frequent stream of dog walkers and walkers (as frequent as in a village of 270 people allows for). I don’t recognise most of the people, they don’t recognise me, over the weeks I however start talking to a few of them, and meet a few I knew from 30 years ago. This definitely becomes a thing once I start sitting on top of the transformer and once I place the first blanket on top. For several of them it takes a few iterations until they ask.

One woman laughs and says: That is original, I have never seen anything like that. I reply: You should try, it’s quite comfortable. — It’s the kind of exchange that I remember as typical, it is a little forward, a little aggressive (the next time she asks: are you bored again?), but also curious. On the third occasion, I have the blanket laid out on the lawn next to it, she steps next to me and says: now I want to have a look at it too, C. (my neighbour from the other side of the village, who observed me from the window front a few days before and enquired who I was and didn’t recognise me) said this was looking really interesting. It takes me to that point to remember that that initial put down hides interest, is the typical kind of conversation opening where I am from.

Another woman finally comes up to check where I am going (I pass her frequently in the village, after a while we started talking, my mother fills me in on the conflict they had with each other some time ago). Now she knows.

The moving onto the transformer as grown woman, the standing on top of it steps aside and outside what is acceptable along that path and in that village. I am conscious of that, I decide not to be concerned, my being here for such extended period of time is enough out of normal for me in any case; that this is simply another environmental art process is routine for me, but not for the village edge.

More recently the conversations concern my role: so, what is this? Art. Ah okay, you mean you earn money with this? Another: You do this professionally? As a hobby? It’s the money earning which is the first item of contention every single time in these more recent conversations.

In the Moving Image workshop in November I say something about the audience: that it is not for the village, and yet the village sees it, engages with it, so what would this look like if the village was an audience?

This process comes to a culmination on Tuesday when I take the blankets up to the station to photograph and explore a couple of lines ahead of the submission. I play for a couple of hours, place them inside the neighbour’s fence, go home for lunch and return a couple of hours later. I. who I talk to while he renovates arrives at the same time and walks towards me: ‘You were wanted earlier. The guys who maintain the transformer asked for who the one was who was sticking up things, placing things on top. You know it’s not allowed. They asked if I knew who was doing this. I said yes, and that I wasn’t going to tell them. So I need to tell you now. Did you stick something up there?’ I laugh, yes, three months ago. He: It’s not allowed. I reply, there is nothing there, so what. He insists and seemingly has forgotten what he observed me doing there for months.

I wonder if it’s the same men who fitted the new distribution box in December. They left the house without electricity on a teaching day. I dared to ask them about timelines, I wasn’t sure if I was too forward or not but 10 mins before my appointment the electricity was back on.

— This story belongs here too, along with a voice memo I sent to my friend in IL for the first time from the site while I waited on the sun to appear on Tuesday. It’s all quiet, noone around, the sound of the memo is all spacious and I talk through the site but also talk through the UK, my distance, the ideas I have for work here, I get upset, a different neighbour appears, he stood with headphones nearby for a while I realise, I also realise he witnessed my displaced distress.

(This one has no visuals, possibly a soundtrack, it can be written more tightly as a storyline though).

Stromverteilen series

I find a transformer station, clamber atop and discover the 1.50 mtrs elevation (and my body’s ability to pull my self up) are joyous. I return and experiment:

  • a collage double spied from the distance
  • a white tracing paper blanket becomes 2 iterations of marking and recording needles, wind, rain, sun and sleet for 14+days leading up to mid-Winter (Trafodecken)
  • a few other items mingle

I take the resulting blankets to a kitchen space, an analogue zoom background and earlier this week back to the site to explore their potential to act as installation screens and as objects in situ.

I also make the transformer and my movement the subject of a short video piece (two channel): Stromverteilen (Parcours).

It rests here for the time being. The video works as a piece, I can also see the blankets acting as an installation site which houses the two video channels. The on site installations struggle to work, even when the sun hits them right. They result in a few good photographs, but I don’t think it’s photographs that I am after. The idea of screen (and backlighting, either by the sun or striplighting) remains but is not yet realised. Eventually, after I gave up with cold hands and clouds, the sun hits the spot and I right at the end throw one blanket into the tree and it’s pretty, delicate with the branches tracing and catching the light. It’s also too random to worry about right now.

(initially I called the whole site, the transition between village and wood, Stromverteilen, started this padlet here, there are a number of other strands in this too, e.g. the faulty electricity wiring nearby, but I pause these right now and let them recede into the sketchbook material).

This post assembles four strands of works within this series, the video the most resolved, the others point towards key processes and the object status is still somewhat uncertain.

I present the four strands, some additional visual documentation and the present a series of observations to be taken forward and into Research.

Works in this series

At this point I tentatively propose:

  1. Stromverteilen (Parcours)
  2. Trafodecken (transformer blankets)
  3. Sorge/Strom [care/flow] (small scale processes and fluff originating within this process):
  4. Originell/Verboten [original/forbidden] (talking around while standing on the transformer):

This post contains the materials for 1. and 2., the two others are held in separate blog posts.

1. Stromverteilen (Parcours) as video work (probably two channel rather than this combined video. (see some earlier drafts as spart of the Moving Image workshop with Garry Clarkson in November/December).

2. Trafodecken: Key objects and insights from this process

Insights (also relevant for Research):

A series of observations of the recorded materials and the investigations over the process of making the blankets:

  1. The detailed marks that trace needles and rain (as well as some light) on the blankets, for some of the time I keep records as to what is marked when; over the duration the repetition of needles on top and underneath as well as of Copic ink dripped into any puddles are the most persistent features of both the blankets. The second blanket also is frottaged as soon as it is laid out: I use a thick soft graphite to trace the surface. I was eager to do this right away, but the first blanket proved too fascinating in its pristine surface to mark immediately, then I discovered that insects were moving on its surface, the rubbing would have harmed them.
    For the eventually resulting object, the graphite blanket is stark and heavy, the one without much much lighter and translucent.
    The wind and rain soften and weaken the paper, a thick 110gsm tracing paper, the first blanket process comes to an end when I realise the paper is disintegrating and tearing; I close the second process at the point that I leave the village for a week. Both blankets were laid out for a long fortnight leading up to mid-Winter.
    I roll the first blanket up for about a week of high winds.
    Both blankets pull apart in the middle and reveal a gap, right at the end of 2 I place some cyanotype underneath to print this opening.
    I experiment with how I fix the paper on the short sides: I use light string, adjust, readjust.
  2. I go most days, often twice a day. For a large part of the process my work seems maintenance, care even: to check, adjust, tug in. The processes of intervening and tracing take a backseat. Many days I don’t add any marks apart from those to adjust and reposition the papers.
  3. I add a few other objects, sometimes stuff that accidentally has found its way onto the surface, sometimes objects I find on the way that seem relevant. I also a few times take print out from photographs of the process back to the site and place them, some get reworked, some get blown off and placed back in.
    One process is a visual narrative (two photographs placed side-by-side), they stay for several weeks longer, eventually acquire some moss and at the point that they are blown off into the grass nearby, I take them home.
  4. I observe insects, larger ones, mainly smaller ones moving on top of the blankets and mingling with my marks. I records some of them with a handheld iphone, later with a tripod. I am fascinated by the movement they add to the cumulative marks. That I move frequently on top of the blankets too is a resonance, mirroring of the insects and joyful.
  5. Late, after the final documenting in late January I realise the most frequent images document the function of the blanket as peripheral vision and/or kaleidoscope; I photograph the flat top against the wooded background. It’s the spatial construction of this that interests me and that I document and arrange and trace.
    In this, the process adds understanding to how space is constructed, how illusion is achieved and what the process yields for different viewpoints and plays with figure/ground and scale. It’s a similar process that I pursued in the staircase site and it speaks to my interests around utopian spaces, doors to elsewhere and the quotidian, small processes facilitating these.
    Employing the blankets as screen is twofold here: a screen to acts as opaque background, as delimiter, but also a screen as translucent as employing shadow play and filtering the sunlight and objects to the back.
  6. The work around the transformer station is also a movement work, something I call for Research moving-with: The walk up to it, the ‘commute’ from one village side to the other, stepping away, stepping out on the meadow, and then the parcour of pulling myself up on to the station, of sitting, squatting and of jumping down. Furthermore, I have GPS mapping records of my first walk there and a number of subsequent ones. I wonder if this is a separate theme within this series.

These will be the lines of enquiry to pursue further (either within in BoW or to move them to Research). The question of scale for the blankets remains key: there is a sense that the blanket is both screen but also detail, possibly for the latter to be deconstructed and reassembled in book form or similar.

instructions to touch

Okay, this the proposition of how to organise tactility in close/open at a distance.

This post a first exploration of various modalities:

  1. audio only
  2. a/v with black screen
  3. a/v with illustrative image (at the moment: of the object instructed)
  4. a list of written instructions (these are also possible in different forms: as image, as handwritten list.

1. audio only

2. a/v with black screen

3. a/v with illustrative image

4. a list of written instructions

Instructions to touch #1

Go to the walnut tree outside. Find a walnut shell that has been picked open by a crow. Take it indoors, wash it, let it dry. After a few days, open your sketchbook and place the shell on an empty page, fold the previous page over, hold it taut. Take first a maker pen (in a soft pink), then a thick and soft graphite stick and trace the opening of the shell. If you want to, also trace the edges and folds further down until the whole shape is transferred. Remove the shell and close the sketchbook. Have a look a few days later at how the opening has folded into the sketchbook.

Instructions to touch #2

Go to the walnut tree outside. Find a walnut shell that has been picked open by a crow. Take it indoors, wash it, let it dry. After a few days, open your sketchbook and place the shell on an empty page, fold the previous page over, hold it taut. Take your mechanical pencil and trace the opening of the shell. Adjust the pressure so that the paper doesn’t tear entirely. If you want to, also trace the edges and folds further down until the whole shape is transferred. Remove the shell and close the sketchbook. Have a look a few days later at how the opening has folded into the sketchbook.

Instructions to touch #3

Go to the spare room and look out a red-coloured sock yarn. Pack it in your bag, put on your shoes and jacket, make sure you have also headphones and house key and walk up to the transformer. Pick up one of the frozen fir cones and hold it in one hand. In the other, take the yarn ball and begin to wrap the cone from the middle outwards. Adjust the pressure, perhaps you can place the yarn ball in your pocket and it will simply release the yarn. When you come upon a break in the yarn, place the cone down and pick a new one. Repeat. Take the cones inside, place on your desk and watch over the next days how the warmth encourages the cone to open and strain against the yarn.

Instructions to touch #4

On your walks, look out for sweet wrappers. Pick up any you find and place in your sketchbook.

Instructions to touch #5

Look out for some replacement stones. The first ones you find may be large, almost as big as you can comfortably hold in one hand. Begin to wrap with the sock yarn, exploring how you can turn the yarn and/or the stone. You may also place the stone on the ground to ease the wrapping. After, once your yarn has finished, place the stone back to where you took it from.

Instructions to touch #6

Look out for some replacement stones, ones that are smooth and you can bind together. Along the field with the empty seed heads, make your choice and lift one from the ground, it may be half-buried. You may find it’s an almost perfect heart shape, it may not require any other stone. Place it in the bag you brought with you and then in your pocket. Once home, forget about it for a couple of days, then place on your window sill. Think about a precious wrapping for this singular stone.

Thoughts to consider further:

  • it is surprisingly easy to retrace an object by way of instructions to self.
  • what is the role between instruction and narrative
  • while the audio works well I find the illustrative image is the weakest: it is too definite and it forecloses what that object can become if someone else does indeed follow the instruction
  • the written instructions work also well; possibly as image rather than list, what does handwritten add here (other than decoration or hand of the artist?)

Approaching my sketchbook in this way and translating the sketchbook into something experiental, transferable in this manner seems a considerable step forward — it addresses the falling away of the participation, engagement with a self-assembly portfolio at the heart of the site specific installation. It also proposes a form of contact, intimacy and tactility both in terms of relational form and in what the materiality of the work here, in my hand and/or sketchbook can become when it travels over digital distance to reinstantiate in your hand, sketchbook, elsewhere and at a different time.

Herz/Stein and Drei Nuesse as handling collections?

In the process of pulling together my different works for BoW 4 I am trying to explore scale and reach within the work, notably what role touch and tactility can have for this body of work (principally, but also practically under contact restrictions and all digital submissions).

Coming up to March 2020 I explored a series of objects, notably: stones, stones with seaweed, stones bound with yarn and elastic as tactile objects, the objects leading out of a the idea of Herz/Stein, heart/stone, a heart emoji placed in online conversations, the idea of it closing down, marking both territory and belonging.

This exploration continued at a distance and in tactility: a series of workshops over spring and summer had me exploring the stone, yarn, elastic combination as well as the relationship dynamic that sparked the initial enquiry and how some of this had been also moving through the staircase site before lockdown.

When I moved to Germany I almost packed the stones and yarn, I almost had it sent in three parcels. Then I didn’t. Now I realise I can use other yarn and other stones to continue if there is more to continue.

The work around the walnut tree and the opened shells mirrored the objecthood, if not at all the relational charge, and I set up Drei Nuesse as a similar close-range, intimate process of exploration of materiality that can be held, handled.

The concept or desire for the work always found expression as a handling collection, a term a fellow student introduced me too a couple of years ago with her work (and the binding, rope, yarn also found an early spark in her work).

How does a handling collection work at a distance? Also: to what extent is a handling collection an over-determined concept residing in museum practices (something my work isn’t interested in)?

This post is a summary post to help me articulate these ideas a little further in anticipation of a conversation with said fellow student to explore a little further what resolution for these near-range, tactile works of mine may exist.

Some of my questions at this moment are then:

What is in the handling collection as term? 

  • too determined by museum practices?
  • what happens in digital context for this?
  • can I invite to diy and then everyone has something to handle?
  • handling and/or touching (the former designates a subject/object relationship, the latter more equal, undefined)
  • sketchbook as handling item?
  • unique objects/ easy multiples

Role of screen/stage for the tactile objects?

  • Questions of scale
  • Figure/ground
  • Peripheral vision and centre stage
  • Satellite objects of work
  • Possibility of a wallpaper as a different concept from screen, stage, constellation

Distance/proximity as enquiry: handle/ touch at a distance?

  • Where does tactility move in a pandemic?
  • Digital touch and haptics
  • Sound as intimacy

This post is accompanied by the previous one where I collate the experiments around both series, both posts to serve as basis for a series of discussions

touch and intimacy at a distance

close/open comes to my mind, the title I gave this site before it was a site and a body of work.

I am spending time with the small tactile objects of this work, both Herz/Stein and Drei Nuesse, turning them left and right, exploring well-tested processes and some other tangents to see what form of a tactility, touch and thus closeness I can achieve with them. First in my own hand (not so difficult), then possibly in yours (far more difficult).

Considering this an exhibition with audience participation always introduces the distance of a gallery site, however unconventional. Contact restrictions and sites closed add to this. These limitations notwithstanding, my work has also always worked with closeness and intimacy at a distance, often through social media posts, through audio messages and through touch screens. The viewing and listening experiences often one of a single person and their device. The sound and the handheld device the means for such proximity.

Yet, I remain uncertain if this will do as sensory means for the kind of objects that both Herz/Stein and Drei Nuesse are: stones, paper, yarn, shells. Their touch and the sensation of their weight, shape and surface in one’s hand does not work through a device. Can I narrate these?

The padlets are attempts to bridge such gap and to provide a visual narration through the objects. It’s an effort of translation, transfer, and yet the outcome holds in a number of ways.

In any case, in advance of a series of discussion around my tactile objects, touch and handling, here two sets of images by way of collating what objects there are:

First, the experiments for the walnut shells (cyanotype exposure of the inside; bleach+tone with walnut ink; wrapping; staining with ink inside the shell; tracing the opening with ink and graphite).

The objects created with the cyanotype, bleach and tone are delicate strip, the paper almost undone through the iterative working. They are delicate objects, perhaps suited to a light box but also not quite for handling.

Is the handling just a fantasy? Is there just a trace of the touch contained in these?

A similar gallery for the Herz/Stein processes is this one (I left them in Glasgow, had the original stones and yarn and elastic almost sent three times, today I take a new ball of red sock wool to the edge of the wood and begin to wrap stone, stick and cone):

instruction as relational engagement at a distance?

Since Drawing 2 I have been experimenting with instructions, both to self and to others. There are a few that were sketchbooks ideas during L3. At the start of the first lockdown in April 2020 I attended two tutored OCA meetings of the London group with Bryan Eccleshall. Between session 1 and 2, I devised this padlet comment (copied in full), the discussion that followed invited me to consider these four points not merely as instructions to myself (or summary of my own practice) but to turn these into instructions to others. I didn’t do that at that point but now while compiling works for BoW 4 I want to place this here as note and potential series to include.

Distance… pets 2020 was what my filing system made of my conceptual musings at the start of lockdown 1, it’s worth keeping

Since the first meeting (of Keeping the Momentum) I begin to explore what are forms of enquiry for me now, tonight I find 4:

1. Drawing/ encounters in socially distanced times. I meet online, offline, accidentally or kind of so a few people. I take note, often in camera form, sometimes in FB posts, none of them yet folded onwards like what I did with the drawing/events in my BoW but they are similar kind of things, only the parameter has changed. I collect.

2. I explore the role and form of my walks. Previously they were commutes which were so familiar that they often mistake themselves for drifts. These have disappeared and with them my creative thinking/writing space. I no longer find the latter at the end of the former. Instead, I watch and observe the city and its pavement. I also begin to think of some interventions of my own. I have all that chalk pastel in one of my cupboard.

3. The space between my laptop camera and myself. It comes into focus as it feels extensive. It is hidden from view, yet when I am quite distracted it is visible to others. I begin to explore it.

4. There is possibly a fourth which is the computer camera and screengrab as photographic medium.

portfolio at a distance

In preparation of submitting 4 of BoW I have continued to review and assemble the works that I have. The biggest challenge for this lies in the distance: temporal distance to the material assembled and a simple spatial distance: sketchbooks #1-8 are out of reach since I moved to Germany in September. The current situation with haphazard postal routes between here and Brexitland has exacerbated this situation.

The plan a year ago was to create a loose sheet portfolio of photocopied collage assemblages, the act of compilation by the viewer (while ascending the staircase) was key to the work, along with the matter that each sheet was a simple copy, in a pile of numerous other copies.

Since early Summer, since it became clear that autumn would not mean the staircase would again become accessible I have explored alternatives to this process-based performative work and what the impulse to ‘lift the sketchbooks off their pages’ could look like in the context of contact restrictions and inaccessibility.

I will write some more about the options that I explored in earnest in autumn (individual portfolios with unique pages, already discussed in this earlier post, a single book, a printable zine, a singular body of work).

Each physical manifestation however had the challenge that the tactility and the self-propelled engagement with the work remained out of reach, and thus the work itself would revert back to a gallery piece, out of reach, and I am not interested in such a work for the portfolio.

For the past three weeks I sat down to begin to assemble single sheets out of the materials and the absence of half my sketchbooks became more salient: how can I create tactile objects when the source material itself is absent?

If this question of reach, engagement and tactility is so central to this work, what would a version for this current time look like?

I made in August a restless lockdown loop padlet, a simple wall, not the usual spacious and contemplative canvasses I had used before lockdown. The simple, almost breathless format of the padlet provided a similar sense of immediacy and repetition to the sense of the lockdown walks and fitted well.

(I find padlet as a presentation surface quite functional, as space for actual work, as a final form it is lacking, e.g. the inability to properly position and frame video work is a huge problem).

I collated and then edited all records I had of the missing sketchbooks in photos and then proceeded to upload 260+ of these to a padlet. They are in chronological order in the sense that I uploaded in batches of 8-15 images, the order than finalised with the upload sequence so somewhat variable inside each batch but the batches themselves are in order.

It is a portfolio, it gives a good sense of the explorations and themes, it coheres too as a series. It is intimate, notably on the phone app, two columns, its excessive too, you can look closer, there is visual detail and some text too. It is tactile on the phone screen and alludes to its own textures and yet it also remains at a distance that is distributed.

I want to let this settle for a bit but have the sense that for this resolution of a body of work in 2021 it will hold alongside the other objects.

Here is the padlet (click on photo to open):

Two December crits: screens and dis/continuity in time/space

I presented (parts of) my autumn works twice late last week and want to write up a few of the comments and insights from these two discussions.

  1. Practice as Research OCA Creative Arts sequence with Rachel Smith
  2. Saturday afternoon crit group

1. Practice as Research OCA Creative Arts sequence took place in session 3 of three weekly sessions (one first meeting and two weeks where three of us presented work each), Rachel, who is also my Research tutor had set up an expansive padlet and prompted with questions (to all of us and individually).

I was glad this sequence came when it came and was keen to use it to review my autumn work and find key points (either new or related to the earlier work). Unsurprisingly there was so much work and I felt I only scratched the surface when trying to review and identify key concepts, resonances and shifts. Yet, the few days spent mid-December with the work and myself (see December reviews 1-3) were enough to articulate something concise and significant enough to seek some feedback.

I chose to focus on the walnut shells and the idea of screens in my work and situated the the shift that happened through Lockdown 1 to my work and how I tried to reorganised the contact restrictions affecting my work, the modality of the work and also what I came to understand as practice in the ensuing months.

Rachel had suggested earlier to invite the participants to consider how they would like to encounter my work, and how to present the work in a world as it wasn’t anticipated to be.

Here are some responses:

  • the shells on the floor and people walk on them, take rubbings, photographs, touch them
  • Small work needs to be touched, mere vision is frustrating
  • Visual work should be much bigger
  • I offer sound as a way of amplifying the work (and realise how I have used sound before to create reach, expansiveness and intimacy in visual work)
  • the V&A has a series of videos for the auto-sensory meridian report (ASMR) where objects are shown with tiny sounds.
  • I am asked: what do your pictures sound like
  • Larchwood seems out of reach: trying to access something but it remains just out of reach
  • There is a sense of a cocoon (and I offer the earlier walnut cream recipe that was one response to the shells)
  • the intent to ignore on how to present the work online as making art is a way of getting away from the screen.

A few of these already explicitly comment on the screen.

When I consider screen, I don’t primarily think of the monitor or touch screen, i.e. the tools which demarcate digital work. ‘Screen’ instead surfaced rather analogue in my work as describe in an earlier post.

Yet, of course, it also marks the transition between analogue and digital.

A few more comments on this from the discussion:

  • Screen as standing for the piece of paper between me and the object; paper and screen may function similar; in audience experience it may in fact stand between you and the (art) object
  • Screen as enabler and barrier under contact restrictions and the need to constantly negotiate new conditions

A closing comment from Rachel concerned how my work is interested in materially manifesting spaces, which can take different forms, but such negotiation is crucial for making sure that the work is able to do what it can (and/or I’d like it to).

2. I sent my Saturday afternoon crit group that meets four-weekly, and I joined in Summer, a revised version of the padlet Chris and I made in our DIY summer school, along with my question about screens (the Larchwood sequence). I wasn’t sure there was going to be time, but the work we discussed resonated easily with mine and so there was quite a bit of time. The feedback I received was generous and encouraging. It concerned the expansiveness of the time I printed across autumn, the tenderness of the images; that one of the group was concerned of entering my work as they worried they may fall off. The latter was huge to hear: a persistent thread concerns the opening, stepping down, off, inside, elsewhere. For the larchwood: of whether you can get lost in the woods that I printed so modestly. To hear, unprompted that one can was a considerable compliment. Furthermore, in the walnut shells, along with the woods was a process of stripping away, boiling things down to foundations, if not essence: to get inside with various means (and without obvious success), it also raises the longing mentioned the day before.

Placing Larchwood alongside some of the summer school work was interesting (and new), and one comment insightfully drew the link to some of the performative work, notable, the video with my hand on my chest and breathing, this video marking a punctuation as it featured solely my hands, while much else constituted a result of what my hands were doing. Time, in this also has become the object of the enquiry (and relates to earlier thoughts that in the staircase work was not so much nostalgia but a particular working with memory, which stopped due to the lockdown and than all new work took place outside).

There were a number of further comments concerning the screen:

  • the role of screen for the cyanotype printing process
  • the screen as grid-like device. How can you subvert it successfully? The attraction and failure of the grid, if you are not careful you simply enter a computer game or a generic virtual exhibition space with such grid

This was the first time to present some work in such depth but also to use the discussion to explore some of the conceptual connections. As I said in the OCA workshop: one of the difficulties of the pandemic, and the move to Germany, concerns the inability to step outside, to review, zoom out, reflect on what is what, instead, the immediacy of an ever unfolding situation seems to enforce a pace and speed that is difficult to navigate.

There is plenty in that screen and its role. I am not sure how much this takes me away from the drawing/contact interest or if it’s part of it. My hunch at the moment is that it is the latter, a new condition, added to what were ‘simple’ encounters initially and these got complicated (but of course the condition of screen, kaleidoscope etc is not as such a condition of the pandemic, it however became more visible, significant).

I think what I am still trying to figure out is how much the original enquiry needs to shift and how much can become an appendix, a bookmark for the future.

Thanks everyone for their thoughts, comments and time — I haven’t named anyone from the two meetings.

December review (3): the sketchbooks > drawing/contact portfolios

What is drawing/contact now (after nine months pandemic, after nine months pausing and after not just one (pandemic) but two shifts in site/practice (relocating temporarily and suddenly to Germany)?

What do I understand about it (better than in March)?

How can I re/present it?

  • Relational space
  • Recording
  • Translating
  • Shifting/remaining

At the BoW tutorial 3 (December 2019) a key task was to explore how to lift the material off the various sketchbook (physical, digital (IG and FB) and camera roll).

I realise this task remains the same, and currently plan to revisit the various drawing encounters across the two years and try to work each of them as a loose sheet portfolio. The idea is to arrive at about 7-12 such portfolios, with unique material for each encounter and a series of works (multiples, some originals) that stretch across and mark my understanding of key aspects of this work/practice.

For these, the bigger works of the autumn will act as screen and constructed site, so that the entire body of work functions across different scales and forms of intimacy: dropping into handling collections such as these portfolios (alongside Herz/Stein and Drei Nuesse) while sited within the bigger installations of Larchwood, Trafodecke and Walnut Tree of Touch.