December review (1): screens in my work

I signed up for a few workshop over the past couple of months. The Moving Image one, a continuation (3-part) of Creative Arts Practice Research with my Research tutor another.

For the latter, I am going to offer some of my work for discussion. So I want to write a few survey posts to begin to articulate where two shifts since the material entered lockdown at the start of Maraprilay have led me to.

This one concerns the emerging body of work that I have been working on for the past few months since I arrived unexpectedly, and stayed similarly so, at the village of my teenage years.

I will discuss the works themselves in other posts (Larchwood, Walnut Tree of Touch and Drei Nüsse). At the moment I am interested in how three of these works (Larchwood, Walnut Tree of Touch and Trafodecke (transformer blanket) all work with the concept of screen, and what this concept may do for my work.

a. the staircase and other dreamscapes > utopian/ other space as screen

The biggest rupture to my work was when the Spring lockdown moved the site of the staircase out of reach. The work was not far off concluding, yet, after four weeks in February/March of being mostly out of reach due to industrial action, the site was effectively not concluded. I had gathered a wealth of material but the insights remained somewhat off. The lockdown was sharp and painful and with the site having become inaccessible the project seemed failed: the rupture added such a stark emotional register to otherwise so tender work that it felt impossible to continue to work with the site at a distance. This eventually led me to pause (after it was clear that even access in autumn seemed unrealistic, the Scottish Government’s covid plan needed zero covid to open sites like this one to random visitors like me).

At some point in May I begun to cautiously revisit the thematic and the site at distance – it had originated in a night dream, and I used the surreal nature of the pandemic to actively explore the dream components further, to continue to dream into the site and its inhabitants and themes. This yielded a number of insides, if not material. It crucially also opened the link again that hovers in the background of this (and other) work: that of a different, utopian space that lives just adjacent to the functional, institutional spaces such as Corridor and stair:case.

I also realised that my work functions closely along an unfolding present, that it is not interested in memory and nostalgia but also not vastly future-oriented but traces different temporalities as they tag closely along an experiential present. It is something that emerged first when I visited the Warhol show in Manchester in late 2016 (during Digital Image and Culture) and it keeps resurfacing. The limitations of the pandemic made it very apparent to me: I didn’t merely want to remember that site nor fantasise about its future. The material I had gathered as present/presence was insufficient to conclude, detach for the purpose of finalising the project.

b. Kaleidoscopes/ peripheral vision > a first actual screen

I have a strand of materials and enquiries which concerns ways of perceiving and seeing: kaleidoscopes and peripheral vision were the objects I previously investigated. Rarely did I do so centrally, but a curiosity as to folding in, manipulating visual planes (not just the edges but the patterning, the core organisation of observed to represented planes) remained. I also continued to try to secure, fix, chase the objects at the margin of my vision, tracing/chasing how horizon lines would bent at the corner of my eye.

In summer 2020 I conducted a self-organised summer school with my friend and colleague Chris and ended up pursuing an eventually failed attempt to reorganise one of the core practices of drawing/contact, the Herz/Stein series, which had led me to a series of stones that I covered in string and also rubber bands. The latter had disintegrated and I ended up photographing an aftermath, printed this and cut into hundreds of squares to reorganise. The process as such as failing: it didn’t yield anything for the Herz/Stein enquiry. But towards the end I realised that I was interested in creating a screen, a stage to let events unfold and document in front of.

Concluding image of summer school process

Revisiting the screen of the summer school now, I realise that it is in fact two part: the viewfinder meets the screen in the distance, opening and focusing the view on the space between finder and screen surface. I have some video attempts of situating a movement of the Herz/Stein bound stone objects on a string between these two.

c. Screen/stage as artificial site for drawing/contact practices

My current hunch is that the previous experiments lead me to an invitation to create a site in the absence of accessible sites. They also affirm for me that ‘site’ rather than ‘place’ is a key concept here: it is constituted, made, shifted, translated from a whole range of sensory observations and experiences. It is made and then a series of enquiries happen in front of it (or perhaps juxtaposed, adjacent, behind?)

A plaything of shells in front of larchwood print

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