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.

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