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.
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):
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).
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Okay, this the proposition of how to organise tactility in close/open at a distance.
This post a first exploration of various modalities:
a/v with black screen
a/v with illustrative image (at the moment: of the object instructed)
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.
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
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
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):
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.
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.
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.
I would like to consider this as practice and as a handling collection. I find first one, then in the end over thirty walnut shells picked open by crows, either on the tree or on the ground. I collect them and become curious of the inside: some are deaf, the crows leave them, the others are emptied. I wash and dry them and begin to trace the opening. Then the inside. Eventually I print the inside in a futile process, bleach the prints and stain them with walnut liquid we made earlier. There are other processes. The resulting paper is at once brittle and sturdy. Last year my dad showed me how to click walnuts out of their green shells. As practice, Drei Nüsse relates to the Herz/Stein binding processes of earlier this year. Small tactile objects are found, related to each other and explored. They take the place of absent touch. The blue is merely resonance.
EDIT (January 2021): I name this series Im Walde 14-23
An expanding series of cyanotypes around a larchwood (and adjacent) at the village edge. It is simply presented: the prints arranged in columns, each present a printing event, from left, oldest, to right, newest.
I am intending to keep adding to this series over the coming weeks, to perhaps 50-60 prints (just under A3 in size) in total.
I have also photographed each print and created a digital site to mirror the paper print arrangement. The site is here (click on the image to go to the padlet):
approx. 40 double-sided Moleskine Cahier XL blank sheets, printed as cyanotype over the month of October on a mature walnut tree.
this current WIP state is laid out in part on the floor (viewed from above). I envisage this work to be sewn together as columns (possibly even numbered), space inbetween, simple white or grey thread to hang from a ceiling in a room. (organised as a plane, of 8×5 or 5×8 sheets, possibly some stabilisation across the rows too).
(To the side are two pressed sets of walnut leaf prints exposed under glass, these are not part of this work)