BoW: what i will be doing

Gesa Helms

5 April at 13:18 · 

Wednesday morning I say what it is that I will be doing:
– a series of performance pieces/ drawings
– a couple of workshop/event things and 
– some documentation of the above.

That is it. 
The spatial praxis/ production of space/ site-thing will be part of it as building out and up from the encounters that constitute each. It will be utopian in its concrete practice. Nothing more, nothing less (I would love to call it Beziehungsweise Revolution/ relationally: revolution, but that title is already taken, unfortunately).
The documentation will be either in book or in moving image form.
Each segment/ section will address or: can address a particular question/ enquiry.
I am uncertain if the talks will be part of it or generally merely context. I think that is part of the wider question of what constitutes the site/ the work, i.e., really: if we talk an expanded field of drawing, do we need to have a sense of what is not part of it? what is absent? outside? and, why would that be useful. In that sense, I will have a consideration of distance/closeness in this too, and at that point it loops back into the overall thematic of drawing/contact.

The first four events in drawing/contact are intimate and in hindsight, retrospect. I am testing how these relate to the theme and what they do medium/discipline-wise. I am trying not to be too wilful with them, to let them hover for as long as they need to. In some ways, these take inspiration from the events around the line, and reworking the line for the workshop in July into a photo essay and presentation will be great. The drawing/contact encounters are different though as they transgress media/ reach. They are possibly less concerned with secrets and veracity but more curious about the contact, the stuff enacted, where and when it reaches, etc.

In this, then, the line, the Gap, and the wider corridor thematic are aufgehoben in the best dialectical sense: they are concluded and superseded into a qualitatively new question (I remember how for each time that aufheben needed translation I was stuck, as stuck as I am now as there is no equivalent in English).

sketchbook: secrets along the public and the private

Gesa Helms

6 April at 11:37 · 

secrets, along the private and the public.
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– the person who keeps calling to say that they know where Katrin Konert’s body is buried. they then hang up.
– the judge who places the burden of naming undercover cops on the women they deceived into intimate relationships
– the initiation secrets of the Hermit Triad of O.T.O. (sex magic)
– the book that I leave with my dad, which talks of how nostalgia for 1945-55 worked in reverse: it became darker as it receded into the past, what was being left out from the narration, then and now.
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with these, i turn to the notes when i started rewriting the line. it is less a rewriting that i did in autumn but a new iteration: so much new material assembled as i tried out if i wanted to write fiction. then the dying and leaving started in earnest and i only now loop back.
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i do not want to revise the work but i want to edit it anew. to see if a stronger focus is beneficial for it. but also: how do these images, which are after all still, not moving, hold up next to a written narrative. if i push the the temporal unfolding entirely to the viewer, reader and no longer let it animate through my voice. the line around secrets is reworked when i post this to facebook, as public album, having practiced already with […]
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i am such a slow worker with all these secrets. sometimes i worry that my life simply won’t be long enough for it all. in all this, we are firmly in surplus time, with both of them: it is fun, easy, joyful. we tell stories that are surplus and are having a good time with them. i love what i learned about the train station in Celle, of my mother’s routes through the biggest town she ever had a daily routine in. how on the next day she would fill in the gaps and connections between her teenage self, my teenage self and our contemporary selves right across the town, by foot and in the car. my dad was eager to learn about what we had seen and so i promised him to show him in summer, when i travel back from Macedonia.1 commentLikeShow More ReactionsCommentShare

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Gesa Helms this is one of the strongest pieces that i wrote in autumn, it is rather different to anything in the line, it puts the fragmentation right into the text and connects a number of themes and relationships through the movement along Gt Wester Rd (and, hey, my notetaking processes hold, it seems: i find things again)
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i sit invisibly in the dark window. the phone tracks my motions but not much else. i disappeared. again, never for long, each disappearance is an in-breath. yesterday and today i move back and forth. not quite rocking my upper body back and forth while sat on a chair, it bears resonance, witness. to other, i am doing chores, tracking apps and delivery routes.

earlier, i made my bed. i dress it in the new star-like dark blue grey cotton-weave. underneath: fluffy summer clouds. i crawl underneath and float, i can’t stop touching. it persists all night. i am sure i have found material form for her photos of me in cocoon. the night is warm, the space between my breasts collects sweat.

that night i kill. i am killed that night. i flee while moving downwards on material, structures that i do not understand. it doesn’t suffice: i am found. a large man with a wide red face and loud laughter. i wonder how the delicate structure still holds him. how can it. the structure is luminous and made for myself and yet, there is he and the other and they hunt. i swing my body up on the shelf above me and run, back through a field of high grass. someone, they, someone, different moves up behind. i reach the end and turn. this is my field i shout indignant. i have tended to it, it is not yet ready to unfold and i chase along. i realise it won’t suffice. it will not be enough.

i enter the room, he sits in front of me, a naked torso, his body turned away from me. i make the phone call. yes, i found him. it is him. michael. he turns around and i look into a mirror. but no mistake: i am michael. momentarily, the connection is interrupted. beeeep. beeeep. the familiar sound when she drives between one checkpoint and another. i briefly imagine her seeing the lights: on hilltops, bright and fortified, in the valleys, weaker, sparser, under siege.
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the path is a trail along beech and oak trees. it is a familiar route: out from the village I lived in as a small child, northwards. we have been often but not in a long time. the path is windy, narrow, we are a few. we come upon a group, at the centre a young woman, her face turned towards us, them, the world. they pour a substance over her, her face unmoved. she dies of the substance that solidifies her face. she, beautiful. we shouldn’t have seen.

i leave early to keep talking. her voice is breathless as she tells me how the day before the Anschluss, the people were dusting off little flags with swastikas and how they screamed themselves hoarse at his sight that 12 March 1938. then her voice breaks. i know that sound through the speakerphone as well as she knows mine. i try to think: do i remember her face with tears. i do not. when i see her face is the one that laughs. and when you laugh, i laugh too. always. beeep. beeep. she wants to call back and i will be at the subway soon. my face is wet the rain strong, it mixes with my tears. einen dicken kuss, beszede.

i return home and remember that my dirty linen from now on colour-coordinates my library. 

am i ugly.Edit or delete this

sketchbook: research performance Mark Bleakley How we handle things

14 April noon – 16.30 Rhubaba, Edinburgh

my notes:

i stop outside the gallery and watch in.

air round my head, i watch them move and their actions mingle with reflections

sensing and trailing, tracing past the effect of the thermoplastic 

he invites me then she does

it is so warm and nice to the touch

we chat while i set the material on her waist standing up and just letting the patch drop

the sound is harsh and so different to the warmth, pliability of the material

she balances the piece from the waist on her face, then her knee, i photograph her walking away

she stands earlier next to me and i feel her presence, she holds out a piece and a smile,

i briefly think about taking it, then, shy, i don’t

i gonna put this right to your neck, is this okay? yes, it is quite hot i hear him steadying his breath

the next photo is after it has set 

pressed against the body or against other objects: how much pressure do you apply?

being invited to join, i am possibly the only one they didn’t know. the choreographer comments on my beautiful participation in the kitchen space

can you help me and hold that until it sets? i film a little, later i hear them giggling.

… 

Lucy asks me if she can cast me and i say yes. she casts my thumb and we wonder about transfer

responding to the movement impulse and to the pressure…

… the body gesture that makes the piece fall; the reaction to it falling, the sound of it falling

… 

towards the end of cycle 2 many more people arrive, at start of 3 we are just under 20. the performers now whisper and it seems to have moved towards watching. before it was quite playful and a joint thing, now it is a performance with an audience.


cycle 3: more forceful; they ask each other if one can push. bodies get entangled. at 2:35 they interact with audience again casting underneath a body: different to putting something on somebody. he leans into it and the woman who stood up didn’t quite intend to touch his stomach. he falls down and off, Katie and her investigate the leftover cast .

casting Lucy’s forehead. you can give me more, she leans into it further they go to the ground, his hand moves forward and the cast sticks on it through a series of upward movements. it falls when he falls to the ground a second time. .

is that too hot?

yes but it is too late now

sorry, i do that 

Discussion with Florence Peake and Robbie Synge

everyone to pick a cast and sit with it as if it was your lover who doesn’t like their shape? let’s recast
how we handle things how things handle us
Robbie Synge   — being isolated in Highlands and probing materials as what they can offer Florence Peake   — clay as medium, object as argument against fascism 
Relational space: clay is very responsive as it responds Florence: empathy objects and psychic readings constantly in contact with some material; focus attention on that and making it object of enquiry
sculptural time and the need during the performance to yield to the temporality of the material. you could see that making the timing 
sitting with the object as if it was your lover. it really wasn’t, i wouldn’t.
i have mine recast as my left fist. it feels so good as it sets and first lets my hand move then begins to restrict it. what is the object, what inside or outside
Rite as boundary blurring and not sure what is what; codependency with people but how about with objects? transference taking place; you ask people to touch your bare chest, heaven forbid, the object is leaving a memory
Florence: i really want to have been cast with them and i didn’t have that yet. i was even holding my hand out once, come to me; and it’s nice to sit with that desire. The intimacy of their size and shape is fascinating; while frustration with scale

sketchbook: the line as conference presentation.

I submitted and have had it now accepted, this abstract to a conference in early July in Norther Greece. The conference is organised by a walking arts networks. I am uncertain yet as to the format of the presentation (I assume: 20 mins long), yet I know that they want a written contribution in advance.

While I still need to attend to some practicalities, I am keen on going and I think that is likely to happen. Following the SAR conference I realised that this is a good format for me (as it was in the past).

The idea that underpins this proposal is to turn the current tumblr site into a photo essay. I also think that I, in this process, re-organise the tumblr site into a facebook album (public).

My interest in the presentation/written contribution is to explore some of the methodological and conceptual aspects between walking as practice/methodology, the subject matter and the site of its presentation/publication.

I am posting this here, as the line is one of the significant earlier pieces of my coursework (from DI&C), and just now as I begin to explore the format of performances/events for BoW, the stories and videos of the earlier project came back into focus.

The abstract for the conference is:

the line: walking with shadows, no secrets

the body of work at the centre of this photo essay is a series of video pieces in which encounters are reframed, recentred. they take place on street corners, in parks, at dusk, at lunch time. they also take place in private chats, in facebook posts, and thus circulate in iterations and revisions across a networked public. in doing, so they trace notions of veracity, transparency and secrecy. their gossiping nature is at once a insistence that something, someone happened. but also speak to the power of silence and our attempts to comply and subvert at once.the work is produced through a walking methodology — night and evening routes both known and unfamiliar and repositioned by digital circulation. the starting point is arbitrary, some run concurrently, the end point unknown. the proposal consists of a critical reflection of the artistic methodology that underpins this project and how through its form as online collection it rearticulates the idea of urban walking. it also is intent to explore further the sense of authorship and readership for this work, to make an argument for a diverse public in which this work is situated.the work itself, also by drawing on other forms of auto-fiction, theoretical fiction (Kapil, Calle, Krauss), explores – cautiously, not quite in sight – the role of desire, pursuit, sexual agency within the context of familial violence. Doing so, it is interested in the reconstitution of public and private not merely in the circulation of the work but also in its very production: what happens to a private self when it becomes public: in urban space, in an audio-visual body of work.

Thoughts on how to develop this further:

the proposal is for a photo essay. this is rather specific already and I think will work.  << it is not about writing prose/ fiction but about reflecting, contextualising and making visible the methodology/ conceptual concerns of the piece of work
I think sitting down and starting to structure this accordingly should be good >> which of the videos/images and which texts?  also: the boundary draft already has some of the texts from this, so what happens if I start building from that on?

There are some literature questions:

  • is there a concept of walking digitally?
  • about transferring movement/walking from analogue to digital?

augmented reality; documentation as themes as far as a quick scan reveals. https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/383150/
audio walks as methodology:
Easter Rising sites in Dublin https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/JD-03-2017-0031
Katrina Palmer project
digital artwork as outcome: http://eprints.chi.ac.uk/2459/
knowledge production as epistemic walking (not sure though how useful, only read the abstract) https://estudogeral.sib.uc.pt/handle/10316/36340
https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1111&context=docam
De Certeau’s metaphoric walk >> making walking rhetoric. Is there something in there about how that translation is also occurring with move to digital? — in papers as PDF
Jeff Rice 2012: Digital Detroit — in papers as PDF

sketchbook: four events (drawing/contact)

event may not be the right word; it may be encounter, meeting, contact. — bear with me.

the first was rather momentous in my encounters of strangers, in the woods, while in conversation with my mother, while being nominally sixteen, while roaming woods on my own, while being not from here. it was so extraordinary, and yet however so long anticipated that it pierced my conception of what was going on.

it sowed an idea of what ‘performance’, ‘expanded field of drawing’, ‘set of experiments’ for BoW may look like; i found another one that similarly important and since then two more happened.

they are 1:1 encounters in different contextual settings: (1) a door to a concert hall while exiting a large meeting; (2) a car stopping while i cross the roads between two tracks in the woods; (3) my mother showing me a corner in the train station where she would as a teenager wait before going home after school; (4) and my friend inviting me to try the garden gate of abandoned flats.

two of them (the first two, one hand touching one shoulder, then the other another while leaving a conference; and the encounter on the road) i pursued a little further, in different directions. i have the sense there are more openings within them; the latter two still only exist in record.

if drawing is about contact, an expanded field of drawing, a relational construct and a space as well as a possible absence (see my concept map), then these are the questions i can ask of these encounters. until now i would generally just play with them in writing and rewriting, posting them in facebook, narrating them and seeing what resides in them verbally. this is the first attempt to use other means.

for (2) i was recording a drawing alongside the roadside demarcation by video when i heard the car behind me braking, stopping and then he asked. all that got recorded. i tell my mother later. then i post it; then i start typing on my mother’s father’s typewriter. i write three scenarios over a few occasions and reframe the account on pages of scrap paper. the drawing is typewriter ink on my dad’s scrap paper.

i am posting all three sets in complete and chronological order as they currently are:

for (1) i begin with writing out the event, then beginning to sketch the choreography, the movement of bodies out of the concert hall, the brief meeting inside the entrance door and the moving on; later i rephotograph the see-through in the sketchbook:

— for (4–abandoned garden) i have a couple of photo sketches, and it may remain with these. for (3–train station hall) i have only a memory so far.

what interests me:

  • contact: encounters, brief, random, that stick with me, that are significant, that contain movement: a coming and going; a boundary negotiated.
  • the don’t exist in actual form but are translated, mediated, pushed along
  • in that sense they also contain an absence, a negotiation of that
  • they are each rather geographical, i mean: they are productive of space as a body/relational concept and presence.
  • they are also performative (clarify what i mean with that)
  • all are personally significant, they are intimate in one form or another, i make them public.

sketchbook: notes from the session at SAR conference.

I present my 10 mins talk on Casual Gaps on the third day of the conference, in the morning.

I have a first recording of the talk as a video here:

Performance/ enquiry:

  • on the first day I start with feeling out of place, quite intimidated: as if my project isn’t big and significant and academic enough
  • later in the day I see the first talk that is a performance only, and see that that is how my own contribution functions
  • in the morning I am curious about networks and interloping, my place within it.
  • when I arrive at the session, the facilitator, other speaker and I have a good discussion, I say a little about the previous facilitations and we discuss our format
  • then I talk about my work context, of having been keen to keep the research out of it but find myself struggling for recognition, at this point the facilitator tells me who she knows in Glasgow: my PhD supervisor and last year’s line manager. I laugh as I realise that the corridor will loop backward.
  • I have not been able to unhook it from its context, the piece of institutional critique moves on as it exists and while it may not actually feed forward to my former line manager, it may just do so.
  • this connections intrigues me and it is the one, alongside ‘I did my PhD first and then art later, which is different to most of you in the room’, marks my starting point. And naming both makes it easy to set off with the presentation and to give it space and movement.
  • I enjoy moving through it, I pause, watch the audience and centre myself.
  • After, I step to the side, the first speaker joins me at the front, is the target of most questions and we discuss a series of points together.
  • Over lunch and the afternoon I meet a few people who tell me that they enjoyed it. There is no more detailed feedback than that.
  • After the closing round, I tell my fellow presenter how much I enjoyed having been with her in a session. To me the consideration of placing the two together was great to witness. We hug. Then talk for some while with the facilitator, I leave soon after.

Institutional aspects:

  • I misjudge whom this conference and society is for: it is almost exclusively people working at art schools; >> this is where artistic research happens and needs to happen as they become integrated into HE funding systems. 
  • I encountered SAR through EB and the journal, but only by looking at the institutional members do I realise that it is of course art schools.
  • As many artists and practitioners do PhD research, this changes the composition and with PhD by practice, the material engaged with and presented is rather different to any other academic disciplines.
  • Thus, the contributions are either more performative: the actual research practices, or more traditionally academic in reflections
  • The proviso to propose contributions that pose questions was sincere and extremely useful; so was the dialogical idea; the resilience to do ‘proper academic work’ is however strong and many panels operate in different ways to the initially proposed format.
  • Art school posts are seen as highly desirable within the arts, so the institutional critique of them is minimal; IC is reserved to museums and galleries, not to the art school, I have the sense (institutions of critique replaces institutional critique). 
  • In this, the discipline is distinct to e.g. Business Schools, Sociology, Education or Anthropology by not turning the light back onto the institution
  • This is where my contribution meets the audience.
  • I can see clearly why they were interested in the contribution, how they gathered it with my co-presenter’s talk and the one that was absent. But for the audience it was problematic (wasn’t it?).

The actual feedback I get was rather minimal,

  • H., the black professor of dance, starts with having a question, wanting to complement me for touching him intellectually, while the first talk touched him emotionally, and on the surface these two talks could’t be more different but they clearly related. He admires my enthusiasm and asks: what was the passion that led you away from the institution. – I talk about my PhD, about discovering other processes, private spaces and didn’t want to submit to the boredom/exhaustion of another 35 years of that job
  • The second keynote speaker asks me towards the end if I now feel different about the space, if I have come to love that gap? – I talk about the office inhabitant’s envy of my leaving; I talk about the complexity of what HE currently is, how I would like it to be different but as it isn’t, it is also okay to leave again. I also talk about the strike and how that affected workplace identities.
  • The facilitator asks two questions, the second one is one about class, about who gets up and climbs on trees (she and her pals always did that). And similarly: who transgresses institutionally.
  • I think her first comment was about how she hates her office, and how curious it is to find this at the focus of attention.

The session format: 

  • fifteen minutes each and a short question after, but then an open discussion.
  • The first presenter moves to the front and then sits down, I at some point become to lean on the wall to the side of the facilitator
  • quite quickly I sense a huge interest in the first topic, Urutau’s actions and the wider political context, I am pleased with that, and also pleased for it to take the main role: the conference is so white and rather far away from the political, that this is great to see and place upfront.
  • She is far more connected and known than I am, is from Brazil and a middle-class background with extensive institutional support. So, individually we sit different in class and professional positioning; in wider terms, however, hers needs and deserves far more visibility and I concur. I don’t reply to points that I could have replied; I direct the conversation to her, I also take it as an open conversation about wider issues and happily take part in that.
  • I don’t move towards my final slide with questions, as the first talk didn’t include any.
  • At the end of the session, everyone who stays behind does so to talk with her; I also do so and that is fine; we move upwards to lunch, meet some others and sit downs in a group of seven and discuss good things, well: difficult things, the backlash in Brazil, the coup, the violence, 
  • Over the day, some people comment more on how they liked my talk, but don’t go into specifics. One woman who had stayed behind at lunch, W., and I talk towards the end about SAR’s white privilege to call absence a lack of quality, and she comments on how nice it was to see my enthusiasm.
  • The enthusiasm comments confuses me — I say so to H. on the way to lunch and he said: well, it was everywhere in your body, you were bursting with it. Did he take my nerves for enthusiasm? I discuss with it later. I remain a bit confused.

>> I didn’t realise that I would be interloping with this presentation. I thought I would bring a project and some questions. I didn’t foresee that institutional critique would be active in the presentation as such. It almost drew a blank and found no other. The concession about hating one’s own office and the question if I now feel different about the space (do I love it now?) are the only indication of something happening. I have little sense if the project is considered sound and significant. And, I think this is what I had thought I would be able to ascertain with the presentation: if this was a good enquiry, a good artistic research project.
Yet, I also see this as artistic practice: it is a doing, the modality and site are ones demarcated as research. And, yet, it seeks not institutional validation (neither in Geography nor in the Arts). So, if it doesn’t seek it, why do I feel confused of not getting it?
I learn much about artistic practice in these two days. Which is excellent. I see where my work fits in, where it doesn’t fit (and doesn’t need to). I also get a series of ideas of how to proceed, what productive forms of practice are to develop this.