contextual distance in the padlet portfolio

In my crit group on 2/10 I offered my For Cover portfolio for a crit (I had last put some work, a mix of padlets and the instructions materials, to the group in early Spring this year). I had asked alongside two questions: how about archiving and how about engaging? We talk for a bit over an hour and I take notes. I copy these notes here and want to draw out a number of points as to the questions over contextual distance, what constitutes the work and where the work is. 

The discussion quickly moves towards the platform, padlet, and how much everyone hates it: how clunky and intrusive it is, how it stands in the way of the work; but then really, how it mediates (my words) and poses those questions of navigation and access, of ensuring completeness or the worry that something may be missed.

There is the argument that it scaffolds the work too much..

Much after the discussion, where I am still surprised by the force of some of the dislike being put forward, I realise that the notes also tell me something different:

  • that the work is rather beautiful
  • that the distance to the work becomes uncomfortable to endure
  • that the work and the site cannot be touched while the work implies it should, could, perhaps even ought to
  • and then there is the wider sense of how padlet as corporate platform seeks to manage and facilitate that distance: of becoming more and more corporate; of inviting us to add more and more; of presenting every changing interfaces and post modalities to remind us of innovation
  • so the platform is an intrusive mediator: of wanting to be known for itself, not just an invisible interpreter
  • it also points (this image contravened against our policy) to the fact that it can and does remove items it dislikes (without notification, without recourse, without me knowing what the item actually was); so my presence and the works presence remains precarious: it may disappear sooner than even my institutional access disappears.

I come away thinking that padlet may after all be the right platform for this work if the work is interested in that distance (see SYP tutor report 1).

I also come away thinking that the work is effective here to encourage access to the audience’s emotional registers around longing (and its frustration of lack of access)

So, the work is present but somewhat out of reach. There is an institutional frame that governs part of this, it catches some of the frustrations.

Immersiveness and my work (current status)

There are a couple of themes that continue right throughout my work (certainly from DI&C onwards across Level 2 and 3); immersiveness is one of them: the sensorial, an expanded field of drawing, the stepping into work that I make and the relationship it seeks between work and viewer/reader/participant around closeness and distance.

For the production of the BoW this was significant at a number of turns, e.g. when trying to devise what constituted drawing/contact, what the role of lint and the quotidian was, the sites and the reach/resonance of these and how to resolve the BoW.

In the Research (as practice) it was engaged with methodologically: moving-with explored the bodily registers of immersion (or lack thereof); of making mobile artists, viewer and work; the glossary circled around tools, obstacles and sites to explore the relational entanglements at the centre of the work; the Herz/Stein concept explored tactility, bind and release in material close-up.

For SYP I am trying to explore the exhibition checklist as PaR enquiry to get a better handle on (or perhaps a position to the side of) distance as key tool for how this practice moves onwards.

I am collating here the various posts that trace the engagement with immersiveness as concept up to now (at the point of submission for assessment of BoW and Res, and at Part 2 of SYP).

In chronological order the key posts so far are:

SYP 1: submission of Project Plan and tutor report

I submitted a couple of weeks ago as planned the project plan as SYP 1 (first time through the new VLE platform), now had the tutorial and received the finalised tutor report, all added to this post.

I wrote the project plan alongside the PaR workshop series in which I unpicked my working methodology, and alongside the various exercises for part 1.

The plan is functional as such:

The two key items in the plan are aims as well as audience considerations, which I both add here (and see the document below for the fuller plan).

Aims and objectives 

I intend to develop my BoW, For Cover, as PaR (i.e. alongside the Research module) towards a toolkit, testing its versatility and mobility.

This toolkit intends to:

  • present a mobile and versatile PaR, combining the various practices (such as drawing, writing, lens-based and performance work) into elements that can test the methodology of For Cover in different sites and contexts:
    • it will include a digital platform/space to act as an open container that can grow alongside the practice;
    • it will also include a material, analogue, element, such as a small edition set of different self-assemble elements to engage with For Cover across a distributed space and as private performance (i.e. a loosely understood artist book in a box or similar);
    • thirdly I will test the viability to revisit the actual site for a public performance/event in autumn.

One key element for developing this towards a professional practice lies in pursuing residency applications and settings. My intention is to network by applying for relevant residencies during SYP and by using both application development and perhaps residency itself for articulating my professional practice as mobile toolkit.

The second element is constituted by articulating relevant and suitable forms of engagement for this work, its methodology and thus for myself as practising artist (in visual, textual and spoken form). I want this to further strengthen the ways in which I engage with others in this work and through this work (please see below under Audience for further details).

Audience

The work has public relevance and needs a public presence. Who this public in fact is besides a gallery-visiting audience (online/offline)needs further clarification. 

There are peers, curators, cultural practitioners as well academics across the fields of creative and performative practice, geography and social science as well as interested in PaR and methodology for whom the work has relevance. Engagement here will help to develop my artistic visibility within the field.

There is also an interested public for whom PaR, a methodological focus as well as the particular substantive focus of the work and its realisation will hold interest and relevance. These in part sit remotely for the time being, in future possibly also in relevant public/charitable artistic spaces and exhibition contexts.

Thirdly, there are passers-by and chancers-upon who encounter the work through its site-specificity. And while this isn’t an intended audience, they hover between participants and audience. I would like to consider a form of visibility in this general, distributed and possibly uninterested field also. 

Permissions for the time being are largely self generated: website space, social media access, the communication with existing networks and those to be developed; for the siting of an event/performance I would like to seek clearance with the landowner (although existing usage rights don’t necessarily require these).


The tutorial was again inspiring and generative, I write the minutes as during Research, although they now need to fit within a set of Learning Objectives.

The discussion around audience is key, as is the question of distance to site, work, myself and audience. I propose to conduct SYP as series of research enquiries (rather than a to do list).

I add the respective sections (audience and site/distance) here, the report in full again below as attachment.

How to understand audience outside a gallery exhibition context?

Challenge of writing around the idea of SYP as exhibition.

This is a functional project plan: how does my practice fit within that and where does it really push at the boundaries.

For this plan, Rachel observes that the concern over audience is really the most interesting area to focus on it: Who is the audience and in what form does the work engage whom, how and where? The instructions and how to push the form between you and the audience; when do you want to be open and revealing; when quite closed and secretive.

If this work is relational, it is concerned with various relationship forms: actants, matters; public, private, reveal and conceal. The concern of the engagement plan is the how and why, and it can be bristly.

At the provocative end, Rachel suggests that I could argue that the material is in fact the audience, seeing the new materialist and post-humanist aspects of the work.

If I stay here, in this place, my teenage home, longer, how does the village figure in relationship to the work: not quite as audience but as marker, as reference. 

[While I was making the work of course too] The village book as narrative and a contribution of my work (with an instruction to build a drawing machine) for its culture section. ‘The village would love to know about the mysterious woman who goes to the wood’.

R: And in years to come people will look back at these instructions as a point in the lineage.

The village not as audience but it rubs along it; there is something generous with how the village is towards me as the only one visible person of our family.

Current research/site work:

I clipped three empty sketchbook pages underneath the fir (and this is where the PaR workshop was really useful: to try out that research/object line); I have only been three times since I left it there ten days ago (the dynamics of the whole site have changed, besides the horseflies). I built a cover for myself, this little shelter with almost nothing, and this works. This is a durational work across this time. 

The site as a site for installing the work from last Winter: in May for the installation may be all that it has been. It may not work as a public event this autumn as initially envisaged.

R: To raise a question: for you and others who work with site is the big question: where is the work? What is the work? And a lot of people will only ever see the documentation. There are the audio pieces too but they are of the site, don’t necessarily need to be experienced in site.

Where is the site, where is the work, where is the audience? Is the engagement with you, the site the work and the question of how it works in proximity to the site. (27:00)

These don’t fall all into each other: site, work, I, audience.

It isn’t about near space but contextual distance; these aren’t the same but the distance is being negotiated within the work.

The concept of a toolbox is helpful: I can pick it up; so perhaps a mobile: what constellation does it all have, how does it move. Some of the distance is structural but some is moved by wind.

Also: role of time being slow and fast and what that does for proximity.


I have a set of action points:

  • to work through the analogue/digital forms and
  • to devise and pursue audience and site/distance as enquiries.

The plan is to submit SYP 2 (Revising my work) for late September.

SYP 1.4/1.5: presentation and promotion

There are two remaining exercises for SYP 1: one on presentation and one on promotion. These two have pointers which are very clearly geared towards a gallery exhibition. I am a bit reluctant to answer and/or modify them but also don’t want to skip entirely.

I am fairly clear on online presentation of the BoW and how Research relates to it (what actual platform, either purpose-built site via Adobe Portfolio or otherwise; or a modified version of the existing padlet, I am not sure of).

For the analogue form of an edition set I need to do development work but also consider circulation. The same applies to the idea of an event/performance.

For promotion I need some more thoughts, these are rudimentary (and a little indifferent). Here the question of who is audience and what for, and who are participants, co-conspirators etc is not clearly delineated, and neither is who is needed to be part of one group and/or another.

I am copying the Qs on promotion here for further reference (some of these are clearly not relevant, others need tweaking):

Use the headings below to help you – and add your own as necessary.

What is the nature of the body of work you’re promoting? What is its theme and format?

What is its function? Do you want it to educate, inform, entertain, or some combinationof these?

Who are your target audience?

How will you reach them? What will you do or produce to do this?

Do you have any key dates or deadlines? For example, when is your intended exhibitionspace available? Do you have to consider any collaborators’ timescales?

What journals or blogs would be interested in your project?

What regional media/newspapers would be interested in your project?

What potential employers are you looking to reach or invite?

What events are planned for your area that you could join/use/attend?

If applicable, how will you integrate promotion of your body of work with yourprofessional profile?

Will you create a new website or use an existing one? If so, does it look professional?

How might your exhibition affect others? (Read the sections on health and safety andtaking an ethical perspective in your Level 3 Handbook for help with this.)

SYP 1.3 : Looking forward

This is a set of good pointers, even so many are very simple to answer. There are other more open questions that will follow on and so I want to put this here:

  • Are you looking to earn income from your creative skills?
    • Yes, if there is, possibly through residencies, commissions, teaching, research/projects (sales less so but some may be possible)
  • Do you aspire to making your creative arts practice your full-time job or do you intendto pursue it as an interest?
    • I want to work professionally but also be free to pursue artistic projects that interest me; so realistically I will continue to work/live between research, art and education (with a shifts as to what, where and with whom)
  • Do you want to take your degree forward into postgraduate study, for example bydoing an MA (see Part Five)?
    • No, my idea is to conclude with this BA (Hons) and use the PhD in Human Geography as well as my academic experience to allow for working in research and teaching in a Creative Arts context where possible
  • Do you see a clear line between commercial and personal work or would you hope to reconcile the two?
    • My current work portfolio allows for clear preference towards artistic projects that are personally worthwhile for me (realistically, there is little commercial work in the kind of artistic practice that I engage in); I want to be able to say yes and no to projects where they interest me or not.
  • How does your combined creative activity fit within the wider creative arts world?
    • PaR, research and engagement, education, the link towards Geohumanities and academic disciplines that take in artistic practice; residencies and tailored projects work for the kind of practice/portfolio that I have also (not: graphic design nor editorial/commercial photography)
  • Will you continue to integrate your two specialisms beyond this course or do you intend to prioritise one discipline?
    • There are, possibly since Drawing 2, no longer two specialisms in my work but the work exists as contemporary practice.
  • How can the subjects you come across on a daily basis and have unique perspectives on, feed into your creative arts practice?
    • See Drawing 2, Res and BoW for how I work on that daily basis.
  • Do any of the ideas you’re working with have currency? Are they being discussed in the media?
    • Yes, and then again: not looking. But more seriously: a clear sense of relevance and significance. Will it make a good press release? Less certain.
  • How could you extend the discussion around these subjects through creative work?
    • Yes. Writing, applications for artistic/research projects and residencies on the themes of BoW/Res but also of the methodology and process of my PaR; the objects it generates can also circulate in various forms (exhibitions, writings, platforms)
  • How could you make your project for this course work towards your future development, whatever that is? It could be a valuable opportunity to make contacts, for example.
    • See engagement and project plan; very much the interest for SYP to take engagement and development serious over this module.

SYP Exercise 1.2: Ten key moments

I make a list and reread the instructions to find I have a bit too self-centred. The instruction asks for ten key moment in your field, I take ten key moments for where I am currently at. I don’t revise the list. I will remain a little idiosyncratic too as I am not sure how much I want to explicate, but here in chronological order ten key moments for having arrived at the artistic practice that is currently mine and with which I want to move forward:

  • Joan Eardley’s painting of Glasgow and Catterline, c2005
  • James Turrell’s exhibition in Wolfsburg 2010
  • Anna Barribal’s rubbings at the Fruitmarket, also c2010
  • I talk about the trickster and the banality of drawing grass as part of my Coaching and Facilitation training outside Berlin in 2013
  • I organise myself a residency in my mother’s childhood home and call it House, 2015
  • I make a video of balancing and falling on my bed as part of DI&C, 2016
  • I acquire my Bronica and travel to rural Aberdeenshire to photograph ferns with wide aperture, 2016
  • The event I do with Amelia and Liam at Market Gallery on Blow up my Town, 2017
  • I remake the gap between two institutional filing cabinets, 2017
  • I exit the corridor and find Other Green as part of Drawing 2, 2018
  • I talk about House, violence, memory and walking-with at a Walking Arts Conference in Northern Greece in 2019
  • I stumble across Laura Mark’s the Haptic and the Erotic while concluding the dissertation for For Cover, 2021.

For all the work post 2015 there are my earlier online blogs to trace the works in the respective modules — DI&C, Drawing 2 and then for the final two this current blog.

I reread the exercise’s instruction and it invites me to present this more engagingly than the above. I won’t at this point.

I present an equal mix of encounters with artistic and contextual work and then my own work and how different projects, approaches presented novel insights, allowed for a shift. The latter are in equal part private, personal, and some come from making work public.

I had not done such a list before and greatly enjoyed it. It was surprisingly easy: the moments, shifts and markers remain clear. I end up with slightly more than ten but am confident of the shifts they mark: of confidence, a new technique, a new position or recognition. They intimately concern my concerns and practice: I can see these as entirely my work, and the earlier three artistic influence kind of prepare the ground on which I move, there have been many other shows, art works and artists since but I think these early ones were significant in a way that some of my own projects then embodied similar shifts, new insights and understanding.

SYP Exercise 1.1: Five practitioners

With each new module I find myself liking the reflect/review activities of the first part. They routinely make A1 the biggest assignment for each, or rather: the most directive, the one where you need to do a lot before the assignment comes into view, but the review of Res and BoW carried me quite far into the courses, so I happily turn to A1 of SYP.

Five practitioners.

Kind of easy, they are in the Research dissertation, aren’t they?

I name: Joan Jonas, Katrina Palmer, Juliana Spahr and Noemie Goudal. None of them are new, of Spahr I have written only a little in the course contexts before, the other have featured. I also find myself returning again and again to Susan Hiller’s work. This one is possibly the most fan-girling choice as I am less certain how much there is of hers in my work. Except perhaps the insistence on themes, on dream and the psycho-analytic, of a range of working practices. Then there is Jew Street also.

I have a few books of each of them, of Goudal and Hiller none here.

The coursebook asks a number of obvious questions, and I find these are the more interesting ones to focus on:

  • What makes their ideas contemporary and of significance within the creative arts?
  • What can you learn from them?
  • How could you start a conversation with them?

The latter for Hiller, the only one of the list no longer alive, would be easy: Let’s hang out in our dreams together a little. Juliana Spahr’s Army of Lover is still not with me and it’s somehow the book I aspire most to, or possibly it’s one that I feel is closest to my own way of working with site, text, relationships and contextual references. I think I would possibly feel intimated by her more so than any of the others. That Doug, my BoW tutor did some work with Katrina Palmer and their conversations features in one of the coursebooks is exciting, and so was reading (and later gifting numerous times) her Dark Object and how close it is to some of our own institutional obsessions and desires.

Yes: enquiry and desire in Palmer and Spahr; vision and improsication in Goudal, Hiller and Jonas for treading beyond the obvious, easily accessible. In all of them I feel I admire their persistence, scope and commitment. There is ambition and sincerity and I think it’s what I can do with as a public persona, as a private persona it’s there plenty but I rarely enter into cultural spaces publicly with it.

No images either, they are easily found however.

Sustain Your Practice : opening moves

I signed up for SYP before submitting assignments 5s for Res and BoW, I wanted a little transition to see if any redundancy would emerge. I asked for my Res tutor to continue as my SYP tutor which meant that I would benefit from both L3 tutors for two modules each.

We had a preparatory conversation in early May and it was incredibly useful at that time as it wrapped and focused the eventually fairly tight submission deadlines for Res and BoW but also helped me with some motivation towards moving forward with this work and using SYP as a way to revisit a number of intentions, motivations and ambitions that I had and have for pursuing this Creative Arts degree and, crucially, for sticking with it for this long.

The notes for the May meeting are as follows:

  • Site specificity of the work for this site that I found myself and the work in?
    • Where and how does the work exist?
    • Does the documentation become the work?
  • Rachel says that what is good about SYP is its seriousness of identifying, articulating and seeking who and where the audience is and how to interact with the work: taking engagement very serious.
  • Sol de Witt’s Instructional Drawings
  • Elisabeth Tonnnard’s Swimming Pool Book and Ed Ruscha
  • But to return to the engagement and to finding your audience as key to sustaining your practice
  • The extent tow which text and journal submissions are part of this
  • To use the 9 months that I have and to schedule what needs to happen
  • Submit the project plan and the other assignments happens somewhat concurrently
  • How to delineate what is BoW and Res, and how SYP traditionally only pursues BoW in an exhibition format
  • There is often a mistake that people submit too much as BoW for assessment: be clear what needs to be submitted: like, 3 objects and the relationship across (and to check with Doug)
  • 20 July as submission for SYP 1

I submit Res 5 and BoW 5 after this discussion and then have a joint tutorial (plus a written one for Res 5) with both my tutors. The latter, as requirement for BoW 5, includes a projected engagement plan which now folds forward in to SYP A1.

After conclusion of Res 5 I start a series of site-based drawings, essentially the final drawing for BoW that I halted as I began to understand it as Research Object, not as part of BoW. I use the practice of this drawing as transition and then begin in early July to assemble the materials for SYP 1. As with all modules it has a series of exercises to gather and review at the start, they are good ones and I will place them on the blog over the next week.

I also sign up for another Practice as Research set of workshops with Rachel for the CA cohort and am offered a 45 min slot to talk about my work, I use this to tease out connections and lose threads and try to make communicable how I research and what my methodology is (in part I see this working towards that development of a mobile toolkit, another part helps me write the project plan alongside).

(I will add and later link relevant blog posts here).

I remain a bit daunted by the timescale as my family situation remains fragile as it is, at the same time I take confidence from what has been possible to do over the past year and have a strong BoW and Res completed and to move forward with. The start of SYP helps me to remember the reasons for sticking with the degree, even though my location and the field in which I would see my artistic practice be professionally situated shifted so much over the past 18 months. Some of that however doesn’t matter and I have a good sense of what I want to make public, to what kind of public and with what kind of professional position. For this, SYP will be good.

(no images today)

Picking a line as research enquiry:

For the current iteration of Rachel Smith’s Practice as Research workshops, I looked at my research objects at this moment of transition between BoW/Research and SYP and made a line of enquiry to explore the methodology, the notion of a research drawing as well as what in my work presents a mobile toolkit to take elsewhere during SYP:

I will try to pick a line that…

in three parts explores
a. a Research Drawing of the space underneath the fir tree that marks the beginning of For Cover last autumn
b. the role of insolent reading (or: reading, voicing, writing in/of site with Laura Marks’ the Haptic and the Erotic as key theory for the work; and 
c. the methodology of using audio recordings while walking as theory/methodology development for Research/Body of Work

This padlet column presents an Ariadne Thread, a linear tangle of these items. It is an aid for me to talk about and for you to explore the bits that hold interest.

Made with Padlet