Documentation: what form is resolved and/or redundant?

One of the main points of clarification now at the end of the SYP module just before it goes to assessment is the form of the work as it remains, meets audiences/publics and is presented/circulated.

I wrote earlier about documentation and the active process of it in clarification, re-engaging and actively remaking work that exists in live and performative contexts.

I want to document here too some of the failures around the portfolio process.

This one included here is a fairly simple one to report on; the format and orientation of the entire portfolio, ideally a website or at least an epub but I will fall back to a more easily navigated PDF with links (not interactive) is a more difficult one to report back on.

But this simple failure:

I have two new series or rather forms of circulation/engagement with the Stage 3 work; one is the A/Folder padlet, the other one the performative diary around the making of a series of eight successive prints of the fir branch in late March.

Both of these exist online in their form. One, A/Folder as an interactive, expanding padlet space here:

Made with Padlet

The other as this hashtag search on Facebook: #FirHideSideNotes

I create pages of screengrabs from each of these in ID only to discover that they don’t reproduce, they look scrappy, out of place and outdated in form really. What is the point to document them thus? The padlet exists and .PNG files in total which serves as backup and timeline; the FB files are saved in Evernote for my own record, but neither of these forms need an audience, they are internal reference files.

So, I decide for that portfolio to include a mere link to the FB hashtag as included here; for the A/Folder I include one single image and again a simple link to the padlet space.

Thus I fall back to traditional forms of having stills not as installation views but as object in its own right to serve as full page (or diptych) visuals, and the hyperlinked reference. For the #FirHideSideNotes I include these two spreads:

Revisiting documentation: performance, portfolio and beyond

As part of the wander wide web residency and exhibition project with the OCAEU student group, I early on raised the notion of documentation, and what this might entail. I remember us exploring it a little bit, and clearly the decision to have a permanent website (as catalogue) to exist beyond the time limited online gallery space at Kunstmatrix, speak to this need to document beyond the event.

With much of my own work hovering between object and performance, documentation has long been a consideration (and relates too to my explorations around an archive).

I write this post as part of the early, Part 2, coursework and consider documentation as relevant for my practice to be concerned with

For SYP then, documentation is recording of what is to come as engagement/exhibition but since it draws on what was/is, it is the recording of an archive in some sense.

and conclude

Here, documentation is considerable more logistically and conceptually narrow than how I have so far approached the concept of ‘archiving the site and the work’; the latter poses a number of questions concerning the nature of the work, the time/duration of the work and various access/contact points. 

Relevant here then is also how I propose, organise, and in part facilitate a series of informal artist cafe conversations around the ongoing exhibition to a/ engage further with the exhibition, its works and modalities, and also b/ to create a record (experiential for those who attended; and physically as in recorded zoom sessions) to exist beyond the online exhibition. Here, we have run five artist conversations in total, as shown in this screengrab. The recordings circulate to the group as well as any registered attendants, are hosted on an internal g-drive folder and we will place them on the permanent exhibition site also.

Screengrab of wander wide web site frontpage showing the lineup of artist conversations

And as before, the involvement with the wander wide web project helps me clarifying my own processes and practices, to figure out what works well and what is needed to allow e.g. for documentation and for engagement in an online exhibition (which is not what I have chosen for my own work).

The events themselves are documented but as direct engagement with objects, processes, artists and others (visitors, interested bystanders, participants), the re-engagement is productive and also facilitates to document while making.

To me, this learning: of being confident in engagement with and again, in recording in numerous forms, some perhaps redundant, some failing ones too, is significant for the SYP module and to understand my practice as ongoing research while making while documenting.

The course portfolio includes a few further thoughts as to how the visuals of the portfolio are documentation and objects (and which ones also don’t work easily) and it includes a fuller array of where the records of my SYP (and the entire stage 3) are documented.

update: network directory (ex 3.1)

I revisit the list of priorities from Spring on the network directory (adding in purple my current thoughts as of early September 2022.)

Let me try and prioritise:

a/ picking up and consolidating existing relationships across Central Scotland, DIY and artist-run; CCA, Cove Park, Rhubaba and Embassy

This hasn’t really happened: I spoke to a few of my artist friends who have been involved in the DIY spaces but all but one have now left the arts as sector, retraining in data or life science.

At the same time, most of my contacts and networking is taking place in the UK: around poetry/life writing/creative writing, at the intersection of visual poetry/asemic poetry, screenwriting and a little bit of radio art. These originate within twitter contacts but also the two Poetry School courses I took in early Spring and in July.

b/ critical friends  and peer-exchange networks are, not surprisingly, the ones that interest me most; how to develop these further (notably GSARD, OCAEU, 1:1 exchanges too)

These developed most, the GSARD crit group is a constant and inspiring context for crit, reading/discussions and some first exploration of making/showing work together; the OCAEU group a second, I joined the admin team until July 2022 and took part in the wanderwideweb residency and online exhibition. In the latter, much happened in collaborative explorations, in exploring sound in my work, in curating a group show and currently in running a series of artist conversations and how to document the considerable work and exhibition beyond its online presence.

c/ what exists here between Celle, Uelzen and Gifhorn: what artists are based here; any exhibition spaces, and resources (print studio etc), and groups to connect to, any possibility to teach/facilitate?

I made a couple of enquiries and reached out re: access to workshop spaces in one of the larger towns but also local art teachers but nothing has yielded access nor working contacts so far.

d/ walking arts/ site-based work that isn’t geopoetics, place nor landscape : > methods may be a route here (which also addresses colonial legacy of geographic fieldwork)

I followed some online and met up with two artist colleagues to see the Walk! show at Schirn in Frankfurt where one of them was exhibiting, we also talked with one of the show’s curators afterwards.

e/ to write and contribute to: either blog posts or other forms; not primarily academic journals, it needs wider access; I also doubt a publisher as such would be interested

I wrote a couple of blog posts for #weareoca and have begun to investigate how to publish in visual/poetry magazines, perhaps chapbooks etc. I haven’t pursued any more academic publishing so far, remain uncertain about its relevance and/or reach but am also in discussion with academic colleagues about co-authoring more hybrid formats (one a photo essay about pandemic travel restrictions and distance/care).

f/ to circulate and locate both a/folder as free mail art object; but also: photographic prints and cyanotypes as objects for circulation through sale: where to locate them?

I continue to do so with the a/folders and have a rudimentary set up for the other objects but for the latter haven’t found a site to host/facilitate access yet (they currently live on IG).

g/ engagement as key pointer: where and how to base the work; e.g. distribution via mail drop along my commuting route; to colleagues in Glasgow Geography; etc.

These remain to be done: both for academic contexts, the site of the first iteration of Drawing/Contact but also the OCA tutors who I engaged with while at the OCA. I consider a working/viewing presence along my commuting route for the first weekend in September but couldn’t facilitate access early enough to make it viable. So, a local/site-based event/performance remains to be done too.

j/ what is my current social media use and how can I utilise that (e.g. is Facebook rather dead? what puts me off the IG influencers? and what to do with 41 followers on twitter?)

I have resorted back to FB to use it as diaristic performance, recording space; sometimes I use twitter for this too (with a doubled following by now); I am investigating if I set up a regular (monthly) newsletter via substack as a way of moving some of the performative work into a direct readership. I currently use IG as main SM handle and am in the process of building a website via Cargo to act as portfolio. I think I will include my LinkedIn profile for any of the training/facilitation and academic work (I don’t want to clutter the artist portfolio with it, and LinkedIn remains relevant for this line of work of mine.

These following points are more complex to respond to, and I will leave them here for now and return to them in the portfolio document as I look forward.

h/ what does it mean for the work if it solely animates through friendship and personal networks?

i/ what roles does archiving play in all this? does this network differently and otherwise?

SYP as practice as research

Where and when is the site, audience and work/ as early question (SYP 1):

In fact, it was phrased like this in July 2021:

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. 

(tutor report, SYP 1, July 2021)

And the active research process (also from SYP 1) concerns:

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. 

(tutor report, SYP 1, July 2021)

These were the active questions; the engagement strands addressed these and so did the investigation around archiving and participation. 

Arguably too, the creation of new work processes (and the review of the bridging projects, Making Hay and Fir Hide,) investigated these also.

The site and any engagement is productive.

Once I establish a container (like Stromverteilen, as site, as practice or as method), I can infinitely explore it in numerous connections, the work, the site will be activated in these (possibly more or less successful). The work and the site then also become mobile: processes like a/folder (see a current reflection on this strand here), but even a social media practice of posting circulate the site and the work to different audiences, they fragment, reconstitute, remake and echo (some of these can be controlled but much also becomes involuntary, uncontrolled, perhaps even invisible, latent).

I centred all three engagement strands on these. And they yielded insight. 

Utilising the a/folders in a series of group settings was particularly insightful: they circulated in different ways ahead and prompted in one case a four-week group process of distributed engagement with them; one was tested in crit group and committed group setting (with a lot of criticism to start with), and then there were two that formed a key activity in the see (through) making workshops. In these, like in the first, extended process, the engagement was also very visible, in the case of the workshops even recorded with altered camera angles. And these were great. Excellent in fact. In particular the #12 a Kaleidoscope was almost magical at the making stage but then also when testing. The camera set ups provided fabulous views; and hearing also of how people tested the device and what they observed added another layer yet.

The see (through) series had two somewhat different modalities; the making workshops were possibly (besides the social media advertising) the most uncertain parts of my engagement : of testing art-making instruction when I know that I was particularly interested in the process rather than the object, wanting to foreground the group aspect in this. I was nervous how this would function in zoom and with my art that at the start of the a/folders received a fair bit criticism for being too intellectual and too abstract. 

I have written a longer reflection on access/engagement, notably in relation to the 2 making workshops is this separate post here).

The participation (in) archiving conversation followed a simple format: 3 short introductory presentations from the three speakers, a little response from each to each and then an opening of the conversation to all present. The presentations were concise and insightful, they were open too as to present our current engagement with and thinking about these matters. The conversation that followed from them was generous, engaged, exploratory and genuinely interested in dialogue and intellectual engagement. I remember coming away thinking that I didn’t have to make myself dumb. It yielded a number of new questions and concerns around archiving and participation while at the same time opening an existing conversation between the three of us out to a larger group and made our concerns and our engagement visible also. 

This all poses a series of reflections on the larger project plan for SYP but of course also for the next steps once this module has ended. Please see the respective posts for these.