plans/memories: a FB memory from 5 april 2019 returns:

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line, the Gap, and the wider corridor thematic are aufgehoben in the best dialectical sense: they are concluded and superseded into a qualitatively new question (I remember how for each time that aufheben needed translation I was stuck, as stuck as I am now as there is no equivalent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

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9 m

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.

Access/engagement in see (through): practice conversations

I have started to deposit and reflect on the series of three events and all their attendant conversations and encounters, and I know these reflections won’t conclude by 4 April, the date of my final SYP submission.

I tend to audio note first, then listen, then draw out my thoughts in writing; sometimes the writing is in a sketchbook, sometimes typing is more useful (sometimes in evernote, more rarely, like now directly as blog post).

There is plenty in terms of insight around how these events were set up as practice encounters, how the activities (and a/folders) worked and how the digital space became agentic in the sessions.

What occupied me a lot in planning was who they were for (a bit similar to the a/folders too)? — were they for fellow artists? fellow students? my friends and colleagues who are interested in methodology, though not necessary in artistic practice? where they for people wanting to learn art? for other interested publics? — that really places the question over audience, engagement, and ultimately the relational aspects of my artistic practice back at the centre.

I assessed that in all likelihood the making events were for artists/art students/researchers, at a push those with a substantive interests in site-based work, mobility studies or perhaps also leaning towards the relational questions raised; but if they were concerned about creative activity, the hurdle of a practical workshop was going to be significant.

Nonetheless, I chose to set them up with minimal artistic requirement: curiosity, a couple of simple tools were stated as needed, doing so I hoped to make them accessible to non-artistic researchers; the process-focus to encourage output-focused art students to decentre towards a research perspective.

The activities were practice-led enquiries investigating movement and distance and relating these back to the research, with 15-20 minutes inputs to my own work; two extended making activities and if time allowed a small group activity to explore site/work in these activities and people’s own practice.

I didn’t expect the camera experiments to work so well and to create such an interesting video channel (and that people were so open to experiment with these). I also was surprised as to the insights the simple activities created about moving-with and contextual distance; notably the kaleidoscope activity was generative and insightful in a way that expanded on my own research investigations as part of the degree work.

There were two access issues:

  1. My joining instructions for the first session, moving-with ended up in many people’s spam folder; the eventbrite page had been disabled but pretended to know how to join (only that it didn’t); so a workshop with 18 places booked had six, then four people trying unsuccessfully to join and I started to pick up a series of confused, then irritated messages on three DM platforms and per email. Two joined later, four gave up. Holding this access barrier while running the workshop, where two of eight hadn’t received the joining and preparation info was demanding.
    I picked this issue up afterwards: a comprehensive email and a different set up for the following workshops.
  2. One of the participants (who attended all three sessions) in the first workshop seemed to struggle with not having found the preparatory email, the instructions, the way to work with the camera, and possibly in general the idea of practice-as-research, there were a lot of questions and what I picked up a lot of being bored in that grid position
    I have enough of a facilitation practice to know these difficult roles are generally group roles, someone slips into them, I facilitate to afford them leaving this role. It didn’t quite work though (and it now returned to me in the feedback; as well as a curious wanting to pick my brains for a facilitator for a session which was pretty much my topic, only to tell me that several weren’t after all interested).
    The feedback then was: boring, not novel, tiring. And it curiously got to me (as much as I know the above as structural set up).

From the testing in my crit group and the OCAEU group I know how the work I make activates an edge, is easily perceived as difficult, uncomfortable, not accessible: it often articulates as distance: too abstract, too removed, the site isn’t in reach, the instruction opaque. That for the first session the platform conspires and locks half my eager participants out is quite something, and quite true to the first experiments with the a/folder series.

There is something about trust and commitment in the work. And how it gets criticised accordingly. I will take this to further reflection and further development.

I am incredibly grateful to have explored a creative facilitation practice that isn’t art instruction or output focussed but instead offers my own methods for appropriation and exploration (and also: abandonment and critique). I find the first access issue (spam-foldered instruction and eventbrite circuit of nowhere) quite easily addressed, the follow-up for that was successful, and several attended the later meetings or watched the videos. The latter is trickier and speaks also to the very specific OCA student cohort and expectations within that (and my own impatience with it).

In the greater scheme of feedback, this is one negative in currently five feedback form responses and more than that unprompted follow-ups post-event by email or DM. Yet: if I want to make space and hold it for divergence, I should attend to how to better hold these critical, difficult roles in making workshops (which I can hold very well in academic settings), where my own position seems more exposed than in my usual facilitation practice.

Thanks so much for this evening, Gesa!  Great to hear you speak of your work, and also John and Susan.  I’m thinking about drawings I made of my heartbeat, which I stored in a box (archive?) with new eyes.  Lots of things to think about!  I only picked up your mail below on Tuesday morning, but hope you had fun on Monday evening?  I love drawing machines and blind touch drawings (some of these have become an important part of my practice) so such a shame to have missed it.

Thank you very much for organising the workshop. It has been eye-opening for me on many levels but mainly it made me  question why I do things the way I do them and how to pay more attention going forward.
I couldn’t attend the first sessions but I did the exercises mentioned in the first session after I viewed the video. I’ve tried to upload my images to the Padlet in case that would be helpful for you.
May I please ask you if you could forward me the link to the second session recording? I would be interested to listen to the conversation between Susan and John.
Thank you very much.
Wishing you success with the assessment!

Hi gesa. Was lovely to see you! I really enjoyed the workshop.looking forwards to Wednesday. X

Here is the PDF from the feedback form responses (updated 5 April 2022, 7 responses):

A/Folder update at the end of SYP

I created and circulated further A/Folder since I tested them first at the end of 2021. The most recent edition is #12 a Kaleidoscope, there exist a couple more drafts.

This is the expanding platform for the series:

Made with Padlet

I tried and tested a series of engagements, the losest being a general tweet, the closest printed out zines posted to colleagues or as this part of the tutorial discussion shows, being attached DM conversations with friends.

Tutorial report SYP A5, 25/3/2022

There is much more in this project as to engagement, contact, instructions and obligation. I have begun to draw out a number of these issues since inception and they have been discussed throughout the tutorials 3 and 4.

At this point I am intending to let this project continue to run, I have created a section in the Portfolio for SYP and will update accordingly for the assessment (Autumn 2022).

I recorded the changes to the padlet (however only since I moved from blocks to canvas, I had initially set it up as a post wall but found that didn’t work when I begun to receive longer text submissions). Today, 2 April, I have removed the need to approve posts, none of the submissions have been spam and I want to give those who submit posts more choice over placement, sizing and engagement with the site.

I also received a whole series of post for #8 Go to the meadow, as response to one of my three DM inputs discussed above.

Here a gallery with the existing screenshots:

see (through): practice conversations | 3 events in March

Three online events in March invite you to explore jointly sites, methods and themes of For Cover, my practice-as-research based body of work.

As practice-as-research For Cover articulates across four covers, four blankets, at the forest edge (and just beyond it) in drawing and contact: haptic and tactile media such as frottage and cyanotype trace wind, rain, sound and care in site-specific installations. It circulates already as an expandable PDF to zine library/archive: A/Folder: an instructive glossary, and a series of objects, b-hold: circulatory objects to touchsee (through): practice conversations is the third aspect of exploring its publicness.

Two making workshops invite you to join me and explore some of the methods and tools of my enquiry: drawing machines, mobiles, and viewing devices to engage senses across the visual and the tactile.

1: Moving-with is interested in how our embodied movements, feet, bodies, hands, produce tactile objects and enquiries.

3: Contextual distance enquires into where is the site, work and audience between the visual and the haptic.

Inviting individual explorations ahead of the sessions, the zoom-based workshops seek to utilise the digital space our meeting to navigate across contact, distance and closeness between desk and camera.

2: participation (in) archiving invites two fellow artists, Susan Farrelly and John Umney, to join me to open our ongoing practice conversations across archiving and participation –who where when and what of our practice; their temporalities and spaces; their discipline and subversions.

For the making workshops, there is a little preparation ahead of them (and limited spaces). You don’t need to bring any making skills, merely an inquisitive mind, and a few simple tools (paper, drawing implements in monochrome or colour).

Sign up via Eventbrite for further details.

The events will take place via zoom with links provided ahead of the events.

All events in this programme:

1: moving-with (a making workshop): Monday 14/3 6.30-8.30pm UK 

2: participation (in) archiving (a conversation with Susan Farrelly and John Umney): Wednesday 16/3 6.30-8.30pm 

3: contextual distance (a making workshop): Monday 21/3 6.30-8.30pm UK 

exercise 3.1: network directory

Coursebook instructions: This could be one of the most important research tasks you’ve ever undertaken! The multi- disciplinary nature of Creative Arts at OCA makes it impossible to list every festival, fair and competition in every subject area that goes on across the UK and beyond. The onus is on you as a creative artist to find out what’s out there, using the OCA website and the list below as a starting point. Scan all the options, unless they are obviously irrelevant to your creative areas, and start your own resource directory, using whatever format works for you. This exercise is worth spending time on and doing properly. You’ll be able to add to your directory as you evolve as a creative artist and develop it into an extensive resource relevant to your needs. Be discriminating, though – focus on networks that really look as if they could be useful for you. Find a way to highlight any or all of the following, as relevant: 

  • people to start a conversation with 
  • companies to work for 
  • internships to apply for 
  • agencies to approach 
  • networks and collectives to join 
  • blogs to send your work to or write an article for 
  • galleries to submit work to 
  • books to read 
  • competitions or awards to enter 
  • festivals to visit 
  • postgraduate courses to apply to 
  • professional bodies to join 
  • funds to apply for (discussed in more detail below). It might also be useful to have a calendar section to note down: 
  • things to follow up – for example, portfolio reviews happening in your area, forthcoming concerts or recitals 
  • key dates – competitions and shows (e.g. Frieze) tend to happen at the same time every year. 

— I can start wherever and easily be overwhelmed. I have been working across academia, arts and education for fifteen+ years.During Drawing 2 I went to a number of conferences with my artistic work (WalkingArts; SARS) to explore academic/practice settings for my academic/artistic practice. The list here is vast and I started with tracing recent conversations, some that I struck up  in order to pick up with artists/educators conversations and exchanges that got stalled during Covidbrexitillness time.Did I say, the routes are vast: both academically and artistically. I am hesitant as to where to make a start:There are elements of walking arts; of drawing research and mail art that interest me; there are also a few connections across academic/artistic practice to explore (wider education, creative methods; geography, my own discipline, is interested but I am uncertain if I am still), there are also the PAR networks that are opening up through Rachel’s tutoring and my own forays into Twitter, wider edges around Facebook etc.

Let me try and prioritise:

  • picking up and consolidating existing relationships across Central Scotland, DIY and artist-run; CCA, Cove Park, Rhubaba and Embassy
  • 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)
  • 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?
  • 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)
  • 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
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • what does it mean for the work if it solely animates through friendship and personal networks?
  • what roles does archiving play in all this? does this network differently and otherwise?
  • 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?)

exercise 3.3: recent feedback (to a/folder)

I offer a/folder at various stages but then with a series of finished PDF to print zines in two crit group sessions and individually also. This below traces these and responses and reflections:

1/ OCAEU December tutor-led crit: a/folder PDFs to print (several, deposited with a series of Qs in a padlet ahead of the tutor-led session)It’s an interdisciplinary OCA student group, a mix of levels and disciplines, with possibly a sizeable number of textile students, a few native English speakers living elsewhere in Europe, age-wise I am in the younger half of the group.I ask for a slot, despite being on the organising team (there were however three spare slots still available and we needed to fill them). I prepare carefully a short set of posts, along with two pdfs and questions as to format, engagement invitation, actually content/process and upload these well ahead of the meeting,I am second to present, am asked to introduce the work, take one of my folded zines and show it on camera.I struggle with the distance and struggle to conceal my surprise that noone has printed these. I am offered that these are too intangible, as PDFs, while they know I make some wonderful work, this seems abstract. But also intimidating: the instructions for the PDF seem to be set out to make them fail, so they step away. I struggle with this: I didn’t at all anticipate that the first point ‘PRINT’ wasn’t enacted; nor that the PDF format would through people out entirely. I also struggle with not being too sarcastic at this point as to materiality.I am also asked what people would get back from it? I am surprised: here’s a free piece of artwork from me for you, and you ask what you will get from me for engaging with it? That that exchange would be conceived mean hadn’t occurred to me. What would people get back from going to a gallery? The tutor asked me to contextualise the work: who was I inspired by or was it my brainchild? That comment jarred similarly, and I brushed her off. Someone offered multiples and artist books.What it showed was the delicacy of exchange and distance: that the format shift moved it out of art object to critique; there was a sense of obligation, but also uncertainty over exchange, of being fearful of not getting it or failing. Interestingly, this all foreclosed the materiality of actually having a tactile hand-sized object that would move from my screen to your screen to your printer.
Follow-up 1: OCAEU cafe early January with three who were also at the crit.The two who were most sceptical as to the abstract nature of my work brought the work up again and we ended up talking through the PDF and the process: how big? can I fold this? The process was warm and interested, I was offered how my work is so full of integrity and very much my own work to which I stay true. But also: it seems just so much work at L3 (the two are in the final parts of L2 and considering whether to proceed or not). (I had hoped to find some more notes on this but I don’t seem to have any in writing nor audio).Oh, but what was interesting too was that I talked about my incredulity that the objects failed at the very first instruction: print. And that I struggled to process that and to stay involved. We talked further about distance, the haptic and materiality.
Follow-up 2: OCAEU exhibition group WIP (I circulated #6 drawing/machine as collaborative proposal to the 20 who are part of the exhibition project.We each prepared a slide for our WIP as part of this group project. I introduce mine and the idea  behind engagement via a/folder. I preface the request being extensive (other projects involve a digital photo being sent; a couple of leaves collected and posted, a canvas received, dipped in water and returned). We use, for the presentations, the chat to offer comment, feedback, association to the themes the others present. I see the chat floating by and it almost in its entirety sits with expressions of commitment of contributing. I remember being surprised by this, as I was confident that one or no return at all would also be a good outcome and no sign of this not working.

Follow-up 3: the first drawing machine is offered: a FB post, an email and blog post. ‘This was such fun!’ — There is much more in this, and I will collect alongside further responses. The joy however: again, one who was most critical of the abstract nature of the object, and then it offered such enjoyment. I myself had forgotten the joy that resided in many of my earlier projects and also in the objects that I devised around Trafo and meadow. And here it returned as the first comment, along with two A3 tracing paper, a custom-made string, a set of notes and a bit of background about the tree who drew, a hundred year apple tree (cooking variety) somewhere in the vicinity of Kopenhagen.The FB group post yields yet more of : oh, this is exciting and an enticement to participate. Later, another email tumbles in requesting my postal address (while a windstill but dry day doesn’t move their pen currently all that much) — my two colleagues who worried about the intangibility of the PDF now made drawings to be posted to me.


2/ GSARD crit/making session: proposed #3 detach back in October as part of a first set of instructions for some collaborative work; then asked for a session in late January to navigate a refined #3 detach as shared project of the preceding four weeks.We use email and a shared google file for the collaborative work.As part of this process, I choreograph #3 detach on site, around the fir hide, make an audio file, a couple of photographs and other work is tumbling in on the google drive ahead of our meeting.I will report back. 


3/ conversation with JW about a/folder zines and mail art circulationJW and I have been talking about our respective art, while one time being concurrent Drawing 2 students, over the years. She also contributed to my earlier request to make a viewing device. We caught up a little in late autumn and I asked her again about mail art, my PDF to print zines, she in turn is curious about what I will do after.We talk and then she turns to: ‘So, no one has given you feedback yet (I told her of 1/, before its further iteration occurred). She said: First, this isn’t a zine. I expect more pages and also: it doesn’t fold right, the printer edge muddles it and the text spills to the next page. If you had called this an activity sheet, I wouldn’t have minded but for me this is too scrappy. She also offers:

  • if you want others to send you something, then it’s mail art
  • how she introduced me elsewhere are a mix between walking artists and performance artist

And the most generous comment concerns participation, it develops following a recent show of a large piece of collaborative work, shown in a gallery space nearby, and she said it all very much reduced her to being a spectator. She continues as says that my work wasn’t private; that while I initiate it, it is collaborative; it’s very different to standing and looking at a photography. She ponders that she possesses the work, it’s quite private but she can then also decide to do more with it.I send her another PDF, Make a pocket, and ask if she is interested in exploring the instructions, the content of the not/zines. She says yes.

Event series as part of presentation

Besides the circulation of the a/folder series, my project plan includes a series of events. I had been thinking of how these could sit between making, enquiry, dialogue and presentation. With so much of my work sitting within practice as research, I don’t want a simple artist talk but something that engages in similar measures as the a/folders invite. I think it is within these modalities that digital distance can be fruitfully engaged with.

I mapped and arrived at the following:

A series of events that engage the questions over

Contextual distance || moving-with

  • where is the work?
  • where is the site?
  • where is the audience?

In some sense, a/folder in its iterations and circulations is my response to these questions that guide this current module. Yet, I would like to research together with participants in an interactive workshop format these questions in relation to their own practice. Likely, an a/folder or two will be part of my introduction, facilitation but it’s not a show and tell.

So, I am proposing:

2 digital making workshops (of 2-3 hours), with limited number of participants (up to 20), possibly solely advertised through OCA networks and my own, one each on

a/ contextual distance

b/ moving-with

(or the order is reversed)

Then, a third event as conversation with two fellow artists opening out the above in the context of archival practice and participation. This can be more widely advertised and not with a numbers cap. The two artists in mind have been discussants of our respective works for some time. I will approach the second (the first already agreed) shortly to gauge if it’s feasible.

The aim is for these sessions to take place throughout March, with a view of concluding in time before the module ends (mid-April).

sketchbook mapping of event ideas

a/folder: an instructive glossary (update 1)

I set up an Indesign file where I keep adding page spreads (A4) to make new iterations of a/folder PDF to print zines.

I tested a few of the early ones with artist friends and refined and edited. I then circulated 3 so far, 2 within my Crit group, one in the OCAEU exhibition group.

The format of the the a/folders has a single A4 page as inside, as the specific object of the a/folder; it then on out the outside has a title page, a folder instruction (with links to the project padlet and a contact email address), there is a notes page and a short statement specific to each iteration too.

I am currently experimenting with

  • audience: single, specific, groups; artists and/or other publics; anonymous/general online posting/reposting
  • content: method, site, relationship between object/maker/participant
  • aesthetics/design: various forms of photographic images, as such, of sketchbook pages, using font or handwritten text (immersive to detached)
  • types of invitation, instruction: direct, subtle, disinterested

The post on feedback concerns a series of responses to the a/folder work presented in a couple of group/crit contexts and individually.

All of these so far are strongly mediated by my own relationship with the recipients, and I am interested in the responses to the digital distance, but also concerning the nature of exchange and sense of obligation involved; there are also all sorts of misunderstandings and different response to direction/control or lack thereof.

I have started to receive a number of responses back from the group processes, concerning #5 Make a Pocket; #3 detach and #6 drawing/ machine. They are vastly variable from each other, and quite distinct. Part of that is of course also who responds, but I start to sense the role opacity of instruction plays in this.

Possibly the most interesting response to date is the one from a durational group process among OCA students (working on an exhibition for June 2022), where collaboration is one of the shared working methods. It’s also the one context where the nature of a/folder was most sceptically received: its abstract, intangible nature as PDF format but also concerning the exchange modality. The a/folder invites a response of setting up a drawing machine on a plant, twig, bush, branch or tree and trace wind and other movements on tracing paper to return to me by post. It is one process I used quite a bit during Research but didn’t include in the BoW portfolio and the first responses were: ‘This is so much fun!’ — I had forgotten my own fun with this and other processes and was quite happy to see that surface so strongly and clearly as so much of my pre-Level 3 work was strongly informed by joy and playfulness and a bit of mischief. These seemed to have gotten a little lost with all the contact restrictions but here they were quite at the heart of my archiving process.

Within the collaborative group process I have also made two a/folders in response to one particular request by a colleague: to help preserving a leaf. She asked for different methods/routes towards trying to do so and I was intrigued how the a/folder process can work reactively but also for how my methods can circulate in such a manner.

I am inviting responses to any of the a/folders to post to this padlet and will write further updates on the process as it unfolds.

Next steps:

  • how to post on FB, twitter and Instagram (it needs a couple of containers for each of these)
  • to continue making further a/folders and exploring their modality and content
  • to post to e.g. mail art groups or wider OCA discussions to invite more of the distanced responses to it
  • to consider a mail drop to some of the people on my commuting walk and living adjacent to the site

Inside view of #6 drawing/ machine

Submission SYP 2: Resolving your work

This constitutes the submission of assignment 2 for SYP: Resolving your work.

Four elements (and related links) form this submission

1/ revised and new work;

2/ reflection on 1/ in light of presentation concerns

3/ a synopsis of my presentation plans

4/ revised project plan.

I wrote 1/ and 2/ a little ago: essentially concluding that little is to be revised as body of work and that in fact the objects created/revised form part of the engagement itself (for the purpose of this submission these are also called presentation, but I understand engagement to be more than presentation form.

1/ and 2/ are in this post: https://close-open.net/2021/11/18/syp-2-resolving-the-body-of-work/

3/ I argue that the two pinhole photographic prints constitute new work, made for circulation/engagement (while resulting out of the final stages of the Research dissertation enquiry): https://close-open.net/2021/11/28/for-cover-contact-and-gaze-pinhole-images-for-sale/

These then fold forward to the substantial addition of new objects, engagement objects, that are tentatively called A/ folder or An Instructive Glossary to: a growing series of zines in PDF print at home download format as presented in #3 Detach and #4 Open in this post: https://close-open.net/2021/11/28/a-folder-or-perhaps-an-instructive-glossary-to/. I am in the process of testing these in a series of small group settings to explore the viability of them being responsive and generative as a process.

There are a series of research processes at play around engagement, archiving and distance, with distance likely informing both of these others. I have written a little on aspects of contextual distance here: https://close-open.net/2021/10/15/contextual-distance-in-the-padlet-portfolio/ and here: https://close-open.net/2021/11/18/archiving-site-1/, and it is also raised in relation to the audience considerations for the above zine process.

I am also proposing for presentation aka engagement a series of workshop/discussion events: I would like these to be practice as research, making workshops and/or panel discussions and dialogue. There exist a few first considerations as to focus:

The idea is that these workshops run over a 3-4 weeks in February/March 2022 as digital events.

The presentation/engagement in digital form is being explored: perhaps, given the discussions around contextual distance, see blog link above re to archiving, the padlet is a suitable mediator for the work; I am however also testing Adobe Portfolio (perhaps too Creatives for my purpose, or other unlimited single page site — I intend to turn to this over the next assignments, and perhaps it sits as project on my artist website).

For the on site/ adjacent to it engagement, I am exploring e.g. a maildrop of a similar single page zine as for the A/folder PDFs along my ‘commuting route’, i.e. 15 houses, or similar.

4/ I have updated the project plan accordingly, along with the timeline here:

A/ folder or perhaps: An instructive glossary to

Most of my past few weeks were spent doing two things:

a/ to explore the notion of archiving (on site/ in notation); and

b/ to work through the questions around engagement.

I want to unpack the latter here in more detail as part of my submission of SYP2: Resolving my work: PDF zines for circulation as WIP.

The project plan of SYP always included an analogue element: perhaps a artist book/box to circulate in a limited edition; perhaps a performance/event on site or adjacent to (besides its already existing digital form, perhaps edited, perhaps transposed to a different platform from the padlet site).

The idea of an assemblage, an artist box, a limited edition originates with the idea of a large Research drawing or perhaps a large drawing that concluded the body of work. I have spent many hours on site/ about the site to work through the elements, strands, connections and dissonances only to find that such drawing remained elusive. There was however a list of objects that could transpose the site to elsewhere (even fit into a box to be posted; to be non-precious too). Some elements were: larch essential oil, a cone, a feather, an instruction for a drawing machine, a notation of burning birchwood and crows flying overhead.

Again, the materials seem too… perhaps too literal or too romantic, too much trying for immersion when earlier I had deliberately trying to distance myself from that and a simple sense-transferal from here to anywhere.

In my sketchbooks of the original site, the staircase, I find two instructive participatory processes that I have experimented with: a zine around a hatch atop of the staircase, and an instruction for a viewing device. The latter was posted to three friends/colleagues and returned.

Along with my current sketchbook notes and the instructions to touch that I developed as part of For Cover, these in turn became the following:

An expandable collection of PDFs, with printing and folding instructions, relating to variable elements of my practice as research: site, object, method. I modelled two and am attaching them here along with some relevant visual documentation.

#3 Detach:: presents a series of instructions around the notion of distance: to process a single line, phrase or in entirety

#4 Open:: a new invitation to copy a viewing device and use it.

I made simple instructions on the outside, along with title and a return address.

They can circulate as PDF and by means of a double-sided printer can then materialise as a small folded zine, a single image inside.

The series is flexible and can be expanded in various directions and include a number of objects and enquiries.

This unfolding does not yet have an adequate instruction in the PDF:

SYP 2.2: Presentation and/or site visit

Presentation is routinely a gallery exhibition; and so it takes me a couple of rounds to read the details that veer off from this format. I am at the point of submitting SYP 2; print out the instructions in the coursebook and marvel at a site visit proposition for my engagement. Let me explore this a little:

Venue, venue, venue — it isn’t quite event, is it? How is my dislocated venue visited? I link to it, on social media, in DMs, in email footers and physical print outs (I am still undecided if QRs are rubbish, pandemic-light, or rather smart functional). There are plenty architectural details: letterboxes, the folds of paper print outs, the question as to ‘what type of printer do you have and use?’; and then there is of course a physical site that I tried to offer immersively, instructively; erotically even too, but that then became a blanket for cover.

My work, my objects, portfolio, research, glossary, sound notes, flow through these effortlessly; I realise I am not concerned and don’t need to be concerned about the objects to be engaged with: they don’t need reworking; they may need selecting, orientating, engaging; but somehow even the choice as to which ones seems not too important.

Scale: insignificant to cosmic. It contracts and expands thanks to several folders.

Services: care work; haptic encounter, a pinhole camera offering all in sharp focus, if you linger you may drown a little at will; there is a hide for cover, numerous blankets; a pencil or ten, swirls skywards and along the horizon line. All these services, in service, playful and with utmost sincerity.

Health and safety: a magnetic current field; underfoot you feel it, how far does it stretch? If you don’t lift your foot you may trip while trespassing. Mind the dog shit too. And if this was summer: the horseflies. Oh, the horseflies. And then, how far away is your screen, do you squint your eyes, hunch your shoulders, strain your wrists?

Sound is distant but a set of good headphones can come to your (or my) aid here.

All in this is abundant and non-precious. This secures protection. But then, I lost a set of good tree drawings to an exasperated owner once. Or do I misremember now.

Hold you phone, follow the link and there is your moving image doubled.

There are numerous paths, you can veer off too and rummage a little with squirrels and thrushes. The jays invite you to flap your wings. That’s all the directions needed, I feel.

My insurance covers outside the EU these days; there are public right of ways, to cross the woods and meadows too. But, mind, your dogs needs to be kept on a leash for most of the year.

Dog walkers are still there; not many else but that may change in the next few weeks depending on how unsafe indoors is turning again.

Let me tell you a story. Or, have a title. I may offer some simultaneous interpreting however. I am not sure they quite caught my accent at my last public speaking engagement in early September.

All totally within reach; just move one foot here, another there, reach your hand out and listen intently: there you are.

(I wrote of the Stromverteilen site, I realise; it may need a little tweaking for its remote versions).

(I only wrote of the Stromverteilen site in the lower part of this, so it evidently changed, narrowed as site; it may not need any tweaking after all).

SYP 2.3: Thinking about documentation

Pretty much all that I call archiving falls under this activity’s ‘documentation’. Similar as with the submission of BoW, the documentation presents the work, in the case of For Cover as the event documentation of that half-day installation on site.

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.

Thinking of the forms of engagement for SYP, as per the revised project plan (event series; analogue engagement via shared objects (send out/return); web platform and possibly on site/surrounding engagement; these are then a series of records:

  • a/v recording of digital events; possibly with transcripts too;
  • a folder/record of objects in circulation along with notes on reflection (written, a/v, audio, photographic, otherwise);
  • web platform as accessible at any point; and
  • a similar record to any on site engagement (depending on the nature of this: as event some a/v recording plus notes; if a letterbox drop or similar, the recording will be akin to the one for the analogue objects).

Risk assessments are unlikely to be needed; perhaps if a site-based live event these come into play; otherwise these are postal engagement at a distance. An assistant for digital events and/or live events would be helpful but given my experience also not necessary.

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. These will be explored throughout the remainder of SYP (and likely filter into the events.

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:

Immersiveness (complications) > research folder

A draft post which looked like this has existed for almost a year. It arose around the conversations during BoW tutorials around immersion, the sensorial and audience engagement with site and work.

The discussion linked forward and into BoW 4 and 5 and Research 4 also. How to invite, entice, lure the viewer into the work, inviting them to step forward, and then to get a little lost, not quite knowing where they stepped into.

In conversations that ensued, I wondered if the work needed to be seductive to achieve this: the luring was close enough to entrapment, of overwhelming with the (visual) senses. And I realised that I myself stepped right back at that moment.

Pippilotti Rist’s (2005) Homo Sapiens Sapiens video installation at Garden of Earthly Delights (you lie back onto floor cushions, the projection happens on the ceiling in a round shape), came to my mind and that my work was not like that (and didn’t intend to).

I was surprised by my strong reactions here and further discussions with my Research tutor clarified some of the links about it (immersion = seduction = overwhelm = entrapment). It also clarified for me that HD video on large/multiple screens is not where my intention of the kinds of work I want to make lies (I think it’s been a no for some time, being invited to spend £10k for a digital back for a MF camera) — I am too little photographer for these approaches.

The works I turned to were these three — I have known them for a long time, they are datable, and dated as late 20c British contemporary art. I find myself however returning them at frequent intervals:

Bethan Huws (1991) The Lake Writing or The Lake Piece, 24 works on paper, ink, each 297x210mm.

Georgina Starr (1992) Whistle (Eddy, photography and Whistle, vinyl 7” record); installation, dimensions variable, https://georginastarr.com/eddyforwhistle1992STARR.htm, accessed 20 August 2021.

Gillian Wearing (1994) Dancing in Peckham, video, 25 mins, https://youtu.be/lQqZj7DhRzQ, accessed 20 August 2021.

None of them is immersive in the way immersion is currently understood as a multimedia surround environment where the view steps in. Huws’s photocopied handwritten notes on walking around a lake are in fact anything but: it is formally sparse, daringly challenging the notion of the artist’s hand (or tech) and yet affording a slow stepping into a sensorial and experiential register which affords precisely that transfer, transporting the viewer/reader around that lake with her, if they let themselves be seduced by 80gsm photocopy paper spaced on a white gallery wall (that I was told the visit was animated by a large open window that moved the sheets on the wall on a summer afternoon in London, helped further). Wearing’s silent disco before there was such a thing is of a similar register, here we don’t know what she is dancing too, the noisy VHS recording clipped to youtube dates it further. Starr’s eddies on Kings Cross station translated to her whistle tune recorded on vinyl is similarly introverted, marked by an innocuous act in public space (like Wearing and Huws also).

They are all fairly ordinary approaches towards making and then the act of transferring, translating moves the terrain and makes them extraordinary with simple means compared to the immersion at play today. They also are playful (both in production and in presentation), there is a trickster at play, a playing with the expectations of audience and curators. They are also quite introverted works, I come to realise now: they are solitary activities, contemplative, a couple a bit performative, while the headphones kind of temper the level of exposure.

None seduces, none overwhelms, yet they stay with me as a way of translating, relating environmental experiences of making (with/in) site that are effective and relevant to how I am engaging with site. I hope these will provide further inspiration as I move towards SYP and the concerns over audience engagement.

Oh, yes: the link to the haptic and the erotic in Marks: it lies again in the autonomy and ability to negotiate coming close and pulling away: of diving in and dissolution and then to surface and step out. The choice for one or the other is key here (what that means for the initial idea of letting people peer in and they get a little surprised what they discover remains to be revisited).

William Kentridge: Why I should hesitate at Deichtorhalle Hamburg

My first train travel in over nine months led me through HH and on the return I stopped and saw the first show since Shuvinai Ashoona’s Holding on to Universes at CCA Glasgow a couple of days before Lockdown 1.

I don’t linger too much around the earlier drawings and prints but enjoy the construction of viewing boxes and small rooms along with the studio space, the later hotel reception and the reading room.

I am sure I will have seen More Sweetly Play the Dance (2015), I thought it was a Documenta work but am corrected, so I am uncertain where I saw it. It, the scale of the relief prints that concern the Mediterranean refuge routes of the mid-2010s (Refugees (You Will Find No Other Seas), 2017), the work concerning the death of the African porters enlisted for the British war effort and subsequent silence (Porter Series 2005) are stunning and humbling, yes, I think that is the word.

The work is vast and serious about its sincerity and concern. I think that is what strikes me most with the scale of the print productions. And while I am often put off by large scale ambition, here I feel grateful for him affording the subject matter all that space and visibility (it enters a dialogue with my own questions of scale, encounter and engagement).

The work for the Istanbul Biennial a few years ago of Trotsky’s Hotel reception and the ghosts that would haunt that reception was sweet, funny and playful, I liked it a lot too (O Sentimental Machine 2015). The show almost ends with a large reading room and flower bouquets (Studio Flowers 2013) drawn in ink on found paper, each consisting of around 80 sheets pinned together. They framed a socially distanced reading room and library cabinet. That room worked for me so well and so did these drawings of such a quaint subject matter. Perhaps it was the earlier works that contextualised it and moved the flowers elsewhere?

Here a few images.

The exhibition site has many more videos, I am including a link to a digital symposium from Spring 2021:

touch and intimacy at a distance

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):

site/event in drawing/contact, January 2020

(this clip is the outcome of 18 months trying to get the video clips in a PPT to transfer as videos in export to .mov in Powerpoint for Mac). I have some notes on the process, which I will use too.

But first: the most recent pecha kucha (no narration) from my materials. This one for a brief introduction to my research/body of work for a first hangout with other L3 people across different disciplines.

holding* / form

A container (!) post to trace the outer edges of this extended BoW.

The notion of excess, abundance is part of this work (and rose most clearly so far in the discussion with my Research tutor). Here, the written dissertation incorporates forms of glossary, appendix, additional materials, see Res report 2. A current phrase is satellite objects of the work.

In BoW this has arisen at points over conclusion and presentation: how does this work sit and enact a publicness. Much of this will be eventually resolved in SYP, yet: for BoW this remains relevant as it concerns site and access of the work and more conceptually: the internal mechanics, the animation, the organising forms of it.

An early concept was that of assemblage (raised in BoW tutorial 1); I hold it for a while, it is right in terms of the looseness, openness it suggests. I hesitate as it pushes the work firmly within Actor-Network-Theory and for my academic self the concept is too heavily laden already.

In this line of thought I remember how I conceived of the dialectics in my PhD work as internal relations and a fragmented and contradictory totality. Settling and explicating the latter was significant. It is too academic for what I am after now, and I also don’t want to get embroiled in quite such an extent in historical/critical materialist debates.

The concept maps from last winter explore much of this and are due an update. I also have a series of posts and notes that address a holding form in practice, some assembled in this earlier post.

I have the sense that the dream construction which led me to the staircase as case study site is a good organising frame. It is complex, open, it moves, it denotes an elsewhere, it allows me to drop various project strands and investigations into it. It is animated.

I use as concept for this set of questions for the body of work the tag of ‘holding’; holding space or creating a container for a work to take place within is a concept I use in my facilitation practice. It may be a gesture, pose and practice that can be utilised for this work (container, in turn, is too rigid, too closed as concept).

— I don’t feel I need to clarify much further yet. There are a series of investigations about to start, and to continue, which will clarify and test this aspect further: investigating excel/GIS as relational practice across analogue/digital; exploring geolocation a bit further as to how it can link and envision various sites on/offline (imaginary, experienced, conceived) and further work in the staircase itself.