Situating Oneself…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 6, 2009 by simonthebold

Throughout the year I’ve developed a clearer picture of the Situationists ideas and intentions. Even if this idea still remains slightly ambiguous in light of their shirking of any definition whatsoever. Their theories and methods have been significant in my attempt to define what it means to be lost in the modern city and I think it is worthwhile trying to put these links into words before I complete the course.

The first and most obvious connection between their ideas and my understanding of being lost is The Derive. I suppose my initial interpretation of this practice was that they were getting lost. It was a way of disorientating oneself by moving through unrecognised areas away from busy streets and tourist attractions. Although this isn’t entirely untrue. Further reading has lead me to believe that the opposite is actually a more accurate interpretation of the idea. Instead of getting lost, members of the group were acting tactically in defiance of a landscape they considered oppressive.

“If chance plays an important role in dérives this is because the methodology of psychogeographical observation is still in its infancy. But the action of chance is naturally conservative and in a new setting tends to reduce everything to habit or to an alternation between a limited number of variants. Progress means breaking through fields where chance holds sway by creating new conditions more favorable to our purposes.”
Guy Debord

For Debord then, the Derive was tactical and constructive, with the only element of chance caused by their inexperience of ecological science. Although this does not render the idea of being lost a meaningless one, it does bring into question my earlier ideas of losing oneself randomly in the city. Directing myself around a city in a random way is much like the Surrealist techniques of automatism and chance. And in the view of the SI, a controlled approach was more useful for exploring the world around them. In this sense, being lost is perhaps no more than a trivial way of expressing the perceived randomness of the city around me. In light of this, I have come to see the act of losing oneself as a creative act. The idea of exploring the city on foot, as discussed in my research paper, is a way of breaking away from the structures and routines of everyday life.

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In terms of the work on display at the final show, I think that the interactive element of my piece goes some way towards expressing this idea. Structures are created and change as a result of a persons movement. In order to reveal the animations and see the piece develop and change, a user has to move around the space. I have to admit to not being well versed in theories around interaction and agency. But I think the pleasure in seeing the animations grow and rotate in relation to movement can be compared to the experience of seeing city spaces in a different light. In addition to this the use of acetate sheets to catch and reflect the light as it travels between projector and wall suggests that there are elements around us that we don’t see. By revealing the otherwise invisible light a more dense sense of space is created. Like the animated shapes on the walls, a user has to move to reveal this element.

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Joiners…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 6, 2009 by simonthebold

My process of connecting multiple images together was inspired by a series of works by British artist David Hockney (if i’ts not already obvious). During the seventies and eighties, Hockney explored the use of what he described as Joiners. Using  prints or polaroids, Hockney would composite a subject or scene from multiple images. Both the subject and photographer would move during the process instilling the end result with a narrative rather than capturing a moment.

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Hockney suggested that photography lacked a sense of time. A rather unreal frozen moment. The process is instantaneous as opposed to painting, which develops over time. The composition of a joiner is produced in the same way one constructs a drawing. Some areas of a scene are ignored, others are looked at in detail. Hockney believed that the joiners extended photography. By drawing with images he gave them a narrative.

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The works intentionally resemble the cubist aesthetic, analysing the way human vision works. Like Hockney’s joiners, cubist artists depicted subjects from multiple view points to show them in a greater context. In reducing natural objects to their basic forms, these artists explored the fundamental ways in which we see. By breaking up and reassembling subjects in an abstract form, often using interesecting angles to distort the sense of space, cubist paintings expressed the plural viewpoint with which the human eye sees the world.
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Although I do not consider my own work to question the specific nature of how humans see, the sense of narrative and collapsing of space achieved by Hockney and the Cubists has clearly had a direct influence upon my work.

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In terms of narrative, I wanted to visualise the transience of modern day urban spaces. As described in my research proposal, Manovich’s ideas of augmentation suggest that we experience spaces in a more dynamic than in the past. Transport moves people physically faster within cities and new technologies such as phones and web devices draw attention toward spaces that may not be within our immediate locality.

Photography allows me to situate my audience within a location (the pedestrian) and using cubist like joiners I can create a sense of time around that viewpoint. Photomontage enables me to distort the boundaries between locations to warp not only perspectives, but time as well. I see the layering and blending of images as adding to Manovich’s idea of augmentation, suggesting muliple experiences within a space at a given time.

It is interesting to note Hockney’s comparison between his joiner photographs and the medium of film. In an experiment he completed a joiner documenting a friend bringing out cups of tea to his garden. This work went on to become ‘Fredda bringing Ann and Me a Cup of Tea’ (1983). After taking the photographs, he filmed Fredda repeating the action.

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Whereas a film camera draws a line of time, the joiners exist on a flat plain and are seen both all at once and separately. With film, time is opposed onto. You are forced to look at events for a given amount of time and must follow them in the sequence that they are presented. A joiner however, can be viewed and analysed as many times as one wishes to do so. A viewer steps out of time in a sense, rather than being guided through it. Although Hockneys experiemnts took place before the advent of digital video and DVDs, I think the principal still remains.

In this sense, the joiners break the notion of a frame. a viewer is more free to view the images as they please. In addition to this, the edges of the frame become a part of the image. Rather than filling a frame and cropping images at the edge, their is a more open sense of space.
I also like this idea a less controlled perspective when applied to walking. When we walking, it is possible to consider direction. Focus of attention is more selected. In a car, bus or train, passengers are forced to view surroundings within a set of constraints, provided by the road or train tracks.

The output I have generated in the second half of the year has been primarily photography based. Although I had anticipated using elements of video, 3D and graphics, I haven’t felt the need to go beyond the appropriation of my phtography work. I suppose I feel that these pictures provide me with enough shapes, textures and colours to communicate what I need. Also, the photographic process involves exploring locations. Susan Sontag seems to sum up my methods rather well…

“The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world ‘picturesque.”

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I think the act of photographing goes slightly further though. In a sense, I am not only revealing the picturesgue, I am also mapping the areas and structures that I encounter. When I look at the body of work I’ve produced so far, the level of mapping I’ve achieved is actually rather obsessive. When attempting to capture a building with the intention of rebuilding it with photographs, I try to find as many different angles as possible. I move around the building looking for interesting elements to the structure and take both wide and close up shots. Essentially I collect hundreds of images whilst exploring the city to allow me as much freedom as possible when in computer.

“…the most grandiose result og the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads – as an anthology of images.”

“To collect photographs is to collect the world”

Susan Sontag

In this sense, my Hockney-esque joiners are very much in line with other mapping projects such as google earth and street view. In fact, the idea that photography as whole, from amateur snappers to modern surveillance, is mapping the whole is very relevant to my work. I suppose in distorting the locations that I map I am trying to highlight and parody the fixation that the world now has of capturing everything in camera.

Constructivists…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2009 by simonthebold

Throughout the past year many people have likened my work to Russian Constructivism. The term ‘constructivism’ was applied to Russian avant-garde practices in art and architecture that largely took place during the 1920’s. Partly inspired by the Cubist movement in western Europe, Constructivism continually rejected the figurative form in favour of the shapes, colours and lines from which an artwork was built. Artists connected to the movement tended to move away from nature as a source of inspiration in an attempt to realise the fundamental structures upon which a work of art (art, design, architecture etc.) was built.

“The work of art ceased to be painted from nature, and began instead to derive its structure from the nature of the problems it treated.”
Aleksandr Rodchenko

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Artists involved in Constructivism played a central role during the Russian Revolutions of the time. They carried their approach to painting into architecture, design, theatre and fashion. The structural approach they undertook embodied the notion that society needed to be reordered at a fundamental level. Like the Constructivist aesthetic, this meant breaking down the social order to its basic structures. In support of the Bolsheviks, the Constructivists applied their style to fashion items, posters, films and furniture.

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Despite an interest in the way Constructivists carried their artistic ideas into a broader political and social sphere, I believe my work shares more in common with their aesthetic ideas. I consider my work to be more photography and moving image based, as in I take from what I see around me. However, much like the Constructivists, I try to break these images down into abstract forms, developing lines and shapes which collapse perspectives.

“Work on the creation of forms and a structural system for them gradually brought the line into the surface as a structural element”
Rodchenko

I have never considered the effects of lines within my images, but Rodchenko’s ideas here seem to give them more relevance. in cutting and slicing images together, I create new lines that connect elements of photographs that were perhaps otherwise seperate.

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“On the one hand the line defines the structure as a whole, expressing the structural characteristics of the system – in this respect the line is the frame , the skeleton, the relationship of surface to each other.”
Rodchenko

Despite my collages containing the details within original photographs the lines created by the layering form new structural characteristics. I find that when I view my images my attention shifts between the sections created by these lines and the image as a whole. Between the illusion of the parts as a recognisable whole and the clear separation of sections created by lines. It is always the lines that split my attention. Excuse me if that’s a bit subjective.

“On the other hand the line captures the kinetic structural moments of both the whole and its parts – in this respect the line is trajectory, it is movement, collision, attachment, slicing apart and joining”
Rodchenko

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I see lines in my images as cuts in time. They represent temporal as well as spatial shifts. Because of this, I consider them to represent journeys, if in an abstract sense.

Lines can also be considered as slices. According to Rodchenko, they reveal what has taken place – that an image or shape has been cut and positioned. It highlights the process of destruction and appropriation in the work. This idea reminded me of one or two of my images produced at degree level. At the time, I was making a conscious effort to blur lines and merge the shapes into one structure.

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More unconsciously, I have refrained from going this far in my more recent images. Although I didn’t really notice it at the time, I think my reasons were similar to those described by Rodchenko. In highlighting the cuts within my montages, the process is more obvious. Instead of a new structure being created, an audience is able to see the original locations and interpret the way I have treated the images. This seems to ground the final pieces in reality, rather than taking on the more science fiction feel that was the purpose of my degree project.

The idea of retaining the reference to an original structure throughout my process (cutting, rebuilding, collaging)has been lost slightly in the production of my installation. Because there is a randomness to the way the image build and rotate, as well as the reliance upon a person’s movement, the structures become more abstract. The effect is actually more in line with the work of the constructivists. As seems to be the case whenever I come to a stage of resolution, I now have to decide whether or not this desirable. Do seek to develop this idea further? It would be interesting to present the shapes as monotone colours, rather than photographs and see if the effect was similar. I also would like to see if I can develop the software so that the images build a less abstract structure. This could work fairly simply by triggering animations similar to the motion graphics work I’ve completed. Both these ideas could work in the installation as it stands. Another alternative would be to develop the installation itself. The use of projections and acetate is fairly new to me, but I have already becun to consider ways in which I could take it forward. Rather than using constructivist shapes, could more simple forms such as squares and circles add something to the projected material? Could I work with the acetate in other ways and what other materials might I be able to use? Would using a more powerful projector give a greater amount of reflection?

I need another year.

Tutorial with Janet Woolley

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2009 by simonthebold

I managed to arrange a tutorial with Janet Woolley, who is course leader for the Illustration MA. Janet is not only extremely enthusiastic, but also very well connected and up to date with the illustration industry.

Although I would only tentatively describe my images as illustrations, it is an area that I would like to develop in. I often view the image making aspect of my work as simply a stage before developing ideas into something time based. I wanted to discuss my images as artworks in their own right. Janet gave me some really useful feedback on how I might improve the images.

Compositionally, she suggested that I could add more depth to the images by working around a central focus. The landscapes I create are perhaps slightly flat. I often feel the need to scale elements so that they appear to be in the same scene. By placing a particular element at the forefront of a composition I would be able to control the view of an audience. This would help to develop a sense of narrative within the image. A viewer would be drawn around the image more naturally, rather than having to choose which sections to focus on. Much like a moving image work, the first element that people encounter can be the most important one.

Janet also suggested that placing a human element into the images might also make them more accessible to a viewer. This could be as simple as a hand or eye to provide an element that people can relate to. She pointed me to the illustrator Matthew Richardson, whose images are simply punctuated with human elements rather than being completely figurative.

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I am interested to apply my techniques to the human face, perhaps mixing up images of different people. Mixing these images with those of urban spaces could provide the human element that Janet mentioned and would also place the architectural connotations in a context more focussed on the pedestrian.

Another illustrator Janet mentioned was Stuart Davies, who uses more traditional printing methods to create abstract landscapes…

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Janet thought I might experiment with the use of scanning and printing. I was pleased that she didn’t view the works as overly digital, but agree that bringing my processes out of the computer could add another dimension to my outputs. Simply printing an image and then scanning it back in can add new textures. It opens the opportunity for happy accidents and unexpected results. I have wanted to explore printmaking techniques this year but simply haven’t had the confidence to move in this direction. Bringing my processes out of the computer is a bit of a risk to me and its a challenge that I’d like to overcome in the future. I agree with Janet that taking more risks is never a bad thing.

Thanks Janet.

Sounds…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2009 by simonthebold

I recently purchased a portable audio recorder, which is giving me far superior sound quality to the mini disc player that I used to create my earlier ‘directions’ piece. I am now able to build up an archive of useable quality material.

I haven’t been able to get my into to Logic (industry standard audio software) as much as I would have liked. I’ve ended up working in final cut pro, which I know a lot better.

I’ll admit to working without much direction in terms of sound. My initial approach was to develop seamlessly changing locations within one soundscape. This could sit alongside the visuals quite nicely. Using more realistic and recognisable sounds   give abstract visuals more context…

Although my knowledge of working audio in PD is also not too hot, I experimented with using smaller sounds to represent the shard animations…

I’m not sure this approach really worked. It seemed to accentuate what was already there without adding that much. It might be nice to develop this further in terms of the user generating sounds.

Another technique I that I wanted to explore further was the use of obvious cuts in the sound. I utilised this in the symposium video…

I think the cutting effect works nicely alongside the sliced images. Human vision is often fragmented whereas aural experiences are constant. We close our eyes but we can’t close our ears. The audio cuts take the idea of slicing beyond a
representation of what the eye sees and invite the question of what else it might signify.

Experimental Architecture…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 4, 2009 by simonthebold

I have recently come across several artists and architects who describe their practice as experimental architecture. The work of these artists is often not designed for construction and therefore consists of ideas that never leave the page. I wanted to understand the motivations for sketching and designing buildings that were purposefully unbuildable.
It is said that the current financial crisis could bring about a revolution in architecture as it will restrict the number of working commissions. The theory is that architects will be forced into spending more time at the drawing board without the direct constraints of budget, physics, politics and time.

This idea of conceptual architecture intrigued me as I consider my work and research to overlap architectural practices. Yet I feel extremely disengaged from the construction processes and practicalities of the field having never been trained in the subject. Although I value my work as moving image and photomontage, developing more of a connection between my practices and those of architects seems to fit logically into the research I have undertaken. How would an architect view my work? Can artists and designers untrained in architecture and urban development ever truly influence the fields?

For years artists and architects have sought to apply their ideas to architecture and planning. The Russian Contructivists designed metaphorical structures alongside sketches for clothing and furniture. French urban philosopher Henri Lefebvre even pinpointed the movements failure as their inability to develop an architectural style that defined socialism…

“A lesson to be learned from soviet constructivists from the 1920s and 30s, and of their failure, is that new social relations demand a new space, and vice-versa.”

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Perhaps more prolifically, the Situationists in the fifties and sixties sought to undermine urban planning by entering sarcastic ideas and whimsical designs to compete with serious architectural projects. Dutch artist Constant sketched and modelled his vision for a New Babylon. His work grounded the Situationists ideas in an architectural form. Their ideas for a post-revolutionary world shunned the restrictions of a society based upon capitalsits notions of goal driven production. Instead they proposed a social space in which play, creativity and the satisfaction of desire were the centre of everyday experience.

Since their dispersion in the early seventies, Situationist ideas have continued to influence approaches to architecture and planning. This despite none of the group ever being formerly trained in these fields.

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It would be interesting to approach a project as an architectural pitch rather than simply as images and animations.

This provides an interesting connection between my work and the disciplines of architecture and planning. Although it was never unfeasible to consider my work as conceptual architecture, I share the view of the architect Lebbeus Woods that art, sculpture and architecture are somewhat disconnected…

“Today, it is rare to find these three arts united in any but the most tentative way.”

Woods is perhaps the most prolific of contemporary architects working on experimental projects. He was formally trained as an architect, but since 1976 has chosen to focus purely on conceptual approaches, including books, sculpture, installation and illustration. He founded the research institute for experimental architecture in 1998. The organisation was started in order to expand the field of conceptual architecture and to spark debate around the subject in general.

In an interview with BLDGBLOG, Woods explains the necessity of an experiemtnatl approach to architecture in more detail…

“But we need to be able to speculate, to create these scenarios, and to be useful in a discussion about the next move. No one expects these ideas to be easily implemented. It’s not like a practical plan that you should run out and do. But, certainly, the new scenario gives you a chance to investigate a direction.”

“…architecture has the ability, rivaling literature, to imagine and propose new, alternative routes out of the present moment. So architecture isn’t just buildings, it’s a system of entirely re-imagining the world through new plans and scenarios.”

“I think architects … have to visualize something that embraces all these political, economic, and social changes. As well as the technological. As well as the spatial.”

“…architecture is a political act, by nature.”

“That by implementing an architectural action, you actually are making a transformation in the social fabric and in the political fabric. Architecture becomes an instigator; it becomes an initiator.”
Lebbeus Woods

I would not want to stick my neck on the line and suggest that my work encompasses all these ideas. However, to me this perspective provides a greater connection between my work and research and architectural practices. Artists and designers, alongside those who consider themselves architects in the formal sense, can all contribute towards a discourse on architecture and urban planning. How much influence any individual has, obviously depends on the quality of the work…

Although many of Corbusier’s plans went on to be constructed, one of his most famous projects was clearly beyond realisation. His ‘plan vosin’ proposed a complete demolition of central Paris in favour of a modular grid system of hi-rise towers.

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Archigram was an architectural group that developed hypothetical projects during the sixties. Much like the Situationits, they envisioned cities that embraced creatiivty and excess, as well as shunning modernist principles.

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The artist Richard Galpin is very much associated with experimental architecture. By cutting away setcions of city photographs, he builds new structures by leaving specific areas of the image. Immediately they invite a viewer to look at the city in a different way.

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In terms of Woods’ own work, I was interested to his notion of instability. Two particular motifs that recur in his work are those of war and the earthquake. To him, they both represent a shifting of space, in both the physical and political sense. Woods suggests that these two ideas, symbolising instability in social and built structures, are a human condition.

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I like this idea of instability. For me, to be lost is to be unstable. If you are lost, you are looking for something. You are seeking some kind of change.

MADA Reel

Posted in Uncategorized on July 4, 2009 by simonthebold

MADA showreel edited by me with music by Zai