Questions and Decisions
I am three weeks into my MA, and so far each of the students in my group have taken turns to introduce our practices to one another, and consider connections, advice and possible ways forward. This has resulted in some interesting shared ground between many of our concerns as individuals; geography and time, identity and absence amongst those. I am thankful for the questions I received in relation to my presentation, particularly that of what it is I am trying to communicate about the past in the context of technological advances, which are helping me to push forward at a point in which I am overwhelmed with possibilities for development. Pav’s question relating to technological advances, and Alexis’ comment that my work seems to be “mining, excavating and bringing forth constructs from the past that inform a future world” have tied themselves together in my thought, and the notion of ‘pointing towards a future landscape’ is something that could become a really useful pivot point. This also relates to a project I have been working on exploring political myth in the Anthropocene (more to follow in a separate post). For a while now it has been one of the primary aims of my practice to consider how to make my work current, and engaging. The mining for information and historical sources is something I have become ‘confident’ with, and this actually unsettles me slightly because there may be a danger of becoming stuck in reflective repetition. I want to explore active physical and mental processes that lay at the roots of my concerns now, and will this week begin to make enquiries with university departments, geological and neurological researchers and practitioners so as to begin communications that will hopefully inform my understandings.
A couple of Sundays back, Emily and I took the train to York to visit the Ceramics Fair (Emily is a ceramicist and I am constantly amazed by the intricacies and hazards of ceramic process), and also the ‘Strata - Rock - Dust - Stars’ show at York Art Gallery. The day was full of serendipity, and really confronted me with identifying the properties and potentials of different media and disciplines at this crossroads in my work. There is a slight conflict in me at the moment about making objects, and whether this is something I want to continue, at least in terms of the idea of making work that seems ‘concluded’ - I think the nature and properties of print are really helpful for me as the constant in my process, because print allows me to work sequentially and feels like moving forward in a way that sculptural or assemblage based works I’ve made have not - and this is I’m sure entirely down to my individual approach. I’m trying to unravel this. Because of this, my interest in ceramics is an odd one: I have been hesitant to begin working with ceramics because I know that from my experience of observing and learning from Emily as she has been developing her practice that the discipline needs - and deserves - time, which I do not want to plough through insensitively in order to gauge it’s relative potential to my research, but I love the inherent and invoked geological aspect embedded in the foundations of making work with clay, and the work showed by various artists at the Ceramics Fair transfixed me. (Note: I think I have just decided in writing that last sentence that I should just try working with clay a little and stop overthinking. This, in combination with my tendency to be an archivist rather than an ‘activist’, might be one of my main stumbling blocks in everyday life. I’m sure Em would agree.)
^ Mitch Iburg, source: IG @mitchiburgceramics
I think the main aspect of ceramic work that grips me is that which makes accident and chance, and organic or unexpected results very visible, in contrast to and rather than controlled products which emphasise function, and obviously here I am talking about the spectrum of different intentions within the discipline. I was fortunate enough to be given two pieces made by Mitch Iburg for our wedding anniversary, and there are facets of his process which resonate very strongly with my feelings for geological history. Iburg investigates and collects from the clay deposits and natural resources inherent to specific regions, challenging practices related to the use of local materials in contemporary ceramics, and makes work from those. Aesthetically the forms he produces seem to be driven by a very honest and intuitive reverence for the inherent shape or design and character of the material, almost found-object-like as if discovered already formed, or frozen in state. A process of discovery, and recovery; reshaping an object with an abstract past. It also makes me curious about what the boulder clay from the Mappleton cliff stretch nearby would look like fired, and this is an experiment I intend to pursue. I also intend to research digital innovation and process in contemporary ceramic practices - 3D printing, clay work driven by data?
During my presentation last week, Friederike described the earth as being a collector of hidden memories made visible through fossils and studies, and that somewhere these memories “must also be present in a brain that does not remember”. Forms of memory, and the relationships between the surface (the landscape, the ‘present’, the visible) and the ‘beneath’ (the unseen, the subterranean, the ‘past’), are two immediate lines of inquiry for me as I begin to formulate my project proposal. Those relationships are interrogated in the work of the artist duo semiconductor, Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, currently exhibiting the 3 channel film piece ‘Worlds in the Making’ at the York Art Gallery show. In the film, a number of scientific processes are used to generate and translate sound and animations from seismic data collected from beneath volcanos, amplifying the shifting, invisible forces beneath us that determine the physical foundations of the planet. The piece has a slow-burning anxiety, and the properties of the installation - it’s cinematic projection scale, and the jittering time-lapse quality of the animation (see below for a snippet), evoke the feeling that the observational lenses we employ to monitor the changing landscape are always hostage to the rapidity of natural forces which perhaps slip away before we have chance to capture meaningful measurements and interpretations. The uncontrollable rate at which are affecting the geological structures of the earth is unquestionable, and an interesting facet of this piece in my interpretation is that we are now as much observers of our own self-destruction in the context of climate as we are investigators of natural processes, and slow even in the race to catch up with ourselves and unravel the damage the industrial damage that has been done over the past couple of centuries, to understand this in ways that can translate those effects into suggested ways forward. I am interested now in considering this in relation to the human biologic, to our internal structure and memory.
^ Liz Orton, from series ‘The Longest and Darkest of Recollections’, & ‘This Connection Should Make Us Suspect’
Liz Orton’s work also explores ‘entanglements of land, vision and natural science’. Her intimate photographic works invite close inspection, and relationships between forms of measurement and our relationship to geological scale seem to be called into question. There is an immediacy to Orton’s work that I appreciate, and the ‘punctured’ photographs suggest the way in which print can be connotative of memory, returning to the idea of the ‘timestamp’, or the frozen frame. Friederike’s feeling that there is great power in slowness being counter-cultural relates to this, and this is something which I am thinking about a lot right now; how to be engaging and encourage reflection in the present. This might extend beyond the counter-cultural. Seth Denizen, contributor to Making the Geologic Now (Ellsworth & Kruse, 2012) describes that in relation to the pace of material physical change we are experiencing, “The world becomes defined not by a time, but by a speed. This is the point at which the world can no longer be merely an extension of our own, a difference in degree, but rather something which takes on a difference in kind: another sea, another wind, another world at right angles to our own.”
This exhibition really presented me with a lot of a different possibilities and pause for consideration of utilising techniques and processes, especially outside of print and sculpture, through which I might discover surprising connections and paths - I am so excited about this. Time to explore. Please, if you have any comments or would like to contact me in relation to my journey and process, please do so by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.