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Journal

A reflective journal of my practice, process, and thoughts.

Posts tagged digital
Low Residency

The low residency last month was a wonderfully enriching experience in a number of ways, and prepared me for moving forward in my project contextually and practically. Meeting everyone in person felt very seamless, and I think it is a strength of the course format that after having only communicated online to that point, as a group we are close in being knowledgable of the rhythms of each of our concerns and processes.

I felt this strongly in the group tutorial session on day 2. Our group was led by the MA Designer Maker course leader Maiko Tsutsumi, and I shared my work with Michelle, Chris, Lyu, and Omer (IG @omerder) from the Designer Maker course, who showed us around his ‘work in progress’ show installation - something which I think we were all very grateful for. There is a tenderness to Omer’s use of materials in his sculptural work - an echo of the inner subjects which reveal themselves on closer inspection - relationships between gender, place and expectation, identity and geological activity. I found the installation cohesive and the work itself seductive, and this has since made me pause to think more about exhibition and presentation of my project and how that might work. The gallery visits, tutorials and workshops on 3D printing and Virtual Reality work, have pushed those considerations forward as discussed within my Mid-Point Review material and evaluation in my last blog post.

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Gillian and George in the 3D workshop guided me through the practical refinement of the extruded model from my primary school achievement binder scans I’d been struggling with in Fusion, and printed a sample of the model for me which demonstrated how the properties of what I had produced in Fusion would result in a brittle, spiky surface. Part way through the print, the sample looked much closer to what I had hoped for, with a more ‘readable’ topography than the finished piece in which the detail had been pulled out from the base of the mesh to such an extent that it resembled more of a forest, which I felt overshadowed the subject and lost clarity. George shared an alternative method of producing height maps in Blender which seemed much more appropriate than Fusion - much faster and easier to configure, and more intuitive to me, and he explained to me how I could use a plane to cut through and achieve a surface that did not taper into the tall spines that the original produced.

Our visit to areByte gallery fed into the VR workshop I attended, led by Fine Art Digital alumni Alejandro Escobar, and both experiences were thoroughly constructive and informative. Alejandro showed us how to animate scenes and export as 360 video in Blender, as well as explaining the context of contemporary VR work in art-making, and an introduction to the vast array of technical considerations or variables that related processes involve. Both the workshop and the ‘RE-FIGURE-GROUND’ show at areByte were incredibly engaging, (I found Lorna Mills animated GIF work and Eva Papamargariti’s sequencing of CGI, text components and live-action film especially compelling) and, building on the tutorials I had with Gillian and George, the week coalesced to a great learning experience in which the vitality of the media and processes at the base of interdisciplinary VR, CGI, simulation, and print gripped my attention and gave me many ideas. These have informed the second version of my Project Proposal.

Installation shots credit: Christopher MacInnes https://www.arebyte.com/installation-shots-refigureground

Yellowhirlaway, Lorna Mills. 4-channel GIF animation, 2017.

But for now all i can promise is that things will become weirder (Trailer) - Eva Papamargariti

The stream of human knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality. The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of this realm.
— Sir James Jeans (1930)

Alejandro Escobar, 2018 www.alejandroescobar.com

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Thanks to Danni (thank you again!) I had the opportunity to attend a performance of WHIST at the Watermans Arts Centre, which again was so motivating and tied into the same considerations and concerns. One of the most immediately clear benefits of attending Alejandro’s workshop was to be able to interpret and analyse WHIST in the context of it’s design and also functionality as a VR piece, and to be able to apply questioning which has begun to inform ideas for ways forward in my own project. The problems I experienced with the object identification element (the Augmented Reality component) during the performance hindered the immersive continuity of the narrative, and this, while being maybe my only substantial criticism of the piece, which was otherwise wildly compelling and pretty much unlike anything I’ve experienced before, did make me think about applying focus and a thorough process to ideas that might run the risk of being interpreted as over-reaching or unintentionally disparate. This specifically is something which I try to be mindful of as I map out what I referred to as the kind of ‘borderless geography’ of the narrative I’m developing. Certain pieces in the areByte exhibition also highlighted the technology not ‘being quite there yet’ in different ways - a few of us actually hit the gallery wall in the corner where Claudia Hart’s VR stage piece was shown as we attempted to physically navigate her maze of capitalist symbolism wearing the headset, and the joystick seemed to over-complicate the accessibility of the piece. Alejandro’s workshop generated a lot of very valuable questioning and discussion on issues from health and safety considerations to simply utilising the technology you have to it’s most effective potential rather than pushing for something that weakens an idea. I intend to begin forming sequences of animated scenes to work into larger pieces, and the experiences of the low residency week will certainly help guide me in making informed practical decisions.

 
 
Tutorial 2 - 18/01/19, Jonathan Kearney

This past couple of weeks I have been working on consolidating what I already have in terms of research, and paying attention to the fragments of ideas or connections I’ve jotted down on a hundred scraps of paper or notes on my phone. I really wanted to do this at this point, to start the new year with a clear focus, and my project proposal has helped me with this immensely. Most of my conversation with Jonathan last week was centred around this - moving forward into making and experimentation now that a broad framework is beginning to emerge. We discussed this idea of the framework, specifically in terms of time-based arrangements, sequencing bodies of work and subjects into acts, or something less linear. The time-based aspect I am considering more and more in terms of the work itself not having a fixed form or shape which is sympathetic maybe to the neurological process, or a kind of amnesia. It has become apparent to me that so many of the areas I have been interested in over the past couple of years converge in so many different ways, from the politics of rising sea levels and retreating landmass to memory loss and cultures of collecting, and Jonathan suggested that these areas being rooted in the same concern could be thought of as something circular with several acts which are all traversing a core principal.

With this in mind I tried to map all of those areas of consideration in that form, and the result was something which instantly clarified and furthered the connections between all of those areas in a really meaningful way. The map itself ended up resembling a kind of globe, which makes a sort of accidental sense in being viewed as such in relation to thinking of internal and external worlds; the neurologic and the geologic. I then tried converting that globe into a kind of timeline, and the word ‘retreat’ suddenly became much more meaningful; what resulted was a kind of envisioning of the retreat from the ice age (glacial deposits and land mass retreating, the North Sea and the submergence of Doggerland - more on this soon - leaving erratics in the cliffs and petrified checkpoints on the shore, retrieved to be examined as metaphors to memory, to the individual past from the collective and the physical to the mental…) to now - or more precisely a point between ‘now’ and what might be called ‘home’/a point of origin and the beginning of memory… the shed in the empty field in the photograph.

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This Is_Land / Process & Print
REIGNITE BRITISH SPIRIT (2).  2018.

REIGNITE BRITISH SPIRIT (2). 2018.

I am still deliberating over the ‘success’, at least in terms of having positively communicated some ideas and questions, of a project I exhibited earlier this year at Artlink Hull, and carried through to the Hull Print Fair last Sunday. ‘This Is _ Land’ grew out as a branch of my research last year, when I realised that my interest in social ecology in relation to migration was very much interwoven with my concerns about geological change, and a number of broad questions bloomed from that: how do we respond to climate change or resource driven migration in humanitarian ways in an age of rising nationalism and an intoxication with borders?

The Banksy piece on Scott Street Bridge in Hull which appeared back in January. To me, it feels gesturally powerful in it’s location at the end of Hull’s City of Culture year, a city in which the majority of voters in the EU Referendum opted to Leave, something which still does not quite correlate with my experience of the general values of the people I have grown up with and around. Maybe this vote was both a decision given to the public and taken away at the same time; personally, I wonder to what extent the result was a demonstration of the stranglehold of right-leaning press and mainstream media power, and rising populism on opinion, promoting experiences of the past lived vicariously, because none of us were there when we knew economic harmony; ‘It didn’t used to be like this’, so the headlines ‘remind’ us. Fear the unknown, for it is worse than it ever was.

The Banksy piece on Scott Street Bridge in Hull which appeared back in January. To me, it feels gesturally powerful in it’s location at the end of Hull’s City of Culture year, a city in which the majority of voters in the EU Referendum opted to Leave, something which still does not quite correlate with my experience of the general values of the people I have grown up with and around. Maybe this vote was both a decision given to the public and taken away at the same time; personally, I wonder to what extent the result was a demonstration of the stranglehold of right-leaning press and mainstream media power, and rising populism on opinion, promoting experiences of the past lived vicariously, because none of us were there when we knew economic harmony; ‘It didn’t used to be like this’, so the headlines ‘remind’ us. Fear the unknown, for it is worse than it ever was.

Part of my objective with the project was, possibly, to have more of an objective. It is part of the nature of my process as it stands, that I simultaneously try to distill, while naturally abstract information. This is perhaps not especially unique, but my aim here was to explore a slightly more ‘direct’ aesthetic - to utilise saturation in order to comment on saturation, and I wanted to play with a type of visual counter-point reflective of the binary modes we are conditioned to process feeling through politically, with at least reductive and at worst catastrophic - and unwanted - results, as a way of opening up questions on what we are being fed by sensationalist news feeds and agendas. The idea of, on some level, subverting convenience was present in this as well. This began to take the form of screenprints from digital manipulations. I am always interested in the suggestion of the halftone as being a mediator, and the screen as a mechanism for processing and transferring information, conferring emotive material, the basis even of an agenda, through the code of black dots (or something like that). This is obviously ingrained in the ‘press’. In parallel to the physical work, I created a separate instagram feed for the project, and as I worked through a range of different combinations and churning of those into screens, it became increasingly clear to me, especially after the Artlink show and in evaluating that, that the digital work seemed much more potent and engaging in it’s digital form, and with the print based work I received better feedback for the pieces that were less busy, with fewer layers. In designing the digital manipulation layers for the screenprint series, drawing from sensationalist tabloid cuttings, screen grabs from pixelated propaganda films and news reports, iOS function symbols, I realise now that they became overwrought and slightly laboured, whereas the digital pieces did what I had originally intended much more effectively. This has brought about a real sense of question for me now as I move forward - what is the physical ‘stamp’ of the print doing that the digital representation isn’t. The question of what it means to digest print digitally is something which I am now thinking about a lot. This context might be creating an interesting ground for innovation in print. In an article from July 2009 on the site Printeresting, exploring a web-based program which allowed the creation of protest-poster style graphics, designed in reaction to the aftermath of elections in Iran of the same year, the term Metaprint was used to describe the generation of the work:

“At the risk of overusing the ‘meta’ prefix, the Internet seems to be creating an era of Metaprint. Historically, images had to be distributed by physical means to affect change. Now, distributed is executed through an electronic network and reaches the audience without a printed component. The print (if there is one) is the last step, a step farmed out to the audience as an optional souvenir.”

Selection of social media post collages, IG: thisis__land, 2018.

Selection of social media post collages, IG: thisis__land, 2018.

The word ‘souvenir’ connotes a number of things and if they tend to be keepsakes or tokens, then there is an element of souvenirs representing memories, or as being ‘reminders’. This is something that also fed into the act of participating in the Print Fair last weekend. Back in the lead up to my spotlight show earlier this year I labelled a number of pieces ‘Reminder’s - postcard size screen prints on reflective card representing geological change and excavation, and these were exhibited beneath larger, more densely layered collage pieces at Artlink. That particular choice of wording ‘souvenir’ in my reading of the article has a slightly negative tone which suggests that the physical piece would essentially be the inactive, obligatory object. This is interesting in itself, and while that’s not necessarily representative of how I feel at this point about print work (the physical piece can ask of a small investigation from the viewer, is a gestural communication, is a space, and is an important mode of presentation in so many ways whether this is referring to a mounted piece, a print in a smallholder’s display rack, a publication), the argument is compelling and something I intend to be mindful of in my process - the pursuit of making work engaging in a saturated environment, and using those platforms which are now very much a mainstream visual currency, inside and outside of the gallery; the screen.

In evaluating the project now, I can identify a few important action points for moving forward. The work I have made so far has bloomed into a broad collection - probably broader than I had originally intended, interrogating a range of visual sources from life rafts in online museum collections and tabloid articles perpetuating misinformed immigration hysteria, to technicolour renderings of oil spills and ecological catastrophe in 1970s National Geographic issues and photographs of thawed animal remains from the Siberian permafrost. This wide, exploratory approach both in terms of subjects and mediums has led me to reshaping my intentions. In a return to the basic questions I had at the beginning of the year, I have recently begun discussing social ecology and political myth with regards to nationalism and climate change, with Dr Jeremy F. G. Moulton, Associate Lecturer in Environmental Politics at the University of York, and these discussions are having a significant impact on my knowledge of the issues surrounding my concerns. In a collaborative spirit we are continuing to ask questions of one another’s concerns from the perspectives of our individual practices and experiences, and I am planning on publishing transcriptions of these conversations online soon, as part of a dedicated This _ Land __ site. The site will also feed from the project instagram account, and be a screen-based experience and space for continually developing visual work, as I learn more about the specific contexts I am addressing and how my experiences of those have been shaped, through related ideas and possibilities arising from collaboration.

What I stand for is what I stand on.
— Wendell Berry
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Questions and Decisions
still from ‘Worlds in the Making’, Semiconductor, 2011

still from ‘Worlds in the Making’, Semiconductor, 2011

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.

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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.

Best watched full screen! Semiconductor: ‘Worlds in the Making’ preview, 2011

^ 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 mpfratson@gmail.com.

unfold.alt RYOICHI KUROKAWA, 2016, 4K video | 2ch sound