Week Ten : Systems, Series, Process.
For the final project I reviewed all my notes and the last lecture. I was most impressed by the work of Katie Patterson. What was it about the work? There were several things. First for me was a scientific project and one which is fascinating: dead stars. Astronomy dwarfs us. We are less than minute compared to stars and outer space and our lives are not even a flicker in the grand history of the universe. So why not take that on? But then Katie emails all sorts of astronomers and star spotters, people who have an interest in dead stars (didn’t know people did this). She gets replies it seems and likely over the course of considerable time. Correspondants tell her about the dead stars they have discovered. She catalogues all this volunteered information creating a metal frame and etches a tiny mark for each of these stars in the two by three metre galvanized steel form/canvas/map. There is something so compelling about star gazing. Stars are beautiful, romantic and mysterious but in this case she is also dealing with the ephemeral nature of all things and the interconnectedness of the natural world. Iron in humans can be traced to the stars. I didn’t know this fact and that there are “dead stars”. I really have enjoyed projects I have done that have a scientific or research base. Alice Aycock’s Low Building With Dirt Roof (for Mary) 1973, I studied and was so impressed with the breadth of her research and this was where I first learned artists did extensive research sometimes. Some of my projects were The Big Idea (introductory art class) which was an idea for sculpture based on geology, a video on the art of North and South Ireland during “the troubles,” and a sculpture, Neuronet 2 based on a book by Nicholas Carr titled The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
To get back to Patterson, I am drawn to the subject of death and the timeless. I also loved the light of the tiny”star” marks on the dark metal. On the other hand, I liked the simplicity and the humour in John Baldessari’s “I will make no more boring art”. The hand written text is appealing, so personal. Also, I like the Micah Lexier piece…the 39 balls. The material carefully chosen for its visible rings along with the number for the artist’s age at the time. Though there were firm parameters, there was space to discover something new: how as the balls got bigger, the added 1/8″ became less and less visible. From an earlier lecture, I liked Kelly Mark’s “should” list: the pacing with which it was read and how so many of her “shoulds” were orders I had given myself. It said a lot about the personal, maybe the role of woman, but also the culture.
My first project idea came to mind very quickly. Monday night I sat down and created a 30 item list based on two lines from a poem by Robert Frost- “two paths diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less travelled by.” My list is not about shoulds, it is about things I haven’t done. Life throws some things at us and we have choice about some things. Choices may be acted on or may be things that we haven’t gotten around to yet. This project provides me with some new insights into what I decided to act on and what I did not choose. It is also a glimpse of the world of one woman across a number of years. I am trying to have 75 items on my list but time constraints re video length may limit that. For me, this project is not about individualism or regret. It is a big world and there may be infinite options. But this is also about choices, that we see, or can attend to and many that we remain unaware of as we are limited by time and maybe more: upbringing, race, gender, class, physical or intellectual challenges, religion, education, language, geography, politics, economics and culture.
Process: (revised after critique Monday) April 1/22
I have 75 items on my list. Diane suggested one for each year of my life and also suggested some drama, some scary things like “I didn’t die”. Also Diane suggested I should focus on performing the list and not my handwriting or finding a container to hold the hand written items on the list. Alexia liked the variety in my list. Remaining “choices” are “the performance”- length, volume, pacing, and location.
What did I learn from this? I learned more about speaking into a mic, swallowing, sniffing, pacing, repetition in delivery of each item- the technical side. But also, I was surprised at how distant I was from it all. Making a list seemed to remove what could be intense. It was like I was looking at film footage still by still. You state an item and move on. No time to linger. Stating what I didn’t do at one moment in time allowed me to think about what I still want to do, what a different career path might have meant, how I might be viewed as pretty conventional in some ways, in other ways, not so much. And why does conventional or not matter?
In discussion with Diane, I am going to practice video at home, more relaxed, with less focus on getting through the 75 items in 2 minutes with some time between items to allow listener to grasp what is being said. I also am going to try to be more engaged with the camera/audience. I did put more emotion into the reading, I was more animated and I felt better about the final result. Though I did write a play and perform on stage once in high school (grade13), performance is something I was taught not to do. I was always very nervous doing speeches in school but it got better over time. In my family it was important for children not to stand out.
One last thing. These projects work on me, or I work on them in my sleep sometimes. I was thinking of a friend who imitates accents very well. Then I made the link to my list and the video. This morning, I see each item on my list as unique, like characters on a stage and that my reading and gaze into the camera could reflect that. Each item on the list occupies a unique place in the sequencing of the video, has it’s own timing, its own tone, and the content, reading and visuals are unique to each. Each one can’t be too different as they must contribute to the whole. The whole piece needs to fit together- a bit like theatre.
Recording With Your Phone
Thinking about yesterday’s lecture on audio art. I knew of John Cage and the silent symphony but had not seen the video of him talking about the work. Certainly unusual approach to sound. Makes me think about all the other noise musicians make..coughing, fidgeting, turning pages. I liked the conductor mopping his brow when he actually just stood still in front of the musicians. It was good to have some humour. You might have to see a symphony performed to appreciate the humour in this performance. We had a band in my high school so that would be close enough to a young student experience of a collection of musicians that might be playing but don’t. Music was in my home growing up and I am a fan, but I haven’t thought of sound as acting ie louder-quieter, longer-shorter. On second thought, I read music which tells you to stretch things out or speed up and get softer or louder. When I played piano as I child and sang, I got onto this emotionality of music but I hadn’t thought of it as acting. I knew it was being altered and I tried for “feeling” in my practicing.
DuChamp saw music as space, sculpture, maybe like a material. There can be “interior listening” or meaning and it can be just outer, meaningless..it doesn’t have to be more (Kant, Buddhist). I wonder about this because a lot of sound registers physiologically, but maybe that is different from registering a psychological/emotional meaning. Does some sound not move us at all in any way?
If we regard music as a material, we can think of it as layered. Emilea Ogboh created music with African immigrants having them sing the anthem in their own language. This piece illustrated the layering effect. Janet Cardiff did this as well with Thomas Tallas’ 40 Part Motet. I saw/heard this at the AGO a number of years ago. It was impressive. There were a few people there “interacting” with the 40 speakers. You could stand in the middle and hear all the voices as if you were “inside” the music (a full body experience) or stand very close to one speaker and hear one singer. I didn’t know there were eight choirs recorded and five parts in each. The sound could move like it was material- ripples on water. Sound can strike your body, can make you weep, lift your spirits.
The Oakville Gallery will lend an iPod to take to a nearby garden. There you can experience the layering of sound…the noises in the garden and the sound from the iPod. It must be a challenge to figure out what is real in the garden and what is not, which is probably the point. Both are real.
Christian Marclay’s piece Guitar Drag, I never would have thought of. It references a killing where a black man was pulled behind a truck by white men and reminds us of racial violence.
I got quite a kick out of Kelly Mark’s list piece “I really should”. It has certainly been one of my behaviours. I have a friend who says when that comes up..”shoulda, oughta, gotta” to remind one to stop it. I also liked the annoying sound in gallery that just keeps playing. I had heard that piece before…maybe mimics the sound of coffee percolating. The artist thought it could be contagious as others hear people humming this melody that they can’t escape (ear worm). I liked the dot matrix sound too and there is a typewriter song. Will send it if I can locate it. Will have to look at Christian Bok pronouncing punctuation. Liked the idea of manipulating found sounds like a child’s piano. Matthew Sawyer created the “pissing diary”. That was an unusual theme. Seemed the pissing was at the end of some other more musical? sounds.
Student Anna Pipmeester created a song with a pipe in her building in the key of C: the pipe’s note. That was inventive. It was sort of similar to My Mother Cleaning My Father’s Piano by Jonathan Monk. It reveals some of his parents’ relationship and the sound is random. Also enjoyed hearing Brenda Lee and “I’m Sorry” rearranged.
Dave Dyment’s interpretation of the Beetles “A Day in the Life” was maybe more conceptual? The track was extended to last 24 hours so it became just a single note-a buzz. The anomatopia list by Aaron was pretty entertaining as was the forgotten school song on two tracks. I loved the canned laughter in the art history lecture. Make light of something notoriously serious. Another in this vein was the opera about compost. Yoko Ono’s scream (Twitter) when Trump became President was too much of what a lot of people were feeling.
After the lecture, I thought of two pop songs that I really liked :”New Shoes” by Paolo Nutini and another one I can’t find but thought it was quite funny. It has the words “get my soldering iron” in it. I think it was an end of relationship song and the female singer has to get her soldering iron to repair her broken heart. I like the song “Girls just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, Alinis Morrisette’s “Hand in my Pocket”, and Shania Twain’s “Up”. I just wanted to think about songs with lyrics that I found funny or uplifting. I thought of the typewriter and the dot matrix printer. Last year I used the laser etcher on the 4th floor to do a woodcut. It makes a distinct sound. That could be combined with something else…maybe the typewriter- technology from another era? an old dial telephone? where would I get that?
On Friday the 11th I walked to U of G to work but intended to record sounds on my phone to see what I could get. I already had some recorded from just wandering around in the apartment. En route I heard birds, water draining, people talking, music, people walking and three chainsaws. I checked these recordings in the lab and could hear them. I then went to the 4th floor to record the laser etcher but Anna was not there so I managed to record one of the large printers for photography. I had to do it twice to get better sound and use the small mic. My idea is to try to combine these sounds in an interesting way..layering?… a day in the life or a walk..flaner or flanerie. One thing I noticed on the walk was that it was challenging to get clean sound when outside, without birds or cars or people talking for example.
I have a solid first draft of the sound tape. I decided to focus on the chainsaw that I had as part of my recording from March 13th. As I had been working on it, it seemed better to focus on one thing. I had considered adding bird sounds which I also had recorded, but it seemed too confusing and complicated. The chainsaw has a lot of variability as I learned from sound ideas. I used two recordings from my walk and excerpts from “sound ideas”. We had a Husqvarna chainsaw about 1974 when we were moving a cabin and I worked with it a bit. It had a safety shut off which I appreciated. I am reading a book titled The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson and on p.201 it refers to a “mixed signal”. This is a “mixed” sound tape but it is also “mixed” in meaning. The chainsaw can be associated with the slaughterhouse (Nelson, 2011) and violence but it has a lot of variability in sound from quite delicate and lyrical to sensory overload. It was a good sound for me to experiment with.
Am reworking the audio project. Plan now is to use a voice-over to link up the new sound segments. My hope is to talk about some of the language of music, connecting that to excerpts from my first attempt at the sound project. I hope it is amusing in the way that the opera about compost might have been or the comedic history lecture. Take something that is usually a serious topic and lighten it a bit.
March 1/22 Buttons Alone or in Series
I reviewed lecture material re Buttons… The “I am not a fetish” button packs a punch. It appeals to me knowing at least one of the artists- Raquel. Maybe there is something I can do with “aging” …what are the usual associations with (female) aging, lost beauty or attractiveness, sagging of tissue, hair loss, facial hair, bad smells, forgetfulness, wisdom, care for others and the earth. Other buttons took on the meaning of art…art and the pun ie “art is all over”, “art attack”, “certified artist”, “authentic artist”, “official artist”. There’s Yoko Ono’s work…so timely “Imagine” and “Peace”. I hadn’t seen her name on those pieces at first and then it was no surprise when I did read her name. Jessie Eisner’s “Ask Me” looked like lots of fun to make. It surprised me that “You Can’t Steal this Button” wasn’t stollen. Must have taken way the urge to steal by naming it.
From the list of some possible ideas for buttons these were favourites on first run through.
- the button that knows its a button …..”cute as”…batting eyelashes? “don’t push” this button.
- social interaction– or an ice breaker- “congregate”, “no masks”— anti- covid or “Tell Me” your favourite singer, your favourite number, your favourite colour, your favourite brand, your favourite hour, favourite day, favourite place, favourite object, favourite street, favourite flower, favourite animal, favourite season, favourite hair colour, favourite team, favourite tool, favourite snack, favourite drink, favourite movie, favourite song, favourite socks, favourite hat,
- gives instructions “stop saying that”, “check your laces”, “pull that up”, “put that back”, “watch my back”, “move it”
- speaks to the body directly- “that hurts”, “stand tall”, “give your head a shake”, “put your teeth in”, “smile”, “laugh”, “wink”
- reveals things usually hidden- bottom of your feet, photo of your bare back, photo of the back of your head
- consider font, design, images.
March 3/ 22 I am trying to decide what to work on for a series. I thought of Tell Me which would be a bunch of different buttons like Tell Me …about your feet, your surgery, your hair, your birth, your toys, your mind, your pandemic, your nuisance, your walk, your bathroom, your door, your refrigerator, your pillow, your digestion, your sleep, waking up.
The next one I thought about because it could be timely. I feel stressed with a lot going on: in the Ukraine, just over truck blockade, still in pandemic and transitioning to new housing after 5 1/2 years…a move and a necessity to declutter and reduce. So the idea I had was just “home” in different languages. It is where I am at the moment. Need for inclusivity maybe. I don’t want a house on there as it does not represent everyone’s situation. I thought of the languages that friends speak, ancient Celtic script that my ancestors may have known, and people that speak different languages in Guelph. Why have a button that says “home”? I think the word has a lot of meaning for people. It is complicated though because when I looked up the word, it is nuanced…or qualified. For example, there are several words for home in French. I have some familiarity with the language so chose the word in Gille Vigneault’s song “foyer”. It translates to hearth I think..sort of the heart of the home. I worked with a person who is Mi’kmaq, however Ojibway people were in the territory now Guelph. Ojibway uses phrases like “carrying home” because they were nomadic. That changes everything. There are others I could reference: Spanish, Chinese, Filipino, German, Italian, Arab, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Egyptian, and my friend from the Caribbean. The word home on a button in a language other than English might be of some comfort or might not.
It is now March 6. I have scrapped the “home” idea. I would have to be familiar with every language I referenced or speak to someone that knows the particular language well in order to give me the correct translation when there may be a number of words for “home” or maybe no words all.
I spoke to Diane on Wednesday about my “Tell me” idea and rather than “favourite” she suggested something more unconventional like “Tell me about your surgery”. This could be much more interesting and maybe something the speaker would like to talk about. I chose some words like “sky” that could be a metaphor, or “door”. The speaker could assign any meaning really. It didn’t have to be literal. I wanted something interactive, that could be an ice-breaker or a hand out at a party to stimulate conversation, or maybe for speed dating.
The buttons were designed alike. I wanted the text to show up and my health background told me black on white is the easiest to see…(think of the optometrist). I put the buttons on a black background for documentation due to the contrast. It would be easier to see the border of the white button against the black.
Feb. 7/ 22 Facing the Strange
Which faces in the text did I find interesting? I enjoyed the story behind Super Us 1998 by Marizio Cattelan. I thought it surprising that each one of the portraits of Cattelan drawn by police artists from friends’ descriptions were different. No two were exactly the same. This raises important questions: Can anyone really describe us? Does anyone really know us? Do we really know ourselves? Are we composites ie many bits and pieces?
I liked the appearance of Gillian Wearing- Me Now in Mask 2011. It is SUCH a mask..so plastic, like a Barbie Doll. Seems to me we all wear a mask to some degree. I hear this is worse with social media as people create a persona there, a kind of false self maybe to compliment the mask.
Another Image I liked was that of artist Nina Katchadourian. She set up a work space in airline bathrooms. She began using toilet paper that recreated a look of self- portraits in the Flemish style. I created a self-portrait/ mask that I thought had a bit of a Flemish self-portrait look, or maybe a rearranged Nun and it was made from a woodcut print. I also wrapped my head with left over paper scraps about 15″ long each.
Another artist whose work I liked was Christine Devuono, a U of G grad. Her images were varied, colourful, the shots were from different angles and the masks seemed polished, professional, aesthetically pleasing and she made good use of black.
In the first group of images omitting the two mentioned above I made use of a homemade wool scarf, seashells and coral I gathered from various places, a spider plant, a metal pie plate cut in half and decorated with narrow rectangular strips of four landscape photographs.
What can I say about this process? I did the photograph of the wool scarf first. It took a while and I got pretty warm inside there. The white bandage one, where I was completely covered made me a bit claustrophobic. I wanted my head wrapped because it needs a rest from covid and all the other things that I and the world are dealing with. I wouldn’t do well with my face covered all the time. The seashells and plant reminded me of taking care of the planet and that in some ways, we are all things. The bib mask and the plate with photographs I thought were just interesting. I tried square photos on the pie plate and then decided the cut strips would adhere better. It ended up looking like the Statue of Liberty maybe, a kind of halo. These masks and coverings are a different way of being in the world. Who are you without your face… nobody or everybody? I experimented with covering the whole face, part of the face, and hiding hair in a towel. Hair is also part of our presentation of self to the world.
My experience is different without my face in public. Early in the pandemic I met a friend at Market Fresh and started chatting away to him…He looked at me and said “I don’t know who you are”. I had on a mask, sun glasses and a hat. No wonder- but I forgot that I was probably unrecognizable inside all that covering.
Re. new ways to face the world? I read the book Black Like Me. That was a different way for the author to face the world. I have been taken for a member of another race. That is a confusing experience. I am not a member, but now I have an affinity for people from that other race. It is strange…like I am a step- child or something.
We use the word face in the English language as a metaphor…two faced, couldn’t face it, can’t show their face, faceless crowd. A harlequin has another way to face the world.
What if your face were severely disfigured? People would turn away likely. Movie stars work hard sometimes at preventing the change in facial appearance due to aging. This is becoming a big industry. Poker faced…Hiding well what you think or feel especially in poker. I have noticed with some politicians, that they can change the way they look when they are lying. We may count on having this observational skill as we age.
In the beginning of the pandemic I thought how strange it was..all of us sort of duck-like in our masks. Now I am just used to it. I still try to notice eyes though..above the mask. I have a sense that people can tell if I am smiling when I am wearing a mask…Maybe they can’t?
As of today, Feb 14, I have made more masks. Some were done with cotton balls, with wool, and exercise bands. I have a few more ideas to try out before I select the three masks for this post. The new ideas were using fridge magnets, and coloured pencils.
Of this group of images, it was hard to select three. There were at least five that I really liked. In the end I chose two that covered most of the face and one that covered all of the face. The materials were quite different and in one the hair was covered.
Feb. 4/22 Social Distancing Portrait
I began work on the Social Distancing Portrait (Adad Hannah) on Thursday with reading over notes and looking at Haddad’s work for this assignment. He chose people of different ages, with different jobs, documentary journalism. He asked these individuals (usually one at a time) to pose and be still in a way that captures their feelings of this moment in the pandemic. This class project is to create two 20 second videos of two different people (either single or with one other) in a similar style to those of Hannah. Question was “what is pent up for you regarding the pandemic”. The class was going to participate in this and then all the videos would be combined and sent to Adad Hannah. We would try to frame all of our videos in a similar way for continuity.
On Thursday I set out to try to record a video with a borrowed U of G camera and my tripod. The elementary school next to where I live seemed like a good possibility and handy. I intended to video outside. I did check with the school and parental permissions and Principal ok were required. That was the end of that. I walked in my neighbourhood and asked one person if I could video him. He did not reply. I asked a postee, but she was waiting for a cab. I went home and warmed up. Next, I got into my car and drove to Guelph City Hall where I thought there might be warm skaters to approach. I tried two people who were not willing to be videoed. The third did agree. This person was a grandmother coaching her two grandsons from the sidelines, as they practiced their ice skating. I explained that I hoped for a 30 second video, that I was an art student at U of G and the video was about the pandemic. I suggested she could think about what was “pent up” for her or what is top of mind today when she thinks about the pandemic. It would be 10 seconds in a posture, 10 seconds talking about her feelings about the pandemic in this moment and 10 seconds of stillness again in the pose. There were two takes. The speaker was animated but the request to be still and to speak seemed confusing. Also I discovered in lab the next day that the image was out of focus. I would use autofocus next time due to my challenges seeing the screen clearly. Thursday at around five pm was very cold, cold enough to be a sizeable distraction. Though I had written out a kind of cheat sheet for myself, it wasn’t helping really. I needed to have more comfort with the process of asking people to contribute and be clearer.
Friday I did three more videos. I decided to cut the talking out of the videos as I wanted to simplify the process. I learned these videos could not be used without the voices. I would get more videos and try harder to help the volunteers understand what I was asking of them.
I learned that it takes practice to express your idea and to do that with strangers. I did not introduce myself….that is something I often forget to do, and it would have helped with both my comfort and theirs. I think the second introduction I used was best…not explaining one idea behind the piece ( was it video, photograph, still, sculpture) except for thinking about the pandemic and what is most pressing, and how to express that in a still posture. This was an issue because one person chose to appear as a sculpture. I needed to say more about the timing too- a total of 20 seconds- 10 seconds, a word or two about “what is pent up” about the pandemic and another 10 seconds. I would provide hand signals so that my talking would not be recorded on the video.
I was impressed with what I understood to be some of the thinking behind Adad Hannah’s images of diverse people and the pandemic. He is interested in the “tableau vivant” which was popular in France about 1830-1920. During that period people enacted favourite things like a poem, classical art, or political protest. He plays with time- the line between photography, video, performance, sculpture and “organic physicality.” His “pandemic” images could be described as ambiguous, a paradox, confusing. He is interested in diverse experiences too. A question his work raises is whether the body is concealed or revealed.
The concealing or revealing of the body is important to the messages these two people created in their videos attached below, as well as what is revealed in their faces. I took five videos on Friday Feb 11. In two there was too much movement in the street. I needed a better location-fewer vehicles and pedestrian traffic as this made it clear that these were videos, rather than stills or sculpture. The dog walkers were out and I managed to get one person with her pet but the dog moved in and out of the frame which again made it clear this was video. Also this volunteer was pretty active. One of the videos I showed in Monday’s class seemed ok..the pink coat. The other seemed too staged and didn’t give much context. Feb.16 today, I edited a second video taken on Friday and posted it. With the two videos below, the volunteers were pretty still in spite of their talking. Their messages were quite different as were their poses. The biggest challenge I had in editing was with the sound (quiet voices and sound of the wind) and the lighting (over exposure).
“Defenestration” Jan 28/22
I am trying to reorganize this blog and put most recent post at the beginning.
This project had a few challenges for me at the outset. The first was to find a window. Where I live, all the windows have screens that don’t open. I tried to throw a scarf out my car window in a location at U of G., hoping it would get caught by the wind and land in an interesting spot. That did not work. The scarf just dropped to the ground out of sight of the camera. I went back home to use a door. I could use a door to the inside or to the outside. I chose the door to the second floor outside patio. Another question was material. What would I use to demonstrate something being thrown out a window or into the air. Nothing much came to mind except the excess of stuff in my apartment after downsizing from a house. When I looked up “defenestration” on the internet it told me this was a way to get rid of some adversary. I had two balls of wool, 70 pieces of wire, a number of scarves (too many) and laundry awaiting the washing machine. I decided to try one or two of the scarves because there were gusts of wind on Thursday afternoon. My intention was to find a way to “see the wind”. That had been my intention with my first attempt at U of G as well.
I experimented with a heavier scarf…one I like to wear -turquoise- and it would show up against the white snow outside. I couldn’t prevent myself from thinking about aesthetics..how would it look in photographs? I also had to work with the multiple frame setting on the camera. I did get that set up. I used the same scarf for attempt 1. It seemed too heavy again and just dropped. I wanted the item I chose to float. I found another light weight scarf that was on my “in excess” list. I love the blend of colours in it and I liked that there was wind that I could try to enlist. Trying to get a scarf to float on the wind was not easy due to gusts and the shelter of the building. There was a broom handle available so that became a kind of platform for the scarf and it could extend out from the building 3 or 4 feet. That made a difference. There was enough gravity on the thin scarf that it stayed aloft and also dropped to the ground. I took several multiple shots, maybe 5 or 6. Some did not work due to light settings or the scarf staying stuck to the broom handle. I was running out of daylight after an hour or so and my camera froze so I came inside.
It is Tuesday January 11. I would like to do some writing about the first class. I was glad to see all the new faces even though it is on line and not in person. I forgot to say where I am…that is in Guelph, near the Boathouse and Royal City Park…a good location in covid.
You all had interesting items..quite unique to each of us. Some of us chose manufactured items like Brennan’s older video camera and Celeste’s disco ball and others chose living things like Alexa’s tooth-like plant. I liked Bella’s necklace and the symbolic…reference to Wes Anderson and the Latin phrase which is a compelling one- “I struggle and emerge”. Not only was there a movie reference but also records with Sophia’s album..Wings- Back to the Egg. Must look for Faith’s favourite book The Road. One of my favourite books from high school and after was Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. Kayla’s learning the Korean language is notable. Nathan’s item, the times table, connected us all to his home schooled daughter’s work and memories of elementary school tasks. If someone from Mars came upon this collection of items what would they say about us?
I wondered what it was about plants that made them the chosen items more than once. Maybe they are like pets in covid. They keep us company.
It occurred to me that we humans engage with all these items in different ways: we use eyes, ears, voices. We use the whole body to carry a video recorder or to make a necklace. With plants we may engage sight and smell and touch. We poke the dirt checking to see if the plant needs water. Sometimes we talk to them, dust them, we use the whole body to reposition them in a location that helps them to thrive. For Diane, the mushrooms may take her to the woods and to new outdoor places for an on-going investigation. All of these selected items lead to other connections for us as individuals and for us as a kind of collective. Will any of these items appear later in the course as we move through it?
I like the idea that the grade is about engaging with the technology, expanding ideas and imagination. I am not remembering how to add an image to the blog.
Notes on Sol Lewitt Jan. 12/22
Lewitt means that with his conceptual art, all the decisions about the work are made before he begins the piece. When I do projects, I often have a rudimentary idea of where I want to go with the work. I allow for changes in direction as I go along. I let the medium and the process of working inform my project. In other words, there can be surprises as I am making the art work. For Lewitt, “the idea becomes the machine that makes the art”. He knows exactly where he is going when he sets out to actualize the piece. His experimenting may occur in the initial phase because he uses a variety of sources to determine his plan for a piece- he says “all types of mental processes”. In the example we saw in virtual class (Wall Drawing No. 652 Continuous Forms IMA), he used primary colours plus grey. He also repeated dots and lines. He makes all the decisions before he begins to make the project a reality. His concept is form and rules. The instructions for his work…the idea, are so precise and clear that he can have other artists work on one of his projects such that it will evolve as he envisioned it. His idea generates a map that other artists can follow closely.
What does the artist’s actual hand have to do with the final work in a conceptual art context? The artist’s hand is not revered as it has been in other styles of art. For example, in an abstract art course, I was told not to remove any paint marks on the sides of the canvas as this is part of the history of the artist’s work on the piece. It may have to do with authenicity. The artist’s hand/body in abstract work is key. Lewitt regards the idea as the most important thing. Actualizing the idea is not essential, so the artist’s hand is not important. Further, any artists’s hand can create the actual piece once the idea is formulated. He says the idea is purposeless so not only is the hand of the artist not important but the idea is not theoretical. It is to be mentally interesting. He describes the development of the idea as intuitive, objective and subjective and the concept is form and rules intended to engage the mind. The centrality of the idea frees the maker of the skill of the artist as a craftsman.
Notes on Yoko Ono Jan 13/22
The boundaries of Yoko Ono’s performance -reading from The Grapefruit Book seem limitless. She uses canvas in a few of her ideas, as a visual artist might. She uses easily found objects like a paper bag and from nature-seeds. She adds to these two items, the wind creating a delightful image. She uses more of our natural world in her prompt to look at the sun until it becomes a square. Her materials are readily found, sometimes, anywhere and by anyone and they don’t require financial expense…seeing shadows together until they become one, or listening to your heartbeat, or touching the earth with your bare feet. Sometimes her suggestions for engaging the imagination require another person -shaking hands through a hole in a large canvas or inviting friends to a spot. She suggests a task for noticing one’s state of mind, again with at hand items. She suggests making a list of sad things in your life represented by one colour of pebble, happy things in your life being a different coloured pebble and asks the listener or reader to count and compare the two numbers. She suggests other ideas that may improve mental health like “don’t say anything negative” for varying lengths of time and see how you feel. Another salve for mental health might be “don’t classify things”. The following prompt engages movement, sight, touch and smell, -burn everything you fear and then anoint the fire with a fragrance. When I was thinking she hadn’t dealt with outer space I read one of her last prompts..”think of people close to you as planets. Watch them orbit and shine”. She made use of two elements, earth and air(wind) but not fire and water.
I have not listed all of the prompts she gave. This list is limited by my memory, ability to write quickly and the prompts that intrigued me. I am really impressed by the fact that many of prompts may be beyond culture or capitalism. Maybe they are within her culture/religion if she is Shinto or she was influenced by it. My understanding is that there is a reverence for the natural world, that it is sacred. I have seen the wishes on trees in Japan at the shrines. I remember them from one of the shrines for children where I spent some time. The prompts are positive and uplifting, you can do some alone or with one other or with more than one which allows for connection not only to the natural world but to people. It seems to be this was the artist’s intention. The prompts remind you to notice, maybe experience the world in a time of innocence.
Notes on Bruce Nauman
One of Nauman’s works is Poke in the Eye, Nose, Ear. I would say these are every day actions or banal. Most people can do these 3 things or any one of them. He frames this piece as art partly because of the technology he used which was a slow motion video. He mentions John Cage who made use of time in music. Cage reminded him of the value of stretching out time. By using this slowing down the camera speed, Nauman remarks on the how the camera shows the light on his skin and how the skin looks like a landscape, a thing of beauty. The framing challenges my view of his actions. I think of parents saying “don’t do that or your face may stay like that”. Toddlers may investigate this way. Nauman’s use of the slow motion camera makes this kind of exploration legitimate and elevates it. Though he is distorting the face, it does become a landscape in my view.
Another of Nauman’s pieces is “Setting a Good Corner”. It is a more recent work. With this piece, the artist does a video. He digs a hole and puts in one of three pieces of railway ties- like standing stones- to mark the corner. This arrangement can be seen as banal. It is not remarkable. It is an everyday sort of thing. It is the kind of thing, though, that ranchers do on a regular basis and it takes skill. He draws attention to the idea of the corner. He makes me notice it. I notice it has its own beauty. He highlights the process of corner-making -that is making something everyday into a work of art. He also foregrounds the idea that there is art in the everyday and that there can be much skill in the making of everyday items. He doesn’t like repetition and prefers efficiency. The corner does seem efficient and if not done accurately the fence will not be stable.
I had a few ideas for this project..2 different performances- one sitting and another walking. The third had to do with the eye. I was excited about these. When I undertook the research on what were hunches, I found a lot of complicated information. Though the ideas seemed simple and straightforward, the science gave me a lot of detail. In other words, the execution of those ideas did not give me a straight or curved line. The eye and circulatory system work in very complicated ways and the initial information I had was debunked in further research. I lost a foundation for measurement. Also my phone froze when I tried to do video of a walk.
The new question I came up with was how could I make a kilometre visible..a little more concrete. On Victoria Street north in Guelph there is a hill and a valley just before the road to Guelph Lake. If I took a photograph at the top of the hill and an image of the odometer at 0, and then the car went 1 km and I took an image of the odometer and also one of the location where the car stopped- then I would have one kilometre and I could see the car doing that kilometre. Though I would have the documentation of the photographs of location and the odometer readings, the measurement might not be exact. If I tried to do it twice, would the start and finish be exactly the same? One of the problems is stopping. When the odometer gets to one, you have a bit of a warning but you have to stop, so you move a little beyond a kilometre. The kilometre is a concept. It is somewhat imprecise. The amount of imprecision depends on what you chose to illustrate the concept.
Kilometre Assignment Jan 17/22
Image of starting point for 1 kilometre on Victoria Street North. I used the yellow marker as a reference for the back of the car.
Jan. 19/22. Getting a video onto wordpress was a new experience. In the end it was pretty straight forward but it took me a while to get to that. Looking at the video, I wasn’t sure about sound. It wasn’t really necessary. Also I could benefit from a little more practice using the video function for this task. I wobbled a bit and the zooming in was awkward rather than smooth. Some of my other ideas were more imaginative and fun to do but the execution was more problematic. With those ideas, accuracy was less likely. In the end, the video of car travel seemed to be in line with one of Nauman’s criteria. It seemed efficient.
Jan. 21/ 22 Exercise One Hour Gesture
Just after lunch, I decided to try to do the assignment…to hold a pose or gesture for 1 hour. I had been thinking of doing it outside so there would be some opportunity for engagement with people (Abramavic) on a path or roadway. However, I ended up walking outside with a fellow walker from 10:30 to 12:00. The walking worked but I thought the cold would be hard to deal with and my reaction to it would be an added unknown as I tried to stay still. I had experience with meditation though I am no expert. I have done a one hour session since Christmas. Initially I picked a spot in the hallway, where I could lean against the wall and stand on a piece of rug that might be unstable. My shoulder hurt after about 5 minutes. I then settled on another location and tried to hold 1 position. My goals initially were; to use the body, to make use of my current state of mind, and to pick the theme of precarious. In the end, I did not use the theme.
The place I selected was the most comfortable chair in my living room. It is made of maple and is well padded. It has arms for added support. I know what it feels like to sit crosslegged on the floor….I can only do about 25 minutes on a good day and then I have to lie down. The other thing about the chair is that it was bought with breast feeding my second child in mind. It is a rocker so I can adjust the position backward or forward.
I sat in this chair and tried to find a position that would give my body maximum support. I could feel feet on the floor, left leg on the chair, hands resting on arms of the chair, back against padding of the cushion, bottom on padded seat and head somewhat balanced on neck. My head did not have a support.
What did I notice as I began my one hour position? I could not see a clock but I had a timer. I really didn’t know how the hour was progressing. I wanted to keep my eyes open and focus on one point (the top right corner of the mirror) as one might in yoga. Half an hour after, I can feel tired back behind my ribs and weak legs. I could not log my experience as I sat still, so this is what I recall. I began to feel sleepy. My eyelids drooped at times and I may have fallen asleep briefly especially near the end. One of the first things I noticed was my hands, they got heavy as did my fingers. Eventually they were numb. I noticed my right arm tickled, later the left arm and eventually, near the end, my left ear. I tried to ignore that but gave up and gave it a good scratch. Felt much better and the movement loosened my whole torso. I did body scans throughout to help me stay focussed. I noticed my feet on the floor, my left leg on the chair, my bum in the seat, my back against the padding on the chairback, my arms and hands supported by the arms of the chair. I got sensation in my neck..just discomfort. My head needed to shift position a bit. I tried not to alter the position of my head but did so at least once. I found if I lost focus, thinking about something other than the task at hand, I lost my focus on the corner of the mirror. I swallowed fairly often maybe every 5 or 10 minutes. I tried not to swallow. I tried not to move my eyes but my eyelids let me down. I noticed my heart rate from time to time. It seemed to be lighter and heavier, slower and faster, in other words it seemed to be changing. When I swallowed, I had gurgling in my throat and sometimes in my gut. At the end, I felt exhausted. Even my brain was tired and it was hard to get organized to start writing this. The body is not meant to be still? At this point about 1 hour after, I feel more able to take on a task though I still feel relaxed. It struck me that what Abramavic did in The Artist is Present was a gargantuan task requiring tremendous physical and mental / emotional stamina. She stayed still for 7 hours 6 days a week for 3 months and remained engaged or connected with each individual who came to sit in her presence. There were over 70,000 people who shared that experience with her.