‘things left behind’ – the sea in a box

Today I hand in my box to Judy Thomas to send to Japan.  I have perhaps wandered off task and created something unexhibitable.

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At the bottom of the box – a mirror

The box contains something(s) collected from the beach, A memory – in the form of the poem below and an artwork – a series of printed transparencies, which might work together or might be separate items.  They record the presence on the beach of the items collected but also their existence as transparent, see through memories, already only leaving a trace.  They are not very aesthetic, don’t really relate beyond my act of collection, but can still be triggers for my memory, which through the words and images could be communicated to others or trigger memories in them.

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The first transparent insert – abandoned trainers

 

things left on beaches

are warp and weft

when

time weaves people in fabrics and spaces

 

a pair of trainers

worn and punished

when

he swam out with the current and back with the wind

 

 

a half tennis ball

batted and dog torn

when

rain stopped play and tide took his wicket

 

 

frayed rope end

severed in a storm

when

boat lost the mooring and beached in the creek

 

 

hard plastic mesh

from a shattered creel

when

under the deck the eel lay dying

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The layers together and held against the light.

Illuminating the Border – Critique

Yesterday we talked through the ‘illuminating the border’ installation as part of a group critique.

The first interesting note was how  people moved through the space. As we were a group of 10 or more, this put the installation under pressure.  Could people experience anything with so many interruptions.  It was great to see that people moved with relative ease and it created a thoughtful atmosphere.

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The effect of shadow and reflection as backdrop and point of interest in its own right was interesting, The installation was added to by the interruption – this may be a really important point for development.  If I want the installation to be truly interactive, then it must ‘work’ better if people are in it.

There were those who were reluctant to enter. Noise was an issue – sound levels have to be right.  I thought of the idea of a warm whisper with louder interventions as a way of thinking about how the sound can attract people.

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One colleague remarked the mirrors, he thought they worked much better with the installation, particularly in the interaction with the projection – where the stretched and distorted image broke across the mirror, which then reflected another part of the installation, really caught the eye. This, of course, was always changing, leading to viewers moving their heads to see themselves in the film landscapes, and seeing those landscapes change.

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The smaller square mirrors, placed on the fabric and in direct line of the projection also changed the projection.  The square mirror helped, because it fitted the square nature of the projection, like a collaged image within the projection – this effect was emphasised when the projection against the muslin and gauze caused the images to repeat and overlap making a displaced image collage.

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Work in Progress

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Modest Crit for me – showing just 3 new pieces – these are definitely work in progress – developing the theme of ‘New/old Borders’

PIECE 1: Days of Truce

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The piece is a flat photograph from a scanned 5×4 negative of the Scottish Border set behind a clear acetate screen with 3 areas of text:

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Above: The title text from the Border meetings of the two nations to settle disputes in the 16th and 17th centuries before the union of the kingdoms.

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Above: Text from the Articles of the Union, Edinburgh, January 16, 1707

IV. ‘That all the Subjects of the united Kingdom of Great-Britain shall, from and after
the Union, have full Freedom and Intercourse of Trade and Navigation, to and from
any Port or Place within the said united Kingdom,

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Above: Text from: DIRECTIVE 2004/38/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL

(2)  The free movement of persons constitutes one of the fundamental freedoms of the internal market, which comprises an area without internal frontiers, in which freedom is ensured in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty.

PIECE 2: Illuminating the border

a Cardboard frame with 3 negatives suspended in a faux ‘lightbox’ format:

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The 3 negatives were taken at the English/Scottish border on a large format camera

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The negatives could be illuminated by mobile phone – which is a neat interactive idea:Aprilcritlowres-10

 

I developed this idea from:

PIECE 3: Illuminate I

I was playing with an old cheese box and an overexposed film negative – the images scratched in are figures lying in a prayer/tomb setting and come from research for the Plaguey exhibition at Newcastle Cathedral.

At the border

On ‘Good Friday’ the border at 7.20am is cold, the light struggling through to illuminate two laybys, stone walls, the flags of two countries, double sided stones and thin fences tramping off along the hump of hills.

Video recorded in 2 minute segments, rotating the view and listening for the birdsong.  Each chosen viewpoint included the flash of passing cars, heralded by the whine of engines against the hill followed by the drop in pitch as they fade back down the hill, in earshot for so much longer than in eyesight.

I also recorded the first 5 exposures shot on large format camera.  An aesthetic object in a less aesthetic landscape.

The border piper is sick of being the subject of debate, his opinions never broadcast, but his image used to illustrate a thousand press reports over the last few years.

Mistakenly perhaps, this photoshoot minimised the presence of people.

 

Water of Tyne

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Waters of Tyne, is a folk song  I ‘collected’ from Hexham Library – recorded at the Sage Gateshead below – I found a wonderful leather-bound book called ‘Songs and Ballads of Northern England.  This is an original, old and widely owned song describes the separation of two lovers by the Tyne.  Border ballads are often about physical separation.  This Tyne as emotional division and barrier has  many various versions – Kate Rusby’s Bring me a boat – is the same theme but rendered differently.

More boundaries

Thinking about the obtrusive fencing found throughout the footwork of Lee Friedlander in his urban street scenes, but it is everywhere.  These edited phone and DSLR shots record obstacles in the way from Paris’s Eiffel Tower to Hexham’s Tyne green.

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Tyne Green’s earthworks.

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Post and chain link:

and passive agressive signage:

The new fence

Recorded on film, some images of a new imposition in our landscape.  This new fence has no real explanation, dividing a field for no clear reason.  There are still no stock to control or different crops to separate and no obvious change in ownership.  The fence cuts through the landscape, cuts paths, creates a slowing, restricts movement, perhaps innocently and without real damage, but it is a possessive act by persons unknown. Defining and restricting space like the photographs of Lee Friedlander.

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Sticks, Stones and Little Screens

Two books out of the library on Lee Friedlander are very helpful in looking for an aesthetic for ideas of border and enclosure.

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The Little Screens, by Saul Anton, precisely describes the importance of a series of photos by Friedlander, here seen as  “One Work” –  part of a series of analytical titles  under the title After all books, published by  the University of the Arts, London and MIT, 

The work captures the disjointedness of space that the images on television cut into a room or updated and in our current world, the distortion of the Black Mirrors that are our phones and iPads.  The Little Screens have more accidental life than the formal motel bedrooms in Friedlander’s survey, but this is an imposed attraction, in the photos eyes watch furtively, hands threaten with guns, bodies are draped to sell products.  The parody of our unthinking gaze, ignoring the surreal clashes created, ignoring the disturbing imagery, sharply critiques our acceptance of this visuall distortion in our safe and neutral spaces.

Strong raking compositions are a feature of Sticks and StonesThe Fraenkel gallery’s comprehensively visual catalogue of Friedlander’s architectural photography for their 2004 exhibition of this important group of work. There are 196 square format images that record the specifics of american urban space.  People seem to feature only by accident. Individuals are described  through the division of city or small town space, the marked out garden boundaries or the high security fences that define an individual property.  The imposition of street furniture, poles, signs, lock and control the compositions and our ability to look inside them.  The  focus on the wasteland, the broken and the abandoned in many of the pictures, reflects the wastefulness and closed down feeling of these privatised but often neglected cityscapes.  Even where individual buildings dominate, most often a blank or unwelcoming wall turns ‘homes’ into forbidding ‘fortresses’.

The book layout is a double page with minimum borders, so each square format image reacts to its neighbour – the horizons are angled and do not flow between the two.  The packed angular forms, nothing is every straight vertically or horizontally, jar and clash with each other and create a sense of forcefully flattened space, blocked or partioned, access prohibited where it is hard to move forward or access the space depicted.

Somehow some of the captured space of reflected screens as seen in the dark mirror experiment, I want to combine with the contested and excluded spaces of the Brighton Baths or Tynemouth Pool or other more local boundaried spaces.

Reference:

Anton, S. (2015) Lee Friedlander, The Little Screens. London: After all Books.

Enyeart, J. (2004) Lee Friedlander, Sticks and Stones, Architectural America. Fraenkel Gallery: San Francisco.

 

The borders of life and death

In Pere LaChaise Cemetery…

famous lovers Heloise and Abelard and Composer Chopin are immortalised in miniature  buildings set behind metal fences that seem to devise them from the kingdom of the living.

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The individual plots outlined by fences and borders, in Paris they are more ornate than those simple grave places recorded by Nancy Holt in the American west.

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The unsubtle crash barriers that surround the relatively plain burial place of Jim Morrison, to protect it presumably from overzealous fans, create an exclusion area, a security zone in the otherwise mostly democratic space of the graveyard, where the temples stand together and the trees grow around and through the stones.