Lots of interesting things are happening urging us to cast our eyes and thoughts skyward. A Blood Moon Lunar eclipse. Salty water on Mars.

I have to include this image of the dark side of the moon captured by a NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite  showing a view of the moon we don’t get to see from earth.

1509 dark side of the moon

I went to see the London Premiere of Disaster Playground – Nelly Ben Hayoun’s wonderful investigation into who is watching the skies for us.

1509 Disaster playground

Through a series of talking heads and re-enactments we meet the real scientists from NASA and SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) whose daily job is to scan the skies for possible objects that might collide with earth.

Nelly Ben Hayoun Disaster Playground

Nelly Ben Hayoun Disaster Playground

The difficulty is not so much spotting the object but negotiating the appropriate response in time to avert disaster. Through this documentary we come to understand that technology is way ahead of the machinations of the committees who tread the delicate path of ultimate responsibility.

Nelly Ben Hayoun Disaster Playground

Nelly Ben Hayoun Disaster Playground

Which nations are actually accurately capable of blasting an asteroid  off its course. A minute error could mean one nation is obliterated instead of another. We leave the film feeling a little anxious that for all the good intentions of these scientists the safety net has not been properly hoisted just yet.

Bas Jan Ader Falling

Bas Jan Ader Fall

The Whitechapel Gallery hosted a touching tribute to Bas Jan Ader marking the 40th anniversary of his disappearance at sea.

In 1973 Bas Jan Ader took a solitary walk through the city of Los Angeles towards the ocean. The journey was documented in a series of 18 indistinct black and white photos subtitled with the lyrics from a trashy 50’s pop song ‘Searchin’.

Bas Jan Ader In search of the Miraculous

Bas Jan Ader In Search of the Miraculous

Ader borrowed the title of this work ‘In Search of The Miraculous’ from Ouspensky’s book on occult theory which promotes self improvement as the destiny of man. He uses this epithet as subtext for man’s eternally unsatisfied desire for some unknown missing element. He intended the work to have three parts, planning to continue his search across the ocean, to leave the limits of society and go beyond into the unknown. The solitary journey over the sea was to culminate with another night time walk, this time across Amsterdam. It would be a homecoming. In his preparations and framing of the work he deliberately used the iconography of the romantic quest and chose signifiers which denoted a prefabricated romanticism, one that has been commoditized and packaged. He appeared to be searching for the sublime in its very opposite; the banal. Throughout his practise Ader interrogated conditions of pain and endurance; the prerequisites to experience ecstasy.

 Bas Jan Ader I'm too sad to tell you

Bas Jan Ader I’m too sad to tell you

The tragic elements in Ader’s work are presented in a way to highlight pure emotion and offer no explanation for the scenarios he performs. As in reality when we experience grief there is no explanation able to comfort us.

On 9 July 1975, Bas Jan Ader set sail in a 12 foot dinghy called Ocean Wave. He was shipwrecked and his body never found.

Bas Jan Ader In Search of the Miraculous

Bas Jan Ader In Search of the Miraculous

On the evening before his departure, a student choir sang sea shanties in the gallery of his Los Angeles dealer.  He was to be received by a shanty choir in Falmouth.

Forty years later this Whitechapel event celebrated his all too short life and extraordinary work. Poet Stephen Watts read beautifully on the discovery of Ouspensky before we watched a poignant interview with Jan Bas Ader’s widow followed by  a rare 16mm screening of six of his films: Fall I; Fall II; I’m Too Sad to Tell You; Broken Fall (Geometric); Broken Fall (Organic) and Nightfall. As the horizon faded on the screen we quietly filed out to be met by the stirring songs from the London Trad Academy Sea Shanty Choir.

Celebrating current artists The Whitechapel Gallery was packed and buzzing for the Private View of the London Open.  I had to return another day to be able see the works. As a cross section of what is going on in London studios you expect diversity, yet themes do emerge, though selection and curation. So good our RCA classmate Julie Roch- Cuerrier was selected for this exciting show.

Julie Roche-

Julie Roche-Cuerrier

Her subtle intervention of sanding away the detail from every page of a world atlas, just leaving the titles and borders pulls on the strings of displacement and loss while her carefully capturing the dust from each page brings an alchemical magic to the work.

Julie

Julie Roche-Cuerrier

Displayed in little plastic bags are the ingredients of the oceans or the universe. The delicate blue and green powders speaking of matter and its transformation, precious and mysterious.

Having lost access to the print facilities at the RCA its time to start thinking about where I can continue making work. I paid a visit to Thames Barrier Print Studios. It all looks wonderful here, loads of space, etching presses and screen-beds, digital printing, exposure units and an aquatint box.  First I need to get some new work started. I am looking at Obelisks and Standing Stones, ritual places and also thinking about ideas of the multi-verse. Brain loading.

1509 Glitch

Called in to see Delta at Five Years, Regents Studios where RCA tutor Oona Grimes was showing alongside Mark Jackson, James Lowne, Clare Mitten and Mia Taylor.

Oona Grimes Slightly Foxed

Oona Grimes Slightly Foxed

‘Worlds collide, meet, touch, overlap and become absorbed. Worlds become world; expanded, inconsistent and multi faceted. Some don’t stop, don’t crash, they keep moving, a sign in space, until they are singular and alone. No matter, we are only concerned with what remains. We built this world top down and outside-in, we chose the planets and engineered the collision; a shared universe intended to be used by many authors.’

1509 Delta

1509 Delta 2

James Lowne’s very funny video, a kind of in joke for artists explores the constant lure of the prize – the open call – scrubbing around for the opportunity. It has an air of subjugation I think. As artists we have to play a game we’d rather not, putting ourselves up for a fall, laying ourselves bare, in competition with our peers, the fear of missing out is BIG, do we know about the next opportunity will someone else get there first, we don’t want to be played like this, we want to opt out but we can’t. It’s a bit addictive.

The owners of  a stripped and soon to be refurbished Victorian house in Brockley gave their premises over to host Bread and Jam I an exhibition of site specific work by 11 artists.

Joby Williamson

Joby Williamson

Each artist was given free rein of their chosen space in the house to make new work in response to the dilapidated surroundings.  The concept of Bread and Jam is to take basic staple ingredients and make a meal that transports you somewhere else, that can be shared at any time of day and continues to sustain after consumption.

Fritha Jenkins

Fritha Jenkins Reception

Fritha Jenkin’s work Reception looking like a meteorite storm  frozen in free fall turns the living room into a site of physical negotiation with hundreds of carefully balanced glasses topped with lumps of clay dug from the basement foundations of the house.

Kate Murdoch

Kate Murdoch Poor Lamb

Kate Murdoch creates an unsettling atmosphere with carefully chosen objects that act as signifiers for trauma and vulnerability.

I attended the Material Environments Symposium : Sensing Time and Matter in Digital and Visual Culture at The University of Greenwich.  It felt good to be in an academic environment again and wonderful to know there is free access opportunities to high quality events like this. I enjoyed Sarah Cefai’s references to primordial time and the affect sensation that arises from rain, earth, heat and light experienced though landscape. Her concerns are about how these sensations are mediated and politicised particularly in relation to indigenous as opposed to colonial Australia.

1509 ten canoes

She uses the films of Rolf de Heer (Charlie’s Country, The Tracker, Ten Canoes) as examples of truth to materials, the rain must be real rain. Made me want to see Ten Canoes again.

Tom Jackson also spoke about mediated sensation. His use of environment as archive demonstrated at Temple Works Leeds offers a 360º enplaced experience of space in high resolution with pioneering new design binaural audio recordings.

Temple Works

Temple Works

Not only does this combination of technology offer a haptic experience of a removed space, but also a temporal, one as searches can be made through the palimpsest of activities, interventions and architectural changes that have occurred in a given location. Using this method, virtual access to privileged spaces can be offered to the public.

Blythe House Archive

Blythe House Archive

The physical archive such as that of the Victoria and Albert Museum stored at Blythe House can be archived and viewed remotely and there is the opportunity of archiving objects without having to remove them from the context of their original environment thereby retaining a layer of history usually destroyed as objects are moved to storage facilities or museums.

Luci Eldridge found comparisons between the analogue and the digital in the material decay of  archived images she has viewed and the disrupting imperfection of the digital glitch. Analysing the composite landscape images of Mars patchworked together from data retrieved by non human space explorers she draws awareness to the construction of landscapes that are only ever viewed remotely via technology that does not relay a sense of scale and perspective that we naturally relate to.

Mars Stereo View from 'John Klein' to Mount Sharp

Mars Stereo View from ‘John Klein’ to Mount Sharp

Seams have been eliminated from the sky portion of the mosaic to better simulate the vista a person standing on Mars would see.

Laurel Johannesson makes work that does not conform to the current passion for speed and instantaneous gratification.

Laurel Johannesson

Laurel Johannesson

Her generative digital images coalless slowly and in reaction to her audience. The viewer that spends time with her work is rewarded, the swift passer by misses out. She is interested in how we perceive time and the visualization of time. She cites Joseph Priestley who published A Chart of Biography in 1765 and has had a profound influence on our visualization of time as linear, travelling along a horizontal line, ever moving forward.

1509 Joseph Priestley

She also talked about other visualisations of time as being circular and represented by the ouroboros, the ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tail in perpetual motion of renewal and destruction signifying eternal return.

1509 Theodoros Pelecanos 1478 copy

Using Nobuhiro Nakaishi as an example of an artist who mediates the temporal experience through his work she reflects on how the understanding of time is challenged by new technology and the ways artists are exploiting technology to create work but also the need for a direct interaction with materials.

Nobuhiro Nakanishi

Nobuhiro Nakanishi

In his layer drawings Nobuhiro Nakanishi captures the passage of time in a series of still photographs which he then layers in series on acrylic sheets so the movement of time passes through the images. He is looking to evoke a common sensation in his audience. The acknowledgement of the passage of time is universal, it is one of the primordial senses and also personal as we see our own entropy come to pass.

Nobuhiro Nakanishi

Nobuhiro Nakanishi

Laurel Johannesson is interested in art that offers a multiplicity of possible orders and disturbs the accepted time based narrative. Another of her examples is the collective AES+F a group of four Russian artists: Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky, and Vladimir Fridkes working with video and digital generation.

AES+F

AES+F

Their films have a balletic quality that create a hypnotic rhythm as time is slowed, drawing you in to a world of beautiful people with smooth supple bodies moving trance like though exaggerated motions. It is like being gently suffocated with silk having been given the most delicious sleeping draught. Willingly falling into the embrace of this clean and perfect world as into a dream before realising there is an unsettling undercurrent that drags you under and it is too late to swim to the surface and escape. Mesmerizing.

AES+F

AES+F

A link here to a trailer for Trimalchio.

Other interesting speakers were Marisa Gomez who is interested in the re-presentation of time and the new technologies that facilitate new approaches to temporality such as the Khronos Projector which allows the user to sculpt time through a screen interface. By touching the screen the user can send parts of an image backwards or forwards in time.

Alvaro Cassinelli Khronos Projector

Alvaro Cassinelli Khronos Projector

Joanna Zylinska’s paper Sensing Deep Time: Photography after Extinction drew parallels between photography and fossils as recording mechanisms of time. She recommended the book The Sixth Extinction; an unnatural history by Elizabeth Kolbert which documents the past five mass extinctions of species on earth turning the spotlight on us humans as we watch the sixth mass extinction unfold before us, unable to act.  Transfixed by affective facts, those overwhelming concepts that are so huge to comprehend that we ignore them.

1509 Sixth-extinction

She is interested in how time is recorded through natural phenomenon such as the deep time of geology. Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830-33)  was an early radical attempt to explain the geological state of modern Earth by considering the effects of observable natural phenomena over time. By exploring the evidence for changes in climate and geography across the ages  Lyell speculated on the progressive development of life, transforming science with depictions of the powerful forces that shape the natural world.

1509 Lyell

Light, energy from the sun is used in the photographic process. Our perceptions and familiarity with recording phenomenon changes with each new technology. When Photography first appeared and Henry Fox Talbot published the first  wholly photographically illustrated book The Pencil of Nature in 1844 he felt it necessary  to insert the following notice into his book: The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone, without any aid whatever from the artist’s pencil. They are the sun-pictures themselves, and not, as some persons have imagined, engravings in imitation

Henry Fox Talbot The Pencil of Nature

Henry Fox Talbot  The Ladder  in The Pencil of Nature

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Lost Human Genetic Archive at Palais de Tokyo was a poignant look at what remains after devastation.  Over thirty notices, all beginning ‘Today, the world died’, offered explanations by characters from all walks of life as to why everything ended, and these relate to the otherwise random objects beside them. An astronaut, for example, tells of how Earth had become encircled by orbiting human shit, next to a display containing the cosmonaut’s space-food and urine collector.

Hiroshi Sugimoto Lost Human Genetic Archive

Hiroshi Sugimoto Lost Human Genetic Archive

The exhibition Club Disminución (“Club of Diminishing Returns”) was instigated by Alexa Horochowski’s artist residency at Casa Poli, Coliumo, Chile, 2012/2013. Designed by architects Maurizio Pezo and Sofía Von Ellrichshausen, Casa Poli, a minimalist, cement cube, functions as a cultural art center/artist studio.  In this environment the separation between landscape and architecture is indistinct.

Horochowski aims to depict the struggle between the human drive to create lasting symbols of culture, and Nature’s indifferent, persistent erasure of these symbols. His work explores entropy and the passing of time by imitating the natural processes of accretion and aggregation found in caves or the persistent impression left by fauna and water on architecture and the landscape.

Alexa Horochowski: Club Disminución

Alexa Horochowski: Club Disminución

“Horochowski suggests a posthuman future, where assorted beach debris attests to the former glory of human civilization. In enlarged black-and-white digital scans of barnacles, minerals, and wasp nests, a quasi-organic architecture takes shape, poised to outlast us all. A Gothic sensibility reverberates throughout: evocative, sinister, and auguring the fall of the Anthropocene.” — Christina Schmid

Penelope Umbrico found 541,795 pictures of sunsets when searching the word “sunset” on Flickr. This became the basis for her installations Flickr suns.

Penelope Umbrico Flickr Suns

Penelope Umbrico Flickr Suns

Another body of work by Penelope Umbrico is her Sun/Screen series.

Penelope Umbrico Sunscreen

Penelope Umbrico Sunscreen

She uses an iPhone to re-photograph images of the sun she has cropped from thousands of sunset images shared on the web.  The process of photographing images directly from the computer screen creates a moiré pattern – an optical illusion, which is the consequence of the pixel grids, meshes or dot patterns being superimposed. They draw attention to the materiality of the screen and further distance us from the natural sunlight source of the original images.

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