Archives for posts with tag: Carol Wyss

Midsummer weekend at Allenheads Contemporary Arts. As always it was fantastic to be back in the North Pennines surrounded by the unique landscape and equally unique participating artists. Thank you to Helen Ratcliffe, Alan Smith and co-curator Rob La Frenais for creating such a stimulating event and inviting me to be part of it. Continuum contemplated shared futures and journeys; explorations of the unknown on a cosmological and human scale.

I was privileged to be given access to use the local Blacksmith’s Shop heritage site for Aóratos a site specific installation with fire and film.

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It is not impossible that wormholes exist in our universe.

To traverse space by means of a wormhole would require vast amounts of negative energy.

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Visitors were invited to burn offerings of negative energy to power a ‘wormhole’.

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Using specially prepared tokens visitors could write or draw messages to clear their subconscious of any negative or unwelcome thoughts.

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The offerings were burnt giving out blue and green flames in the forge fire releasing the absorbed negative energy to open the wormhole portal above.

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This turned out to be quite a personal and sometimes emotional experience for visitors who thought carefully about what they would send into the flames before ascending the stairs to enter the portal to the vortex and take the journey through the wormhole exiting at a different point to where they entered.

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Beyond the threshold hidden landscapes and alternative perspectives were revealed.

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It is hoped visitors left the wormhole video installation feeling cleansed and positively charged.

There was a wonderful enthusiastic crowd from Newcastle’s refugee community travelling with artist Henna Asikainen – ” Understanding what it means to be displaced from ones cultural, social and ecological environment and then to establish a home in another, which is fundamentally different, has been the basis for the emergence of my recent projects.”

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Henna shared a practice from her own Finnish culture through her participatory work Omens  – a divining practice from ancient times involving melting metal over an open fire and pouring it into cold water and then interpreting the resulting form. The interaction of metal and water being symbolic of different cultures coming together, making new forms, interpreting the outcomes together, and by sharing these hopes & fears, generating a dialogue about our common futures.

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Annie Carpenter and Alan Smith collaborated on Salvaged Alignment a sculpture activated by the sun at the exact moment of the solstice.

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Annie was also showing Perpetual Apogee  a sculpture referencing Victorian kinetic models of the solar system embracing inaccuracies inherent in such scientific modeling.

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Alan Smith was screening his film 2052 looking at the everyday 33 years from now.

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In the gallery Robert Good presented A New Atlas of the Sublime, a series of panels dissecting the hierarchies and subtleties of language used when attempting to describe the power of a sublime experience.

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Nicola Ellis, referencing algorithms and scientific technologies used in social media, gave visitors an uncanny experience in Watch Yourself Watch Yourself

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Sarah Fortais performing Voyager in her DIY spacesuit arrived from afar, by public transport, to explore the local neighbourhood of Allenheads through the eyes of an alien with accompanying space dog Maddy.

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Great to meet up with Pippa Goldschmidt again and hear more readings from her short stories inspired by past roles as astronomer and civil servant on The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space.

 

Tracey Warr and Rob La Frenais Writing The Future workshop posted story portals around the village for visitors to discover.

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Much celebration at the launch of Lucien Anderson’s Humble Telescope on the cosmic pond. Come the dark skies of Allenheads, lay back and gaze up through the portal from a watery bed.

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As the solstice sun dipped John Bowers, Tim Shaw, Rob Blazey, Malcolm Conchie and Alan Smith began the annual Midsummer Night’s Drone that continued through to sunrise.

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Aóratos imagery took reference from theories of cosmic strings, space foam and the idea of a web of tiny wormholes connecting all points in space. Video was captured by putting an endoscope down rabbit holes looking for hidden root systems and a microscope was pushed into fibres and foam. The bare branches of trees reflect the branching decay of cosmic particles as they hit the atmosphere and break up.

Space travelers are subject to high levels of radiation from cosmic ray activity outside the protective magnetic field and atmosphere of Earth. As part of this project I worked with students Sena Harayama, Romain Clement De Givry and Medad Newman from Imperial College Space Society supervised by senior lecturer in spacecraft engineering Dr Aaron Knoll in an attempt to launch a cloud chamber in the payload of a high altitude balloon to view this activity.

The students had put a lot of effort into building a cloud chamber suitable to launch over 30km high into subzero temperatures with little air pressure.

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The final launch date pre-booked with the Civil Aviation Authority was upon us and so with just three days notice the team decided it must go ahead ready or not. Unfortunately the chamber had not been tested to see if it functioned on earth and during final assembly on the evening before the launch the chamber shattered.  Disappointed, the students worked into the night to make a substitute chamber.

I had been charged with making a connector out of garden hose, plumbers waste pipe, foam and sealant to pass helium from narrow cylinder pipe to wide mouth of balloon.

The launch took place on disused Oakley airfield kindly permitted by landowner Tom Baxter.

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The balloon reached an altitude of over 37 km and the payload was successfully recovered from a field of horses near Silverstone after an exciting car chase.

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During the violent launch the camera inside the payload to capture activity in the cloud chamber was knocked aside.

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All we have is a short clip before darkness descends and the experiment becomes part of that which is unseen.
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Risograph leaflet for visitors to the wormhole installation, expertly printed by Elliott Denny.

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In the Studio

Put The Forms (aluminium etched with dark matter visualisations) up for Open Studios at Thames-side Studios annual event which was buzzing this year with lots of workshops and activities and a festival feel flurry of food stalls.

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Meanwhile I was creating vibrant chemical landscapes ready to be encapsulated in screen printed tokens for the burning ritual to power the wormhole.

 

Out of the Studio

Carol Wyss hoping for rain to activate her enigmatic steel plates and reveal the codes within the bones in Coming Good: Come Hell or High Water an exhibition in St Johns Churchyard as part of Transforming Being Waterloo Festival.

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The latest ACA Project Continuum  is launched and I am looking forward to contributing to the programme with some new work exploring the activity of cosmic rays at the edge of the earths atmosphere. I have had two productive meetings with the Imperial College Space Society and the project to launch a high altitude balloon with a cloud chamber in the payload is underway. The first tasks are to make contact with the Civil Aviation Authority ahead of requesting flight permissions and researching how to safely transport helium to the prospective launch site.

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The team have been issued with their own mini cloud chamber kit to test and use as a basis for designing the prototype for launch which must be able to function in low air pressure and turbulence.

There was a fantastic turnout to Culture Lab. Newcastle University for the first Continuum event in an inspiring season of art, science and speculative fiction taking place at Allenheads, Hexham and Newcastle. So happy to be involved in this new project.

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We heard from Minna Långström about her latest film The Other Side of Mars and her installation Photons from Mars which explore how we see Mars through the mediated eyes of technology.

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Robert Good analysed what happens at the intersection of art and science, concluding that insight comes from multiple perspectives working together.

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Pippa Goldschmidt read from her texts The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space and Falling Sky highlighting the emotional and lived experience of the scientists who square up to the big questions in astronomy. She has fascinating first hand knowledge of the political sensitivities surrounding studying the stars when visiting observatories such as in the Chilean Atacama Desert when the nation is undergoing a military coup.

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Chris Welch professor of space engineering from The International Space University gave a lively account of Space Travel. Fact and Fiction; current technology, theoretical technology and science fiction technology. Sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other.

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He also kindly allowed us to handle a mini rocket smuggled in from Strasbourg

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The artist Nahum relayed a beautiful story of the moon landings from the moon’s perspective written by an 11 year old refugee girl and punctuated by real magic. This originated from his work giving refugee children a sense of belonging by imagining looking back at earth from space to see that we are all human on one tiny planet. In other work aiming to democratise space travel he hypnotised his audience in order to prompt false memories of visiting the moon into their minds.

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John Bowers and Tim Shaw ended the evening with mesmeric visualisation and acoustics extrapolated from electromagnetic waves generated by meteors, minerals and mystical phenomenon.

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It was a quick visit to Allenheads this time but Annie Carpenter, Nicola Ellis, Robert Good and myself can look forward to an upcoming week of research and stories around the fire as a prelude to making new work for the project.

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Delighted that my work Pentacoronae has been selected for the exhibition Insatiable Mind which is part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival 2019. The festival will highlight the anniversaries of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Moon Landing of 1969. The exhibition seeks to convey the notion of leaving behind the comforts of the familiar in order to discover the unknown.

Pentacoronae encourages the viewer to seek darkness, stargaze, wonder and map their own stories across the sky.

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Maybe I should take my cloud chamber with me to Salisbury just to make sure that clean up of radioactive material was as successful as they claim.

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More exciting news is that Carol Wyss, Anne Krinsky and myself have been awarded a two week takeover of Hackney’s oldest building, St. Augustine’s Tower.

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The tower is the last remains of the original church built in the late 13th century.

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Our proposal is for an exhibition of site-specific new works made in response to St. Augustine’s Tower and the historic role of spires as a symbolic connection between earth, mortals and the heavens.

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There are four floors connected by a narrow stone spiral staircase.

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It has an amazing clock dating from about 1580; the pendulum case is on the first floor, the clock on the second and the bell on the third floor.

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Drawing on our individual interests in geology (Anne Krinsky), anatomy (Carol Wyss) and cosmology (Susan Eyre) we will curate the exhibition with the intent of sparking a dialogue between works installed to convey a cohesive exploration of materiality, the passage of time and wider philosophical issues evoked by these relationships.

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The New Materialisms Reading group I attend have been reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. It is extraordinary to discover how trees communicate and consider the slow time at which they operate and the age and extent of the largest known living organism, the fungi web. I also have a whole new raft of guilt to contend with.

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I am also out collecting images of bare branches that resonate with the idea of particle decay.

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In the studio painting ‘entanglement’ in disperse inks to heat press for the semaphore flags ready for the Lizard Point Residency. Semaphore = information at a distance, entanglement = spooky action at a distance (according to Einstein)

 

 

 

 

Out of the Studio….

Called at SPACE to see Anna Chrystal Stephens’ show Anorak. A derogatory term for an obsessive but maybe it’s a necessary trait if you are to survive in alternative social possibilities. Either that or develop superpowers.

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I joined Robert Good at the opening of Word Bank of Lost Dialects at The Word National Centre for the Written Word, South Tyneside. Word Bank of Lost Dialects created by Jane Glennie and Robert Good is a fascinating documentation of the thousands of North East dialect words donated by visitors to The Word’s original Lost Dialects exhibition.

Also opening at The Word was Cracked! Secret Codes and Communication, with a very useful semaphore flag chart – just what I needed for the work I am planning for the upcoming Lizard Point Residency. In 2019 the Lizard is celebrating the 400 year anniversary of Sir John Killigrew’s building of the first lighthouse on Lizard Point in 1619. The subsequent lighthouse also has important links to the search for reliable Longitude measurement, with an assistant to the astronomer royal visiting the lighthouse at the time of the first Transit of Venus to record an accurate location for the Lizard Rocks. The world famous Goonhilly also celebrates the 50 year anniversary of their transmission of the first lunar landings. We will also be visiting wireless and semaphore stations along the Lizard coastal path, considering the Scilly Isles 30 miles out to sea and the important prehistoric menhirs offering ‘beacons’ for travel & procession across the land.

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Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms at The British Library was full of ancient treasures from the Library’s own collection, including the Lindisfarne Gospels, Beowulf and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, the Domesday Book and Codex Amiatinus, a giant Northumbrian Bible taken to Italy in 716, returning to England for the first time in 1300 years. A surprising number of books in flourishing scripts, illuminated, illustrated and bound in sculpted covers. However I found it very frustrating to be presented with so many undecipherable pages and envied those muttering in Latin or Old English who could gain some insight. More translations please. Possibly you had to buy the catalogue to learn more.

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Inspired by the legend of How Raven Stole the Sun and brought light to the world Joana Escoval’s  The Sun Lovers at Tenderpixel dazzled with an overload of fluorescent tubes.

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Especially blinding when visiting at the twilight hour. The story and further daydreams  were reduced to minimalist gestures in gold wire, feathers and blasted rock.

To celebrate Chinese New Year of the pig the mass underground car park takeover Four legs good, two legs bad (a quote from George Orwell’s prescient 1945 book Animal Farm)was heavily porcine in theme with a weirdly anarchic yet delineated curation. Pick of the show was Carol Wyss and Anne Leigniel.

Some interesting work in Critical Matter at the reduced RCA Dyson Gallery from Rosanna Dean, Victoria Mihatovic, Susie Olczak and Samuel Padfield. Looking at the very current theme of entanglement of materials in the web of life in reference to the philosophy of  Henri Bergson who wrote Matter and Memory in 1896 which argued against memory as a purely physical embodiment.

Flux Social presenters this month were Adam John Williams // a.k.a Chemical Adam, Adeline Rozario from Tinderdust, and Sofi Lee-Henson. Another interesting evening and good to talk to Adam about his use of the cloud chamber to translate the randomness of radioactive decay into music.

I joined Walking as Material led by Lily German who took us through the city down to the shores of the Thames and up onto the walkways and bridges, stopping to look at the fabric of London and consider its past and the changing materials that make up its surfaces. Also the amount of sewage that must be dealt with.

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We ended the walk at Matter(ing), an exhibition investigating ides of materiality and the outcome of enabling materials to drive the creation of work at Platform Southwark from artists Abigail Brothers, Lily German and Sebastian Sochan.

Enjoyed the connections made by Zach Blas in his performance lecture Metric Mysticism at Edel Assanti. Tracing the use of the crystal ball from John Dee via Derek Jarman, David Bowie’s Labyrinth, Lord of the Rings, Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology to Palantir Technologies, a private American software company that specializes in big data analytics. Prophecies of a society controlled by the media and the police appear fulfilled.

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Treated to a personal private view of Draft at The Hospital Club by Mary Yacoob. Strong work held it’s own amongst the plush velvet sofas and hand embellished wallpaper.

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An occasion on which one is reminded of the state of things in the real world.

Carlo Rovelli was at Second Home discussing his book Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey To Quantum Gravity which presents the story of the human imagination and reveals how the atomic world view first proposed by Democritus nearly 2,500 years ago can be found interwoven through history into our cultural life. It tells the story of what we know about our universe and how we came to know it, from the early atomic intuitions of Greek and Roman thinkers who observed the world about them and came to the conclusion that objects could not be a continuous whole but must be made up of lots of tiny parts.

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Susan Eyre Diazôgraphô photo Sara Lynd

The book goes on to show evidence of the ancient ideas now emerging from the Planck satellite and CERN, to the genuinely new knowledge being offered by Loop Quantum Gravity, of which Rovelli is a founding theorist. He was a generous and thoughtful speaker. When I started his book  I was a little upset to find Plato to be considered obtuse and an obstacle to the progression of physics for ignoring the atomic theories of Democritus and questioning the benefits to itself of why an object should take a particular form, but then in chapter two Plato is absolved of criticism for his pioneering understanding that mathematics is at the root of all scientific truths that ‘Number governs forms and ideas’

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Susan Eyre Diazôgraphô photo Sara Lynd

The talk moved on to discuss the nature of time and how we experience it. Someone quoted Nelson Goodman from 1951 in The Structure of Appearance. ‘A thing is a monotonous event; an event is an unstable thing’.

 

I found this clip of Brian Cox explaining time travel  sort of helpful in that I can follow his explanation but it still leaves me confounded.

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In his book Rovelli equally values the thoughts of poets and physicists who contemplate the same questions about the structures of the universe.

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Marvelling at correlations between Dante’s plan of paradise, possibly inspired by the cupola ceiling of the Baptistery in Florence, that speaks of a spherical universe made of ever increasing circles that reach a point where the outer circle appears to be enclosed by those that enclose it – a poetic description of a 3-sphere.

Rovelli believes the universe cannot be infinite – ‘that’s too big ‘ – and he seems aligned with the 3 sphere universe theory that the universe is not infinite but has no boundaries.  I found myself thinking – surely this must still sit within something? Still it was gratifying to find that this in line with Jean-Pierre Luminet and the Poincaré dodecahedral space  which I have been fascinated by –

A positively curved universe is described by elliptic geometry, and can be thought of as a three-dimensional hypersphere, or some other spherical 3-manifold (such as the Poincaré dodecahedral space), all of which are quotients of the 3-sphere.

Another name for the Poincaré dodecahedral space is the soccer ball universe…..

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Yinka Shonibare’s work at York Art Gallery as part of Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf

We are still waiting for any definitive answers about the shape of the universe, whether it is infinite or finite, whether it is flat, positively curved or negatively curved, whether it is simply connected as in Euclidean geometry or like a torus which is flat, multiply connected, finite and compact among many other contributing possibilities. I have been doing some research on the Poincaré conjecture, mostly looking at the diagrams of the mathematical theories.

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I came across the story of Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman whose theories ultimately  proved the Poincaré conjecture and he was awarded the Fields medal. He declined the award saying he wasn’t interested in fame. Other quotes have him saying if he can control the universe why would he want to claim a million dollars prize money. Perhaps some myths have been built around him, as seems to happen with a person who doesn’t conform to expectations.

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An earlier visit to Second Home was for a talk on Super Massive Black Holes by Dr. Meghan Gray.

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I found her description of what a black hole is really helpful to try and visualise what is happening. The idea that space curves around matter. That really dense and heavy matter condensed into a small object makes a deeper pocket in spacetime.

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The largest black holes are called “supermassive.” These black holes have masses greater than 1 million suns combined and would fit inside a ball with a diameter about the size of the solar system. Scientific evidence suggests that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its centre. The supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way is Sagittarius A*, it is 4 million times as massive as the sun and 27,000 light years from Earth. The smallest ones are known as primordial black holes. Scientists believe this type of black hole is as small as a single atom but with the mass of a large mountain.

The most common type of medium-sized black holes is called “stellar.” The mass of a stellar black hole can be up to 20 times greater than the mass of the sun and can fit inside a ball with a diameter of about 10 miles. Dozens of stellar mass black holes may exist within the Milky Way galaxy.

Information overload awaits you at sixtysymbols

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Made a trip to Whitby for a site visit to Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum ahead of our Laboratory of Dark Matters exhibition opening this summer.

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We were given a very warm welcome and are looking forward to bringing our work to the North East. We are delighted that along with Arts Council England funding we have now received the support of The Institute of Physics and The Science and Technology Facilities Council to take our project to the mining museum.

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I will be running some more cloud chamber workshops.

1706 Cloud Chamber workshopMy second Open Studios and the first with the new management Thames-side studios who did an excellent job promoting the event, running activities and guiding visitors around what is quite a big site now.

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Susan Eyre Pairi Daêza

The word Paradise originates from ancient Iranian pairi daêza meaning around and wall.

The work everydaymatters is informed by the discovery that the matter we know, that which is visible to us and includes all the stars and galaxies is only about 5% of the content of the universe, dark matter making up about 25% and the remaining 70% being dark energy, it dissects landscapes to discover the hidden structures of the universe.

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Spent an interesting evening at Treadwell’s listening to Lore and Belief in the Case of the Talking Mongoose, a lecture by Chris Josiffe.

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In the early 1930s, an isolated Manx farm family became international celebrities after claiming their home was inhabited by a weasel-like animal. Gef the Talking Mongoose could speak coherently, shape-shift and perform telepathy. Investigators came in their multitudes, and improbable though it may sound, many were convinced. It was a time when spiritualism was strong, and psychic investigation popular.  Gef was purported to live between the walls of the house. This made me think of Gregor Schneider and his double walled rooms, lead lined, claustrophobic passages.

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I made a trip to Brockley to see In Conversation with (7): Beyond Controls; a drawing and print collaboration between Neil Ferguson & Carol Wyss.

From an initial line, each drawing was scanned, emailed and printed out to be developed further by hand. The repetitive nature of these procedures regularly exposed the limitations and idiosyncratic qualities of the scanners and printers. The structure of “Beyond Controls …” would always be infinite, sequences without final drawings, but rather statements held in digitalized time. Cycles of series that cannot be closed, circles that cannot be joined.

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The result was 10 sets of 32 drawings, 10 inkjet monoprints and a captivating video of  each set of drawings digitally layered and edited with Photoshop making the decision on visibility of content through its own algorithms. Wonderful.

Another visit was to  a new project space HEWING WITTARE in Walthamstow to see Shapeshifting – tactics to combat drowning featuring works by Chudamani Clowes, Rebecca Glover and Anna Liber Lewis.

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The artists use the watery world as a metaphor for our current political climate in which the fight for survival, shelter and equality is growing tougher by the day….

Chud Clowes engaged in a perambulative performance dressed as an Urchin to highlight the journeys made across the globe by thousands of migrants often at the mercy of the oceans and elements as well as political currents that sweep them from place to place

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We were led to Lloyd Park, site of  the William Morris Gallery, for some squid and fish printing on one of the hottest days of the year.

Later the same day entering Edel Assanti gallery to see new work from Jodie Carey – Earthcasts the visual and the physical collided. In this white space 50 gnarled and towering sculptures created a landscape hinting at the cool depths of a silver birch tree glade or the snowy trunks of an alpine forest while the heat of the day still pulsated in my body and hung heavy in the atmosphere.

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It was a rich experience oscillating between ancient responses to the multiple upright monument, the rituals of the standing stone yet could also be the concrete posts from some deconstructed enclosure, the high wire fencing removed. Jodie Carey’s painstaking process of burying old timbers in the earth to create casts that are then filled with plaster and subsequently excavated echo the temporal and material nature of our lives lived on soil and imprinted with our own encounters.

Along to SHOW 2017 at the RCA to be swept even further away. The heat more in keeping with the surface of Mars images presented as part of the final research of Luci Eldridge’s PhD by thesis; Mars, Invisible Vision and the Virtual Landscape: Immersive Encounters with Contemporary Rover Images 2017

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Luci Eldridge ‘Stepping into the Image of Mars’

Images captured at the Mars Yard being used to test the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover, due to launch in 2020. Courtesy of Airbus Defence and Space.

‘ The eyes of the Mars rovers provide viewpoints through which we regard an alien terrain: windows upon unknown worlds. Rover images bridge a gap between what is known and unknown, between what is visible and invisible. The rover is our surrogate, an extension of our vision that portrays an intuitively comprehensible landscape. Yet this landscape remains totally out of reach, millions of miles away. This distance is an impenetrable boundary – both physically and metaphorically – that new technologies are trying to break.’ Luci Eldridge

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I am reworking the dodecahedron frame for the mining museum. Sanding, then darkening with my favourite black Stabilo pencil.

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The images of cosmic trails now sit behind Perspex facets which has added another layer of reflection, the outer world, the universe surrounding and surrounded by itself

Diazôgraphô = Greek for to embroider. As to embroider the stars on the heavens…

 

Past time is finite, future time is infinite –  Kathleen Herbert’s exhibition at Danielle Arnaud explored the connection between a lost landscape and personal identity, place and memory, the natural and the manmade. Her video A History Of The Receding Horizon is a poignant narrative of a land stripped of people, homes, gardens and woodland to allow for the municipal construction of the Kielder reservoir.

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Kathleen Herbert – still from A History Of A Receding Horizon

How do we sense time?  In her film we are reminded of the journey light must make to reach us from the farthest stars. Kielder Observatory is here, looking out into the cosmos. We are then taken underground into the antiseptic tunnels within the walls of the damn. Scientific endeavour. The demands of an industry that also vanished leaving the flooded valley to reinvent itself as a leisure resort. The heart ripped out and replaced with a mechanical version.

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Kathleen Herbert – Past Time Is Finite, Future Time Is Infinite

 

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Kathleen Herbert Time Creates Great Distances in Life

Katie Paterson looked at tracing the history of life on earth through its fossils.

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Katy Paterson Fossil Necklace

Light gives life. Rocks hold a record of life and its absence impacted by times of darkness.

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Katy Paterson – Fossil Necklace

Carving beads from different strata the necklace she threads is a manifestation of deep time and ancient secrets, each bead a tiny world echoing untold planets of the universe and their unique geologies.

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Katy Paterson – Fossil Necklace

Beneath the ground – Silent Movies was an exhibition of purely monochromatic work at Q Park, an underground car park. The low oppressive ceilings of this vast space added to the strangeness of this nether world emptied of colour.

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Cathy Gale and Carol Wyss were exhibiting their installation Casting Couch. These artists have been casting the landscapes of their bodies.

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Cathy Gale and Carol Wyss Casting Couch

 

The death mask seeks to preserve the memory of a face. These little hummocks are casts of elbows. A part of our own body like the face that we need a mirror to view.

Jananne Al-Ani’s paper View from Above: Latent Images in the Landscape expanded on her research into the Aesthetics of Disappearance. Speaking at the symposium Shadow without Object she asks how one can disappear a body? She told us the grimly poetic story of the The Butterfly Hunter. Margaret Cox, a forensic archaeologist reads the geophysical anomalies in the landscape to discover the hidden mass graves of genocide victims. Clouds of blue butterflies gathering in the Kosovo hills uncovered the sites of tragedy. The butterflies were attracted by an unusual and intense blossoming of Mugwurt which signified a change in the nutrient levels of the soil as the buried bodies decomposed and leached into the earth.

The landscape can work as an unexposed photographic plate. A trace, a latent image can be read and transformed into a site of information. Our understanding of conflict is often from an aerial perspective. The view from above is of depopulated space. We look down on abstracted and beautiful landscapes scarred with trenches and shell marks.

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Jananne Al-Ani Shadow Sites

From above we can pick out prehistoric dry stone structures, archaeological sites that are invisible at ground level. These are the traces of the people now absent. Jananne Al-Ani is looking at the bare landscape of the desert, where the past is slowly eroded away by the winds, in Sarah Sze’s The Last Garden the past is overgrown with vegetation. We are left to discover the interventions she has inserted amongst the tangle of undergrowth and abandoned architecture.

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Sarah Sze The Last Garden

It is a treasure hunt of clues to a world of materiality and entropy where we can see  breakdown and decay but are also aware of new growth. The crack in the wall stuffed with images of the canal water about to burst through from the other side, the weight of the gently swaying rock are reminders of fundamental forces at play.

Hours, Years, Aeons; a site specific installation by Patrick Söderlund and Visa Suonpää known as IC-98 takes us into a dark space as though we are stepping off the edge of the world and looking back.

Abendland (I: The Vaults of Dreams; II: The Place That Was Promised) is a two-channel video with animation by Markus Lepsitö and a haunting soundtrack by  Max Savikangas. We see the slow death of a desolate gnarled tree set against the alien black skies of a world with no atmosphere. The film runs in a cycle and so the tree is reborn but this may be the part that is a dream.

Vincent J. F. Huang on behalf of small island nations at the mercy of rising sea levels presented Crossing the Tide.  A world of only sky and water.

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Vincent J. F. Huang Crossing the Tide

 

Regardless of how far the world has evolved the four primary elements are eternal. In many classical world views four basic elements are believed to constitute the essential components of which everything consists. Usually these classical elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water relate to ancient philosophical concepts which today are generally compared to the contemporary states of matter, with earth relating to the solid state, air to gaseous, fire to plasma and water to liquid. In Buddhist philosophy the four elements are not viewed as substances, but as categories of sensory experience.  –  Thai artist and printmaker Kamol Tassananchalee on the theories that underpin his work

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Kamol Tassananchalee

When did these primal elements first separate out from the turmoil of the big bang?  Sarkis gave us a neon rainbow as part of his installation Respiro.

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Sarkis Respiro

Reflected back at us through a constellation of finger prints on mirror

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Sarkis Respiro

and in the unsteady surface of water. Through his arrangement of objects, images and codes Sarkis wants to take us back in time to the very first rainbow.

1601 Venice Sarkis (1)

The flysheet of The Quantum Universe depicts a rainbow and the inside cover explains how particles of light from the sun (photons) approach a cloud of water droplets in the sky.

1512 The quantum UniverseSome pass through, while others enter the drops and reflect and refract back. Quantum theory is able to precisely calculate the probability that a photon, will reach your eye along with many others to create a rainbow on your retina – but (and this is the bit that I still don’t really get) – only by allowing each and every particle to explore the entire universe on their journey through the rain. My understanding after tackling the book is that this doesn’t really happen but in order to compute the probability the maths requires that it does. It’s a poetic thought that the photon hitting my eye has explored the entire universe before connecting with me.

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If my artist statement had to be condensed into human form it would be John Dee.  1602 John Dee 2

He studied astronomy but also astrology, mathematics and also alchemy, geometry and also the language of angels. Living at a time when science and religion clashed as the source of truth he was the most intriguing Elizabethan polymath, setting the mould for future  magicians his reputation waxed and waned like the celestial objects he observed. John Dee’s curiosity for how the world was put together fired his imagination and thirst for learning. In his lifetime he collected the largest library of books and manuscripts in Europe.

1602 John Dee surrey map

This great treasure was ransacked from his home in Mortlake while he was abroad and sections are now scattered across the world. The Royal College of Physicians were donated a substantial number of his books in 1680 and their exhibition Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee is a celebration of this collection, his life and contribution to so many spheres of knowledge. On display are his personal notebooks and other volumes and editions many with his annotations and diagrams in the margins.

These books are available for viewing at the college outside of the exhibition period so would be worth a trip back to see them in detail, unfortunately for me they are mostly in Latin but the illustrations would be amazing to look at more closely.

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John Dee Monas Hieroglyphica

The symbol Monas Hieroglyphica  combines the moon, the sun, the elements and fire. It is also the title of his repository of knowledge on all things numerological, astronomical, cosmological, alchemical, magical and mystically spiritual written in coded language to protect his secrets.

1602 John Dee Claude Glass

John Dee’s Claude Glass

John Dee used a medium or scryer to communicate with angels on his behalf and collected many magical objects to assist in divining the future and accessing the spirit world.

1602 John Dee crystal ball

John Dee’s Crystal Ball

I was surprised how small his crystal ball was but it does have a deep smoky quality.

1602 John Dee gold disc

John Dee – Gold Magical Disc

The gold disc is engraved with a vision of four castles seen by his medium Edward Kelly  and the notations and scripts of an Enochain Code devised by John Dee as a system of communication with angels.

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Painting by Henry Gillard Glindoni

Even today John Dee surprises us  – an x-ray of a Victorian painting showing Dee in the court of Queen Elizabeth I reveals him to be performing within a circle of skulls which were painted over and hidden but are beginning to emerge as the chemical composition of the paint changes with time.

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I leant about another medieval mystic and polymath from Professor Christopher Page at a lecture at St Sepulchre-Without -Newgate, Holborn – The Mystery of Women part of his series of discussions on Music, imagination and experience in the Medieval World. The remarkable abbess Hildegard of Bingen claimed to see visions and receive spiritual communications from an early age and that it was baptism in the Pentecostal tongues of fire which taught her the mysteries of the faith and enabled her to write her rapturous music and Latin verse. Education was denied to girls at this time as was much of civic and religious life so perhaps claiming divine intervention gave her authority to write, compose and involve herself in scientific research without condemnation.

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Illumination from the Liber Scivias showing Hildegard receiving a vision

 

The Elmgreen and Dragset exhibition Self-Portraits at Victoria Miro was a sideways look at the proliferation of the selfie and the impossibility of capturing a persona. Looking for other ways to visualise a memory they looked for a trigger to an image in the mind.

1601 ElmGreen and Dragset

Choosing personally significant artworks they elevated the exhibition label to permanent tribute in marble – in memoriam, a gravestone.

Memories are left with other people. We just leave our bones. I visited Carol Wyss at The Montage where she had a show with fellow Slade graduate Tessa Holmes.

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Carol Wyss

Carol’s deep and rich large etchings are flowers carefully constructed from human bones.

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Carol Wyss

In the simple height differences of charred paper tubes in Past Future Qin Chong gives a blunt reminder that some of us burn out faster than others.

1601 Venice Qin Chong (1)

Qin Chong Past Future

I unexpectedly found myself with a ticket to Here We Go a short play about death by Caryl Churchill at the National Theatre. Divided into three scenes it opens with a funeral wake and the staccato abbreviated and truncated conversations that pass amongst family and strangers  on such occasions. There were sharp one liners and at intervals each person turned to the audience to state their future time and means of death. We then move to a darkened stage and the recently deceased bare chested old man who is in a state of confusion as to his whereabouts, backtracking through his past beliefs to find a footing to explain his predicament.

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The play was insightful, funny and touching. It was also a brave production especially the last scene which proceeds in silence as a care worker methodically undresses and dresses our protagonist from pyjamas to day wear and back again as he painfully shuffles on his walker from bed to chair and chair to bed in the interminable routine that had become his life before death.

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He gazes helplessly out at the audience as the stage lights grow almost imperceptibly dimmer until blackness ensues.

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From our material remains to our spiritual engagement Susan Hiller’s exhibition at Lisson embraced the portrayal of the paranormal, the unconscious and subliminal desire for a world beyond logic. Entering a ritualised arena we witness successive examples of the psychic powers of children taken from popular films.

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Alchemical flasks hold the cremated ashes of paintings.

A stitched canvas makes me think of the construction of space, how we image it and how we collage it together from fragments of knowledge.

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Susan Hiller

My lightbox Entrance was showing at the exhibition Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say at Lights of Soho selected by Robert Montgomery.

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It was a great setting for this work in the underground cavern bar. Contemplating the other side. A traffic warden considering the possibility of angels.

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Susan Eyre Entrance

entrance n. 1. an opening allowing access. 2. an act of entering. 3. the right, means, or opportunity to enter.

entrance v. fill with wonder and delight. >cast a spell on.

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Susan Eyre Yellow Sky

I also had Yellow Sky showing here which is more about looking for refuge and reliance on a controlled environment, the other side of the apocalypse. Both pieces sold which is always a mixture of delight that someone has responded so positively to your work and mild grieving at losing something you had brought into the world.

Arriving rather late for International Lawns Field Trip No.7 at Domo Baal Gallery I felt I had missed the party. Great poster image by Craig Burnett.

1601 international-lawns-field-trip-no7-2015-domobaalBut I did hear the fantastical tale delivered by a dead pan  Jonathan Meades which as best as I can recall was of a French political activist, drug addict, convict turned business and policy advisor who died crashing his high spec car on route to give an after dinner speech while over the limit on the very best of French wine.

Daniel Rubenstein’s paper Graven Images: Photography after Heidegger, Lyotard and Deleuze aimed to have us consider the latent image, the image held in some kind of stasis as yet to be brought to life. To be made visible. To explain the idea of a latent image he told us the story of the Swedish expedition to the North Pole in 1897.

1602 Swedish Balloon Explorers

Pioneering balloonist S. A. Andrée envisaged a plan to restore the national pride of Sweden in the race to the North Pole and artic discovery. Setting off in a hydrogen balloon the three explorers hoped to avoid weeks of hard slog over the treacherous landscape and at the same time make cartographic observations of the terrain from the sky. Unfortunately they soon were lost and their fate remained a mystery for over 30 years until their frozen corpses were discovered by walrus hunters on the island of Kvitøya, the most remote island of the Svalbard archipelago.

1602 Swedish Balloon Crash 1897Found with the bodies were a number of exposed frames of film. Despite the terrible plight they found themselves in crashing on an uninhabited ice cap with no means of communication they continued to document their journey with images that then lay dormant for the intervening years.

1602 Swedish expedition Strindberg

Daniel Rubenstein is interested in this state when an image is held as index, as possibility before its transformation in becoming visible to us. To make the photograph the index must be washed away – from negative to positive – something had to die. He sees the latent image as the third space, the space of the void, the nothingness that Heidegger questions. A metaphysical state. He reminds us that what makes us think is not objects but encounters.

Beguile the Night exhibition at Dark Matter Studio had quite a spiritual ambience.

Gary Colclough Uprooted

Gary Colclough Uprooted

The quiet and solitude of after dark meanderings in creative processes came across in a collection of work imbued with mystery.

Patrick Jackson Companion of Odysseus, Fleeing the Blinded Polyphemus

Patrick Jackson Companion of Odysseus, Fleeing the Blinded Polyphemus

The intensity of a directed concentration was evident in an opening up of space to reflect and wonder.

Mary Yacoub Proposal for Modernist Teepee in Poured Concrete

Mary Yacoub Proposal for Modernist Teepee in Poured Concrete

Marianne Walker Grotta (Neo-Delphic)

Marianne Walker Grotta (Neo-Delphic)

Zoe Dorelli The Division of the Waters

Zoe Dorelli The Division of the Waters

The exhibition Stranger than Fiction at the Science Museum was billed as questioning the truth and reliability of photographs.

Fauna - Joan Fontcuberta

Fauna – Joan Fontcuberta

Joan Fontcuberta is supposedly setting up a fiction that, through documentation, the viewer is lulled into believing.

The fauna series is both visually striking and disappointing. Bad taxidermy and impossible juxtapositions create sad undignified rather then magical creatures.

In some of the black and white aged photographs there might be something fantastical to be grasped at

Joan Fontcuberta

Joan Fontcuberta

but placing the evidence of the constructed enigma next to the documentation means all illusion vanishes.

This may be the intention.

Joan Fontcuberta

Joan Fontcuberta

The Orogenesis and Constallations seires were more rewarding for me, using a more subtle intervention in photography resulted in dramatic landscapes that you could get lost in.

The annual Deptford X festival proved an opportunity to catch up with new friends met though the neo:print prize.

Kaori Homma presented an interactive performance in the square as part of her ongoing interest in the conventions of the east/west divide set by the meridian line at Greenwich.

Homma Meridian

Homma Meridian – Deptford X

Carol Wyss was showing her beautiful large etchings in a summer house in the green and tangled setting of Old Tidemill Wildlife garden.

Carol Wyss

Carol Wyss

Carol constructs her etchings from images of human bones, building up the form with multiples of shoulder blades or tibia.

Also in the wild garden was artist Anita Gwynn with her detailed mono prints installed inside a polytunnel.

Anita Gwynn

Anita Gwynn

In the crypt of the magnificent St. Pauls Church in Deptford were 2014 Art Action UK award winners Komori & Seo showing their moving new work derived from working among the victims of the 2011 Tsunami and nuclear fallout disaster in Japan ‘Moving the Mountain’

Seo and Kamori Moving the Mountain

Seo and Kamori Moving the Mountain

We watch a woman returning to where her childhood town once stood, where her parents were swept away along with her neighbours and all the buildings, but not her memories. She washes and folds her parents clothes over and over, trying to dislodge all the sand from the fibres knowing every tear and abrasion in the fabric represents a trauma to her parents bodies during their violent death.

Read more here Art Action.

The magnitude of the loss has the same incredulity as a myth, how can a whole community be swept away so suddenly and with such force. The machinations of the gods seen in the power of nature.

The stories that Xanthe Gresham-Knight tells also hold you in awe. In her stories people are searching too. Searching for truth, searching for paradise.

I have been introduced to the wonderful Treadwell’s Bookshop. A bit late for my dissertation research but for future interests it promises information on any aspect of Western pagan spirituality or the esoteric traditions of Europe.

1410 Treadwells

Downstairs with wine and snacks Xanthe gave an amazing physical performance of hypnotic singing, playing the accordion and morphing into a myriad of characaters.

She tells of Celtic poets who would make a boat from the flash of a teardrop and sail out to the Land of the Ever Young in search of a goddess.

Centuries later, a man, desperately googling for a Paradise Bride accidentally summons ‘Her’ again. …  ancient myths of Britain and Ireland collide with the modern world.

It couldn’t have been more apt, a collision of ancient and modern still searching for paradise.

More storytelling at Holborn Library with Jose Damasceno’s PLOT an Artangel commission.

Local authority libraries on the whole are not very inspiring environments. On the ground floor the architectural figures on the ceiling and decimated encyclopeadias did not manage to compete with the setting.

It wasn’t until we reached the fourth floor that we were suddenly transported into the drama of a possible plot.

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A bizarre empty theatre space of panelled wood and reflections

Jose Damasceno

Jose Damasceno

lit with the pink fluoerescne escaping from the small high windows of a room where a neon sculpture is held and is only made visible via a monitor in the outside corridor.

Jose Damasceno

Jose Damasceno

Another world  where the laws of physics appear overturned is the digital space.

Digital Revolution at The Barbican

Digital Revolution at The Barbican

Our known perceptions of landscape are challenged here.

will.i.am debut artwork with Yuri Suzuki

will.i.am debut artwork with Yuri Suzuki

There was spectacle in immersive scale allowing you to physically enter the space

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and engage with common fantasies

communicating with other species

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being plunged into a drama set in the place of your birth

even Kessingland

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or being transformed into a bird and flying

Chris Milk The Treachery of Sanctuary

Chris Milk The Treachery of Sanctuary

There was a reminder of research from my dissertation –

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the dystopian future of London in Kibwe Tavare’s short film, Robots of Brixton

Robots of Brixton

Robots of Brixton

I didn’t end up writing about the film but it made me want to see it and it kind of fitted with ideas of urban bad/rural good that abound through the ages.

The mythologizing of the rural began even before Virgil’s ‘Bucolics’ and continues today massaged by technological spectacle in mass entertainments such as ‘Avatar’.

Handing in the final document of my dissertation ‘Finding Paradise’ unleashed a new energy.

Back for my second year at the RCA its time to put all that thinking into my work.

1410 Chapel of Rest

After such a break from making over the summer spent at the computer screen I thought the best thing to do was to just get on with something.

I started a soft ground etching of the Chapel of Rest in Paradise Industrial Estate, Hemel Hempstead.

1410 softground peel

While working with my magnifying lens there was a moment of euphoria – a bit like finding that illusive paradise

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I am excited by this new development