Archives for posts with tag: new materialism

Progress is slowly underway on my dodecahedron sculpture. Beginning with a rough mock up in card to gauge the size.

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I was relieved to finally finish screen printing the curse of the obelisk. Never had so many setbacks in a piece of work.

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Made of one single stone, dedicated to the solar gods, an obelisk is a fusion of the earthly and the divine. A symbol of power, piercing entry to the fickle world of the gods beyond the clouds, cursed and desired. Over 3,500 years old, the London Obelisk, raised on The Embankment for convenience sake, snubbed by a state embarrassed to revere a shady political gift made by a country they were about to undermine, fought its removal from the soil it was hewn from stands alone, separated from its twin. The gift to state made in 1811 lay fallen and uncollected in Alexandria until an eccentric Victorian adventurer (Sir James Edward Alexander, Knt.,C.B., K.C.L.S, F.R.C.E.) saw the twin in Paris and discovered that Britain’s prize had never been brought home. He found a fellow enthusiast with money and the pair designed a special vessel to contain the obelisk that could be towed behind a ship. The Olga set sail in 1877 but met a violent storm that broke the tow ropes and cast the obelisk adrift. Six men struck out in the storm to rescue the vessel but were never seen again. The obelisk however did not sink and was later discovered, recaptured and finally towed up the Thames to be set incongruously upon a plinth under the unblinking guardianship of Victorian repro Sphinx’s who traditionally would be outward facing to ward off evil, but spend their days eyeing the needle.

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I had an intriguing parcel arrive from the incredibly helpful Alan Walker from the School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Edinburgh who is giving me loads of advice on building my cloud chamber. He has very kindly had an anodised aluminium plate made for me in his workshops. The plate is the one crucial component that has to be specially made so it was wonderful to find that he had done this for me.

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The black metal plate will sit on dry ice, it will be the viewing backdrop for all the cosmic particle trails and I can now get on with the next stage – making the insulated box.

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I have set up a hydroponics tent in my studio to create a dark space ready for filming once the cloud chamber is fully assembled and ready to test.

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On a very crisp bright day I took the crystal ball a short walk along the banks of the River Wey to the ruins of  Waverley Abbey.

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This was the very first Cistercian monastery founded in Britain 900 years ago by an Abbot and 12 monks from France.

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These images of the crystal ball set in different locations are part of research with a view to making a work about portals in time, space and imagination.

The first work you see at Bloomberg New Contemporaries, ICA is Kate Fahey’s delicate plumes from a multitude of explosions billowing into one giant cloud – Cumulative Loss.

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Through scale and fragility we sense the dust caught momentarily before it settles over devastation upon devastation. It sets a thoughtful tone to enter the lower gallery.

Lisa Porter’s glazed stoneware Connection X (Thank Finch for That) and Rodrigo Red Sandoval’s installation Satellite reflections were two works I was drawn to.

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Kate Fahey Superficie I

Kate Fahey’s Superficie images developed during a residency on the remote Isle of Coll were included in Reference Mollusk, a beautifully curated exhibition  with some timely concerns at new gallery space Gossamer Fog in Deptford.

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Solveig Settemsdal Singularity (video still)

“We are the goo that slipped out of the oceans 430 million years ago, the goo that changed the earth beyond repair, the goo that will fossilise, leaving only future archaeological relics”

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Justyna Kabala Feel Better

Helen Maurer re Composing at Danielle Arnaud had a delicate touch.

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Transferring from the forsaken voids of the Church of The Holy Trinity in York it brought with it the quiet sense of unease that comes when entering a darkened space on a summers day.

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The gentle chimes sounding from hidden spaces under cabinets added to the undercurrent of something slightly sinister

by exposing the construction of this fairy tale landscape Maurer adds rather than depletes mystery

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This was a captivating transformation of space at the House of St. Barnabus Chapel. Staccato is an audio-visual installation by Evy Jokhova

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exploring the interconnection between music, movement and ceremonial architecture

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featuring three sculptural works and a soundtrack made in collaboration with James Metcalfe.

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In similar vein, I was struck by Dr Rupert Till’s comment ‘architecture and acoustics are the same thing.’ He was speaking on the Radio 4 programme Did Stonehenge Sing? explaining the mysterious hum that emanates from the stones and how much more powerful the sounds would have been 3,000 years ago when all the stones were still standing. Thanks to Dr Till the lost sounds of Stonehenge have been reimagined for us to experience today.

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Finally made it to a meeting of the New Materialism reading group. The text was Veronica Strang Fluid Consistencies: Materiality and meaning in human engagements with water http://dro.dur.ac.uk/19432/1/19432.pdf  Points that struck me were the observation from Tilley that ‘knowledge of a thing is grounded in our bodily experience of it’ and it made me think of Plato’s debate on true belief and knowledge, although a different kind of knowledge it does come back to the idea of being there, of engaging on a physical level. We think of flowing rivers, water carried in clouds but not always of the movement of water around the globe held in a juicy pineapple or mango or even our own bodies. I was introduced  to the work of Samara Scott and her liquid painting Developer created with bio-degradable dyes in the Pleasure Garden Fountains in Battersea Park.

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The reading group meets at the Wellcome Trust Reading Room. On the same evening, another group was meeting to discuss materials as part of an collaborative programme between artists and scientists. I didn’t get to note down the names of participants, but a magician and an expert from the Institute of Materials had each brought along objects to spark debate. 1612 Wellcome Trust debate materials.jpg I liked the relationship struck between that of the magician as performer and the idea that the materials themselves are performing.

Turner Prize visit. Materials were performing here.

I found the materials of Helen Marten (left) difficult – though there were some I could enjoy like this wonderful ceramic disc I felt more of a connection to the materials of Michael Dean (right). It is something very basic about a reaction to the surface and the connotations it brings with it.

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Marten’s sculptures are very busy visually. Like a car boot sale, unexpected juxtapositions and mostly cheap and nasty material. (though I do appreciate the thought in her designs). Anthea Turner offered more open space, albeit surrounded by brick walls and facing giant theme park style buttocks, moving on to the next room offers open blue skies but also disturbing chastity belts. Heaven/Hell.

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Josephine Pryde brought us homely goods; thick kitchen worktops bleached by the sun leaving hazy shadows of random objects. Also painted fingernails. A sit on size train tastefully graffitied encountering leaves on the track.1612-josephine-pryde

Finally entering the space of Michael Dean; smoothly curved walls morph into the floor, a strange unworldly lighting (as in James Turrell light works – the walls disappear)  and you are in a void or maybe underwater.

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The work (United Kingdom poverty line for two adults and two children: twenty thousand four hundred and thirty six pounds sterling as published on 1st September 2016) consists of £20,436 in pennies. This is the amount of money the government states is the minimum that two adults and two children need to survive for a year in the UK.

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One penny has been removed. A family on the shore line/breadline, trying to keep their heads above water.

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This landscape has similarities to the war blasted landscapes of Paul Nash showing concurrently at Tate Britain.

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He too acknowledges the primitive power of single vertical forms.

Enjoyed the playful narrative of Bedwyr Williams’ The Gulch in the Barbican Curve.

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Always intriguing and despite ominous undertones uplifting through the sheer joy of following the surreal twists and turns of his stories.

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The simplicity of his constructions are part of the exuberance in his work, they provide the outlines for the journey.

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Went to see Melanie King’s installation Pulsar Oscillograph as part of SPACE/LCN showcase of projects that have been developed by artists with the support of the LCN programme over the course of 6 months.  

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Transforming audio pulsar data (supplied by artist and former astronomer Steve Aishman), Melanie uses laser beams and mirrors to draw these “sounds” captured from outer space onto phosphorescent paper. The images layering, building and fading to the frenetic beat of the spinning collapsed star. As part of The Laboratory of Dark Matters experimental residency at Guest Projects Melanie will develop an Oscillograph  to visualise data obtained from dark matter research scientists in their search for the missing 85% of matter.

 

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We have our second venue confirmed and the first of our funding applications submitted for Laboratory of Dark Matters.

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I have been to see the lovely people at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum who will be hosting our exhibition from July to September 2017.

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We are very pleased to be able to install Laboratory of Dark Matters so close to Boulby Mine, in the North East of England. This is a working mine that is also home to the underground laboratory we visited in spring to see for ourselves where scientists conduct research into dark matter and other projects that benefit from this extreme environment.

Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum has secured funding for major expansion over the next year with the whole site being redeveloped. This period of change gives us the opportunity to be inventive with the spaces that are available.

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Chatting with our dark matter consultant astro-physicist Dr. Cham Ghag about the different work the artists will be making for Laboratory of Dark Matters I was explaining my own interest in the symbolism Plato assigned to the dodecahedron as the shape that holds the constellations in the heavens and how I might use this as a metaphor for dark matter as the substance holding the universe together;

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Cham recommended I read some essays by Erwin Schrödinger that explore the thoughts of ancients and how they have gone on to impact our understanding of the universe. As Roger Penrose says in his forward to Nature and the Greeks and Science and Humanism ‘Schrödinger clearly believes that there is more to the study of ancient history than mere factual curiosity and a concern with the origins of present-day thinking.’  He is looking back to a time before science and the metaphysical parted company and set out on different paths to answer the same questions about matter and consciousness. Schrödinger explains the history of this rift and the consequences of separating reason from the senses; the paradox of an objective perspective and the limitations of science that excludes the imagination. I read What is Life? followed by Nature and the Greeks, while in Greece which seemed appropriate.

I also read Plato A Very Short Introduction by Julia Annas and have learnt more about his ideas and what was really meant by platonic relationships.

Plato was very concerned about what it meant to have knowledge and how people can be misled or manipulated by others.  From this standpoint he was not keen on the theatre or the popular epic poetry of the time that used seductive methods to persuade an audience of things that were not true. 1610-amphitheatre

He believed philosophy was a search for truth and his academy was a place to learn how to think for oneself through debate and come to your own conclusions. Not great as an artist to find Plato had no time to indulge the imagination but going back over what he was saying I think he had a valid concern over the sort of entertainment that is spoon fed to society and becomes part of a culture that then has influence on the way people live. It is the pap of the media that does not challenge but anaesthetises society. I am hoping he would approve of our endeavours to question the origins of faith and our relationship to matter.

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Visiting Athens I had the opportunity to experience the majesty of the Parthenon and Temple of Zeus while trying to imagine the people I was reading about spending their days here debating the most fundamental and difficult questions about existence.

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An interest in history and archaeology led the progressive and pioneering Gertrude Bell, born 1868 in County Durham in the North East, to visit and fall in love with the lands and people of the middle east. She led an extraordinary life at the centre of middle eastern politics at a time when women were rarely conceded any powers at all. Letters From Baghdad, premiering at the London Film Festival, was a moving portrayal of her life told in her own words and those of her contemporaries recorded in evocative letters and archive film footage. This wonderful tribute to a woman previously written out of history was researched and directed by Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl, founders of  Between the Rivers Productions, a name derived from the ancient word “Mesopotamia.”

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Another brilliant film documentary was Dawson City: Frozen Time; the bizarre true history of a collection of around 500 silver nitrate movie films from the 1910s – 1920s, which were lost for over 50 years until being discovered buried in a sub-arctic swimming pool deep in the Yukon Territory.

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Meticulously brought to us by Bill Morrison, clips from the reclaimed  films form the backdrop to the history of Dawson City, a once important hunting and fishing camp for a nomadic First Nation tribe known as Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in that became the centre of the Klondike gold rush displacing the native people as the area was swamped with 100,000 prospectors hoping to make their fortune.

The talk Going Round in Circles – from the roundabout to the quark delivered at Manchester University and the RCA as part of the final year of my MA programme was a reflection on the development of my practice and brought home the themes that repeat themselves within my work.

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The circle appears in the  banality of a grey suburban roundabout that seemed a metaphor for a routine existence, becoming a catalyst in the search for paradise and its origins of Pairi Daêza and going on to question the matter that these dreams are made of.

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William Blake The Ancient of Days frontispiece to Europe a Prophecy depicting Urizen separating light and darkness

I was therefore interested to visit Seeing Round Corners at Turner Contemporary Margate. They had thrown the net wide in drawing together artists that have used the circle in their work or responded to its significance as  symbol.  I am often disappointed by this scale of exhibition that packs so much in. Too much information at once. Annoyingly there was no catalogue and no photography allowed. I have to rely on remembering what I saw.

More circles to be seen in the beautiful collection of works in  Romanticism and the Sublime curated by Jonty Levin at Lubmirov/Angus-Hughes.

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Mohammed Ashfaq Black Hole III

The most mysterious circle of them all, the black hole was the subject of Professor Joseph Silk’s Gresham College lecture. We learnt there are two types of black hole – stellar black holes formed when massive stars die and supermassive black holes which sit at the centre of galaxies and probably formed along with the galaxies. The existence of black holes was first proposed by clergyman and philosopher John Mitchell in 1783. Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 and in 2016 this phenomena was finally observed providing direct evidence for the existence of black holes.

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The spiritual vs physical human needs- Mike Kelley showing at Hauser and Wirth, recreates a piece of social architecture from the Chinese-America community of LA, reflecting a unique cultural collision in Framed and Frame.

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Also at Turner Contemproary Margate was Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library, a seductively beautiful celebration of all that we have gained from first and second generation immigrants who have enriched British society with brilliant literature.

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‘Is this that pinpoint which is divided by sword and fire among so many nations?  How ridiculous are the boundaries of mortals.’ Seneca AD 65

Haunting work by Lygia Pape at Hauser and Wirth exploring the relationship between reason and nature through geometric shapes.

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I was interested to read how she followed intuition when creating her woodcuts; to let relationships between shapes be guided by an underlying sense of ‘magnetisation’. The artworks created then embody and emanate energy which creates ‘magnetised space’ into which the viewer is drawn adding another dimension to the field.

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Forces are at play but gently held, as in the fragile balance of pigment particles, cascading and spreading in Ttéia n.7

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and the silver threads of Ttéia 1C that appear and disappear as ephemerally as a shaft of sunlight.

Between Materials and Mechanisms from Elizabeth Murton; an exhibition with associated events and symposium was hosted by UH Galleries at The University of Hertfordshire. This work looked at connectivity and the structures that physically bind us together, spanning our body, architecture and space to explore how interactions of ourselves with matter reflect in our consciousness and effect our emotions.

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Bringing together ideas and experts from fields including anatomy, philosophy, dance, visual arts and Zen Buddhism we enjoyed a day of theory and physical engagement which really brought home these relationships through dynamic experience.

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Prof. Diana Cooles’  keynote speech Dirt- A New Materialist Approach helped set the background to the history of materialism from the old materialism of the first thinkers like Plato where consciousness and matter are separate to Freud and Marx where theory and matter are integrated. New materialism rejects the duality of mind and matter and believes that agency is not just a human capacity. Bruno Latour is a prime exponent of flat ontology where everything is equal in its capacity to be an actant. Prof. Coole went on to give examples of the agency of matter, looking at dirt and our relationship to it. She drew on the writing of social anthropologist Mary Douglas who classified dirt as matter out of place. Dirt is associated with pollution and waste but also soil and nutrients.

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It changes agency depending on its location; inside/outside. She also looked at artists who use dirt in their work not as a material to comment on society or value but as a co-collaborator, allowing the dirt its transgressive qualities to create a visceral experience for the viewer.

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Interestingly I have found Mary Douglas has also written an essay that examines circular thought patterns from ancient texts, Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition. The abstract is as follows – ‘Many famous antique texts are misunderstood and many others have been completely dismissed, all because the literary style in which they were written is unfamiliar today. So argues Mary Douglas in this controversial study of ring composition, a technique which places the meaning of a text in the middle, framed by a beginning and ending in parallel. To read a ring composition in the modern linear fashion is to misinterpret it, Douglas contends, and today’s scholars must re-evaluate important antique texts from around the world.’

 

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Mona Hatoum +and-

 

Another experience of dirt was the excellent broadcasts from DIRT collective including  Peter Glasgow It’s not the Digging it’s the Dirt as part of ArtLicks Weekend which can be listened to via above links.

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 All of which reminded me of this work “THREE STONES” (2004) Antti Laitinen dug a hole and collected the stones he found after seven minutes of digging, seven hours and seven days.