Archives for posts with tag: screen print

I realised how much I have to learn about weather ballooning while attending the UK High Altitude Society Conference where I was kindly invited to give a short presentation about my hopes to launch my own balloon to film at the edge of the earth’s atmosphere. It was also Helium’s birthday and a cake had been prepared to launch into near space.

1808 UKHAS Balloon launch cake

I found much of the language of the day to be beyond my knowledge with many of the enthusiasts also keen coders and electronic wizards.

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Still my presentation received a warm response and I am hoping I now have some contacts to call upon as I begin to get to grips with the logistics and add to my list of what is required.

1808 UKHAS Balloon launch

There was a particular enthusiasm to actually launch a cloud chamber. This could be a first if we manage to achieve such a venture.

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It is all a delicate balance of weight, helium and wind direction.

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Wonderful to see the launch.

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The really tricky bit is the tracking and retrieval. I’m not sure yet if they did get it back as I haven’t yet mastered navigating the websites let alone the skies.

In the studio

– work in progress for In Search of Darkness exhibition at Grizedale Project Space began with some tiny maquettes.

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With valuable advice from John Purcell‘s team helping to choose suitable card I scaled up.

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Added hand thrown acquatint etched starry skies

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some screen printed dark matter visualisations and hand drawn star maps

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folded with light pollution images printed on metallic c-type (from the print space)

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and repeated 12 times to reflect the sides of a dodecahedron.

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Out of the studio

– excellent afternoon spent captivated by Guy Oliver’s performative Songs of Eternal Praise for And You Thought I Was Bad at Zabludowicz Collection. Delivered in sermon style with attendant angelic voiced choir and backing musician; politics and pop culture collide in excruciating discord.

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Enjoyed Lee Bul’s exuberant mix of materials from the organic to the industrial and all encompassing diatribe on power, politics and the decay under the gloss of idealism at Hayward Gallery.

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Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable

‘I’m fascinated by failures, as well as by the dreams that the dreamers knew could never materialize’  Lee Bul

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Lee Bul Thaw (Takaki Masao)

changing landscapes – brutalist concrete edifices – impact of an individual – held in ice – history returning – climate change

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Lee Bul Heaven and Earth

Dark depths of the psyche.

Came across this obelisk out in Wiltshire. It is rather stubby and further prevented from piercing the sky by the tree that has grown over the last 250 years to embrace it.

1808 Melksham obelisk

William Eyres – we almost share a name and do share a birth day and month. Born at the time when the Herschel brother and sister astronomers were discovering Uranus and its moons; the moons of Saturn, infrared radiation and performing deep sky surveys. You died just before electric light spread its glow into the night.
Dark skies were yours.

 

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So I entered that tunnel where everything blurs and I shoot through the ether at uncontrollable speeds slammed rigid as I am blasted forward barely able to make any alterations to my predestined trajectory. Those faraway deadlines have arrived. I am writing from the middle. Trying to recall events that have passed unrecorded as the avalanche of admin hits home. Yet more funding applications, press releases, ticketing sites, contracts and applying emotional balm to frayed nerves.

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And now I am slung out the other side. Limp and disorientated, I will try to make sense of what just happened.

I got myself an orange boiler suit in preparation.

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I was generously given dark matter visualisation images by Ralf Kaehler and astrophysicist Tom Abel from the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), a joint institute of Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory who worked on Terrence Malick’s IMAX documentary  “Voyage of time”.

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From these images I created my own interpretations for screen printing sugar lift

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The image was screen-printed on both sides of an aluminium pentagon

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using a sugar lift solution of camp coffee and Indalca paste, really sticky sweet and two coats are good, allowing the first to dry before applying the second

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The plates are then immersed in a bitumen bath

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the pooling of dark matter

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Once dried they are put in hot water, bubbles gather and the image emerges

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ready to etch (a dodecahedron has 12 sides)

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copper sulphate that catches in the throat, salt on the lips + hot water (500g+ 500g +3l )

a light froth and a pink blush quickly spreads

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fizzing and belching so that the plates must be weighted down, the copper separates out to appear as a thick red lichen to be scooped out, bath refreshed four times and after eight hours the metal erodes and restoration can begin

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galaxies appear as light breaks through

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In the meantime I did the first cloud chamber test to see the trails of cosmic particles.

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It was incredible. Mesmerizing. Captivating. So much activity going on all the time that we are unaware of.

cosmic trail 1 e

It all happens on such a small scale but draws you in to this strange landscape

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I have Alan Walker of The University of Edinburgh to thank for all his advice on building the chamber and for providing the anodised aluminium plate that really helps ensure a good result.

I learnt some interesting things from Paul Hill of Awesome Astronomy in his talk Dark Side of the Moon. That all the metal we use on earth has been deposited here by asteroid and other collisions from outer space – any metal that was part of the original lump of matter that became earth is trapped molten at the core. That the moon doesn’t pull but push – I am still trying to come to terms with it being me moving not the sea when the tides turn. This needs further research.

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Another mind bending talk was Adventures in the 7th Dimension a UCL lunchtime talk from Dr Jason Lotay. I knew I was at the right lecture when he said one of his favourite shapes was the dodecahedron. In the 4th dimension it becomes a hyperdodecahedron made up of 120 dodecahedra. We can never really see it – it is always a projection back into 3D.

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I thought I was following, then suddenly from the 4th dimension we are in the 7th and I don’t know how I got there. Then I remembered it’s all maths. I can’t visualise this.

As you go up in dimensions there can be more symmetries. There are special symmetries that happen only in the 7th dimension. This is Holonomy G2. We don’t know how to combine quantum theory with gravity. String theory says you replace dots with lines – instead of having zero dimensions they are one dimensional. Lines can be curved, geometry can start to appear. M-theory combines all the different string theories together into one but you have to have 11 dimensions in the universe for this to work.

11 = 4 (3D + time) +7 (G2)    =  serendipity

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Then a different experience that was purely sensual, Tree of Codes had me in tears for sheer pleasure. Taking inspiration from Jonathan Safran Foer’s book of the same name, which was physically carved out of the pages of another novel,

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Wayne McGregor,  Jamie xx and Olafur Eliasson collaborate seamlessly

Tree of Codes

a successful cross discipline collaboration is not about sharing knowledge but about tolerating each others ignorance…in this way gaps open for others to enter

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Hackney Today

Then it was time to move into Guest Projects….

 

 

 

 

 

 

After months of anticipation we finally crammed into the miners cage and made the 7 minute descent 1100m below ground to visit the Dark Matter Research Facility at Boulby Mine near Whitby on the dramatic north east coast.

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Led by astrophysicist Dr.Chamkaur Ghag and his colleagues Emma Meehan and Chris Toth we were transported to a hot and dusty world beyond the reach of cosmic rays and background radiation that would distract from the search for the illusive dark matter particles.

Kitted out in orange boiler suits, heavy boots, hard hats, safety goggles, ear defenders, shin pads and tool belt we were inducted into the safety procedures and alerted to the hazards of life underground. The most alarming was the  instruction on use of the self rescuer (a metal box containing breathing apparatus that converts carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide) ‘better to use in doubt than die in error’. Only three breathes of deadly carbon monoxide and you are unconscious, possibly dead.

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On descent there is a series of air locked passages to pass through, ears popping before stepping out into the vast network of tunnels that extends over thousands of kilometres under the sea. With our headlamps dimmed here is total darkness.

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We walk 20 minutes to visit the original research laboratory now being ripped diagonally in half by the slow liquid like movement of the salt walls sliding against a fault line.

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The floor and ceiling are ruptured and so the highly sensitive equipment is being moved to a new purpose built reinforced steel clad lab.

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From the abandoned clutter of past experiments we cross another grimy passage to enter the pristine white cavernous space of the new laboratories.

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Still in the process of being equipped and put into full use we can only see a small part of what will go on here.

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Behind the blank face of the technology in large metal containers sprouting many wires and screens with data passing across in repeating wavering lines is the ongoing hope to witness a tiny scintillation of light that can be identified as the result of a collision of a dark matter particle in the target matter of pure Xenon.

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The three hours underground pass very quickly as we are in constant awe at what we see and hear about the extraordinary past and present projects that take place in this hidden arena. 1605 dmboulby detector

Prohibited from taking anything battery powered below we rely on borrowing a lab camera to take a few snaps before we have to return to the lift shaft to be hauled back to the surface this time tightly packed amongst the silent salt dusted mine workers.

We returned to the surface exhausted and full of information to assimilate. The next stage is to let this experience feed into and stimulate new work engaging with ideas of charting the unknown and extending our vocabulary and ability to interact with the matter of our universe that at present we can only surmise about through theory.

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I was delighted to be asked to show work in Aether curated by Lumen at Imperial College London. Aether is a curatorial project, focused on the philosophical aspects of astronomy and space exploration. The participating artists explore phenomena existing in outer space  considering how “invisible” objects are made tangible in the fields of both art and astrophysics.

These pieces from the everydaymatters series were inspired by the discovery that we can only see less than 5% of the matter in the universe.  Sparked by an interest in aura of place and dreams of paradise this has expanded into a fascination with how we encounter the physical and the spiritual world and the unseen activity of matter in the universe. The images, from real locations called Paradise such as Paradise Industrial Estate, Hemel Hempstead are dissected into the proportions of dark energy, dark matter and the visible world that current science believes constitutes our universe.

I have been pursuing further investigations into matter as part of  The Matter of Objects collaboration with Medieval and Renaissance research historians. This project interested me as it combined an investigation into the physical matter of objects and also more intangible things such as agency of object. I thought the Medieval period would also be interesting as a time when science and religion clashed as being the source of truth. I was paired with PhD researcher Bruno Martinho based at the European University Institute in Florence. His work explores the consumption of non-European objects on the Iberian Peninsula during the second half of the sixteenth century. Something I had never considered. The object he chose for me to respond to was a C16th Fall-fronted cabinet probably made in Gujarat for a Portuguese merchant. This work has taken me in unexpected and new directions.

At first I thought I may only experience this object as a digital image so was pleased to discover it was at the V&A and I could visit it and get a sense of scale and materiality. The most striking thing about the cabinet are the patterns. I could see the incredible detail, the minute pieces and precision in the workmanship.

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I think it is hard to connect to an object when you can’t touch it. It’s tantalizing not being able to open the drawers – they are tied shut just in case you are tempted to try.  At least it’s not behind glass so you can get up close and sniff it. I learnt from Bruno about its heritage from a mixture of cultural traditions seen combined in the patterns (European, Islamic, Indian) and materials (tropical woods, ivory). These cabinets were highly sought after at the time, they were the latest must have item to show wealth and status. An object of beauty, rarity and symbolism; commissioned, bought, sold and smuggled. They became part of 16th Century life but not always in a good way. A play “The Avaricious Cabinet” written at the height of the cabinets popularity criticized the hoarding practices it encouraged in merchants that were causing stagnation of the Portuguese economy. It could be written today about the unpopularity of the avaricious banker who dodges his taxes and is more concerned with his own wealth than the welfare of society at large.

The cabinet’s basic function was to store expensive objects, such as jewels or money, and important documents, like contracts or letters, and also all sorts of personal items such as lace and porcelain. There were antidotes against poison (like bezoar stones or unicorn horns), perfumes (made of musk extracted from Asian civet cats), coral (to make toothpaste), and also rosaries made of jet (that was believed to protect against melancholia). These appear as alchemical and mysterious objects today adding to the sense of mystique that surrounds the cabinet.  The warm tones, exotic aromas and smooth surfaces made using the cabinet an intimate and sensual experience.

The idea of using spices came from my conversation with Bruno about the aroma the cabinet would give off from the exotic woods it was made from and the smells it would absorb from its contents and surroundings. I thought of the mix of cultures that came together to produce this object, the markets of India and Spain and all those places in between. I made inks from ground spices and copperplate oils to fill the etching plates that would operate as markers of the route from Asia to Europe along the spice route.

I hoped that as the viewer leans in they will smell the spices and the colours would be natural and earthy like the materials used in the cabinet.

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I wanted to try and include something personal into the work about this particular cabinet but so much is a mystery. The V&A don’t hold a lot of information about its personal history. They sent me the purchase order and had a look to see if there were patterns inlaid inside the drawers – there are not. So the history of who this little cabinet belonged to and the items it stored seems lost. All that we know is it made the journey 500 years ago when navigating across the globe was reliant on reading the stars.

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containment –  60 x 60 cm,  screenprint on board, etched aluminium, spices

 

This one object that potentially holds so many other objects all with their own reasons for being, the trail is endless and diverse. After many weeks of conversation it was good to finally meet Bruno at the event at Queen Mary University and to see work produced by the other collaborators. Everyone felt it had been a worthwhile experience opening up new ways of thinking on both sides. The exhibition was then taken to the extraordinary setting of  Barts Pathology Museum where matter and objects have a very direct conversation.

1605 containment Barts Pathology Musuem

I went to the Materials Library for their Pigments, Paint, Print event.

1605 pigmentsThere were various minerals on hand that can be used to grind into pigments but we were only offered synthetic materials to make into ink and ready made inks to print with so wasn’t quite what I hope for but I did get to see aerogel.

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This was like looking at little pieces of sky or transluscent mini icebergs. Apparently NASA uses this – the lightest material on earth, to collect stardust in the tails of comets. It looks a bit like a very fine mesh yet is brittle and very fragile and also very expensive.

Helena Pritchard’s show Encounters at T.J. Boulting was a dialogue between materiality and light, the play of one off the other created in collaboration with Ilenia Bombardi.

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Mesh cloyed with plaster scattering light to create movement, light bouncing from projectors and splitting into spectrums.

Spencer Finch ‘The Opposite of Blindness’ at Lisson Gallery is also an investigation into light –  how it hits the back of our retina to burn images into our mind which hover beyond our ability to physically recreate them. What we see and what we imagine take place in the same arena.

1605 Spencer Finch Mars (sunrise)

Spencer Finch Sunrise (Mars)

There are paintings made up of concentric dots that animate themselves as our restless eyes dance over their surface creating ever changing patterns

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Spencer Finch Sunflower (Bee’s View)

then as relief, soft grey fog to wade into. The paintings, like after burn on the retina, are pared back to leave just the essential essence that Finch wishes to convey.

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Spencer Finch Fog (Lake Wononscopomac)

Finch has taken light recordings from the Pathfinder unmanned mission to Mars and recreated the exact colour tone of a sunrise as would be experienced on the red planet.

Photographic images created from space agency data by Micheal Benson in Otherworlds: Visions of our solar system at The Natural History Museum  included one of the sun setting on Mars.

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Tracing space exploration from the first images in 1967 to the present day his aim is to create images as close as possible to what the human eye would see were we able to travel to the far reaches of the solar system.

1606 Francis Upritchard Orrery IV

Francis Upritchard Orrery IV

The speakers at Tate Talks New Materialisms: Reconfiguring the Object were considering how investigating materials can stimulate new ways of thinking. Francesco Manaconda gave an overview of his curatorial explorations into how materials can be presented in new ways by imagining viewing an exhibition from the perspective of an alien in Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art and Radical Nature which focused on our relationship with nature. Anne-Sophie Lehmann and Iris Van Der Tuin discussed the importance of material literacy and the exactitude required in differentiating between materials, matter, materiality and materialisms. It is important that if we are to understand the matter that surrounds us we must test the resistance of the materials we encounter.

1601 crossing the line

 

 

I have been looking at A History Of The World in Twelve Maps by Jerry Brotton again, this time in connection with the work I am making as part of The Matter of Objects collaboration between artists and historians. The little fall front cabinet that I am responding to took the journey from India to Portugal around 500 years ago, possibly following the same route as the spice trade.

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I have been looking at maps created around that time and reading about Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius both renowned cosmographers. I particularly like Ortelius view of his atlas as the Theatre of the World – ‘a place for viewing a spectacle’. Maps present a creative version of a reality we think we know but transform it into something different. Both men expressed a cosmographical philosophy of peace and harmony and hoped their world maps would give mankind pause for thought much as the 1968 earthrise image embodies.

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Ortelius added the quote from Seneca to his maps –

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

And from Cicero –

‘what can seem of moment in human occurrences to a man who keeps all eternity before his eyes and knows the vastness of the universe?’

1605 Ortelius World Map1570

Another point of reference for me is the astrolabe, a complex and beautiful instrument used by early astronomers and cosmographers to determine time and the movement of celestial objects.

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I have been making ‘markers’ from aluminium. The shapes and patterns relate to those on the cabinet and the materiality of the etched metal which will be filled with ink and spices relates to the objects kept in the drawers of the cabinet and the trade that circulated the wealth of the merchants who owned these exotic objects.

I screen printed sugar lift solution onto the aluminium shapes before coating with stop out.

These are etched and then inked up with spices and will be laid out in a sequence that follows the route from India to the Iberian Peninsula and ultimately London where this little cabinet now sits in the V&A.

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I am in love with this Boyd and Evans lithograph. I was very jealous of the lady who bought a copy from our RCA stand at Christies Multiplied print fair.

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Boyd and Evans Insignificance

I went to hear them talk about their practice at Flowers Gallery where they had an exhibition of panoramic photographs in Overland. These vast moody skies, rocky barren vistas and abandoned structures are a record to their travels across the American South-West.

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Boyd and Evans Benton Springs, California

Inspired by the book Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu the latest production from Simon McBurney’s Complicite  is an extraordinary journey in consciousness, questioning reality and its constructs.

1604 The Encounter

The Encounter tells the story of a National Geographic photographer, Loren McIntyre who in 1969 found himself adrift among the Mayoruna people of the remote Javari Valley in Brazil. Following his desire to discover and record he enters uncharted jungle putting himself at the mercy of the people he was trying to capture on film. He develops a close relationship with the head tribesman and shaman he calls Barnacle and begins to feel they are communicating through thought as they share no common language. The old language is not something you learn it is something you remember.

The tribe are on the move. Distraught at the impact of the sacking of resources of the forest and diseases introduced by outsiders they are heading back to the beginning.

In order to return to a time before the bad things happened they must destroy all their possessions that are holding them in the present. Everything is thrown onto massive bonfires. The journalist is  distraught as he fears the ritual will involve death but the chief is calm, he doesn’t worry what time is, he is just concerned with what he can do with it.

The beginning lies at the inception of time but is also everywhere at once. Going back to the beginning is not really a return, but rather a form of exiting from history proper, into the mythical time of renewal.

There is a powerful message here about matter and its hold on us and our experience of history. The concepts that these shaman were expressing are the same as the problems physicists struggle over today – what is the present?  ‘Time sits at the centre of the tangle of problems raised by the intersection of gravity, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics.’ – Carlo Rovelli

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In the audience we are wearing headphones, the sound of the forest is all around, voices appear in our head, just as they did for Loren, beautifully demonstrated by the use of binaural speakers. Reality is an illusion, all our constructs are fictions and exist only in our imagination.

Creating the sort of places where the Mayoruna people might live…Dean Melbourne paints the places where myth still lives deep in the forests. Shadowy figures, totems and ritual mingle in thick glutinous surfaces.

His exhibition This Myth at Coates and Scarrry’s gallery invites you to step into a sensual and primordial world.

Hilma af Klint was also making connections with the spiritual world. Her public face during her lifetime was of a figurative painter but in the late 1880’s she began painting in secret and created a huge body of work that explored her private interests in the nature of the universe and the relationship between matter and the spiritual. Believing that perfect unity was lost at the point of creation she sought to reconnect the dualities that had arisen from the primordial chaos. Entering Painting the Unseen at The Serpentine Gallery I was immediately awed by the three large works The Paintings For The Temple.

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Inspired by the experiments with séances and automatic drawing that she engaged with as part of a small group of women artists she called The Five (De Fem) she felt herself led by a spirit counsel. Motifs and symbols appear in her paintings that she then interrogates for meaning.

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Her use of colour allows for contemplation in works that have a calm sensuality.

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Her notebooks reflect her dedication to her continuing search for meaning within matter and the extent of the work she produced which  is all the more remarkable for her desire to keep her spiritual work hidden until 20 years after her death. Did she believe the world wasn’t ready for her questions, let’s hope she is pleased with the attention it is getting a hundred years on.

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Good to see RCA printmaking alumni Wieland Payer’s work showing at The House of St. Barnabas with Man and Eve Gallery and to discover the beautiful work of Nadege Meriau. These artists both take you to another world that is just a step from reality and intriguing for that mix of the familiar with the strange.

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Wieland Payer DRIFT   Photo: Herbert Boswank

 

1602 Nadege Meriau Grotto

Nadage Meriau Grotto

The cosmonaut exhibition at the science museum was a window to the world of space exploration. The risks and competition in the race to be the first. The wonderful graphics that heralded a new era of exploration.

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The romantic quest going beyond the rugged landscapes and sublime vista of previous generations. What was most striking I think was how low tech it all looked and so cramped. The bravery and optimism of these people to get into something so small and basic to hurtle across space is to be admired.

cosmonaut. astronaut. nautilus.

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Alistair McDowall’s play X at the Royal Court is set in a future where four astronauts are stranded in their spaceship on Pluto.

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Unable to communicate with earth they await rescue that never arrives. It felt more reality TV show where four unredeemed characters are flung together for eternity than exploration of a new frontier for humankind as Pluto barely gets a mention and we suffer endless ranting as each character loses grip on reality before ending up in the freezer.

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Finally rescue did arrive, for the audience anyway in the form of Dr.Mike Goldsmith who gave a very informed post play talk about the possibilities and potential of Life on Pluto.

Astrophysicist Dr. Roberto Trotta was out campaigning for ‘Why Society Needs Astronomy and Cosmology’ with his Gresham Lecture at The Museum of London. He was making a case for public funding to support what is increasingly becoming big science big money projects that involve many hundreds of scientists across the world. Detectors and image capturing devices are scaling up and new sophisticated technology means the amount of data captured is beyond human undertaking to analyse and requires huge resources to process all the information. We can reach further and further out into the unknown searching for answers to the big questions of existence. This vastness is awe inspiring but also daunting and so he aims to bring the human scale back into space exploration and make accessible a world that is often described with unfamiliar and obtuse language. He has written a book ‘The Edge of the Sky’ using only the 1,000 most common English words. 1603 Trotta .jpgThis approach not only simplifies huge concepts for a younger audience but gives everyone a pause to think about language.  The tourist visiting new places may not have the word to describe an unfamiliar object and so must find a way to describe it using known language. This is an effective way of opening up new interpretations and perspectives and encouraging curiosity to discover and explore the unknown.

Moving in unknown territories borders are blurred. Julien Charriére has erased all borders in his installation We Are All Astronauts. Using an international sandpaper made from mineral samples taken from the member states of the United Nations he has carefully eroded any geopolitical demarcations mingling the dust of our homelands. We have the same origins and the same destiny.

1603 Julien Charriere We Are all Astronauts

His solo show at Parasol Unit For They That Sow the Wind was an eloquent exploration of our relationship to the world of matter, its exploitation and ultimately our insignificance in the wake of  our destruction.

Towers of salt bricks mined from the ‘lithium triangle’ in Bolivia sit in geometric patterns like the remnants of an ancient civilization.

1603 Julian Charriere Future Fossil Spaces

Julian Charriere Future Fossil Spaces

Structures break down.

1603 Julian Charriere

The haze of devastation burnt into the landscape; a legacy from 456 nuclear tests carried out by the Soviet Union between 1949 and 1989 in Kazakhstan.

1603 Julian Charriere Polygon

Julien Charriere Polygon

A solitary Charrière stands for all of us as he actively melts ice beneath his feet with a blowtorch.

1603 Julien Charriere The Blue Fossil Entropic Series

Julien Charriere The Blue Fossil Entropic Stories

It may be too late to protect the environment, now we must put our energy into creating protected environments.

1603 Julien Charriere Tropisme

Julien Charriere Tropisme

Plant species around since the Cretaceous period are shock-frozen in liquid nitrogen and preserved in refrigerated containers. The ice patterns appearing over the inside glass of the vitrines cast beautiful veils that threaten to obscure our view. Nature is blocking us out.

It hardly seems any time since I was setting up our RCA interim show at Café gallery Projects and yet here I am visiting the current second years exhibition DIS PLAY having stepped on out into the wider world. This year because they have taken on so many more students the show was mixed across the years to balance numbers.

Great texture and pallid colour from Emma-Jane Whitton where the tight aqueous skin of the succulent makes haptic connections with the tight skin of the salami, bursting oozing and barely contained this structure is like plastic surgery in meltdown.

This work sat well next to Randy Bretzin’s assemblage of works relating to the body and its skin at the point of rupture.

Further body references from Fei Fei Yu whose casts in aluminium of Randy Bretzin’s head lay empty and shattered. No bodily fluids here just a bed of salt left like the residue from some alchemical reduction experiment.

1603 Fei Fei Yu

The body and psyche exposed. Nothing like descending the spiral stairs to the museum at The Last Tuesday Society for a delve into the realm of mortality, sex and the fabulous.

Thinking on an international scale can be daunting.
I have been trying to imagine a world before religion which must of course be a world without man but how long was man around first, as religion in some form seems to have been something that emerged very early in our development.

When I think about snowball earth and the coming of the forests I do think globally. Those seeds growing and spreading.

Cross pollination. No borders.

I have been working on adding the fern embryos to the iceberg landscape.

1308 Fern Collagraphs

I made some relief plates of the ferns from cardboard and gave them a bit of texture with acrylic medium and carborundum.

Then I gave them a coat of shellac to give them a bit of strength.

1308 Precursor in progress

I am using them to give a background texture to the fern images.

I will then screen print on top of these to add detail.

What was so great about visiting the Venice Biennale this year was that I found so many of the artists I really like were showing there.
Alfredo Jaar makes work that hits you bodily. I can still feel the power of his work I saw in Brighton years ago about the photo journalist Kevin Carter.

The Sound of Silence, tells the story of one photograph taken in Sudan 1993. You sit in a dark space and the story is told in simple sentences, on a black screen.

Alfredo Jaar 'The Sound of Silence'

Alfredo Jaar ‘The Sound of Silence’

The photograph is shown briefly before a blinding flash of light scores into your retina.

You are left blinking in the afterglow. I can still feel the sadness.

Kevin Carter’s suicide at just 33 is so poignant, he had just seen too much suffering to cope with his own problems.

Should you intervene?  Lucy Kirkwood’s play Chimerica also addresses this issue. On the Headlong website is a link to a bbc interview with war photographer Don McCullin who discusses how ‘ there came a natural limit to looking at what others can’t bear to see.’

In Venice Alfredo Jaar looked at the Giardini and its political and economic posturing of pavilions built before the second world war. He then made a model of the Giardini which gets submerged underwater – we see it disappear into obscurity then emerge, green and dripping only to vanish again.

Alfrdo Jaar 'Venezia, Venezia'

Alfredo Jaar ‘Venezia, Venezia’

It might signify the highs and lows of economic powers but of course being in Venice the water rising is a very real threat.

The whole idea of a national pavilion in the art world is questioned now that artists work internationally, moving and exhibiting around the world.

France and Germany have swapped pavilions and to push the international crossover further Ai Weiwei is showing along with 3 other non-German artists in the German Pavilion.

Ai Wei Wei 'Bang'
Ai Wei Wei ‘Bang’

BANG is an expanding,  rhizomatic structure made from the once ubiquitous wooden stool which has now been superseded in China by manufactured models in metal and plastic.  These simple objects that hold the traces of their life in the patina of years, are part of the cultural identity of a nation being lost to globalisation, just as the individual is swallowed up and forced to conform.

Gilad Ratman for Israel also wanted to question the national boundaries that such a setting as the Biennale constructs and he also made work about  transgressing boundaries.

We see a group of people making their way though underground passages, crawling and dragging themselves through the earth.

Gilad Ratman 'The Workshop'

Gilad Ratman ‘The Workshop’

Eventually they emerge into the light from a hole in the ground straight into the gallery space.

Gilad Ratman 'The Workshop'

Gilad Ratman ‘The Workshop’

Underground there are no borders.

Gilad Ratman 'The Workshop'

Gilad Ratman ‘The Workshop’

Once in the gallery each member of the group begins to sculpt a self portrait in clay.

Like a birth, some new body is forged and given voice.

Joana Vasconcelos also looks at the journey, navigation and passage.

Joana Vasconcelos 'Trafaria Praia'

Joana Vasconcelos ‘Trafaria Praia’

Addressing common themes that Lisbon and Venice share she created a floating pavilion – well a boat.

It has a gift shop and art books, cultural history and then in the depths you can climb down into a dark and warm space, soft and feminine and full of wonder.

Joana Vasconcelos

Joana Vasconcelos

Reduced to basic sensory levels of pleasure like a baby in the womb, soft dark warmth, gentle undulation.

The Instituto Italo-Latino Americano a forum for cultural exchange between Europe and Latin America  is all about how cross fertilization can impact cultural identity.

The cavernous pavilion is scented with spice.

Latin American Institute

Latin American Institute

I loved the animation ‘Los Andes’ by Cristóbal León & Joaquín Cociña.

A primal spirit possess an office causing drawings to appear on the wall and plants to emerge from the furniture.

Latin American Institute

Latin American Institute

The spirit appears in the form of a giant growing in size and then crumpling away.

Leon & Cocina Loa Andes

Leon & Cocina Los Andes

Jasmina Cibic for Slovenia looked at how national identity is portrayed and guided by the state into what is acceptable.

Her project ‘For Our Economy and Culture’  looks at art as a token of national identity and how the integrity of the art commissioned for public arenas may be compromised by institutional hierarchies intent on influencing its presentation..

Jasmina Cibic 'For Our Economy and Culture'

Jasmina Cibic ‘For Our Economy and Culture’

Art by committee.

The Pavilion is lined with wallpaper depicting a beetle which has become endangered because of its ideologically charged name – Anophthalmus hitleri.

Anophthalmus hitleri

Anophthalmus hitleri

The beetle which is only found in caves in Slovenia could have been a national cause celebre were it not for it being named by a fascist species collector.

The official Chinese representative Simon Ma had been to the rainforest of Southern China and come back to a life in the city that now was too grey.

He had been inspired by the dramatic landscape, the colours of the forest and the magnificent height of the trees.

Feeling overwhelmed by the power of these colossal living forms he was aware of how deep the roots much reach to support such heights which in turn made him think about the scale of the cities sprouting up all over China

and the need for people to also have roots.

Simon Ma

Simon Ma

His oversized rain drop sculptures gave a good photo opportunity against the dramatic architecture of an ancient palazzo.

Simon Ma

Simon Ma

Simon Ma

Simon Ma

These plastic raindrops were left over form a performance piece.

At the Manchester International Festival Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack and film maker Adam Curtis got together to create a new kind of media experience combining film and music on a mega scale.

The result of their collaboration tells the story of a new system of power that has risen up in the modern world to manage and control us. It is a fake, but enchanting world which we all live in today – but which has also become a new kind of prison that prevents us moving forward into the future.

Massive Attack v Adam Curtis

Massive Attack v Adam Curtis

So many ideas are set off by this ‘gilm’ as they called it. I was spellbound by the scale, the decibels vibrating through my chest, the wonderful eclectic music set, the pure voice of Elizabeth Fraser and the stream of images – my era in soundbites. There were mixed reviews but I loved it. It wasn’t all news but there was a lot of things I didn’t know about –  Russian Punk Yegor Letov for instance though whether the story we were spun was actually true or not I can’t quite work out. The history is mapped out in personal stories such as the tragic case of Pauline Boty who died at 28 after she refused cancer treatments that would have harmed her unborn daughter.

Pauline Boty

1308 MIF 2

The daughter, Katy ‘Boty’ Goodwin went on to study at the California Institute of the Arts, Walt Disney’s idealist art college, but she became obsessed with her appearance, developed an eating disorder, took heroin and died.

The Japanese gambler Akio Kashiwagi known as ‘The Warrior’ got into a row with Donald Trump’s casino when his system finally failed and he left owing 10 million dollars. Trump never got the money however as the gambler was stabbed to death with a samurai sword before the debts were paid.

Risk management.

1308 MIF

Lots more info about this and other ideas of Adam Curtis can be found on his blog

Mayfield Depot

Mayfield Depot

After a chilling look at the recent past and the nature of control and illusion the crowd is channeled through a subterranean world under intense spotlight to the ferocious barking of the guard’s dog.

Mayfield Depot

Mayfield Depot

Despite the dystopian exit route we were left with the message that now it’s up to us to change the world.

Artist Maria Cristina Finucci is having a go.

There are huge patches of rubbish floating in seas around the world like islands and so to bring something tangible to the debate she has got the U.N. culture agency UNESCO  to grant the “Garbage Patch State” symbolic statehood. This brings them onto the world stage. They are a global problem.

These “garbage patches” are areas of high marine debris concentrated in the North Pacific Ocean, the exact size and content of which are hard to define.

The patches are mostly invisible to the naked eye as the debris – chiefly plastic – breaks down over time, without ever fully disappearing.

In Venice there was an immersive installation using plastic bottle tops to highlight the problem.

Maria Cristina Finucci 'Garbage Patch State'

Maria Cristina Finucci ‘Garbage Patch State’

Every time you throw away a bottle top you are part of the problem.

She is hoping to give direction for good behaviour rather than an apocalyptic message.

In the Emergency Pavilion, a multinational event took on the topic ‘Rebuilding Utopia.’

40 years have gone by without us realizing it.

This exhibition will be a game, what happened during
the last forty years? What worked, what didn’t, what
appeared and what disappeared? When did the world
begin to change? Was it 1973 or 1989? When did
“imagination in power” die, was it in ‘68 or 2012?
Or was it on the first of January, 2013?
Jota Castro ' Here comes the rain again'

Jota Castro ‘ Here comes the rain again’

It didn’t really offer much optimism for a better world it felt full of sadness and lost hopes.

However, these artists from all parts of the world are thinking about a better world, and how art can contribute to imagining such a world.

Emergency Pavilion - Rebuilding Utopia

Emergency Pavilion – Rebuilding Utopia

During the early 60’s when Pauline Boty was studying at the RCA and involved in the anti capiltalist students movements of the time she followed the ideas of the german political theorist Herbert Marcuse.

A year after her death he gave a speech titled “The End of Utopia”. Marcuse said he didn’t mean that utopia was impossible but now we had the technical and scientific means to achieve what had only once been dreamed of, utopia was a real possibility no longer an imagined idea. Poverty and hunger could be solved.

I’m not sure that anyone any longer believes utopia is a real possibility certainly not on a global scale. Even Jesus said there will be poor always.

We have to try though.

Adam Curtis encourages us to look to the future and to think about what sort of a world we want to live in. Our origins are important too.
How much changes how much we learn is debatable.
Pauline Boty is posthumously going to have retrospective of her paintings this year – the show is to be called Pauline Boty: Pop artist and Woman
I suppose that has to be taken in the context of history.
Pauline Boty 'Colour Her Gone'

Pauline Boty ‘Colour Her Gone’