' . . . they stuck carefully to the narrow paths that wandered through the carpet of moss from one granite outcropping to another and down to the sand beach. Only farmers and summer guests walk on the moss. What they don't know - and it cannot be repeared too often - is that moss is terribly frail. Step on it once and it rises the next time it rains. The second time, it doesn't rise back up. And the third time you step on moss it dies. Elder ducks are the same way - the third time you fighten them up from their nexts, they never come back. Sometime in July the moss would adorn itself with a kind of long, light grass. Tiny clusters of flowers would open at exactly the same height above the ground and sway together in the wind, like inland meadows, and the while island would be covered with a veil dipped in heat, hardly visible and gone in a week. Nothing could give a stronger impression of untouched wilderness.'
Tove Jannson, The Summer Book
Natasha Myers A Krya For Cultivating your Inner Plant.
'The 120-meter tall pine tree in the courtyard of the Casa Reisser y Curioni, which dominates all the horizons of this intense city that is defending itself against the aggression of ugly concrete--not of the good concrete—that pine tree came to be my best friend.'
José María Arguedas, The Fox from Up Above and the Fox from Down Below, El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo, trans. Frances Horning Barraclough (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000) 184-5
My last couple of visits to Cultivamos Cultura in Alententejo have stirred my cinematic imagination and with the encouragement of certain desperados - all prominant artists and thinkers working at the intersection of art and biology, I have begun to work on a bio-western. It's a sub-genre of a sub-genre, a thrilling deritivitive of spegetti westerns but with a renegade biologic artistic bent, it positions bioart actions alongside a series of western pastiches and tropes, choreographies of bodies withinin the enironment inspired by western.
During my last visit to Cultivamos Cultura in May this year I made some small photographic studies with the help of Adam Zarestsky, Blu Zarestsky, Marie-Pier Boucher and Jamie Ferguson, ostensibly for location research but it quickly manifested into something else and elsewhere yet to be taxonomically catogorised.
The Alentejo Bio-western is a whimsical and astutely rigourous project, increasingly being informed by the desperados themselves and the typical velocity that seems to imbue projects conceived and realised at Cultivamos Cultura.
Marie-Pier Boucher suggested it be an 'endless film' borrowing from architect Frederick Kiesler's 'endless house' concept, allowing it's genesis and forms to become an elastic process, defined by what is pragmatic and possible and undefined by not being bound by production values, technology, narrative or funding.
The next phase of production will be during Cultivamos Cultura's annual summer school this July, the school is under the tutelage of Marta de Menezes and Marie-Pier Boucher as well as artist in resident Adam Zaretesky inputting and they've made the bio-western part of this years syllabus. So I expect us to take our pipette guns into the landscape amist the non-human ecologies where we will squint and cast long shadowns in long silences in the relentless sun. We will be sweaty and grubby and out of vengence, we will live and die and die and live, as we create maverick biologic enquires.
Current reading Place of Dead Roads, William S. Burroughs.
Current watching Antônio das Mortes
Continuing working with oxidising coppper with salt and vinegar some human urins was also introduced for some of the copper patination.
In Portugal salt is sold in crude rock form rather than in the powder we are more familia with in the UK creating a very different texture. I was able to create kilograms of this beautiful blue colour by using an old copper container that I discovered in the barn that is used as the exhibition space at Cultivamos Cultura. I would fill the container, drench it in vinegar and allow it to dry under the hot Alentejo sun.
Copper bodies is a short series of studio experiments, make quickly in Extractor Space, the project room in Tidemill School Studios in Deptford where I currently am lucky enough to have a studio. The studio works takes up from the experimentation during Prologue with Flora Wellesley Wesley, following some of those threads and continuing to work with salt, water, pigment, vinegar, copper, particularly experimenting with cultivating verdigris on copper with vinegar and salt. I don't know where it's going but it feels good simply to do and allow the materials to nudge the next steps.
Dataisnature published a fascinating entry on The Logic of Crystals, featuring the 1924 Space-group Diagrams by William T. Astbury & Kathleen Yardley which describe 'every possible atomic lattice configurations in crystals. The figures formed the basis for what eventually became the International Tables for X-ray Crystallography.' The diagrams are very beautiful, I took to drawing some of them in chalk on the kitchen tiles of Extractor Space, enjoying their tangental connections to the crystals building via the salt, vinegar and copper. Chalking some of them onto the floor they and their proximaty to my crude and elementary chemical reactions reminded me of magical diagrams, alchemy and the fertile origins of contemporary chemistry.
Leila Galloways installation deoland was the fruition of a two week residency at Extractor Space, the former school kitchen in Deptford's Tidemill School Annex.
Deodland was an old English law, abolished in 1862 that legislated that anything thing that had caused a person's death and was to be forfeited to the crown for a charitable purpose, it came from deōdandum, from Latin Deō dandum (something) to be given to God, from deus god + dare to give.
Time scales seemed moored into poised moments within Extractor Space, flint gravel from the seashore arranged into simple geometric squareness, branches spindling up from the stones, bare and seemingly growing. Silver permeated, glinting on the flint pieces, pooling against a wall and floor, a magical silver tree in a side room growing upwards and downwards through a window sill. Flints cast in pewter and silver were embedded into the walls, a fragile dried daddy long legs minuscule time and dedicate beside the persisting metals, the space seemed full of threads of these tensions of incredible delicacy and incredible resiliance.
Leila Galloway, deodland, Extractor Space, 2015
photographs by Leila Gallaway.
Kym Carsons world is a strange one where nothing is certain and uncertainty lies within vision.
Carson has episodes of not being able to distinguish between subject and object. It's an experience both troubled and troubling of what it is to see, and one that questions the sensorial schema and technological apparatus of ocular perception. Carson's perceptual aberrations appear to be coupled to the institutional and she has come to consider 'Her physical presence in the institute as perversion'.
From within and around this world of dys-ocular orientation artist Helena Hunter introduces us as viewers to the dis-located enquiries that Kym Carson makes as she brings her troubling condition to the attention of The Optical Institute and it's Training Programme. We engage with her via the process of her Referral on a Sunday in Islington within the one day Sunday School curatorial project conducted by DAM Projects in A_space, a photographic studio during weekdays but on a Sunday it's domestic dimensions are re-envisioned as a gallery.
We experience the beginning of Carson's condition as she applies to and fills in the referral questionnaires for The Optical Institute and describes her vertiginous, physiological experiences that accompany these collapses of subject/object dynamics, we peer at erie medical films of eye balls being dissected, projected in the room where there is a photographers infinity wall, allowing layering of seeing through extended visual senses via investigative and elaborated knowleges and where we can consider our ocularised worlding and its technologies of space, light and lenses. Carsons condition is extrapolated through institutional spaces and medical narratives, resonances of the psycho-analytic enquiries suggest themselves - the Lacanian hysteric perhaps.
A bank of shelves hold obsolete camera equipment and slide viewing devices that along side bound books of eyes and sight. Two videos on monitors on plinths loop. People (other referrals or gallery attendees, I am not sure, they're status is ambiguous) chat amiably on nearby sofas in what might be a waiting room area. People come and go. Fort/da.
On the monitors there is a female figure in a tight dress of matt sequins. She appears to dance for us, to camera, to a medley of songs that embrace eyes and sight, her movements languid, svelte, elegant, and disarmingly silly as fake goggly eyes spring out of joke glass frames at pertinent musical moments. She is poised and oblivious to her ridiculousness.
The other figure with her back to us explores a white wall, THE white wall that pervades contemporary galleries with all it's thrall, lure, tedium and assertion of histories, currencies and perceptual governance. She proceeds to feel it out with her body, making multiple attempts as if to know the white wall - clumsy, funny, exposing, this mysterious, indelible, unknowable ground upon which we place our artistic artefacts. Finally she takes a single tale whip and beings to lash the wall, slowly gradually expending a virulent, violent punishment of strikes on the unyielding but marked white wall.
Accompanying Referral is a slim booklet, it's cover a corporate double eye logo both crisp and corporate and inside a report containting 'documentation for the assessment of the pupil Kym Carson and her progress on The Optical Institute Training Programme'. On the inside of the back cover is a letter from Kym Carson to the white wall, it is handwritten on white paper that has been crumpled as if to dispose of it but then retrieved and flatten out creating a topography of texture like an overhead view of a landscape - full of purchase and holds; within it she writes:
I want to be in that wonderful and terrible state that makes art inevitable.
Eye Tunes, 2013
Live performance, sound, 5mins, recurring
White Wall, 2014
Live performance, sound, 10-20 min
Over the last three days I have had three conversations with three artists
about my work
about their work
about where we are
However for the most part the weight of the conversation has been on my art making and each person has led the weight of their gaze, experience and accomplishment to looking at recent studio developments - experiments if you will that I've been making with materials, processes and combinations. I've also opened up older works, some that are still in that ambiguous, unresolved place of uncomfortable, strange, where I am not really sure what it is but sense that there is something there.
Sunday Wayne Lucas has a studio in the same building as I do here in Deptford in south east London and he curates Extractor Space, the former school kitchen in the building, inviting artists to undertake residencies and exhibit the outcomes. His art works are grounded in painting but implicate other media and objects into assemblages and sculptures. He has painted me in water colours, repeating the act a hundred times, making small, deft, exquisitely executions of watery pigment. One of the discussions we touched on was materials, commanding a process through the kind of attentive discipline of repetition. He said something along the lines of 'when I know what it is then I stop'. Currently Wayne is preparing an exhibition in which many reiterations of the same eggy/testicular forms will manifest embedded with tweeds that reference tailoring and melancholic classical Greek statues erased in granite powder.
Monday Rebecca Stevenson and I have been discussing our art making for some twenty years now, we both studied together on a foundation course in Bristol around 1994 - 1995 becoming firm friends and fierce champions on one anothers work through the ups and downs of some successes and some disasters. Becky makes complex sculptures, rooted in a fantastic technical practice of drawing, molding, casting and manipulating to build intricate works that are figurative and yet depart into multiple configurations of cavities, petals, eruptions of folds and blossomings creating confusions and transitory objects, albeit fixed in wax, resin or metal. Frequently she draws on the rich and excessive decorations and forms from rococo imagery, a visit to the Wallace Collection inspires articulations of contemporary still life elements, distended hanging hares collapsing in aluminium, florid curvatures of isolated bulls head, dangerously sugar coated swans embellished in fruits, all troubling taxonomies of artifice, decoration and configuration. Our conversation has the old familiarity of having seen the stages of each others evolving practice, endless cups of tea in chilly studios. Becky will be able to remember the sculptures I used to make and their fleshy preoccupations and how eventually actual flesh took hold and for some time because the primary material in my art making. I showed her difficult and unresolved photographic works, works that can happily remain in a folder forever but that she encouraged me to consider printing, to get away from the thrall of the screen back into the material and tangible. I find this very helpful, even if it's terribly obvious, but simply to print and see, then fold and tear and collage with or to enjoy proximaties with something else - such is the value of a studio. I find relationships between things being to assert themselves,
salt will want fur
fur will want copper
copper will want cotton
cotton will want vinegar
vinegar will want silver
silver will want spit
spit will want the peeling walls
peeling walls will want spider silk
spider silk will want graphite powder
graphite powder will want skin
skin will want sweat
sweat will want iron
iron will want words
words will want
and so on. We particularly talked about metal and chemical reactions, small and thoughtful transitions of materials within the actual work during the duration that the viewer sees it, and how mechanical processes play with the forms of crystalline structuring - really its endless.
Tuesday This remarking on transitions and transformations of materials carried on today during a lavish visit Helena Goldwater made to the studio today. We've known about one anothers work for many years now, particularly in the realm of performance art, she has been an Extractor Space artist during which she presented a powerful durational work and left it's remains as a deeply unsettling and beautiful installation. Helena has been presenting painting works lately that similarly approach what are for me vital themes - transformation, mutability and plasticity, in which form is always somehow contingent and possible evolutions and permutations are continually suggesting themselves. Similarly to Rebecca Stevenson morphologies from botany or biology are seeming emerging but for neither artist does the work really rest easily there, something else is happening. Our conversation moved across scales between macro and micro, Helena identifying through lines and visceral connections across the activities, supporting my ranging bodily investigations through materials in particular the quite, simple ones that preoccupied the recent Prologue residency, namely salt, water and copper pigment arrangements that went though stages of drying finally crystallising into more stable what I referred to as drawings and elementary copper oxidsising with vinegar and table salt. Metals reappeared as chemistry, biochemistry and biology, where the sweat of the gym rusts Serra like iron weights and steaming sweat tropical micro climates evaporate and condense feeding the inhabitant molds and micro organic gym-biome as the salts are left behind on clothing, bodies, surfaces, electrolyte.
It's really impossible to underestimate the value of these conversation with peers who make time to give ones work such considered response and appraisal. it's where faltering steps can find some purchase, instincts and ituitions can be encouraged but also challenged, concepts can be smelted, forged and forged.
Most of all I felt encouraged to continue to trial these experiments, to delight in the tacit and sensory knowledges they suggest and the further developments that seem to present themselves. These conversations all asked about contexts, who, where, how, what are the kinds of spaces and places we care about and where might we wish to position these evolving makings.
Brown paper dance action, salt, water, copper pigment, salt drawing.
The Monument is a telescope
The Monument is a telescope
The Monument is a telescope
The Monument is a telescope
The Monument is a telescope
The Monument is a telescope
The Monument is a telescope
The Monument is a telescope
The Monument is a telescope
The Monument is a telescope – It was designed by Robert Hooke who fashioned its height to be the distance from its base to the origin of the great fire of London.
The Monument is a telescope – Hooke arranged lenses at the base and summit to create a telescope with which to survey the night sky.
The Monument is a telescope – The Monument is a microscope.
The Monument is a telescope – Hooke, Surveyor of the City of London after the Great Fire, peered and scryed across scales. He put his microscopic attentiveness to the world that tips beyond sight.
The Monument is a telescope – 50x
The Monument is a telescope – He named ‘cells’ so because they appeared to his 17th century mind to be like the small discreet spaces in honey combs.
The Monument is a telescope – Hooke was an architect, an organiser of space across the visible and invisible, he recorded the microscopic in the Micrographia
The Monument is a telescope – She says that if you fuck her family she will come and fuck you. She will discipline and punish you in your own back yard.
The Monument is a telescope – 1,259,712,000 cells in a cubic inch he reckoned.
The Monument is a telescope – I will break your arm and put it on my mantle piece.
The Monument is a telescope – Extended ocular sensing.
The Monument is a telescope – There is an unexploded V2 bomb in Bermondsey.
The Monument is a telescope – Time reveals glass as liquid, in old cathedrals one sees that the bottom of panes of glass are thicker where the glassy matter has gradually flowed downwards over centuries.
The Monument is a telescope – Unhinged.
The Monument is a telescope – Estimates of the viscosity of glass at room temperature run as high as 10 to the power of 20.
The Monument is a telescope – You can convert your smart phone camera into a microscope by positioning a homemade PDMS bubble on it.
The Monument is a telescope – Lead glass bubbles capture air and create tiny lenses, surface tensions trap spheres in glass.
The Monument is a telescope – Hooke with an iPhone 6 and a microscope app.
The Monument is a telescope – Friday 20th March 2015, London, partial solar eclipse between 8.25 am and 10.41 am Greenwich Mean Time.
The Monument is a telescope – Where raindrops the first lenses?
The Monument is a telescope – Viscosity is measured in units of poises.
The Monument is a telescope – ‘Oh, [she] will break her arm.’
The Monument is a telescope – 50,000,000 poises is the viscosity glass requires to trap bubbles.
The Monument is a telescope – A Plantagenet funeral processes through empty roads carrying a simple coffin.
The Monument is a telescope – ‘Mark Antony do you see a whole universe in this one, single drop of water?’
The Monument is a telescope – ‘I can say that right now. I'll tell you two things: [she] will break her arm, and [she] will not go up in weight.’
The Monument is a telescope – It would take a plate of glass close to some ten billion years to flow so that the bottom would thicken by 10 angstrom units.
The Monument is a telescope – ‘I cannot hear what you say for the thunder of what you are.’
The Monument is a telescope – One angstrom unit is one ten-billionth of a meter.
The Monument is a telescope – ‘I love [her], she's a great person, she has many, many wonderful qualities, but one thing about her is she holds a grudge, and she will break [her] arm.’
The Monument is a telescope – Please do not move the piano.
I grew to know the spiders that lived around the door frame of the entrance to our current studio building, watching them in the evenings backlight by the entrance lighting. They left some fat, fuzzy spider nests in the crevices of the door frame, this is one or perhaps two, and a desicated spider body cacooned above it.
The Inaugural Kim Fielding Award nears it's deadline for applications, 23.59 GMT 13th March 2015, in the true spirit of Kim it is open to any artist or artist group anywhere.
Kim Fielding was a glamorous, pervasive, irreverent and profoundly relevant presence during and after my time in Cardiff at UWIC between 1995 and 1998. Whilst I was an art student on the undergraduate course he was completing the masters programme, testing, extending and fondling the limits of the photo visual programme with his practice that straddled performance and photography.
My first time working with him included lavish elements of kimonos, platforms, complete darkness punctured by staccato flash bulbs firing to illuminate micro seconds of whatever the action was, it's faded from my memory now but I do recall the lessons learnt from the wholehearted frisson of chaos and needing to be entirely in the moment.
The entire palaver was orchestrated with Kim's mirthful mischief manifested as an adroit ability to wield marvellous collisions and collusions of people, time and place in events and occasions, all wrapped by his extensive linguistic extravagances. He was a canny word smith, he could speal a performance concept, photographic back story, an exhibition raison d'être with casual exuberance.
As well as producing prolifically his own photographic work Kim co-created tactileBOSCH, artist led studios and gallery where he organised numerous events and where I had the privilege of presenting my own work.
For a while I taught at UWIC on Mondays and Tuesdays, commuting from Birmingham and staying the night at Kim's flat in Riverside. Towards the end of my work day one or other of us would text the other about dinner and shopping, I would pick up a few food items and return to Kim's where I would sit at his kitchen table and be cooked for. Cooking would be accompanied by copious chat, discussion and banter. One tender river of conversation was about our mothers and our respective concerns for them as they were both vulnerable with health issues.
Another was education and the frustrations and limits of being somewhat self identified renegade artists, our relationships with art institutions and bigger responsibility to student artist be they ones who had found a reflectively straightforward passage through the modules art degree system or ones who it didn't suit one iota. Kim had an open door policy with all these creatives, there was not one hint of academic gatekeeping nor judgmental deliberating. He simply put them to work, art school drop out? Great, come and help out at tactileBOSCH, he'd feed them (he could cook up a storm) and give whomever tasks, responsibilities and revel in their success.
After eating too much the ritual was to watch Spooks, then I'd bed down in his home office/archive where I would have the sweetest and cosiest sleeps, surrounded bay stacks of prints, boxes of film, vast gregariousness of his clicking camera.
The next morning I'd get woken up by David Bowie, generally Young Americans blasting from the kitchen and I'd be given a breakfast of eggs with chilli and lots of coffee thick and strong before seting off to teach, Kim biking off to conjure something or other at tactileBOSCH.
Learning of his passing was a shock, via Facebook. Damn it was horrid. I remember seeing something or other that set off the dawning of the realisation then a cold panic inside me in an effort to find out if the worst had happened, and it had.
I continually learn from Kim. I still do. I learn things like how important it is to be open to younger artists, to really see the limits of our institutions and to think about how to step in when they fail, be it the student or the institution. I found him absurdly generous and generative and fabulously stylish.
Others have really being doing the hard work of carrying Kim's legacy forward, they've worked so very tirelessly and have been really diligent and tireless to create a vision that can keep doing Kim's work. They've been so smart and thoughtful in they're ability to imbue this legacy with the humour, verve, open border polity and hilarious lustre that Kim would of approved of. I take my hat off to these terrific people, the guardians of the Kim Fielding Award.
Much more can, should, will and must be said about Kim, some of that has begun and you can read more about him via the links here.
With Kim in 2008 at our friends Amelia and Andy's wedding. Kim was the wedding photographer.
We could truly say that ideas come to flowers in the same way they come to us. Flowers grope in the same darkness, encounter the same obstacles and the same ill will, in the same unknown. They know the same laws, same disappointments, same slow and difficult triumphs. It seems they have our patience, our perseverance, our self-love; the same finely tuned and diversified intelligence, almost the same hopes and the same ideals. Like ourselves, they struggle against a vast indifferent force that ends by helping them. The Intelligence of Flowers, translated by Philip Mosely
Artist and performance maker Francoise Belanger mentioned this book on botany to me in relation to my recent The Romance of Flowers posting, The Intelligence of Flowers (1907) by Maurice Maeterlinck (1962 - 1949).
There are two translations available online, the first by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos here on the endlessly valuable Internet Archive.
The second by Philip Mosely, there is a review here.
Another of the intriguing bound documents I eased out of it's tightly held position on a full wooden shelf was a copy of the 1881 Irish Land Law Act, disarmingly slender for the import of such legislation and peppered with tiny flowers and leaves pressed between it's pages as if the act of land as being set upon an altogether logic with these pressings of delicate, fleeting plant lives.
This is one among many of the marvellous natural history books I found myself revisiting in my mothers home in a book lined room known as The Study in the house where I did much of my growing up. I delved into it as Ecoeye was on RTE (Irish telly) exploring the current effects of climate change on Irelands coast and speculating about the escalation of it's impending impact. I was fascinated by the conceit in the first chapter of The Romance of Plant Life (published in 1907) in which the author imagines 'A Tourist From Neptune' who, the author supposes would have quite an alternative experience of chronology to an Earthling and a greater capacity to observer changes we barely sense. This idea of enhanced sensing or awareness of time and durations other than human is intriguing and our means of identifying indexical linkings into alterities of human temporal scales. How might we understand vaster and tinier durations and where might crumples of convergences and divergences provide these reckonings.
Currently in rehearsals with an international cast of performers and musicians, directed by Robert Wilson
See here for more details
- Jul 28, 2015 Lynn Margulis: Bacteria are Our Ancestors Jul 28, 2015
- Jul 27, 2015 'that pine tree came to be my best friend' and other plant readings Jul 27, 2015
- June 2015 2
- May 2015 2
- April 2015 4
- March 2015 4
- Feb 28, 2015 Land Acts Feb 28, 2015
- Feb 28, 2015 A conceit to get 'beyond our human ideas of time' in The Romance of Plants Feb 28, 2015
- Feb 27, 2015 Kerry Trees pt 2 Feb 27, 2015
- Feb 27, 2015 Kerry Trees pt I Feb 27, 2015
- Oct 10, 2014 The Life & Death of Marina Abramovic Oct 10, 2014