Unit 2 – Assessment Essay
MADA full-time 09
“Temperatures reached almost 30º on that April day. Before the weather grew hotter, we agreed on a reconnaissance walk around our house, which was located in a small valley. We chose to hike uphill along the nearby stream in order to find a higher viewpoint. The villagers had told us that there was some sort of oak tree cemetery on the hilltop, whose trees resembled figures, shapes and monsters. It became our destination.
The pathway had not been cleared. No one had used it in a long time, since, although the trees were numbered, new cork grew on them, a sign that it had once been used as a pathway but now many years ago that was, no one knew…
We hiked uphill through the brambles and bushes, following the house owner – “I think it’s this way …” A few hours later, we were lost, exhausted and directionless.
Our greatest concern then was finding our way back. It was when we decided to rest on the hilltop that we finally sighted the trees that they had told us about.
My expectations betrayed me and I wasn’t as enthusiastic with those monsters and figures made of old trees trunks.
Yet it was while I rested, with my gaze lost in the immerse greenery, that I felt the true enthusiasm; a small butterfly larva moved in a manner so peculiar that I captured my attention for the rest of the day.
I seemed to have found a needle in a haystack!
I decided to make a video.”
In “Northless”, exhibition catalogue.
As described by this quote, the starting point, for what normally leads me to a project or a final piece of work, can usually be found in my investigations of something which comes to me by hearsay, by exploring unknown spaces or simply by going for a walk. Even if I can say that my previous work has a common denominator, it is also true to say that I value the moments of spontaneity when my interest is stimulated to the point of wanting to capture some compelling image. Sometimes it’s all about people rumors or myths about some place.
Although, my project proposal was centered on researching the theme of Entropy, it has been questioned all the time and later abandoned as I intend to explain further. The initial proposal was reformulated and my methodology has adapted as I explored this theme.
The theme itself was too generic and metaphorical, so, in order to concentrate my work and apply it to a specific area, I focused on a particular association between Macro and Microsystems and the visualization of kinetic energy between these two systems. Transformation always creates tension and becomes a turning point. I wanted to explore how to visualize those situations and capture them in a digital environment of moving images.
I began with the simple observation of my surroundings, for example the view from my own room window.
I realized how important the constant observation of the same view was. An exaggerated comparison perhaps, but it was allegorical to that which drove Monet to painting the view of St. Victoire Mountain time and time again from his bedroom window. Every day, I found myself compelled addictively to observe the different movements of the fans windmills on top of buildings in Elephant and Castle. Subsequently, I read that those buildings were already contributing to the regeneration project of the area. They were built in an ecologic frame of mind, incorporating sustainable systems of energy.
Also I saw the SEIZURE project by Roger Hiorns exhibited in Elephant and Castle, which he used a council flat to work with. A failed social housing, about to be demolished, was served as the site for the installation, which consisted of the crystallization of the whole interior. A statement against the demolition and in some levels alerting people to the failed situation of this peculiar place.
I found an interesting comment on a blog about the work, which enabled me to expand the direction of my research:
“I imagined this was the effect he was aiming at while experiencing the work and tried, well at least a bit, to enter into the spirit of the thing. But, ultimately, this spectacle didn’t work for me. The queuing did more than build up expectations, it also gave me time to look around and to think about the perceived value of the architecture of the block about to be demolished, to think about the transformation of the Elephant and Castle area, and to contemplate how beautifully the last of the summer sunlight shone through the overgrown foliage of the estate’s central courtyard. Entering the flat from this position, the over-mannered artifice of the installation did not trigger any further thoughts on this particular place, the mourning or celebration of it, or some acknowledgement of the lives lived between these doomed walls. I’m familiar with Hiorns previous sulphate works and, basically, this installation is just like walking into one of them. It could be anywhere – if greater resonance is achieved by the fact that it is in a crumbling, boarded-up estate and not in a gallery then this feels like Hiorns is leeching off the place, rather than properly responding to it.” By Eva , 15 September.
Initially, Eva is writing about the technical solution behind the observers’ experience of a specific site, and how the status of the work is important because all the visual information for the observer is part of the experience, but instead of that side of things I concentrated on what was further behind it and hidden within the process. When I walked in, besides my amazement at the beauty of this strange place, not human and otherworldly, I instantly started thinking about my own research and how crystallizing a moment was an extremely interesting concept in itself. For instance, photographers arguably crystallize a moments on film, and in this case, Hiorns has crystallized a space, a whole flat, and a moment or a sculpture. By crystallizing the interior living space, he has intercepted the environment and now it is no longer just a living space. This reflects the real state of so many building in this area. Why do they no longer serve as living spaces? Although Eva does not think that Hiorns is acknowledging ‘the lives lived in between the walls’ I disagree and think that it was important that the work was placed in that specific space and not in a gallery. Elephant and Castle creates controversy and there are polemic discussions, with differing opinions about the aesthetics of the place. In some ways it’s precisely the ugliness and the peculiarities of its urban planning that attracts many artists to work there.
At first, my concern was about the scientific and chemical effect of this work because I was focused on the reversibility of systems and how the energy spent in it creates Entropy, the use of copper sulphate being an amazing example. But then I shifted my attention to applying the scientific phenomenon as a metaphor to the environment of the living space and its relationship to the history of Elephant and Castle. At this stage I was clearly divided and confused about the several possibilities of my research on the Entropy and the social aspect that has overtime become prevalent as a concerned of mine.
By reading the book of Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Entropy, I reached an important point in my research. Even though the book is slightly overly technical and centered on the logical relations in Entropy, as exposed by the concepts of chaos, order, etc, he is also very open minded and receptive to abstracts the ideas, enough to introduce new structural concepts and perspectives without denying factual truths. I think at this stage, I was already leaving physics on the side, as this was no longer the central point of my research.
By the mid-point review I was already intending to engage with a social environment, by comparing visual elements using moving images.
“In a scientific experiment designed to study the behavior of populations under stress, fish are incrementally introduced in an aquarium. At first, each fish creates its own space. But, as the space available for each individual gets reduced, the fish become increasingly aggressive towards one other. However, there is a point at which the number of fish is so great that the notion of vital space vanishes and the fish settle down as if resigned to their condition. Metaphorically speaking, this experiment raises an interesting question, there is an obvious interpretation whereby in increased disorganization violence will ensue, but from a certain point on enters a phenomenon of auto-organization (restricted available space for each) that results in the lessening of tensions. (Now imagine this at the scale of human society).”
Based on the book paragraph:
“…processes of spatial distribution must take place, roughly comparable perhaps to what can be observed at the human level when a large crowd of people scrambles across an empty auditorium, train, or bathing beach to suitable locations.
Here the struggle for elbow room and breathing space results in an elementary order even under conditions approaching homogeneity of structure.” RUDOLF ARNHEIM
This interest in environments containing social Entropy attracted me to observe people’s behavior and eventually to see once again the film by Alan Parker, Midnight Express. Watching this film, through a lens focusing on social Entropy, analogies within the story and dialogue tackle themes such as human behavior, illusion and free will and this became the subject of my Unit 1 research paper.
As an outcome of this newly centered research, I filmed the area around Piccadilly Circus, as a meeting point for people from all over the world with different behaviors, this created interesting visual patterns for observation.
So far, I have filmed from a high perspective through a window (like a voyeur) but my methodology has changed slightly and, as this project is still in development, I hope to be able to focus the camera in to street level, although still from a high perspective in order to closely follow people’s movement whilst retaining the angle of the round monument surrounded by the action of the people.
I plan to film for an extended period of time over the course of a day so that I have enough material to speed up the film using software and create a visual dynamic pattern of behaviors. This option became apparent to me after I changed the film speed for the symposium presentation at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, and also following critical advice from my tutor; I understand that carefully considering my methodologies is important to create this work.
Considering the context between the movie and the real situation that I filmed in Piccadilly Circus, led me to research further about the interpretation of free will in human society.
In the symposium, Jonathan Kearney spoke about the history of noise and its interpretation. When we hear sounds in a common environment, we identify what we believe to be bad noise and interpret that to be an interference of some sort, a communication that went wrong. We hear an error or a mistake, which needs to be to erased or corrected. On the other hand, in the 1940s a man named Claude Shannon came up with the reverse concept that a noise within a process of communication represents the world itself getting interfered with. This interpretation explains noise as an external aid, integrating the world environment to participate in the process. Jonathan’s research explores the question: Is that noise the human being? This question stayed in my mind but not related to the human but instead to the attitude, of free will. Is it possible to consider the noise as the Free will of a determinate system? Even within an environment made up of machinery?
This constitutes a turning point, by recycling information and recovering some spontaneity that has been lost in the age of mechanical perfection, there is a space for Free will. Henri Bergson (or even Kant in earlier times) already initiated, in the late 19th century, the concept of beginning to accept free will, which we can apply to as many environments as we want.
I bought this book in that symposium day at the University library shop.
“The problem which I have chosen is one which is common to metaphysics and psychology, the problem of free will. What I attempt to prove is that all discussion between the determinists and their opponents implies a previous confusion of duration with extensity, of succession with simultaneity, of quality with quantity: this confusion once dispelled, we may perhaps witness the disappearance of the objections raised against free will, of the definitions given it, and, in a certain sense, the problem of free will itself. To prove this is the object of the third part of the present volume: the first two chapters, which treat of the conceptions of intensity and duration, have been written as an introduction the third.” February, 1888. H. Bergson
Another exhibition which I saw at Palais de Tokio in Paris introduced me to the artist Laurent Grasso and Gakona .
The theme is about the energy, electromagnetism and how lay people react to these subjects. Gakona is a group of works based on rumors about how electromagnetic waves create on people a number of disturbances or even diseases.
“…But because of its military funding and the fears associated with electromagnetism, HAARP has also become an inexhaustible source of rumors. From climatic disruption to influence over human behavior, this forest of antennas has been credited with powers worthy of science fiction”.
Subsequently, I went with Camberwell colleagues to visit the power station in Tilbury. Unfortunately, as previously, Syral Industries denied us access to the Power Station and we were restricted to viewing the site from a distance. Even from this position, which we believed to be public property, we were searched by the Police for taking photographs of the exterior of the building.
I was expecting to find and capture in video some of the electromagnetic field surrounding the factory, there was an incredible noise of the electricity tension running in the distribution wires but I found in the end another kind of tension. Because we were unknowingly on private land, the Police arrived and created a human tension and insisted on inspecting everything we were filming and taking photos of. I did manage to take some images that reflect that tension but I have not processed adequately these yet.
Clearly for me, my analysis is that I will continue to look for moments of tension between machines and human reflections of freewill, turning points etc.
Another instance that struck me that day happened when I found a wooden pontoon on the riverside, creating a beautiful sound from the friction between planks moved by the water waves. I filmed and captured the sound, in this simple moment I found beauty in an abstract image and the video almost became a painting. The sound gave it a peculiar sense of tension and agony, as if the wood was breathing very slowly.
The combination of an illusory abstract image with a heart wrenching sound contrasted radically with a fantastic installation that I had seen in Paris inside the Saint-Eustache Church. STRATA was its name, and Quayla the multimedia Artist.
My main description of this project is on my blog, the most important outcome for me was, besides the amazing technologies used for building the video, the name of it: STRATA. This is associated with 3D software, but the original meaning in geological terms is a layer of rock laid down by natural forces which has consistent characteristics that distinguishes it from other contiguous layers.
Interestingly, I have recently found out that the new building being constructed in Elephant and Castle was also named Strata. I would hazard a guess that they decided upon this name possibly to create an analogy relating to the way this building contributes to the skyline and the different heights of all the buildings in the area.
My curiosity with the Elephant and Castle area has been built upon during the year from many angles, after the SEIZURE project, the views from my different room windows, my tutor’s project at the Faraday memorial and living there during all of this year, I have become interested in the development of the area and its rejuvenation.
I am continuing to collect research images intuitively and connecting these contextually which is progressing towards a final work.
To conclude, so far I have:
The Galp project named “MATINHA” finished and on-line:
This project was very important to realize some concerns about moving image and meaning.
By working in pacer with Ana João Romana I could explore notions of image related to inscription of text, memory and place. Jonathan Miles (head of printmaking department at Royal College ) wrote about this partnership work;
“Every city has to find ways of disposing with the dead. Perhaps this is why it is possible to feel that each city is filled by whispers and ghosts. Another way of perceiving this situation would be to see the city in terms of the layers of memory congregating in and around things (…) Matinha as a project is rich we thought about the relationship between information and matter, not only in terms of the working understanding of entropy and the apprehension of memory but with the pursuit of the means of presenting the intersections of the possible working of this relationship.
Within the project we have both moving and still elements, the still imbued with a melancholic aura, the moving with restless passages of exploration. Both in there respective ways are concerned with mood. The inscription of words are imbued with the formal elegance of a grave stone marking the place of the departed but the moving image is a search of other signs that cannot be marked or memorialised. It is as if two different.”
This critical engagement of my work was really important to accept for the future new methodologies, for example ; was in this particular work that , for the first time, I used the camera as an instrument to view a place , to discover the detail , to walk and register that journey.
Other videos are waiting for some decisions , options, even redefine methodologies or just to be placed within an installation to contextualize them:
“Lift”, “The Tilbury Woods” and “SAGRES(Rush Hour)”
And a number of projects in progress:
STRATA proj, PICCADILLY proj, SAGRES proj, CARRIS proj, SYRAL proj, and the Final show exhibition.
During this year, the critical support from my colleagues, the group sessions and tutorials were very important to help my work find a structure and new methodologies. The assessment feedback was very important and made me realize that there could be a weakness in the way I process inspiration and that a more formal methodology could be useful to give my work more structure and thematic content. I learned how useful a blog could be in helping me to organize my projects and prevent me from working on too many at the same time. As a reaction to that, I delayed the CARRIS project until 18th September and I reorganized the structure of my blog last month. I believe that the new appearance and organization has allowed it to be more accessible to my peers, and I intend to keep updating the information on it.
I’m more aware now of my working process and by selecting three videos: “Lift”, “Piccadilly Circus” and “SAGRES” (the bottles wheel in the recycling system and bottle washing machine), I think my final work for the exhibition will reflect some of the concepts intrinsic in all the videos: the tension between man and machines, fiction or illusion, behavior, effort and free will, which have all been themes I have been researching this year.
For my future development, I intend to use the blog as a space to draw my projects, solving problems, exposing themes and contextualizing my work whether it is intuitive or previously reflexive/conceptual. The act of researching has been the most important outcome for me, developing a consciousness of my working practice, the solutions and options, the meaning of it and more; How the work makes sense in the contemporary framework!
Theoretically, I recognize some conceptual inheritance from Land Art even though my work is not directly related to the physical experiences of nature; it has more to do with the reflected actions of nature.
I feel that there is in my work a constant attraction towards the capture of speed and time in real situations, between man, machine and nature. I feel an affinity, as Hal Foster says in his book, with a new age of artists returning to the ‘real’.
But this ‘real’, also includes illusion and fiction. Aesthetics and formal aspects continue to be a very important aspect in my work, with an intention to re-establish a return to contemplation of the beauty.
My work has been aided and validated by the following books:
Arnheim, Rudolf, 1971, Entropy and Art, an Essay on Disorder and Order, First published by the University Of California Press, Berkeley.
Bergson, Henri, Time and Free Will, an Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, 1913, 2001, Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York.
Callen, Herbert B, 1947, On the Theory of Irreversible Processes, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT press.)
Virilio, Paul, 1977 (1986), Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology. New York: Semiotext(e),
Foster, Hal, The Return of Real, 1996, An October book from MIT press, London.
Although there have been other books which I have consulted during the year, these were omitted from my final bibliography as my project theme developed. This does not mean they were not vital to my research; on the contrary, they became so problematic I realized I needed to alter my direction. For example, all the scientific books were too complex and detailed for my current expertise and they would require much more time to digest, so I decided to spend my time focusing on the contextualization of my images.