I’m excited to be designing with Opera Dell’Arte this summer and to get the creative juices running, I created a series of collage as a jumping off point.
The show they are inspired by is Princess Maleine. The original play
was by Maurice Maeterlinck, in a new production by Composer Whitney George and Librettist and Stage Director BE Goodwin.
About 10 years ago, I made a short film, rushed to edit it to show at a Theatre showing, and then on the night, the dvd wouldn’t play. I took it as a sign.
It didn’t really feel complete in a way I was happy with. So I popped it in a draw and forgot about it, until last month, when my hands starting aching from inflammation and I was forced to stop embroidering the project I wanted to finish and decided instead to work on this to help alleviate my hands. Sadly it didn’t work quite as well as I would have liked (still mending), but I have a better piece of work out it.
Inspired my Little Red Riding Hood, it’s a different take on growing up, and discovering yourself rather than anyone other.
When I was little I used to listen to an old walkie talkie I had found in the garage, bringing it into the house and curled up in the dark, I would turn the dial, tuning in and out of frequencies, in and out of other peoples lives, listening and piecing together the fragments like patchworking a giant sonic quilt, embroidered with my own perceptions of my neighbors. I wove together stories that lived on other ends of the dial into a new narrative. This is the narrative I’m always looking for- my sea of stories, the fragments woven into a stream that I can trickle through my fingers until it pools into an ocean and laps at my feet.
Now I walk labyrinths. Giant circles, into a swirling vortex of calm, catching sounds as I walk round and round and round, catching my own fragmentary thoughts, intermingled with the sound of the birds and crunching of stones underfoot and the soft padding of the long grass, until I can weave my thoughts into a coherent fabric, and narrative.
Today I walked an exhibition Sonic Arcade at The Museum of Art and Design in NYC, and it took me back to getting out my dad’s old walkie talkie, as I gamely checked out an old transmitter radio from the front desk and walked around the museum trying to pick up noises and sounds on my prescribed bandwidth, as part of art exhibit by Anna Fritz.
Sadly, the radio’s didn’t pick up any coherent sounds on the frequency I was told to listen to, and none of the museums volunteers could point me towards a beacon/transmitter, each insisting there one was on the other floor of the exhibition. Despite the lovely fictional backstory as to how the beacons were found, communication completely failed as to how to access the story, and all the hard work the artist had put into the piece.
And so I scanned in the (figurative) dark, picked up fragments of jazz and whispers of static, while maybe whole stories played on other frequencies that I couldn’t hear, and instead swung on swings in the polymorphic playground and played with consoles that made fun sounds at the touch of my fingertips- some of them looking quite like my labyrinths.
“Subject to Gesture” by Robert Aikia Aubrey Lowe
“The Polyphonic Playground” by Studio PSK
“Echophone” by Anna Friz
Format 3 by Foo:Skou interactive wood sculpture, that creates sounds as touched.
Wolfgang Tillmans with Isa Genzken, Science Fiction
Every direction is go…
Last week I was in Berlin and a dear friend directed me to the Hamburger Bahnhof, which is an amazing art museum of contemporary art, in a train Station, specifically for the route of Berlin to Hamburg in the 1840s. It’s a beautiful building, painted simply in whites and greys on the inside, as a fitting backdrop to the modernity of the art it houses.
While I was there, there were 2 exhibitions in play- The Probably Trust Registry by Adrain Piper, taking over the main hall, and then Moving in Every Direction about the ground floor, the exhibition was of installation art from 1960 to today with a focus on narrative structures.
“There is at present not a sense of anything being successfully happening, moving is in ever direction beginning and ending is not very exciting” Gertrude Stein, is the quote Moving in Every Direction uses as their spring board.
The exhibition contains permanent exhibits from Joseph Beuys, Dan Flavin and Bruce Nauman, as well as temporary pieces from Fischli & Weiss, Edward Kienholz, Susan Philipsz, Thomas Schutte, Pipilotti Rist, and Wolfgang Tillmans with Isa Genzken.
“Viewing the narrative fragments and perspectives within the artists spaces constantly shuffles the visitors into new associations[,]” each room- for the most part one per artist, creating a portal into another’s work. However, within the continuous narrative there were still some that stuck out.
Fischli and Weiss’ piece “Ohne Titel ( Fragen Projektion)” (Question Projection) is a slide show projection of overlapping questions, fading in and out, one on top of the others, both in English and German. The technique is something they’ve used before, notably in their flower series, which was my first introduction to them as artists, and are still some of my favourite pieces. Although I did not see it, I believe the piece may have been shown at the Tate Modern in 2006, in their retrospective Flowers & Questions, producing the book, “Will happiness find me?” as many of the questions are the same as the book with same title. These questions- mundane, profound, everyday worries on the minutiae of life as well as questions too large to answer, are all projected as swirling thoughts across a black backdrop, with only a tiny model of a bed as company. They are the thoughts rolling through our foggy brains as we stumble towards sleep, and here are witty, thought provoking and ultimately as mesmerizing as dream state, “tracking the mechanisms of the mundane.” 1
Pippilotti’s Rist’s work The Remake of the Weekend, is both an homage to the film of the same title by Jean-Luc Goddard, but also a comment on how we hold-up the weekend as a time to life our lives to the fullest, while quite contend to trudge through the drudgery of a 9-5, 5 days a week. The installation itself is a series of projections from the ceiling projected onto a series of pools of pebbles and sand, a reference to the Emily Bronte’s reflection on the pebble in The Weekend. The videos themselves are vibrant and carefree, beautiful overlapping, colour burnt, over and double exposed. The ones I loved the most were simply of 2 women exploring the beach, the shadows of their skirt and the freedom of the wind caressing the fabric about their legs.
The installation has been show in various incarnations, from it’s initial inception, shown at the Hamburger Bahnnof in 1996 after the artist did a DAAD residency, where it was shown on “a three dimensional, life-size version of a bus by using back projection screens[,]” “produced a light, floating effect[.]”2.
Showing the videos as puddles on the floor forces an entirely different viewpoint upon the audience, and presents them as more small moving paintings, than as video/ film work. Rist herself has described video as ” a painting on glass that moves, because video also has a rough imperfect quality that looks like painting… video has its own peculiar qualities, it’s own nervous, lousy, inner-world quality and I work with that” 3 and I think with this viewpoint, they indeed become paintings rather than film.
Horace Walpole said “Life is a tragedy for those who feel, a comedy for those who think” which is a quote that was used to describe The Weekend and is followed through beautifully in Rist’s work.
Edward Kienholz’ room, Volksempfangers, feature radios of the same name “a range of radio receivers developed by engineer Otto Griessing at the request of [Nazi] Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels[,]” 4 cheaply produced so that anyone could afford them, creating a powerful propaganda machine.
“Listening to foreign stations became a criminal offense in Nazi Germany when the war began, while in some occupied territories, such as Poland, all radio listening by non-German citizens was outlawed (later in the war this prohibition was extended to a few other occupied countries coupled with mass seizures of radio sets).” 5
“Hitler’s dictatorship differed in one fundamental point from all its predecessors in history. His was the first dictatorship in the present period of modern technical development, a dictatorship which made the complete use of all technical means for domination of its own country. Through technical devices like the radio and loudspeaker, 80 million people were deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible to subject them to the will of one man…” 6 Albert Speer
The radios play news broadcasts, layered with Wagner, a composer appropriated by the Nazi’s, all of which have foot pedals that the audience can press to turn on, multiples together, or, thankfully, off.
The other exhibition in the space, Adrain Piper’s The Probable Trust Registry: rules #1-3, is an installation in it’s own right, it seems particularly reverent, as it resonates within today’s political climate, particularly with proliferation of fake news, forcing the questions of truth and trust in the news. However, the piece was actually created in 2015 for the Venice Biennel. It features 3 infomation desks in which the audience can register their compliance with 3 statements, which is signed on a tablet and then printed out and given to the participant as a written contract that they have signed. Written above the desks are the statements
1. I will always be too expensive to buy
2. I will always say what I mean
3. I will always do what I say I am going to do
“[I]t raises philosophical as well as quite practical questions regarding democratic processes and individual responsibility.” 7
It’s a simple but powerful installation and it creates a bank of trustworthy people, “each individual voluntarily comm[iting] to align his or her future deeds with ethical principles such as honesty and reliability” that at the end of the project are allowed to contact each other, if both ends wish. 7 “In this way, Piper binds us together quite literally, between book covers, but also in time: anyone who breaks their promise to the agreement is somehow beholden not only to him or herself but also to the other people who have sworn to uphold it.” 8 This “database of signatories that will be held securely by the museum for a century.”9
The simple act of signing a a written contract with oneself, witnessed by another has weight and one that once initiated feels like an act of residence in a world where lipservice is becoming everything. ‘Her work, [the venice biennal jury] wrote, “invite us to to engage in a lifelong performance of personal responsibility.” 9
It’s a contract once signed does induce the audience to rethink their words and actions, self realization being everything. I realized I’m terrible at #3, and am actively working on it!
Although Joseph Beuys’ work in the museum is part of their permanent collection, I was totally in awe of the pieces displayed. I have seen his work before, notably at the Tate Modern, as part of their permanent collection, but I have to say the explanation of his work always seemed lacking and never seemed to be a complete description of his full process ,or truly encompass the breath of the concepts of his work. Although it’s too much to go into all the Beuys’ work in the musuem here, as it’s extensive, the writings of Caroline Tisdall, Beuys’ travelling companion, which are fragmented around his work, are deeply insightful, and more can be read about their relationship and her work here. There is a book of her writings, Joseph Beuys: We Go This Way.
“make your secrets productive”
For more info on Fischli and Weiss see http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/fischli-weiss
For more on Pipilotti Rist see
6 Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks; Andrew D. Evans; William Bruce Wheeler; Julius Ruff (1 January 2014). Discovering the Western Past, Volume II: Since 1500. Cengage Learning. pp. 350–. ISBN 978-1-111-83717-4.
For more on Edward Kienholz see
For more on Adrain Piper and her work with The Berlin Journal of Philosophy see
I visited Roni Horn’s Library of Water yesterday while in Iceland, and then while wandering around town I found the regular library, and a very helpful librarian who was fantastic in finding me all the books they have on her and useful infomation around the subject.
The project is a interesting one, seemingly simple, but steeped in emotional resonance for anyone coming from a climate in which the weather informs your way of life in any small way.
Roni Horn collected water from glaciers around Iceland, as ice, which she allowed to melt and then encapsulated them in clear columns, which after standing in this form, the sentiment of even the cloudiest water sunk to the bottam leaving clear tubes of water.
The water reflects and distorts everything around it and moving through the space, and from outside the large bay windows reflect the sea and ships, becoming invisible save shimmers of refractions on the columns. It’s stunning and poignant.
It’s combined with words that all describe the weather on the floor, both in Islandic and English, some of which don’t translate- although those that don’t are the most telling, I think, in terms of how we react to the weather culturally.
In a country in which the weather changes so suddenly, it’s a interesting correlation to make, and also one that personally resonates. As a sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder, when living in London I needed to make sure I was living in places with ample amounts of light, without which the damp grey fog would descent into my brain and render me incapable of surfacing without extreme struggle. I never felt like myself in winter, even with hour walks in the morning to try and instill as much sunlight in me as possible. The weather was a weight, a damp that got into my bones and my brain, infecting/ affecting my daily routines and relationships with others.
Roni Horn has also written and documented extensively her trips through Iceland, in the books On Place, from motorbiking and hitchhiking through in the seventies and documenting hot springs- both as images and also written work describing the thrill of quietly undressing in the dark to lower herself into the water that creates and is Iceland; the start of portraits and You are the Weather Series, documentation of all the natural phenomenon of lava and rock formations in Iceland, and also written about the emotional journey through Iceland. She describes finding Jules Vernes’ entrance to the center of the earth and it’s nearby labyrinth remains both as a physical and also psychological journey, the weather a constant and influential passenger in a journey of self discovery.
There is something about traveling in this small island with only yourself, and the weather, and an invisibility of yourself within the landscape that occurs. I brought books, but barely looked at them, the scenery taking over my emotional landscape.
Roni Horn did a lot of her traveling in winter and so survival became a paramount concern. Even in summer, storms can sweep in, and traveling under the midnight sun, you can forget the time and your own lack of sleep as you negotiate the windy roads (the lack of sleep alone has been putting my emotions dangerously close to the surface). But the Island doesn’t care about your survival; awareness, alertness and intutivity are needed to traverse the landscape and a oneness with the weather can create an emotional Walden traveling with you around the island.
All photos taken from Roni Horn’s Iceland 2, from the series On Place.
Roni Horn is an American Artist who describes Iceland as her open air studio. This project was mounted by Artangel in 2007, in a former library building overlooking the ocean in Stykklisholmur and is ongoing.
So I have been happily obsessed with kaleidoscopes now for the past year, and what started as a minor curiosity with an old childhood toy, has become something to dig and explore into over and over again, in different mediums, and with different ideas on accuracy, perfection, and reflection.
For kaleidoscopes, a simple set of 3 or 6 mirrors, taking in light and throwing them back to us in new refracted ways, can show us a new perspective; but it’s also brought me back to the book Pieces of Light by Charles Ferryhough, and his findings on memory.
Psychologist, Ferryhough has discovered that each time a memory is remembered, it is recreated.”Every act of remembering is an act of creation, a confabulation stitched together from an array of different cues.” Sometimes with the same level of accuracy, but more often than not, coloured by emotion, or nostalgia, or simply small pieces and details misplaced or forgotten. “Each act of remembering, and especially each act of retelling, subtly changes the memory itself. What we end up with is a smudgy copy of a copy of a copy[…]”*
Memory remembered, and re-remembered , mirrored to create what we define as our truth, not based on facts at all by the 10th or 12th remembering, watered down like homeopathic remedies, the memory of a herb replacing the herb itself. And yet these memories we call our truths and they can haunt us, colour our perceptions of the world and how we see our place in it.
I wanted to make kaleidoscopes that interpret this, where the mirrors are slightly off, the reflections betray each other, the imperfections in the endless repeated images peeling off and creating their own reality.
It’s been making me think of Angela Carter’s amazing book, The Desire Machines of Dr Hoffman, where holographic images take over the city and the populous can’t tell what is reality and which isn’t. Fake memories, or fake news occupy the same space, and we certainly have enough unreality to go around with this administration.
The idea of something as trustworthy as mirrors, which rarely lie, unless bent or distorted, creating a warped idea of reality.
Anyway, all this has led to an exploration of kaleidoscopes in art in general, which I then realized, is a path that has already quite well tread.
Yayoi Kusana, a favourite artist of mine, started using mirrors to create her first mirror installation, Phalli’s Field, as she was sick of sewing phallic tubers, and thought mirrors would be a more efficient way of creating an endless landscape of them. Her mirror landscapes now form quite a hefty part of her cannon and are incredibly beautiful and also mesmerizing, in that the audience stands within them, seeing themselves reflected an infinite amount of times, losing count very quickly of how many of us are in the room.
Olafur Elison is another artist working with the kaleidoscope format. I had visited Harpa, in Iceland, 2 years ago, as so knew him as an architect, but when looking up installations in Vienna, where I thought I was going to visit this Summer, I saw images of his kaleidoscopic art works that were installed in the The Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy palace between 2015-2016 in an installation called Baroque Baroque.
The exhibition itself seemed to have spanned a large section of the palace, and fused the old with the new, the new sucking in the old and reflecting it in back a new light- literally.
He has said his artwork is more about seeing-oneself-seeing or sensing-oneself-sensing that creating objects, ” about trying to introduce relationships between having an experience and simultaneously evaluating and being aware that you are having this experience. It’s not about experience versus interpretation but about the experience inside the interpretive act, about the experience itself being interpretive.”** In that way, he is interested in museums co-producing spaces with the audience, co-creating within an installation**, a concept I find very intriguing, and also very important as an audience member to feel fully engaged in an art form. The idea of a active participant is one that resonates with me- it’s why I started creating installative/ immersive theatre***, and why I wrote my B.A thesis on film that calls for an active viewer.
It’s also probably why I admire his work so much, it creates a world to co-habit, and each individuals response will be different, but everything I have seen has become reflective, both literally and figuratively. He “employ[s] shifting frames of reference that are shared with science, psychology and architecture” so that “experience and perception, rather than a supposedly unmediated thing-in-itself, have become [his] elusive subject. “**
Monir Farmanfarmaian is another artist primarily working with mirrors and reflections. I first saw her work in the V & A in London, over 10 years ago. She is an Iranian artist, who grew up around traditional mosaics, but only after living out of Iran grew to appreciate the skill of the glass cutters and the work that goes into creating them. She has inverted this tradition, creating something new, out of something ancient, creating mirror balls and geometric designs that are more modernly minimalistic.
Although she has stated there is no deeper meaning or concept behind her work, especially in the larger, wall size pieces, there is a certain amount of reflection that goes along with seeing oneself fragmented into tiny pieces.
For more on Olafur Eliasson see
here – the artist interviewing himself
*** for more on immersive theatre see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Site-specific_theatre
**** pictures taken from http://www.thethirdline.com/artists/monir-shahroudy-farmanfarmaian/selected-work/
***** pictures taken from http://toosfoundation.com/monir-shahroudy-farmanfarmaian/
For more on Yayoi Kusama see
For more on Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian
So I thought I’d play with the idea of collage and sound, after seeing a fantastic collage by David Michael Reyes, on instagram (see here for the post.)
All in all, I think it needs to be animated somehow, but this is just the first stage, so we’ll see how it goes from here.
“Burn it all down (to see what grows)” 2017
I love my photoshop, but I normally stick to my handcut cut and paste for collage work, knowing that using the digital renders me indecisive. There is never one piece created (if there is, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg, that needs digging into). There are so many variations possible, that why have one, when you can mutate them for hours on end. With the 4 separate collage pieces I had, and the 20 odd pictures I created, these are my 2 favourites (I still can’t decide).
I travelled to Puerto Rico this last summer, and ever since I have been obsessed with waking up and looking at the sea out of the window. Especially as that sea reflected the green of the lush jungle of the islands under the dappled grey of the sky, dusting listy across the sea. The colours are unusual for your typical seascape, but nice to play with, and create mood with, while experimenting with dripping paint, and collage, across the canvas.
4ft by 6ft, acylic, ink, text on canvas
18″ by 24″, acrylic and ink on aluminum
18″ by 24″, acrylic and ink on aluminum
24″ by 24″ acrylic, ink and collage on wood
18″ by 24″ collage, beads on card