I see little point now in reflecting upon what might have been post December show. At the time I was happy with the work to date and considering what next. Then Covid happened. At that point I had no real idea where this was going so I started to work with what I was comfortable with, the act of making was enough. This developed into The Frock in the Room and it's here that I start thinking of what might have been. How would this have been experienced as an installation at Gray's as part of a group show? I see a shared space with Angela, we worked well together in December and I enjoyed that time. The space has a fixed ceiling. The experience of fashioning a fabric roof last August was not a good one. Dark and still, the mezzanine again. I always see the installation as having tangled threads on the outside, traces of people, movement. I would be making the work now, a day to finish, self-doubt well embedded. But it stops there. The rest is unclear, a blur of object and projection, then and now. This is the point where what- might- have- been and what-is-now meet.
The liminal space where interesting things happen.
So what happens next? In person projections? I imagine the work projected onto the shed walls close to here, more layers, new experiences. Or maybe online video. Both? For now, I plan to archive the course in a suitcase.
Why use video as a medium for The Frock in the Room when previous attempts at documenting work this way haven't worked for me? As an attempt to address this dilemma again I've been looking at video artists such as Tacita Dean, Shirin Nesrat and Bill Viola and I am beginning to see a way forward. I am now thinking of the videos as moving sketches created in an alternative darkroom. By using simple apps I may have found a route to seeing the work as a time based piece.
Within the installation at home there are conflating narratives, which haven't developed as the work developed. I'm thinking here in terms of the many acts of processing as recollection that darkroom images go through, how each process is a different dialogue, a new 'seeing', a new act of remembering. Constructing the installation, throughout the making there was a dialogue, but it was a continuous one, a picking up where we left off dialogue between the work and me. Constructing the installation for the December show, part of the process was similar, but there were external dialogues happening too. Dialogues between the work, colleagues and myself. Covid has made that physical contact impossible for now.
The videos are a work in progress. As layers of making, they are the past, the now and the what might have been, the everyday, the mundane and the absent. Maybe they are documenting in person moments, inviting further dialogue online, maybe I'm creating a new dilemma?
But they are the sum of my time on the course.
Should they be in my memory suitcase?
Another of these now frequent moments of closure for the course, it's been a week of them. This was Iceland in August last year, the same time the Masters' show was happening. I was gutted to miss it but I had this years's show to look forward to.......
It's not a particularly good photo, but for me it summarizes visually much of my research to date. In Pierce's terms the reflection in the window, an index which has many strands of personal connection. In Barthesian terms it is also that bit of the image which 'pricked' me. In Situationists's terms it was a journey with no plan and in Perec's terms it's of the infra-ordinary. It's not an image I would use in a memory suitcase at work. Without the reflection it says very little to me. But it did prick me when I opened it. The reflection confusing, a curve ball to distract time and narrative. What do you call an image which fits all these criteria - memory trigger?
Scientists may be divided on the cognitive benefits of reminiscence therapy, but asking questions of these objects from a different perspective has justified my continued belief in them as a library resource. For me it's about the being-there -in-the-now moments of joy that these objects facilitate.
Reflecting on all this, I asked myself which three objects I would save in a fire. Following the pattern of health care professionals I asked, it would be photographs of family, wedding, pets. But for me it would be a bowl, a lamp and a camera. These would be in my suitcase.
Following on from 'A Cacophonous Chatter' post from March. I wanted to continue developing the use of sound as added layers of discord within the work. I recorded other sounds to layer in with the voices, I altered speeds and volume, and, just like my initial attempts with Photoshop many years ago, I got carried away with new software, it began to control me. The sounds, while weird and wonderful, were meaningless and once again I had an ownership dilemma. The first time I had this kind of issue was during the lecture on Digital Futures early on in the course. Being an old school bookbinder, I always thought that craft should be designed and made by an individual, not manufactured elsewhere. But, that lecture got me thinking about my books and whose instructions I followed initially. Was that any different to designers and Fab Labs?
Back to sounds, software and meaningless output. It could be said that I was exploring sound in the same way that I explore process in the darkroom. But in the darkroom I have a degree of knowledge to start the exploration. With Audacity, I was starting from scratch and the narrative was becoming forced,slick but forced.
So I started again and this time began to consider how to listen as well as what to hear. If I am exploring everyday objects as memory triggers, I should be doing the same with everyday sounds. Deep Listening, but I am thinking here of the deep listening of Nan Shepherd, whose sounds I imagine through her prose as images, I can place myself in her in her world. By closing my eyes I can place myself in my own sonic environment, a new experience, new layers of understanding. By recording these sounds I can place my sonic environment in alternative spaces, to elevate the narrative, to invite new dialogue.
Self-isolation, both in the context of memory loss and with the continuing lockdown, I returned to the familiarity of the coat and the shadow. The old blocks become alters to place objects of memory, familiar, welcoming subjects from the past. Earlier, the plinths held old cameras, my attempt to develop the sound piece from the December show but it didn't work for me, there was no connection, the initial improvised nature of cameras as speakers was lost. That, and the fact that my skill set doesn't stretch to electronics will make me explore other sound avenues.
In some ways these 'alters' are starting to say what I want them to, small assemblages of everyday stuff, narratives inviting one's own interpretation. But surrounding these narratives are threads, the new common factor running through the work. Threads here as barriers, but, like the coat and the assemblages, am I using threads as a connection to the familiar comfort of life before lockdown, life as a bookbinder? Possibly yes, but for now, that's really okay.
I made a frock using gel medium and a pattern. I don't know when or if it will be developed, but for now I wanted to make one for me to attone for the disaster that was the August frock. The tutors say don't focus on this, and in the bigger picture they are right. But for me, I need to make one.
This time I worked with the materials, slowly with consideration, exploring the potential of a material I understood in different circumstances.
I now have a frock, or maybe I should say I have something that resembles a frock visually. It doesn't move or feel like a frock, and it's fragile when cold, so fragile then that it shatters. Another pathway to visualising memory? Maybe at some point but for now I'm content that I made a frock.
Learning curve for today - don't use spray mount near wine glass or phone.
Jess's bedroom is no more. Well, it will always be her room, there are reminders throughout, but the main aspect of a bedroom, the bed, is no more. She seems okay with it though as I've taken over her brother's bedroom too......
How do I see this room? It's still Jess's room, a familiar space now populated with both material and immaterial traces of most of her life. The floor has the patina of use, desire paths clearly visible now the room is bare. But new paths are being created as I begin to feel my way around the space. The walls are now in a constant state of flux, ever changing as I continue navigating a new way of working. I realise I am lucky here, I have room to do this at home, others don't have this luxury.
I still miss the darkroom at Grays. I would sometimes just be there with no real purpose in mind, the act of making in there was enough. Having no access however has maybe been a good thing for me, it has made me consider new ways of working, which in turn has offered new directions which may not have been considered pre-lockdown.
I attended a workshop several years ago in the bowels of His Majesties Theatre in Aberdeen designed for care home staff who work with residents who have dementia. Run by the Spare Tyre group in London whose ethos is to engage with those least involved in cultural activity, the workshop began before we entered the room. Sounds and scents surrounded us in the corridor before we entered the main room, a gentle way of guiding us to the main event. Once there the multi-sensory experience continued through the use of sight and touch. Non-verbal communication was explored through eye and hand contact, and by means of the everyday object. It was here that I realised the power of the mundane to facilitate a shared experience.
Having introduced sound as a layer within the December show, I want to explore this further as it added another dimension to my practice. The work then was very raw, with little thought as to how to project the sound, some of the narratives were stilted, some people more at ease with being recorded than others. I had no idea what I was doing editing wise, but after having experienced the John Waters piece at Look Again, I knew sound was a direction I wanted to explore. But this lack of 'professionalism' perhaps enhanced the work.
This is still very much a work in progress and I have much to learn about sound editing. At present I am looking at time within sound using the narratives recorded by work colleagues layered with recordings of an old music box from my childhood. Slowing time digitally is producing haunting, eerie sounds, fragments, traces from the past echoing in the present. Everything comes back to time and the act of remembrance.
The music box piece can be played from the videos page on this site.
How I feel just now? This image is how I felt at the start , adjusting to life in self-isolation. The impact of lockdown began to hit me. No access to the darkroom is the biggest thing for me. It's like missing an old friend. I recently wrote about time spent in there, in the same way Perec wrote about exhausting a street in Paris, but I failed. I wrote instead about being in the moment in there, the performance, the ongoing dialogues between myself and the processes. Time spent watching images appear and disappear. I miss the smell, the presence of the chemicals, the atmosphere. I miss the place. Charlie asked me once if the chemicals have agency. Now I realise that for me, they do.
I miss being in there with other people too, staff and students. I miss the banter and the generous sharing of knowledge, the mutual support. I just miss it.....
Lockdown at home means working with existing materials, as in the title of a favourite reminiscence book, Make do and Mend. I have a new darkroom here, but I don't know it yet, I'm not comfortable in there. That will take time, I need to get to know it first. So now I'm working with old images, ones I know well. In these times of self-isolation, it feels good being surrounded by familiar things.