Monday, 27 December 2010

outside my window

is being recorded to be edited. in the meantime: a little trailer teaser.

thank you, l!

Saturday, 25 December 2010


eindruck_ausdruck [aka reflections 2]



the limitations of translations mark out the cheesiness of the simple polarity of impression and expression. i remember back to how i could never remember, or rather: differentiate, which method defined which school: what was the inside/outside, stimuli/response of the impressionists and the expressionists. it took a long time until i remembered that the former were the keen outdoorsy ones, soaking up the world in all its fleetingness to then express these impressions.

eindruck_ausdruck signify research and art. the keen observation of empirical facts, relations and circumstances. the correct identification of these impressions stimulates research. it is impressed, never to be impressionistic. how different from the cheap and hazy thrills that paint offered on canvas. and colour even. my heart races, my gullet sings with adrenaline and it all turns into colour and mark on canvas.

simple. isn't it.

departures to define a break with observation, impression, towards one of gesture and mark, expression.

i remember being scalded for not being expressive enough about my national, if not international expertise.
i remember the impressions left from fraught research relations and the bewilderment of others if these were dared to be expressed.
i remember the realisation that the kind of politics that mattered did not have a place. could not have a place in the institution (see expressive expertise).

observations that fed the lack of expression as the expressions i would seek were not sought.

i remember the excitement of the problems that a canvas could posit.
i remember the recognition that only close observation could resolve whatever expression.

i remember the boredom with proclamations that artistic expression was all that was needed.

present memories that simply are the internal relations of eindruck_ausdruck. they only exist in each other, are one everchanging dynamic. one

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

to see again

"I wanted to see Kafka’s tomb. Knowing perfectly well (having verified it so many times) that you cannot see what you want to see, I went to the cemetery to see what I could not see. It’s the law. All is law. It’s because of desire. The law makes its nest in the peels of desire. Go on: you will not enter. If you did not desire to go, there would be a chance that the door would open." (Cixous, H. (1997), ’Attacks of the Castle’, in Leach, N. (ed.) Rethinking Architecture, London, New York: Routledge; p.303.)

i had forgotten about it. about the law that nests in the peels of desire. so i stumbled upon it over the past fortnight. as time unhooked itself; the temporal unfolding of anticipation dissipated one by one. peel by peel. events undid themselves. never took place. took place elsewhere and without. a series of undoings unmark time: plans that did not happen. a fortnight that did not happen leaves the plans as unmade.

and still time passed. in not happening it passed nonetheless. interrupted by the occasional sound outside the window. another leaked cable. another emptied battery cycle. time structured by anticipation - vorfreude - making its own laws of desire. with anticipation pulled, linearity dissipates. time? never there in its everpresence.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

to show

against the setting sun south of ibrox we skidded on icy pavements. first north, then south. tried to cross the road, not to drop the paintings and not to get too overtly lost. all the while covering (a) urban politics; (b) the innecessity of expensive pavements but of occasional grit; (c) academic attitude that cannot be explained by habitus; (d) the between rather than the either/or; (e) berlin, frankfurt and glasgow as elsewheres; (f) whether to turn corners tightly or not; and really that this city is so definitely build for cars. all the while nonetheless getting lost at every possible corner, despite the googling.

finally, the paintings were dropped off, unscuffed by the ice. we laughed: really the only way to deliver paintings to the house for an art lover. and skidded on.

it does make me reconsider painting though. i have to admit.

the show. here.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

'I wrote for...'

'I wrote for women whose lives consisted only of work and sorrow.'

- says the text for this week's calendar page. by hedwig courts-mahler in memory of the sixtieth anniversary of her death.

hedwig courts-mahler. the name is familiar. i came across it again and again in the verneered book shelf that i browsed as a little girl. along with other names and titles who proclaimed promise, love and tragedy in equal measure if preferably not in that order.

i also remember my mother's comments... 'och, that stupid woman and her stupid stories' - if not that phrase, then something to a very similar effect. h c-m nonetheless was her mother's best-loved author and so, my granny duly devoured her many writitings, even if all of them were so same.

how strange to stumble across this writer again. how strange also to reconsider my granny, as well as my mother's rejection in the light of the quote above.

'fairytales for adults' advertises the publisher; i think of something else as it resonates with a current writing that is being finalised for print in december. here's a mental note to this effect.

Friday, 19 November 2010

first breakfast after the drought

or should it be: draft?

in any case. the little sundew is recovering well after the enforced heat and no water it suffered while i was in iceland. it had died back completely but yesterday morning it was happily munching on a little fruitfly. can you spot it?

much of my attention has been revolving around the various 'growing' projects i got myself into this year: the plants inside the house were doing well; a honeysuckle got planted in the backyard along with two marrows. as the usual wet summer onfolded, the marrows got heavily munched on by slugs, so much so that no flowers other than two early ones, pre-slug fest, bore fruits; the honeysuckle got overgrown by the usual weeds in the border and almost fell victim to a sustained attack by our 'gardeners' who ignored long trails and stick and did their best to kill it off - luckily: unsuccessfully so. my avocado plant which in its 20 years has stayed with many friends and has been attended to throughout does not do much more than bristle its dry leaves after three weeks of drought and heat attack. there's no sign of life in it despite the best plant vibes and even more attention by all my visitors and myself since.

much of this, notably earlier, living incarnations of the avocado plant, had made it into print. and again, most of my current art projects involve the sounds, cycles and various states of these plants. along with some contemplations of the vagaries of weather, people and all else. none of them are for show just yet. but i can clearly see a picture of an old eccentric woman who talks to her many plants coming along as a possible future. hehehe... it may even be time to plant some fruit trees... in gardens that aren't mine but others. what strange notion property is.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

sketch experiments

i mentioned that i took some laminated drypoint paper with me to iceland, didn't i?
having started to put into practice my 'spending time at the print studio plan', i've begun to finalise and edition some of the plates that have accumulated but needed a printing press.

so, here are, invariably titled greetings from grimsey; otto helms, grimsey; or: opa uelzen war auch auf grimsey. titling through memorised tool: i took the swiss army knife my dad had rescued and cleaned from one of my, by then rather confused, granddads 'de-cluttering' sessions (aka: throw everything you have in the nearest nettle bushes). while the knife doesn't go everywhere, it made it to iceland and was a rather able tool of choice for some drypoint experiments. and while it's unlikely that he ever would have come along to iceland (travelling was  definitely more  his wife's thing), i very much enjoyed the thoughts the improvised tool provided for the journey and after.

four 'postcards' from the island, inked up as intaglio and printed on one sheet. each card is about 7x10cm.

Monday, 8 November 2010

art + labour: a public conversation. 9 November 2010

tomorrow in glasgow, cca5, is this:

just before, there is another workshop on artist loans and internships in the morning (from 10.30am onwards). please see the variant site for details.

Friday, 5 November 2010

chickens don't just scratch

now with improved animation and sound that isn't straight out of the recorder (or indeed a location).
there is hope yet for a boiling mud pot remix.
happy oyster catching!

Monday, 18 October 2010

and in the background

... there is still more: another view, the same sound

yet, the eyes don't blink, don't move, don't change focus. it's rather simple: her video editing skills are not up to such complexities - yet.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

colour scheme i

all the while, i hear this in the background

Monday, 27 September 2010

the capture of spectularity

three days spent on grimsey afforded not only the crossing of the artic circle and a futile hunt of some puffins that didn't leave but also an exchange of the various books one transports in a backpack on iceland. we shared the little hostel with a german woman who packs even more excessively than i do: but her five books in iceland provided some good insights into hiking routes and various other bits.

the book that really got me was one with a chapter titled 'nature equals kitsch plus x', by wolfgang mueller. what a marvellous equation. it provided and still does provide plenty to mentally chew over. again and again when you just stare around you and there is just no way of doing anything else other than staring.

m, the woman with the five travel books sat downstairs in the kitchen and each morning declared: 'wow - i can't get over this change in the photo wallpaper over there' - pointing to the icelandic mainland in some 50 kms distance in ever changing light, cloud and snow formations. 'how come they put a new one up every couple of hours?'

the evening before we walked to the northern tip and while i happily snapped away with the camera, every click was futile. it froze in time and single viewpoint all that what could not be frozen.

it seemed ridiculous to try and capture in image something that once capture would be pure kitsch. photography and painting/drawing as completely futile. and then i read about above's equation. the equation, so mueller, renders visual arts in iceland virtually impossible, and land art doesn't even need a consideration to start with.

what a fabulous starting point of my little landart, nature, landscapism module: failure. utter failure to deal with where you're at and what you see. there are possibly some caveats to this:
- what is there to turn to if visual representation is utterly meaningless?
- the romantics tried to romanticise -- make abstract and thus more beautiful -- the landscape. what if it cannot be made any more beautiful?
- sightseeing spectacularity makes you numb and blind; but, relatedly: how do you ordinarily live with such spectacularity?

thus, while taking futile photos, trying to sketch some of the many horses, catalogueing the various colour changes in boiling mudpots, ignoring the clouds above as any sketch would be only considered not real enough and contemplating the folds that thick lave flow makes, i am working my way through the above.

maybe next: some colour schemes, of mudpots and arctic forests (i.e. blueberries, cranberries and crow berries) in autumn beauty. but first a bit more failure. fresh from grimsey:

Sunday, 26 September 2010

it smells

unmistakenly in front of us, the municipal rubbish dump. we are walking towards west into the valley and the wind is just heading our way. raven and the usual mix of various gulls circle not above a fishing boat but the waste. right to the side is a smaller heap for green cuttings. they have so many trees here that they even cut them.

of course iceland smells. in 5 degrees c it doesn't approach anywhere near a good whiff of central berlin in high summer, but rubbish stinks here too.

we knew there as an 'unimpressing stretch of 1-2 hrs of road if you don't have a car to get straight to the car park'. so... if you don't travel by car you need to deal with the smell.

earlier in the morning i outlined the 5-10 options for the last stop before returning to reykjavik. and, while outlining realised that i'm not that far away from my friend who hates decisioning as there is invariably a worse option than the one she may chose. not long ago i declared: nope, don't have that problem. but: here i most definitely do. the choice (omitting various suboptions):

- a highly attractive eastfjord village with norwegian buildings; or:
- a functional service centre with a lack of cheap accommodation.

the decisionmaker: public transport, and due to the lack of it: too little time.

so, as we clambered up sulur, west of akureyri and its rubbish dump, the dilemma, once seen with a bit more colour scheme and view to the sea towards the arctic unmasked itself as yet another one of the:

how many sights can you cram into one week or a weekend even, with its appropriate sections in any english speaking travel guide. can it be shorter? more exciting? riveting even? another vulcano, another glacier, more hot springs, more exciting lava formations?

we decided rather clearly: this is a pseudo-dilemma. no point in chasing highlights. a walk is a walk and the light changes make any functional service town in grass, heather, moss settings rather spectacular.

more on the latter, next... if i get access to inet and computer again...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

ps... the sound of time travel

is this. my ghost of time by petra vergunst

Saturday, 11 September 2010

more on time travel

the ghost of time has been with me throughout the last year. it has become a structuring device. an organizing framework for sense-making. it allows me to time travel. so I did last Sunday night – my neighbour’s loud and evident love at 4 am for put me firmly at a table, at the entrance of the t-keller with some rioja and him, some time in 1999; and as the associations tumbled along, it was a year and one day that I sat in the kitchen of the white room and suddenly had words for that restlessness in my body and my heart. a restlessness intermingling with fear. not the ordinary fear of the world outside but the ordinary fear of the world inside. in fact, the fear of that restlessness. that there would only ever be restlessness. that at all crucial moments in time, these would be inscribed by restlessness. those sensations that travel from my gut up to the back of my throat, shedding adrenaline through my body, making it tingle everywhere.

high alertness and yet nowhere to move.

the ghost of time as expression of a past as it inflected on the future in the very present. it is my specific time travel: backwards and forwards and then let it all collapse into the now. has noone ever thought of this before?

once the words were written at the kitchen table while it was getting dark outside, they took concrete form. rather than another pdf on my hard drive, they called for moving further, onto paper, into print and illustration. that transformation of the bodily sensation into external document was deliberate. as I had written about taking pictures to the framer and thereby externalising them, giving them their own subject being – one so much less owned by me, so was this.

it was a gift, a memento (and so much mori), to him, but even more so to myself. psychoanalysis has probably clearly defined terms for such externalising of loss and grief. it becomes material and thus separate from the self.

looking back at the traces on the blog I am surprised how it also became intimately tied up with my departure – a physical and a mental one during October and November. looking at the posts I don’t remember several of them – if the presence is so full, I find that it leaves little space to be remembered in detail later. so while I was leaving and yet staying, the ghost of time did precisely that: it ghosted my time in absence. marked out a space of loss in the present that was past while I was practising the future. looking back at this I feel intensely grateful. for having taken it so serious for all those years. those years were important. and for this departure.

so, the ghost is alive. it has a name, a cover and a blue dust jacket. in all this he’s circulating – circulating without me, on his own. as much as there is continuity in the memory of loss, there can be other continuities. I am aware of how they are wilfully productive: productive of all kinds of conciliatory and soothing emotions. as if the world operated as a tit for tat.

I was going to write some more about the sense-making of one’s experiences by others. but, as often, i. has provided me with good questions which in the process reveal much more about my own sense-making than that of others. inspiration can work through all sorts of ways and produce all kinds of resonances. it is not as such an indicator for trying to trace authenticity. it only serves a reminder to myself who the ghost of time will always be for me. a moment in the past that restructures all possible futures in any present.

so, why not have some more of this. another glass of wine?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


... just turned into a doing word.

don't quite know why. but viewing weather forcasts is generally an integral part of my vorfreuding. so, i just looked out for this one:

and then remembered that one:

not that much difference between them, is there. only thing is that the top one is heading towards autumn - more rain, less warmth and the bottom one towards spring. och well... autumn seems a good time to visit. forcast number one will be in presence in just over ten days.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

more movement

... in poses and on paper. human form this time and no chickens in sight.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

cluck cluck

... the orange of the previous template was hurting my eyes just a little bit.

so. here's a new theme. and a rudimentary animation of some chicken (yes... they are chicken) as they picked after oat cakes in kew gardens a few weeks ago.

cluck cluck the chicken moves. here and there.
what's it after?
paint. pastel. pain. the pastoral.

cluck cluck in vain

Friday, 20 August 2010

the memories of

... strawberries; are mine as they ripple across the past few summers. so jammy to find them in my inbox, the subway and elsewhere across the city. they expanded outwards (as they usually do) to others and elsewheres; all the same so closely tied to this city.

these are someone else's memories that now extend to mine of strawberries.
The most vivid memory snapshot of him I possess comes from long before then: one Saturday night in Glasgow in the 70s, after the pubs had closed, I boarded a bus heading out west. The upper deck, as always, was a genial riot of drinking songs, Frank Sinatra tunes, Danny Boy and the rest. In the middle of it all, hands clasped on his lap, sat a silently smiling Edwin Morgan. (James Campbell, The Guardian, 20 August 2010)
Edwin George Morgan, poet, born 27 April 1920; died 19 August 2010.

Amongst these words, some of his own. How could it not be the Loch Ness Monster song.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Too many legs for those cranes

... there are some images that keep stirring around my head. One, are those of Lucia Noguiera's film Smoke (1996) that I saw in parts at the Tate on Tuesday. I wish I hadn't been so annoyed by Francis Alys's posturing and would have gone back again to see this rather quiet film about a performance involving kites, umbrellas, two kiosks, a bench and little else.

But: the other image is captured and a bit more considered than this glimpse at Smoke.
It involves a colourist woodblock print, done in the Great Norther Wastes somewhere in China, and is part of the current exhibition at the British Museum on The printed image in China.

 Country Sentiments/ Xiangqing by Hao Boyi (b. 1938), 1983,
Woodblock print in oil-based inks and colour on paper, c40x55cm

After having seen a couple of printmaking exhibitions in the gallery space of the BM I find the space too stuffy and archival for prints that were so clearly concerned with the world around those who made them, commissioned them and used them - like those in the Mexican revolution or now the 20c Chinese prints.

The texts that go alongside the prints are in part banal, in part patronising: either it's political as in propaganda, or it's not political as it concerns a landscape.

This print here is thus, arguably, about a backward, idyllic rural scene. Done by a generation of printmakers and other artists, the Beidahuang movement, who joined 100,000 demobbed soldiers in the late 1940s to 'cultivate' the plains.

The print caught me (unsurprisingly) for its colourist qualities: those fields of hue and contrast.
Yet, upon closer inspection:
  • Why are there so many more legs than cranes?
  • And, why does the sedge grow across the birds' bodies? 

Surely, the artist would have been able to match up his separate woodblocks in a way to match bird body with bird legs; and surely he would know that sedges don't grow on bird bodies?

So, why did he divert, subvert or at least distort such realistic representation of rural life in the Northern Wastes. I wonder if the author of the accompanying text is right with their comment that  such "nostalgic scene is typical of his lyrical, colourful style".

So, is political only accepted as party political ideology? Is there not so much more going on, that is not easily read from without? Says she, thinking of the great commentary that Frontier Blues provided of northern Iran, also part of the culture programme in the big city last week.

As for the printmaking:
  • many of the prints make explicit use of water-based inks and how they disperse on damp paper. There are some very good examples of that, e.g., Dawn Melody/ Chen qu by Lu Fang (born 1932), 1983
  • also: it seems common to handcolour part of the prints later
  • as David Hockney mentioned, there is something curious going on with perspective. - It's obvious in some of the prints, such as Sunrise at Nanhu/Nanhu richy by Shi Handing (born 1930), 1981. - The horizon line is variable and objects don't necessarily recede. I need to have a closer look at this and what possibilities it affords.
  • as to Hao Boyi, the artist of Country Sentiments, there seems plenty more of him around the inet. Look at his work and the context. Maybe I'll even find something about the missing cranes' bodies?

Monday, 9 August 2010

DCs in graphite

klee's watch plants resonated with these drawings of the wild carrots: the first one done on day 2; the last one done on day 7. so, any changes to be observed are clearly due to the plant growing, flowering and moving from bud to seed pot; and not with any inability on my part to observe or draw accurately, of course!

daucus carota, day 2 and day 7, graphite on paper (a2)

Saturday, 7 August 2010

klee's uhrpflanzen

... i found them last night when collecting the bits and pieces to complete my printmaking logbook.

klee's concerns with time - when time falls apart as in Die Zeit, see the post here - occupied me before. so, while searching for examples of how artists use simple printmaking techniques - notably monotype - i finally understood how klee's oelpausen - as an oil-transfer technique work: essentially as monotype backdrawing done on a paper covered with oil paint. - that much for technique.

it produces characteristic shadows. but again, the concept grabs me: uhrpflanzen - watch plants. the ambiguity of language in german as it refers to ancient plants also; and in english: watch plants. watch for them and watch them change. my brain is turning around this.

the synergy between concept and technique is one of observation, taking note: the visual imagery is rather similar, albeit differently produced, to my one of my wild carrots drawing.

but here's first the watch plants.

paul klee, uhrpflanzen, 1924,
oil-transfer and water colour on paper and board,
46x30.5cm, musees royaux des beaux-arts de belgique, brussels

Friday, 6 August 2010

the weekly growth

of my wild carrot bunch lies already two weeks back. i'd be curious to see what they may look like now. should i ask my dad to venture out to the patch (i'm sure he'd find it) and take a pic?

the intervening weeks have been eventful: plenty of reading and a collagraphy workshop at the print studio. i also watch the imagine programme about david hockney. there's two significant things to take from it:

(a) the problem that is western perspective. how it's catapults the viewer out of the picture plane. and hockney's many attempts to re-enter that plane, by focus on movement and by tracking the many perspectives that our eyes actually see as we watch.

(b) presence and mortality in the countryside. it's somehow a bit clicheed: go back to nature to get a sense of beginnings and ends and the neverending cycles thereof. but it nonetheless led to a series of (quiet) notes to myself.

more practically, i took a step towards my idea of temporality of the daucus carota plant by ordering two accordion sketchbooks - hockney's example of drawing the mess of a yorkshire hedge as individual plants in a moving book is being transposed not the wild carrots but the wildly growing border in our backyard.

i'll fill the book with the border. i'm confident that there will be more wild growing plants in the border than the pages in the book. i know that if i was recording flying insects i would loose - there seem to be virtually none around whatsoever. what change to the fields and the field from a month ago.

the moving imagery i find for this is a bit limited...

here's a slideshow of an early part of hockney's 3 years in Yorkshire: a series of watercolour paitings:

And some more of plein air scenes of the same wood throughout the year:

but lushest are probably the stills of his paintings at google.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

daucus carota

... is all i'm saying and seeing these days.

thoroughly back in the fields, there's no metropolitan video art to keep me distracted. instead, i'm with the weeds - one of the 'usefuls' [someone will giggle afar], as the pragmatic german language defines.

the wild carrot. daucus carota. or queen anne's lace.

someone has a better camera than i do. and while i'm patiently doing 50x70cm studies each day of my favourite bundle of wild carrots, i fear i'll be missing some of the details on this page. but, i may just as well have 1/3 sec [7 frames] of a daucus carota animation movie.

fields in detail. and in movement. phew. that seems to be going to somewhere new, doesn't it? maybe a little bit.

here's someone else's fascination with the wild carrots.

Friday, 16 July 2010


... back to the fields in the land from jarman's personal political colour field of digital blue.

this one i haven't watched, just saw that youtube has it as 10-min parts. however, it figures prominently in my mind of the labour and work that has gone into cultivating a field. it served as a reference point for numerous geography fieldtrips to the west coast of ireland. it also figures prominently as to relations of property and the consideration of belonging - and of those who do not belong, by property or presence.

seeing the dominance of the church, pain and the pastoral also can refer to the pain of the pastoral. the pastor as pain. now, there's a few more openings along the way.

but. here's the opening of the field (1990, ireland, jim sheridan)

Monday, 12 July 2010

... and then it's blue

(D. Jarman, 1993). only in excerpts so far.

it's a conclusion in more ways than one. the highly saturated hues of journey to avebury are replaced by the colour of jarman's increasing blindness.

so, a film that consists of a single 'image' - the blue of one man's blindness. the blue inspired by yves klein's monochromatic paintings. it's all and nothing it seems to me. it's a refusal - to turn one's struggle with hiv-related illnesses and approaching death into a film-able narrative. so it's a social and political positioning. without images other than blue, the image recedes - in it's all-encompassingness - to make way, to heighten one's senses of voice, sound and music.

strangely, i find the hues of avebury far more disconcerting. somewhere i read a review of 'this garden of eden'. it could well be that 38c in berlin is frying my brain a bit too much, but the sickly hues of avebury shout at me: pain and the pastoral. the pastoral as pain.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

take a journey

to avebury, with derek jarman (super 8, colour, 1971, 10mins). images rather than a film.

look! it' so full of colours! how beautiful is the countryside!

i saw it yesteday at ngbk's excellent exhibition on goodbye london - radical arts and politics in the seventies.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

noting change

... is nothing extraordinary since the world is constantly changing. - a phrase that still sticks in my mind. heard over ten years ago when trying to piece together a long piece of writing.

how true. and still how difficult, not to shout at: oh, there is change! how unusual!

needing frameworks that are suitable for the unforeseen makes my application of frameworks often a bit undecisive. [while all the while building complex, flexible systems in my mind].

so, here's a bit of change. a new template, some rearranging of the sidelines and most importantly: some play with the content of this blog. a recent unsubscription note reminded me of the fact that this blog has for some time not been about 'paint and pastel'.

waymark number 1: pain and the pastoral. with an ensuing observation of the meaning of bucolic. still in digestion, and all the blogger wizadry (and snail pace) tonight is enough to make the promise of a bit of thinking around the current blog title.

i have also revised my decision of a separate learning blog paint and pastel: study. it is far less tedious as i feared (notably because the main writing still takes place offline) but that also means that there are rather few postings and the division between here and there does not make much sense any longer. so, i imported all the post from there to here - they may show up in your blog reader.

still imageless for today. you can look at the background though (if it doesn't hurt too much).

Sunday, 4 July 2010

4 days. 3 books.

amidst the strawberry fields, many variations of strawberry cakes; granita; and 20 jars of jam, there have been plenty of figure drawings and three books.

1. kurban said's ali and nino. - while not sure about 'the best love story ever' (but i. will grin and say that that verdict is rather typical) there is a fascinating account of baku, karabagh, tehran at the start of wwi. and the intermingling of various easts and wests. i am looking forward to the biography of one of likely authors, lev nussimbaum, the orientalist by tom reiss; also in the package that arrived on thursday. i so know why it made it to the gift selection. thank you!

2. more prosaic but apart from the somehow laboured chapter 1, a very worthwhile read is john berger et al. collection of essays that started their life as a bbc series in the early 1970s - ways of seeing. it was high time to read it. i very much enjoyed the essays on the nude and on oil painting. possibly rather straightforwardly an analysis of social relations of property and the role that art plays in this, i still wish more of these programmes would be made today.

3. and freshly finished, no english translation seems to exist: christoph hein's frau paula trousseau. another gift from a past long gone and with an disrupted exchange renewed over cake - strawberry, of course - and coffee. its various time strands of the early 1960s and then 1970 onwards in east germany enticed and weaved a story of a life that in narration is warm and sensitive and yet it casts so many doubts over the narrator that the end - retold from a different view in the prologue - still leaves me baffled. paula went to berlin to study painting at weissensee, and persisted, and persisted.

there were other plans - botanical drawings of organic veg and fruit. but they succumbed; to too many plans; too many degrees centigrade and three very good books. now onto the next five.

summer time.

images? make up your own...

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


... to another summer. 2 years back. as i am packing again i'll be sending off my eigg/berlin sketchbook to a fellow student to use the sketchbook for some music composition.
while making tea. sun am. pastel, w/c, pencil in moleskine

it only occurred to me that she could get this sketchbook as alternative to the chile one. so. i am back with summer preparations. again with going to being in berlin for a good part of it. going to be sketching for a good part of it. and glad again to be leaving glasgow for a bit. and yet: so much is vastly different.

i am also back with the malleability of time: how it stretches forwards and backwards. radiates outwards in all direction from any presence. how past and future seem constantly folded into and onto the presence.

a curious one. this relationship to time. and how it is social and the experience seems mostly my own. how far can i stretch forward. and backward. while all is now.

flicking through the eigg sketchbook it was also all about time. lykke li and island time. all in rain and low clouds. all the time.

stretch. while making tea on holidays
a look out of the window
how close is the world today
depends on the mist and the low clouds
is it as far as the dry stone wall?
or can you see the cairn?
or even the high moors?

stretch. the abstracted lines come easy
capture the horizon. a tree or two
but not more
close is far more stretching
what about the stones?
or the bracken? or the sheep.

lucky i was: no sheep in sight today.
i also begun rebuilding my 0kb music library today. some borrowed, some stashed, some carefully saved. so. back to that summer there goes this.

oh. she will get the ghost of time, too. no point in doing things by half.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

wordless summer madness

OMG. There is life in the astroturf. Quick.

Cowcaddens. 23.22pm. Where are the solar panels.

Saturday, 12 June 2010


... used to happen here much more frequently.

they have moved since. but, frankly, it's a bit of a mess. i am trying constantly to figure out how and what and also for whom i am recording.

i am thinking back to the many discussions i. and i used to have about diary writing, about keeping records. for ourselves or for others. i am also thinking about diaries burnt on a frequent basis so as not to leave a record.

part of my current recording mess is to do with teaching instructions: to keep a logbook of your learning. hah - something i turn to also when i am teaching. reflective journals abound to provide a space to externalise, reflect and thus absorb more easily what is to be learned.

do i record textually, visually, aurally? organised by subject; by approach; by who it is for?

all these questions stop me from recording. i need to figure out the entirety before i can get started. and the entirety needs to provide plenty of openings for unforeseen developments. oh dear... thinking and living in wholeism can be a bit daunting.

so, i'm devising ever more journals in my electronic journalling software notetaker (very good, exc. that it is not half as integrative as it claims to be, and exporting to pdf is a bit of a pain); have written notebooks (divided in three; currently: General/Research - Art - Skills work); and plenty of sketchbooks, divided into portability, assignment work, and general.

my plan is to work on 2-3 art projects at any one time; my plan is also to organise these a bit like course modules. there are three in development: (1) soundworks/ (2) landscapism art, naturally/(3) body identity makings. the middle one is the most clearly formed (somewhat easily so: it's a more decisive interrogation of my fieldwork paintings/drawings/prints to take in also an urban element (beginning with matta clark) and some details of nature). the media for these will largely be drawing and printmaking (etching) for the next year.

[the 2-3 limitation is a bit of a cop out, easily unmasked: there are as much as 20-30 strands on the go at any one time, and i maintain that i can maintain these with ease... ever optimistic]

today, (2) landscapism in art, naturally, acquired its first page in the new a3 sketchbook that will be the overall holding file for it. phew. that only took me six weeks, largely due to my recording hang ups, see above.

page 1, monotype, 20x25cm

happy recording - wherever and however.

Friday, 11 June 2010

The Quillet

Bren Unwin, The Quillet

[all else to follow in a couple of days... again in the need of a hosting site]

Monday, 31 May 2010

peter lanyon

has made it on my list for the land art investigation.
i hadn't seen his work before. but richard's course on modern and contemporary art at the tate britain last week introduced me to this one here:

Peter Lanyon, Lost Mine, 1959, 183x153 cm, oil on canvas
Tate Britain

i think it was my favourite painting of the lot. - in far as my emotional response goes. i love it for its colour balance and rythm, emphasised by the strong gestural marks. the rythm of calm and dynamic. it depicts the tragedy of the flooding of the tin mines in levant, cornwall. the tin mines were under the seabed and too close digging under the seabed led to their flooding with the loss of 39 miners' lives in 1919*.

see this bbc archive for some information on the cornish tin mining industry.

so, a couple of books on lanyon and lanyon's landscape paintings are ordered. it's been a while that i was that intrigued by a painter. there is a potential, from what i've read so far, that his landscape work actually provides a radical departure over previous landscape genre obsessions with harmony, a hiding of ownership and power relations in the landscape. i'll wait on the post delivery to read on.

*this is the information given on the tate website. i did some reading about the levant mining disaster and can't find any reference about flooding; instead, the miners were trapped and suffocated when the mechanical ladder on which they ascended after a shift broke and brought some of the shaft down with it. an incident from the mid-19c is the mining disaster at east wheal rose, where 59 miners died when shafts flooded. see the wiki entry here. i will wait to read more about the painting to get a sense which tragedy lanyon referred to.

there is a forest. this is its sound

there is a rainforest. this is its sound.

one forest. many sounds. from dawn to dusk. in my explorations into soundscapes, i listened to chris watson's introduction of his sound installation, whispering in the leaves, at the palm house at kew gardens on saturday lunch time.

a mix of rainforest sounds are mixed to trace the time that passes between dawn and dusk.. transmitted via 80 speakers throughout the palm house that houses tropical plants from wherever tropical plants grow.

the sound piece came towards the end of three days spent in kew gardens and an investigation into botanical collections, drawings, the endeavours of dreams of imperial order and totality.

the sound piece: a lot of sound. a lot of humanising of a rainforest. and above all: the assumption that there is one forest that makes sounds.

i think installations work best if they don't try to be authentic.

can i consider this as a piece of popular education? as: other senses than the visual and oleofactoral engaged while in the hot palm house? not sure about that either.

Sunday, 23 May 2010


the book on gordon matta-clark found my way as an intervention for my current interest in land art; the dangers of a rural and remote idyll.

so matta-clark's work is a forceful pulling back into the city; into politics of development, speculation and the destruction it produces as a necessary moment within.

the land art rests for the moment as i'm working on the final set of printmaking pieces. a series of four. which i decided to be about lived in and visited spaces. rooms i lived in or visited. some old, some new, some fleeting some persistent. the prints are to be a combination of all things i learned in the course so far. so: probably culmination is a better word rather than combination.

two of the images will be new ones; two will be translations into print medium of existing images.

the home/house/interior relates to some of the sound art i recently come across, heard, saw, pondered. it concerns the spaces that are demarcated by subjective responses to the places we inhabit. the boundaries these spaces establish: of access, of use.

there is a lot more to be said and done about this. most of this is taking place off-screen and i have been coming to use the blog here more as an uncommented but carefully assembled holding space. i seem to be working in messy clusters these days.
  • there is the one about about interior spaces, subjectivity as well as disappearence; 
  • there is another one that is developing out of my previous work on fields, landscapism, a thorough look at landscapenature;
  • and there's a third that is starting to ask questions: questions about knowledge production in art. the methodologies of artistic production and how these can be explored.

the last point opens up to the how? can i work on these issues in art/research? can i play with these in art/research? can i learn about these? can i learn about these with others?

i think these will serve well as starting questions for the next few years. there will be some visuals too. but first, take this one little intervention

Saturday, 22 May 2010

one art

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Interior spaces

In the middle of my series of 4 for the final print assignment, i'm returning to last summer's engagement with henri matisse. notably his cut outs and his constructions of interior spaces.

there are two images that caught me as to the spaces they establish and subvert.

one is the

Henri Matisse, The Family of the Artist, 1911 (oil on canvas)
Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia (© The Bridgeman Art Library – London, New York, Paris)

the second one is this one:

Henri Matisse, The Blue Window, 1911
130 x 90 cm.
Museum of Modern Art, New York

While Matisse is first and foremost a painter, and thus possibly a bit misplaced in the Contextual studies pages of my Drawing logbook, I would like to discuss and have a closer look at Matisse's painting, and in particular his interiors and still lifes.

The questions to consider are
    How does he compose his paintings? In particular
  • How does he achieve balance and harmony (two elements he is particularly noted for)?
  • How does he construct spatial dimensions in his paintings?
  • He is well noted for depth in his paintings which works against conventions of perspective drawings
    For my own practice, these questions are relevant for
  • (a) the compositional arrangements of drawings - notably still lifes; and
  • (b) ongoing consideration over how to construct space and depth within the picture plane
As for the construction of perspective and space in space, some initial observations were:

The background with fireplace and two sofas seemed to be straight at eye level; as for the construction of the sofas, the left one sees the female figure floating on it, suggesting that the one plane we see is indeed the seat itself rather than the front panel; the sofa to the right in contrast does not seem to have a seat but only consists of back and front panel. But both sofas sit on the same floor line.

We seem to be looking for high up down onto the carpet and the top of the fireplace. Although the front of the fire place suggests that we are also looking at it side on.

There's a major change in perspective happening around the chess table and the two chairs. I traced the space of the chair legs and the left one stretched far into the back ground of the picture while the right chair's legs look fairly undistorted.

There are significant developments as to his perspective in this painting, and an earlier one (Harmonie Rouge 1908) - marking a difference to earlier ones:
- the flattening of space,
- the reduction of concrete objects into a space that isn't concrete and the simplicity with how objects are represented
- the space he establishes also contains metaphorical reference: the world as perceived and conceived. (Flam 1982, p. 30)

There is also some material on the convergence of Matisse with Russian Iconic art and a particular reference to his construction of space. [The author uses 'convergence' rather than influence, which strikes me as curious. He mentions the painting here also, which precedes Matisse's visit to Russia.]

"Sometimes Matisse's pictures and the icons are said to be "flat" because they lack Albertian perspective -- as if space were dependent upon such perspective. This, too, is an error, as will be made clear by our investigation of the nature of pictorial space. This investigation will begin in the following paragraphs, and will be taken up again and deepened later in this essay.

Our experience of space in the world is largely kinesthetic, dependent upon the sensation of our bodies' movement, our feeling of the forces of gravity and equilibrium, and the ever-varying correlation between optical stimuli and eye movements -- including binocular convergence, accommodation to focal distance and parallax. This elementary fact is forgotten by those who think that space is achieved in painting by optical verisimilitude [had to look this up: something having the appearance of being true], with its shading of volumes and its atmospheric and linear perspective approaching the effect of photography. An arbitrary "snapshot," the epitome of a purely optical impression, gives us a jumble of variously shaped tones removed from their spatial context. From being accustomed to viewing such flat images, whether in photographs or in academic "realist" paintings, we develop a "space blindness." The eye seizes upon recognizable details and, by a conventional sort of "leap of credulity" accepts the flat image as referring to things one has experienced in the world. The difference between flatness and space collapses.

The opposite happens in great paintings. There our experience of space is heightened. In a masterpiece of Matisse -- or of Rembrandt or Raphael, Giotto or Picasso or Mondrian, for example -- a feeling of depth is created by the pushing and pulling of shapes and colors. All the lines and tones are organized, at once musically and architectonically, in such a way as to give the viewer movement into and out of depth; and this depth is made palpable by the tension between it and the flatness of the pictorial surface. The real experience of space in a painting is not quantitative, dependent upon the suggestion of deep vistas; rather, it is qualitative, dependent upon the resonance of the tension between the flat plane and all the pushing and pulling planes of color. The difference between flatness and space is not collapsed in painting; it is amplified." (MATISSE AND RUSSIAN ICONS:
The Metaphysics of Pictorial Space by Lazarus James Reid,
I found this very useful for understanding some of the limitation of perspective and how Matisse's complex treatment of colour and form establishes a depth of space which works at time with, at times against perspective.

These points were discussed on the OCA forum. The particular insight that emerged for me from that discussion is the way in in which the paintings seems to pivot around a central axis through the chess board. In summary, there are the following points to make:
  • There is an overall impression of harmony in this painting; it is achieved by repeating patterns (diamonds) and more importantly by red, black and white as unifying colours.
  • The sense of harmony betrays the complex social relationships that are displayed in the painting;
  • Examining the perspective, anti-perspective and construction of the picture plane gives some indications to these tensions - Anne's observation of a central axis along the chess table was a very important observation for this: so, people are distorted, float or huddle in the pictorial composition.

Without this discussion, I probably would have not considered the painting in more depth - the pattern and overloaden interior set up would have stopped me. I find it too frilly, fluffy and busy for me to dwell on it. It seems too decorative and too symbolic. However, the analysis of the picture plane opened up an interesting discussion on perspective conventions and the details of how an apparent flatness is indeed carefully constructed and achieved. It has also been insightful as to the dynamics contained in the convention of family portraits and interior settings.

Now, this has also been part of my printmaking research - what is there with the spatial constructions that I can take from it for the final series of prints?

Go. Figure.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

conical intersect

by gordon matta clark may just be the thing to continue with in my little line of disappearances.
slightly different scale though

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


... they don't come alone. and today's obliteration has been on a slightly different scale.
it concerns the size of my music folder. can you see it? it's 4 kb in size.

how on earth?!?!
so i go hunting for it... in various backups. it's nowhere to be found. 60gb of MY PAST have vanished. i feel disturbed. wrong-footed. out of sync. rather literally. somehow in all my updates my time machine decided to omit my music files.

after a confused phone call i sit back and grin a bit. just ever so slightly. all those soundtracks to events, people and locations. i can just make some of them up. forget about the unhappy, cheesy, cliched soundtracks that have been dragging along.

it's a bit more comprehensive than reinstalling apps on my phone - yes: the day of obliteration in form of a long-dodged diy firmware update that saw my apps disappear, along with some recent sound files and a few photos.

here's to new music. the one i was looking for? this one here:

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Practiced Skills

Some continuation of a OCA forum discussion on skills, craft skills and ideas. [if you have access to the forum, the link is here]

Most of the art practice I have pursued so far has been concerned with learning skills. The focus on learning painting, drawing in different media was at the foreground of my engagement.
This was deliberate. It was in a sense a way of working my way along some empirical lines: practice, observation, experimentation to  build up experience, knowledge and skills.

The ideas and concepts behind this experimentation were kept rather quiet. In fact: I remember an early blogpost which deliberately dismissed conceptual work.

Keeping quiet with conceptual concerns was a way of keeping separate academic work and art leisure.

What this allowed for was a responsiveness to 'empirical problems' such as tensions of colour, surface, composition; and ways of resolving these into a finished painting.

It also allowed for concerns over memory, belonging and identity constructions to surface (notably in the Fieldwork). If I had employed a deliberately conceptual framework at that early moment, I suspect I would have ended up with work concerned with urban environments and politics over publicness.

In all this, however, the approach to art was in fact rather similar to my approach to research: by asking questions, by experimentation within limitations and by moving along such lines of enquiry in a rather systematic way inclusive of tangents.

Much of this is highly conceptual: conceptual with regards to methodology and empirical practice. It is also conceptual with some continuous themes: about presence/absence, what can be seen and what remains invisible. The concerns over constructions of space, planes, fields and environments. As well over positionings - within the artwork, besides it and of the art (istic practice) itself.


so rarely do i break things that i'm used to have things around... forever.
when this one splattered all over the carpet i just wondered.
wondered over this favourite mug of mine.
wondered how it still was a pair of two.
given to us in 1993.
two stayed with me since.
firmly back to a single one.

favourite nonetheless.

Friday, 30 April 2010

a glimpse at the opening preview

Monoprint, Freire, 25x50 cm on Tosa Shi paper

it's all framed and soon ready for the opening tomorrow:

Eldon Group Summer Exhibition 2010

Opening Preview
Saturday 1 May 2010
11am - 1pm

1-12 May, St Andrew's Gallery, University of Glasgow
Level 5, St Andrew's Building, 11 Eldon Street

Gallery open Monday - Friday 10am - 5pm
Saturdays 10am - 1pm
Closed Monday 3 May

Paintings in acrylics,
oil, mixed media,
works on paper

Thomas Bush
Emma Ceresa
Geraldine Crossan
Gesa Helms
Sarah-Jane Sharp
Pascale Steenkiste
Chris Turpie

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

something's cooking

well... there's usually some thing (or: more accurately: many things) bubbling away in the background.

but this one is taking a more shape (in the pot), bit by bit. it'll need some more time, but my recent obsession of watching wild life programmes (that previously just yielded an intent and intense yawn) is some indication of it.

it is also a direction onwards from my previous 3 observations on landscape. it'll be after the summer for it to be in full shape (leaving the pot on the boil metaphor).

tonight's fix was this one here (it's part 3 of 5 on youtube, so you can watch the whole episode).

it starts proper at 8:00mins

and don't miss 4:00mins onwards on part 4 ;)

i almost forgot some geographical details: it's here: the okavango delta in botswana.

Monday, 26 April 2010

sand birds

i went to the sea and saw this. how lucky am i?

unfortunately, there were a lot more images, but they got swallowed when my mac chose to die last week. how could it do that? so glad that the sand birds were safely on my phone though.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Doodley-doo? Doodley don't!

Doodley-doo? Doodley don’t!
Life and Sabotage

Gesa Helms

"There are two lines of enquiry for this review (of an admittedly rather unimportant book, Claire Faÿ’s The Doodle Notebook. How to Waste Time in the Office, that has already received far more than its fair share of coverage):
a. what kind of practices are proposed “to take on the daily grind”?
b. who can propose such practices and who can engage in them?
Following these two lines, I want to critically engage doodling in a debate over work-place agency, resistance and sabotage; to draw out the limitations constructed for creative office workers; and provide a couple of openings to raise implications for a politics on work, autonomy, subversion if we were to arm ourselves with a bit of stationery."

... Some of the writing for which I now seem to have time. Published in Variant 37, April 2010
The PDF is available on the Variant website

Monday, 12 April 2010

3 observations on landscape (iii)

observation (iii) is putting into words the experience that was so eagerly anticipated:

3. bethan huws's il est comme un saint dans sa niche, il ne bouge pas, kestner gesellschaft.

the first piece of her i saw - or rather: read about - was the lake writing or lake piece (1991). [with a review and an installation shot here]

it was shown to me by someone who had fallen in love with text, words and the discursive possibilities of art. and it was shown to me at a time when i was glad to revel in the immediacy of artistic practice after turning away from word-laden or -leaden (?) academia.

and nonetheless: i think i pretty well caught the same falling movement (happiness drip, drapping downwards as rilke wondered and twombly installed here) and wanted to see, read, know and understand more.

singing to the sea was the first actual experience of huws's work.

and now a show that was enframed by huws statement that she 'does Duchamp like she does crosswords'; and the exhibition spaces itself announcing at its start: 'why do we keep creating more artworks if we don't understand the ones we've got'. the show gives insight (as well as positing so many more questions) into huws's approach towards duchamp's work, the search for meaning-making in art and language. the ambiguity of translation processes from her native welsh, english and french figure throughout - in various ready-mades, the films 'fountain' and 'the chocolate bar'.

the most expansive (if only in terms of physical space) of her works in the hanover show is the marriage (marier quc a quc: also, to unite two separate objects) of her installation space the forest (made up of many, many bottle driers, another ready-made of Duchamp) with the wedding video she screened originally inside a woodland (a marriage in the king's forrest).

much of her art seems pared down, stripped back to some key questions of meaning-making and the relation this quest establishes between subjects and objects (though agent and receptor isn't clear-cut here). there is something in her work that seems to me very dateable: it reflects a pre-occupation with text and discursiveness i know from my own academic work.  there is something in this that, in an academic context, i would refute: notably her attempt to make everything transparent by ever more circles of reflective practice. it's a practice which is necessary but remains, in my mind, futile: not everything of who i is can be rendered discursive and transparent.

there are many openings towards academic work practice and artistic possibilities in this. textual art works is something of an unknown to me. almost deliberately i stayed away from text because it was too closely tagged to academic work. i think that division can no longer be upheld.

but this is really about an observation on landscape. it's a tentative one and takes us back to nature and the opening of different media required. it is glimpsed at in the forest marriage of bottle driers and a rather ordinary wedding video: of how meaning-making takes mundane forms and combines diverse media. and the attentiveness and searching nature of huws artistic practice provides inspiration.

so, that's the observation (iii) on landscape.

her lake piece may prove a good walking companion for this.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

3 observations in landscape (ii)

bums... i made the mistake of writing post iii before post ii and inbetween the two i fell into the night stars, morning mist and a chestnut bud and thus disappeared momentarily.

but stars, mist and buds were all on queue for short and sweet observation on landscape (ii).

it concerns james turrell's minimalism of light and perception (as discussed in more length in an earlier post). two quotes stick in my mind from my web trawl even if the source didn't (sorry!).

quote 1 paraphrases as james turrell is one of the great romantics in his search for light in the (american) landscape.

quote 2 paraphrases as james turrell with his skyscapes and installations does want to take us back to the stone age.

out of this my observation (ii) arises:

a minimalism of form is required. only with this, the limitations of landscape can be transcended. such minimalism - if it works with light (and shade) and our perception of this - will be contemporary, as in the here and now (as indeed Turrell's work is). nature and our experience of this is one of presence not tradition.

is this romantic? is working with light and perception romantic? i wonder....

Sunday, 4 April 2010

3 observations on landscape (i)

with all the work on portfolios it seems ages that i spent some time in landscape. assembling the material for the portfolios, demonstrating and providing a statement around these was very useful in surveying my 'fieldwork' as i indeed called the statement [reminder to self: rewrite and post this].

it however also made obvious that i am moving along something less painterly and more conceptual and 'other materially' than paint. some of my reservation about the genre of landscapism remain, remain and remain and need addressing in other means.

the three exhibitions i saw over the past week will serve as initial markers.

1. the return of landscape. akademie der kuenste, hanseatenweg, berlin

it draws knowingly on the romantics' constructions of landscape and the rich and varied and problematic nature (!) of germany's cultural history and its basis for geopolitics (be it it with prussia's colonisation of the east; or ns blood and soil politics and economics).

however, the main part of the exhibition is a juxtaposition of two cities (venice and las vegas) and their dependence on nature - water. so: landscape becomes the domain of landscape planners to struggle with issues over sustainability amongst capitalist thirst for land and expansion. the imagery that dominates are those of aerial photography of landscape patterns - nature/cultivation/destruction, the main slide show made up of images by alex s maclean. a third part of the exhibition shows various landscape projects, their master plans and details to manage sustainability.

in this, the exhibition is limited: it's limited to the act of planning for sustainability and the belief that a plan will solve a problem. though my own professional background has always been situated in close proximity to the 'belief in a plan', i find this increasingly tiresome and mis-placed. mis-placed also if we consider the power of aerial photography without social practice, without people. to assume that patterns from high above reveal the groundwork. - the photography of bernd and hilla becher marks the precendent of a rich tradition of photography of human activity and the outcome of these with the agents being absent. rich by absence and stillness. photography always freezes activity in stillness. and nonetheless, it's probably one of its biggest problems.

the piece that really caught me, was - possibly unsurprisingly - a video by the canadian documentary film maker peter mettler. his documentary on the destruction by open pit oil production, petropolis (canada, 2009, 43min), visit the site for the film here.

again: it's aerial imagery. yet, this destruction through the tar sands is narrated by mettler. he tells the viewer how his requests to visit the fields was refused again and again so that flying over the fields was the only way of getting access and of being able to document; he talks about the first experiments of flying and much more. thus he makes an imagery thoroughly part of this world and the relations that make petropolis possible.

mettler's film is one of three shown on the side of a large field of illuminated boxes which show quotes concerned with landscape from throughout (German-speaking) history.

landscape text panels, illuminated, wiederkehr der landschaft, adk, berlin

two I noted down.

ich hatte einst ein schönes vaterland
so sang der flüchtling heine,
das seine stand am rheine,
das meine auf dem märkischen sand.
wir alle hatten einst ein (siehe oben).
das fraß die pest, das ist im sturz zerstoben.
o rößlein auf der heide
dich brach die kraftdurchfreude. (mascha kaleko, 1907-1975)

i once had a beautiful fatherland
so sung the refugee heine
his stood next to the rhine
mine on the markian sands.
we all once had one (see above).
it got devoured by pestulence, it broke apart in its fall.
oh little rose on the heath
you were broken by strengththroughjoy.

allmählich entdeckte sie neue linien im gesicht der landschaft. ackerflächen, deren grenzen in einem anderen winkel zum horizont verliefen als die uralten grabenrunzeln der erde früherer zeit. so schnell prägten die neuen züge sich nicht in die gesichter der erde. (christa wolf, *1929)

slowly she discovered new lines in the face of the landscape. fields whose boundaries were running in different angles to the horizon than the ancient furrow marks of the earth of previous times. it wouldn't be that quick for the new contours to settle in the faces of the earth.

thus, my first observation:
while nature is never outside from what people experience and engage with (i.e., nature cannot be external to people... unspoilt or otherwise), considering nature outside of landscape is a necessary opening to get beyond the landscape genre and its conventions.

this is likely to require radically different means to the framed picture plane and conventions of landscape compositions in painting.

it's probably not by chance that these reconsiderations of nature hit me as i'm about to engulf myself in a week of facilitation training inspired by deep ecology and sustainability. it's a reconsideration that i avoided for a decade or more. so, i think it's high time. hello dartmoor, hello permaculture.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

in light

there is (no) matter.

this one - like bethan huws - was in my diary since december. and with attempt number three, i not only saw the matter that light makes, but so did my parents.

before we arrived, we laughed at the arrogant marketing that the City of Wolfsburg - Hitler's car city where the Beetle was first mass-produced - was of course with the Turrell's Wolfsburg Project the site of Turrell's largest installation in an exhibition space:

the main installation, Bridget's Bardo is a ganzfeld piece of two spaces that merge from one into the other: the viewing and the sensing space, separated by a sensor, you must not step into the viewing space. light changes and all the while you sense the view and wonder what that space is in front of you, a wall, a cube or simply nothing in colours that change as the light changes.

and you wonder and wonder. the separating between viewing and sensing space are sharp corners in space. but behind or in front of the planes become depths and you see nothing but colour. all around you and in so doing colour becomes you.

at the back of the installations are two rectangles, one at the top where the bridge lead down, one at the bottom where steps lead down to the floor below. of distinct and separate colour they appear as planes again, not as openings.

small groups of people spend ten minutes as light and are encouraged to go again, as many do. second time round i begin to see some shadows, not on the walls nor ceiling, but on the floor, looking back into the piece.

how crucial shadows are in helping you orientate yourself and to grasp dimensions, forward and backward and upright.

how do you mark light in the absence of shadows and spatial demarcations with any thing other than that pure light?

what form has fog and nothing than the absence of form?

the exhibition continues with some smaller installations, one (milk run iii, a spectral wedgework, 2002) operating in darkness with dark orange light and your perception as it plays a myriad of tricks on you; and plenty of illustrations of the roden crater project and some large scale aquatints Turrell made with experiments of light deprivation and selective openings of panels in the mendota hotel in california. here, the light modelled geometric objects which he captures on the aquatints. i found a link with images of this aquatint series, First Light (1989-90) at this site here.

and i thought i'd add this video here too: about another skyspace and roden crater. enjoy!