Semester 2 focuses on streamlining my experiments into solid conclusions for my final exhibition, based on research around ontological questions of sound/body/object/space relationships. The projects I took on were ambitious but achievable with careful planning around my timeline. I also had to consider how I would integrate my projects into a cohesive viewing experience. A multi-layered approach of dissecting and analysing both my sound materials and physical objects into one mass production. Materials (physical, light visuals and auditory) that will “perform” for the viewer in Sonic-object Somatic Expression – a notion I invented from my increased interest in using sound as a medium within my sculptural practice. The materiality of sound when combined with object-oriented art.
I decided not to document my studio work in the traditional format of uploading images each week. Instead, I’ve created video snippets of the various stages of building my installation (a streamlined version of process documentation with real-time sound bites). My work consists of moving back and forth between multiple processes and research paths based on my timeline. I’ve broken the videos down into a handful of categories:
Sourdough Hanging Sculpture with Mockup
After moving through the initial stages of grief at losing access to the studio, my ceramic sculptures and finishing what I originally set out to exhibit – I was reminded that this entire year was dedicated to NOT having such a rigid outcome to what I formally present. My direction is understandably shaped by my research but I still wanted to allow for unexpected changes to develop the overall presentation and experience. My partner, who suddenly decided to master his sourdough baking abilities during lockdown, jokingly suggested I should make my hanging works from sourdough. I laughed and then actually thought about it as a project medium. It would be a bit tongue-in-cheek, a humorous take on adapting mediums in these uncertain times (while highlighting the increasing interest in artisan bread baking during this pandemic), a way to “count my blessings” and acknowledge that I don’t have it so bad compared to other people struggling through this pandemic.
My bread sculptures are “in theory” similar in form to the holey ceramics, with the added bonus of naturally produced surface crater holes from the fermentation process. They are also recyclable (compostable) after de-installation (non-toxic acrylics were used). These living microorganisms created a new depth to a material I never would have considered using pre-lockdown. See research on lava/crater glazes for future ceramic works.
Something else I considered when installing the modified dripping water aspect of the installation was the projected reflections in relation to the light source/multiple sources. The mirror reflections required a bright spotlight which could detract from the remaining installation components (when they are supposed to work in harmony as a symbiotic unit). By treating these “light” materials with the same method-making as the rest of my object mediums, I decided to “layer” the light sources to work together – overlapping the fading colour changing LED, a waterproof device placed in the slow-drip chamber, with the bright white spotlight. I also considered these light sources as “projected holes” that varied in size and space, some of which projected “additional holes” (the white spotlight producing smaller mirror-reflected spaces). The colour changing projection will add another ‘light material’ layer to the installation. The colours of both lights and projections constantly changing is a nod towards the installation being genderless in presentation.
While I am drawn to using technology to create alien spaces (see Chris Salter Alien Agency research) – I also appreciate the analogue processes that can be used to form visual trickery. I liked the idea of creating ‘floating magic’ by hanging physical objects with near-invisible line. It was important that these objects did not move to give that element of being frozen in time and suspended in space. This is contrasted by the fact that you can move around the objects in real time with past recorded sounds that are only experienced in the present, resulting in an accumulation towards the “sensory experience”.
Adapting to another full lockdown situation meant I had a few decisions to make regarding a “studio/exhibition” space. I decided to setup my exhibition at home, regardless of any future level changes. (This means I don’t have to worry about moving my multi-layered installation back and forth and any issues this would cause). The first step was to prepare a dark space in the garage – I ordered two 3x3M black fabric photography backdrops to blockout light and create more of a “cave” space, eliminating any garage clutter distractions. After moving a bunch of shelving away from the concrete wall, I noticed water mark patterns on the grey slabs which I really liked. I wasn’t sure at this stage what I would be projecting off: the floor, the mirror sculpture, the wall, both? I tested multiple options and light sources with both expected and unexpected results. Note the hanging frame is very low here as I’m still working on the 3D sculpture design and placement – will be hoisted to ceiling after.
What I noticed or liked:
- The circle reflected directly off mottled grey concrete/brick wall in combination with far away but loud volume audio playback .
- Reflecting the video projection off the floor mirror (at certain angles) to create a subtle 3D looking “hole” on the grey wall.
- Adding additional light sources (such as a bright white bike light) projected through the hanging frame holes to effectively illuminate the mirrors and create fractured projections on both the grey wall and black fabric sides.
- Altering the projector lens to reduce the background border (without access to mapping programmes) was an easy fix with a bit of circular cardboard.
- The mixing of analogue and digital processes coming together to work in unison – do I want the technology to be visible / obscured? See research notes around Chris Salter: Critical Distance vs Immersion.
What I didn’t like or needs work:
- While the (video) projections directly off the floor mirror created interesting subtle effects, they were too subtle and hard to see, even in a very dark space. This also doesn’t allow for when I hang the large 3D sculpture in front of the projection, as I expect more light will need to break through whatever holes/spaces are available (I still don’t know how this will project – untested until I have built my hanging sculpture).
- The size of the video projection was too small, I would need to place the projector very far away or increase the size digitally and try again. There is the option of adding more light digitally but I also like the video as a stand alone piece in it’s simplicity – more testing needed here to symbiote with the other sculptures.
- The additional overhead light sources need to be bright enough to project the mirrors without becoming too much of a “spotlight”, I tried other muted colours but bright white is working best so far. Thinking about adding/testing a colour changing option here.
- The water vibrations from the agitator magnet created exactly the effect I was expecting, adding movement to some of the projected mirror fragments. However I was overly distracted at how loud the spinning mechanism was and couldn’t lessen the sound (I tried adding different levels of water / decreasing the speed. It was quieter in preliminary tests but the results are proving inconsisent). Currently it’s producing an ‘old projector’ ticking noise in the test video which isn’t unpleasant, but in a live situation it dulls my overall sensory experience. I’m thinking about others ways I can create movement in the water – perhaps with a manual dripping device.
Audio and Digital Design
The audio and visual components of my work mimic the layered and methodical methods of my studio processes, inspired by my research into the philosophy of holes (or the absence of sound) to create tension in audio spaces. The sounds are intentionally imperfect with forced layers of static and tonal shifts to create both comfortable and uncomfortable audio-to-body experiences. I also explored secondary concepts around genderless sounds in AI voiceovers. Even the colour changing aspect of the final video was produced through a layered technique, individual sections of positive digital timestamps with negative surrounds that allow each colour to exist only in its limited auditory moment. The colour changes were also an acknowledgement to the non-binary aesthetics of my entire project (originally, I thought of using only a single colour). Lockdown threw me the additional challenge of rendering After Effects files remotely but once I figured out the best settings for file sizes suitable for projections, I managed to export a full 10min of colour changing carefully constructed audio. Listening to the same tracks over and over, adjusting volume levels and timings of each section, altering the length, pitch and placement until I was strangely both satisfied and annoyed with the final track.
Making “Mirror Void” (Reflective, Waterproof Dish)
Continuing with my paper making and recycled mediums experiment had this particular work evolving into a cohesive addition to my end of year project. The challenge for this piece was to allow for the raw, textured nature of the paper layers to remain intact while ensuring the piece was thoroughly waterproof with a base layer thin enough to activate the spinning magnet. I was also able to recycle the mirror materials I used to create the hydrophone breaking/cracking sounds in the audio component of this project, while tributing water (which was vital in the creation of both my audio and physical forms) as a sculptural medium. Studying negative space in both sound, sculpture and architectural forms led me to the use of mirrors as the negative condition, and then turning these negative spaces into positive reflections through digital projections. There is play around concepts with circles, holes and voids in relation to space (surrounding spaces/ architectural spaces) and also time with the live movement of magnetic vibrations in the water. I’m excited to see how both the mirrors and movement will reflect and encompass the space when projections are added and how they might distort an expected reality.
Building Hanging Frame and 3D Sculpture Mockup
After establishing my baseline exhibition concepts and making some sketch mockups, I then proceeded to create a 3D mockup of how I envisioned my ceramic pieces coming together. This was a good process to test out the placements of an object within space and how movement around that space skewed the perceptions of the overall sculpture – the idea is to somehow make the sculpture appear as both negative and positive forms depending on viewer positioning within the space. This also allowed me to work out roughly how many individual ceramic pieces I would require to pull this off… which worked out to be a lot! Approximately 60 sculptures would fill the spaces to create a simultaneously uniform and deconstructed circular formation.
Step 2 was creating a monster-sized (1200x1200mm) hanging frame required to safely secure the 60 ceramics from the ceiling. Enlisting the help of my structural engineer partner, to sign off my design and build, means I can confidently present this hanging frame in proposed gallery health and safety specifications. I also started on the projector housing unit (Sept’ 21) that I’ll somehow attach to my heavy-duty tripod. This allows me flexible room positioning for testing projections that angle downward to reflect off the floor mirrors, without having to rely on ceiling mount options (usually subject to availability depending on the gallery).
Making Holey Ceramics (Test glazes 1, Hanging Test 1)
The initial glaze test pieces displayed at Talk Week had me questioning their overall affect. While I could see them working as a unit from a distance, their individual appearance didn’t have that “wow” factor of surviving as stand-alone pieces (in my eyes). The charcoal black turned muddy brown with the red clay. The blue colour blended well as a brushable glaze but the purple went milky around the edges (even though they are the same types of glazes – showing how temperamental glazing can be) The reason this concerned me is that I remain conscious of what will become of this work at the end of my exhibition. Previous years exhibitions resulted in a fair amount of art waste and this didn’t sit well with me. I understand the need to experiment and try new approaches while in a learning environment, but I also want to stay true to what’s important to me as a practising artist – creating a pile of fired clay scraps is not ideal. I’ve invested both time and funds into creating this work while already gaining interest from peers to obtain a piece after the show. I now have the responsibility to elevate each individual object into artwork worthy of having my name attached.
These initial pieces also required a lot of effort for full glazing (making more stilts, touch-ups, sticking to kiln paper/stilts) and I was concerned about time management. Coupled with my dislike of the initial glazed sculptures, both with the bubble-painting and heavier brushed/sponged applications, I was adamant that a new style and approach to glazing my pieces were necessary.