Friday, November 28, 2008

Master of the House

Well, it's all over...and I've been bopping around, singing Madonna's "Holiday" and feeling like a woman reprieved.

The set-up went well, the data projector initially refused to speak to my laptop but then consented and my video documentation of Wraith showed up beautifully. I managed to annoy one of the other masters candidates but having booked the space he wanted, but I introduced myself and showed I was apologetic, and now we're friends.

I was introduced to the examiner, shook her hand and made myself scarce.

A little over an hour later I returned. Some of my work is staying for the Graduate Exhibition which opens on December 3, so there wasn't too much for me to pack up. It was all a bit underwhelming. Nothing more to do but go about my business and wait.

The next day, Wednesday, I headed down to St Kilda by the bay, had a nice lunch, before returning to the CBD. I dropped in to Hand Held Gallery a recently opened art space which focuses on artists books. Megan Herring, the owner was there and it was great to meet her. The gallery reminded me of a fledgling BookArts Bookshop, which I visited in London, and wrote about here. I really hope Hand Held takes off. It's so wonderful to have a space basically dedicated to artists books, and I really feel that Melbourne is the city in Australia that could sustain this type of venture. I added Like Weather to Megan's stock, and she promised me a spot in the window.

Then I went to visit Hannah Bertram, who I studied with at RMIT when I was initially enrolled and living in Melbourne. If you haven't visited her website, do yourself a favour now and check out her gorgeous work. She had a bottle of wine on hand to celebrate with me, and convinced me that it was okay to celebrate just getting this far, without waiting for the result.

And while I was sitting chatting with Hannah in her studio I received the phone call....a pass! No amendments to be made. Hurray! Time to break out the champers!!!!

Wraith on Video

Here's the video documentation I put together for the assessment. It's about two and a half minutes long, no sound. The close-up video shows some digital glitsching that actually added to the sense that a change was occurring. Unusual for a techy fault to work well!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Flag book defeat

I'm blogging from Melbourne as I wait for tomorrow to install my work at RMIT in readiness for the final assessment on Tuesday. It has been a mad rush these past few days...I came down a little early to be available to see my supervisor before the week-end, but that wasn't possible. It just ended up making things more difficult because the tasks I still had to finish off had to be done here in the hotel room, and of course in my fuzzy anxiety-headedness, I forgot a few things and haven't had access to my own equipment.

The final piece I"ve been trying to complete is of course the porcelain flag book. It is finished, in a way, but it isn't what I would call "an elegent solution". The covers do not sit nicely, and although the whole thing looks good from the front, the back view is clumsy and at a bit of a tilt! This type of construction is always a challenge in ceramics, because clay changes so much, both in drying and in firing, and parts that don't dry together never seem to fit together well.

The whole work would have been a lot easier in porcelain paper clay, but this just doesn't have the same translucency or finish as porcelain. Another option would be a product called Keraflex, which comes in sheet form and is new to the market. It's also pretty expensive, but when I think about the expense of a double set of decals, it may have been a cheaper option after all.

I am determined to continue with the idea until I find a solution I am happy with, but I'm not sure about presenting this work for assessment on Tuesday. Tomorrow I'll discuss it with my supervisor. On the phone he pointed out that we often judge our own work more harshly than others do, but I am of the opinion that the work is fine to discuss in my written proposal, but shouldn't be one of the actual works I display.

I have some visuals to share with you - photographs of the flag book and a two-and-a-half minute video documenting Wraith, the installation I showed at the beginning of the year. I took the footage in the gallery, but have only just edited it together. Unfortunately, there's very limited uploading on the connection I'm using, so you'll have to wait till I get home for those. Well, I'm off to do some meditation and try to shake this headache...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Just a matter of days...

....and it will be over. It's been a long 5 year journey, and I can't say I won't be pleased to bring this all to an end. Of course, I'm talking about my masters. On Thursday I will be heading to Melbourne to allow some time to see my supervisor before the final assessment on Tuesday next week. My work will be reviewed by an external examiner, meaning someone who does not work for RMIT University, and in fact I am not allowed to know who it will be. I presume I will find out just before it occurs, because I believe we are introduced just before they look at the work.

Yesterday I finally completed the clamshell box to hold the porcelain pages, Self (States of Change). I followed this tutorial as I had never made any boxes before, and I have to say it is a great guide. I am quite happy with the way it turned out, and it was such fun, I know I'll be making lots more boxes.

Below are some pictures I took this afternoon, creating the visual documentation that will be part of my submission.

I am still working on the porcelain flag is close to finished, in fact should be finished, but I wasn't happy with the way some of the flags decals came out of the kiln, so I'm re-doing them. It's down to the wire...I had to phone the decal maker this morning and have him urgently repeat my order, express post it to me overnight, I'll apply them to some spare porcelain flags I made (phew!) Tuesday, let them dry over night, fire them Wednesday, take them out of the kiln Thursday... in time to catch a 3 o'clock plane...that is down to the wire.

But I do promise when it's done, I will post some photos for you to see...just not necessarily before the assessment.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Some context for my work

Oh boy, I am really sorry to have ignored you all for so long, but you know why. Thanks for the messages and support from everyone who contacted me since I last posted. I've been doing a lot of writing, documenting my "research methodology". Sometimes I wondered whether it was all going to seem as if I just leapt from one idea to the next, but when I came to write it down I was relieved to find that I did actually follow some sort of logical sequence, despite at times feeling as if I was feeling my way through the fog.

I wrote the literature review back in 2005 before I left Melbourne and took my first leave of absence. I was expecting to have to do a significant re-write, but in fact there was very little to add, and I found it sets a good foundation for the work I've done. There's about a page and a half of "context" which I thought I might share. There's a bit of jargon, and I do apologize for that, but I don't think it's terribly heavy reading.

If you're not interested, just scroll to the bottom to see a pic of a clay portrait I've re-worked on perspex for this installation. This is instead of the portrait on the canvas. Oh! and I've re-made the clay pieces for the floor that the cleaner threw away...

In 1991, Suzi Gablik proposed a new paradigm for art which rejects the “autonomous individualism” of modernism and encourages “the artist to see beyond social passivity, culturally conditioned modes of distancing and the denial of responsibility.” She argued that art can no longer be about “value-free aesthetics”, but rather that the artist has a role to play in drawing a community together in a process which is less about reference to the self, and facilitates a genuine culture of caring and healing.

Responses by artists to Gablik’s call, have been varied. Bill Drummond, former member of KLF, working along social justice lines, has established The Soup Line, which runs from Belfast through Nottingham to Ipswich. Any person living on this line can contact Drummond and he will make soup for them at their home. The idea was inspired by the 13
th century tradition upheld by the Church of Scotland which celebrated communion once a year only with a communal dinner in the church.

Other artists, including Wolfgang Laib (Ottman, 2000) and Ana Mendieta (Viso, 2004) have sought to utilize their art work as a means to understand and embody their spiritual practice. Snell (2005) quoted Laib speaking about his work, “I have always had this almost na├»ve belief that a pollen piece, or a milkstone, contains a message that could change the world.” Laib has been strongly influenced by frequent trips to India where he experienced art, spiritual practice and everyday life as intricately interwoven. Similarly, Mendieta made pilgrimages to her birth land, Cuba and in her ‘Silueta’ series “sought out a primeval consciousness through spiritual communion with nature…these pieces were enacted as a kind of personal religious rite” (Feldman, 1999).

In a chapter on the potential of exploring the spiritual through conceptual art, Feldman (1999) discusses the work of a number of artists including Wolfgang Laib, Ana Mendieta and Bill Viola, video/installation artist. She states that: “Until recently, the work of German artist Joseph Beuys stood as the sole spiritual stronghold in conceptual art.”

Artists working in this way are connected by an engagement with the spiritual traditions of ancient civilizations and certain eastern religions. The belief systems underpinning such approaches focus on the interconnectedness of humans and nature, viewing life as a cyclic process, rather than as a linear progression. This is the underlying principle of process philosophy which “affirms the body-mind continuum, the social or relational self, and sympathy as an essential way of knowing. Process philosophy makes qualities and capacities that have been associated with weakness, vulnerability, and women central” (Christ 2003).

“The basic teaching of Buddhism is the teaching of transiency, or change. That everything changes is the basic truth for each existence” (Suzuki 1970). Likewise, feminist scholars of religion have attempted to define the spiritual in terms of immanence instead of transcendence and view physicality as embodying spirituality. Koppman (1999) asks: “…How would it change our lives if we were to accept change as constant, to see death as part of life as part of death?”

The work in this project will explore the concept of change as a central tenet of existence. The idea of “change” implies process, transience, fragility and ultimately death. Work which explores these must engage with time and performance, and heightens the sense of preciousness of the experiential. The notion of change and the human inclination to resist change will be explored through the materiality of the work.

This is the trace left on perspex by a low relief sculpture in white clay.
The darker lines and marks are shadows on the wall behind the perspex.