Process Update/MCP506 Draft Version 2
This month's process update is actually three different posts rolled into one. I have been working on my large scale charcoal drawing and continue sifting through the media from Iceland.
However, I have also included in this post the feedback for the rough draft (version 1) of my research paper and the new (basically rewritten) rough draft (version 2). The rewrite was based on the feedback from Andrew and I am grateful that I was made to rethink my entire approach to the paper. Hopefully, there isn't a third complete rewrite on the horizon.
Needless to say, the past month has mostly been dedicated to writing with small bouts of drawing as a form of stress relief/procrastination. Hence the coalesced post.
The following images are sections taken from the new parts of the charcoal drawing.
Jean Marie did say to me that it will be interesting to see the difference in the third panel, which was completely empty before I went away for the 2 months.
I had thought I was drawing the same way, however, there is actually a difference which I am surprised about. The third panel is less clearly defined and I find I actually prefer it this way. I am tempted to now make the other two panels either completely black or smudge them in some way. Maybe I could use a Gerard Richter style squeegee across them. We will see what happens. Andrew had suggested making sections of the drawing smudged when we met in New York.
The lower section of the first two panels were also completed after I returned, hence their visual ambiguity. I intentionally didn't have my glasses on when drawing these lower sections as a way of seeing (or not seeing) what happens. The third panel, I really thought I would draw in the same way as the top section of the first two, but I haven't. I am not sure why this has happeneed.
Research Paper Rough Draft Feedback from Andrew:
Overall I like that you’ve poured all these various ideas out and this is productive…but…I think much of what you have here is background and does not necessarily have a place in this paper. That said, it has been highly productive and important for you to write all these many words, sentences even if only to know that many are not needed here.
I think what you really need to do next is to clearly stake a claim in what you want/need to do/say…that is, where is JM in and amongst all this variety.? what must you say?
Advisor Meeting w Andrew
As planned chance would have it, I was actually able to meet with Andrew in person a few days after the above feedback. This was an invaluable meeting that opened up a whole different way of thinking about my approach to writing a research paper. I am still unsure as to what the response will be for the following words, but here they are anyway:
MCP 506 Rough Draft (version 2)
Now begins with death.
An unfamiliar shadow disconnected from a familiar landscape.
Focus centred on a palm-sized digital screen.
What happens when I look up?
What happens if - where once I breathe a hot, humid, crowded city - I now stand alone - consumed by snow and arctic wind?
I look up to the west and the light
of an ominous indigo sky
greets me with the
promise of an
and breathe this foreign space
and question the traces that will remain.
Wandering through a frozen desert of blue light and 1000 shades of white.
How am I here?
The following words interweave a story spoken from two perspectives:
One is a story exhaled by instinct.
A nonlinear and holographic
memory of experiences;
The other emanating and immersed in research.
Inhaling the thoughts
Both perspectives create a meandering path traversing two worlds.
The tangible and stable world of a landscape walks with the unpredictable world of air.
Stories breathe life into abstract ideas.
Wanderings between land and air.
My fascination with air is cloaked in death.
A sudden death.
A close friend.
as I walk a slow walk into new landscapes.
Initially, my research began with a curious phenomenon.
When two people hold hands, their hearts synchronise, beating to the same rhythm and pace.
This also happens when a group of people are engaged in a story.
Brainwave patterns become identical in those who listen to words that float in air.
The synergy that intimately connects internal human biology with the external world initiated a train of thought.
I started to question my perception of skin as a border containing the self.
Could a shift in this perception collapse imaginary boundaries between each other and between the human and non-human world in which we are enmeshed?
A sense of disconnection from the planet that supports us is a concept that permeates most modern human experience.
The complexity of constructed networks and intricately entangled detachment fostered by immersion in technology and global addiction to digital screens, has opened both an opportunity for humanity and a need to re-evaluate the human and nonhuman relationship.
A (re)connection to our environment is one of the most critical issues of our time. Both the immediate environment in which we engage and the global ecology in which we participate.
The elegance of our organised chaos has us spellbound.
An entanglement we are unwilling to undo.
Contemporary society is deeply entangled within the complexity of multiple networks.
And it is challenging to navigate a way through a different mode of thinking, even when I grasp the urgency of the ecological storm that is brewing.
We all breathe.
And the air that we breathe connects us across time and space.
Air entangles us into everything beyond the perception of self.
Air is increasingly politicised.
Air defies political borders.
The Landscape is Divided
I tend to gravitate towards materials and ideas that defy borders.
Each has a unique way of resisting containment.
The Landscape Sighs
I inhale the cold arctic air.
It travels along a bronchial tube,
across porous alveoli,
into warm, viscous blood,
through a beating heart,
along a complex circulatory network,
the air dissipates into a single oxygen molecule
that finds its way into a cell.
A biochemical process of energy exchange takes place,
and the cell breathes a carbon dioxide particle back into the blood,
through the circulatory system,
the beating heart,
the branches of the lungs
and along the bronchial tube.
Air returns into the vast, atmosphere of wind and waves and currents and weather.
The Landscape Gasps
According to the scientist, inventor, and co-founder of Google X, Tom Chi, planetary wind patterns show that the air we inhale at this moment was on the other side of the planet being exhaled by a plant 4-5 days ago.
In turn, I exhale and part of what I once considered self will form part of a plant’s internal structure in a remote corner of the Amazon in 4-5 days from now.
“We are literally ingrained within the movement of the planet.” (ref5)
The visual clarity of invisible air moving across the surface of the earth somehow stirs my imagination.
Possibly because air feels so familiar and other places seem so distant.
Air changes the perception of scale.
Does the breath, therefore, hold the pedagogical potential to (re)instate a higher value on our environment and our connection to it?
Can the breath go so far as creating a perceived value high enough to justify the transition from economy to ecology in the mind of humans?
I started walking this path to consider air… to investigate one of the most intimate and yet complex networks we share.
I am curious as to whether an understanding of air holds the potential to demystify the power and complexity of all other networks in which we are entangled.
In the book, Seventh Sense, Joshua Cooper Ramo states that by understanding the power of networks, we then have the potential to develop the intuition required to override the downside associated with the accelerated connected entanglement we now find ourselves in. (ref2)
Can an invisible medium like air help to visually clarify our understanding?
The myriad of networks that are currently impacting our lives are invisible, intangible, pervasive, global and persistently present.
As is air.
My aim is not necessarily to establish definitive answers but rather to journey into the fascinating and unexpected territory where these questions lead.
As the artist, Roni Horn wrote: “It’s more of a questioning. I’m not interested in answers per se. The answers create closure. I don’t think there are any answers anyway…” (Ref. 3)
The Landscape of Night
Air feels different in the dark.
When darkness consumes your space, edges disappear.
Borders become indistinguishable.
Breath on a camera lens. Only darker.
I am drawn to darkness.
I draw darkness.
My drawings often seem dark.
I am not a dark person. Nor am I depressed.
And yet I am drawn to darkness.
I recently realised I exist in a world of contrasts or maybe it is contradiction?
My work reflects this.
I initially decided to use the MFA as a time for experimentation.
To challenge my approach to drawing.
To question what a drawing can potentially be.
What my drawings could potentially be.
To defy the ever-present darkness,
I began to draw with light.
Light as a medium rather than an image of light.
Light drawn into the paper rather than resting on the surface.
In creating the light drawings
I simultaneously draw with air.
Light carried through the air and into the structure of the paper.
At first, I wanted to create drawings that occupy space.
Instead, I have space that occupies the drawings.
Drawings created by piercing, puncturing, wounding the paper like skin as explained by the artist Zarina who also created pinhole drawings in the 1970s.
The light drawings still carry a thread of darkness.
The darkness draws me in.
It always has.
Death surrounds me.
It always will.
It surrounds everyone.
We pretend it doesn’t.
Like air, it hangs over us.
Until it’s not.
I am drawn to darkness because it distorts the edges.
It removes boundaries
It shrouds a space in mystery.
Glimpses of light are seen in the dark.
Flashes of insight.
Creation happens in the darkness of the unknown.
Curiosity is sparked in shadows.
Light is mesmerising in the dark.
I have an affinity for the visual uncertainty of darkness.
The Landscape of Light
In a quest for light I decided to spend my summer in the darkest month of the arctic winter.
Where black consumes the space.
Black as the darkest black.
Black as a form of absence and presence.
The kind of black that holds a phantom weight.
That sits heavy in anticipation.
Black that is humid and damp.
Black that waits for a single thread of light to weave the wandering story of walking.
From inside (the home), the landscape holds a darkness that is warm and comforting.
It is light that brings you face to face with air so cold it takes your breath away.
The first step outside.
The beginning wanderings.
Now I draw in dark and light and air.
Darkness is needed to connect with light.
““The light,” after all, “shines in the darkness. It does not shine where there is full or total light, and the shining does not extinguish the darkness without obscuring the light itself.” (ref)
I puncture and wound the paper to let the light in.
To let the air in.
I give the membrane space to breathe.
I need space to breathe.
Time alone and disconnected to reconnect diluted senses.
I woke up each morning cocooned in a blanket of darkness.
Calmly anticipating the thread of light.
Breathing in cold arctic air.
The window open.
I have always been sensitive to light.
I can’t be in a room with the light on during the day.
Even as a child I would go from room to room to turn off all the lights.
Much to my family’s dismay.
James Turrell has said there is no difference between natural and artificial light.
For me, there feels like a difference.
I come from a landscape where the midday sun is fierce and unrelenting.
The summer sun blinds you with its intensity.
Head tilted down,
unable to look at the sky.
In a way, I love the washed out haze a harsh white light creates.
It can appear like water dancing across the landscape.
So much light that the clarity of vision diminishes.
Living in unrelenting light creates an appreciation for grey days.
Filtered light through storm clouds gathering in the East.
The Landscape of Ideas
All my research leads into thin air… the invisible presence that permeates our existence.
Air as the medium of creation, life and death.
What began as an investigation into time,
and the Anthropocene
has since been distilled into a single, simple, elusive and yet pervasive phenomena…Air.
I view my studio and theoretical research through a scientific lens.
The past mottles the present.
However, I also believe that some of the thinking associated with the politics of science needs to be reconsidered.
Cross-pollination of knowledge and a vision of the whole is essential for our future understanding.
Interestingly, we have realised this by dissecting smaller and smaller components.
The art historian, Abi Warburg wrote that he saw himself “placed along the dividing lines between different cultural atmospheres and systems…a way of thinking that falls through disciplinary boundaries - a nondisciplinary or undisciplined thinking,” as a way of seeing a more objective picture of the whole. (Ref 25-28)
The philosopher, Giorgio Agamben labelled this way of thinking the “Nameless Science,” in which multiple perspectives, specialisations and angels of investigation are considered. (Ref 28)
Alternate, scientific models are being addressed by a revolutionary few because our understanding of science is rapidly changing.
Suddenly the ideas proposed by Warburg early last century seem logical.
The more we are trying to understand smaller and smaller components of the world, the less it is behaving as we predict it should.
Nobel Prize-winning chemist Ilya Prigogine has reconsidered the “scientific account of wonderful world-systems in which responsibility for the emergence of things includes the intervention of creative events.” (ref)
Scientific methods are not static observations, but dynamic and unpredictable because of the very system of particles that make up our world.
Quantum particles are chaotic and impossible to predict and ultimately creative.
And so old methods of scientific inquiry are quickly becoming obsolete.
Hyper-specialisation creates a more efficient workforce but narrows our perspective.
Artists are in the privileged position of looking at ideas from different perspectives.
Looking at multiple areas of specialisation-
“undisciplined” thinking allows the creative process to happen.
In my studio practice, it is the unpredictability and inquisitive experimentation that I relate most to scientific processes.
Chaotic particles of unpredictable work.
My studio “…is the place for throwing things to the wind, for scattering what remains and creatively letting go of things as they drift on and rise up to new forms unknown to me, most likely in a future never even retrieved by me - being in a creative dissipation towards the sea.” This quote by (ref 4) describes my process perfectly.
The research has led to a ‘nondisciplinary’ meandering through sensory perception, neuroscience, psychology, quantum physics and biology along with the perplexing shadows of mysticism, creation theories and cultural psychology.
My studio practice is one of wandering, breathing, collecting, gathering, drawing, silence, sound, experience, contrasts, light in dark.
With my research, I hope to gain an understanding of the psychological friction caused by our current disconnection from our environment.
I hope to gain insight into the potential held in a future that is deeply connected to an ecological and atmospheric awareness.
An ethical commitment to the thread of connected air we share.
I am not claiming that the following paper holds the solutions required to adjust the historically embedded structures and systems of politics.
Or that I hold the answers required to prevent the ecological storm that is gathering.
I am merely posing questions and considering the potential held in changing our perception of what lies beyond the edges of our current understanding.
With my studio practice, I endeavour to create work that reinstates the value of connection by dismantling the fence that contains us in a world of excessive sensory input.
To curate a space that removes distractions and heightens the perception of ideas that float just outside the periphery.
A perception of expansive distance contained in small spaces.
A non-linear experience;
an enchanted encounter with a visual and auditory landscape of breath.
I am curious about the contrast between enchantment and disenchantment.
Particularly in relation to our experience of the environment.
In the classic essay “Science as a Vocation,” Max Weber wrote, “The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and above all by ‘the disenchantment of the world…principally there are no mysterious incalculable forces that come into play, but rather one can, in principle, master all things by calculations.” XI- Preface (Arts of Wonder)
In considering this, I wonder about the capability of art.
Can art remove the need to rationalize every aspect of our experience?
“Can the spell of modern disenchantment be broken” [by art]? (Ref XII)
I have found myself recently favouring works of art that create a psychological connection to the feeling of awe.
Experiencing a James Turrell light space for example.
Or sensing the infinite in a space created by Yayoi Kusama.
Joan Jonas’s projected spaces.
Pipilotti Rist’s light and soundscapes.
Walter De Maria’s Lightening Field.
Annette Messager’s floating, shadowy spaces.
Spaces that reflect upon enchanted senses.
Experience as research.
A curious encounter with solitude, silence, darkness and light in a vast and unfamiliar landscape.
Wandering through a frozen desert under northern skies and indigo air.
Experiencing the void created by desolate landscapes.
Experiencing the air that fills the void.
Distance, both physical and psychological, has become a valuable research tool.
From a distance “…this far away you see the patterns, the connections, and the thing as a whole… Up close it all dissolves into texture and incoherence and immersion…” (ref)
The visual distance of space and the psychological distance from the familiar were of equal importance.
In a desert landscape, your senses adjust to scale.
Senses also become heightened by the unfamiliar and by sensory deprivation.
In a desert landscape, space feels infinite, and the air feels close.
The desert is the antithesis of a computer screen.
For me, the familiar is a hot and humid city on the other side of the planet.
And as Jeffrey Kosky explains, “In the city…There are lots to see but the close-up view means no distance adds depth to your vision…in the great desert vastness, I began to look into the distance, where less and less at first appeared to be seen as more and more distance opened up whatever I did see.”
Emptiness reengages diluted senses.
Dilution is a neurological coping mechanism for overexposure to sensory input.
We need a balance between sensory overloaded environments (cities, digital landscapes) and reengaging in pared-back spaces.
Our world is designed to enchant.
The human world is designed to achieve.
I love the energy of cities.
Of human landscapes.
Flying over city lightscapes at night.
However, we also need to consider the impact this energy has on the senses.
time and space to breathe in the simplicity of visual distance.
Time, space, breath and silence reinstates disassociated senses.
Time invested in a desolate landscape.
Distance away from expectation.
Experiencing the unfamiliar.
Observing patterns of connection in an entirely new light.
Breathing air in a new light.
Feeling darkness in a new light.
Seeing light in a new light.
The Landscape of Death
Reflecting on death; it made sense to me that I became enchanted by solitude, the unfamiliar, the nonhuman, the distance; by the silence.
I imagine the experience of death encapsulates all of these things.
Light and dark at the same time.
The question has become: how to weave a silent story of death and life where the warp and weft are air and light?
“Death is a transition. A perpetual beginning and ending, violence and beauty.” Bill Viola
We inhale. Life begins.
We exhale, and life ends.
What happens in-between is a series of experiences, that transforms into a cloud of memory.
A cloud that floats in the air of the collective. (According to Jung)
Air is the ever-present companion life shares with time.
Death disconnects entangled threads of air.
I am more fascinated by the entangled connections we have with air before death.
I am interested in our connection to each other and to the “whole” (web) in which we participate.
I question how we influence the historical landscape that connects us?
And how the landscape, in turn, shapes us?
The human experience?
The seemingly endless loop of breath, time, perception and influence.
And then it ends.
The Political Landscape
The scares we cut into our historical landscape run deep.
The Anthropocene is a testament to this.
An ecological epoch defined by human influence.
“How can we simultaneously be part of such a long history, have such an important influence, and yet be so late in realizing what has happened and so utterly impotent in our attempts to fix it?” (ref8)
Criticism of the Anthropocene is that the term implies that humans are an independent governing body, inflicting their influence over nature from the opposite side of an imagined fence.
It would be far more beneficial, as the French Philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour has suggested, to see the relationship from an alternate perspective.
One where humans view themselves as part of the entangled web that is nature.
From this perspective, humans are playing an influential part in the mutation of their own web.
How de we alter our perspective?
How do we break the spell that binds us to the entanglement we are unwilling to undo?
Pause and Breathe
There is a space in-between…a pause…that holds you in a moment.
Then you exhale a small part of yourself out into the atmosphere.
We often perceive the skin as a border that contains the self.
Except when we breathe.
Breath defies borders;
it extends you, yourself, the self, the physical, the psychological out into the world.
The leprosy specialist Paul Brand wrote, “Pain, along with its cousin touch, is distributed universally on the body, providing a sort of boundary of self,” but empathy, solidarity, allegiance—the nerves that run out into the world—expand the self beyond its physical bounds.” (ref)
Breath goes one step further and expands the physical aspects of self beyond the bounds of skin.
It takes the inside out into the space that surrounds.
A moment that holds you temporarily in a surreal landscape of air and ice.
Caught between the land and the sky.
A slither of light and silence, and then you exhale.
Drawing the Landscape of Black
Before I went into the desert, I had started to draw with charcoal.
Once again the darkness returned.
A distorted face submerged in water or is it sky?
Drowning? Or floating?
The sky reflects on shallow water.
And you float in a space that feels empty.
Darkness draws me in once again.
I don’t see darkness as a negative.
Returning, I continue to draw with charcoal.
Burnt dead material creates a new.
The cycle of death and life continues.
Charcoal is fragile and brittle and dirty.
Mixed with oil and skin and breath, a burnt haze emerges.
Charcoal creates a black like no other black.
An enticing black.
A black that appears light in anticipation of an unfolding story.
“There is a black which is old and a black which is fresh. Lustrous black and dull black, black in sunlight and black in shadow.” Ad Reinhardt (Ref)
I’m developing an appreciation for the nuances of black.
A Pierre Soulages appreciation for black.
Soulages understands black from the perspective of one who only paints in black.
Soulages is 98.
That is a long time to be dedicated to black.
To be contemplating black.
Soulages’ black exhales light.
Light bounces off the canvas into the surrounding space.
“Black is the colour of light.” He said. (L’Atelier de Pierre Soulages: Michel Ragon. P 7)
I didn’t understand this until I experienced his work at the Centre Pompidou in 2010.
A Soulages painting occupies space with light.
Outrenoir as Soulages describes it.
I think about this when I use charcoal.
An appreciation of light in the presence of black.
The Landscape is not fixed
There is a space in-between the inhale, and the exhale, and not in the opposite direction.
When we force all of the air out,
the alveoli creates a vacuum.
The vacuum instantly pulls air back into the empty space.
There is no pause in this direction.
Little pods of transparent tissue ensure we never stop breathing.
With each exhale, a little of our selves is given to the atmosphere.
With each inhale, a little of the world is given to us.
A pause is needed before we let go.
The exchange that occurs between ourselves and the environment raises the question of how much of the self is actually what we perceive as self and how much is the external world we have inhaled?
How much of our perception of self is actually our environment?
The average human adult exhales one kilogram of air in a day.
If we assume, that our average human adult is 70kg.
Then exhaling equates to 7% of their body weight given out to the environment every single day. (Reference)
Over the course of two weeks (approximately), we exhale roughly the equivalent of our entire body mass.
The replacement of body cells also occurs continuously.
Every seven years we replace our entire body with new cells.
Raising the question:
How much of what we perceive as self is in fact self?
How much is actually a continuous mutual exchange between our body and our environment?
The Landscape of Presence
I was asked this question a lot.
Won’t you get lonely?
Also a popular question.
What can I gain from removing the social hum and chatter of our never-ending obligation to be present?
What can be gained from silence and solitude and a reflection on air?
I had many preconceived assumptions before walking this journey.
I have since altered my perspective on many beliefs.
The first assumption was that this landscape would be silent.
This is not the case.
The more silence I became, the louder the quiet sounded.
Most of the time it wasn’t even quiet.
Once the human chatter subsided, I realised the landscape is boisterous.
And air is the loudest of all.
Even when everything is still, air will be the sound that you hear.
The landscape was often restless and violent and loud and only sometimes quiet, but never silent.
The Norwegian poet, Jon Fosse, wrote the following seven words:
there is a love no one remembers.
Seven words that hold you captive, trying to decipher the answer.
When the author and arctic explorer Erling Kagge asked about this line, Fosse replied,
“In a way it is the silence that speaks.
To speak is precisely what the silence should do.
It should speak, and you should talk with it,
in order to harness the potential that is present…
And whoever does not stand in wonder at this majesty fears it…
many are afraid of silence…” (ref)
Sound can be measured and contained; silence cannot.
Silence is more of an idea than a physical entity,
and it is often occupies an internal space rather than something that exists out there.
“For thousands of years, individuals who lived in close quarters with no one but themselves around - monks, hermits, … explorers… have been convinced that the answer to life’s mysteries can be found in silence.” (ref)
We breathe to find silence.
My second incorrect assumption was that the landscape would be empty.
This landscape was far from empty.
There are no trees.
There are very few animals that can withstand the weather.
Removing the obvious allows for subtle shifts in perception.
Gradually other aspects of the landscape came to life.
The landscape moves.
It does not stand still.
“The solid and stable presence of all things, each in its place under the sun is animated and begins to flow - the sandstone cliffs and lava fields…as Serres learned from the geologists: “water flows but so too does the cliff; it flows…like water and the history of men, in as many and still more stages and levels.”
When you observe the pace of a frozen landscape, everything slows down.
When everything slows down, you are given the time to listen.
Here in this landscape, the lava fields are still flowing and the ground is still forming under the weight of eight active volcanos.
This landscape moves with an average of 500 earthquakes a week. (Ref9)
This landscape rests upon divergent tectonic plates, drifting in opposite directions.
Another incorrect assumption I had was that there would be little/no human contact.
Human traces are visible everywhere.
There was a grave less than 100 metres from the house.
An ancient Viking grave, on a trail that traversed the 500-acre property.
I shared the landscape with ghosts.
Silver lines of human cloud were regularly drawn across the sky.
Clouds created by planes now have a name.
“When we look up to the sky, increasingly the face we see is ours.” (Ref p17).
Rock formations were stacked throughout the landscape, to appease the huldufólk.
A landscape steeped in mythology.
Signs of humans are everywhere.
I spent a lot of time observing the sky from the comfort and warmth of inside.
The sound of wind and fire drowning out the quiet arctic snow.
Mesmerised by light reflected off ice sliding down the large window pane.
As beautiful and exotic as this now seems,
I was just as mesmerised by flying above the human landscape at night.
When I left the desert I flew into one of the largest cities in the world.
Human landscapes are phenomenally beautiful when viewed from the night sky.
The question is,
How to sustain the human landscape without deeply scaring others?
The words of Erling Kagge explains the idea of silence perfectly:
“Alone on the ice, far into the great white nothingness, I could hear and feel the silence.”
You can hear silence, and therefore it does not exist.
Deaf people are highly attuned to feel sound and therefore cannot bath in silence so easily.
Christine Sun Kim is a sound artist who is also deaf.
She expresses her perception of sound through drawing and installations and her unique perspective, redefines the concept of silence.
She sees her practice as reclaiming sound, after being told that this was something that would never belong to her.
Silence is light.
It can also be heavy, and it can be boring.
I wasn’t bored.
I enjoyed the luxury of uninterrupted time.
Thoughts and ideas were given the space to accumulate.
I realised that the ground/sky relationship was important for my studio work.
I spent a lot of time observing the sky while contemplating air.
The sky as a container of air.
Air that carries sound, and words and thoughts into words.
The sky grounded in reflection.
An Anish Kapoor sculpture floating below my feet.
Reflected surfaces change our perspective.
James Turrell also speaks of bringing the sky to the ground.
To alter our understanding of the sky/ground relationship.
Some mornings I was above the clouds.
Some mornings I was below them.
In this space, the sky doesn’t start at your feet.
It can start well below that.
The beauty of a sky that changes position is that it completely alters your perspective.
Above reflects below.
My collecting reflects these observations.
An atmospheric gathering of documented weather.
The atmosphere like a skin between the ground and infinite space.
The atmosphere supports the living and seems to hold the dead.
The skin is thin, and the breath is heavy when walking in the cold.
Storm clouds accumulating in the west.
Breath has structure when expelled into frozen landscapes.
Spoken words are hard to hear.
When caught in frozen air.
I lost all my written words somewhere between here and home - somewhere between the two hemispheres, multiple borders, war zones and vast oceans.
The only words I remember was the first sentence I wrote:
“I descended through indigo clouds into a line of fire and light.”
I wonder who has them now.
The city seems still under a heavy sea of breath and humid air.
I am sweating as I try to recall the cold.
Heat consumes the city as I walk.
A man sits slumped against the wall.
“Got any coin sista?” I hear him mumble under his breath.
Head hung low, staring intently at the ground.
I don’t have any coin on me.
I wish I did.
The sky might change your perspective.
I want to say.
I keep on walking.
Friday afternoon in the city
and the air holds a distinctive edge.
Friday in the frozen desert feels the same as every other day.
In the city, it feels different.
An air of anticipation.
I notice this as I try to recall the distant cold.
I keep on walking.
Memory feels like a nebulous cloud.
Experiences are remembered differently when retrieved anew.
Clouded by the present state of mind.
Peppered with imagination.
Altered by forgotten details.
A world saturated by high definition.
Clouds soften visually overloaded spaces.
Other senses are heightened in lost visual landscapes.
Recalling time spent in this landscape is a memory that floats in a cloud.
The intangible words are just out of reach.
A holographic memory.
In the words of my favourite philosopher, Master Oogway, “there are no accidents.”
Lost words force me to recall the experience in a new light.
Cloud, fog and mist were present in my work before I left.
It is only now that I understand why they are there.
Recalling a floating memory.
Lost in the curiosity of the unclear, the unpredictable, the potential.
Written words are fixed in certainty.
Storm clouds create a premature night.
You can smell charged particles in stormy air.
Storm clouds brewing in the West.
The air is full of life and dust and clouds that carry life.
Wind lifts dust and sediment and pollen and salt and microbes.
Red sand carried on the winds of the Sahara fall as pink snow in Scandinavia. (Ref 16).
Everything is connected by moving air.
It is no accident that the humble cloud has become ubiquitous with the storage of data.
In a way, the cloud has become an all-consuming storage container for everything that is significant and intangible in life. (ref 7)
The tsunami of data, networks and information held in the white puff of nothingness that floats across virtual skies.
“As the cloud more and more becomes the place of these connections and relations, and the temporal and spatial difference supposed by communication are over-come by nearly instantaneous and omnipresent transmission, we more and more interact, moving together as a faceless mass in one extended present, rather than communicate.” (ref5)
Architects, Diller + Scofidio’s project ‘Blur’ was an ever-changing cloud of mist that hovered just above the water.
A cloud wrapped around what appeared to be a formless structure.
“...as the visitor nears the fog mass, visual and acoustical references are slowly erased…; what remains is an optical ‘whiteout’ and the ‘white noise’ of the pulsing fog nozzles.” (ref. 8)
The indistinct edges, along with the distorted sensory experience created by Blur pushed the boundaries of architecture and the psychology of space.
The psychology of space is an important consideration for the work I am preparing in the studio.
And cloud and mist and dust hovering in light have developed into a significant part of the process.
Wind crossing frozen landscapes can feel like broken glass.
Air charges up the mountain from the sea
carrying ghosts as it sweeps up ice.
Ice in the air burns
and clouds my eyes.
I only fell through the ice once.
And there was no wind on that day.
No ghosts sweeping across the landscape.
But the clouds hung low and heavy to the ground.
Diffused soft light of white in all directions.
Táta and I were the only ones I could perceive moving.
Traversing the landscape to reach a waterfall that was flowing on this day.
Most other days it was frozen
Captured in mid fall.
Time standing still.
On this day, time was moving again.
Ice that covers moving water is precarious.
It moves and sways and slides ever so slightly.
You learn to perceive the nuances of its movement.
More importantly, you learn to perceive the nuances of sound.
The ice made a high pitched sound and then cracked.
I fell into the turquoise water below.
Clothes designed to keep the cold out also trap the water in.
It was a slow and heavy walk home.
The Landscape of Scale
I am fascinated by the way we perceive our environment.
The way we interact with space.
Sensory experiences and significant events that have changed the collective human psychology.
Perceptual psychology has informed the art practice of both Robert Irwin and James Turrell.
“Conscious perception - being aware of how our experiences and perception operate and shift, as well as how they are inevitably and continuously shaped by outside forces.” (Robert Irwin. All the Rules will Change. 46)
Irwin and Turrell studied perceptual psychology and attended a residency at NASA in the 1960s to further develop their understanding.
What they discovered during this time of inquiry, was that “their art- and science-based investigation into the mechanics of perception were a reminder that the world looks and feels very different, even enhanced, under conditions of sensory deprivation.” (Ref. P 29)
I knew that Robert Irwin had spent months alone in Ibiza, removing the use of language and communication.
His experience of isolation and deprivation had a significant effect on his way of thinking.
Reading about his experience in the book, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, had been the inspiration for me to consider solitude as a research tool.
What I didn’t realise until now, was that Robert Irwin had also chosen to leave his familiar city home of Los Angeles in 1971 to embark on a journey of solitude in the Southwest desert landscape.
“Attracted to the distinctive energy and presence of the desolate landscape…he honed both his perceptual acuity and the focus of his inquiry by considering what he termed “the quality of phenomena.” ((Robert Irwin. All the Rules will Change. 45).
Irwin describes both his art and his line of inquiry as a “phenomenological reduction,” which is a “process in which an individual aims to suspend all theoretical or abstract knowledge in favor of concrete, lived experience.” (Robert Irwin. All the Rules will Change. 45)
I am also inspired by Turrell and Irwin’s relentless questioning and analysis of the perceptual limits of human experience.
I am curious about changes in perception and the historical events that have significantly altered the collective human experience.
One such event of the 20th Century was the image of the “Blue Marble” photographed by astronauts on Apollo 17 in 1972.
The first image of Earth floating in an immense void of black.
This was the first time humans could see their planet from this perspective.
Looking down into the sky rather than up,
created an unexpected psychological shift.
All eyes were on the stars and moon and space.
Nobody predicted the extent of change created by the experience of looking back towards home.
A large number of astronauts who have viewed Earth from a distance have described an altered psychological state.
An overwhelming cognitive shift and heightened mental clarity that occurs in a state of awe when confronted with the fragility and unity of life on our blue planet. (reference 15)
As Edgar Mitchell (the 6th man on the moon) described it, “There was a startling recognition that the nature of the universe was not as I had been taught…I not only saw the connectedness, I felt it… I was over whelmed with the sensation of physically and mentally extending out into the cosmos. I realized that this was a biological response of my brain attempting to reorganize and give meaning…” (A beautiful world p4/7)
The author, Frank White first labelled this the Overview Effect and describes it as “an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.” (https://vimeo.com/55073825)
When I look up to the sky I see a vast blue space.
Something that seems infinite.
Astronauts who experience the Overview Effect describe the fragility of the thin skin of atmosphere that protects life on earth.
“…seeing Earth from in space first-hand is like seeing “a tiny, fragile ball of life hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere.” (4)
From this view the sky in thin and fragile and volatile.
The change in perspective created by the “Blue Marble” coincided with the development of the land art movement by artists such as Nancy Holt, Richard Long, Michael Heizer and Walter De Maria.
People’s perception of scale changed.
The scale of art significantly changed.
Deserts became some of the only spaces capable of holding such scale.
This event also coincided with the start of environmental activism.
From a distance “…this far away you see the patterns, the connections, and the thing as a whole…” (9)
The wind carries ghosts of the past.
The breath of the dead still floats between us.
Glaciers hold pockets of air that were once the breath of our ancestors.
I run my hands over the slow drip if melting ice and witness the trapped air coming towards the surface.
When was the last time this air was experienced?
10,000 years ago? More?
The breath of our ancestors.
Their perception of self,
exhaled as the air I can now see.
Air connects us across time.
Walking into the glacier ice cave felt like the myth of Wu Tao-Tzu stepping into his painting.
I, of course, had not painted this landscape but I had imagined it.
The canvas of imagination no longer a border unable to be entered.
I appreciate the stories of Wu’s character.
Apparently, his paintings spoke of his brilliance (non-remain) but his character created the myth.
And the myth shatters our perception of reality contained within the borders of art.
What will come of this wandering, and wondering, and breathing, and collecting?
Traversing the landscape between sky and ground.
What is the destination?
Each day I left the house not knowing the direction we would walk.
It never mattered.
It has been the same since my return.
Each day I come to the studio not knowing the direction I will walk.
Trusting that the path would become apparent as long as I just kept walking.
I have been contemplating the collection of gatherings.
The accumulation of documented weather.
Clouds of memory.
I continue walking.
What I do know at this stage is that the veins that traverse the human body carry air and blood and visually resemble the root systems of trees and plants and complex river systems when viewed from above. They resemble the paths I walked and imprinted into frozen landscapes.
Visual clues of connection are everywhere.
I want to share an experience.
To curate a space of altered perspective.
A reflection of sky and ground and the air that floats in between.
A non-linear experience and distorted perception of what lies beyond the edges.
A space that creates the distance needed to see patterns of connection.
A place to breathe and slow down.
A network of light and breath.
A space experienced alone.
Light reflected off black.
Air as a participant.