31 July 2012

Little and often, day after day

Work on "the long piece" continues - a couple of hours of stitching every morning, in the quiet house, to the accompaniment of a bit of listen-again on the bbc iplayer, rather than the morning news programme. Sometimes, though, I turn off media and try to focus on the other projects that need finishing, the memory balls and the filleted cookbook pages and the overwriting and the sonnets and the books for the shop, and thinking about which of them really need to be there to show "a resolved body of creative practice" and which can be left out. Much of the pleasure for me is that these projects aren't resolved into a finality, that there's still scope and potential and development going on. But there does have to be a cut-off point, a judgment day.

The yellow point marks 2.5 metres. I do about 10cm a day, so should be able to get to 4 metres, long enough to hang over the top of the wall and roll out for a little ways along the floor.

Plan B is to have some black at the top. That could be the  sensible thing to do at this point: spend less time stitching and turn to finishing some of the other projects. Again, it's a conflict between what is pleasure for me (the easy thing!) and what is called for in this situation.

Like the bright areas, or the dark areas, in the piece - which seem to take over when only a section is shown - these "momentous decisions" will fade into the distance in the longer view.

30 July 2012

Book(s) du jour - cookbook progress

It's true, doing is better than thinking. Having made the two maquettes as planned yesterday, I feel I have a better idea of where this is going, and what to do next. Tony and Thomas, my resident advisers, gave thoughtful and useful feedback - for which I am always grateful, even if it's hard to take in sometimes!

first ...

Let's start with the book I made before getting so confused and frustrated - "Kochfahigkeitsverlust". The title is a word I made up (that's meant to be an umlaut on the A) and with any luck it really does mean "loss of being able to cook". It's embroidered on linen, which is stretched over card for the front and back covers.  
 The pictures (from a 1970 german cookbook) are glued inside the covers -
 and the one page of recipes is stitched in. The ends of the stitching thread dangle outside the book, and the words cut from the pages are glued to those and other threads. Perhaps they will be covered in wax...
 Turn the page and you're at the end of the book -
This is a sample and apart from the embroidery on the cover, perhaps, isn't very interesting - in fact, not very comprehensible! But ... you get an idea and you have to DO it before it lets go of you ...

... and ...

On to the next, the german/english maquette, printed on the wrong paper with a malfunctioning printer. It consists of five sheets of pictures and four pages with recipes -
The idea is to glue the pic onto the cover, as in the first book. Or maybe, to have a separate endpaper -

 The recipes can be lifted up to show the missing words, some of them anyway, printed onto the photos -
 On the final recipe page I started cutting the verbs, but haven't taken them out yet -
To carry this idea forward, I'll use only english-language recipes - I'm emotionally attached to using german, to having that sense of losing language as well as the competence of cooking or baking, but there's too much going on all at once - the main point is that loss of competence, not the confusion of the languages.

That decision leaves the way clear for using the filleted recipes to show the progressive loss of ability to cook - in the first page only a few words will be missing, and as you progress through the book you'll see more and more falling out. Perhaps the words will fall onto the picture behind. Perhaps the same recipe, and the same picture, will be used each time. Probably this book needs a different format. I'm eager to try this out...

... finally

I also made a small english-only sample, printing the photos onto heavy photo paper. I forgot to print the back of the recipe page in the solid colour of the paper, but never mind, this is just a try-out.

The format of the recipes means that all the action happens in the centre of the pages. I took the verbs and glued them on the back of the page, where the ingredients are listed in the recipe. This makes no logical sense (hmm, that's perhaps the point?);  I liked the look of it and carried on -
 The orderliness of the list belies the confusion, the nonsense, when you read it: "blend, cream, add, mix and sieve, add, add, grease, fill in, smoothing, spread over this, place, bake, dust the cake". The verbs are in what I remember as "imperative mood" - so it feels like you're being given orders that make no sense - which is appropriate for "loss of language, loss of ability".

The filleted centrefold -
 Same thing happens on the back of the page for the other recipe -
The recipe is for Prinzregententorte, which my mother made for special occasions, including my wedding. Although she loved to pipe whipped cream onto other cakes, she left this cake with the plain chocolate icing. It consists of seven layers, baked separately - a labour of love. Cooling layers would completely fill the kitchen counter, and then were assembled with thin layers of butter cream filling. 

Where to with this pamphlet? Perhaps there could be a series of recipes overlaying the picture of the result, with the "imperatives" - the sequence of actions - presented in a more (what? compelling? readable? attention-grabbing?) way. 

Simplify ... simplify ... !

Moan on Monday - "easy open"

just try.....
...and watch the bag shatter at your touch
Not much left to reseal, after that "easy opening" - bring back the refillable jar! And another thing: make the packaging "widely recyclable".

29 July 2012

Book du jour

loaded with homely memories
Despite a lot of thinking and faffing about, there's not much progress, lately, on the german/english cookbook with the verbs fallen out. The desk is littered with printouts of pages of recipes and scans of photos - like the Schwarzweiss Gebaeck and the Prinzregententorte above - and my notebook is full of sketches and notes on how they might go together ... "might" being the operative word.

This project needs some action on the actual putting-together. At the moment it's all too complicated, even though I've tried to take it back to basics. Perhaps some of the unnecessary complications will drop out during the trial run. I'm after simple, clear, and elegant - the right size, with nothing unnecessary, conveying the idea ... but leaving something to think about. And I'm not at all sure this cookbook-thing is going to make the cut, as things stand - much as I want it to. Maybe I'm too involved with the personal-history aspects, and need to step outside that particular box?

Plan A: use the 5 pages of photos and 4 pages of recipes (2p english, 2p german) currently on the desk to follow the current plan and make a maquette (these pages are horribly printed due to problems with ink flow etc etc etc) - don't do the laborious cutting out of words, tempting as it is to spend lots of time on this; see what the structure looks like, and what needs simplifying or revising or abandoning.

Plan B: make an english-only version with just one sheet of photos and one of recipes - how can they be put together in the most straightforward way - will this convey "losing the ability to cook because you can't follow the sequence of actions in the recipe"?

I'm in some panic about this as there are now only 30 days till the assessment, by which time the show has to be up (ie, what to show has to be decided!) and the entire work and reflective writing ready to present. Time-management skills would definitely be useful at this point.

27 July 2012

Where did these come from?

Following on from the "memory ball" made at the CQ summer school, but not using my idea of using a thumbtack (drawing pin) to hold the slip of paper holding the memory-word onto or into the ball as it was being wound, this ball simply has tacks held together with thread -
contains 100 tacks, wrapped around a pebble
Then another one needed to be made -
wrapped around a tennis ball
And another - 
nails are harder to hold in
Perhaps they are "just procrastination" (several other projects need finalising if they are to be part of my degree show - in fact I need to decide, soon, exactly what to show).

The tack-balls are exciting to make, and I've been trying to photograph them and make a little video for the show. The overwhelming problems are security for the device on which they'll be shown and the lack of a power supply near my bit of wall. The answer might be to show them on an ipad - the battery should last throughout the day and can be recharged overnight. But - how to get the pix, the video, to show on it? And what about security - last year a laptop was stolen, and the rooms won't be invigilated during the week that assessment is going on. I'm thinking of going back to "old technology" - printing the photos and making a flicker book instead of having a video - it's a way to get audience participation, wot?

Another aspect of audience participation is that I'd like people to touch and hold these intriguing objects - their weight is surprising - 60g for the small gold one and 222g (half a pound) for the red one.

Part of the procrastination/distraction aspect of making the tack-balls is that I can't get my head round how they might (or... might not...) fit into my project theme (reminder to self: the project theme is loss of memory). "Perhaps they are what destroys memory" said Karen, and she went on to brainstorm the concept:

 A way of attaching  something,  
A temporary fix causing  permanent damage
Sabotage...  tacks on the road , puncture,  on a chair seat
Push (in )pull (out)
Sinks in deep, leaves a hole

Other names -thumb tack , drawing pin, brass tacks 
Could you write on the heads( heads -memory)

I'm hoping that the tie-in of the memory ball I'll be making at the exhibition, and a suitable title, will link these tack-balls into the theme. But maybe that won't be enough. It's got to feel right; it's got to fit; it's got to be part of "a resolved body of creative practice".

26 July 2012

Seen in passing

a parlay of pitchforks

Easy-peasy brownies

My contribution to the pot-luck lunch was a panful of brownies. Not for me the complications of carefully melting the chocolate and creaming the butter - it's all done in a saucepan, and I use cocoa rather than chocolate. The recipe comes from a cookbook (of my favourite recipes) I compiled a good few years ago, as the project for a course at library school (actually, the project was the index to the book - but first I had to compile the book in order to index it; and while I was at it, why not print off 150 copies, sell enough to pay for the paper, and then have the rest to use as xmas presents? - after all, there was a gestetner machine living in my pantry, and all I had to do was retype all the recipes onto stencils, and run them off, collate the book, cover and bind.... ah, the energy of youth! Did I mention the preschool child, the absent husband, and the part-time jobs, one of which was the reason for the gestetner machine living in the pantry?).

The brownie recipe was written for a 9" square pan - and my favourite pan is 10" square, hence the annotations. I'll rewrite it - with metric measures - at the end of the post.
One after another, the eggs turned out to have double yolks - why is this? is it the time of year? They were large eggs, so I used three; when they are medium-sized, I use four, but have made this recipe with even fewer and it's worked ok -
double, double, toil and trouble

The pan went along to the pot-luck lunch, and even though they'd baked a little too much, the contents soon disappeared -
ideally, brownies are less baked (more squidgy) than this
So, the recipe. Numbers before the / are for the smaller pan; those after it, for the larger pan. Do not confuse the two! Also, I now use less sugar than in the original recipe. (btw, this site is useful for converting between types of measurement)

Easy-peasy brownies

Heat oven to 350F, 180C (160 for fan oven), gas 4. Butter a 9"(22cm)/10" (25cm) pan.

In a saucepan, melt 200 grams/300g (1/2 cup / 3/4 c) butter (or margarine). Take the pan off the heat.

Add 50 g/75 g (7 Tbsp/10 T) cocoa
        220 g/330 g (1 cup / 1 1/2 c) sugar
then add 3 eggs / 4 eggs
and then add 1/4 tsp salt [can be left out]
         100 g / 150 g (3/4 c / 1 1/8 c) plain flour
         1 tsp/ 1 1/2 tsp vanilla [this enhances the chocolate flavour!]
once these are mixed, add 75g / 100g (3/4c / 1 1/8 c) walnut pieces

Spread in pan, pop into (preheated) oven, set timer for 30 mins. Check the brownies - if they are almost firm to touch in the middle, they are ready. If not, set timer for 5 mins and check again. 
Once they are almost firm to touch, take out of oven and cool in pan 15 mins, then cut into squares. Or oblongs. Or diamonds?
Your brownies are ready to eat. In UK they often get cream poured over them; in North America they sometimes get chocolate frosting. 

cookbook cover, from a drawing by Thomas, aged 4 1/2 
a bit of the index, with the colophon

25 July 2012

In process

I'm amazed, on a studio day, how much to-ing and fro-ing to the computer there is. I find I just get started with something when there's a need for the camera, and uploading the pix because it's something that needs to be written about before any more decisions are made, or there's something that needs checking something on the internet ... so, suddenly I'm in the other room and not in the studio any more. Ah the joys of working at home! Everything is so handy ... so many distractions are possible, too ...

But it all needs sorting so that a way forward can be found. I started arranging my workspace and unearthed the box of books/pages that saw light of day at the tutorial last week.
In it is the core - but not the finished version - of items for my show:
- early attempts to rework cookbooks "loss of language" - or is it loss of (sequential) memory?
-memorisation of sonnets, or rather, attempted memorisation
-over-writing (another approach to loss of language/comprehension)
-Brainstorm and Seepage, two books that will be available in the shop rather than on show - and need just their final touches (eg covers....)
-the cut-up dictionary pages, and the books made from the cut-out words
(There will also be the memory balls, but those are another story.)

"Combing the Alphabet" (on the left) and the untitled one ("Alphabetical Interlude" - ?) are very similar, in that they're all the words defined on a page of the dictionary, transferred to a page of graph paper. Because using glue to hold them there is both fiddly to do and precarious as a result, the tiny pieces of paper holding the words are carefully laid out and securely stitched.

That ordering, and fastening, say something about how rigidly and carefully some things can be kept in memory ... how much organisation is involved ... but like these books themselves, for what purpose?

To make a kind of completeness, as arbitrary as it is - a few dictionary pages transformed into a small book, that's a totally arbitrary thing to do. Even the alphabetical arrangement (which we take so much for granted) has an arbitrary nature - these words happen to fall into alphabetical order (and others might have fallen onto this page, but have been left out by the compiler of the dictionary, the Oxford School Dictionary).

Because of the systems, like alphabetical order, that are deeply embedded into our ways of dealing with the world and of gathering information,  we're always working within some sort of ... randomness? no, it's more a selection process of which we're not aware. On top of that, memory makes its own selection, amid or from that larger selection.

And forgetting (so much a part of memory!) - is that random? For emotionally-fraught memories, it isn't, the psychiatrists would have us believe. Do words take on emotional values that make some of them forgetable, or is it just a matter that the most-used (rehearsed) words stay with us longest? Would those most-used words be the ones learnt earliest in childhood - or the ones that become important to us in adult life, through our jobs perhaps, or in relationships?

My reading on the topic of memory, superficial and scant as it has been, has thrown up many of these questions and concerns. Making a few little books seems such a negligible way of approaching them, much less dealing with them.
And what of the "erased" dictionary pages themselves - do they show anything worth thinking about? I like the look of them - holes are so resonant - but haven't resolved how to display them: in a book of some structure, concertina or codex or individual pages sewn together, and if so, how? simply laid out flat? overlapping? on a light box? How many words to take out of each ... what to do with those words ... whether to cover them with waxed paper or (softer) repair tissue, or nothing ... what do the aesthetics say about the "meaning"? How does the back of the page relate to the front of the page?

When I opened the box with these few bits of work in it, lying on top were the information sheets about show set-up deadlines and the assessment process. Here are the learning outcomes for this part (unit 2) of the course:

  • present, in the final exhibition, a resolved body of creative practice that has evidenced the systematic enhancement of your knowledge and understanding
  • analyse and reflect coherently upon your own practice and its context in both written and verbal forms
  • summarise your overall progress and formulate a constructive plan for continuing personal and professional development

The task with the nearest deadline (6 August) is the Reflective Essay - only 500 words in total -

  1. An artist's statement on your work discussing the relationship between your interests and methods. This will include a critical analysis of your outcomes compared with your intentions.
  2. A statement about your future to include your immediate and longer term goals and outline plan for further development.

Yesterday at college

The exhibition space is still largely empty, so we thought it would be a good idea to have a pot-luck lunch -
A close-up of the food -
perhaps a preponderance of paper plates
... savouries from China, Japan, Korea, Portugal, America. Sweets from England, America, Canada. 

Afterwards I had a little problem to resolve. My catalogue pages consist of black paper with a grey underside, the white rubber-stamped words, and the red thread, running centrally to the words and the page.  The thread was carefully glued down at the edges of the paper. The catalogue is held together with fasteners at three places - which means a hole has been punched centrally, and has cut the thread, leaving it loose (and sometimes dangling) - something I didn't notice till about half the catalogues had been bound. I was able to fix the unbound pages by taping down the end that would be concealed in the spine, but about 50 copies had already been put together, so a different plan was needed.
loose now - dangling later?
Time for Plan B ....  A red dot wouldn't look out of place if it peeked out from the spine, but how to get it into that tight space? Finally I hit on the idea of using the corner of the waxy sheet that the dots came on - it would "carry" the dot and thread as far into the spine as possible. Closing the book and pressing down meant the dot would stick to the page - which is shiny and slippery; fingers crossed it stays! Holding down the pages allowed the slippery sheet to be withdrawn -
a tool for application in tight places
not quite what I had in mind, but it will have to do
The afternoon turned into a long chatting session ... so I didn't get to any of those exhibitions listed so hopefully yesterday. Since then I've remembered the "power and allure" exhibition at Goldsmith's Hall ends this week...

Why are London postboxes red?

24 July 2012

On my list

Now that the sun is out, anything seems possible, including seeing many exhibitions at once, or at least before they close. These are on my list at the moment:

Nancy Holt (she of the Sun Tunnels), and Simon Patterson, at Haunch of Venison to 25 Aug

Francesca Lowe at Riflemaker, 79 Beak St ("throughout July")

Grayson Perry tapestries, and Sarah Sze, at Victoria Miro  - to 11 Aug

Whitechapel Open - to 14 Sept

Patrick Kieller at Tate Britain - to 14 Oct
at Somerset House
Brazilian art at Somerset House, to 14 Sept

Mary Ramsden at Pilar Corrias till 3 Aug

contemporary japanese photobooks at Photographers Gallery till 14 Sept

another visit to Picasso's Vollard Suite, and Chinese ink paintings, at British Museum, till 2 Sept

That'll do for now!

22 July 2012

Book du jour

Continuing with the project on memorisation of sonnets, I've printed out a six-page alphabetical list of the lines in the ten chosen sonnets, and carefully torn them into 140 strips. Or rather - four of the six pages were available for tearing up. My previous great idea for using the alphabetical list of lines didn't pan out, so I used a couple of the pages for doing some doodling one lazy day.

The current great idea involves a flat-bottomed colander with large holes. My parents either bought it in Quebec in the early 1950s, or may even have brought it to Canada from Germany. Now it's in England, doing unimaginable things.

The lines are stuck through the holes, starting with A in the middle and going outward as far as they can go. I haven't counted all the holes, but the outer ring has about 64 and there are 8 rings - so the 140 strips won't entirely fill it.
Long ago, when the British Library was still in the British Museum, one item on display was labelled as a "chronological scourge". It looked like a sort of whisk, with strips of vellum on which words were written. I've never been able to find out more about it, but it has stuck in my mind, and may lie behind the strips of paper with words printed on them. But the ends, instead of being bound onto a handle, are dangling through the holes of the colander -
The next stage in this project is to fill the glass with tinted water (ink? dye?) so that the liquid wicks up the strips. I'm interested to see (a) whether it works and (b) how long it takes. Some time-lapse photography would be interesting...

Further possible developments are to make the lower part of the strip longer, perhaps use paper that's more absorbent, and to replace the colander with a simple plate that has holes in it.

It seems to me that  the way the memorised lines are mixed up is a visual analogy for the way lines of poetry interweave in memory - and the darkness of the ink/dye, eradicating the words, shows how they disappear...

21 July 2012

This week at college

At the end of last week we had "BookMare", a two-day exhibition in Camberwell Space (with talks by some of the participants). Hundreds of catalogues for BookMare needed folding -
production line
at the end of the day - the professionals
the space is ready...
... for viewing
Later, more catalogue making - our catalogue for the final show. We each supplied 85 copies of a page, and everyone helped with collating and binding. Maya worked out how it all goes together - it looks really good!

Final show planning

Also, this was a week for tutorials - which were held in the exhibition space. The week before, we had a planning session in the space, the tutors armed with maps and thoughts and calmness and patience.
how will we all fit our work into this room?
It seemed that everyone was happy with their allocation - and it seemed that everyone knew more or less what they would be showing. Getting access to the power points, and having ladders on hand that are tall enough, are a couple of the many little problems that are yet to be sorted out.

I'm planning to have three boxes, wood painted white, hanging on the wall, with smaller white-painted boxes within them ... oh, and some work in them too! My allocated space is in the centre of the wall (though, as three people didn't show up at the planning session, this might change, everything might change; hey ho). I taped some paper to the wall to get a sense of what it might look like in the room - the still-very-empty room -
putting work in a different context
After getting my various bits out, and talking about how they relate to each other and -importantly- to how they will be displayed, I find I have a different configuration - most boxes are to be at eye level -
If the stitched piece is to be used, it will have to be quite a bit longer, to go right to the top of the wall. And I won't know whether to use it till the rest of the work is there...so I'm stitching steadily, and trying to remember to use a thimble, after some time off with a throbbing, punctured finger.

Tables are set up in the room and, as the college is empty of BA students, it's possible to go into the space to work. It'll be interesting to develop the work in this studio setting rather than at home. The different context makes you look at it differently....

Quote for the day - trouble

photo from here
If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month. --Theodore Roosevelt

20 July 2012

Erasure in daily life

The menu of a curry restaurant on Willesden High Road - in a multi-page menu, plushly presented, the chef's specials have lost their names, which is a bit confusing - does that mean they're no longer available? Or did the chef change, or was there a language issue, or .......

19 July 2012

Art twins

Links to twin artists are at http://pinterest.com/convivia/twin-artists/

Wikipedia lists some "art twins" (all these are men...interestingly...):

  • Os Gêmeos (1974–)
  • Tim (1939-2006) and Greg Hildebrandt (1939–)
  • Masashi and Seishi Kishimoto (1974–) 
  • Moses (1899–1974) and Raphael Soyer (1899–1987)
  • Doug and Mike Starn (1961–)
  • Michael McGlynn and John Mcglynn (1964-)
  • Jerome Witkin and Joel-Peter Witkin (1939-)

  • To redress the balance, some female twin artists:

    the German Schmidt-Heins twins, Barbara and Gabrielle: http://www.sculpture-citynord.de/kue_schmidt_heins.htm

    image and interview here
    the Singh sisters in Liverpool (http://www.singhtwins.co.uk/singhtwins.co.uk/WELCOME.html)
    image from here
    Liesbeth and Angélique Raeven are Dutch anorexic twins who do performance art about their obsessions - "without one another we would die; we can't eat if we are separated"
    http://www.videoportal.sf.tv/video?id=95185e06-c1e1-4867-83de-14b2f0d13898 [in German]
    In 2002 they caused quite a stir, performing in their "thin" state (34 kilo weight) - "freak show" was the reaction - but now they are "normal" (50 kilos).
    image from here
    Identical twins Irina und Marina Fabrizius study in Dusseldorf and work together - on the same paintings. They were born in Kazakhstan in 1990 and live in Germany. Their website is http://www.fabrizius2.de/; article at
    http://www.wz-newsline.de/lokales/duesseldorf/kultur/fabrizius-zwillinge-unzertrennlich-bis-in-die-kunst-1.887338 [in german]

    And also:

    Gert and Uwe Tobias come from Romania and live in Germany  - http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/gert_tobias.htm

    Victor and Vincent Wood, who at age 10 covered the walls of their bedroom with drawings of their sports heros