Showing posts tagged with: CAC Residency  Show all posts

Posted Friday, 16 August 2013

RGBDToolkit Sketch at The Sampler

This is a sketch I made from RGBD footage I took last week, at The Sampler in Bushwick. I'm experimenting with the post-production effects in the RGBDToolkit Visualize app, creating kind of an avalanche of effects to try to become familiar with the possibilities.

The effects used in this study are:

  • Geometry tab: Edge clipping (generally very low, but increased when the arms are outstretched and the polygons stretch to connect them to the bodies)

The rest are in the Rendering tab:

  • Point Alpha
  • Point Size
  • Random Point Amount
  • Wireframe Alpha
  • Wireframe Thickness
  • Mesh Alpha (the application of RGB between the polygon lines)

Posted Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Counterpoint to the Remote

In my recent work, I have been exploring the creativity inherent in perception, and the sense of value we seamlessly inject into our everyday experience.

To do this, I have been looking, within an installation context, at the phenomenal experience of encounters that are both remote and somehow also close. The approach I have taken is to use light and sound to augment the surface of rocks.

Rock with white projected light #3
Rock with white projected light #3

Soon I will upload video documentation of new installation work, but in this post I want to share some of the photographs that have been part of the outcome of this process.

The images shown here are all photographs of rock surfaces taken in the studio at CAC. The surfaces have been mapped with light from a projector. The photographs have not been edited or digitally processed.

Rock surface with white projected light #1
Rock surface with white projected light #1
Two rocks with white projected light #1
Two rocks with white projected light #1

The image below is one of a series of detail shots taken to capture the texture of the rock surface in incandescent lighting, for use in the developed installation work. The angled light creates a relief and a resulting contrast.

Rock texture photographed with incandescent relief lighting #1
Rock texture photographed with incandescent relief lighting #1
Rock surface with white projected light #2
Rock surface with white projected light #2
Rock texture photographed with incandescent relief lighting #3
Rock texture photographed with incandescent relief lighting #3
Two rocks with white projected light #2
Two rocks with white projected light #2

The projector's light texture is visible in shots at a distance from the light source, as above.

Posted Friday, 19 October 2012

The Cascading Process

Over a three month period, with the support of two residency programs, I have completed one new installation work.

Interestingly, the final form of this work did not fully take it's current shape until the final week.

In another post I'll talk about the work itself.

Water cascading down a cliff face
by tillou79

But for now I want to offer some thoughts about the process I use to make installation work, how and why that process has changed, and to talk about the value I place in criticism.

Leaving the outcome open
One of the recurring themes in my practice, particularly since conversations with Tobias Rosenberger last year, has been openness to change.

As both an artist and software engineer I should point out that there is a trend in software engineering which promotes openness to change (agile). But this is more about being responsive to changes you can't predict, and managing and encouraging that change with project stakeholders.

To the engineer in me, change is something to be managed effectively; to the artist, change and experimentation are vital, and at the forefront of my process. Given that my installations generally require custom software, I'm pleased to say the two approaches can be complimentary.

Course changes
I tend to characterise the open-ended process as a cascade, like in the image. (Not to be confused with the Waterfall software design model.)

In a cascade, when you begin at the top, you have no idea which point at the end of the journey you will end up. Several times on the journey you will hit forks, and will choose (or be forced to choose) new directions. As you travel, your idea may become more or less clear about where you are headed, but is still open to dramatic change.

When the outcome of a project was left open, you can look back across it and see lots of not-taken routes. These routes, although not present in the final work, played a very important role in leading to the final outcome. I won't say that they necessarily 'add layers' to the final work, but they do add layers to the journey which produced it, in whatever form it finally takes.

How do you know when you've hit a fork, and which route to take?

It's hard to see something with fresh eyes when you are working on it every day, and you need fresh eyes to get a sense of the alignment between your intentions and what you have created.

This is where a trusted group of critics comes in. Other artists, friends, people at institutions and organisations you are related to - and genuine audiences, for example in open studios.

Crits at CAC
The crits at CAC take the form of group studio visits. They are weekly, all resident artists take part, and they are timed to about 10-15 minutes per artist.

Each artist is invited to present his or her work, and to opt for just 'eyes and ears' or for a bounds-free, open ended discussion. The former is useful if you are at a certain stage of your process and aren't ready for a full crit yet, but most weeks many artists opt for the latter.

Studios at CAC
Studios at CAC

I found the most useful way to take advantage of this process was to set up a 'sketch' installation each week, representing the direction I was going at that moment (ready or not, mature or not). I would organise the space in a way similar to how I would present the work in a gallery, because installation is very experiential, and the space around the piece is just as important.

Not adding layers
I would then let the group walk into the space in front of me, and then wait and not say anything. In any group, even shy ones, there are opinions bubbling under the surface and it doesn't make sense to pre-shape or pre-censor those opinions by 'framing' your work verbally.

I've heard that crits can be impassioned affairs, although I've never experienced this personally. Most artists seem to recognise that it is important in crits for the group to be able to talk openly and critically about the work they see.

Points of change
The cascading effect, aided by criticism, provides you as an artist with a approach in which you can explore openly - intellectually, visually, experientially and so on.

You can 'feel out' literally any direction, knowing that critical feedback will aid you. It may augment the direction by adding previously unconsidered layers. It may deaden the direction by pointing out potential flaws. It may highlight potential forks in the road, or it may confirm a direction by demonstrating that your critical audience is thinking about the subjects, questions and ideas you intended.

Each of these are valuable and allow you to bounce from one direction to another, and to zero in on a landing spot as you get closer to it.

Criticism and Approval
One final note - it's important to bear in mind that asking for criticism is not the same as asking for approval. Asking for approval leaves you in a weak position, and it is far better to ask for criticism and be supplied with a compliment than vice-versa.

By contrast, when asking for criticism you need to be prepared to accept that criticism on it's own terms. You may not agree with the criticism, but that doesn't mean it isn't valid. I find it helpful to try to understand the critique within the contextual framework from which it came. This often means asking questions back and trying to flesh out the context.

But, finally it will always be down to you which feedback to respond to, if at all. And ultimately it's an approach that helps you learn to trust your intuition.

Posted Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Working with Total Space

Last night I cleared (almost) everything out of my studio - so that I could focus on the installation in terms of it's 'total space':

Studio 1 at CAC
Rocks in Studio 1 at CAC

By 'total space' I mean the space around the work, which viewers experience just as much as the work itself - in installations this space is part of the work and cannot be separated.

In this post I'll describe some of the dimensions I am considering when looking at this space, in the context of the work I'm currently developing.

The original 'installations'
Installation art got it's name because curators used to have to decide how to hang paintings and place sculptures. This was termed 'installation', and photographs for publication of several works together were called 'installation shots'.

An installation shot
An installation shot, at the Smithsonian
Photo by Smithsonian

For installation artists much, if not all, of that process of arrangement of objects in space has become an essential aspect of the artwork itself. Each work cannot exist in isolation but has to be considered in terms of it's relationship to the space in which it is installed.

So in practice, the work must be 'site-specific', or somehow transposable to more than one location.

Using the architecture
An interesting antecedent for 'transposable' work is Sol Lewitt. A few weeks ago at Mass MOCA I saw the work 'Wall Drawing 51: All architectural points connected by straight lines'.

As the title suggests, this work can be recreated in any location (as long as it has some architectural points).

Sol Lewitt
Wall Drawing 51: All architectural points connected by straight lines
Photo by br_5530

As with much of LeWitt's work, the art is in the crafting of sets of repeatable instructions. Those instructions can then be carried out again and again to produce physical instantiations of the work.

This is one way of making the work mutable, but it also carries a rigid inflexibility that constrains the piece and prevents it seeping beyond a defined boundary; the work cannot 'mutate' beyond the prescription of the instructions.

Much more common is the approach that the artist must be physically present to carry out or oversee the instantiation of the installation. The consideration then is how the work can mutate to converse with new surroundings in a way that compliments, augments or challenges it's origin.

Navigating the space
There are a number of transposable elements I am currently considering in how I present my work. Each will have to be reconsidered in each location it is installed, and it is worth noting a few of them here.

Firstly, what is the viewer's initial experience on entering the space?

Beyond that, what path(s) can viewers walk through to enter the space and approach the work? Which are more traveled, and why? What aspects of the work are accentuated by particular routes? Which routes encourage temporal or physical interaction with the piece, and which don't?

The routes viewers can take will have a big impact on how people respond to the installation. A 'throwaway comment' type of an installation might call for fast and casual footfall, but for my work which requires some time I am experimenting with ways of allowing passage through, while also creating a pool of space which is separate from the traffic, in which time can be spent and immersion can occur, without prescription that it must occur.

Divisions within the space
What distance do you want viewers to have from the work? Do you want people to walk through and explore, or is the work to be physically cut off, distant, or somehow different from the viewing space they occupy?

There is a work by Jospeh Beuys on permanent installation at Centre Pompidou in Paris, "Plight", which was very influential on me. One of the key aspects of the room, when we step back and stop thinking about the silence, the felt, and the presence of the room, is that you can't enter the space.

Plight, Joseph Beuys
Plight, Joseph Beuys
Photo by Gastev

A rail prevents your entry, and also delineates a small viewing platform. This gives the space a sense of otherness, and timelessness. In this context, the rail is part of what gives the installation it's gravity, it's immanence, it's sense of potential.

The frame
And for all the talk about the democratization of space, about how installation takes away the centred viewer, there is always still a frame within which your work will be considered.

This might be an institutional frame, and therefore conceptual. But even physically, there is a frame provided by the walls, by markings on the floor, by the use of light, by ropes, gates or rails. And if there isn't a frame already, you have the option of introducing one. As in "Plight" this frame can serve as a boundary, or the frame can be just a suggestion.

In many room-sized installations there is no physical frame - this means that the work is fully immersive and is a deliberate move on the artist's part to obscure the frame so that viewers are not aware it. In these cases the work can still be framed by the physical features of the room, and particularly by the transitional nature of the entranceway provided to enter the space.

In any case, the concept of a frame is something which you can work with or against.

Emphasis and de-emphasis
What elements of the space are the ones that viewers can't see?

In the work I am creating at the moment, I want to draw back the sense that technology is central in the work. So I am experimenting with techniques for placing the projector I am using to craft the light out of view. This is not to attempt to obscure the fact that a projector is the medium by whch the light is being crafted, but rather to de-emphasise the role the projector plays and emphasise instead the light on it's own terms.

Indoor not outdoor
Since arriving here at CAC I have been increasingly focused on the installation potential for this project rather than outdoor. It's odd, because the project began with such an outdoor focus.

Outdoor shot at I-Park
Outdoor shot at I-Park

There were a whole set of issues related to working outdoors; technology, projectors, and sound equipment, and it was forcing me down a road of 'one-off' performances or interventions. Those elements are not crucial for this particular work at it's current stage, and so they have been sidelined.

There is still strong outdoor potential for this work, more so than my previous projects. However at this stage, quickfire experimentation took priority, and indoor rocks became both a pragmatic reality and a potent ground for exploration.

The gear The handtruck
Packing up gear to take on the land at I-Park

The conceptual grounding which was so engaging at the start, could be brought indoors and more easily experimented with. The oldness and brutality embedded in the broken-open shape and texture of rocks. The internal, perceptive world that we conjure up and it's relationship to the alien and disembodied.

These are ideas that I want to exploit in the studio, and if and when the time is right, to explore in an outdoor arena. Outdoors brings it's own set of potentials and challenges, but which I think need to be prepared for in the studio, and should be respected for inherent caveats.

Posted Thursday, 20 September 2012

Residency Begins at CAC Troy

I've arrived at my residency at Contemporary Artist Center (CAC) in Troy, New York. In this post I'll show some images of this beautiful location, and talk about the direction I want to take with my work from here.

The residency program is now run inside the historic Woodside Church, having moved from it's previous home in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Woodside Church
Woodside Church, Troy, NY

The night I arrived I was treated with all the other residents to the regular Sunday meal. The next night I took part in the weekly crit.

It was refreshing as it's been a while since I've been in a crit and I was able to put together a 'sketch' installation and have my work critiqued too.

Inside, the new CAC studios
Inside, the new CAC studios

I showed a quickly-assembled installation and some media from my time at I-Park, and the conversation got quite in-depth.

This provided some context and the views of a set of fresh eyes, and made me think some more about the installation potential the work has, aside from the portable / outdoor aspect.

After the crit, I put together the short video below from I-Park, and together the crit and video formed an interesting retrospective. This set a context for the work I'll be developing in the coming weeks.

Video showing the results of the work at I-Park in 'installation sketch' form

The initial work developed at I-Park is a good starting point - it shows that the concept works but leaves open the direction.

At the moment, there is something open-ended about where the installation sketch takes you once you approach it as a viewer on it's own terms. The journey feels tied to the machine, the coating on the object's surface feels artificial. But what I am looking for is a human connection, one that works with the perceptual process, rather than trying to negate it.

It has a minimalist feeling - which I actually appreciate because of the way it allows the underlying textures to make a statement. But I feel like with some more experimental work there are ways I can express more, playing on the inherent darkness and light, and by finding a more human pace, rhythm, and timbre.

Stained-glass window at the front of the church
Stained-glass window at the front of the church

The new studio is a good size and I have had to spend time light-proofing it and setting it up. This is an interesting space to be working and feel this is the best place for the piece to develop right now.

I will look at some of the outdoor locations later as the residency progresses and judge whether there is an outdoor component at a later date. But for now, the work is studio-bound.

Stained-glass window (detail)
Stained-glass window (detail)

Posted Thursday, 20 September 2012

Installation Sketch at Open Studios

This video is of an installation 'sketch' representing the in-progress piece I worked on during the I-Park Residency program.

Installation sketch at Open Studios

The shots in this video represent what visitors to I-Park Open Studios September saw on the day. It is the same work discussed in my previous post 'Perception as a Creative Process'.

The installation is an attempt to create a space which is immediately unfamiliar - purely because of the controlled light and acoustics - but which with time gains a new type of familiarity. The flat blades of colour penetrate the darkness to slowly reveal the objects texture in new ways.

At the end of the residency program I was at this fairly initial stage. I will be further developing the work during my residency at Contemporary Artist Center, in Troy New York.

Posted Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Residency at Contemporary Artists Center

I've accepted a one-month residency at Contemporary Artists Center (CAC), at the converted Woodside Church in Troy, New York.

The CAC church

I'm planning to use the time to develop some of my large-format projection installation work, such as the Gravity installation I developed at Jaaga. I'll be looking for new dimensions in which to expand the work, both physically and contextually.

About CAC
CAC is a non-profit art organisation founded in 1990 in Massachusetts. In 2007 they acquired the Woodside Church and Chapel, and now offer residencies, exhibitions and performances. The organisation is just beginning a renovation process that will lead to a new gallery and performance space in the church.

Stained glass at CAC

The studios on offer with the residency are also inside the church itself. Lighting is (at least partly) provided by stained glass windows. The dramatic shots above are all from the CAC website.

I'm looking forward to traveling up there next month and checking out the space!

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