Between the VIVA Presentation and the Week 8 Exhibition, my ideas developed further within the realm of sculptural than photographic techniques. There was a play with reality within the experimentation of material to create staircases – something that initially fascinated me back in Ottawa due to their daily use but not consideration. Through the development of designs and testing of cardboard, paper, matchsticks and Popsicles, I attempted to play with reality to create miniature realistic stairs. By photographing the process as well as the final product in an environment that it was produced for, I drew upon the practices of Thomas Demand as well as Henry Moore and Sherry Levine. Through the development of more matchstick stairs with added handrails, I found that I wanted to create a fiction using visual discourse, much like the work of John Timberlake, transfiguring the sculpture into a photograph and thus into something else entirely (Walter Benjamin). This would ultimately bring in the play of light, through the Week 8 Exhibition.
I originally intended to display completed prints of either the matchstick stairs or other stairs that I have taken around the country. This, however, was difficult due to time constraints. I instead wanted to play around with the two- to three-dimensionality of the sculptures and the photographs. I decided to hang the stairs from the ceiling to give the notion of floating, with the stairs themselves at different angles. I did not know what the effect of this would be, nor whether it would work until it came to setting up the exhibition.
Unintentionally, the lights were different colours and the stairs were blurry up against the wall, however I enjoyed the effect that it made. I also felt like the effect of the shadow on the wall was as though I had created a negative, further linking the photography and sculpture that I started with.
I was invited back to the Tate Exchange 2019 with Art Lab for ‘a series of participatory workshops that will enable visitors to explore the theme of movement’. There were several stations on the 5th floor of the Blavatnik Building in Tate Modern that lead people through different types of motion. Some of these were by other departments from the School of Arts and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading, including performance workshops and conversations around the theme of travelling and movement.
One of these was a ‘listen and draw’ activity, asking people to react on paper with pens and pencils to what they heard on headphones, in a silent disco manner. The sound recordings were made by first year students in the module Reading Objects Writing Images. Both schools and members of the public found this a very fun activity which allowed freedom around the papered space. As they were approaching a large piece of paper that was not blank, it was less daunting and allowed further engagement from those of all ages.
The second station of Art Lab’s was that of a selfie sphere which was a big shiny ball suspended from the ceiling. Participants were invited to draw a self portrait in this sphere and then take a 360 image with a GoPro with these self portraits on their head. We found that many would want a photo without the drawing, however it was still a very engaging activity with all ages.
The last station that Art Lab ran was the one I helped out most frequently with over the weekend. This used Augmented Reality (AR) through an iPad, which was placed onto a TV screen. It was originally intended for people to act like sculptures, recreating images, however it ended up that people were interacting more with the objects and animals that we were placing on the screen. We also found that this interaction caused a lot more enjoyment, and allowed us to play around more with the software. It was particularly funny to see the confused faces of those who saw the object on the screen, but not on the ground in front of them.
I also helped in the social media management of the event, posting to @artlabuor and @unirdg_art Instagram accounts to promote the activities. Interacting in a different way than helping out at the stations allowed me to see more of the background work that goes into such a large event. I look forward to see more of the running of large events such as this, and helping in the Tate Exchange with ArtLAB next year.
Developing these negatives was a little stressful as I had several complications throughout the process. My first was realising that the room was not light tight and the sun was round our side of the building. Luckily, this did not ruin the film in any way and was one of the better rolls that came out of development. The last roll of film I developed was that of the stairs in the dark room. This came out much like the film I developed from the third photography assignment in Ottawa, where the background was so dark it came out almost clear in the negative (this indicates that no, or minimal light has hit the film which in turn will create a dark print). This showed me that I was correctly using the light meter, camera and set up in the AV room, providing further confidence for photography in the future.
The study abroad exhibition was a hit success with works being displayed by Romaisa Bhatti, Celdice James, Hira Syed, Zoë Lee, Christine Glover and myself. We had a wide range of practices coming together in two locations to create a flowing exhibition, showcasing the work done while on study abroad in the previous term. I initially had concerns with my photography pieces being opposite windows due to reflection, however this was a smaller problem than first thought. I also felt that it was wise that I did not frame any of the pieces, as the uniform bulldog clips that I had practised in the exhibition preparation worked well for all of the pieces of work. Overall, I was happy to be part of the exhibition and found it a success. In the future, I aim to be more aware of the flow of people especially when there is work between two locations that are blocked by a locked door.
On Saturday, I attended a leather embroidery workshop at the Reading Museum, which is one of a series of workshops looking at medieval techniques in celebration of the Reading Abbey which has recently opened back up.
In this workshop we learned basic leather working techniques using gloving leather, which is typically thinner, along with an iron-on backing, a gloving needle and standard embroidery thread. We mainly used a split stitch, which is similar to a back stick but coming up through the middle of the thread. We also explored using a two-thread technique that covers a lot of ground, and that you could pull the thread through or leave the second colour as decoration.
The morning was used to explore the leather as it was a new fabric and technique to work with compared to normal embroidery. The afternoon, we could take inspiration from the museum around us including the Abbey capitals and the Bayeux Embroidery, and other sources on the internet, to create our own design on a larger piece of leather.
This was a very fun and enjoyable workshop that left me wanting more. We were lucky enough to be able to take the needles home, and so I hope to continue on the little pieces we were given with my own embroidery thread that I have. I wish to include sewing in my artwork, but I feel like I would struggle with the justification in such pieces that should resemble reality.
I went into the AV room to get some photographs of my first and second design of matchstick stairs against a black background, to determine whether this could alter the reality within the photograph. Perhaps they would look like they are floating? Using the DLSR, I found that the stairs were coming up very bright, despite playing around with the intensity of the lighting. I found that using the DLSR, I was able to practice the positions for the SLR (analogue photography). This role of film I am hoping to develop early next week, which will provide me with valuable information on which shots looked better, and to move them into different environments. Some of the images reminded me of the Like Nothing You’ve Seen Before project in Ottawa, and were perhaps images that I would play with in the future.
I also took photos of my other stair designs, including that of the original matchstick staircase, cardboard and matchstick, cardboard, and the paper design, providing a valuable record of them and further inspiration of different angles and perspectives of the sculptures.
I am looking forward to perhaps using some of these images after editing in my exhibition display, and using the techniques and perspectives within the AV room and applying them in different contexts and backgrounds for the stairs in later photography works to displace and alter reality within an image.
Th glass casting workshop looked at the lost wax glass casting technique, using the kiln to melt the glass in a pre-formed mould. We started with moulding wax, shaping it into our desired final object. I had inspiration from bath toys, creating a platypus in a kayak. The shape we made is a positive mould, meaning the glass will be in the same shape as the wax. The displacement of the water in the jug shows how much glass we will need in a later step.
The wax then sits on top of a cone of clay, building a wall around it to hold the plaster and flint mix. The cone is used as a pouring vessel for the glass, with the sticks allowing the glass to really get into the smaller areas.
A mix of water:plaster:flint 1:1:1 was used. My walls were not strong enough and split, pouring around half of my plaster mix onto the board. I wrapped the mould in cling film, ensuring that the wall was together, and put clay at the bottom to prevent more coming out. More plaster was then poured in to complete the mould.
The clay dried quickly and I was able to take off the clay walls, and the clay cone came out smoothly, giving a nice big area for extra glass to sit in.
We used steamers to try and get the wax from inside of the moulds, however we were trying to do three at a time which was unsuccessful. Getting the wax out with the steamer one mould at a time was more successful, and was clear once washed out with hot water a couple of times. Once the wax was gone, we measured out the glass using the same water displacement system as measuring the volume of the wax. I ended up with too much glass, but tried to pour in as much smashed glass as I could as I did not mind a base to my piece. These are waiting to be sent of to the kiln, where the glass will melt and get into the details of the mould. We will get these back in a couple of weeks once they are out of the kiln and cooled.
I decided to set up my assignment pieces from my study abroad in Ottawa to determine whether I liked the idea of bulldog clips to display my work for the study abroad exhibition coming up, and subsequently for the week 8 and final exhibition. I found that it was more successful than anticipated. I was able to put foam between the clip and image to avoid damaging the print, which was successful for many of the prints.
The most unsuccessful parts of this pre-run was the lighting of the area I was in, and the ‘squeezed in’ rushed effect that was produced with the work crowded together. I would have liked to have seen how the frames worked also, however these were too large for the images themselves and the images kept slipping in them. I am going to look for another option before the exhibition and ensure that they are displayed in an area that shows them off, rather than hinders them.
Developing in Reading is a lot more of a hands-on process than it was in Ottawa, due to the fact that I am now trained in using and mixing the chemicals for film development myself. The process of readying the film is also the same, doing it in the dark to prevent light contamination and then placing it in the light-tight container for development. On the first roll of film developed, I did this in a blacked-out bag that was light-tight as we were unsure whether the room was. This was successful, and thus I tried just taking it out in the darkened room. There was no visible light contamination, so I now know for the future that I am able to do it just on the surface, rather than in the bag.
Working out the process according to the Ilford manuals, what we remembered and the instructions I had from Ottawa allowed us to produce a relatively fast developing process that is easy to follow;
Developer – ILFOSOL3
300ml per 35ml film
20C water temperature
CHECK DEVELOPMENT TIME
Invert x4 during first 10 seconds
Repeat invert x4 each minute of development
Drain 10 seconds before end
Stop – ILFOSTOP
300ml per 35mm film
30-60 seconds agitate constantly
Fix – HYPAM FIXER
300ml per 35mm film
2-5 minutes agitate constantly for 30 seconds
Repeat every 30 seconds
Fill with water
Set up with tap
Wash for 10 minutes
The film is then safe to pull out and dry
The first film I developed was an out of date Kentmere ISO100 film, which turned out to have a good contrast and high quality. This was shot with the automatic settings of the camera. I then developed an Ilford ISO400, which is one of the film that I am used to. I was surprised with the results as it was shot in manual, which showed to me that I was able to successfully use the camera that has been passed to me. I now cannot wait to shoot and develop more film, mainly looking at my stairs sculptures and setting them in different environments.